Legal or otherwise

"The IBP president should be well served if he holds back his horses."


A week or so ago, retiring Justice Noel Tijam issued a reminder to the country’s lawyers and in particular to the organization they are mandated by law to belong—the Integrated Bar of the Philippines—regarding the latter’s role as the “promoter of the best interests of lawyers and the Courts.”

In his farewell remarks, Justice Tijam referred to the open and, might I add, antithetical position taken by the IBP through its incumbent President Abdiel Fajardo urging the High Tribunal to reverse its position on the quo warranto case lodged against then Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno which the majority upheld, and noted in effect that Fajardo should have been more circumspect in his public statements.

Said the retiring justice who was the ponente in this landmark case: “...I urge the IBP not to forget that it is an organization that should promote the best interest of the lawyers and the courts. They are not advocates or propagandists of causes but keepers of public faith in the courts’ capacity to render just decisions. They may rightfully express their concerns but should refrain from publicly criticizing decisions, more so from signing and publishing manifestos.Indeed, they should be the first to promote obedience to and respect for the courts.”

Indeed, as the good justice said, the organization or any of its officers should do well to take this advice to heart, noting that “As they [IBP officers] speak for the legal community, they must be careful to reflect and represent only what the IBP membership, in its entirety or at least by its majority, intends to make known or advocate for.”

This admonition comes to mind as Fajardo has once again rued the decision of the Makati RTC Branch 150 upholding the petition of the Department of Justice to reopen the rebellion case against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. Insisting that this was unwise and illegal as it smacks of “double jeopardy,” Fajardo urged the court to withdraw its decision. Speaking for the government, Solicitor general Jose Calida chided Fajardo for his inordinate “rush to criticize” unduly using his position as a platform to advance what appears to be his personal opinion, not the organization’s or at least a majority of its members.

Said Calida: “For double jeopardy to apply in the rebellion case against Senator Trillanes, three elements must be present: (1) a first jeopardy must have attached prior to the second; (2) the first jeopardy must have been validly terminated; and (3) the second jeopardy must be for the same offense as that in the first. ....Now, legal jeopardy attaches only (a) upon a valid indictment; (b) before a competent court; (c) after the accused has been arraigned; (d) the accused having entered a valid plea; and (e) the case was dismissed or terminated without the express consent of the accused.... in this case, the last element for legal jeopardy to attach is absent as it was Trillanes himself who filed a Motion to Dismiss thus it was done with his expressed consent so no legal jeopardy was attached to the first dismissal of the case against him. Hence, the reopening of the case is proper.”

Moreover, as the dismissal of the rebellion case in 2011 was predicated on an amnesty granted to Senator Trillanes by then President Aquino which was later declared void by Proclamation No. 572 issued by President Duterte, that amnesty had no legal effect. It should be emphasized that the courts upheld the constitutionality and legality of that proclamation paving the way for the resumption of the proceedings in the rebellion case pending before Makati RTC Branch 150.

So there. By this time IBP President Fajardo should be well served if he holds back his horses and ensure that the reputation and goodwill of the organization he heads is upheld at all times.

Rehab and restoration

Finally, the government is embarking on a serious effort to rehabilitate and restore Manila Bay to a healthy, environmentally livable condition. I dare not say pristine as that would be romanticizing the gargantuan and longer-term initiative needed to get what was once described as one of the cleanest and most beautiful bays in the world. Obviously heartened by the success of the Boracay cleanup which even the most strident critics have come to applaud as the “rehab and restoration” measures remain in force and effect as evidenced by the salutary reception with which those who stayed in the island greeted the new year, President Duterte and his crew, principally DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano, have vowed to do a Boracay within the next five years. It will truly be a huge challenge whose success has eluded past administrations.

But no matter. If there is anything which this administration is known for, it is its penchant to take on such challenges which have festered for years—to the public’s dismay and universal ridicule. Why, even the SC mandamus ruling for the bay’s clean up has remained largely unimplemented for still unexplained reasons.

Last Friday, Secretary Cimatu and his crew did a walk through with various stakeholders and members of media at the most obvious sources of waste in the most, for want of a better term, visible and visited areas within the Manila Bay area—the Manila Yatch Club-BSP-Manila Zoo-Cultural Center-PICC quadrant—at theManila-Pasay boundary. The estero in this area—Estero de San Antonio Abad—which flows into an outfall just under the Manila Yatch Club has a coliform count hundreds of thousands abovem the acceptable levels. This is just one outfall and one estero. In due time, using the newest available technology, the Task Force congregating around the existing Manila Bay “Clean Up” Office created after the issuance of the mandamus, will have a real, honest-to-goodness map of the esteros and waterways in and around the bay area which, by the way, extends from Cavite in the south to Bataan in the north. In the meantime, the Task Force has divided the entire Manila Bay area into four quadrants to ensure the proper and responsible inventory of all establishments, big and small, housing, hotel or otherwise, esteros and waterways, sewage and water lines, solid waste facilities and all the other appurtenant installations and requirements of living and working in a huge (1994 square kilometer with a 190 kilometer coastline), heavily populated (about 30 to 35 percent of the entire population) bay area. That is just the start.

I have no doubt that, like Boracay, there will be a number of skeptics but there will be an even bigger number of well-wishers for this clean up to succeed. Which is why it is well that the Task Force has moderated public expectations by stating early on that it will be done in phases starting with the clean-up of the waterways and the establishments which directly dump their wastes into these. For the purpose, the Task Force should immediately order the MWSS and its two concessionaires, Manila Water and Maynilad, to come out with their long overdue plan to put in place a modern water and sewerage system in the entire MWSS concession area for which they have been collecting fees since. That injunction should later on involve the water districts servicing the other areas outside of the MWSS concession to ensure that all those tasked to provide the service and for which they have been and are being paid are up to their jobs. And then move from there. We will as we should monitor developments as the program unfolds.

Topics: Jonathan Dela Cruz , Legal or otherwise , Integrated Bar of the Philippines
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