Lawyers sue Napocor, SRPC over San Roque Dam's water spill

November 28, 2009 10:13 am 

By Leonardo V. Micua

DAGUPAN CITY, Nov. 28 — At least 26 trial lawyers of Pangasinan believe that though high and mighty, the San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam Project (SRMDP) in San Manuel town, it is not invincible.

That was why they went to court and filed a civil case for damages with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction against the National Power Corporation (NPC) and the San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC) before the Regional Trial Court here on Friday.

Signatories to the complaint are lawyers Teodoro Regino, Jose Netu Tamayo, Liberato Reyna Jr., Rodolfo Palma, Roberto Raagas, Arginald Esguerra, Basltazar Servito, Honesto Sabado, Honor Zeny Muerong, Tiburcio Maningding, Felipe de Vera, Ramon Veloria, Leopoldo Tulagan, Rodolfo Itchon, Alejandro Peregrino, Conrado Gubatan, Jose Antonio Guillermo, Pedro de Guzman Jr., Simplicio Sevilleja and Narciso Bandong.

All are seeking damages in the amount of P100,000 each or P2.45 million, which is just a mere drop in the bucket as compared to the P9 billion peso damages wrought by the massive flood which the complainant said, was due to the unmitigated release of water from the SRMDP at the height of Typhoon "Pepeng" from October 8 to 14.

In filing the suit, they paid to the Office of the Clerk of Court the amount of P47,800 as filing fee, an amount shared equally among the complainants at P1,841 each.

Lawyer Danilo Fernandez, the clerk of court, said since the case is in the nature of an injunction with prayer for restraining order, it should be immediately raffled to different courts.

This is similar to a previous case filed by Regino, a retired Court of Appeals justice, and his group against Napocor alone in 1998 on account of the big volume of water released from Ambuklao and Binga Dams in Benguet during another big storm that also flooded Pangasinan and brought massive destruction to crops and other properties.

That time, the San Roque Dam, located downstream of the Agno River, was not yet existing.

Regino said the first case is still pending at the sala of RTC Judge Genoveva Maramba of Branch 44 in Dagupan City where he and the other complainants had just winded up the presentation of their cause of action, with the Napocor next to present its side.

Asked of their chances of succeeding in this new case, Regino who again leads the complainants, said if the facts they’ve presented in the complaint speak loudly, they have a good chance of succeeding.

However, Regino did not rule out the possibility that the case might drag on for many years without any result and may also reach the Supreme Court.

He said it is possible too that he may not be around anymore when the litigation is finally finished.

But he said he is unperturbed and won't mind the length of time for the litigation as long as the court grants them their prayer for injunction.

That is why he said they would immediately move for the hearing of the case.

When told that lawyers of NPC and RCPC will not take the matter lightly, he said: “They have their arguments and we have our own, so let the court decide who has the better argument."

Regino told newsmen that their claim for damages is just secondary as their their principal action is specific performance to compel Napocor and SRPC to decommission or close the dam.

The complainants pointed out that that the real solution to the flooding in Pangasinan is the immediate dredging of silted Binga and Ambuklao Dams for them to accommodate more water, and the decommissioning of the San Roque Dam.

“San Roque’s power generating capacity of 345-megawatts (actually 411 megawatts) should be shut down, decommissioned, as its location is also near a fault line raising the possibility that it could collapse in a big earthquake,” the complainant said.

At the same time, Regino revealed the filing of suit against Napocor and SRPC was actually a brainchild of the provincial government, pointing out that he prepared the complaint at the request of his niece, Vice Governor Marlyn Primicias-Agabas.

Agabas, also a lawyer, told Regino that Governor Amado Espino Jr. wants a suit filed as he is furious over the magnitude of devastation wrought by the flood in the province.

Regino said he gave a copy of the complaint to officials of the provincial government but he noticed that they are dragging their feet too long, so he decided to file the case with his fellow lawyers

On the other hand, the other principal complainant (Jose Netu) Tamayo, an incumbent councilor of Dagupan, said that their best argument in seeking the decommissioning of San Roque is “they (Napocor and SRPC) are operating the dam without the proper dikes.”

Tamayo and other officials of Dagupan City led by Vice Mayor Belen Fernandez just made a trip to San Roque Dam where SRPC officials told them the Agno Flood Control Dikes downstream are insufficient, apart from being old and weak, especially those located just few kilometers from the dam.

Saying that the class suit is for redress of grievances of the affected people, Tamayo argued that NPC and SRPC should know that it is their moral obligation to operate a spillway in such a way that the people downstream are safe.

But apparently, he said, there was neglect on their part which their people even admitted.

Tamayo, former president of the Trial Association of the Philippines chapter in Pangasinan, said other people who would wish to join in a class suit are welcome to join the fight because the suit is for redress of grievances against the dam.

He said their request for the decommissioning of the San Roque Dam was manifested in their prayer for injunction and temporary restraining order although he acknowledged that San Roque Dam is generating power for the Luzon Grid. (PNA)

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