Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Legislative intent of RA 9266:The Architecture Act of 2004

The Court of Appeals seriously erred in ignoring and defeating the plain language and the legislative intent of the Architecture Act of 2004, which categorically provides, without any exception, that only architects can prepare and sign architectural documents.

The Court of Appeals seriously erred in nullifying Sections 302[3] and 302[4] of the Revised IRR issued by the DPWH Secretary, considering that the DPWH Secretary was merely following the mandate of the Architecture Act of 2004 which prohibits building officers from accepting architectural plans and documents not prepared and signed by architects.

The Architecture Act of 2004 [R.A. 9266] is clear and categorical — only architects can prepare and sign architectural documents.  There are no ifs or buts about it.  The law does not provide for any exception. Only architects.  No one else, not even civil engineers, can prepare or sign architectural documents.

This exclusivity is clear from the plain language of Architecture Act of 2004.  Section 20(5) of the said law provides that “[a]ll 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.” 

Further, to ensure that the exclusivity given to architects is actually implemented, Section 20[2] provides that building officials cannot accept or approve “any architectural plans or specifications which have not been prepared and submitted in full accord with” it, i.e., architectural plans which are not signed by architects.

Necessarily, since the Architecture Act of 2004 provides that only architects, and no other, can prepare and sign architectural documents, there is an evident intent to delineate the architectural profession from other professions, such as civil engineering, which may have overlapped with it in the past.  This legislative intent is clear not only from the plain language of the law, but also in its legislative history in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.  As extensively discussed earlier, the Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 334  explains that “R.A. 545 [the old Architecture Law] allowed civil engineers to participate in the preparation of plans and specifications of buildings, which is the primary function of an architect.  Now that the devastation brought about by the Second World War has been properly addressed, it is but necessary to give unto the architects the performance of a function for which they were specifically trained.”

House Bill No. 334 was thereafter substituted by House Bill No. 5389  by the House Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulation.   The “Fact Sheet”  of said House Bill No. 5389 confirmed that one of the purposes of said proposed legislation was to provide “for a clearer and broader definition of the scope of the practice of Architecture to delineate the profession from civil engineering and other related professions.”  House Bill No. 5389 was eventually passed by the House of Representatives and became R.A. No. 9266.  

Similarly, in the Senate, the Explanatory Notes to the Senate Bills 1290  and 2081  (later to be consolidated into Senate Bill No. 2710, which was passed into law as R. A. No. 9266) show the legislative intent to provide a “clearer definition of terms used in the Act, which includes a more specific definition of the term ‘practice of architecture’” and to “fully recognize that an architect is the master builder and the person professionally responsible for proposed structures intended for human habitation and related activities xxx.”  

Indeed, PICE itself agreed to jointly support, with UAP, the enactment of laws to eliminate any overlaps between the two professions.   In one of the committee hearings on the then-proposed amended Architecture Law, PICE’s representative very clearly stated that PICE was supporting a clear delineation of the functions of architecture and civil engineering. 

Again, the law is very clear: only architects can sign architectural documents.  Any previous overlaps with other professions, such as civil engineering, have been removed.  That is how Congress wanted it to be when they enacted the Architecture Act of 2004.

The DPWH Secretary simply followed the law and the will of Congress.  He promulgated the Revised IRR of the National Building Code, which provides that in the application for building permit, the architectural documents to be submitted must be signed by architects (in the same way that civil/structural documents must be signed by civil engineers; mechanical documents by mechanical engineers; and so on).  The DPWH Secretary merely wanted the Revised IRR to be consistent with the Architecture Act of 2004.  Indeed, he could not do otherwise, because Section 20[2] of the Architecture Act of 2004 clearly provides that building officials cannot accept or approve any architectural documents which are not signed by architects.

Unfortunately, the civil engineers wanted to be able to sign not only the civil/structural documents exclusively reserved to them in the Revised IRR.  They also wanted to be able to sign the documents classified as architectural documents that are exclusively reserved to the architects. They thus sought to nullify the questioned provisions of the Revised IRR.  Their efforts failed in the Regional Trial Court.  But they eventually found an ally in the Court of Appeals.

The Honorable Court of Appeals, by a stroke of the judicial pen, swept away the very purpose and intent behind Architecture Act of 2004.  The Court of Appeals created an exception in favor of civil engineers, even though the Architecture Act of 2004 does not provide for any.  It restored the overlaps between architecture and civil engineers, after Congress removed the same.  It effectively required building officers to accept architectural documents signed by non-architects, even though the law expressly forbids it.

The nullification of the Revised IRR by the Court of Appeals did not invalidate the Architecture Act of 2004, but it did something even worse to the law.  The Architecture Act of 2004 ostensibly remains intact, but its intent has been defeated and frustrated by undermining its central feature – the provision that only architects can prepare and sign architectural documents.  The assailed Decision is, in effect, a form of judicial legislation—rendering ineffective the provisions of law enacted by Congress by annulling the IRRs which would implement them.

The ruling by the Court of Appeals is, with all due respect, a serious error.  It is contrary to law, particularly the provisions of the Architecture Act of 2004 which mandate that only architects can sign architectural documents and building officers cannot accept or approve architectural which are not signed by architects. The Court of Appeals nullified Sections 302[3] and 302[4], when in fact those provisions were promulgated by the DPWH Secretary to make the IRR in accord with the law.

It is elementary that “the courts are not concerned with the wisdom, justice, policy, or expediency of a statute.”   That is the province of Congress.  This is particularly true when it comes to the regulation of professions, which is part of the police power of the State, exercised through Congress.   “[T]he proper regulation of a profession, calling, business or trade has always been upheld as a legitimate subject of a valid exercise of the police power by the state. x x x”   Congress saw fit to reserve to architects, without exception, the preparation and signing of architectural documents.  The Court of Appeals had no authority to override that legislative intent.


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