Over ‘illegal’ cutting of trees in Argao town workers seek complaint dismissal
Mylen P. Manto (The Freeman) - July 27, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Workers of the municipality of Argao are seeking for the dismissal of the complaint filed against them over the alleged illegal cutting of trees within a timberland area.

Alex Birondo, Elbert Saniel, Arturo Bonachita, Jovanie Espina, and Allan Reyes claimed that the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has no jurisdiction over them as they are job order workers of the town.

“We are job order workers and/or weekly-paid workers of the municipality of Argao and not laborers nor government employees as complainants alleged in their complaint-affidavit,” the joint counter-affidavit reads, adding that they were not considered employees of the government and not covered by Civil Service Law, Rules and Regulations.

Contrary to the complaint filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-7, the respondents said, there was no conspiracy and connivance between them and Mayor Edsel Galeos, another respondent.

Galeos has earlier denied the allegations filed against him for abuse of authority and for alleged violations of Sections 77 and 78 of the Presidential Decree No. 705 as amended by the Republic Act 7161 before the Office of the Ombudsman.

According to the respondents, Section 77 and 78 of PD 705, as DENR-7 mentioned, refer to timber and other forest products. However, what was mentioned in the inventory report attached in the complaint was not classified by “any reason or measure as timber or other forest products” as defined by the Supreme Court in its decided cases, they said.

What was alleged in the complaint, Galeos and the five workers added, was that they allegedly cut or uprooted a total of 374 trees on March 20, 2014 during complainants Lucio Tampipi and Martino Camello’s inspection, which was physically impossible for them to do so in just one day.

They maintained that the area was actually filled with bushes, contrary to the allegation that it was a timberland.

The case stemmed from a site development project within an alleged timberland area in Barangay Jampang where at least 374 trees of various species with combined volume of 7.583 cubic meters have been cut down. The area has been proposed to be the site of an eco-tourism park.

Tampipi and Camello, both CENRO Argao personnel, said that on March 20, at about 11:30 a.m., they caught the respondents excluding the mayor cutting the trees.

“…per inquiry made on the site, it was disclosed by the group (laborers) that the said area being developed will be utilized for eco-tourism of the municipality of Argao represented by Mayor Galeos who was responsible for the construction of road that involve illegal cutting of trees and destruction of forestland and its resources thereof,” the CENRO Argao personnel said.

Based on record of DENR-7’s Forest Management Services and CENRO Argao, no permit was issued for the cutting of the trees or to the project. —/NSA) (FREEMAN)

ALEX BIRONDO ALLAN REYES ARGAO ARTURO BONACHITA BARANGAY JAMPANG CIVIL SERVICE LAW DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES ELBERT SANIEL FOREST MANAGEMENT SERVICES GALEOS
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