SC to Work for Social Justice – Chief Justice Puno

Meanwhile, Kalikasan National Coordinator Clemente Bautista disclosed that at least 100 environmental advocates have been slapped with charges because of their opposition to mining and logging. Bautista said 80 teachers in Sibuyan were charged with illegal assembly and grave coercion. In Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, Oxiana Royalco Resources mining company filed a petition for permanent injunction against 24 leaders of indigenous people to prevent them from continuing their barricade.

Puno said, ”Tutugunan [ng Korte Suprema] ang SLAPP na ginagamit upang ligaligin, guluhin at pigilin ang nagtataguyod ng karapatan konstitusyonal na pang-ekonomiya, pang-pamayanan at pang-kultura.” (The Supreme Court will address SLAPP that is being used to harass, stop those who advance their constitutionally-guaranteed economic, social and cultural rights.)

Puno added that the High Court will also consider SLAPP back actions for damages against the complainant.

He said that they will study the different approaches used in the US, Canada, Europe where SLAPP cases and SLAPP back actions originated.

Small claims courts

Puno also announced that the Supreme Court is finalizing the rules of procedure for small claims cases. He said that pilot courts will be chosen hear small cases involving the poor.

Hindi na kailangan ng abogado, hindi na susundin ang masalimuot na rules of procedure,” (There will be no need for a lawyer; the complicated rules of procedure will not be followed.) Puno said.

Almost all groups who presented their reports complained of the lack of pro-bono lawyers.

Puno said the Supreme Court aims to bring the success of small claims courts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States to the Philippines.

Civil cases with damages not exceeding P100,000 ($2,177 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.925) may also be heard in these courts, said Puno.

Other concerns, recommendations

Jose Enrique Africa, research head of Ibon Foundation, proposed that trade deals, economic and social policies be subjected to judicial review.

Africa said that the effects of macroeconomic policies violate the people’s economic, social and cultural rights.

In a statement, Bayan asserted that trade and investment agreements such as the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO), Mining Act of 1995 and the Malampaya natural gas project must be reviewed. “Many of these policies have upheld the globalization paradigm which sought to open up the country to investments and trade, effectively removing protections for domestic economy and national patrimony,” Bayan said.

Writ of Andres Bonifacio

CJ Puno with BayanMeanwhile, Ad Litem Judge Romeo Capulong, president of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and chairperson of the NUPL provided the framework of the struggle of poor Filipinos for economic, social and cultural rights.

Capulong said, “We live and suffer in a stratified society and under a government that is dominated by a tiny elite. This tiny elite has a monopoly of political power and economic resources which they use and often abuse to tilt the scales of justice in their favor.”

He added, “We are endowed with rich natural resources but million of Filipinos are mired in deep and widespread poverty under a system characterized by a backward, agrarian and pre-industrial economy.”

He said that marginalized sectors, the defenseless poor, are forced to go to court either to defend or assert their economic, social and cultural rights against ‘formidable adversaries’ who have unlimited resources and full support of the government, including the military, police, local officials and private armies.

Capulong said, “…our problems in the judiciary, in the legislature, in the executive branch are inextricably intertwined and will defy lasting solutions unless we dismantle the prevailing unjust social and economic order and establish a truly, free, democratic and sovereign nation.”

He proposed the adoption of what he called the writ of Andres Bonifacio.

In reaction, Puno said, “I fully concurred with all the statements of Judge Capulong. Totoong lahat lalo na ang tungkol sa elite-dominated government and society. Bulag at bingi na lang ang hindi makakakita ng katotohanang iyan.” (All of it is true especially those about the elite-dominated government and society. One has to be blind and deaf in order not to see the truth in that.)

Puno said, “Maaasahan [ang Korte Suprema] na gagawa ng lahat ng kayang gawin upang ang social justice na isang mandato ng ating Saligang Batas ay magkaroon ng saysay sa ating mga kababayan.” (Rest assured that the Supreme Court would do everything within its power so that social justice, which is one of the mandates of the Constitution, would have meaning for our countrymen.)(

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