May 27, 2008 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

Contributed by Heherson Juego
University of the Philippines
Los Baños, Laguna

Just recently, I’ve heard the news about the Greenpeace flagship “Rainbow Warrior” blocking a coal shipment in Quezon Province. It was a part of an environmental crusade against the use of coal which, apparently, besieged a power plant run by Team Energy Philippines in Pagbilao. At the end of it all, the vessel lifted its anchor and sailed away. That was, of course, after the group understood that they have already sent their message across. The ‘damage’ has been done, as it can be said. No need to rub more salt on wound.

One thing I find interesting about that part of the environmental group’s crusade is that it was willing to go the extra mile, literally and figuratively, in nailing the message they brought with them to those who need a good hammering the most. It was quite literal in the sense that, instead of sailing straight to Manila, the group and its ship took the extra route of heading to Quezon. It, too, was quite figurative in the sense that they resisted the limits imposed by the law on any cruising naval vessel in this nation by squatting, or floating, whichever way you call it, on a region of our waters without heeding first the demands of the law. Yet the most interesting thing about this is that neither the enforcers of the law nor the security enforcers of the power plant were perfectly able to drive the group away.

It was the group’s volition or their own understanding that they have already been able to accomplish their mission that prompted them to lift the anchor, and so the voyage back to the open arms of the sea.

Which altogether makes me wonder: must we resort to going beyond the dictates of the law just to preserve the environment, or at least to temporarily awaken the sleeping senses of both authorities and civilians in the face of the monumental environmental degradations that stare us straight in the eye?

Of course, it does not take an Einstein to figure that going beyond the dictates of the laws of man is illegal, is proscribed, and warrants sanctions in more ways than one. That is founded on the idea that the laws of man, let alone our laws, perfectly fit the mold. It assumes that our laws have not grown irrelevant in this modern or post-modern time as some people will call it. It assumes that our laws have not been reduced to obscurity by the struggles of the generations here and now, and there and before — or perhaps not yet, given a few decades to a full blown century.

Must we resort to going beyond the dictates of the law just to preserve the environment, or at least to temporarily awaken the sleeping senses?”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: what counts as legal may not necessarily amount to what is just. This is why laws have to be amended, or revised—or are threatened to being seized like a golden opportunity for a perpetual regime to thrive—every now and then even if “every now and then” translates to every change in the presidency. There, too, are cases which make you think if the drive to amend what needs to be amended or to change what needs to be changed with the laws that we have is fueled by that ingredient of justice or the lack thereof. Sometimes it becomes suspect of politicking, of a palpable and grotesque way of bending the law so as to achieve political perpetuity. Like Marcos. Like Ramos. Like Gloria. That goes without saying that fitting the mold on the cast is not only absurd. More than that, it is insane.

And more than any of those, it is one of the worst signs of injustice. Which takes us back to the basic question: must we go beyond the law just to capture that slice of justice for once and for all, if not for once or for all?

Well, for the part of Greenpeace and its flagship Rainbow Warrior, they did. They went beyond the fences of the law, striding by leaps and bounds, if only to remind us of that slice of environmental justice hanging above our noses like carrot on stick. You don’t get to see that every day, especially in a nation obsessed with power, both political and electric. You don’t get to see that every day, especially in these times of calamitous circumstances calculated with pinpoint accuracy by the wrath of nature. You only get to see Congressmen, a huge number of them, scuttling and fighting over the pieces of legal papers that they raise in the plenary hall.

Yet the legal crusade to protect the environment is not one which has seen its better days. For all we know, it is yet to see its better days. Well beyond the legal aspect of it, the ‘justice’ crusade is yet to ripen and reach its maturity. In some parts of the country, you can tell that both law and justice preserve their environment like a fragile mirror—environment reflects the kind of society that they have, let alone the kind of people that they are. In quite a larger part of this world, you can tell that either law or justice is depriving the people of their natural resources precisely because these resources either have trickled down to anorexic volumes or have vanished altogether. Worse comes to worst, one can only begin to imagine what the absence of both law and justice can do.

And worst comes to exceedingly unimaginable, the absence of people testing and braving the tricky waters of preserving what is left of us and for us is, well, exceedingly unimaginable.

I’ve always believed that nature is big enough to give everything and big enough to take away everything. With a sweeping moment without warning, us unable to take notice of whatever fateful way nature decides to roll its sleeves and play its tricks on us, we are literally at the mercy of nature’s kindness and nature’s wrath.

Must we resort to extra-legal measures in order to raise heaven on what has become hell for some people? Hell indeed, if it takes a thousand Rainbow Warriors just to give us more reasons to live and to breathe the kind of air that we all need instead of giving us more reasons to breathe our own intestinal flatulence apart from the smoke from metal pipes, then amen to that. What good are laws when it promotes injustice in horrendous proportions? What good are lawmakers when they rub more salt on wound, set apart from the rest of human civility by their own doing of not walking the talk? Indeed, it makes us rethink of who is doing more injustice: those who brave the law and suspend it by their own hands for a taste of environmental justice, or those who enact laws and live a life quite differently from what they preach, not knowing what is left from is right, or with what is left, or remaining, of the environment from what is the right thing to do?

Your guess is as good as mine.


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