It seems many folks were upset by a recent news item that the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to junk the appeal of the European lobby group Greenpeace to dismiss the criminal charges of malicious mischief filed against its operatives in a Laguna court in 2011.
Well, not because several Greenpeace members were slapped with criminal cases.
What they’re apparently upset about is that these Greenpeace operatives may have actually committed a crime—and that some of them may have purposely been “imported” from another country in order to carry out undesirable activities here in the Philippines.
Based on news reports, the Greenpeace operatives were charged for malicious mischief by the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB), the country’s premier institution for agriculture research and education. The criminal charges were filed after several Greenpeace members allegedly attacked and destroyed the UPLB experimental farm planted with a variety of pest-resistant eggplant called ‘Bt talong’, causing damages estimated at P25 million.
Among the alleged perpetrators of the assault on the UPLB farm are Greenpeace operatives Shivani Shah and Ali Abbas, whom our media colleagues have identified as Indian nationals. The other individuals facing criminal cases appear to be local Greenpeace recruits since they sport Filipino names.
There were two questions asked by our readers and friends who voiced their concern on the alarming involvement of Greenpeace and its foreign operatives in what UPLB denounced as an unlawful destruction of government property.
First, what is the crime of ‘malicious mischief’?
Second, can the foreign operatives be deported or barred from the Philippines in the wake of the accusations thrown at them?
Under our Revised Penal Code, the crime of ‘malicous mischief’ is committed by “any person who shall deliberately cause [damage to]the property of another . . .”
In this case, UPLB will have to basically prove two things. One, that the accused Greenpeace operatives deliberately caused damage to its property. Second, that such damage was caused “maliciously.”
And to prove that the damage was ‘deliberately’ and ‘maliciously’ inflicted, UPLB will have to show that the destruction of its experimental crops by Greenpeace operatives was ‘premeditated’ and that the latter’s act of damaging UPLB’s property was committed merely for the sake of damaging it.
Already, a powerhouse team of Greenpeace lawyers have attempted to debunk the charges claiming that their operatives simply staged a “decontamination action.” That excuse apparently didn’t work with the DOJ.
“The act of pulling out the Bt eggplants in the experimental field, however they called it, resulted in the destruction of the same, thereby causing damage to UPLB,” the DOJ ruled.
Can Indian Greenpeace operatives Shivani Shah and Ali Abbas be deported or otherwise barred from entering the country again?
That query apparently stems from the much-admired move of the Philippine government to deport European activist Thomas Von Beersum who was photographed yelling at a weeping Filipino policeman during PNoy’s last State of the Nation address.
The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 covers that subject matter. The said law provides that any foreigner “who advises, advocates, or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization entertaining, advocating or teaching such doctrines” may be arrested and deported.
Foreigners facing criminal cases or suspected of criminal activity in the Philippines or abroad, or whose continued presence is considered seriously inimical to public order, health, safety, morals and security, may also blacklisted and deported as “undesirable aliens.”
In the case of Von Beersum, the Immigration Bureau declared the Dutch national an undesirable alien and booted him out of the country.
We are not aware of any move to have Shivani Shah and Ali Abbas declared as undesirable aliens at this time even though they’ve been charged with a criminal offense.
Shah, Abbas and their co-defendants should be happy that our country adheres very strongly to the time-honored legal principle of “due process.” This means that they will be given their “day in court” to defend themselves. Due process also means that Shah, Abbas, et al. are “presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”
In other words, the Greenpeace operatives cannot be convicted unless and until UPLB presents clear and convincing evidence in court that these Greenpeace operatives had deliberately and maliciously damaged its experimental farm. That’s because in Philippines, the burden of proving that a crime was committed rests on the accuser, not on the accused.
Unfortunately, Greenpeace has not given our Filipino scientists the same privilege.
Greenpeace summarily and unilaterally declared the agricultural research being done by UPLB as bad for the environment and human health without the benefit of scientifically accepted evidence and due process.
By destroying UPLB’s experimental farm, Greenpeace deprived UPLB—and countless Filipino farmers hoping to end their dependence on deadly and expensive pesticides—of their own “day in court.”