The Supreme Court has presented to the public the construction of the P2.8-billion Manila City Hall of Justice project, which is expected to be completed by June 2022.
In a ceremony held at the SC’s En Banc session hall, Associate Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, chairman of the Halls of Justice Coordinating Committee for the City of Manila, formally introduced the MHOJ to the public.
During the event, Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio was also given a Certificate of Appreciation for his invaluable support for the construction of the MHOJ.
“As a flagship project of the judiciary, and as the premier hall of justice of the Philippine capital city, Justice Carpio saw the importance of the Manila Hall of Justice project not just for judges, court personnel, and litigants in the City of Manila, he also saw it an opportunity to showcase it as the first self-funded infrastructure of the Judiciary,” Gesmundo said.
The plan to build a hall of justice in Manila started as early as 1982, but encountered obstacles along the way such as location, budget, strict compliance with the Procurement Act and the National Cultural Heritage Act.
"It is said that great buildings take time to plan and construct. It took the Colosseum of Rome 10 years just to construct, the Parthenon in Greece 17 years, St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican 144 years, St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow 125 years and the Taj Mahal 21 years. We will soon add the Manila Hall of Justice to these illustrious list," said Carpio, who was then acting Chief Justice during the 8th groundbreaking in 2012.
Originally, the MCHJ location was supposed to be the 6,470 square meter old Jai-alai building along Taft Avenue but it was then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who issued a proclamation transferring the Arroceros lot (old GSIS building) to the Supreme Court.
“At that 2012 groundbreaking 7 years ago, I proudly announced that the title to the one-hectare Arroceros lot was already in the name of the Supreme Court and P1.83 billion needed to construct the building exclusive of equipment and furnishings was already deposited with LandBank.
"Surely, I said nothing could stop the expeditious construction of Manila Hall of Justice. I was of course dead wrong. I failed to take into account the formidable Government Procurement Reform Act and the National Cultural Heritage Act. It took the Court 7 years and counting to hurdle these two laws," Carpio said.
According to Carpio, the detailed architectural and engineering design has been awarded and completed and the Office on Halls of Justices has just completed the terms of reference for the bidding of the actual construction works of the Manila Hall of Justice
"The completed terms of reference will now allow the Court to finally bid out hopefully within the next few months the actually construction of the Manila Hall of Justice,” Carpio, who is retiring on Friday, said.
The MHOJ Project site has a total lot area of 10,818.10 sqm. It is located within an archaeological complex adjacent to the Mehan Garden, Arroceros, Lawton and areas known as “Parian”, a designated area for the Chinese Community during Spanish Colonization. The lot is bounded by Public Veterans Affairs Office on its North, N. Lopez Street on its South, Boy Scouts of the Philippines Building on its East, and G.A.J. Villegas Street on its West.
In a statement, the SC Public Information Office said the MHOJ Project, comprised of three buildings interconnected which include the Old GSIS Building, New Expansion Building, and the Parking Building, will house a total of 120 courtrooms and three special courtrooms.
Other features of the project include: a Philippine Mediation Center, archives, records and evidence rooms, conference and meeting rooms, prisoner holding rooms. It will also house recreational facilities such as a multi-purpose basketball court and a fitness gym. There will also be a Business Center, Library, Medical Clinic, and a Daycare Center.
According to Justice Gesmundo, the MHOJ project costs â‚±2.804 billion, “with all money coming from the Judiciary’s own savings.”
Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez explained that the budget for the MHOJ Project reached â‚±2.8Billion because the three interconnected buildings are environment-friendly and green certified. The MHOJ is certified as the first green courthouse in the Philippines.
Assistant Court Administrator Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena M. Ignacio revealed that they have completed about 75 percent of the project—from its inception to its final location at the Old GSIS Building, and its conceptual design as envisioned by the project consultant, Arce-Bailon-Arce Architects.
Ignacio said part of this includes the design phase deliverables composed of the plans and drawings, cost estimates, technical specifications, project master plan, 3D drawing utilities and operational and maintenance manual, which were approved by the Court En Banc in its Resolution of Sept. 3, 2019.
“Following this, the construction phase is expected to last for a period of 24 months, which means that we can expect the completion of the MHOJ by June 2022. The last 25 percent of the project is the construction of the MHOJ,” she added.
Ignacio, who is the chairman of the Bids and Award Committee for the MHOJ and the Court of Appeals Buildings in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, stressed that the BAC is currently undertaking preparations for the procurement of the works contractor and are aiming at a timeline of six months for the procurement phase.
The SC official also said that since the MHOJ sits in an archaeological complex, construction may be halted in case artifacts or any item of historical or cultural significance may be uncovered during excavation.
In his response, Executive Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig of the Manila City Regional Trial Court expressed their utmost gratitude for the MHOJ Project, saying “there is no denying that the construction of the Hall of Justice will greatly improve the working conditions of the judges and court employees.”
Currently, Manila courts are spread out in three locations: in the Manila City Hall, the old Ombudsman building, and at the former Masagana Complex along Kalaw.