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DENR files charges vs IA head

By TJ Burgonio, Tina Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:19:00 09/10/2008

Filed Under: Local authorities, Environmental Issues, Monuments & Heritage Sites

MANILA, Philippines ? Calling her negligent, the Department Of Environment and Natural Resources Tuesday filed charges against Intramuros Administrator Anna Maria ?Bambi? Harper over the cutting of 29 trees in a park in front of the Manila Cathedral on Aug. 25.

The charges ? violation of Presidential Decree 953, Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and Republic Act 9175 ? were filed by Corazon Davis, DENR executive director in the National Capital Region, before the Office of the Ombudsman.

PD 953 penalizes the unauthorized cutting, destruction, damage and injury of trees, plants and vegetation. RA 9175, on the other hand, regulates the ownership, possession, sale and use of chainsaws.

?Harper was remiss and grossly negligent in her obligation to see to it that the permit issued to Intramuros Administration, through her and upon her request, should have been strictly observed, to the prejudice of the government and the public,? Davis said in her complaint.

Named as Harper?s co-respondent was Fernando Simborio, the project contractor.

On Monday, the Manila City government also filed charges of violating PD 953 and RA 9175 against Simborio at the city prosecutor?s office.

Spared

Harper, however, was spared. Earlier, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said she could not be held liable for tree-cutting since an independent probe conducted by the City Hall police found no evidence that she had ordered Simborio to go beyond the limits set in the permit issued by the DENR to the IA.

Lim?s statement was immediately disputed by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.

?How can he clear anyone when the case is still being investigated by the proper department which is the DENR?? Atienza said.

In a press conference last week, Harper insisted that she could not be held liable for the incident since she did not give the order or cut down the trees herself.

In her complaint, Davis alleged that Harper conspired with Simborio to cut 10 narra and three mahogany trees ? all endangered species ? in violation of PD 953.

Apart from these, several neem, mango, langka and atis trees were also felled.

Davis said that Harper and Simburio also failed to coordinate with the barangay leader in the area and to inform the DENR?s urban forestry division about the schedule for the balling and cutting of the trees.

She quoted witnesses as saying that a chainsaw was used to cut down the trees without a permit from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, a clear violation of the Chainsaw Act.

It was found out that the chainsaw was registered in the name of Efren Caraan of Talisay, Batangas, and was to be used only in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provinces.

?Harper?s act of entering into a contract with respondent Simborio caused undue injury to the government and to the public in general in blatant violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic 3019,? Davis said.

?Glaring?

It was ?very glaring? that the balling and cutting of the trees were undertaken by the contractor who lacked expertise, experience and technical knowledge on balling, which resulted in the ?inappropriate balling and illegal cutting,? she added.

The Inquirer tried to reach Harper for comment but calls to her cell phone went unanswered.



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