Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-XI) will be re-filing a case against the illegal trekkers who climb Mt. Apo last year despite the Resolution Order passed by the Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Apo Natural Park (PAMB-MANP) approving the indefinite closure of all Mt. Apo trails for trekking and climbing.
This was revealed during the 1st Quarterly meeting of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF) held at DENR-XI Regional Office last February 16, 2017. DENR-XI Regional Director Ruth M. Tawantawan immediately sought the support and assistance of the Prosecutors Office in the Department's plan to re-file the case.
It can be recalled that the closure order, Resolution No. 2016-01, was issued by PAMB due to the Mt. Apo forest fire incident last March 26, 2016. The fire incident lasted for 28 days damaging a total of 115 hectare area of grassland and brushland.
However, despite the closure order, some concerned netizens reported to DENR-XI that a certain local guide from Davao brought 11 climbers in Mt. Apo on May 20, 2016. The DENR, through its Parks Operations Superintendent (POSu) Eduardo V. Ragaza immediately checked on the veracity of the report and coordinated with the concerned LGUs.
Having established probable cause in violation of Republic Act 9237 or the Mt. Apo Protected Area Act of 2003, a case was filed by DENR-XI against Edgar Ian Tesaluna and others at the Office of the City Prosecutor of Digos last August 12, 2016. The case however was dismissed without prejudice for the reason that none of its prosecutors is authorized to conduct preliminary investigation and prosecute violations under RA 9237.
As early as September 7, 2016, a letter request for designation of Special Prosecutor from the Office of the City Prosecutor Digos City was already endorsed and personally delivered to the Office of the Prosecutor General Claro A. Arellano. Said request was also followed up by a letter from the Regional State Prosecutor Atty. Janet Grace B. Dalisay-Fabrero dated December 27, 2016 addressed to Undersecretary Antonio T. Kho, Jr. of the Department of Justice.
The designation of a Special Prosecutor is a requisite under Section 15 of RA 9237 which states that "within thirty (30) days form the effective of this Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shall appoint a special prosecutor to whom all cases of violation of laws, rules and regulations in the protected area shall be assigned."
"Since there is nothing in the decision that prohibits the DENR to re-file a case, then we will re-file a case against the perpetuators as soon as the designation of a Special Prosecutor is made," Tawantawan said.