DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources regional director Ralph Pablo is crying foul following the Benguet Provincial Prosecutor's Office decision to dismiss the case for destruction of a sacred mountain within a 24-hour period.
Pablo said the swift decision of Assistant Prosecutor Sheryl Anne Pacad-Cabantac, which was approved by Andres Dondayao, deputy provincial prosecutor, is disappointing.
“We will file a motion for reconsideration, even if it takes us to the Supreme Court,” Pablo said after the apprehension of several individuals violating the law.
“We will not be demoralized, ginagawa natin ang trabaho natin,” Pablo added.
Last week, personnel from the Kabayan based Mt. Pulag National Park of the DENR apprehended Eva Palad–Og, Cleia Lamsis and Sina Taynan while in the act of clearing portions of the mountain.
DENR complainants, Clint Tayab, Emerita Albas, Abelardo Yaptan, Ariston Libag and Noel Teres filed the case July 20, after turning over the suspects to the Bokod Municipal Police Station.
The following day, Assistant Prosecutor Cabantac dismissed the case for lack of probable cause saying the alleged destruction of forest land is purposely for kaingin system which is primarily defined and penalized by Presidential Decree 705.
“This office finds it so unfair and violative of the spirit of the law for the respondents to be charged for Destruction of the Forest Land while the person who is gaining financially from the lease of the land goes scot free,” the decision said.
“The remedy of the lot owner would be to look for other interested lessees to rent the land and it would become a vicious cycle.
Furthermore, there is no clear cut demarcation on the ground showing the metes and bounds of the Mt. Pulag National Park, We cannot determine from the records when the alleged occupation was considering the areas have always been a garden from the start,” the ruling in favor of the respondents added.
In a clarificatory hearing conducted, the respondents alleged they were merely hired by Daniel Lasbacan of Babadak to clear the area for vegetation purposes for a contract price of P3,000. At the time of the apprehension the respondents were on their 4th day in the area.
Lasbacan, on the other hand is the actual gardener who hired the respondents as he ran short of labourers. They were there primarily to remove the remains of cabbages that were earlier planted.
According to the respondents, Lasbacan rented the Aprilo Guinran, whose family is claiming ownership of the area as their ancestral land
The resolution added respondents are being charged for Destruction of Forest Land, even prior to the entry of the respondents to the area then same was already planted with cabbage which their appearance were planted early on.
If ever there was damage that was sustained by the forest land, then same has been set in the frost time that the forest was cleared of its natural habitat.
It should be noted that the area has been devoted for agricultural purposes.
Last year, the DENR announced the completion of the delineation of the Mt. Pulag making available its technical descriptions of areas as exact boundaries.
The Mt. Pulag area touches parts of Buguias, Bokod both in Benguet, Tinoc in Ifugao, Kayapa in Neuvca Vizcaya but is 80% is within Kabayan.
The National Park covers 11,550 hectares were established to protect and preserve the natural features of the area such as its outstanding vegetation and wildlife. It belongs to Northern Luzon’s Cordillera Biogeographic Zone.
It is also a National Integrated Protected Area Programme (NIPAP) site.
Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Benguet Province, at 2,924 meters, is a favorite trek for climbers who want to experience sunrise at its peak.