File photo shows Payatas landfill.
The STAR/Boy Santos, File
After nearly 20 years, court finds Quezon City liable for Payatas tragedy
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - January 16, 2020 - 12:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — A local court found the Quezon City government liable for the garbage dump collapse in Payatas, nearly two decades after the tragedy that buried more than 200 people alive.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 97, in a 133-page decision, said the Quezon City government’s negligence was the proximate cause of the Payatas trash slide.

"The negligence of the city government of Quezon City in failing to maintain an adequate and suitable facility for solid waste disposal, as well as in allowing the heaps of garbage to rise to such immense height, was the proximate cause of the loss of lives and properties," Acting Presiding Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang said in the decision dated October 30, but that was only released Thursday.

Proximate cause, in Philippine judisprudence, is "that which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces injury, and without which the result would not have occurred."

Judge Runes-Tumang added: “As pointed out by the plaintiffs, the dangerous physical condition of the Payatas dumpsite could have been avoided had the city government of Quezon City managed the dumpsite in a manner that would minimize the adverse effects of the dumping operations on people and communities nearby.”

The court ordered that the Quezon City government pay plaintiffs, who are the legal heirs of the 56 victims, the following damages:

  • 50,000 in temperate damages per deceased victim
  • P50,000 in moral damages per deceased victim
  • P10,000 in exemplary or corrective damages per victim

It also ordered the Quezon City government to pay the plaintiffs P100,000 in attorney’s fees.

Private firms, MMDA cleared

The court, however, dismissed the case against Tofemi Realty Corporation and Meteor Company Inc., Ren Transport and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

It cleared Tofemi and Meteor because their role was limited to owning the lot and renting it to the Quezon City government for dumpsite and Ren Transport—one of the many garbage haulers to the dumpsite—because it did not have “exclusive and uninterrupted use of the properties.”

MMDA was cleared because there is no evidence that it had the authority to control, supervise and manage the dumpsite.

More than 200 people were killed in the July 10, 2000 trash slide in Barangay Lupang Pangako, while more than 655 families were rendered homeless because of the incident.

The disaster prompted the city government to shut down the dump. But it was reopened a few weeks later after then Mayor Ismael Mathay Jr. said it needed to reopen to prevent an epidemic of illness due to uncollected garbage.


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