Ex-Rizal mayor cleared of grave coercion
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Former mayor Pedro Cuerpo of Rodriguez, Rizal has been cleared of grave coercion over the closure of a sanitary landfill in 2008.

In a decision issued on July 12, the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division said the prosecution panel of the Office of the Ombudsman failed to prove that Cuerpo and his co-accused used “force, violence or intimidation” against former Rizal Provincial Sanitary Landfill (RPSL) supervisor Ronaldo Umali.

Also acquitted of the charges were former councilors Alberto Carasco and Rommel Bunag as well as Salvador Simbulan, ex-officio member of the municipal council.

Filed by the ombudsman in March 2012, the case stemmed from the municipal government’s padlocking of the gates of RPSL on Sept. 24, 2008 and blocking the area with 10-wheeler trucks and tires to prevent dump trucks from entering or leaving the landfill.

The landfill was closed from Sept. 24 to 26.

The Sandiganbayan said the actions of the respondents were justified, citing an investigation by the municipal engineering office, which showed that untreated wastewater from the landfill was being dumped to the nearby Lukutang Munti River. 

The court also cited a report of the municipal health office recommending the closure of the landfill, saying the release of untreated wastewater poses danger to the environment and health of residents in nearby communities.

 It noted that Section 20 of the Philippine Clean Water Act vests police power to local government units to protect the quality of water in their jurisdiction.

The Sandiganbayan said the accused “acted in good faith” when they suspended the operations of the landfill.

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