There is wave of positive change in the metropolis today brought about by basic, commonsensical, even elementary solutions to day-to-day concerns. Local chief executives, following a trail blazed by today’s fair-haired boy, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, have shown that reliance on existing laws and rules is sufficient to effect change that one can see. Perhaps a change in the mindset was all that was needed, as the laws and ordinances have remained the same.
Indeed, to decongest roads or other public places, all the Mayor needs to do is to order it — without need of a circuitous legal ritual. Under the Civil Code, a law passed almost 70 years ago, obstructions on roads and other public property may be considered a public nuisance and may be abated or removed without need of judicial proceedings. (Articles 695 and 699 of the Civil Code). Thus, for obstructions on a street, sidewalk, overpass, underpass, or public park, we can see swift change if such is the desire of the local chief executive.
Congress also passed RA 7279 which authorizes local government units, with the aid of police, to evict persons and demolish structures without need of court action. In the 2014 case of Kalipunan v. Robredo, the Supreme Court validated the aforementioned law and said that “Section 10, Article 13 of the 1987 Constitution provides that urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwelling demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner. Paragraph 1, Section 28 of RA 7279 allows summary evictions and demolition in cases where persons or entities occupy danger areas and when persons or entities occupy areas where government infrastructure projects with available funding are about to be implemented.”
Following the activities of the Manila mayor, it seems that he has not even needed to resort to the said law. What he has done is to remove temporary or ambulant vendors and demolish structures (including that of a barangay hall), which protrude onto sidewalks, which are already justified under the Civil Code provisions under abatement of nuisance.
Another exemplar of good urban renewal is Iloilo City. Just recently, Senator Franklin M. Drilon inaugurated an eight-kilometer long, six-meter wide esplanade along the entire Iloilo River. This is an exhibition of political will and judicious use of public funds as it provides for a safe, pleasant, and eye catching promenade as a centerpiece of this proud city. This was the fruition of a process spearheaded by the Senator which began with a massive river cleanup which included the removal of illegal structures along the riverbanks. Again, all that was needed for the project to be done was the guts to do it because all existing laws already provide the tools for success.
It has been said, many a time, that we have many laws and it is their implementation that is sometimes wanting. Change has become a popular campaign slogan here and abroad. Perhaps it is with a change in the mindset of leaders that real change will occur. We already have specimens of how it can be done. Hopefully the breath of fresh air we literally now experience will go beyond the next political cycle.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This article is for general informational and educational purposes and not offered as, nor does not constitute, legal advice or legal opinion.
George S.D. Aquino is a Partner at ACCRA law and is a Professor at the Ateneo de Manila School of Law.