“[t]he mountain-like trash in itself is a testament of the city government’s gross negligence in the management and operation of the dumpsite,” the decision states.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – After nearly 20 years, a local court held the Quezon City local government liable for the Payatas tragedy, which claimed the lives of more than 300 urban poor.
In a 133-page decision dated October 30, 2019, Regional Trial Court of Quezon City Branch 97 Acting Presiding Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang found the Quezon City Government liable for gross negligence and ordered to pay the victims damages.
Runes-Tamang ruled that “the improper and irresponsible dumping of waste thereby creating a mountain-like pile of garbage… is the proximate cause of the violent death of the victims and loss of personal and real properties.”
Stating that “[t]he mountain-like trash in itself is a testament of the city government’s gross negligence in the management and operation of the dumpsite,” the decision held the city government liable for temperate, moral and exemplary damages to the plaintiffs who are victims’ next of kin.
Temperate and moral damages awarded amount to P50,000 each per deceased victim, while exemplary damage is P10,000 per victim, totaling at least P6 million.
The Public Interest Law Center (PILC) considers this a landmark legal case in torts and disaster liabilities, particularly with the court’s determination of proximate cause for the tragedy.
“The decision, if read meticulously and with laws such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act deeply associated with this tragedy, helps shape a template for local governments in averting and managing disasters,” the PILC said in a statement.
The PILC represents families of the victims in the case.
Respondents to the case include then Mayor Ismael Mathay Jr., former Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Jejomar Binay, Tofemi Realty Corporation, Meteor Company Inc. and Ren Transport Corp.
On July 10, 2000, a mountain of garbage collapsed in barangay Lupang Pangako in Payatas dump, burying alive more than 300 residents. The tragedy is considered as one of the worst man-made disasters in Philippine history.