SC Gives IBP More Time To Resolve Row On Authority In WPS Suit

The Supreme Court (SC) said on Tuesday it has given the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) until Friday this week to meet with their supposed clients who are fisherfolk who petitioned the tribunal for unspecified government action on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“I would like to announce that the Supreme Court En Banc has granted the ‘Motion for Extension of Time to Confer with Clients and Obtain Special Authority’ filed by the IBP on behalf of the petitioners in the case of Abogado et al. vs DENR et al. GR No. 246209 last July 12, 2019. The counsel of the petitioners was given until July 19, 2019, to confer with their clients and comply with the Supreme Court’s order to move in the premises last July 9, 2019,” SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said in a message to reporters.

Last week, government lawyers formally asked the SC to dismiss the Writ of Kalikasan petition filed by the IBP supposedly on behalf of Palawan and Zambales fisherfolk, in connection with the disputed portions of the WPS.

In his five-page compliance, Solicitor General Jose Calida had urged the High Court to dismiss the petition and consider the case closed and terminated. He also asked that the petitioners’ motion for extension of time to file a more appropriate pleading by the IBP be denied.

Calida said the “petition has effectively been withdrawn since the fisherfolk-petitioners disavowed their signatures, participation in the case and ultimately, their being represented by counsel as they deny being part of the case at all.”

Out of 37 fisherfolk-petitioners from Palawan, only 24 signed the verification and certification of non-forum shopping and 13 did not.

Meanwhile, of the 24, there were four who executed handwritten statements while 14 executed affidavits.

As for three fisherfolk petitioners from Zambales, two executed affidavits attesting that they were only made to affix the signatures on a document that contained only their names.

One of the petitioners’ counsel in open court admitted that he himself did not confer with the fisherfolk-petitioners and merely relied on the IBP local chapter lawyers, who allegedly talked to the fisherfolk-petitioners.

Lawyer Manuel Diokno, on the other hand, said he met very briefly with the fisherfolk petitioners from Zambales at the IBP Office in Metro Manila.

“The stance of the IBP now in asking for time to confer with the fishermen is too late in the day and will not cure the infirmity that the petition was initiated by counsel without the full knowledge and understanding of the petitioners,” Calida said. (PNA)

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