Local Government Executives Sued Over Los Baños Tree Cutting

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna (May 27, 2014) — A municipal councilor has filed graft and administrative charges against a barangay captain and two other government officials over the cutting of trees to make way for a road project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Mount Makiling.

In his 14-page complaint, Los Baños Councilor Norvin Tamisin said the captain of Barangay Timugan, Florencio Bautista, abused his authority when he issued a permit to cut down 19 kapok (Ceiba pentandra) trees along Makiling’s Magnetic Hill on Feb. 13.

As it turned out, Bautista was also the subcontractor of Jobel Enterprises from which he received P245,000 for cutting down the trees in March.

Jobel Enterprises was the contractor of the P16-million DPWH project to widen a 500-meter road, an initial phase of a national government project called the Mt. Makiling Ecological Garden Road.

“Bautista had no legal authority to issue a permit to cut. He abused his authority as barangay captain and, worst, he even entered into a contract with Jobel Enterprises where he had engaged himself, his brother and cohorts to actually cut the said trees,” Tamisin said.

Also charged in the complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman on May 23 were DPWH district engineer Joel Limpengco and Los Baños environment officer Emiliano Leviste.

The Inquirer obtained a copy of the complaint on Monday.

Tamisin accused Limpengco and Leviste of gross misconduct and abuse of authority when they allowed the tree cutting even without a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He asked the Ombudsman to place the officials on preventive suspension once an investigation takes place.

Contacted separately by phone on Monday, Limpengco and Leviste said they had not yet received a copy of the complaint. Limpengco declined to comment while Leviste said he was ready to answer the charges.

Bautista could not be reached through his office number. (Phil. Daily Inquirer)

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