J Leonen, SJS Officers v Lim

G.R. Nos. 187836; Nov 25, 2014


These petitions are a sequel to the case of Social Justice Society v. Mayor Atienza, Jr. (G.R. No. 156052), where the Court declared that the subject City of Manila Ordinance No. 8027, enacted during the term of Mayor Atienza, ordering the relocation and transfer of the Pandacan oil terminals is constitutional. On 14 May 2009, during the incumbency of former Mayor Lim, who succeeded Mayor Atienza, the Sangguniang Panlungsod enacted Ordinance No. 8187. The new Ordinance repealed, amended, rescinded or otherwise modified Ordinance No. 8027, Section 23 of Ordinance No. 8119, and all other Ordinances or provisions inconsistent therewith thereby allowing, once again, the operation of petroleum refineries and oil depots in the Pandacan area. 

The petitioners argue that the enactment of the assailed Ordinance is not a valid exercise of police power because the measures provided therein do not promote the general welfare of the people. They further argue that Ordinance No. 8187 is violative of Sections 15 and 16, Article II of the Constitution of the Philippines on the duty of the State “to protect and promote the right to health of the people” and “protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology.” Moreover, they argue that despite the finality of the Decision in G.R. No. 156052, and notwithstanding that the conditions and circumstances warranting the validity of Ordinance No. 8027 remain the same, the Manila City Council passed a contrary Ordinance, thereby refusing to recognize that “judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution form part of the legal system of the Philippines.” Petitioners likewise claim that the Ordinance is in violation of health and environment-related municipal laws, and international conventions and treaties to which the Philippines is a state party. 

Respondents aver that petitions are based on unfounded fears; that the assailed ordinance is a valid exercise of police power; that it is consistent with the general welfare clause and public policy, and is not unreasonable; that it does not run contrary to the Constitution, municipal laws, and international conventions; and that the petitioners failed to overcome the presumption of validity of the assailed ordinance.


Is the enactment of No. 8187, allowing the continued stay of the oil companies in the depots, is invalid and unconstitutional?


YES. The Local Government Code of 1991 expressly provides that the Sangguniang Panlungsod is vested with the power to “reclassify land within the jurisdiction of the city” subject to the pertinent provisions of the Code. It is also settled that an ordinance may be modified or repealed by another ordinance.” These have been properly applied in G.R. No. 156052, where the Court upheld the position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod to reclassify the land subject of the Ordinance, and declared that the mayor has the duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027, provided that it has not been repealed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod or otherwise annulled by the courts. In the same case, the Court also used the principle that the Sangguniang Panlungsod is in the best position to determine the needs of its constituents — that the removal of the oil depots from the Pandacan area is necessary “to protect the residents of Manila from catastrophic devastation in case of a terrorist attack on the Pandacan Terminals.” 

The fact remains, however, that notwithstanding that the conditions with respect to the operations of the oil depots existing prior to the enactment of Ordinance No. 8027 do not substantially differ to this day, as would later be discussed, the position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod on the matter has thrice changed, largely depending on the new composition of the council and/or political affiliations. The foregoing, thus, shows that its determination of the “general welfare” of the city does not after all gear towards the protection of the people in its true sense and meaning, but is, one way or another, dependent on the personal preference of the members who sit in the council as to which particular sector among its constituents it wishes to favor.

Now that the City of Manila, through the mayor and the city councilors, has changed its view on the matter, favoring the city’s economic-related benefits, through the continued stay of the oil terminals, over the protection of the very lives and safety of its constituents, it is imperative for this Court to make a final determination on the basis of the facts on the table as to which specific right of the inhabitants of Manila should prevail. For, in this present controversy, history reveals that there is truly no such thing as “the will of Manila” insofar as the general welfare of the people is concerned. If in sacrilege, in free translation of Angara by Justice Laurel, we say when the judiciary mediates we do not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the Manila Sangguniang Panlungsod, but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to the Court by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them.

Resident Marine Mammals of the Protected Seascape Tanon Strait

GR No. 180771, Apr 21, 2015


June 13, 2002, the Government of the Philippines, acting through the DOE, entered into a Geophysical Survey and Exploration Contract-102 (GSEC-102) with JAPEX. This contract involved geological and geophysical studies of the Tañon Strait. 

May 9 to 18, 2005, JAPEX conducted seismic surveys in and around the Tañon Strait. A multi-channel sub-bottom profiling covering approximately 751 kilometers was also done to determine the area's underwater composition. 

January 31, 2007, the Protected Area Management Board of the Tañon Strait (PAMB-Tañon Strait) issued Resolution No. 2007-001, wherein it adopted the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) commissioned by JAPEX, and favorably recommended the approval of JAPEX's application for an ECC. 

March 6, 2007, the EMB of DENR Region VII granted an ECC to the DOE and JAPEX for the offshore oil and gas exploration project in Tañon Strait. Months later, on November 16, 2007, JAPEX began to drill an exploratory well, with a depth of 3,150 meters, near Pinamungajan town in the western Cebu Province. This drilling lasted until February 8, 2008. 

Petitioners then applied to this Court for redress, via two separate original petitions both dated December 17, 2007, wherein they commonly seek that respondents be enjoined from implementing SC-46 for, among others, violation of the 1987 Constitution. 


Is the service contract valid?


Yes. The disposition, exploration, development, exploitation, and utilization of indigenous petroleum in the Philippines are governed by Presidential Decree No. 87 or the Oil Exploration and Development Act of 1972. This was enacted by then President Ferdinand Marcos to promote the discovery and production of indigenous petroleum through the utilization of government and/or local or foreign private resources to yield the maximum benefit to the Filipino people and the revenues to the Philippine Government. 

Contrary to the petitioners' argument, Presidential Decree No. 87, although enacted in 1972, before the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, remains to be a valid law unless otherwise repealed. 

Moreover, in cases where the statute seems to be in conflict with the Constitution, but a construction that it is in harmony with the Constitution is also possible, that construction should be preferred. This Court, in Pangandaman v. Commission on Elections expounding on this point, pronounced: It is a basic precept in statutory construction that a statute should be interpreted in harmony with the Constitution and that the spirit, rather than the letter of the law determines its construction; for that reason, a statute must be read according to its spirit and intent. 

Note that while Presidential Decree No. 87 may serve as the general law upon which a service contract for petroleum exploration and extraction may be authorized, as will be discussed below, the exploitation and utilization of this energy resource in the present case may be allowed only through a law passed by Congress, since the Tañon Strait is a NIPAS area.

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