The months-long gas leak/oil spill caused by holes in the petroleum pipeline owned by First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC) is about to cause another set of news. The victims are reportedly set to file the first ever petition for a writ of kalikasan.
The writ of kalikasan forms part of the new procedures in civil, criminal and special civil actions involving environmental laws. (Rule 1, Section 2, Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases) There are 2 special civil actions in the new rules for environmental cases, one is the writ of continuing mandamaus and the other is the writ of kalikasan.
The writ of kalikasan may be sought by anyone a) whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or b) whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is threatened with violation, by an unlawful act of omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity and such violation or threat involves “environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants of two or more cities, or provinces.” (Rule 7, Section 1)
The petition for the writ of kalikasan “shall be filed with the Supreme Court or with any of the stations of the Court of Appeals.” (Rule 7, Section 3) Note, however, that the filing of a petition for the issuance of the writ of kalikasan shall not preclude the filing of separate civil, criminal or administrative actions. (Rule 7, Section 17)
Within 3 days from filing the petition deemed sufficient in form and substance, the Court shall issue the writ and require the respondent to file a return. (Rule 7, Section 5)
In response, the respondent is required to file a return containing his defenses and supporting evidence within a non-extendible 10-day period after the service to him of the writ. He must raise all defenses in the return, otherwise they are deemed waived. A general denial of the petitioner’s allegations shall be deemed an admission by the respondent. (Rule 7, Section 8) If the petition fails to file a return, the hearing shall proceed ex parte (i.e., the hearing will proceed with only 1 side being heard). (Rule 7, Section 10)
The penalty of indirect contempt may be meted out to a) a respondent who refuses to file the return, b) a respondent who unduly delays the filing of a return, c) a respondent who falsifies a return, or d) any one who disobeys or resists a lawful process of court order. (Rule 7, Section 13)
In further recognition of the importance of a speedy resolution, the following filings are prohibited:
a) motion to dismiss
b) motion for extension of time to file return
c) motion for postponement
d) motion for a bill of particulars
e) counterclaim or cross-claim
f) third-party complaint
g) reply, and
h) motion to declare respondent in default. (Rule 7, Section 9)
However, the following motions are allowed:
- motion for ocular inspection (1) indicating the place/s sought to be inspected and (2) supported by “affidavits of witnesses having personal knowledge of the violation or threatened violation of environmental law.” and
- motion for production or inspection of documents or things. (Rule 7, Section 12)
When the court receives the return, it may call a preliminary conference “to simplify the issues, determine the possibility of obtaining stipulations or admissions from the parties, and set the petition for hearing.” The petition shall be given the same priority as petitions for the writ of habeas corpus, amparo and habeas data; thus, the hearing and the preliminary conference shall be all done within 60 days (Rule 7, Section 11)
After the hearing, the case shall be submitted for decision in which case, the court may require the filing of memoranda within a non-extendible 30-day period from the date the case is submitted for decision.
Within 60 days from the time the petition is submitted for decision, the court shall grant or deny the privilege of the writ of kalikasan. The reliefs that may be granted under the writ are the following:
a) Directing respondent to permanently cease and desist from committing acts or neglecting the performance of a duty in violation of environmental laws resulting in environmental destruction or damage;
b) Directing the respondent public official, government agency, private person or entity to protect, preserve, rehabilitate or restore the environment;
c) Directing the respondent public official, government agency, private person or entity to monitor strict compliance with the decision and orders of the court;
d) Directing the respondent public official, government agency, or private person or entity to make periodic reports on the execution of the final judgment; and
e) Such other reliefs which relate to the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology or to the protection, preservation, rehabilitation or restoration of the environment, except the award of damages to individual petitioners. (Rule 7, Section 15)
Appeal to the Supreme Court, under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (i.e. a petition for review on certiorari), is available within 15 days from the notice of the judgment or denial of motion for reconsideration. It is important to note that this appeal may raise questions of fact. (Rule 7, Section 16)
As an aside, reports on the writ of kalikasan seem to point to FPIC as the only respondent. How then do we deal with government officials eager to clear culprits of wrongdoing? Remember the news report that came out July this year long before the source of the gas leak/oils spill was discovered this November? –
The Department of Energy (DOE) has officially cleared First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC) as the culprit for the oil leak in a Makati building.
Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the DOE shares the view of the Makati City government that the pipelines of FPIC have nothing to do with the supposed petroleum leak in the West Tower Building in Bangkal, Makati City.
“Yes, it was a joint inspection and effort,” Almendras said when asked if it agreed with the findings clearing FPIC as the source of the leak.
Makati City engineer Nelson Morales said that tests on the pipelines of FPIC proved negative for leaks.
“We are ruling out the FPIC pipelines as the source of the gas leak, so that leaves us with the basement of the condominium as the only area that we have not thoroughly investigated,” Morales said.
Maybe FPIC had availed of a writ of palakasan?
 A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC, April 29, 2010.
 Gatdula, D.L. (2010, July 30). DOE clears first phil industrial corp in makati's west tower oil leak . Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=597907&publicationSubCategoryId=66