Tony's Will. Power grows out of the banging of a gavel

REVOLUTIONS ARE MADE OF THIS: Understanding political power and its use. As a rebel, I will advocate one kind of Revolution, I will abhor the other.
07 June 1966, Mao Tse Tung's Thoughts immortalized by Liberation Army Daily: Great Leader Mao Tse Tung said, 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.' A prophecy made to happen by the prophet himself. It was carried out mostly in the battlefield, following the precepts of The Art of War by Sun Tzu ( 'The art of war is the art of deception' – Ria ( I do understand even managers make good use of it. I have lost my copy of it, which means it didn't do me any good. Well, I've always preferred to make love, not war.
05 June 2009, World Environment Day, Manila: Great Lawyer Tony Oposa Jr said, in effect, 'Political power grows out of the banging of a gavel.' A prophecy that cannot be made to happen only by the prophet himself. It is to be carried out initially in the courtroom, following what I shall refer to here as The Fine Arts of Law where, at will Tony invokes politics, philosophy, audio-visuals, paintings, sculpture, literature and poetry, not necessarily in that order.
That is theory and practice. Indeed I have seen and heard Tony execute the fine arts of the law at least 3 times, but most memorably during the Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court meeting en banc on the merits of the case Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay (GR No 171947-48). Tony the Lawyer speaking invariably begins with the line 'Let me tell you a story ...'
The fine arts of the law applied on the Manila Bay Case finally worked, after 10 long years. The test case had been filed by Tony Oposa Jr on 29 January 1999 yet at the Regional Trial Court at Imus, Cavite – the 'Imus Litmus Case' I called it (see my 'The 5th Right of Man,' 29 March 2009, In the oral arguments, on 12 August 2008, before the Supreme Court, the lawyers for the petitioners were Tony Oposa Jr, Sigfrid Fortun, Carl Castillo, Linda Jimeno, Rico Agcaoili and Rolly Vinluan.
08 December 2008. The Supreme Court, presided over by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, ruled against MMDA and 9 other government agencies: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Budget and Management, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, and Department of Interior and Local Government. The Supreme Court ordered these agencies to 'coordinate for the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of the water quality of Manila Bay' (Jay Rempillo, 17 February 2009, Tony's Will had become the Supreme Will.
Tony's Will. We are not talking about the rule of law and development, where the World Bank says ( 'the rule of law (is) important to economic, political and social development.' That is correct; that is also old hat. Rather, we are talking about something new, the role of law in development, the power of law to move public people and public policies and processes. This is in high contrast with something old, civil disobedience, which is the power of the person to flout authority and disrupt development. Henry David Thoreau is passé.
The December 2008 Manila Bay decision of the Philippine Supreme Court was itself a Revolution in legal jurisprudence. The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement, INECE Director Durwood Zaelke commended the Court for the decision and said it had 'become an international beacon of hope in the arena of environmental jurisprudence' for its 'groundbreaking ruling' by 'holding not only the current government accountable for Manila Bay but future administrations as well' (Rempillo as cited). The Court had upheld the petitioner's plea of 'inter-generational damages.' By the same token, the Court was engaged in 'a mission to do justice' (if we may borrow from US Chief Justice Earl Warren) to this generation and the next.
Power grows out of the banging of the gavel. The banging was loud and clear and was heard all over the Philippines and all over the world. This banging of the gavel is political power wielded in the name of the people by way of the law. 'Communism is a hammer, which we use to crush the enemy,' Mao Tse Tung said ( Environmentalism is a hammer, which we use to crush the enemy called Climate Change. THE ENEMY IS US.
'The American War for Independence,' says ANN (, 'established a nation based on a revolutionary idea: self-rule and the inalienable rights of all its citizens.' The list of inalienable rights should now include ecology, as I have written ('5th Right of Man'), as the decision of the Supreme Court had underscored it, citing Sec 16, Art II of the Philippine Constitution: 'The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of Nature.' Where in the world do they have a Constitution that says anything like that? Only in the Philippines!
'We live in the Global Location Age,' Penn State Public Broadcasting says ( 'Where am I?' is being replaced by, 'Where am I in relation to everything else?' I say, with Marshall McLuhan: We live in the Global Village. So I think there is a more important question to ask: 'Where am I in relation to everybody else? That is a lesson in local ecology, in global climate change.
According to Justice MN Rao of India, judicial activism is not new; it is more than 200 years old in fact; it started in 1804 when US Chief Justice John Marshall declared, in the Marbury writ-of-mandamus case, that in a conflict of law versus the Constitution, the Constitution wins, and that 'it is for the court to say what the law is' (2009, Cogitocrat, In my country, the Supreme Court says the law is ecology.
Back to 05 June 2009. At the conference hall of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, IBP located along Doña Julia Vargas Avenue, San Antonio in Pasig City in Metro Manila, led by Tony Oposa Jr, the Global Legal Action against Climate Change, GLACC is launched almost quietly, no fanfare. Innovative and inspiring Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward S Hagedorn honors it with his presence, and so does incoming IBP President Rolando Vinluan, as well as a few Miss Earth 'beauties for a cause' – they are all in the right place at the right time. Lovely! Karla Paula Henry is Miss Earth 2008; she is from the PhilippinesWe Filipinos must be doing something right! For a change.
At the same time, the simultaneous filing of legal actions all over the country is announced. The legal petitions call the government's attention on implementing laws or initiating (here's a few):
(a) solid waste management
(b) marine conservation
(c) rainwater collectors
(d) delineation and on-the-ground demarcation of final forest lines and protected areas
(e) establishment of critical habitats of endangered Philippine species
(f) transforming the transport system into less environmentally damaging systems.
Rolly Vinluan, incoming IBP President, the #1 trial lawyer of the ACCRA Law Office (, promises during the conference: 'I assure you IBP will be 100% behind you.' Under the banner of GLACC are concerned citizens, environmental groups, youth, and non-government organizations. (How about you?)
After the conference, a novel legal Petition for Inter-Generational Damages (damage to future generations) is to be filed in a duly designated Environmental Court. I understand this legal action, hardly ever used, will allow the petitioner to gather the evidence existing and available at present, especially environmental damages, to determine who will be held liable for present and future damages.
All the legal actions are designed to complement and assist government agencies in implementing environmental laws to help mitigate climate change. ‘Law will not solve the problem,’ says Tony. ‘We are only using it to push things a bit.'
Elsewhere, 'We have the means and the capacity to deal with our problems,' UN Secretary General Kofi Annan once said, 'if only we can find the political will.' That is a defeatist attitude, certainly unimaginative. 'Where the political will is lacking,' says Tony, ‘we will supply it by law.’ That is imaginative, creative. Will is not a noun – it's a verb! You have to exercise it. You have to invoke it. Will is not response; it's initiative.
Why do wars on corruption fail? 'Because they lack crucial political and institutional elements,' says Andrzej Zwaniecki (19 May 2009, He is equating political will only with government policies and efforts. The same is true in the Philippines with our monotonous opposition and boring activists, always and only complaining about the lack of political will of the administration to, for instance, get rid of corruption in government. Political will is more than commitment; it is power exercised. And you invoke it on yourself first. Tony's Will is invoked on Tony first. To invoke political will on others, you may invoke the law, if the law is on your side.
What's the metaphor for lack of political will? Paper tiger. It's all policy, all politics, no will, no action. But we have the law. So, armed with the law, 'Where our leaders fail,' says Tony, 'let us take action. It can be done. Failure is not an option.' The action is a Revolution, led by GLACC (website GLACC is a Revolution of Arms (of Lawyers and Law Enforcers) and of Hands (of Scientists) and of Minds (of Media people). This trinitarian marriage of Science and Law and Media is a modern Revolution.
Caveat lettore, reader beware! On 19 July 2001, a US study came out with the conclusion that there has been a decade-long pattern of judicial activism by American judges – against environmental protection – most of them appointed by Ronald Reagan and George W Bush (Cat Lazaroff, 19 July 2001, Now then, the brown race is showing the white race how to behave on earthly matters.
Political power is political will actually, and it can be exercised in favor of or against. 'Activism and advocacy emphasize direct action in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue' – Alumbo ( When the judge bangs the gavel, political power can go either way.
We're blessed that in the Philippines, we have the gavel banging in favor of the Earth. Still, activist justices and judges are not enough – we need more warm bodies to carry on the Revolution. And so, we go back to Mao Tse Tung and learn from what he taught.
In June 1921, as members of the Chinese Communist Party, CCP, Mao Tse Tung, Zhu De and Zhou Enlai borrowed the ideas of Vladimir Lenin and adapted these to China. 'They argued that in Asia, it was important to concentrate on the countryside rather than the towns, in order to create a revolutionary elite' (John Simkin, Thus, the CCP ran against the Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy; Mao had 'come to believe that the greatest potential for revolution in China lay with the peasantry rather than the urban proletariat' (Bruce Harris,
Now then, for the Manila Bay Revolution, it is clear that we need to create a Manila Bay revolutionary elite and, necessarily, we need to decide whether the vanguard should be rural or urban proletariat, led by the GLACC as party. Mao chose the peasantry. My personal choice is the city rather than the country working class heroes. Pollution of the soil, water, air and mind is hardly the territory of the rural workers; I say that without implying that they are not intelligent. Another way of saying that is this: The intellectuals must be the vanguards of climate change activism. As a matter of fact, with GLACC they already are.
And what would the Manila Bay revolutionaries do that would be worthwhile and productive? On World Environment Day, Tony Oposa said around 200 letter-petitions were to be filed around the country: 21 in Davao, 33 in Laguna, 35 in Batangas, 40 in Iloilo and 45 in Cebu (Alcuin Papa, 06 June 2009, That is only the beginning.
Was Mao's Revolution perfect? Ours isn't too. At the IBP conference hall, Bonar Laureto was trying to contact correspondents by Yahoo Messenger and the reception was at first good (voice and image), turning to poor (no image), graduating to bad (no contact). Technology is a 2-way street, but sometimes it suddenly becomes a dead end. It was billed an 'International Media Conference.' It could have been a multi-chat event. But you don't give up after an embarrassment like that. Like: Try Skype next time.
Apart from a media conference every now and then, I recommend that GLACC come up with a continuing media campaign. The Manila Bay case and the launching of GLACC were only 2 steps in a journey of a thousand miles.
It must be a differently led media, a new operation of mass media, neo-media: proactive, sustained, committed, intelligent, constructive – in sharp contrast with current models and manners. Initially, it can comprise print & online newsletter campaign to raise more funds to raise more consciousness on the perils of climate change and what people can contribute to GLACC in terms of warm bodies, kind hearts and tech-savvy minds and hands. At the beginning, it will be an intellectual Revolution, but it must spread to the grass roots, to the universities, eventually high schools.
Aside from the political will of the law, the political will of multi-stakeholders must also be mobilized: governments, civil society, the business community, international organizations, academe, and even the media, to borrow from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Report from the Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy). So, it is wrong to say, as Stephen N Asek of Cameroon does, that 'political will in developing countries rests in the hands of the government and ruling political parties' ( It is also wrong for Lori Post to say, 'Political will can be thought of as support from political leaders that results in policy change' (quoted by Sina Odugbemi, Political will is too important to be left to politicians alone!
Wielding political power is necessary for sustainable development. 'It is weird how one can be given power but still has the inertia to wield it,' says Asek (cited). 'Political will remains a particular challenge for developing countries today.' I say No. Political will remains a particular challenge for developed countries today – for refusing to share political power with the developing countries.
At one time, Mao Tse Tung began to criticize 'the reformists who claimed to be able to save the country through education' (Zhuo Qingjun, 1994, Unlike Mao and like our National Hero Jose Rizal, I believe in education as an excellent tool for reformation. We have the greatest tools for education more than anytime in history, and the Internet combines them all: chats, letters, newspapers, magazines, videos, essays in websites and blogs – and you can have any of them in an instant. 'Education, education, education of our people,' Jose Rizal wrote to his Austrian friend Ferdinand Blumentritt on 22 November 1889 when he was in Paris, when he was working on his Annotations to Morga. 'Education and enlightenment.'
Education and enlightenment for a Revolution no less. It must be massive. 'What defines a Revolution,' says Herbert E Meyer (20 May 2009,, 'and this is the crucial point to grasp – is that when it's over, a country has changed not merely its leaders and its laws, but its operating system.'
'Can law be emancipatory?' asks Madalena Duarte (25 July 2007, My answer: Only if you invoke it. As I believe adapting a parliamentary form of government for the Philippines would show - it will emancipate us from bureaucracy and, therefore, corruption. As I believe the Manila Bay Revolution is trying to show. 'We are not threatening anyone,' says Tony Oposa (Papa as cited). 'We would like to extend the hand of cooperation. We can volunteer experts to help.' But if local officials fail to act on their petitions within 15 days, administrative cases will be filed against them.
You can look at law another way. According to political philosopher and Nobel Prize winner (Economics) Friedrich von Hayek, 'the purpose of law is to preserve order' (cited by Remigijus Simasius, 27 May 1999, Precisely! Pollution is a symptom of disorder, and that is why law must be invoked.
Tony's Will has shown us how to think out of the box when it comes to environmental activism. Excuse me while I write out of the box.

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