The Writ of Kalikasan and the Battle to Protect our Life Sources

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The Writ of Kalikasan – what is it and what does it do?

In “The Environment as Life Sources and the Writ of Kalikasan in the Philippines,” Davide redefines the word “environment” as “life sources,” stating that “it is nothing less than about life and the sources of life of the earth – land, air, and water, or LAW for brevity – the elements of life and the vital organs of the earth” (Davide, 2012).

The Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy provided to any citizen of the Republic of the Philippines for the protection of their constitutional right “to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” (Section 16 Article II, Philippine Constitution, 1987)

“When the right to life is threatened, and the executive department tasked to protect it fails or is wanting in political will to enforce said right, it is the duty of the court, in an appropriate case, to step in” (Davide, 2012). Davide further states that: “The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines has expanded the judicial power of the courts of the Philippines. Section 1 of Article VIII thereof, on the judicial department, provides:

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.

The Writ of Kalikasan, or the writ of nature, is available when the environmental damage is of such magnitude that it prejudices the life, health, or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces. The writ is issued by either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals within three days after the filing of the application. Hearing of the matter is set within sixty days. No docket or filing fee is required upon the filing of the complaint or petition. The proceedings terminate within sixty days from the submission of the original application (Davide, 2012)

Further,

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) anyone 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.” andmotion 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 corpusamparo 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)

This writ is an innovation of the Philippine Supreme Court as one of the legal means to combat the destruction of the environment. This writ is one of a kind, available only within Philippine jurisdiction. It is extraordinary in nature, meaning to say, that it can be resorted to only when other ordinary legal remedies such as injunction or damage suit are unavailing.

 

References:
Hilario G. Davide Jr., The Environment as Life Sources and the Writ of Kalikasan in the Philippines, 29 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 592 (2012)
“What is a Writ of Kalikasan?” (n.d.) Retrieved from http://notocoal.weebly.com/writ-of-kalikasan.html#.W7NVC2gzbIW

 

 

 

 

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