3 billboard installers nabbed for cutting 11 balete trees in QCBy Niña Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Three employees of a billboard company were arrested Monday night after they were caught cutting down 11 balete trees on the center of Edsa in Balintawak, Quezon City.
“So, kapag naharangan ang advertisement niyo, puputulin niyo na lang ang puno? Bakit niyo pinutol? (So if they are blocking your billboard, you’re just going to cut the trees down? Why did you cut them?”) Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino asked the three men, who were presented at his office on Tuesday morning.
The police unit detailed to the MMDA identified those arrested as Roberto Aragon, 45; Ian Jay Villegas, 18; and Rhanne Cruz, 40, all employees of Stellent Media Solution Inc., which holds office in San Antonio, Makati City,
At around 6 p.m. Monday, MMDA personnel saw the three men armed with jungle knives (bolos) chopping down 6-foot-tall strangler fig trees on the center island of Edsa near Kaingin Road in Barangay (village) Apolonio Samson.
They told police they were hired by Stellent Media Solution to mount tarpaulins on Edsa.
“Inutusan lang po kami na magkabit ng tarpaulin. Pinutol namin kasi mabilis lumago (We were ordered to put up tarpaulins. We cut the trees because they grow so fast),” one of three said in answer to Tolentino’s question.
The three said they did not know what they did was unlawful.
“Humihingi po kami ng paumanhin sa inyo. Naghahanap lang po kami ng trabaho (We are asking for your forgiveness. We are just trying to make a living),” he added. The three are paid P500 a day to mount advertisements on major thoroughfares.
Rochelle Macapili-Ona, MMDA legal services chief, said the three men will be charged with malicious mischief at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.
However, she said, the legal services department still has to check if the actions fall under Presidential Decree 705, or the Forestry Reform Code, which prohibits felling of trees without permission from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Tolentino instructed Macapili to include the billboard company in the charges.
“We will have (the felled trees) restored by the billboard operator. At the same time, we will file a case against the company,” Tolentino said.
“Our purpose was to plant more trees because these help absorb the runoff water on EDSA. And these people killed the trees just to put up billboards,” he added.
The MMDA, with other local government units, maintains the vegetation at major roads.