By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has named the panel of prosecutors who will conduct the preliminary investigation against Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna and seven others over the illegal importation of hazardous wastes from Canada.
“The preliminary investigation will be handled by a panel of state prosecutors, namely, ASP Pacamarra, Daguiso, and Villordon,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday (Jan. 29).
Guevarra was referring to Assistant State Prosecutors Gilmarie Fe Pacamara, Alejandro Daguiso, and Loberhette Jeffrey Villordon.
The panel will issue subpoenas against the respondents who will be ordered to attend the preliminary investigation hearings.
The case concerns the 103 container vans containing waste that were brought into the Philippines by Canadian firm Chronic Inc. from May 26, 2013 to Jan. 30, 2014, when Cuna was still a director of the DENR’s Environment Management Bureau (EMB).
The containers have been returned to Canada on the order of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The National Bureau of Investigation-Environment Crime Division (NBI-EnCD) filed the complaint last Jan. 20 before the DOJ.
In its complaint, the NBI accused the eight respondents of violating Section 42 paragraph  of Republic Act No. 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, and Section 3 (e) of RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Aside from Cuna, three of those who were also named as respondents are personnel of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), named in the complaint as Irvin Cadavona, Geri Geronimo Sanez, and Renato Cruz.
The four other respondents are personnel of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), namely Benjamin Perez Jr., Eufracio Ednaco, Matilda Bacongan, and Jose Saromo.
The shipments were consigned to Philippine-based companies Chronic Plastics and Live Green Enterprise.
The NBI said in a statement that “Chronic Plastics Inc., Canada were issued import clearances for its various importation of scrap plastic materials despite its failure to provide all the necessary information needed for the application of their import clearance.”
The NBI also said “the EMB personnel in-charge in the processing of the application was remiss in their duties to strictly examine the application, as to the completeness of the required documents and to the required inspection prior to the approval of its registration as importer.
“However, despite lacking the specific requirement and without inspection being made, the application was still being processed and recommended its approval to the EMB Director.”
“Furthermore, importation consigned to Chronic Plastics, Inc. were released despite the questionable importation clearances,” said the NBI, noting that BOC personnel allowed this to happen.