This is the current Baguio phenomenon. Its watershed has been damaged by man-made events for which many parts of the city are paying the price with the contamination of their water supply and the whole city’s seriously devastated environment.
There has been a hue and cry from the public, particularly zeroing in on the alleged perpetrattor, Baguio’s own sitting congresssman.
At this point events should be taking their course which means the damage has been examined and assessed and found to be truly serious. Over 700 trees killed, erosion from the use of heavy machinery to build a road through a forest that is a designated watershed. The appropriate charges have been filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Baguio Water District.
But here is what is curious. After the filing of the charges in the first week of June, the Benguet Prosecutors’ Office raffled off the cases to the fiscals who have to take them up in court for the government agencies. Suspiciously, on the last week of July (after more than a month that the cases were assigned), the whole Benguet Prosecutors’ Office fiscals inhibited themselves. The reasons they gave were more curious yet – one said he was related through his deceased first wife to one of the contractors charged, another said he was a Mason and could not prosecute a fellow Mason. Flimsy excuses and at the same time convoluted reasoning that is hard to believe or accept. Closer relations to fiscals and fellow Masons have been prosecuted and tried by the same office. Under these circumstances, it looks like the reasons have been concocted. For this a charge of dereliction of duty must be seriously taken.
There seems to be a game plan here for the defense. They prefer that someone else be chosen to handle the prosecution. Maybe someone they can do business with? What is clear is that the route being taken is one of stalling, obfuscating and muddling the issue which is environmental destruction which has affected many people.
Sometimes one has to wonder in this land of an oversupply of lawyers, why the public lawyers, those who act for government to punish lawbreakers are not up to par particularly in expertise and in ethical behavior.
Already one hears the conflict between private prosecutors and public prosecutors in pursuing cases to their ultimate stage for a decision to be handed out and justice to be served. Note the Ampatuan case rife with distrust of the public prosecutors’ work.
There is too the matter of repeated and perennial incompetence by prosecutorial panels who lose case after case for the government. Fiscals in general do not seem to be the cream of the crop of the legal profession, wile those who are go into lucrative jobs in the private sector. Many lawyers even forsake the practice of law but carry the honorific “attorney” to make their way. These are the lawyers this country produces.
One wonders what and how law schools are training the mass of their graduates. Concededly, many in law school come better prepared than others, but must the others be left to themselves particularly in the matter of proficiency and ethics? These are the crying problems we see here in the practice of law.
Fiscals must be upright and conscientious and follow their oath of office. They are in office to defend, protect and enhance public welfare and to charge those who go against it. The Benguet fiscals’ mass inhibition from the case of the environmental destruction of the Baguio watershed is a troubling event that foretells the kind of future actions we can expect of them.
And let us not forget the principal figure here, Congressman Nicasio Aliping, who rants and harangues that he is innocent till proven guilty. Well, let the process of judgment by a fair trial begin to decide whether he is innocent or guilty. Only, he seems to not want it to happen and the Benguet Prosecutors’ Office seems to be on the same page.
Something is rotten in Benguet.