The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has scored a legal victory for criminal charges filed against three individuals who were caught dumping liquid waste into a canal in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 27 of Caloocan City found Allan Lumanog, Ariel Olaje and Arwin Reyes guilty of violating Republic Act (RA) 9275, also known as the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, and sentenced them to imprisonment of six years and a day up to 10 years.

Roberto Sheen, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau - National Capital Region (EMB-NCR), called the conviction an “environmental victory” and said that the penal provisions of RA 9275 were enforced following the procedure on custody of evidence under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases which the Supreme Court promulgated in April 2010.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje also hailed the court’s decision and its timeliness. “This comes at a time when the government is aggressively pushing for partnerships with the private sector and local governments in cleaning our waterways, and shows how serious we are in going after violators of pollution laws,” he said.

Lumanog, Olaje and Reyes were reportedly caught red-handed by officials of Barangay Bagong Silang in Caloocan City emptying the contents of 46 plastic carbouy containers, which found to be liquid waste containing high concentrations of copper and zinc by the technical staff of EMB-NCR. Such compounds are classified as hazardous wastes under DENR Administrative Order 2004-36, which strengthen the implementation of RA 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990.

The barangay officials had acted on residents’ complaints of a foul smell in their area, and traced the smell to containers on board a parked passenger jeepney. This further led them to a nearby house, inside which was an open canal that eventually drained to a nearby creek. It was in the house where the barangay officials saw the accused unloading the containers.

The officials then made a warrantless arrest and turned over Lumanog and his companions, together with confiscated evidence, to the Caloocan police, who in turn contacted the DENR. Technical experts from the EMB-NCR then wasted no time in conducting an ocular inspection of the site where the three were arrested, and subjected the confiscated liquid waste to a chemical analysis.

In establishing the guilt of the three, the court, under the sala of Judge Victoriano Cabanos, ruled that the liquids indeed contained hazardous substances in toxic amounts, and that the act of discharging them were deliberate and planned. Cabanos also noted the compliance to proper procedures by the authorities involved in the case.

The court then ordered the EMB-NCR to confiscate the liquid waste for immediate and proper disposal.