High court to tackle environment


By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:14:00 01/18/2009

Filed Under: Judiciary (system of justice), Government, Environmental Issues

MANILA, Philippines—After spearheading two multisectoral summits that addressed the extrajudicial killings in the country and the poor’s access to justice, the Supreme Court is planning to sponsor a third forum, this time on the environment.

Scheduled for April, the forum would seek ways the judiciary could take a more active role in protecting nature, said the high tribunal’s spokesperson Midas Marquez.

“We want to see how the courts can help in the protection of the environment in this multisectoral forum,” said Marquez on Saturday at the Kapihan sa Sulo news forum.

Other reps invited

Marquez said the court had invited representatives from the departments of environment and natural resources, justice and tourism, and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Philippine Bar Association to the summit.

It has also invited University of the Philippines law professor Antonio Oposa, who had argued and won the landmark case in which the Supreme Court directed government agencies to restore Manila Bay to its pristine state and keep it that way.

Marquez said the Manila Bay case—unusual because the high court’s decision included an order to maintain the bay’s cleanliness—prompted the tribunal to call for the forum on the environment.

The court also wants to see what other roles nongovernment organizations and advocacy groups could play in protecting the country’s natural resources, Marquez said.

Earlier meets successful

The high tribunal had earlier established environment courts to hear cases involving the violation of laws protecting the country’s natural resources. The courts were instructed to ensure the speedy disposition of the cases.

The two earlier forums sponsored by the Supreme Court had produced results, according to the Marquez.

He said the 2007 summit on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of perceived enemies of the state resulted in the promulgation of the rules of the writs of amparo and habeas data—judicial remedies that people could use to seek protection, freedom and the release of information in connection with their right to life, liberty and security.

The second forum in 2008, which discussed the problems of the poor and marginalized when it came to getting justice, resulted in an expanded Justice on Wheels program under which long pending cases of poor suspects languishing in jail are adjudicated quickly on buses transformed into rolling courtrooms.

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