Who wouldn’t be frustrated with the news that broke out very recently that the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Regional Trial Court. As a (very) brief background of the situation: Last year, PICE filed a motion in the RTC stating that they (Civil Engineers) must be allowed to sign architectural plans. After several court hearings, the motion was denied and the RTC ruled in favor of the architects. PICE, however, brought the case to the Court of Appeals and on January 5, this year, CA released their decision in favor of the engineers.
Re: Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) vs. Hon. Hermogenes Ebdane, United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), as Intervenor
CA-G.R. CV No. 93917
Court of Appeals, Manila
(Civil Case No. 05-112502 Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 22)
This Open Letter is issued in connection with the grave concerns expressed by members of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) over recent developments in the case of PICE vs. Hon. Hermogenes Ebdane.
To recall, the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) sued the then Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), to prevent the implementation of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the National Building Code, specifically Sections 302(3) and (4) thereof, which basically provide that architectural plans and documents can only be signed and sealed by architects. The rationale for this amendment is simple – the Architecture Act of 2004 now categorically limits the practice of architecture to duly licensed Architects. Needless to say, the signing and sealing of Architectural Plans constitutes “practice of architecture” and must thus be limited to duly licensed Architects. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 05-112502 and assigned to Branch 22 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila. UAP intervened in the case, taking the position that the assailed provisions of the Revised IRR are valid and should be implemented.
The RTC eventually issued a Decision dated 29 January 2008 dismissing PICE’s complaint. The RTC sustained UAP’s position that the subject provisions are valid and that there is no legal basis to prohibit their implementation.
PICE then filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 93917. UAP vigorously opposed the said appeal and defended the correctness of the RTC Decision. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals issued a Decision dated 5 January 2012 which reversed the RTC Decision. It declared as null and void the subject provisions of the Revised IRR, and further declared that civil engineers “have the right to prepare, sign and seal plans and specifications enumerated in Section 302.4 of the [Revised IRR].”
Needless to state, UAP strongly disagrees with this ruling of the Court of Appeals. UAP is of the position that the assailed provisions of the Revised IRR are valid and are in fact consistent with the Architecture Act of 2004, which provides:
“[Section 20(5)] All architectural plans, designs, specifications, drawings and architectural documents relative to the construction of a building shall bear the seal and signature only of an architect registered and licensed under this Act together with his/her professional identification card number and the date of its expiration xxx.”
Thus, on 26 January 2012, UAP filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the Court of Appeals, seeking the reconsideration of its 5 January 2012 Decision and the reinstatement of the RTC Decision. This Motion for Reconsideration is currently pending.
The Secretary of DPWH, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), similarly disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ ruling. Upon information, the OSG intends to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court via a petition for review, and has, for this purpose, filed a motion for extension to file the said petition.
As may be seen from the foregoing, the adverse ruling by the Court of Appeals is not yet final, and UAP is doing everything it can and exhausting all available legal remedies to cause the reversal of the said ruling and the reinstatement of the RTC Decision. UAP is prepared to go to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to maintain and uphold the validity of the assailed provisions of the Revised IRR. The setback created by the Court of Appeals, while indeed regrettable, is merely temporary and may yet be reconsidered or reversed, whether by the Court of Appeals itself or by the Supreme Court. The UAP leadership remains hopeful and confident that, with perseverance and determination and with the united support of its members, justice will prevail and all remaining obstacles to the implementation of the Revised IRR and the Architecture Act of 2004 will be eventually removed.
ARCH. RAMON S. MENDOZA, FUAP
United Architects of the Philippines