SC Denies Akbayan’s Motion to Intervene in Manila Bay Case

November 19, 2020

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the motion to intervene filed by Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party in the Manila Bay case. The said case which is already final and executory involves a continuing mandamus order directing concerned government agencies to ensure the clean-up, rehabilitation and preservation of the Manila Bay.

In an En Banc resolution promulgated on November 17, 2020 in

G.R. Nos. 171947-48 (In re: Motion to Intervene and to Cite in Contempt by Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party in Metro Manila Development Authority, et al. v. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, et al), the Court held that the case has been rendered final and executory and that its jurisdiction is limited only to the full implementation of the mandated reliefs.

The Court held that intervention is not a matter of right and that the propriety of an intervention is addressed to the sound discretion of the court. The Court held that intervention is not viable where the case has long been concluded with finality and is now on execution albeit still under judicial supervision as a necessary consequence of the standing mandamus for the constant clean-up and maintenance of the bay and its waters.

From the finality of the decision containing the writ, the jurisdiction retained by the Court is limited only to ensuring the successful implementation of the mandated reliefs. The required returns of the writ are a measure of compulsion for the concerned parties to submit to the Court periodic reports which detail compliance with the judgment. As the Court at this point has only post-judgment supervisory jurisdiction, the range of remedial orders it might issue and any remedial procedure it might undertake shall be limited only to the partial returns of the writ.

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta is the member-in-charge of the case being the only remaining justice of the SC which came out with the 2008 landmark ruling directing 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve the Manila Bay.

Akbayan filed a motion for leave to intervene with prayer to hold in contempt the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for installing an artificial white beach on a small strip of the Manila Bay purportedly in violation of the writ of continuing mandamus for the sustained clean-up and maintenance of Manila.

The Court held that it has not yet found any violation of the continuing mandamus amidst the quarterly reports submitted by the concerned agencies and the on-site ocular inspection conducted by the Manila Bay Advisory Committee (MBAC). The Court, at least for the time being, should stay its disciplining hand. MBAC is chaired by Chief Justice Peralta.

The Court took judicial notice that the DENR has not been remiss in its reportorial duty to the MBAC respecting the works actually performed by the concerned agencies and departments according to the writ’s directions. MBAC is chaired by Chief Justice Peralta. This is evident from the compliance report, duly made of record containing a detailed resumé of the works accomplished, concluded and maintained within the bay and its environs.

The specific directive to the DENR and the concerned agencies and departments is simply to clean the waters of the bay and perform maintenance measures to keep it within the legal standards of cleanliness fit for recreation. The project, proceeding as it did from the DENR’s own beach nourishment program, is not an allied or related activity sanctioned by the writ, hence, could hardly be objectively measured as a deviation from the government’s mandate as defined in the said writ. The contention is bred only when the alleged hazardous potential of the component dolomite enters the picture, whereby it becomes clear that the bone of contention all along is not the project per se but the material used to carry it out. The Court held that the instant recourse is a challenge to the wisdom behind the use of the component dolomite, which is a factual issue not ordinarily entertained by the Court. It is a challenge that properly lies in the realm of political questions which the Court may not venture into even incidentally in a contempt proceeding under the given circumstances.

Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen wrote a separate opinion. The SC Public Information Office will upload the copy of the resolution to its website once it is available. ###