Saturday, December 15, 2012

How SM lost the case

It is Christmas time, and what the people of Baguio received from Branch 5 of the Regional Trial Court was the dismissal of the case filed against SM along with DPWH and DENR. So this is probably what Antonio Estevez, the presiding judge meant when he declared in court one day that this case was important to him because he feels saddened by how much Baguio has changed for the worse in the last few years, and because he wanted to leave a lasting legacy to the people of Baguio.

And with the decision his court released on December 3, 2012, this is the legacy he left: set Baguio on a course towards urban decay, environmental destruction in the name of crass commercialism and an unsustainable future where trees are merely seen as obstacles to corporate greed.

And so, people ask:

Did SM win the case? The judge did dismiss the complaint. But wait, SM can’t bring out their infamous backhoes just yet – their tree-cutting permit has already expired. So the trees’ execution will be stayed just a little bit longer. And we do intend to exhaust all legal options available to us, the people, in preventing the death of those trees. We are prepared to bring this all the way to the Supreme Court, and continue to present our case in the court of public opinion both national and global.

Did SM win the case? Henry Sy’s minions are celebrating this legal victory that won them the right to kill trees and destroy God’s creation for money. Is that something to celebrate?

If they eventually do get their way and remove the rest of the 182 trees on Luneta Hill, greatly reducing the water retention capacity and soil stabilization capability of the area, will the purported economic benefits of the expansion project be worth the risking of lives and properties when schools and other buildings directly below the expansion site now become the receiving end of excessive water run-off specially from typhoon and monsoon rains and potential landslides? Can you really consider that a victory?

And would you be able to live with yourself, if you were one who directly benefited from your participation in SM’s efforts to hide all of these immediate adverse effects on the city’s environment and potentially devastating consequences on the city’s residents? Would it be worth the gift certificates, nifty gadgets, fat checks in professional fees and other “representation expenses” in exchange for your praises for and defense of the injustice that is this unjustified concrete commercial and parking building? Would it be worth your honor, integrity and conscience?

We have managed to stand our ground for almost one year opposing SM’s insatiable hunger for money. Judge Estevez may have dismissed the case against SM, but in the meantime the remaining trees on Luneta Hill will remain standing, living, nurturing and protecting lives and the people of Baguio, in fact the whole country, nay, the whole world know of ordinary citizens’ valiant efforts to save God’s creation from man’s greed.

And that is how SM lost their case.

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