Reconsider dismissal of TEPO vs ALQC
Grace Melanie I. Lacamiento (The Freeman) - September 18, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Claiming that the court has committed gross misapplication of the rules, the survivors of the massive landslide in the City of Naga are seeking for reconsideration of the dismissal of their application for Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) against the Apo Land and Quarry Corporation.

The survivors represented by their counsels, Benjamin Cabrido Jr. and Kaye Hazel Lequigan, asked the court to order the ALQC to immediately cease and desist from quarrying during the pendency of their class suit following the massive landslide in the City of Naga  almost a year ago.

On September 20, 2018, a landslide struck Barangays Tinaan and Naalad killing at least 76 residents and buried over 20 houses. Six people remain missing until now.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 23 denied on August 16 their application for TEPO for lack of merit. But the complainants said the court erred in the application of the rules.

At least 39 residents of Barangay Tinaan and the Philippine Earth Justice Center filed a P4.5 billion suit for restitution of damage on natural and human environment and issuance of environmental protection order. They asked for the issuance of a TEPO after the 72-hour TEPO issued by the RTC Branch 65 in Naga City on November 9 last year had expired.

Aside from ALQC, the other defendants were Cemex Holdings Philippines Inc., Apo Cement Corp., Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office-7, City Government of Naga, and Cebu Province.

RTC Branch 23 Judge Generosa Labra ruled that the plaintiffs failed to present any evidence and memorandum to support its allegations that there is a newly found further aggravation of the cracks in the ALQC’s quarry site that will result to soil erosion or landslide in the barangays of Tinaan, Naalad, Inoburan, Mainit and Cabugahan.

However, the plaintiffs said the court erred to rule that they failed to present any evidence to support their plea for TEPO for their failure to file a memorandum when in fact documentary and object evidence are available.

Their witnesses, the heads of the provincial and city disaster risk reduction and management offices, were allegedly prevented by the defendants to testify.

“And this Court was just too willing to bow down to private defendant’s stratagem in suppressing their testimonies by striking out all material questions in plaintiffs’ interrogatories that could have shed light on the issues at hand,” they said.

This, according to the plaintiffs, was the first instance defendants employed technicalities to prevent full ventilation of the issues for the determination of TEPO.

The second time the defendants allegedly employed the tactic of suppression was when they opposed to the conduct of ocular inspection at the ground zero.

The court agreed to the site visit but the defendants reportedly did not bring the court to the actual ground zero but atop the denuded mountain above the sitios Sindulan and Tagaytay.

“With such object evidence at hat at the time of the so-called site visit, the Court could have thought out aloud how much more these mountains can take and suffer and its residents emancipated from the fear of another landslide if private defendant is allowed to continue with its massive extraction of the mountain’s limestone just to feed Apo Cement’s voracious appetite,” the motion read.

It is likewise naïve for the Court to rule that plaintiffs failed to prove the elements needed for the TEPO issuance, it added.

The plaintiffs said that the order of denial by the court is inconsistent with the rules established by the Supreme Court such as the application of the precautionary principle.

They alleged further that by relying on alleged existence of a suspension order from the public defendant MGB which was not even corroborated by testimonial evidence, the court abandoned its duty that that in case of doubt, it should be biased in favor of plaintiff’s right to balanced and healthful ecology.

The motion for reconsideration was filed on September 16 and will be set for hearing in the afternoon of September 20, exactly a year after the tragedy. (FREEMAN)

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