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SC has yet to give due course on petitions vs Guardian crew

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has not yet given due course to the petition of multisectoral groups seeking higher penalties against and criminal prosecution of US Navy officers and crew of the USS Guardian, which ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last January, court spokesman Theodore Te clarified yesterday.

This means the high court has not decided yet if it wants to, can or should take the case for resolution, Te said.

Te, however, confirmed The STAR report over the weekend that the high court has asked the US embassy in Manila to answer the petition filed by a group of two Catholic bishops, environmentalists, activists and lawyers last April that named US Seventh Fleet commander Scott Swift and Guardian commanding officer Mark Rice as respondents.

He said the SC had sent to the US embassy in Manila an unsigned minute resolution dated May 8, 2013.

“The resolution simply directs the respondents to submit their comment within 10 days from notice of the resolution without meaning to give due course to the present petition,” Te explained.

Due course refers to a course of proceedings at law or carried out through agency rules or other devices that is in accordance with the law of the land.

A member of the high court earlier revealed to The STAR there was a discussion among the justices on the issue of jurisdiction of the SC over respondents Swift and Rice when they decided to seek comments from the US government.

The insider, who refused to be named because the case is still pending, said this was the reason why the high court opted to send the respondents a letter instead of an order through the embassy.

The source added US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr., whose tour of duty is set to end next month, is also being asked by the high court to comment on the case.

Another member of the court said the US government’s response would serve as “a test case if the US will even pay attention to it or invoke international treaties or laws.”

Apart from the US embassy, the SC also sought comments from Malacañang, Cabinet members and officials of the military to the petition for writ of kalikasan filed by two Catholic bishops, environmentalists, activists and lawyers.

The petitioners include Bishop Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., Bishop-Emeritus of Caloocan; Frances Quimpo, Clemente Bautista Jr. of Kalikasan-Pne; Maria Carolina Araullo and Renato Reyes Jr. of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan); Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares; Roland Simbulan of Junk VFA Movement; Teresita Perez; Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino; Peter Gonzales of Pamalakaya; Giovanni Tapang, Agham; Elmer Labog, Kilusang Mayo Uno; Joan May Salvador, Gabriela; Jose Enrique Africa; Theresa Concepcion; Mary Joan Guan; Nestor Baguinon, and public interest lawyer Edsel Tupaz.

Petitioners are seeking a fine for the US that is 12 times the initial estimate of the Philippine government.

The groups also asked the SC to assess the damage caused to the reef by the grounding of the Guardian.

Apart from issuance of the writ and temporary environmental protection order, they also sought a determination of the fine to be imposed on the US Navy and the prosecution of officers of the Guardian.

Petitioners are also asking the SC to order a stop to US war games and port calls by US ships in the absence of clear guidelines on environmental protection under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

BAYAN MUNA REP

BISHOP DEOGRACIAS INIGUEZ JR.

BISHOP PEDRO ARIGO OF PUERTO PRINCESA

BISHOP-EMERITUS OF CALOOCAN

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA JR. OF KALIKASAN-PNE

COURT

EDSEL TUPAZ

ELMER LABOG

FRANCES QUIMPO

GIOVANNI TAPANG

JOAN MAY SALVADOR

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