As things stand now, Congressman Aliping and the three (3) contractors who conducted earthmoving activities in Mount Sto. Tomas have been indicted by the Ombudsman in the Sandiganbayan for violation of PD 705 or the Forestry Code, as amended.
The Baguio solon and the 3 contractors: BLC Construction and Aggregates, RUA Construction and Development Corp. and Goldrich Construction are also facing complaint before the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) for violation of Rep. Act No. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, they will also be facing a case for violation of PD 1586 or the Environmental Impact Statement System.
The Ombudsman has also been asked to suspend Congressman Aliping for Grave Misconduct under R.A. 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act arising from his violation of forestry and water laws by a group of Baguio residents, namely: Mary Grace Bandoy, Manolita Navarro, Teresita Castro and Evangeline Maranan.
This destruction of significant portion of the Mt. Sto. Tomas forest reserve was likewise condemned in a Public Statement issued by various Heads of sectoral groups headed by Bishop Carlito Censon of the Diocese of Baguio City Bantay Baguio.
From among other concerned citizens of Baguio City, one Rowena R. Boquirin, a retired Professor of U.P. Baguio had this to say, albeit philosophically, in her Week’s Mail article of August 3, 2014: “How can there be a private property that is not used as basis of one’s sustenance but is eyed only for one’s private future use.” She further added: Even private land is not willfully claimed as with one’s sole property rights if its use goes against the good of the community, or he/she ceases to be a member of the community.” In demanding for an explanation from Congressman Aliping she asked: “…you are a member of the House of Representatives, but who are you representing in illegally cutting pine trees and destroying the habitat of important plants, animals and citizens for a road construction that has no permit…?”
Truly, what is hard to fathom in this case is why, notwithstanding all the filed cases, complaints and commotions from dissatisfied concerned entities because of the destruction of nature and environment, our City officials, most of them are running for re-election this May, have not shown any sympathetic ear at all as to have filed its own formal action or even intervention joining the complainants since Baguio City is an aggrieved LGU party also like Tuba because Mount Sto. Tomas is a major source of its tap water, as writer Jimmy Laking has put it.
Their deafening silence on this issue of unabashed cutting of pine trees by one of their fellow officials is something truly hard to understand to put it bluntly. We probably can only surmise that this mysterious silence is in following of an undesirable tradition long practiced among officials of the city, especially in the City Council, which cater to the saying that “I will scratch your back, you scratch mine.” (or something to that effect)
For their inability to react on this one issue in representation of the city as one Local Government Unit suppose to take care of the interest and welfare of its constituents, do they still have the right to ask for our support in the coming political exercise this May?
I don’t believe they still have! As for me, it’s time to opt for a change in the character and caliber of our city officials, that is, if we honestly want meaningful governance.