The legislative intent behind the Architecture Act of 2004 is clear enough from its plain terms — only duly licensed architects can sign architectural plans and documents, and building officials cannot accept architectural plans and documents not signed by architects. This legislative intent is further confirmed when we look at the legislative history for this law.
The Architecture Act of 2004 was purposely enacted to, among others, curtail the practice of civil engineers signing architectural documents, which are not within their area of competence or expertise. Before, such practice was allowed by the old Architecture Law (R.A. 545), as an exception to the general rule that only registered architects can prepare architectural plans. Section 12 of the old law provided:
[OLD Architecture Law, RA 544] SECTION 12. Registration of architects required. — In order to safeguard life, health and property, no person shall practice architecture in this country, or engage in preparing plans, specifications or preliminary data for the erection or alteration of any building located within the boundaries of this country, except in this last case when he is a duly registered civil engineer, or use the title "Architect", or display or use any title, sign, card, advertisement, or other device to indicate that such person practices or offers to practice architecture, or is an architect, unless such person shall have secured from the examining body a certificate of registration in the manner hereinafter provided, and shall thereafter comply with the provisions of the laws of the Philippines governing the registration and licensing of architects.
Congress removed the exception in the counterpart provision in Architecture Act of 2004, thus:
[Architecture Act of 2004, RA 9266] “SECTION 25. Registration of Architects Required. - No person shall practice architecture in this country, or engage in preparing architectural plans, specification or preliminary data for the erection or alteration of any building located within the boundaries of this country or use the title "Architect," or display or use any title, sign, card, advertisement, or other device to indicate such person practices or offers to practice architecture, or is an architect, unless such person shall have received from the Board a Certificate of Registration and be issued a Professional Identification Card in the manner hereinafter provided and shall thereafter comply with the provisions of this Act.”
An examination of the legislative history of the Architecture Act of 2004 confirms that the removal of the exception was deliberate. Thus, in the Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 334, the following explanation appears:
“Republic Act No. 545, the law which governs the practice of architecture in the Philippines was enacted more than four decades ago. Many events and developments have occurred since then that now render said law obsolete. The agencies, for example, mentioned in the law have been replaced by other agencies.
“Said statute also creates confusion as to the delineation of the profession of Civil Engineering with Architecture. Enacted in June 1950 when there were only 350 architects in the country, R.A. 545 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 on 28 January 2004, and, along with Senate Bill No. 2710, was signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as Republic Act No. 9266 on 17 March 2004.
An examination of House Bills Nos. 334 and 5389 vis-à-vis the Architectural Act of 2004 shows that the provisions in the said House Bills on the following remained unchanged:
(a) the definition and scope of the practice of architecture; and
(b) the exclusive grant to licensed architects of the authority to prepare and sign architectural documents.
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.” In the sponsorship speech of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel on Senate Bill 2710, it was expressly stated that the amendatory law was intended to protect the architectural profession from practice by other parties and professions:
“Eroding Architects Standing
“Developments in recent years witness how the practice of architecture has been appropriated by many entities who are not academically trained or professionally qualified to engage in the practice of the profession. These include other professionals, project managers, contractors/subcontractors, developers, capitalists, investors, foreign practitioners, and local and foreign corporations/firms directly or indirectly involved in land and property development work.
“This situation had eroded the local and international professional standing of the Filipino architect and has resulted in the planning, design and construction of buildings by unqualified entities who have no professional responsibility nor civil liability for the erected structures. This has placed the public at great risk considering graphic tragedies resulting from faulty planning or design such as the Cherry Hills Subdivision tragedy sometime ago.
“It is high time that the Filipino public be assured that only individuals who have been properly educated, qualified and trained will undertake the planning and design of buildings and be held responsible for such acts.
“At the time of the enactment of the organic law 53 years ago, there were only about 350 architects in the Philippines. Today, there are about 17,000 registered and licensed architects, representing a 487% increase spread out over a half century.
“The urgent need to pass this bill is, therefore, clearly indicated.”