SC asked to halt Boracay closure

MANILAResidents and workers in Boracay filed a last minute petition before the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to stop the closure of island of Boracay.

In a 29-page petition for prohibition and madamus, Mark Anthony Zabal and Thiting Jacosalem, represented by lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen, of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) Panay chapter, asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order or status quo ante order against the implementation of the closure order.

According to the petition, Zabal earns a living by making sand castles for tourists in the beaches of Boracay Island while Jacosalem works as a driver for tourists and workers in the island.

Also among the petitioners is Odon Bandiola, a resident of Aklan, who travels to Boracay for business and pleasure.

They questioned the authority of President Rodrigo Duterte to order the closure of the island to tourists and non-residents and accused him of violating constitutional rights to travel and due process.

The petitioners alleged that the order violated the separation of powers under the 1987 Constitution since the executive branch has no authority to exercise to close down the island based on its supposed police power.

The President ordered the closure of Boracay Island after citing the island's degradation due to irresponsible businesses.

He said the island has become a cesspool, noting the current situation of its sewerage system.

The petitioners further argued that the order is unconstitutional insofar as it restricts the movement of the people within the country in violation of their right to travel under Article III, Section 6 of the Constitution.

"In this case, the grounds for the restriction (of right to travel) have not been shown to exist. There is no national security, public safety, or public health situation calling for the curtailment of the right to travel," the petition read.

The petitioners further contended that there is no provision in the 1987 Constitution that would give legal basis to the President's order to prevent entry of non-residents in Boracay, noting that such exercise of power aimed at rehabilitating the island would still need the approval of Congress.

Any order he issues, whether verbal or written, that curtails or limits the enjoyment of fundamental rights can never be valid and must be struck down by the courts if it finds no statutory or constitutional basis. Such is the clear import to the principles of checks and balances and the separation of powers as embodied in our legal system, the petitioners said.

Lastly, petitioners claimed violation of their right to due process under Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, which they said includes their "property rights and right to work and earn a living."

"The petitioners and all those who work, do business, or earn living on the island, are deprived of their livelihood," they pointed out, adding that the closure order is "unreasonable, arbitrary and excessive" especially since the government has not provided a clear alternative to the 17,000 registered workers affected by the measure.

Named respondents in the petition for prohibition and mandamus were President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and DILG Officer-in-Charge Eduardo AAo.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra believed that all actions on Boracay should be held in abeyance, including its closure from non-residents, until a proclamation declaring a state of calamity is signed by the President.

A resolution has been prepared by the NDRMMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) recommending the issuance by the President of a proclamation declaring a state of calamity. Until this presidential proclamation is signed, however, all intended actions on Boracay will have to temporarily be held in abeyance, Gueverra said.

Guevarra added that rehabilitation works on Boracay can proceed with or without the proclamation.

The island of Boracay, which in 2016 registered more than two million tourists, will be closed for business for up to six months beginning Thursday.

Authorities said the government is allocating some PHP2 billion to aid affected workers, placed at a little over 17,000 for registered workers alone.

Source: Philippine News Agency