Environment case versus developer on killing of 45 trees junked

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BAGUIO CITY  – The City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges for violation of the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018, against a local corporation on the sudden death of 45 pine trees in its property for lack of probable cause.

In 13-page resolution penned by Deputy City Prosecutor Conrado V. Catral, Jr., it stated that the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) was not able to present any evidence to warrant the filing of the case against the Gateluck Corporation and that there were no allegations in the complaint leading to such violation was made.

The CENRO charged the officers of Gateluck Corporation in their individual capacities because they allegedly had the insidious plan or motive to kill the 45 pine trees for them to realize their development plans and which trees were found to be within the coverage of Proclamation No. 1754 or within the forest reservation along Marcos highway and killing the pine trees, which are referred to as native plants, is a violation of the NIPAS law.

The resolution pointed out the CENRO could not adduce positive and categorical proof that any or all of the corporate officers had actual knowledge or participation in the acts of their employees, especially if they insist that it was the company’s employees who may have killed the pine trees.

“The evidence remains speculative and presumptuous at this stage, which cannot support a finding of probable cause,” the resolution stressed.

The resolution explained that the person who ought to be made liable for the offense on the clustered death of the 45 pine trees and the NIPAS law would be the person who had poached, killed, destroyed, disturbed any wildlife, including within public lands in the protected areas.

According to the resolution, CENRO does not at all attribute any overt acts against any of the officers of the corporation that would indicate their participation in the acts complained of and that the recitals in the affidavit complaint and its annexes or the lack thereof are clear on the said matter.

“True proof of identity need not always be based on direct evidence for it may likewise raise on purely circumstantial evidence. However, it has also been held that, as a rule of ancient respectability that has now been sculpted into tradition, conviction may be warranted on the basis of circumstantial evidence only upon concurrence to the requisites,” the resolution stipulated.

Even if the prosecutor’s office concede that Gateluck’s application for an excavation and ground preparation permit is an indication of a development plan, the resolution asserted that such facts cannot lead to a definite conclusion that the corporation’s officers bored the holes and introduced toxins on the trees.

The resolution emphasized there is also absolutely no evidence on record that would show that the alleged development of the private property would require the cutting of trees at all, thus, it would be again speculative to state that the development plan constitutes motive on the part of the corporation to cause damage to the said trees and it would also be speculation of a greater order to infer further from the inferred motive of the corporation that the officers are the authors of the crime.

The city prosecutor claimed that the plain and simple conclusion that can be derived is that the private land subject of the present complaint is beyond the jurisdiction of the NIPAS law, thus, the present charges must therefore fail.

The resolution maintained that it is not actually the end of the prosecution to file charges against any respondent where the evidence is insufficient, presumptuous or conjectural, and unclear, rather, the prosecution conducts investigations and resolve cases with the end that the innocent be freed from unjust accusations and charges.

“We are one with the local government and the CENRO in their efforts at enforcing the Environment Code as well as our environmental laws and in punishing the appropriate persons who ought to be made responsible for its violation. But criminal and court actions are essentially and always concerned with the production of sufficient positive and appropriate evidence in support of the appropriate legal actions against the proper responsible malefactors, so that both the efforts of the concerned government agencies, the local government and the prosecutor’s office will not prove futile,” the resolution underscored.

The resolution reminded the CENRO to show positive evidence to the point of moral certainty, that the violations of the NIPAS law were actually and personally performed by any of the officers of the corporation, to make any or all of them criminally liable, otherwise their evidence remains self-serving and purely speculative and presumptive in nature which are totally in inadmissible in any proceeding for that matter.

Earlier, the city prosecutor’s officer also dismissed for lack of evidence and probable case the environmental case filed by the local government against the same corporation for violation of the provisions of Ordinance No. 18, series of 2016 or the city’s Environment Code following the discovery of the 45 pine trees that were dying inside the corporation’s private property along Legarda road.

By HENT

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