Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Pandacan Oil Depot (Police Power vs Capital Power) [Second of 2 parts: Ordinance No. 8187 and G.R. Nos. 187836 and 187916)

By Siesta-friendly

As we discussed in Part 1, the first challenged Ordinance (No. 8027) – which reclassified the Pandacan area from Industrial to Commercial and ordered industrial businesses like the oil industries maintaining depots in the area to cease and desist from operating – was held as constitutional by the SC. 

In an about-face, Manila city hall then issued Ordinance No. 8187 for the purpose of reclassifying (again) the Pandacan area by creating a Medium Industrial Zone and Heavy Industrial Zone thus allowing oil depots to continue to exist in Pandacan.  

If your first ordinance was upheld by the Supreme Court as a valid exercise of police power because it aimed “to safeguard the rights to life, security and safety of the inhabitants of Manila”, why not issue another ordinance to repeal it, completely contradict it and forget about that small concern regarding the life, security and safety of the inhabitants of Manila. 

Let us allow the SC to explain why –

“… the position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod on the matter has thrice changed, largely depending on the new composition of the council and/or political affiliations. The foregoing, thus, shows that its determination of the “general welfare” of the city does not after all gear towards the protection of the people in its true sense and meaning, but is, one way or another, dependent on the personal preference of the members who sit in the council as to which particular sector among its constituents it wishes to favor.”

Mindful that the safety of the ManileƱos were still at risk, the SC continued -

“Now that the City of Manila, through the mayor and the city councilors, has changed its view on the matter, favoring the city’s economic-related benefits, through the continued stay of the oil terminals, over the protection of the very lives and safety of its constituents, it is imperative for this Court to make a final determination on the basis of the facts on the table as to which specific right of the inhabitants of Manila should prevail…”

Thus, the SC struck down Ordinance No 8187 as invalid and unconstitutional for the same reasons it upheld the constitutionality of Ordinance No. 8027, further saying that -

“The issue of whether or not the Pandacan Terminal is not a likely target of terrorist attacks has already been passed upon in G. R. No. 156052.  Based on the assessment of the Committee on Housing, Resettlement and Urban Development of the City of Manila and the then position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, the Court was convinced that the threat of terrorism is imminent. It remains so convinced.

… the very nature of the depots where millions of liters of highly flammable and highly volatile products, regardless of whether or not the composition may cause explosions, has no place in a densely populated area. Surely, any untoward incident in the oil depots, be it related to terrorism of whatever origin or otherwise, would definitely cause not only destruction to properties within and among the neighboring communities but certainly mass deaths and injuries.


It is the removal of the danger to life not the mere subdual of risk of catastrophe, that we saw in and made us favor Ordinance No. 8027. That reason, unaffected by Ordinance No. 8187, compels the affirmance of our Decision in G.R. No. 156052.”

And so, the SC finally set a definite period for the relocation of the oil depot -

“The oil companies shall be given a fresh non-extendible period of forty-five (45) days from notice within which to submit to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 39, Manila an updated comprehensive plan and relocation schedule. The relocation, in turn, shall be completed not later than six months from the date of their submission.”

We expect this to be the last we hear of the continued stay of the depots even though there is a new mayor in Manila, different from the mayor who signed Ordinance No. 8027 and different from that who signed Ordinance No. 8187.It was the Supreme Court that had to remind local legislators that they are supposed to have the welfare of the people foremost in mind.

The Pandacan Oil Depot (Police Power vs Capital Power) [First of 2 parts: Ordinance No. 8027 and G.R. 156052]


Saturday, September 12, 2015

FULL COURT PRESS: What your 2016 vote will mean for the Supreme Court

By Siesta-friendly

The next Philippine President is constitutionally set to hold office for 6 years from 2016 – 2022.   And within her/his term, 11 Supreme Court justices are constitutionally mandated to retire once they reach 70 years.
Already potent as it is, the president’s power to appoint will be most significant when it comes to appointing Supreme Court justices as the new Chief Executive will be able to pack the court.
Judicial review
With the 1987 Constitution’s power of judicial review, to wit -

“Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.” (Section 1, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution)

citizens have appealed to the Supreme Court on issues seemingly strictly within the jurisdiction of the executive or legislative departments.

Where pre-1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court could cite the doctrine of “political question” as a valid excuse in refusing to settle certain executive or legislative actions, that is no longer the case. With the 1987 Constitutional provision on judicial review, any act of a government official/s can be questioned on constitutional grounds if done in “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”.

So, if the next President chooses well, we can have a Supreme Court that can provide an effective check on executive or legislative excesses. If not, we end up with a Supreme Court rubber-stamping any questioned abusive executive or legislative action. Or possibly worse, an activist Court that indirectly legislates through its decisions.

And we indirectly have a hand in shaping the composition of the Supreme Court when we choose the person authorized to appoint its members.

Soon-to-retire SC justices

Here are the names of the 11 justices and their respective retirement dates:

  1. Martin S. Villarama, Jr. - April 14, 2016
  2. Jose P. Perez - December 14, 2016
  3. Arturo D. Brion - December 29, 2016
  4. Bienvenido L. Reyes - July 6, 2017
  5. Jose C. Mendoza - August 13, 2017
  6. Presbitero J. Velasco - August 8, 2018
  7. Teresita Leonardo-De Castro- Oct. 8, 2018
  8. Mariano C. Del Castillo - July 29, 2019
  9. Lucas P. Bersamin - October 18, 2019
  10. Antonio T. Carpio - October 26, 2019
  11. Francis H. Jardeleza - September 26, 1949

We note that 10 of the 11 are Gloria Arroyo appointees, so while we look forward to the diminishing Arroyo court, we are wary that the next President would appoint justices lacking independence, integrity and morality thereby forming another President’s court which will unabashedly issue decisions favoring their appointer.

Thus, we need a President with independence, integrity and morality to get a Supreme Court of the same character.

So this campaign season, let us encourage debates on governance issues, and not politics. Let us set high standards for our leaders, and not settle for popularity. Let us look for the leader who will have the people’s interest – not his, nor his family, cronies or party’s – at heart. And let us vote wisely. It is not only the membership in the Court that is at stake but our very future.
“A world is supported by four things ...
the learning of the wise,
the justice of the great,
the prayers of the righteous
and the valour of the brave.
But all of these are as nothing ... without a ruler who knows the art of ruling.”
- The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, in Frank Herbert’s “Dune”