THE Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the decision of a Baguio court to jail a duo transporting illegal lumber, striking down the duo’s appeals.
The CA’s Thirteenth Division on June 10 affirmed the Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 5 decision, issued on January 13, 2019, which saw Ben Cagan Jr. and Marcelino Kidit in violation of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.
The penalty meted out by the RTC was 10 years of jail time.
The pair were charged with illegal possession of some 2,274 board feet worth of newly-cut Benguet pinewood valued at P63,672 without necessary documents.
The pair were flagged by a Commission on Elections (COMELEC) checkpoint on May 17, 2010, when police officers searched the truck, which was covered by a tent-like material.
Cagan, whose license was expired, attempted to claim that he was asked to drive the truck without knowledge of its contents, while Kidit claimed he simply hitched a ride and was similarly unaware of the lumber cargo.
The CA said that the pair’s defense was unlikely and that the warrantless search that caught the two was valid.
“Consequently, the forest products seized are admissible as evidence,” the CA ruled.
Under Section 80 of PD 705, an offender may be arrested without warrant if the offense is committed in the authority’s presence. The tools and equipment used in committing the offense and the forest products cut, gathered or taken by the offender in the process of committing the offense will be seized, to be delivered within six hours from the time of arrest.