CA Cebu, voting 4-1, dismisses Cabrido’s petition for Writ of Kalikasan to save Cebu trees

Lone dissenting opinion lodged by Associate Justice Gabriel Ingles

By: Rosalie Abatayo - CDN Digital | October 17,2019 - 07:45 PM

Six acacia trees, all more than a hundred years old, have been cut down in Barangay Inoburan in Naga City, Cebu on Oct. 4, 2019 to give way to the road widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways. | CDND File Photo/ Delta Dyrecka Letigio

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) Special Division of Five in Cebu City has voted to junk the petition of environmental lawyer Benjamin Cabrido for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan to stop the cutting of roadside trees in Cebu.

The Appellate Court, voting 4-1,  has resolved to dismiss Cabrido’s petition because the latter “failed to substantiate his allegation with evidence.”

“In the instant case, petitioner merely alleges that the “wholesale” removal of roadside trees imminently and gravely threatens the constitutional and statutory rights of the inhabitants of certain cities in Cebu and in the Philippines. He, however, failed to substantiate his allegation with evidence,” read the resolution penned by CA Associate Justice Emily Aliño-Geluz.

The nine-page decision, however, did not bear the signature of Associate Justice Gabriel Ingles, who separately issued a dissenting opinion. Those who concurred with the dismissal of the petition were Associate Justices Pamela Ann Abella Maxino, Carlito Calpatura, and Alfredo Ampuan.

Last October 3, Cabrido lodged the petition for the issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan and a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (Tepo) to stop the scheduled tree cutting in the cities of Cebu, Naga and Carcar.

Read more: Environmental lawyer goes to CA to stop DENR, DPWH from cutting down roadside trees

Read more: Capitol Site resident, netizens mourn loss of half-century old trees; chopped down for a road widening project

Read more: DENR-7: Cutting of trees in Barangay Capitol Site follows forestry rules

The Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7) put up a notice of approved tree cutting permit along Don Gil Garcia Street last September 21, 2019. | Delta Letigio

Cabrido argued that: “With the ongoing wholesale removal of this special class of trees, the constitutional and statutory right of the inhabitants of the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Naga and Carcar in the island of Cebu and the inhabitants of all other cities and towns similarly situated in the Philippines are imminently and gravely threatened.

Cabrido also alleged that Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu erred when the latter delegated  the power to issue tree cutting permits to the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro), an attached office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

However, the CA Special Division said there are no “studies, reports, or expert testimonies to show the extent of the environmental damage which will result from the cutting of these roadside trees.”

“All told, while We laud petitioner Cabrido for his advocacy, We are constrained to dismiss the petition,” the resolution read.

A copy of the resolution obtained by CDN Digital showed that the decision was promulgated on October 11. Cabrido said he received a copy of the ruling last Monday, October 14.

In his dissenting opinion, Ingles said: “That, even if the petition may not be sufficient to satisfy the required form and substance, it is my humble opinion that there must be a determination of whether the allegations in the petition are true or now, or, whether the petition is meritorious or not, which can only be had after giving the petitioner the opportunity to correct the infirmities and the parties the opportunity to be heard.”

Ingles cited a 2011 Supreme Court decision which allowed the hearing of an environmental case even if the initial evidence presented did not meet the requirement of the Rules of Court.

“Nevertheless, pursuant to the longstanding doctrine on the hierarchy of courts and the precautionary principle stating that the constitutional right of the people to balanced and healthful ecology shall be give the benefit of the doubt, applicants are given the opportunity to prove their entitlement to the remedies prayed for,” Ingles quoted the SC.

Cabrido also maintained that the fight to protect the trees is not yet over as he intends to file a motion for reconsideration.

“The journey for roadside tree protection is indeed not a walk in the park nor a stroll on the road, after all… But I cannot pause for now in speaking on behalf of these roadside trees and of all other natural wonders legally inanimated and devoid of legal standing,” Cabrido said as caption of his draft for his MR, which he posted on Facebook this afternoon, October 17./elb

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