People’s initiative can make Manila Bay a ‘protected area’
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Today I lend this space to earth lawyer Tony Oposa. He calls on residents by the Manila Bay to petition the government to declare Manila Bay a “protected sea- and sun-scape.” Such declaration can save the Bay from commercial landfilling. It is the logical next step from Malacañang’s ongoing rehab of the Bay bound from north to south by Bataan, Pampanga, and Bulacan provinces, Metro Manila, and Cavite. That rehab is in turn an offshoot of Oposa’s 20-year campaign for the Supreme Court to compel national and local agencies to clean up the Bay.

Scientists warn of worse floods, storm surges, and liquefaction from a dozen projects that the Reclamation Authority has approved. In lieu of “tambak-ation,” Oposa proposes beach parks and reforestation.

Excerpts from Oposa’s “The Manila Bay Sun-Scape”:

“Reclamation? Wrong word. To ‘reclaim’ means that something previously was owned, then was lost, and now is being ‘re-claimed.’ Question: did we own the sea? The proper term is not to ‘re-claim,’ but to ‘claim.’ It means a person will fill up the sea with rocks and soil, then claim the land as his own. In Filipino, ‘tambakan at angkinin.’ The Reclamation Authority must thus be renamed the ‘Tambak-ation Authority.’

“In 2003 the Supreme Court declared that the submerged areas are public domain and outside the commerce of man.The present Bossing of the country issued an order placing under the President’s Office the legal power to review ‘reclamation’ applications. Congratulations, Bossing Bisaya. I hope he did this to properly review the (landfilling) permits issued by local and national agencies.

“Call to Action:

“• Declare Manila Bay a protected Sun-scape;

“• Create open spaces, beach parks, mangrove forests;

“• Multiply the goodness by shining the spotlight on the good.

“’The power of the people is more powerful than the people in power.’ We call on concerned citizens, especially the young, to use your powerful social media tools to launch an online and hard-copy petition to declare Manila Bay a “protected sea- and sun-scape. Use a little-known law that gives ordinary citizens (voters) the power to directly pass local and national laws: the People’s Initiative Act, RA 6735.

“The numbers are easy to gather. A minimum number of voters is all that’s needed: 50 voters of a barangay, 100 voters of a municipality, and 1,000 voters of a city or province. They can also use this power to launch a petition for national legislation. With the campaign season in full swing, the timing is perfect. That proposed ordinance or national law can prohibit landfilling of the sea, except for public use. This can be in the form of parks and open spaces, mangrove forests, and climate adaptation measures. In exceptional circumstances and after proper environmental scrutiny, air or seaports may be considered. In no case must it be given for exclusive use and profit of private individuals. In the face of powerful typhoons and storm surges, it must not be used for human settlements.

“Concerned citizens can start a petition movement to support the Bossing and like-minded public officials. Applications for more ‘tambak-ation’ must be the object of review and reconsideration. We can also ask the candidates who now seek our votes what their position is on the issue of ‘tambak-ation.’ Then we can intelligently decide whether to bring them in – or out – of office.”

*      *      *

Serving the arrest warrant on Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa at the close of regular work hours was wrong. That led to her needless spending the night in NBI detention, and the global outcry against press suppression.

The Rules of Court allow service of warrants any day and time, but also cautions against excessive restraint. The Supreme Court had long admonished warrant servers, in lighter offenses, to avoid doing it at night or weekends. Reserve their energies on suspects in heinous offenses: murder, rape, arson, kidnap-for-ransom, armed robbery, or terrorism. In most light offenses, the prosecutor already would have gotten during preliminary investigation and relayed to the court the contact details of respondents. When the judge issues an arrest warrant, the court sheriff would just call the defense lawyer to bring the client in to post bail.

Smart lawyers know that. In some instances, says Sen. Dick Gordon, complainant exerts influence. In Ressa’s case, squawk boxes adept at divisive, hateful language worsened the wrong.

For lack of any other example, may I cite my own experience in the early 1990s. It was also a libel suit, when I was managing editor for a broadsheet. The Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, under then Vice President Joseph Estrada, whose sleazy friends the paper was exposing, tried to serve an arrest warrant on a late Friday afternoon. The PACC was a special unit tasked to go after narco-traffickers, bank robbers, and kidnappers. Yet its executive director (now deceased) had fielded a crack team to arrest me for a light charge. The aim was to make me spend three nights in jail – till I could post bail by court reopening the following Monday. On the basis of the SC admonition, the PACC got a scolding from higher Malacañang officials and the court.

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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