29 September 2006
Miriam Pushes Multi-Million Damage Suits vs. Billboard Owners
Asks SC to Probe TROs
She also urged the Supreme Court to investigate Metro Manila judges who have issued temporary restraining orders (TROs) against the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) or city mayors who tried to tear down giant billboards for being public nuisances.
“Under the Civil Code, these giant billboards are a nuisance because they injure and endanger the safety of others, offend the senses, and obstruct the free passage of public streets and highways,” she said.
Santiago explained that under the Civil Code, mayors can order city engineers to abate or tear down billboards, without judicial proceedings.
“All giant billboards should be torn down immediately, and judges should not issue TROs. Those torn down by the typhoon should not be restored,” she said.
Santiago cited the Civil Code, Article 701: “If a civil action is brought by reason of a public nuisance, such action shall be commenced by the city or municipal mayor.”
The senator insisted that the typhoon did not exonerate the billboard owners, whom she accused of corporate greed.
She cited the Civil Code, Article 23: “Even when an act or event causing damage to another’s property was not due to the fault or negligence of the defendant, the latter shall be liable for indemnity, if through the act or event he was benefited.”
About a year ago, Santiago filed a Senate bill called “The Anti-Billboard Blight Act of 2006.” It was assigned to the Senate committee on public works chaired by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.
For several months, Santiago pushed the negotiations between Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials and advertising firms to produce a bill
acceptable to both government and business.
After public hearings presided by Santiago, the bill is now ready for sponsorship on the Senate floor, but Revilla prefers for Santiago to sponsor and defend it during floor debates.
But Santiago could not sponsor the bill on the floor, because the Senate is giving priority to bills certified as urgent by Malacañang, such as the Biofuels Act, of which she is also the sponsor.
“If necessary, I shall appeal to President Arroyo to certify my anti-billboard blight bill as urgent,” Santiago vowed.
“Metro Manila is one of the ugliest and the most unsafe capitals in the world, because of these giant billboards. These public hazards are driven by pure corporate greed, without any sense of social responsibility. It’s time to teach business a lesson,” Santiago said.
The senator said her bill is strongly supported by Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, Manila Mayor Jose Atienza, and other city mayors, whose hands are tied for lack of a definitive law passed by Congress.
Santiago, who is ill with anorexia, said she plans to report back for work in the Senate by Monday, and hopes to sponsor the bill before the Senate break that starts October 14.
“I’ll take any medication just to get out of bed, so I can stop this billboard blight. It’s madness,” said the feisty senator.