IBP no choice but to withdraw writ of kalikasan suit after snafu with fishermen

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The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Friday formally withdrew the petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC) purportedly on behalf of the fisherfolk suing the government over its policy on the contested areas in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“With regard to the plight and position of the fishermen-petitioners, the views and recommendations of the handling lawyers and IBP Chapters involved, and the matters raised and guidance by the Honorable Supreme Court (SC), a motion has been filed for the withdrawal or discharge of the counsels for the fishermen and for the withdrawal of the petition,” IBP national president Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa said in a statement.

The SC earlier gave the IBP until Friday to meet with their supposed clients — fisherfolk who petitioned the tribunal for unspecified government action on the WPS.

Government lawyers formally asked the SC to dismiss the writ of kalikasan petition filed by the IBP supposedly on behalf of Palawan and Zambales fisherfolk, in connection with the disputed portions of the WPS.

In his five-page compliance, Solicitor General Jose Calida urged the High Court to dismiss the petition and consider the case closed and terminated. He also asked that the petitioners’ motion for extension of time to file a more appropriate pleading by the IBP be denied.

Calida said the “petition has effectively been withdrawn since the fisherfolk-petitioners disavowed their signatures, participation in the case and ultimately, their being represented by counsel as they deny being part of the case at all.”

Out of 37 fisherfolk-petitioners from Palawan, only 24 signed the verification and certification of non-forum shopping and 13 did not.

Meanwhile, of the 24, there were four who executed handwritten statements while 14 executed affidavits.

As for three fisherfolk petitioners from Zambales, two executed affidavits attesting that they were only made to affix the signatures on a document that contained only their names.

One of the petitioners’ counsel in open court admitted that he himself did not confer with the fisherfolk-petitioners and merely relied on the IBP local chapter lawyers, who allegedly talked to the fisherfolk-petitioners.

Lawyer Manuel Diokno, on the other hand, said he met very briefly with the fisherfolk petitioners from Zambales at the IBP Office in Metro Manila.

“The stance of the IBP now in asking for time to confer with the fishermen is too late in the day and will not cure the infirmity that the petition was initiated by counsel without the full knowledge and understanding of the petitioners,” Calida said.

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