By Raymund Antonio
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said on Sunday the writ of “kalikasan (environment)” issued by the Supreme Court against the environmental neglect in the West Philippine Sea has brought Filipinos “one step closer” to justice.
In an en banc ruling, the SC granted the petition of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and fishermen from Palawan and Zambales, which sought the writ to compel the government to enforce Philippine laws in the WPS territories.
This means, according to Diokno, the petition was sufficient in form and substance.
“It is now incumbent upon the government respondents, through the Solicitor General, to answer the petition by filing a Return within 10 days from notice,” he said in a statement.
Diokno was one of the lawyers who represented the fishermen when they filed with the High Court last month for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan and a writ of continuing mandamus.
The writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy that citizens may seek to uphold their right to a healthy environment while the writ of continuing mandamus may be availed to compel government to perform an act already mandated by law.
The petition accused the Duterte administration of neglecting their duties in the enforcement of Philippine laws to protect the maritime environment in the West Philippine Sea.
Named respondents in the petition were the top officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP), and its Maritime Group.
With the SC ruling, Diokno said it was time for the government to “prove in court by means of evidence” that it has done its duty of protecting Filipino fisherfolk and the country’s marine resources in the WPS.
“And while Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. has tried to make light of this issue by saying that it’s just about clams, this case is obviously much more than that,” Diokno, who is running for senator in next week’s polls, said.
“It’s about the future of our fisherfolk, who are being deprived of their livelihood by foreign encroachment into Philippine territory; it’s about the destruction of our coral reef ecosystem, so vital to marine life; it’s about the harvesting of endangered species – all being blatantly committed by fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels, while our leaders and officials appear to be looking the other way,” he pointed out.
“The time for talk is over. The issues have now been joined. The court battle has begun,” the Otso Diretso candidate said.