Only architects, not civil engrs., may sign architectural papers

By Gerome Dalipe IV

This recent decision by the Supreme Court may take a toll on civil engineers.

The high tribunal ruled that only licensed and registered architects and not civil engineers, may prepare, sign, and seal architectural documents such as plans or drawings, detailed designs, and fire safety documents.

Such ruling came after the tribunal reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision which granted the petition of civil engineers and declared void the provisions of the revised implementing rules and regulations of the National Building Code that limited to architects the authority to come up with the architectural documents.

Prior to the ruling, the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers, Inc. and Leo Gamolo said that civil engineers should also be allowed to prepare, sign, and seal the architectural documents as provided for under the Civil Engineering Law, Republic Act 544, and the National Building Code.

But in the recent ruling, the SC Second Division upheld the validity and constitutionality of Section 302, paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (2004 Revised Implementing Rules) of Presidential Decree No. 1096 or the National Building Code of the Philippines (National Building Code).

The revised IRR provides only architects may prepare, sign, and seal the architectural documents.

The language of RA 9266 reveals an intention on the part of the legislature to limit civil engineers’ authority to prepare, sign, and seal documents relating to building construction, it said.

“Taking into consideration the irreconcilable conflict between two laws, this Court recognizes that Republic Act No. 9266 has impliedly repealed Republic Act No. 544 insofar as it permits civil engineers to prepare, sign, and seal architectural documents,” the SC held.

The tribunal said that even if RA 9266 contains a provision stating that this law should not be construed to prevent the practice of any other legally recognized profession, this is a general provision.

The specific provision in RA 9266 that deals with the practice of architecture would still prevail, it said.

Section 20, paragraph 5 of Republic Act No. 9266 states that “all architectural plans, designs, specifications, drawings, and architectural documents relative to the construction of a building shall bear the seal and signature only of’ a registered and licensed architect.”