Lawyer seeks clients who will file civil suits to enforce environmental rights
by Rachelle M. Nessia
Dumaguete City (11 November) -- We need clients who will file civil suits in the interest of environmental protection.
Silliman University College of Law Dean Atty. Mikhael Maxino in a Kapihan forum held November 10 explained that under the new environmental rules approved on April 13, 2010, anyone can file citizen suits to enforce environmental laws.
Litigants enforcing their environmental rights by filing their cases as citizen suits are "deferred of payment of filing fees" until after the judgment.
Which is why we need clients who will enforce their environmental rights to force the government and its agencies to act on its duty to protect and preserve the environment, stressed Maxino.
The filing of civil suit is now allowed under the new Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases promulgated by the Supreme Court and took effect on April 29, 2010.
Maxino said that individuals whose constitutional right to a balance and healthy ecology has been violated or threatened can seek his office's help in filing the civil suit.
"You are in the field, you know what's happening out there. You just need to provide us with photos and information and we will take care of the rest," said Maxino who also sits as director of the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development.
The new rules also call for the use of a consent decree which is seen as an innovative way to resolve environmental cases by allowing a compromise agreement between two parties involved in the environmental litigation over issues that normally be litigated in court.
Another salient feature cited by Maxino is the environmental protection order which refers to an order issued by the court directing any person or government agency to perform or desist from performing an act in order to protect, preserve or rehabilitate the environment.
The most revolutionary innovation to the new rules is the introduction of the Writ of Kalikasan which Maxino said is the first of its kind in the world, describing it as a new legal weapon for environmental protection.
Similar to the Writ of Amparo, the Writ of Kalikasan is an idea first proposed by Chief Justice Puno as a remedy available to persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthy ecology is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee or private individual or entity.
"In the biggest cases where actual or potential environmental damage is enormous, affected persons can petition directly the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals for the issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan," said Maxino.
The writ can used to stop destructive logging, irresponsible mining, unabated air and water pollution, etc. "This is heaven sent especially for poor and vulnerable communities and individuals who are powerless to defend themselves against large-scale environmental and development aggression," he added.
Although the new rules are not yet being applied in Dumaguete, it is now being used in Manila.
Maxino urged the public to be vigilant in monitoring activities that may pose a threat to the environment. (PIA/rmn) [top]