A victory of the people’s struggle vs. toxic chemicals:

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES

News release
December 14, 2007
A victory of the people’s struggle vs. toxic chemicals:
Banana plantation suit against activist doctor and daughter dismissed!-KMP

After seven years of patiently enduring the legal action brought against them by the Lapanday Agricultural and Development Corporation (Ladeco), Dr. Romeo Quijano, president of Pesticide Action Network Philippines, and his daughter Ilang-Ilang were finally acquitted of a civil case of P5.5 million worth of damages.

In the decision, a copy of which was auspiciously received by PAN Philippines on Human Rights Day, December 10, Judge Renato Fuentes of Branch 11 of the Regional Trial Court in Davao City concluded that: ” In the final analysis, however, the evidence of plaintiff corporation as found, there is apparently no convincing proof, the subject publication devoid of criminal prosecution for libel as already established, do not prove in a separate civil action filed, any malicious intent of defendants against the plaintiff corporation, to produce an action for damages… WHEREFORE, finding the cause of action of plaintiff corporation against the defendants not proved by sufficient preponderance of evidence is DENIED and this case ordered DISMISSED ” (sic).
The judge, however, denied the claim of the defendants for moral damages but instead ordered the corporation to pay a ridiculously small amount of only P50,000.00 to the defendants for attorney’s fees. The defendants, in fact, had incurred more than P300, 000.00 in legal costs.

According to Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, chairman of KPM and concurrent president of ANAKPAWIS party list, “though there are some aspects of the decision that needs some improvement we are happy nonetheless because it has proven that Dr. Quijano and his daughter Ilang-ilang who are both staunch peasant rights advocates, are innocent and that they only have the interests of the farm workers in the plantation in mind. In a sense this is a landmark case against harassment suits filed by big corporations against activists working for the betterment of society and the majority of our people,”

The case stemmed from the article “Poisoned Lives”, written by Dr. Quijano and his daughter about the health and environmental effects of pesticide poisoning in Kamukhaan, a village adjacent to Ladeco’s banana plantation in Digos, Davao del Sur. It was published in the defunct Philippine Post in 2000.
The initial criminal libel case filed by the company against the authors, editors and publishers was dismissed in 2002 but the civil case, filed separately, continued. The case captured the attention of the international community and became a rallying point in the campaign of Pesticide Action Network against toxic chemicals. (Visit http://www.healtoxics.org/cbm/kemukhaan%20report.pdf for a copy of “Poisoned Lives”)

Reacting to the dismissal, Dr. Quijano stated: “I am relieved that this harassment suit has been dismissed at the Regional Trial Court. I deplore the fact, however, that this patently malicious suit was allowed to prosper and linger for several years. I hope this harassment will stop at this level and not proceed to the higher courts. An ordinary community resident facing this same predicament would not have the capacity to endure this grossly unjust judicial system. The struggle for people’s welfare is not finished. This is not just about winning a case. This is more about winning the people’s struggle against oppressive social structures that allow corporations like Ladeco to exploit and poison people in poor communities like Kamukhaan. I sincerely thank all those who supported us in this court case and urge them to continue supporting the struggle for social justice.”

Dr. Quijano said that PAN Philippines and it’s allied people’s organizations will continue to expose and oppose pesticides use in banana plantations expanding all over Mindanao. He said that the export-oriented cash crop business, contrary to the government’s claim that it is good for the economy, is wreaking havoc on communities.

Ladeco is owned by the Lorenzo family, including former Department of Agriculture secretary Cito Lorenzo, a close ally of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.###

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