Wake Up, Philippines!

Group to solons: Amend anti-trafficking law

Posted in Crime, Laws, Legislation, Trafficking by Erineus on March 16, 2009

By Marjorie Gorospe
First Posted 20:58:00 03/16/2009

Filed Under: Crime, Laws

MANILA, Philippines — A nongovernmental organization (NGO) urged lawmakers to amend the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2003, in particular the confidentiality clause it deemed partial to offenders.

Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said the law currently protects the right to privacy of both the victim and the accused, allowing traffickers to continue their illegal activities.

“We believe in the need to protect the identities of the victims but not the accused especially if they have outstanding warrants of arrest,” Ople said.

Section 6 of Republic Act 9208 states that “at any stage of the investigation, prosecution and trial of an offense under this act, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, court personnel and medical practitioners, as well as parties to the case, shall recognize the right to privacy of the trafficked person and the accused.”

“The only thing we [NGOs] can hold on to is our advocacy, so how can we prevent trafficking if none of us can tell anyone who preys on the victims,” said Ople, pointing out that trafficking is a transnational crime that involves syndicates with power and resources.

She said her organization has asked the Senate labor committee, headed by Senator Jose Estrada, to amend the law.

Ople said Estrada has asked her group to draft the appropriate amendments.

“We see that there is a loophole in this law, and that’s what we’re trying to work out,” said Ople, daughter of the late Senator Blas Ople.


Lawyer’s lack of good moral character

Posted in Legal/Judicial Issues by Erineus on February 27, 2009

By Judge Gabriel T. Ingles
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 11:33:00 02/26/2009

[A.C. No. 7022. June 18, 2008.]

MARJORIE F. SAMANIEGO, complainant, vs. ATTY. ANDREW V. FERRER, respondent.

We agree with the IBP on Atty. Ferrer’s failure to give support to his daughter with Ms. Samaniego. We also agree with the Office of the Bar Confidant that Atty. Ferrer’s affair with Ms. Samaniego showed his lack of good moral character as a member of the bar. We dismiss, however, Ms. Samaniego’s charge of abandonment since Atty. Ferrer did not abandon them. He returned to his family.

Atty. Ferrer admitted his extra-marital affair; in his words, his indiscretion which ended in 2000. We have considered such illicit relation as a disgraceful and immoral conduct subject to disciplinary action. 15 The penalty for such immoral conduct is disbarment, 16 or indefinite 17 or definite 18 suspension, depending on the circumstances of the case. Recently, in Ferancullo v. Ferancullo, Jr., 19 we ruled that suspension from the practice of law for two years was an adequate penalty imposed on the lawyer who was found guilty of gross immorality. In said case, we considered the absence of aggravating circumstances such as an adulterous relationship coupled with refusal to support his family; or maintaining illicit relationships with at least two women during the subsistence of his marriage; or abandoning his legal wife and cohabiting with other women.

In this case, we find no similar aggravating circumstances. Thus we find the penalty recommended by the IBP and Office of the Bar Confidant as adequate sanction for the grossly immoral conduct of respondent.

On another point, we may agree with respondent’s contention that complainant was not entirely blameless. She knew about his wife but blindly believed him to be unmarried. However, that one complicit in the affair complained of immorality against her co-principal does not make this case less serious since it is immaterial whether Ms. Samaniego is in pari delicto. 21 We must emphasize that this Court’s investigation is not about Ms. Samaniego’s acts but Atty. Ferrer’s conduct as one of its officers and his fitness to continue as a member of the Bar.

Finally, it is opportune to remind Atty. Ferrer and all members of the bar of the following norms under the Code of Professional Responsibility:

x x x

Rule 1.01 — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

x x x

Canon 7 — A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and support the activities of the integrated bar.

x x x

Rule 7.03 — A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

x x x

Needless to state, respondent ought always to keep in mind the responsibilities of a father to all his children. If there be a resultant hardship on them because of this case, let it be impressed on all concerned that the direct cause thereof was his own misconduct.

WHEREFORE, we find respondent Atty. Andrew V. Ferrer GUILTY of gross immorality and, as recommended by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Bar Confidant, SUSPEND him from the practice of law for six (6) months effective upon notice hereof, with WARNING that the same or similar act in the future will be dealt with more severely.


‘A balanced and healthful ecology’

Posted in Constitution, Environment, Laws by Erineus on February 2, 2009

A PROVISION in the 1987 Constitution, which once some saw as unnecessary, has been gradually gaining attention. Section 16 of Article II says: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” In tandem with it is Section 15, which says: “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

Section 16 is unusual among those found in Article II in that, whereas almost all the other provisions in the Article are not self-executing but need implementing legislation to make them effective, Section 16 has been recognized by the Supreme Court as self-executing like the provisions in the Bill of Rights. As early as 1993 the Supreme Court already recognized it, in conjunction with the right to health, as anchoring the right of a group of minors to challenge logging practices in the country. The minors, speaking for themselves and for “generations yet unborn” under the concept of “inter-generational justice,” asked the Court to order a stop to the harmful effects flowing from deforestation. The Court upheld their right to raise the challenge as flowing from their “right to a balanced and healthful ecology” and “the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment.”

Not long after that the Court upheld the right of the Laguna Lake Development Authority to be responsible for the ecological protection of Laguna Lake against the claimed authority of the local governments around the lake. The Supreme Court linked Section 16 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Alma Conference Declaration of 1978.

Along a similar vein, in 2007 the Supreme Court upheld the validity of an ordinance of the City of Manila requiring the oil companies to close and transfer the Pandacan Terminals to another location within a specified period.

The latest on this subject came out only last December. In Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Residents of Manila Bay, the Supreme Court ordered various agencies of government to clean up Manila Bay.

All these have come about because of the desire of the state as enunciated in the Constitution to ensure for the people a healthy environment. This constitutional policy, even if already self-executing, has been injected with an element of urgency through various laws.

The latest development on the subject is an ordinance promulgated by the City of Davao ordering a stop to aerial spraying of fungicides in the plantations of Davao. I wrote about this last week saying that this is unfinished business. The ordinance was brought to court and one of the issues was whether conclusive evidence existed to prove that aerial spraying was the cause of ailments reported as affecting some people in the area. The Court of Appeals found no conclusive evidence and saw this as one of the reasons why the ordinance should be invalidated. (Another reason was the alleged impossibility and enormous cost of switching to a different method of speeding fungicides.)

About the issue of lack of evidence, Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J., president of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro and a scientist whose area of expertise is environmental matters, made some interesting observations in a letter he sent me. He says:

“Environmental laws and regulations must abide by the precautionary principle. This principle simply holds that uncertainty in the science should not be an obstacle or excuse to postpone mitigating action. It is a conservative principle which in the case of scientific uncertainty places the burden of proof on the polluter, not on the affected, i.e. the polluter has the responsibility to prove that what is being spewed into the environment is not harmful. [The Court of Appeals had said that the planters had failed to do this.] Corollary, it is not the responsibility of the affected to prove that the effluent is poisonous. In view of scientific uncertainty, the presumption is that the chemical is harmful.

“Aerial spraying is better deployed in advanced countries where there is mechanized agriculture and land buffers are maintained. In the Philippines and other developing countries, communities live close to the plants and the land they till.

“The degree of harm depends on the lifetime, human exposure and concentration levels of the chemical. These will depend on the state of the atmosphere. Greater control of the dispersion of chemicals is possible in stable atmospheres. Tropical atmospheres are frequently unstable and less predictable. You only need to ask a fisherman who knows how locally unpredictable amihan can be these days.

“If I were a banana plant manager, I would seriously weigh the marginal cost of mitigating the impact of aerial spraying or the total cost of adopting another technology alongside the externality costs of possible medical, rehabilitation, and legal class action in the future. If three months are not enough to change systems, I would negotiate for a protracted withdrawal schedule. Time, like air, can dilute costs.

“If I were a banana farmer, I would try to convince my amo that people are better than planes. People can say thank you. Planes can only fly.

“As a priest, I hope that our judges and our agriculturists see that heaven might be an aerial place and that God’s bottom line might be different from theirs.”

Of course, the last two paragraphs are neither science nor law. But they can be of greater significance than either science or law, or bananas.

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 02/02/2009