Remedial Law

MMDA v. CONCERNED RESIDENTS OF MANILA BAY G.R. Nos. 171947-48 December 18, 2008 Mandamus

FACTS:

Respondents Concerned Residents of Manila Bay filed a complaint before the RTC in Imus, Cavite against several government agencies, among them the petitioners, for the cleanup, rehabilitation, and protection of the Manila Bay.

The complaint alleged that the water quality of the Manila Bay had fallen way below the allowable standards set by law, specifically PD.. 1152 or the Philippine Environment Code.

Respondents, as plaintiffs a quo, prayed that petitioners be ordered to clean the Manila Bay and submit to the RTC a concerted concrete plan of action for the purpose.

The RTC Ordered Petitioners to Clean Up and Rehabilitate Manila Bay.

The DENR, DPWH, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Philippine Coast Guard , PNP Maritime Group, and five other executive departments and agencies filed directly with this Court a petition for review under Rule 45.

Petitioners were one in arguing in the main that the pertinent provisions of the Environment Code  relate only to the cleaning of specific pollution incidents and do not cover cleaning in general. And apart from raising concerns about the lack of funds appropriated for cleaning purposes, petitioners also asserted that the cleaning of the Manila Bay is not a ministerial act which can be compelled by mandamus.

The CA denied petitioners appeal and affirmed the Decision of the RTC in toto, stressing that the trial courts decision did not require petitioners to do tasks outside of their usual basic functions under existing laws.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioners can be compelled by mandamus to clean up and rehabilitate the Manila Bay.

 

RULING:

The Cleaning or Rehabilitation of Manila Bay Can be Compelled by Mandamus.

Generally, the writ of mandamus lies to require the execution of a ministerial duty. A ministerial duty is one that requires neither the exercise of official discretion nor judgment. It connotes an act in which nothing is left to the discretion of the person executing it. It is a simple, definite duty arising under conditions admitted or proved to exist and imposed by law.  Mandamus is available to compel action, when refused, on matters involving discretion, but not to direct the exercise of judgment or discretion one way or the other.

First off, we wish to state that petitioners obligation to perform their duties as defined by law, on one hand, and how they are to carry out such duties, on the other, are two different concepts. While the implementation of the MMDAs mandated tasks may entail a decision-making process, the enforcement of the law or the very act of doing what the law exacts to be done is ministerial in nature and may be compelled by mandamus. We said so in Social Justice Society v. Atienza[11] in which the Court directed the City of Manila to enforce, as a matter of ministerial duty, its Ordinance No. 8027 directing the three big local oil players to cease and desist from operating their business in the so-called Pandacan Terminals within six months from the effectivity of the ordinance. But to illustrate with respect to the instant case, the MMDA’s duty to put up an adequate and appropriate sanitary landfill and solid waste and liquid disposal as well as other alternative garbage disposal systems is ministerial, its duty being a statutory imposition. The MMDA’s duty in this regard is spelled out in Sec. 3(c) of RA 7924 creating the MMDA.

The MMDA’s duty in the area of solid waste disposal, as may be noted, is set forth not only in the Environment Code (PD 1152) and RA 9003, but in its charter as well. This duty of putting up a proper waste disposal system cannot be characterized as discretionary, for, as earlier stated, discretion presupposes the power or right given by law to public functionaries to act officially according to their judgment or conscience.

A discretionary duty is one that allows a person to exercise judgment and choose to perform or not to perform. Any suggestion that the MMDA has the option whether or not to perform its solid waste disposal-related duties ought to be dismissed for want of legal basis.

A perusal of other petitioners respective charters or like enabling statutes and pertinent laws would yield this conclusion: these government agencies are enjoined, as a matter of statutory obligation, to perform certain functions relating directly or indirectly to the cleanup, rehabilitation, protection, and preservation of the Manila Bay. They are precluded from choosing not to perform these duties.

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