Monday, May 30, 2011

PD 705 as amended by EO 277 (Secs. 78 thereof), Limited Discussion. What the hell is the Forestry Code all about?

Being a city-slicker, I've never been familiar with environmental laws nor with anything that has got something to do with our kalikasan. That's why when somebody came in the office asking for help about PD 705, I was dumbfounded. And because I worked in a province, I thought this law will always be in my way. So... I studied it and did a little research on it. But my focus is on these two sections, to wit, section 78 and 68 thereof.

Sec. 78 provides:
"Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forestland, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnership, associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable, and if such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation. The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are found."

What's peculiar about this law is that the penalty provided for the above mentioned affense is the penalty provided by the RPC in the crimes of Theft and Qualified Theft.

This section has two separate and distinct offenses:
1. The cutting, gathering , collecting and removing of timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, from private land without any authority; and
2. Possession of timber or other forest laws and regulations without legal documents.

Basically, the 1st offense would cover the cutting, gathering..etc. of forest products in private lands. The cutting, gathering, collecting or removing of said forest products includes Mangroves and its species. Whatever its species are, I have no way of knowing. But I guess one would need a botanist to determine if a tree is a relative of the mangrove tree or not. So if you live near the sea and there are trees there, beware what you cut. Baka bawal po putulin ang punong yan. For references, you might want to check R.A. 7161.

This section also punishes the transportation, movement or conveyance of forest products without legal documents. Mere possession gives the presumption that you own the forest products, therefore if you were caught transporting lumbers, which by the way is also classified as forest products, without any papers or documents you're in big trouble.

Who are liable under this section?
1. cutter
2. gatherer
3. collector
4. remover
5. possessor  or any or all persons who appear to be responsible for the commission of the offense
6. partnership, associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession of such forest products.

Who could arrest?
1. Forest officer or DENR employee
2. Phil. Constabulary or Integrated National Police
3. Brgy. Officials

How to prosecute: (section 80 of PD 705)
  • Deliver within 6 hours from time of arrest and seizure the offender and confiscated products.
  • File the proper complaint with the appropriate official designated by law to conduct preliminary investigation and file information in court.
We have limited cases or jurisprudence on PD 705, but the following cases might help:
  • Merida vs. People, GR 158182 June 12, 2008
  • DENR vs. Daraman, GR 125797 Feb. 15, 2007
  • Aquino vs. Peole, GR 165448 July 27, 2009
  • Taopa vs. People, GR 184098 Nov. 25, 2008
I am a nature lover. In fact, I would have considered being an environmental lawyer. But given the small amount of knowledge I know about environmental laws, I'm bound to fail. But.. Here's the catch, I'm willing to learn. And that I think - will get me anywhere.

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