Encore, sanctuary!
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - January 19, 2020 - 12:00am

I have the privilege of currently working on the codes of two local government units. To codify is to put between two covers a number of ordinances falling under a common subject. To illustrate, the result of codification is the production of one code out of, say, 50 different ordinances passed and approved over many years. Notwithstanding my experience of having previously completed, in the last few years, the codes of six other LGUs, the work is still quite challenging. Understanding the mind of the author behind each regulatory or prohibitory provision is daunting. The risk of wrongly appreciating a former councilor’s noble intention is always present.

Among the more challenging codes I’m doing is on the environment. My clients asked me to come up with a work to be called “The Environmental Management Code of ....” The officialdom of the local government units that engaged my services want me to incorporate into their respective codes few things that aren’t even subject to prior local legislation. They want their codes to address the needs of their constituents in cases of cataclysms. Surviving the horrors of climate change occupies their psyche. In a conference we separately had recently, they pointed to the devastation wrought by Yolanda in 2013 and the series of earthquakes that destroyed many Mindanao localities as the kind of horrible disasters to prepare for.

A dilemma ensued from our meeting. The contract we signed calls for the review of existing ordinances for adaptation in their codes. I have to dig deep into their almost forgotten files of old local laws for inclusion in the codes I’m drafting. My obligation is to preserve in their codes the principles that were written into their antiquated ordinances decades ago whenever they are still dynamic, relevant, and viable if applied to modern times. I’m also to harmonize conflicting provisos. Nothing in our contract requires me to conceive certain provisions to meet present scenes when they weren’t previously legislated on. Within that context and in the absence of relevant ordinances, I am not supposed to weave in their codes new matters.

My clients convinced me to view the situation not as a dilemma but a rare opportunity for me to help them structure useful legislative paradigms into their respective jurisdictions. With their open mindedness, I was emboldened to explain to them the idea of a sanctuary which I wrote in this column a few times earlier.

Sunday’s eruption of Taal Volcano and the constant tremors of Mother Earth have destroyed many homes. Thousands of displaced Batangueños have no reliable refuge to go to. They had to be cramped in school buildings, covered courts, and in the houses of kind folks. What if there were sanctuaries built in strategic points?

The sanctuary in my mind is a kind of huge shelter erected precisely as a refuge for people in times of calamities. Since, admittedly, I don’t have any technical background, I tend to describe the massive structure of the sanctuary as designed to survive Yolanda-category typhoons, high-intensity quakes, and disastrous tsunamis. Oh, the Discovery and National Geographic television channels regularly feature “doomsday preppers” and their preparations. So, this building should also house complete teams of first-emergency responders such as doctors, paramedics, firemen, policemen, and the like and their equipment as it should contain supplies to feed a great number of evacuees for an extended period of time.

The environment code I’m drafting for these local government units may be far from ideal but it represents the noble intention of the leaders with minds of truly serving their constituencies.


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