BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been petitioned by the Benguet Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) to immediately resolve and determine the probable cause on the cases for violation of the provisions of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 filed by the agency against Rep. Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr. and three property developers relative to the illegal cutting of at least 1,000 assorted trees and saplings and illegal excavations within the 3,000-hectare Mount Sto. Tomas forest reservation in Tuba, Benguet.
Atty. Celo Sabado Andrada, Benguet PENRO legal counsel, said all parties to the cases were able to file their respective memoranda to the pending cases against Rep. Aliping and his partners in the devastation of a portion of the forest reservation that is why the cases are now ‘ripe for resolution and determination of probable cause against the respondents.’
“We were able to argue and counter argue. We were able to appropriately ventilate and present required pieces of evidence that is why we have nothing more to present,” Andrada stressed.
It can be recalled that sometime in September last year, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima designated State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra to be the acting Benguet Prosecutor to hear the illegal tree cutting and illegal excavation cases filed against Aliping, Engr. Romeo U. Aquino of RUA Construction and Development Corporation, Bernard Capuyan of BLC Construction and Aggregates and William T. Go of Goldrich Construction relative to the felling of some 1,000 assorted trees and saplings in the lawmaker’s declared property within the Mount Sto. Tomas forest reservation.
Andrada disclosed the latest motion that they were able to file was an urgent motion to resolve on 11 December 2014 and that they are now currently weighing their options whether or not to file a similar motion anytime this month to compel the DOJ to resolve the pending cases.
On June 6, 2014, the Benguet PENRO filed the illegal tree cutting and illegal excavation cases against Aliping and the three property developers after finding in their investigation that the cutting of trees were done without the benefit of the required tree cutting permit and that the excavations done within the lawmaker’s property was done without the required excavation permit from the local government and concerned government agencies.
However, after more than one month of pendency, Benguet Prosecutor William Baculing inhibited from resolving the cases determining the probable cause of the same because Bernard Capuyan, one of the respondents, is a relative of his deceased wife while Engr. Romeo U. Aquino was his brother in the Masonic brotherhood.
After pending for some time in the Regional State Prosecutor, lawyer Nonatus Caesar Rojas, Regional State Prosecutor for Region I and the Cordillera, also inhibited himself from resolving the cases since the office stands to benefit from a bill filed by Aliping in the House of Representatives creating a separate Regional State Prosecutor’s office in the Cordillera.
Aliping denied being involved in the cutting of the trees that were inventoried by the PENRO, saying that there was no tree that was cut in the area.
In the PENRO’s position paper, Andrada cited Mount Sto. Tomas remains to be a forest reservation since 1940 and that there were no amendments done to allow the declaration of properties within the area, thus, the solon’s declared property is illegal.