Class suit vs local officials for doing nothing on repeated floods!
For doing nothing on repeated floods
By BERTENI “TOTO” CATALUÑA CAUSING
It has become exceedingly disgusting. The problem on flooding repeats all over and over again. The only variations are the places and the causes, as well as the numbers of deaths and the extents of damages.
It is however not much of the concern as to where the next flood would occur. The thing is that almost every place has experienced flooding.
As to causes, there are only two: excessive rainfall or simple problems of clogging. As to excessive rainfall, history shows that it has always been caused by typhoons. As to simple problems of clogging, history again showed that flooding occurred particularly in Metro Manila due to clogging even with ordinary rains caused by casual climate changes.
Of all these causes, it is the typhoon-induced rains that can be adjudged by anybody as force majeure or an “act of God” or an “act of Allah” as labeled by those who probably do not give regard to whether this statement insults the Mighty above or do not believe in the existence of God.
Nevertheless, whether God exists or not is not an issue here. And to avoid a clash with those who do not believe, let us just call these typhoon-induced rains as “circumstances beyond human control.”
Let me ask before we proceed: “Does it mean that if an event is beyond human control we cannot avoid the damage?”
No, because we can.
By using the principle of avoidance, we can always avoid or leave and stay away from the paths of destruction.
Talking about typhoons, history shows that rains always come along or ahead whenever a typhoon is to come.
And when a typhoon comes, can we avoid it?
Yes, because our weather bureau is so far efficient in saying a typhoon is coming and when it should enter land areas. It does not matter that there have been misses in predicting the amount of rainfall or the strength or the pinpoint location where the typhoon would hit land. What is important is the Pag-asa has not erred in announcing that a typhoon is coming to town and when it would strike land.
So that what is important is we have a correct warning as to time.
We may ask: “Is there a sufficient time for avoidance between the time of announcement by the Pag-asa of an oncoming typhoon and the time when all have already avoided before the typhoon hits town?”
Yes, history shows that the time has always been sufficient in so far as the performance of the Pag-asa is concerned.
Three or two days before the entry, the Pag-asa has been making announcement that a typhoon is spotted in the exact latitude and longitude and travelling at an almost exact speed of the horizontal movement toward the Philippines, thereby giving a reasonable comfortable feeling as to when would the landfall occur.
Now, a day is more than sufficient for the evacuation to be done to established higher grounds.
If that is so, damage to lives and property can always be avoided if only the local officials—the mayors, vice-mayors, the councilors, the governors, the vice-governors and the board members—are diligent in protecting their electors from harm’s way.
For instance, Calumpit and Hagonoy in Bulacan province now are under water as high as a two-storey building and they appear to be in the worst scenario among all Central Luzon towns.
In all probabilities, the local officials here and the provincial officials led by Governor Willie Alvarado do not give so much attention to the announcement of the Pag-asa that typhoon “Pedring” was coming.
Similar scenario must have been happening in the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Pampanga.
And from these, what is clear is: THESE OFFICIALS DID NOTHING AND JUST LET THE TYPHOON COME.
And in fairness to these officials, the residents in their respective areas also did nothing but just trying to sleep it out only to be awakened by water invading their homes.
Now, can these residents make these officials pay?
It is submitted that these local officials can be made by their respective voters to pay for the sin of omission.
If there is a principle that says that between two parties who are innocent, the party that shall pay shall be the one that has the most responsibility to act under the laws and under the circumstances and yet that party neglected to act as required by laws and circumstances.
The local officials were voted for by the residents to act for their common good and common welfare, as well as for public safety and public order. These obligations are clearly stated or implied from the Local Government Code of the Philippines or RA 7160.
On the part of the residents, the residents were not even warned or told to evacuate to higher places.
Besides, Section 24 of RA 7160 clearly states: “Section 24. Liability for Damages. - Local government units and their officials are not exempt from liability for death or injury to persons or damage to property.”
And in this particular case, the victims of floods will be claiming payment for the failure of these officials and their local government units to act.
These officials and local government units cannot claim immunity from suit because only those acts that were done in the performance of official duties are protected.
If this is so, immunity covers only what was done. It does not protect what was NOT DONE, or when there was a failure to act, or simply inaction.
So that if all the residents of Calumpit and Hagonoy lost property that could have been saved by avoidance or lost lives, they can make their local officials pay for not doing their job under the general principle of damages or tort or quasi-delict or under Section 24 of RA 7169.
In addition, they can seek administrative punishments against these officials by filing complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman.
And it is being made clear that the sins of these officials and the local government units they run are the sins of not setting up permanent evacuation centers on high grounds that would be enough to accommodate the residents; sins of not setting up permanent disaster rescue teams that are fully equipped with rubber boats or even spare tires and bancas, ropes, flash lights, and other life-saving devices that may be needed; sins of not setting up evacuation and security teams that will bring the residents to the nearest established sites and at the same time watch over the properties left in the houses; and sins of not setting up food preparation teams to cater to the needs of the residents while staying in all evacuation centers.
These are simple matters to do and the Local Government Code commands all local government units to set aside a fix percentage of their total budget to calamity preparations.
And if Calumpit and Hagonoy and their officials, as well the province of Bulacan and its officials, did not do these minimum diligence acts required by the circumstances, they can be held civilly liable under Section 24 of RA 7160 and administratively liable as well for being derelicts.
Now, there are always officials who would blame past officials. To make it sure that all those responsible, including those who may have not acted during previous disasters, include all of them in the class suit.
As soon as the water recedes, all residents of Bulacan must now organize and file the class suit!
Don’t worry if they bought your votes, these “kupal” officials will never ever admit that they bought your votes.
Act now, Bulacan!