November 28, 2022

The city council has shelved a proposed ordinance that sought to require applicants for building permits to only employ the services of architects.
The council’s move was in deference to a case pending with the Supreme Court (SC), in which civil engineers asserted their right to prepare, sign, and seal design plans and specifications that are needed in the application for a building permit.
The proposed ordinance, introduced by councilors Ma. Mylen Victoria Yaranon and Betty Lourdes Tabanda, sought to mandate city building officials to comply with Republic Act 9266 or the Architecture Act of 2004, which provides only architects are authorized to prepare, sign, and seal plans, designs, specifications, drawings and documents relative to the construction of a building.
During the council session on Sept. 12, the Philippine Institute for Civil Engineers (PICE)-Baguio expressed its opposition to the proposal, saying aside from its adverse effects on the practice of civil engineering, the issue on whether or not design plans and other documents should only be prepared, signed, and sealed by architects is yet to be resolved by the SC.
“The proposal will adversely affect and curtail the practice of civil engineering, which is mandated by RA 544 or the Civil Engineering Law,” PICE-Baguio President Richard Pascua informed the council.
Pascua added former Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane issued in 2009 an order directing building officials to honor designs and plans signed and sealed by civil engineers.
Yaranon and architects who were invited during the council session said the proposed ordinance is different from the case pending before the SC.
United Architects of the Philippines-Baguio President Jonard Don Jardenil said they support the passage of the ordinance as it will strengthen the implementation of the Architecture Law at the local level.
Jardenil said the SC case involves the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Presidential Decree 1096 or the Building Code, which was promulgated by the DPWH.
Councilor Peter Fianza said while the issue with the SC is the IRR of the Building Code, it is related to the intention of the proposed ordinance since it came about because of the law regulating the practice of architecture.
The assailed revised IRR provides that plans previously prepared, signed, and sealed by civil engineers or architects are to be prepared, signed, and sealed exclusively by architects.
The Court of Appeals in 2012 upheld the right of civil engineers under RA 544 and ruled that civil engineers have the right to prepare, sign, and seal architectural plans and specifications to be submitted to building officials as provided for under RA 544 and PD 1096.
Engr. Stephen Capuyan and Arch. Homer Soriano from the City Buildings and Architectural Office both claimed they have been honoring design plans and other documents signed and sealed either by an architect or an engineer.
When Yaranon asked why CBAO officials are approving building permits despite the provision of the Architectural Law, Soriano said they have to comply with the directive that mandates them to process building permits even if the designs, plans, or specifications were prepared and signed by civil engineers.
City Engineer Victorio Olpindo said the 32 civil engineers of the city government have been preparing and signing building plans and monitoring building projects.
“Since time immemorial, we have been preparing plans and doing the inspection of projects,” he said.
Although she co-authored the ordinance, Tabanda shared the view the city council suspends discussion of the proposal while the SC has not yet issued a decision.
Fianza said there is no need for an ordinance considering that national laws can be implemented without a local counterpart.
In the report of the committee on laws, human rights, and justice, which he chairs, Fianza said the passage of an ordinance to regulate the practice of architecture might set a precedent for other professionals to also seek for the passage of local laws regulating their profession.
“The committee observed that the national law regulating the practice of architecture is actually clearer than the proposed ordinance,” Fianza said. – Jane B. Cadalig