Children Activists

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Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg is a polarizing figure when it comes to the issue of climate change. She is now 17 years old but she started her environmental activism as early as 8! There are those who criticize or bash her for her advocacy and convictions when it comes to taking action to reverse the effect of climate change. They say she does not fully understand the issues since she is still a minor and she should just go to school first. Some deny that there is a so called “climate change” altogether and that she has been misled by people who claim that there is such. They even say that she is merely being “used” by certain institutions and individuals to further their interests or business even. She has also been the subject of jokes.

I am not well informed on the subject of climate change and what should be undertaken to reverse it. But based upon our observations, our climate has indeed changed whether due to human activities or otherwise. This certainly has to be addressed not just our governments but private institutions as well as individuals.

But whether we believe that climate change is happening or not, proper disposal of waste is certainly a necessity. Release of harmful chemicals to the environment cannot be considered harmless. Over-harvesting of natural resources will make it difficult for nature to replenish the same to cope with the demand. Certainly something has to be done. The activism of the young puts the actions of adults to shame.

Children in Court

There was a case that made its mark in Philippine jurisprudence. Several children represented by their parents filed with the Regional Trial Court of Makati a class suit against the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the latter to “cancel all existing timber license in the country… and cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber license agreements” (G.R. 101083, 30 July 1993). The Solicitor General representing the respondent, filed a motion to dismiss on grounds that the plaintiffs have no cause of action and that the issue is political which must be addressed to the legislative and executive branches. The Regional Trial Court granted the motion and ordered the dismissal of the case and also said that the granting of the relief would result in the impairment of contracts. The complainants then filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court questioning the decision of the RTC judge.

Personality to Sue

The Supreme Court disagreed with the Judge of the Trial Court. The minors do have cause action based on their right to a balanced and healthful ecology as stated in our Constitution. This right, although stated in the declaration of principles, is as important as those stated under the Bill of Rights which can be asserted and protected by our courts. Aside from the Constitution, many laws and rules in our country speak of the need to preserve our environment for this and future generations. It is undeniable that the children have the right to sue based on the said right for themselves and the generations to come. The Supreme Court said: “This case, however, has a special and novel element. Petitioners minors assert that they represent their generation as well as generations yet unborn. We find no difficulty in ruling that they can, for themselves, for others of their generation and for the succeeding generations, file a class suit. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned.” On the issue that the subject matter is political in nature, the SC said that under the 1987 Constitution the jurisdiction of the courts have been expanded to include political questions. The High Tribunal added: “…even if we were to assume that the issue presented before us was political in nature, we would still not be precluded from revolving it under the expanded jurisdiction conferred upon us that now covers, in proper cases, even the political question”.