Oposa et al. v. Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr. et al (G.R. No. 101083)
Class action seeking the cancellation and non-issuance of timber licence agreements which allegedly infringed the constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology (Section 16); non-impairment of contracts; Environmental law; judicial review and the political question doctrine; inter-generational responsibility; Remedial law: cause of action and standing; Directive principles; Negative obligation on State
An action was filed by several minors represented by their parents against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cancel existing timber license agreements in the country and to stop issuance of new ones. It was claimed that the resultant deforestation and damage to the environment violated their constitutional rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and to health (Sections 16 and 15, Article II of the Constitution). The petitioners asserted that they represented others of their generation as well as generations yet unborn.
Finding for the petitioners, the Court stated that even though the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is under the Declaration of Principles and State Policies of the Constitution and not under the Bill of Rights, it does not follow that it is less important than any of the rights enumerated in the latter: “[it] concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuation, the advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions”. The right is linked to the constitutional right to health, is “fundamental”, “constitutionalised”, “self-executing” and “judicially enforceable”. It imposes the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment.
The court stated that the petitioners were able to file a class suit both for others of their generation and for succeeding generations as “the minors' assertion of their right to a sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for the generations to come.”
Keywords: Oposa et al. v. Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr. et al (G.R. No. 101083), Environmental, Right
This case has been widely-cited in jurisprudence worldwide, particularly in cases relating to forest/timber licensing. However, the approach of the Philippino Supreme Court to economic, social and cultural rights has proved somewhat inconsistent, with some judgments resulting in the enforcement of such rights (e.g., Del Rosario v Bangzon, 180 SCRA 521 (1989); Manila Prince Hotel v Government Service Insurance System, G. R. No. 122156 (3 February, 1997) but at least one instance in which the Court made a statement that economic, social and cultural rights are not real rights (see, Brigido Simon v Commission on Human Rights, G. R. No. 100150, 5 January 1994).