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Malacañang asks SC to junk petition questioning Boracay closure

/ 09:00 PM August 21, 2018

FILE – A resident of Boracay helps clean the beach under the labor department’s program to assist workers displaced by the six-month closure of the resort island. —LYN RILLON

Malacañang has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition questioning its decision to close Boracay Island for six months.

In a 61-page comment, the Palace, through Solicitor General Jose Calida said the petition filed by three residents, Mark Anthony Zabal, Thiting Estoso Jacosalem and Odeon Bandiola lacked merit.

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The petitioners urged the high court to nullify President Duterte’s Proclamation No. 475, which closed Boracay to tourists and non-residents from April 26 to Oct. 25. Petitioners said the proclamation violated the separation of powers as well as the rights to travel and due process.

They said Duterte overstepped on the power of Congress in issuing the assailed order and that he had no authority to exercise to close down the island based on its supposed police power.

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Calida, however, said the President ordered the closure of Boracay pursuant to his power as chief executive under Sections 1 and 17, Article VII of the Constitution and declared Boracay under a state of calamity upon the recommendation by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

“In this case, the situation in Boracay Island called for a strong and urgent measure to address the human-induced hazards that have caused the degradation of Boracay Island’s eco-system… Evidently, Proclamation No. 475 is nothing more than the President’s exercise of his power of control over the executive branch of government, especially in addressing the state of calamity in Boracay Island,” read the comment.

“Had the President failed to act on the recommendation of the National Council to address the environmental disaster in Boracay, he would have violated his bounden duty under existing laws and the Constitution,” Calida added.

The Solicitor General pointed out that there is no usurpation of power on the part of the President because he is only implementing pertinent laws such as the Philippine Clean Water Act, Solid Waste Management Act, and Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.

“It cannot be overemphasized therefore that the issuance of Proclamation No. 475 is within the ambit of the powers of the President and not contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers and the mechanisms laid out by the people through the Constitution,” the solicitor general argued.

On violating the constitutional right to travel, due process, Calida said the right to travel is not absolute as it provides exceptions in cases of “national security, public safety or public health,” which apply to Boracay Island.

The solicitor general also debunked the claim of petitioners that their right to due process was violated by the closure order, saying the government’s police power superseded Zabal and Jacosalem’s right to their freelance jobs as a sand-castle maker and tricycle driver in the island, respectively.

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“Petitioners are not vested with any permanent right within the purview of the due process clause of the Constitution, since the State, under its all-encompassing police power, may alter, modify or amend the same, in accordance with the demands of the general welfare,” he explained.

“With the proper exercise of police power, petitioners cannot just conveniently invoke the due process clause of the Constitution and insist that every government action should be to their liking. Private ends should yield to the reasonable prerogatives of the State for public good and welfare,” Calida said.

Besides, Calida added that the petition should have been dismissed outright because its sole purpose is “harassing, vexing, putting undue pressure, or stifling any legal recourse that the respondents have taken or will take in the enforcement of environmental laws on Boracay Island.”

Named respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and DILG Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año. President Duterte was also named respondent, but is expected to be dropped because of his immunity from suits while still in office.

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SC asked to stop closure of Boracay

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