Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Duterte not threatening judiciary, says DOJ

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday expressed doubt that President Duterte was threatening the judiciary when he told the courts not to issue temporary restraining orders (TROs) against the construction of the Wawa and Kaliwa dams.

Guevarra said he believed Duterte was “just being his usual tough guy self” when he advised the courts not to issue TROs that would delay the construction of the P20-billion Wawa Dam in Rizal.

Wawa will be constructed by the joint venture of Prime Infra of businessman Enrique Razon and San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders Group.

“The President knows that the judiciary is independent of the executive branch. He was merely expressing, in his own usual tough style, a personal sentiment and hope that the courts will not obstruct the pursuit of major development projects,” Guevarra said.

“I recall that there’s a law or Supreme Court resolution that prohibits all courts, except the SC, from issuing restraining orders/preliminary injunctions against national government infrastructure projects,” he added. The justice secretary said this is covered by Republic Act No. 8975, titled “An act to ensure the expeditious implementation and completion of government infrastructure projects by prohibiting lower courts from issuing TROs, preliminary injunctions or preliminary mandatory injunctions.”

“That law is still in effect and provides the legal basis for the President’s recent statement on the Kaliwa and Wawa dam projects,” Guevarra added. During the leadership of then chief justice Lucas Bersamin, the high court issued in July a statement reminding trial court judges to be mindful of the existing court issuances and directing them “to exercise with utmost caution, prudence and judiciousness” in issuing TROs and writs of preliminary injunction. The SC had addressed the issue as early as 1999 when it promulgated Administrative Circular No. 07-99 upon the request of then president Joseph Estrada, “reminding judges to respect Presidential Decree No. 1818, which prohibits the issuance of TROs in cases involving the implementation of government infrastructure projects.” The SC had enjoined all judges “to observe utmost caution, prudence and judiciousness in the issuance of TRO and in the grant of writs of preliminary injunction to avoid suspicion that its issuance or grant was for considerations other than the strict merits of the case.” The Office of the Court Administrator was directed to disseminate the same and monitor its implementation.