Fiscal junks rap vs. solar firms

THE Toledo City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the complaint filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 against three solar companies for the alleged removal of 982 trees in Barangay Talavera last year.

In a resolution dated Jan. 11, 2016, Toledo City Prosecutor Raul Cesar Bajarias dismissed the complaint after the DENR allegedly disregarded and deprived the rights of the respondents to be informed of the accusations against them.

DENR 7 spokesperson Eddie Llamedo said that the agency will file an appeal on the prosecutor’s decision.
The DENR 7 filed a complaint against officials of Santa Clara International Corp., Sun Asia Energy Inc., First Toledo Solar Energy Corp. and landowner Gino Baltao for allegedly tree-cutting operation.

In his five-page resolution, Bajarias said the DENR 7 Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) served as the complainant and presented its personnel as witnesses.

He said that since Cenro did not witness the cutting of trees in Talavera, the office should have secured witnesses that would “establish their case because what it merely established on its own is the fact only that hundreds of trees were indeed illegally cut down.”

“It is axiomatic that law enforcement agencies, such as herein complainant, start its investigation of a criminal act by interviewing and gathering witnesses, including the complainant. When the complainant, is not himself or itself a witness to the criminal act, there is obviously a need to secure a witness or witnesses to establish how the crime was committed, by whom and why,” Bajarias said.

Bajarias also found out that DENR 7 failed to inform respondents of the violations they allegedly committed.

“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 circumstance necessary to constitute the crime charged,” Bajarias added.

In a statement, Llamedo said that the DENR 7 has yet to receive a copy of Bajarias’ resolution.

Llamedo said DENR 7 Director Isabelo Montejo tasked the Legal Division to develop, prepare and file a motion for reconsideration.

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

Last year, at least 982 trees growing in a private property in Barangay Talavera, Toledo City were cut down to make way for the construction of a solar power plant.
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