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The Court of Appeals Cebu Station - Two Years and Counting

October 16, 2006 1 was a commemorative day for the Philippine Judiciary, as it marked the 2nd Anniversary of the Court of Appeals Cebu Station. Not at all adhering to the notorious terrible twos syndrome, the Cebu Station rather, has quite a handful to be festive about. Much acclaimed for its speedy, just and equitable disposition of cases and intense dedication to public service, the Cebu Station highlighted the affair with a joyful yet very simple and low-key celebration.

The day started with a Flag-Raising Ceremony, followed shortly by a Holy Mass officiated by Most Rev. Julito B. Cortes, D.D. Thereafter, breakfast was served to energize everyone for the enjoyable and entertaining program ahead. The large turn-out of distinguished guests made the occasion even more special. CA Presiding Justice Ruben T. Reyes, Court Administrator Christopher O. Lock, CA Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando, then CA Cebu E.J. Mercedes Gozo-Dadole, CA Clerk of Court Atty. Tessie Gatmaitan, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Cebu Vice-Mayor Michael V. Rama, Cebu Provincial Board Member Agnes A. Magpale, judges from the Cebu RTC and MTC, IBP Cebu Province Chapter Pres. Ronnie C. Gocuan and Cebu City Chapter Pres. Alex D. Tolentino, graced the event with their presence. Then Justices of the CA Cebu Station, Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion, Sesinando E. Villon and Ramon M. Bato who now are based in CA Manila, also attended.

Welcome to the men and women of the Cebu Station Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban’s Message proved to be most heartening, proclaiming that the Supreme Court in its En Banc Session dated October 10, 2006 already approved the construction of the CA Cebu Building. Thus, P70 million has been set aside from the SC Judiciary Development Fund for the purpose, plus P5.2 million for engineering and architectural designs. The news was met with extreme excitement and relief from CA Cebu employees who have been intermittently agitated by news of relocation to CA Manila, on grounds of budgetary constraints. The fresh wave of optimism became even more effusive when CA Justice Remedios Fernando took the floor and categorically stated that it is well-nigh improbable that the Cebu and Cagayan de Oro Stations will be brought back to Manila, because the installation of said stations was mandated by law. Logically, relocation to Manila should also be caused by legislation, and nothing else. “There is no truth to rumors that our Cebu and Mindanao stations will be abolished,” she said.

Decentralization of the Court of Appeals likewise commands strong support from the province of Cebu. In her speech, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia declared, “We demanded not that the judicial system be fashioned after our own whims and preferences, but that it reflect the reality of seeking justice in these 7,107 islands. We stated as a matter of fact that Metro Manila is not the Philippines and the Philippines is not just Metro Manila.”

As early as last year, the Province of Cebu had already donated a 2,011 square meter tract of land more or less located inside the Department of Agriculture compound, upon which the CA Cebu Building is to be erected. As a matter of fact, a ground-breaking ceremony has been conducted upon the same with the attendance of the then C.J. Hilario G. Davide, Jr. and several other Justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals on October 22, 2005.

In his Message read by J. Pampio A. Abarintos, C.J. Panganiban announced that another ceremony should be undertaken on November 24, 2006, to mark the construction of the new building. “This will not be an exercise in duplication. Rather, it is a manifestation of commitment from your Supreme Court that We mean business when it comes to providing you with a well-earned edifice of justice suitable for no less than the second highest court of the land,” the Chief Justice wrote.

Raising the gala spirit even higher, Court Administrator Christopher O. Lock rendered a report which gave the tentative schedule for the building construction.

Transitorily, the CA Cebu Station is leasing Midway Building, Salvador Ext., Labangon, Cebu City. With a distinctive structure suitable to the second highest court of the land well under way for CA Cebu, the High Court has finally stamped a more permanent and lasting imprimatur upon the implementation of R.A. No. 8246, the law which created the CA Cebu and Cagayan de Oro Stations.

In return, the CA Cebu Station made assurances that it will exert all salutary efforts to sustain its inspiringly impressive track record. CA Presiding Justice Ruben T. Reyes stated that the Cebu Station outdid all other CA Stations. “They have gone beyond the agreed 12 decisions in a month. It has crossed the borderline of number of cases disposed. We commend Cebu for far exceeding our expectations,” he said. Most importantly, the immense quantity of case dispositions did not sacrifice quality in the administration of justice. P.J. Reyes, who declared that he did not receive even a single complaint emanating from grievances from the Cebu Station continued to state, “The individual performance of justices here in judicial writings and resolution of cases far outnumbered those from Manila and in Mindanao.” Work ethics played a significant role, and he lauded, “The first batch led by (Arsenio) Magpale, (Isaias) Dicdican and (Pampio) Abarintos set the trend and the others followed in terms of disposing cases. We are pleased with the diligence and dedication shown.”

After the morning program, CA Cebu employees spent the afternoon momentarily shedding their formal office demeanor by playing parlor games. For the more athletic ones, a Sportsfest which began a week earlier, culminated in the championship matches in chess, badminton and volleyball.

In retrospect, the CA Cebu Station 2nd Anniversary was a celebration “in the most simple of ways” in the words of its Executive Justice Arsenio J. Magpale, who said, “Our joys and accomplishments are not ours alone, as every crucible the government hurdles is a triumph of each and every Filipino. After two fruitful years of operation, I invite everyone to walk the beaten path and move forward. Though nothing is certain except death, change and taxes, I am deeply optimistic that two years will soon become twenty, two hundred, two centuries … ad infinitum. In the final analysis, We all are humble participants in the grand design of posterity and heritage in the Philippine Judiciary. And that, my friends, is a supreme privilege all by itself.”

Without a doubt, it was truly a successful festivity. Nothing, not even the inclement weather, dampened the joie de vivre. This simply goes to show that when it rains, it really does pour.

Warm congratulations to the CA Cebu Station!

1 The CA Cebu Station was actually inaugurated last October 15, 2006. However, since October 15, 2006 fell on a Sunday, the celebration was moved to the next working day, Monday, October 16, 2006.

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