Pine ‘poisoning’ charges dropped

Published October 3, 2019, 6:48 PM

by Rica Arevalo

By Freddie Lazaro

BAGUIO CITY – Baguio City’s drive against environmental offenders suffered a major blow after charges against six officers of the Gateluck Corporation, a firm that destroyed 44 fully-grown pine trees at a lot along Legarda Rd. were dropped by the City Prosecutor’s Office for lack of evidence.

Baguio City (Public Information Office - City of Baguio Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Baguio City (Public Information Office – City of Baguio Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Deputy City Prosecutor Conrado Catral Jr., in writing the resolution dated August 22 but handed out only last Wednesday ruled, “no sufficient evidence was adduced by the complainant to warrant the filing of any information” against the 6 for a violation of the city’s Environmental Code.

On August 2, Mayor Benjamin Magalong filed an environmental complaint against Gateluck officers for violating City Ordinance 18, series of 2016 or the Environmental Code of Baguio City.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Director for Cordillera Ralph Pablo had said calcium carbide was used to poison the pine trees at the 51.186-square-meter lot, where the corporation plans to build a mall.

Last July, Magalong and other officials found that the chemical was poured into the base of 45 of the trees in the property “intentionally to kill it slowly”.

But Catral said, “the evidence provided had not fully established the probable criminal culpability of any of the six officers of Gateluck.”

Catral said Magalong “should show positive evidence, to the point of moral certainty, that the violations of the Ordinance were actually and personally performed by any of the Respondents therein, to make any or all of them criminally liable.”

The evidence Magalang presented “remains self-serving and purely speculative and presumptive in nature, which is totally inadmissible in any proceeding,” he said.

The city’s Environment Code provides a P5,000 penalty for every damaged tree or imprisonment of up to six months.