FORMER Baguio representative Nicasio Aliping Jr. refused to enter a plea forcing the courts to enter a not guilty plea for him over violations of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.
On Tuesday, the arraignment of Aliping with contractors William Go, Bernard Capuyan and Romeo Aquino pushed through under temporary Judge Emmanuel Rasing of Regional Trial Court Branch 10 in Benguet.
Pre-trial has been set on January 18, 2018.
Earlier, Rasing issued a warrant for their arrest over the charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman where all accused posted bail.
Aliping with Go, Capuyan and Aquino face charges over their alleged role in an illegal road excavation that destroyed hundreds of trees and polluted a local water source at the Mount Santo Tomas preserve in 2014.
Aliping and Capuyan also submitted a motion for reconsideration.
The Office of the Ombudsman released the decision to hear the case in regular courts taking the case of the former congressman and contractors and slapping the group with violations of cutting, removing, gathering or collecting timber from a forest reservation, and unlawful occupation and destruction of forest and grazing lands.
The 2016 case stemmed from the project which is pinpointed to have disturbed the stability of the mountain slope, resulting in massive landslides which are aggravated by the rains, sediments and rocks continuously slide down, causing contamination of the Amliang dams which are being used to impound fresh spring water for distribution to residents of Baguio City and Tuba town.
It alleges earth-moving activities were approved by Aliping for the opening of a road starting from Mount Kabuyao highway all the way down to Sitio Amliang and Sitio Bekel of Poblacion, Tuba.
Former Baguio-Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon with Archbishop Socrates Villegas of the Lingayen-Dagupan Diocese led the filing of a Writ of Kalikasan to stop activities on the mountain in a bid to stop its deterioration, a Temporary Environment Protection Order (TEPO) to stop road openings and other developments being undertaken at Mount Sto. Tomas watershed.
Lawyer Lauro Gacayan represents Aquino while Hansel Duque stands as Aliping's counsel.
SunStar Baguio tried to contact the former congressman, who did not respond to messages and calls.