Justice for the Murdered 45 Baguio Pine Trees

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Expressing our grave disappointment over the dismissal by the Prosecutor's Office of the complaint filed by Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong against officials of the Gateluck Corp. for chemically inducing to slow death 45 trees in its property along Legarda Road in Baguio City.

On July 24, 2019, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong personally investigated a private property along Legarda Road and learned to his dismay that 45 fully grown trees were intentionally and slowly being killed. Upon closer inspection, the mayor found out that holes were drilled at the base of each tree, into which a salt-like solution was apparently injected, eventually causing the trees to die.

Sometime in August, 2019, the mayor, acting in behalf of the city government, led in filing a complaint with the prosecutor’s office against officials of Gateluck corporation, charging them of 45 counts of violations of the city’s environment code as well as RA 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems Act, and other pertinent environmental laws in effect for national application, including the city of Baguio.

Last week, the prosecutor’s office announced that a decision had been reached sometime in September 2019, rejecting the Magalong-led complaint for insufficiency of evidence against the named officials of the corporation.

We, the officers, members, families, and friends of the Rehabilitation Action for Baguio (RAB) respectfully register our citizens’ grave disappointment over the dismissal of Mayor Magalong’s environmental complaint barely a month after it had been filed.

We express deep concern that such a vital issue of environmental destruction --- as evidenced by 45 trees that were chemically poisoned to induce slow death --- would merit a quick determination, in apparent disregard of existing city and national laws crafted precisely to protect, preserve, and nourish the environment.

We do respect the prosecutor’s position on the matter, despite what we feel is a result of hastily developed conclusions. We believe however that the same level of respect must be earned by us as lovers and protectors of Baguio’s environment. Trees that are its very iconic symbols are being mindlessly poisoned to slow death, a sad development that can only be opposed as it encourages, rather than deters, the further degradation of environmental resources.

Mayor Magalong, in our view, deserves the allout support of every citizen who cares deeply enough for Baguio, including those of us who are humbly but proudly doing our civic share to make Baguio better, specifically in revitalizing our precious environment that has been so degraded in recent decades.

As proof of our civic contributions, we have conducted weekly greening and cleanup activities, planting trees and cleaning our communities with our family in areas where most needed, and doing everything that becomes our badge of honor to help our distressed environment.

Mr. Prosecutor, you may be right in arguing from what the law says, but we hope that you will also listen to what the citizenry feels, as Mayor Magalong has rightly acknowledged. It is most difficult for us to accept that while a crime is determined to have taken place --- the willful killing of our trees --- no perpetrators can be charged, no criminals can be apprehended, because “no evidence warrants it.”

Sir, aren’t laws without meaning when invoked without justice?

Done and signed this 15th day of October

In the year of our Lord 2019

In the City of Baguio