REGIONAL Trial Court Judge Soliver Peras stopped the Cebu City Government from removing Sun Cellular’s tower in Sitio Calvary in Barangay Apas.
Peras, also the Cebu City executive judge, granted a 72-hour temporary restraining order in favor of Digitel Mobile Philippines Inc. (DMPI), operator of Sun Cellular.
“This court is of the opinion that there exists an impending and imminent threat on the property of the plaintiff (Sun Cellular) guaranteed by the constitution, and that there would result a grave and irreparable injury to the plaintiffs and its subscribers,” read Peras’ order.
The restraining order was issued after Sun Cellular filed Tuesday a civil complaint before the Regional Trial Court against Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, the City Council, Apas barangay officials and the homeowners’ group.
Sun Cellular, through lawyers Eduardo Felipe and Diosdado Trillana, sought the issuance of a 72-hour temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
The telco’s lawyers also asked the court to order Rama and the City Council to pay the firm P1 million as exemplary damages and P200,000 as attorney’s fees and litigation expenses.
“The closure order was done (by city officials) without due process. Sun Cellular stands to lose millions of pesos (if the closure order is implemented) and thousands of Sun subscribers, especially at Maria Luisa (Subdivision) will be affected,” Atty. Felipe told reporters after filing the complaint.
The issuance of the restraint order halted the plan of the City’s Prevention Restoration Order Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) to deactivate today Sun’s cellular site in Sitio Calvary, Barangay Apas.
Such developed after the City Council revoked the special permit it issued for the towers of Sun Cellular and Globe Telecom.
The special permits were revoked by the council on May 27, 2015 following the complaints from Sitio Calvary residents that the radiation from the towers has caused cancer-related deaths in their community.
Since 2000, the Calvary Hills Apas Residents’ Organization (Charo) said at least 25 individuals in their area died of cancer.
Last Jan. 5, Labella issued a cease-and-desist order directing Globe and Digitel Mobile to stop operating their cell sites.
In the complaint, Sun Cellular lawyers said they were surprised by the closure order. The telco lawyers said that even a representative from the Department of Health (DOH), during a public hearing, said there is “no conclusive evidence” that radio frequency and microwave emission of radio transmitter cause cancer.
Health officials even inspected the cell sites and found out that the telecommunication firms complied with the standards set by the DOH.
In May 2015, the City Council passed a resolution revoking the special permits it issued to Globe and Sun.
But Sun Cellular lawyers said that the council passed the resolution without giving them due process.
“There is a total disregard to the supremacy of reason because there is no scientific basis (given by City Council) to show that cell tower does emit radiation, which may cause cancer to the residents,” read the complaint.
The telco lawyers also argued that the City Council’s exercise of its police power pursuant to the general welfare clause of the Local Government Code is “patently illegal.”
“The lack of authority by City Council to revoke (Sun Cellular’s) special permit by mere resolution entails a total disregard of procedural due process,” the complaint read.
Sun Cellular asked the court to annul the City Council’s resolution and set aside the closure order.
Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman said he is disappointed over the court’s decision.
In an interview, Ayuman said the barangay and Charo together with DMPI have scheduled a deactivation ceremony today for the cellular site. Following the court order, Ayuman said this will be put off.
Ayuman said they also wanted to gather some 200 people from the neighboring sitios, particularly those from Rotunda and Panabang, to witness the deactivation of Sun’s cellular tower today.
While the residents were disappointed by the recent developments, Ayuman said they will respect the decision of the court.
But as to the cellular tower of Globe, Ayuman believes that it should be deactivated and eventually demolished by the City because the firm never went to court to seek a temporary restraining order.
Mayor Michael Rama, in a separate interview, said he is happy that the issue on the cellular sites has been brought to the court.
He said the judiciary is the proper venue to determine whether the cellular sites will be demolished or not.