Marinduque — Mining victims of the 1993 Mogpog River disaster and their supporters expressed today their disappointment at yet again another delay in their case against Marcopper Mining Corporation, a copper mining company reportedly co-owned by then-president Ferdinand Marcos and Canada’s Placer Dome. The delay was mainly due to the absence of a presiding judge and a motion for reconsideration, filed by the new counsel of Marcopper, of the March 11, 2010 order of Marinduque Regional Trial Court Branch 38 presiding Judge Manuelito Caballes.
Based on a March 11, 2010 order from Judge Caballes, on the Rita Natal et. al. vs Marcopper Mining Corporation, today and tomorrow were supposed to be the given days that the mining company was compelled by the court to produce all necessary documents and the opening of Marcopper mine site in Marinduque for inspection.
Judge Caballes declared in his reply on the administrative complaint filed by the mining victims that he had suffered a stroke and had been advised by his doctor to take a “complete rest” and that he intends to file for disability retirement. He is currently on indefinite leave. The presiding judge was the subject of an administrative complaint filed by the mining victims last March 1, 2010 with the Office of Administrator of the Supreme Court due to delays and inaction on the Rita Natal case, and a petition for mandamus filed before the Supreme Court last May 6, 2010 to force the presiding judge to act on the case.
“We are absolutely dismayed over this delay. We were really looking forward in the implementation of the order,” said Manang Rita Natal, a 65-year-old plaintiff from Brgy. Bocboc, Mogpog, Marinduque and a representative of the 60 plaintiffs who filed the case.
“Imagine, we have waited 2 years for this order, 9 years since we filed the case, 16 years since the horrific tragedy, and yet we are still in the pre-trial stage! And now another delay? How much more do they want us to bear just to achieve justice?” Manang Rita further asserts.
Myke Magalang, Executive Director of Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC), a long time environmental advocate who has assisted the victims since the start of the tragedy, assailed the delays on the case, “This is uncalled for! The victims are not getting younger. Most of them are already senior citizens. Eight of the plaintiffs have already passed away. We cannot expect them to wait some more years, much more another 16 years, to achieve justice that they have long fought for.”
“The courts should immediately assign a new judge for this case and implement the order.” Magalang adds.
Atty. Minerva Quintela, lead counsel of the victims and from the cause-oriented group Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK) – Luzon, on her part stressed that the motion for reconsideration filed by the mining company on the March 11 order should immediately be junked. “They are just delaying the proceedings. Aside from the fact that they have violated the 3-day service of motion rule, they used rehash arguments that were already answered in previous exchanges of pleadings. They were unable to raise any new arguments that merit the stoppage of execution of the March 11 order.”
Under the Rules of Court, a written motion has to be received by the other party at least three (3) days before the date of hearing. In this case, the plaintiffs’ counsel only received the copy of the motion for reconsideration by the mining company last June 4, 2010, one day after the supposed notice of submission.
“They used old arguments in their motion which was actually the rationale behind the court’s March 11 order. Judge Caballes ruled against Marcopper’s assertions and upheld our claims that the documents and properties sought to be examined by the victims were relevant and material for the case.” Atty. Quintela further clarifies.
In his March 11, 2010 order, Judge Caballes cited jurisprudence in which he elaborated that parties should be given opportunities to “discover or inform themselves of all the facts relevant to the action, not only those known to them individually, but also those known to their adversaries.” The court also pointed out in its order that among the causes of action alleged in the case was Marcopper’s continuing negligence and inaction in the maintenance of the dam and rehabilitation of the river which causes the victims to suffer continuing damages.
“We are calling the courts to immediately act on this, particularly in the light of the recently approved Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, which clearly seeks the speedy enforcement of environmental rights and responsibilities by all stakeholders.” Atty. Quintela concludes.
In the wee hours of December 6, 1993, at the height of typhoon Monang, the siltation dam of Marcopper in Marinduque broke, sending a sudden flood down the Mogpog River. Two people were reported killed, along with the destruction of residents’ crops, homes and loss of numerous livestock due to the deluge of mine tailings and toxic effluent. The incident led to the eventual death of the Mogpog river, which, prior to the disaster, was a valuable community resource to barangays along its length. Likewise, in March 24, 1996, the same fate happened to Boac River, which also rendered the river biologically dead.
Several cases were filed against Marcopper, including a damages case filed in 2001 by 60 plaintiffs from Brgy. Magapua and Bocboc, Marinduque, who were the first victims when the Marcopper siltation dam burst in 1993. Ten years thereafter, the case is still in its pre-trial stage.