Sunday, February 03, 2008
By Priam F. Nepomuceno
These courts will try and decide violations of environmental laws which include the Revised Forestry Code (PD 705), Marine Pollution (PD 979), Toxic Substances and Hazardous Waste Act (RA 6969), People’s Small-Scale Mining Act (RA 7076), National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (RA 7586), Philippine Mining Act (RA 7942), Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371), Philippine Fisheries Code (RA 8550); Clean Air Act (RA 8749), Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), National Caves & Cave Resources Management Act (RA 9072), Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act (RA 9147), Chainsaw Act (RA 9175), and Clean Water Act (RA 9275).
Fifteen of the 117 environmental courts are Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) from the National Capital Judicial Region. These are Branch 1, Manila; Br. 41, Manila; Br. 101, Quezon City; Br. 108, Pasay City; Br. 127, Kaloocan City; Br. 58, Makati City; Br. 152, Pasig City (cases originating from Pasig City); Br. 266, Pasig City (cases originating from Taguig City); Br. 170, Malabon City; Br. 272, Marikina City; Br. 208, Mandaluyong City; Br. 196, Parañaque City; Br. 201, Las Piñas City; Br. 205, Muntinlupa City; and Br. 171, Valenzuela City.
Other environmental courts are RTCs from the 12 Judicial Regions. These are Branch 5, Baguio City; Br. 10, La Trinidad, Benguet; Br. 12, Laoag City; Br. 28, San Fernando City; Br. 39, Lingayen, Pangasinan; Br. 44, Dagupan City, Pangasinan; Br. 47, Urdaneta City;
Branch 5, Tuguegarao City; Br. 9, Aparri, Cagayan; Br. 17, Ilagan, Isabela; Br. 27, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya; Br. 1, Balanga City; Br. 19, Malolos City; Br. 29, Cabanatuan City; Br. 32, Guimba, Nueva Ecija; Br. 36, Gapan City; Br. 41, City of San Fernando, Pampanga; Br. 51, Guagua, Pampanga; Br. 59, Angeles City; Br. 65, Tarlac City; Br. 69, Iba, Zambales; Br. 75, Olongapo City;
Branch 4, Batangas City; Br. 11, Balayan, Batangas; Br. 88, Cavite City; Br. 20, Imus, Cavite; Br. 27, Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Br. 32, San Pablo City; Br. 36, Calamba City; Br. 51, Puerto Princesa City; Br. 60, Lucena City; Br. 70, Binangonan, Rizal; Br. 71, Antipolo City; Br. 75, San Mateo, Rizal; Br. 78, Morong Rizal; Br. 1, Legaspi City; Br. 13, Ligao City; Br. 15, Tabaco City; Br. 25, Naga City; Br. 32, Pili, Camarines Sur; Br. 35, Iriga City; Br. 38, Daet, Camarines Norte; Br. 53, Sorsogon City; Br. 47, Masbate City;
Branch 2, Kalibo, Aklan; Br. 11, San Jose, Antique; Br. 15, Roxas City; Br. 28, Iloilo City; Br. 44, Bacolod City; Br. 23, Cebu City; Br. 28, Mandaue City; Br. 54, Lapu-Lapu City; Br. 34, Dumaguete City; Br. 47, Tagbilaran City; Br. 9, Tacloban City; Br. 29, Catbalogan, Samar; Br. 8, Dipolog City; Br. 16, Zamboanga City; Br. 20, Pagadian City; Br. 4, Butuan City; Br. 10, Malaybalay City; Br. 12, Oroquieta City; Br. 39, Cagayan de Oro City; Br. 1, Tagum City; Br. 16, Davao City; Br. 18, Digos City; Br. 35, General Santos City; Br. 4, Iligan City; and Br. 10, Marawi City.
The Court also designated seven Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTC) as environmental courts. These are Branch 3, Manila; Br. 8, Manila; Br. 36, Quezon City; Br. 48, Pasay City; Br. 49, Kaloocan City; Br. 67, Makati City; and Br. 70, Pasig City.
Also designated are Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCC) Branch 4, Baguio City; Br. 3, Dagupan City; Br. 4, Tuguegarao City; Br. 1, Angeles City; Br. 1, Cabanatuan City; Br. 2, City of San Fernando, Pampanga; Br. 3, Olongapo City; Br. 1, San Jose del Monte City; Br. 1, Antipolo City; Br. 2, Lipa City; Br. 1, San Pablo City; Br. 2, Legaspi City; Br. 2, Naga City; Br. 3, Bacolod City; Br. 9, Iloilo City; Br. 2, Roxas City; Br. 7, Cebu City; Br. 3, Mandaue City; Br. 1, Tagbilaran City; Br. 2, Zamboanga City; Br. 2, Butuan City; Br. 5, Cagayan de Oro City; Br. 3, Ozamis City; Br. 7, Davao City; Br. 1, Gen Santos City; and Br. 1, Iligan City.
Records from the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) show that there were 2,353 environmental cases pending before our courts as of December 2006.
Haribon Foundation, on the other hand, reported that by October 2007 the said figure ballooned to 3,102, with 109 of these cases filed more than a decade ago.
In designating the Special Courts, the SC ha also issued guidelines to be observed. In multi sala stations where no branches of the first and second level courts were designated as environmental courts, the cases shall be raffled among the branches thereat which shall try and decide such cases according to existing issuances.
All single sala first and second level courts are considered special courts for said purpose.
The designated Special Courts to try environmental cases shall continue to be included in the raffle of cases, criminal, civil, and other cases. They shall continue to perform their functions even after the retirement, promotion, dismissal, suspension, transfer, or detail of the judges appointed/designated to preside over the said branches.
Their successors, whether permanent or temporary, shall act as Presiding Judges of these Special Courts unless the SC directs otherwise.
All environmental cases covered by the SC order wherein pre-trial in case of civil cases has already commenced and when the accused is already arraigned in case of criminal cases shall remain in the branches where they are originally assigned, otherwise these cases shall be assigned by raffle in case there are two or more designated Special Courts or when there is only one in the station, the cases shall be unloaded to the said Special Court.
The transferred environmental cases shall be considered as raffled cases to the Special Courts hence the branch which unloaded the environmental cases shall be assigned newly filed cases to replace the cases removed from said branch. (PNA)