New DOJ building to house three more offices

FORTY-ONE MONTHS AFTER its groundbreaking in March 2018, the Department of Justice Building at the Virac Community Hub in San Isidro Village is finally inaugurated (inset) by Provincial Prosecutor Mary Jane Zantua, Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. and Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla last Aug. 18, 2021, with the ceremony broadcast on Facebook. Arvin Anthony C. Tabuzo

Aside from the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Catanduanes, the newly-inaugurated building of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Virac will also serve as the home of three other offices under the department.

The provincial offices of the Public Attorney’s Office and the Parole and Probation Administration will occupy smaller portions of the building while the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will also be given a room.

A source told the Tribune that then Mayor Samuel Laynes increased the lot area granted to the DOJ building from the requested 500 square meters to 700 square meters on the assurance that the NBI will be granted space for its field office in Catanduanes.

Last Aug. 18, 2021, Provincial Prosecutor Mary Jane Zantua led Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. and Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla in inaugurating the edifice, with Fr. Paul Isorena sprinkling holy water on the prosecutors’ offices on the ground floor, the second floor which will house the PAO, PPA and NBI, and the roof deck.

With the entire event broadcast on Facebook live, a ten-minute video presentation featured messages from 41 national and local officials and personalities including Vice President Leni Robredo, Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, Regional Prosecutor Mary May de Leoz, PPA regional director Amy Helconida Sarmiento, Prosecutors League of the Philippines president Irwin Maraya, FEU Law Dean Mel Santa Maria, Governor Joseph Cua, RTC Branch 43 Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras, former Virac Mayor Samuel Laynes, Panganiban Mayor Cesar Robles, Pandan Mayor Honesto Tabligan II, Virac MTC Judge Myra Mangente, DPWH District Engineer Gil Augustus Balmadrid, 1st MCTC Bato-San Miguel Judge Francisco Torres Jr., EBMC hospital chief Dr. Vietrez Abella, Provincial Tourism Officer Carmel Garcia, Virac police chief Maj. Antonio Perez, as well as several RTC judges, regional and provincial prosecutors from Bicol and other parts of the country.

Also present were PAO chief Atty. Ruel Borja and PPA chief probation and parole officer Cicero Dulong.

It may be recalled that for decades, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor occupied a section of the Hall of Justice within the Provincial Capitol compound.

In January 2017, Provincial Prosecutor Mary Jane Zantua requested the DOJ for funds to repair the considerable damage to their office but this was not granted.

The next year, Atty. Zantua sought the construction of a new building not only for her office but also for the Public Attorney’s Office, the Parole and Probation Administration, and other DOJ-attached agencies.

After then Mayor Laynes and the municipal government allotted a 700-square meter lot at the proposed Community Hub, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II came to Virac for the groundbreaking ceremony.

In December that year, DOJ Sec. Menardo Guevarra and DPWH Sec. Mark Villae executed a memorandum of agreement covering the constriction of DOJ buildings nationwide.

Construction of the Virac building began in January 2020 and continued despite the pandemic but it was stopped in its tracks by super typhoon Rolly in November, which also damaged the OPP office at the Hall of Justice.

To reach out to clients in distant towns, the OPP coordinated with the local governments to establish satellite offices in five municipalities.

The office in Pandan is run by Assistant City Prosecutor Maria Theresa Cerillo and is open every Wednesday to clients from the town and nearby Caramoran.

Associate Provincial Prosecutor Pamela Joy Herrera managed the office in Baras for those from the town and Gigmoto.

In Panganiban, Associate Provincial Prosecutor Percival Villamartin is available twice a month for clients from the town and nearby Viga and Panganiban.

In the same frequency, Prosecution Attorney Reche Torzar goes to San Miguel while Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Francisco Samonte Jr. is in charge of the office in San Andres.

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