Prosecutor ‘junks’ case of mangrove destruction
RING - barked or peeled mangrove tree species in coastal barangay Looc, Panglao, Bohol are evident in these reproduced photos.
By: RIC V. OBEDENCIO
PANGLAO, Bohol – The faith in our judicial prosecution system has once again dipped down low as a case of environmental protection was junked by a provincial prosecutor purportedly for insufficiency of evidence.
The dismissal of the case docketed NPS-VII-02-INV-091-00859 for violation of section 78 of Presidential Decree 705 by the Provincial Prosecutors Office of Bohol has slapped on the stakeholders of this town despite their concerted environmental protection and conservation efforts for their natural resources, said a resident.
In said case, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (Cenro) Eusalem Quiwag of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DNER) filed the case against Barangay Captain Aguerio Guioguio, Cecilio Dag-uman, Dodong Abendan and Sylvio Cloma, all residents of said barangay as respondents.
Quiwag charged the accused of the charge that they “in conspiracy with each other girdled or ring-barked 47 mangrove trees growing in a mangrove area located in Cambukaw Point, Looc, Pnaglao, Bohol in the morning of May 16, 2010 without authority under license agreement, lease, license or permit from the DENR.”
The case is dismissed through a Resolution dated August 23, 2010 signed by 3rd assistant provincial prosecutor Tito Apura and approved by provincial prosecutor Macario Delusa.
The complainant based his accusation against the suspects of peeling off the mangroves on section 78 of Revised Forestry Code or PD705, that provides, “any person who enters and occupies or possesses, or makes kaingin (slash and burn) for his own private use or for others, any forest land or grazing land without authority under a license, agreement, lease, license or permit, or in any manner destroys such forest land or grazing land or part thereof, or causes any damage to the timber stand and other products and forest growth therein, or who assists, aids or abets any other person to do so, or sets a fire, or negligently permits a fire to be set in any forest land or grazing land xxxxxx.” If convicted, it says, the violator shall be fined of not less than Php500 but not exceeding PhP20,000 and six months but not more than two years of imprisonment.
Environmental experts said that once the mangrove trees or any tree species for that matter suffering being peeled-off of its bark at the main trunk would not live longer as expected.
The complainant though he presented as evidence the joint sworn statement of a certain Ricardo C. Guiritan and Bernie A. Estillore and photos of peeled mangrove trees failed to convince the prosecutor that his witnesses actually saw the accused doing peeling off the bark of the mangroves.
Guiritan and Estillore alleged that while they were watching their fish bungsod “they saw Guioguio, Dag-uman andAbendan, except for Cloma, “were each with a bolo were girdling or ring barking mangrove trees” about 15 meters where they were hiding in a canopy for about three hours. The peeling of the mangrove barks measured about one foot in height and “on the portion of the trunk about three feet high from the lowest portion of the trunk.” Two days later, Guritan took photos and video of the peeled mangroves.
The prosecution pointed out that “there is high improbability” for the accused to do such act considered as crime since it was high tide at 1.9 meters at that time. Given this circumstance (high tide), it would be impossible for the accused “to take off the bark of the 47 mangrove trees with the same rapidity, completeness and cleanliness with the use of bolos only.”