Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Juan Miguel T. Cuna and three other officials have been cleared of criminal charges by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the 2013 and 2014 shipments from Canada of 103 container vans with hazardous wastes.
In a resolution dated Dec. 4, 2020, the DOJ panel of prosecutors dismissed the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation’s Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD).
The complaint accused Cuna and the three officials of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) for violations 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.
The three EMB officials cleared by the DOJ were Irvin G. Cadavona, Geri Geronimo R. Sanez and Renato T. Cruz.
But the DOJ panel recommended the indictment of Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials Benjamin T. Perez Jr., Eufracio L. Ednaco, Matilda G. Bacongan, and Jose A. Saromo for violation of Section 14 paragraph (b), in relation to Section 13 paragraph (d) and Section 5 of RA 6969.
It said that “respondents Perez, Ednaco, Bacongan, and Saromo knew, or were supposed to know, that the items entering the Philippines were hazardous materials and not plastic scrap materials.”
“After all, they claimed to have physically examined the subject importations. When they re-routed these shipments to ‘green’, they effectively facilitated the importation of hazardous waste into the Philippines,” it pointed out.
However, the panel dismissed the complaint against the BOC officials for violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019.
Records showed that the 103 container vans shipped from Canada by Canada-based Chronic Plastics Inc. from May 2013 to January 2014 contained mixed, unsorted or heterogenous plastic materials and not plastic scraps.
President Duterte had ordered that the hazardous wastes be shipped back to Canada. After investigation, the NBI filed its complaint with the DOJ on Jan. 20, 2020.
In its resolution, the DOJ panel which conducted the preliminary investigation said “there was no evidence to support the finding that respondent Cuna’s act of issuing a Registry Certificate to Chronic Plastics constituted gross inexcusable negligence, and that it gave Chronic Plastics unwarranted benefits and caused undue injury to the government”
“Respondents from the EMB could not have determined, prior to the importation, that the shipments contained used, mixed, unsorted or heterogeneous plastic materials because it was only during the actual inspection of the shipments that they determined the status or types of materials placed therein,” the resolution said.
“In fact, even the issuance of NOV (Notice of Violation) against Chronic Plastics and their participation in the Inter-Agency Committee that facilitated the return of the hazardous wastes to the state of import are acts that betray any claim of knowledge on their part of the importation of hazardous materials,” it said.
The resolution of the panel was approved by Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon.