La Mesa Dam Controversy

A friend of mine asked me to identify the legal issues involved in the La Mesa Dam controversy.

La Vida Lawyer provided the links to the materials (news and legal materials) as regards this issue.

Off the bat, I can identify the following:

1. Police Power vs. Proprietary/Contractual rights

One of the powers of the State (aside from emminent domain and taxation) that allows the state to “trample” on people’s rights to life, liberty and property for the sake of public welfare, public good, public morals, etc.

In this case at bar, balancing all interests (between obligations of contracts and proprietary rights on the one hand and public welfare and safety on the other), the State is well within its rights to “confiscate” the residential properties within the La Mesa dam and evict persons therein in the name of police power.

The safest path to assert this is through legislation. By a legislated declaration of the La Mesa dam area as protected and the legislated prohibition of any residential buildings therein, there will be legal basis to evict existing residents (especially the VIPs) in said area.

Unlike emminent domain (expropriation) the State taking of the controverted properties will not be subject to just compensation, if police power is invoked.

2. “Congressional” Interference

Present laws does not prohibit members of the legislature to lawyer for private interests. Section 14, Article VI thereof states:

No Senator or Member of the House of Representatives may personally appear as counsel before any court of justice or before the Electoral Tribunals, or quasi-judicial and other administrative bodies. Neither shall he, directly or indirectly, be interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Government, or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including any government-owned or controlled corporation, or its subsidiary, during his term of office. He shall not intervene in any matter before any office of the Government for his pecuniary benefit or where he may be called upon to act on account of his office.

Hence, a lawmaker is only prohibited from intervening in activities in relation to his present government office. Plus, he cannot personally appear as counsel in any court of justice or before the Electoral Tribunals, or quasi-judicial and other administrative bodies.

3. Rebus sic stantibus

This simply means a fundamental change in circumstances not contemplated before can lead to the termination of a contract. Article 1267 of the Civil Code states:

Art. 1267. When the service has become so difficult as to be manifestly beyond the contemplation of the parties, the obligor may also be released therefrom, in whole or in part.

But for this to apply, there must be supervening events such as the non-issuance or withdrawal of environmental compliance certificates of the project. This is not impossible for government to do, as a quicker step to stop the project.

This is what comes to mind now. I may modify this entry as I think of other things…

2 Comments

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2 responses to “La Mesa Dam Controversy

  1. I just want to make sure that La Mesa ecopark will be saved for the next generation.

  2. Malcolm Hall

    I was doing a research on the La Mesa Dam and google led me to your site. Thanks for your invaluable insight, my fellow member of the legal profession. Well done, Atty. Punzi!

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