By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to charge Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna with graft due to the mishandling of container vans filled with trash back in 2013.
Ombudsman investigators discovered that a Canadian-based company called Chronic Inc. exported several shipments of container vans declared as plastic scrap materials without securing import entries for its shipment that arrived in the country in July 2013 and August 2013.
The shipments, all filled with trash, were declared as abandoned.
Upon further inspection, the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) found out that the trash can no longer be recycled and were therefore declared illegal due to lack of importation clearance and it was subject to confiscation and seizure proceedings.
Cuna, who was then EMB director, was found at fault since he issued a Registry Certificate for the Importation of Recyclable Materials Containing Hazardous Substances dated June 19, 2013 despite the lack of details in the Importer’s Registry Sheet.
Cuna even issued six Importation Clearances to Chronic Plastics despite an existing Notice of Violation dated September 5, 2013 for importing heterogeneous and assorted plastic materials in violation of DENR Administrative Order 1994-28.
The Ombudsman stated in its resolution that “respondent Cuna acted with gross inexcusable negligence when he issued a Registry Certificate in favor of Chronic Plastics despite the insufficient details in its Importer Registry Sheet.”
“Its failure to comply with the rules is apparent on the face of the application. Without the necessary information, the EMB cannot sufficiently make a determination that Chronic Plastics is capable of recycling materials to be imported. However, despite this, respondent Cuna still approved Chronic Plastic’s application for registration,” the resolution added.
It was the job of the EMB to protect, restore and enhance environmental quality, so the sale, distribution and use of chemical substances and mixtures such as the ones found in the container vans are prohibited since it presents “unreasonable risk and/or injury to health or the environment,” the resolution added.
Cuna was likewise found guilty of Simple Misconduct in a parallel administrative case, and he was ordered suspended without pay for three months. The DENR secretary was directed by the Office of the Ombudsman to implement the suspension order.