Friday, August 5, 2016

CA denies Marcopper appeal on Calancan Bay fisherfolks class suit; Mogpog class action continues

CA defends citing of Internet sources in disaster case involving Marcopper

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has denied Marcopper Mining Corp.’s appeal against its decision subjecting to trial the class suit by local fishermen affected by a mining pit’s collapse 20 years ago.


A huge lagoon of copper mine tailings are impounded in a containment area that used to be an open pit mine of Marcopper Mining Corp. in Marinduque in this March 30, 1996 photo. AFP

The mining firm unsuccessfully petitioned the appellate court to reverse the Boac Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 38’s July 5, 2013 order denying its motion to dismiss the Calancan Bay Fisherfolk Federation’s (CBFF) class action.

In dismissing the mining firm’s motion for reconsideration, the CA Former Fifth Division also defended its June 29, 2015 decision that cited Wikipedia and other online sources in explaining why it allowed the Boac court to tackle the suit.

Marcopper claimed the June ruling -- based on the grounds of massive damage to locals’ health and the environment -- was anchored on unsubstantiated conclusion of facts tantamount to prejudgment of the case.

But the appellate court, in a five-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr., rejected this contention.

It did not give credence to Marcopper’s argument that its earlier decision was based on unofficial and unverified reports found on the Internet that are neither part of the case records nor matters of judicial notice.

The appellate court explained it had to study why the mining pit collapsed in March 1996 and how the villagers and the island’s water systems were affected by the ensuing tailings leak. It held that the use of Internet articles to resolve the petition to dismiss the class suit was “in a fair and just manner.”

The appellate court reasoned out that even the Supreme Court since 2004 has cited articles from Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia built collaboratively by online users.

“Resort to the internet was made to supplant the missing information that will provide a sufficient background to apprise the Court of the basis and the reason for the tort case filed by the fishermen,” the CA added.

The June 29, 2015 decision allowed the Boac RTC to proceed with the case after finding the incident to be “an environmental disaster with far-reaching consequences” which the trial court can take cognizance of.

The appellate court also took note of the fact the class suit listed the names of persons who died and children who were afflicted with diseases in the aftermath of the disaster.

According to the original decision’s footnotes, the following findings were sourced from Wikipedia on June 1, 2015: an estimated 84 million metric tons of mine tailings were discharged into Calancan Bay from 1975 to 1988, and some mine tailings exposed to ocean breeze were carried by the wind to the nearby rice fields, open water wells and village homes.

Another fact culled from the online encyclopedia is President Fidel V. Ramos’s March 1998 placement of certain Calancan Bay villages under the “state of calamity for health reasons.” It also cited the Wikipedia definition of “mine tailings.”

The decision also cited a feature story published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 1999, which detailed the plight of the disaster’s victims.

Marcopper’s petition against the Boac RTC was based on procedural grounds, arguing CBFF committed undue delay in seeking relief. The firm claimed the complainants were already aware of the discharge of mine tailings in the 1980s, yet they did not take any legal action at the time.  Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato/BusinessWorld 3/7/16



Case Rita Natal et al vs Marcopper

Meanwhile, the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC Marinduque), recently celebrated its 20 years of environmental stewardship and advocacy for environmental justice. Joining MACEC in its celebration were plaintiffs from Mogpog in another civil case, Rita Natal et al vs. Marcopper Mining Corporation, after a court hearing at the Regional Trial Court of Marinduque July 27 (above photo)

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