7 Leyte farm workers ordered released from detention

Miriam Desacada - The Philippine Star

TACLOBAN, Philippines – Seven farm workers caught for alleged violation of environmental laws in Palompon, Leyte have been ordered released from detention.

The Office of the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), whose agents arrested the workers, failed to file the charges against the respondents within the prescribed period as required by the law.

The release order was issued on Jan. 18, or a day after the arrest of the respondents, identified as Domingo Bulahan, Jonathan Calo, Melvin Cardillo, Sunny Boy Isidro, Christian David Madrona, Bryan Magallanes and Gina Quimbo.

The respondents were workers of the Zachary Farms owned by Zacarias Astillero Jr., brother-in-law of Palompon Mayor Ramon Oñate.

The mayor showed documents proving he owns the land occupied by the Zachary Farm. He said the workers were not illegally occupying the property.

Records from the community environment and natural resources office based in nearby Albuera town showed the 7,000-hectare property was not within the environmental critical area in the provincial geohazard map.

Despite the proof, the NBI reportedly insisted that the workers violated environmental laws.

Oñate expressed belief the incident was politically motivated.

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