‘It’s time for a green judiciary’

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CONCRETE actions must be taken now to ensure the sustainable implementation of efforts to protect the environment.

This was the common sentiment raised by speakers, representing different sectors, on the first day of the ongoing environmental justice forum.

Former Supreme Court (SC) chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. pushed for a “greening” of the country’s judicial system, which he said could be achieved through “creative application of environmental laws, timely disposition of environmental cases, and a commitment to continuing judicial education for courts to be able to keep themselves abreast with developments in environmental laws.”


“The right to environment is the right to life itself,” he said.

Davide spoke during the opening ceremony of the third edition of the forum organized by the University of Cebu-College of Law and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung last Tuesday night.


“The judiciary must not only keep pace with legal developments in environmental law.

They must also be aware of scientific achievements and advancements which could result in either the protection or the destruction of the environment,” Davide said.

Environmentalist-lawyer Antonio Oposa Sr., for his part, told forum participants yesterday that government must reduce the number of vehicles in the streets to lessen pollution and provide bigger sidewalks and bicycle lanes for commuters.

Citing a study that shows that only one percent of the people own cars and that the rest are commuters, Oposa said what is happening now is that government is giving convenience to car owners by allowing them to park on major roads while commuters have no sidewalk to pass through.

“The roads were constructed with people’s taxes but the government manifests partiality to a segment of society to the detriment of the 99 percent. That is unequal protection of the law,” Oposa said.

Another speaker, Professor Emeritus Koh Kheng Lian of the National University of Singapore, stressed the need for good governance to have an effective disaster management.

Citing the devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda, Lian said that while nations were competing to donate, there was no proper report on who actually received the assistance.

“Corruption and red tape can jeopardize all (disaster management) efforts,” Lian said.

‘Green’ lawyers

During his opening remarks Tuesday night, Davide lauded Oposa, a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner for his environmental activism, and fellow lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos for their contributions in environmental justice.

“It was (Oposa) who initially provoked the (SC) to be a ‘green’ court by giving it the historic opportunity to enshrine in our jurisprudence the doctrine of
intergenerational responsibility and intergenerational justice as twin concepts embraced in the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature as mandated by the 1987 Constitution,”” said Davide.

Davide was referring to the 1993 landmark case of Minors Oposa et al. vs. Factoran, et. al., which 43 children petitioners, through their parents, filed before the SC to stop deforestation.

The SC ruled in favor of the children, stating that their right to a healthy environment carried with it an obligation to preserve that environment for the succeeding generations.

This jurisprudence is known today in the international legal circles as “Oposa doctrine,” said Davide.

Aside from the Oposa doctrine, Davide said the Writ of Kalikasan and Writ of Continuing Mandamus are included in the new Rules of Procedures.

Writ of Kalikasan was made for the protection one’s right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”

Writ of Continuing Mandamus, on the other hand, is an “extensive, persistent and continuing” order of the court to implement an action plan to address environmental decline, said Davide.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 29, 2014.

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