'Martial Law' power needed to reclaim, clean up esteros, says Duterte

Published August 27, 2021, 8:47 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

For President Rodrigo Duterte, the illegal reclamation of esteros or canals in the country has become so bad that a “Martial Law power” would be needed to solve it.

President Rodrigo Duterte drives home a point during the “Talk to the People” public briefing on Aug. 26, 2021 (Screenshot from Facebook live)

Duterte made this comment during his pre-recorded “Talk to the People” public briefing on late Thursday night, Aug. 26, when Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu discussed the factors that led to the pollution of Manila Bay.

“Unless you improve the esteros, the cleanliness of the esteros, lahat ‘yang kanal pupunta lahat ‘yan sa Manila, Pasig [River] (the canals all lead to Pasig River), then Manila Bay. ‘Yung lahat ng dumi diyan sa Pasig, papunta talaga ng dagat ‘yan (All of the waste in Pasig, they will all go to the sea),” Duterte said.

According to the President, a form of special authority would be needed to dredge and clear the esteros–including those that have been reclaimed by subdivisions–in a way that there is zero interruption from litigation.

“Alam mo hindi na ako maging Presidente (I may not be the President anymore), but you need another Martial Law power for a President someday to do this thing. Yung wala nang TRO [temporary restraining order], basta yung mali, kung ano yung original sa mapa, yun ang sundin (There would be no more TROs, whatever is wrong, whatever is on the original map, that’s what will be followed). Then this country could find a relief,” he said.

Duterte, who once served as a prosecutor in Davao City, noted how the filing of TROs against the government’s clearing of esteros could indefinitely hamper the action.

“Maraming estero na sarado na kasi ginawang parte ng subdivision (A lot of esteros are closed because they have been made part of a subdivision). You know these things cannot be addressed in an ordinary working day in government. Kasi magkakaroon ka ng kaso niyan, TRO dito, TRO doon (You would have to face a case, a TRO here and a TRO there). Much as I would like to proceed with my job unhampered unbridled, I cannot because I have to contend with democracy and the courts,” he said.

“So yung kaso, libo yung kaso araw-araw. Eh kung criminal case nga mag-hearing ngayon, arraignment, basahan ka ng demanda, ang next hearing ninyo ay two months after (The cases will number in the thousands everyday. In a criminal case, if you get arraigned today, the next hearing will take place two months after),” noted Duterte.

He also cited the scale of the estero problem, saying it would need the use of heavy dredging equipment from the DENR.

“Hindi naman madadala ng pala yan (Shovels won’t be enough). Kailangang i-dredge na talaga yan (Those need to be dredged) including the esteros and if need be destroy all houses and yung esteros na ninakaw ng mga subdivisions, buksan, pilitin mo (force open the esteros that were taken by the subdivisions). But this cannot be done in an ordinary day,” the President said.