DAVAO CITY—Eagle conservationists here are preparing to contest the order of a Bukidnon judge to only fine a lumad farmer P100,000 for killing and cooking a Philippine eagle in 2008.
Jennifer Ramos, counsel for the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), said the appeal would be submitted soon but within 15 days from May 23, the day her group received a copy of the ruling issued by Malaybalay Judge Josefina Bacal on the case filed against Bryan Bala-on, a resident of Impasugong, Bukidnon province.
Bala-on was found guilty of killing and cooking Kagsabua, a juvenile male eagle which was released back to the wild, in July 2008.
Ramos said that under the law, killing a critically endangered species is punishable by imprisonment of between six and 12 years or a fine of P100,000 to P1 million under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (Republic Act No. 9147).
Out on bail
In her decision, Bacal ordered Bala-on “to pay the fine in the amount of P100,000 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency in consonance with Article 39 of the Revised Penal Code.”
But Ramos said the order did not indicate when the amount should be paid. Bala-on is out of jail after posting bail and is under the custody of a Higaonon datu.
PEF executive director Dennis Salvador said the group was unhappy over the sentence.
“The victim is our national bird, our national heritage. I feel that we lost an opportunity here to send an important message against poachers and other people who commit crimes against nature for a successful trial,” Salvador told the Inquirer.
Salvador said that for some, the fine imposed on Bala-on could be a lot of money but it “does not represent what we lost in real terms and in symbolic terms.”
“The PEF believes that the court underappreciated the extent and gravity of the offense. It should have been a test case of the Wildlife Act,” he said.
Salvador also said Bala-on was not remorseful and even tried to sway the court’s decision in his favor.
“If we look at the reaction of the accused, he is still indifferent. He lied to us and to the court,” he said.
Salvador said Bala-on may appeal the sentence but the PEF would also do its job, and that is to file counterappeals if needed.
“If he appeals, we will continue to contest and support the case against him,” he said.
The case against Bala-on was the first criminal case filed in connection with the killing of a Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi).
“We proved our case, we won the battle. But the war against people who commit crimes against nature continues,” Salvador said. Joselle R. Badilla, Inquirer Mindanao