Illegal tree-cutting raps vs companies in Toledo dismissed
Kristine B. Quintas/ATO (The Freeman) - January 21, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Due to insufficient evidence, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Toledo City has dismissed complaints against 20 individuals accused of cutting about 1,000 trees without a permit.

 In his resolution dated January 11, City Prosecutor Raul Cesar Bajarias dismissed the complaints filed by the DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in relation to Section 77 of Presidential Decree 705, as amended by the Republic Act 7161 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

 “Wherefore, premises considered, it is hereby recommended that this case be dismissed for insufficiency of evidence,” part of the five-page resolution read.

Last September 2014, at least 982 different species of trees were allegedly cut without a permit and documents from the DENR-CENRO. The total volume of trees cut was approximately 2,190 cubic meters, or an equivalent to 928,560 board feet with an estimated cost of P18.5 million.

 The alleged illegal cutting of trees happened in First Toledo Solar Energy Corp, Sta. Clara International Corporation, Barangay Talavera where Sun Asia Energy Inc. is developing a 113-hectare of land into a solar project site.

 As stated in the resolution of Bajarias, the complainants’ allegations do not warrant the finding of probable cause to hold the respondents for trial of the crime charged.

 Bajarias said “he could not just charge everybody named herein by complainants as respondents simply because they are officers of the corporation or are corporations engaged to develop the area.”

 The accused are the board of directors of private firms, namely: Noel Cariño, Ma. Theresa Capellan, Diosdado Capellan, Holger Schenk, Godofredo Jalasco, Enrique Guanio, Cheerelyn Barrameda, Marcus Ramos, Ulysses Bautista, Nicandro Linao, Irma Linao, Miguel Linao, Rio Ventura, Asisclo Gonzaga, Oscar Batol, Carlos Hadap, Nobukazu Kotake, Engineer Sammy Baybay, Gino Baltao and Allan Navales.

 Bajarias said that some of the accused may be innocent and some may not be, but those who are not innocent must be clearly defined and their involvement outlined with “reasonable” certainty.

 “It just so happens that this present action fails to do that. Rather, it blames everybody involved for the illegal cutting without specifying how and in what they are liable,” he said.

 He said CENRO even failed to mention the kind and nature of participation of the respondents in the incident.

 “A complaint that fails to mention how a particular crime was committed has the effect disregarding and depriving the rights of the respondents to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them. For a complaint to be sufficient, it must contain a specific allegation of every fact and circumstances necessary to constitute the crime charged…” he said.

 “For this requirement to be complied with in this case, the complaint must at least answer questions like who ordered the cutting? Was the order given by one officer or by the board of directors of the corporation? What corporation ordered the cutting? Who actually cut the trees? These points unfortunately were not properly addressed in the complaint,” he added.

 He also pointed out that CENRO should have secured first the sworn statement of the individuals who informed CENRO Officer Raul Pasoc of the massive illegal cutting in the area, to serve as eyewitness to the incident.

 The same was pointed out in the joint counter-affidavit of respondents Cariño, Capellan, Schenk, Jalasco, Guanio, Barrameda, Ramos and Bautista, saying that the instant action is “baseless” as no witness for the complainants could state in their respective affidavits that they were the very persons who carried out the crime.

 “In short, complainant’s case fails to establish the corpus delicti. What it merely alleges are circumstances that do not lead to the conclusion that they are the culprits,” part of their joint affidavit read.

 Moreover, the City prosecutor said the two project managers — Engineer Edgar Tiamzon (Santa Clara International Corp.) and Jose Enrique Tolentino (First Toledo Solar Energy Corporation), could not be charged on the basis of their admission because “they are purely hearsay and not accepted under the hearsay rule and thus have no probative value.”

 The project engineers claimed that Environmental Clearance Certificate issued by DENR is already tantamount to a permit to cut the trees in Toledo.

 As of yesterday, DENR-7 Spokesperson Eddie Llamedo said they have yet to receive a copy of the resolution dismissing the case.

 He said their legal division chief, lawyer Fernando Albera, is now drafting a motion for reconsideration.

 “Albera is directed to develop, prepare, and file a motion for reconsideration within the prescribed period so that by the time we shall have received the official copy, we will now be ready to get the MR filed on time,” he said.

 Quoting DENR-7 Regional Director Isabelo Montejo, Llamedo said the legal division was directed to “exhaust all the legal processes available to us to pursue and assert our case.”

“We will not be swayed by this development and work instead for the sake of our environment and natural resources,” he said. (FREEMAN)


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