She can be sophisticated today and dull tomorrow. She can be serious in the morning and be frivolous in the afternoons. She can be fundamental this hour and be petty on the next.
But whatever mood she may be in, one thing is constant: her principles.
Doms, as she is known to family, friends, colleagues and enemies, has been guided by her belief in what is right, just and fair. “I will never represent anyone who lies to me” she says. “To do so would be useless“.
The seasoned litigation lawyer has shifted her focus on the fight against environmental degradation. “There are sufficient laws which, when properly implemented and substantially supported, are more than enough to protect the environment” she says.
The cases she has handled versus Dyzum Distillers, Inc., Consolidated Distillers of the Far East, Inc., Absolute Chemicals, Inc., and the Central Azucarera de Don Pedro in Nasugbu, Batangas have been most rewarding. “Look at the Palico River now! At least, its beginning to resurrect” Misa says with obvious pride and sense of fulfillment.
Little is known, though, as to what she and her clients had to go through to stop the pollution of this mighty river. The Palico passes through six barangays, each having an average of about 600 households. As is common in rural areas, the river is their major food source. Palico discharges into the Bay of Nasugbu and once it does, the problem balloons. “When the pollutants from Palico reach the Bay of Nasugbu, more than 10 barangays along the coastline are ultimately affected” Misa explains “Add this to the six barangays already deprived of their livelihood and one can only imagine the magnitude of the damage“.
The memories of the 1994 Palico fish kill still stirs a variety of emotions. “Both sides of the riverbank were filled with dead fish. Most of these are edible freshwater fish could have fed the households that relied on Palico for their food source” she recounts.
Even the once fertile Bay of Nasugbu Bay was adversely affected.
Dominique Misa spent sleepless nights (“We would wait till midnight and then take a banca upriver to be able to actually see the distilleries dump their waste onto the river“), brush off death threats (“Normal yan. Pero sinong tinakot nila? Ako?!”), face the gun (“The security guards of these distilleries actually pointed guns at us, asking us not to come any closer“) and turn down bribes (“Millions were on the table. So what?“) for the crusade for which she is so passionate about.
“It may sound like a cliché but really, the law is a noble profession” Misa says “There should come a point in your career when you have to give back. There are many ways of doing this: teach, wite a book, adopt an advocacy or handle pro-bono cases.”
At the height of all this, her opponents went as far as cautioning the people of Nasugbu that her advocacy is laden with a twisted ulterior motive: she was running for public office. She laughs at the rumor: “I have never thought of running for public office or joining the government in whatever capacity or function” she says. “What for? If one wants to serve, it is not necessary to join the circus that is ‘Politics’. Kalokohan yan!”
Her strong will and correct perception of what is right and just may be the biggest inheritance she will get from her father, the respected lawyer Joaquin L. Misa. The father-daughter tandem has worked together for more than two decades and now that the grand old man has gone into retirement, Doms is left to continue the legacy left by the older Misa. “My father lived and worked and succeeded without tarnishing his name. It is imperative that I continue along the same line. I have no right to bring shame to my fathers name” she declares.
Raised in a comfortable household and educated in the best schools, it is of no wonder why Dominique V. Misa is the way she is.