A RECENT development in the ongoing legal battle between the European pressure group Greenpeace and the Filipino science community led by the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) has attracted significant attention both from media and the public.
This involves the entry of some business entities led by certain prominent personalities. They joined Greenpeace in the latter’s bid to get the Supreme Court (SC) to permanently stop our scientists from completing research on agricultural biotechnology.
Among them was Mara Pardo de Tavera Loinaz, the Makati socialite and a member of a highly-respected (and wealthy) Spanish-Filipino clan. She is credited with the success of several weekend markets held in Metro Manila’s enclaves of the rich.
Loinaz’ entry into the legal fray elicited various commentaries from the public. There are those who believe that Loinaz and her colleagues have merely been “conscripted” by our scientists’ European nemesis. Others say Loinaz presence in the legal battle may have transformed the controversy into a class war between the country’s very rich and very poor.
We respect those views. At this point, there is no way of validating them. It is enough to simply say that such adverse views may be the result of Greenpeace’s own missteps. The powerful Amsterdam-based group may have created very negative impressions following its bitter campaign against our scientists and the country’s bid for food security and sufficiency.
However, it is worthwhile setting aside the emotional aspects of the conflict and look at this from the perspective of legal strategy.
From that viewpoint, we can only say that Greenpeace’s legal strategists have made a good move.
Here’s why. But first, a little backgrounder.
Greenpeace was able to get the Court of Appeals (CA) to issue a Writ of Kalikasan against UPLB scientists doing field research on a pesticide-free eggplant variety developed through biotechnology called “Bt Talong.”
The UPLB scientists had gone to the SC to appeal the Writ. At the SC level, several farmers joined the scientists as so-called “intervenors.” Greenpeace lawyers attempted to block that move but the High Court ruled in favor of the farmers.
Now, Loinaz, a businesswoman from a powerful clan, has taken the side of Greenpeace on the issue. Observers say the move to bring in Loinaz is a good legal strategy. Any lawyer worth his pay should be able to spot the value of Loinaz’s intercession in this case.
In a way, Loinaz could be a “savior” of sorts for Greenpeace. Loinaz, more than Greenpeace, appears to have a more legitimate reason to block the use of biotechnology in the country. She runs an organic food business. Somehow, global media positioned organic farming and biotechnology as irreconcilable foes.
Loinaz appears to have a direct interest in the case. She can claim that her business may be damaged if biotech food gains more adherents in the country. She, therefore, may also claim that she has a right to be protected by law and by the Court.
The view of many of our colleagues in the legal profession is that Greenpeace may not be standing on grounds as tenable as that of Loinaz. Greenpeace is an international activist group that owns no farm in the country. Neither does it have any businesses here – at least none that is overt – which may suffer if biotechnology is allowed to flourish.
Our SC’s role is the protection of rights.
That is the very same reason our scientists are appealing the writ before the SC. It is also the reason why our farmers have joined our scientists in the case.
Loinaz and our farmers are coming in as “intervenors.” Intervenors are not parties in the original litigation. Our legal rules, however, allow non-parties to intervene based on the rationale that the proceedings in the case could affect their rights or interests and should therefore be heard.
Based on information we gathered, the SC has already granted our farmers’ plea to intervene in the case. Loinaz’s plea still has to be resolved as of this writing.
At the end of the day, the SC will resolve the issue based on laws and doctrines on the protection of rights. It will do so at the proper time.
True, the views that Loinaz’s plea to intervene has transformed the legal tussle into a class war may be valid. We’re sure, however, that the SC will not allow itself to be affected by the emotions plaguing the debate on agricultural biotechnology.
It will rule based on its sober and fair assessment of legal points raised in this issue.