THE four counts of criminal charges filed by Baguio City’s local government against the proprietors of the Igorot Stone Kingdom tourist spot in Pinsao village have been dropped by the local court for lack of merit.
In a recently-released two-page decision dated March 13, Prosecuting Attorney Oliver Isabelo Prudencio, approved by City Prosecutor Conrado Catral Jr., dropped the criminal charges filed by the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO) in November of last year over supposed violations of Presidential Decree 1096 or the National Building Code.
CBAO head Johny Degay filed the four cases before the city prosecutor last year after the owners of the tourist spot Pio and Hajji Velasco continued construction work on the tourist site despite standing cease and desist orders from the CBAO.
According to Degay, investigations into the site showed multiple safety hazards, such as structures built with grouted stone riprap terraces, an unfinished four-storey building with roof deck made up of reinforced concrete and concrete hollow blocks, a drainage and steel bridge, and stone domes with varying sizes with interior finishes made of stones with no support aside from cement grouts to prevent the stones from detaching.
The charges were filed citing the said violations and the continued construction work despite lack of appropriate permits. The city also closed down the tourist spot over safety concerns stemming from the said violations and lack of permits.
However, according to the decision by Prudencio, the Velascos were subsequently able to fulfill the requirements to acquire the necessary permits and address the concerns raised, rendering the charges lacking in merit.
“Going over the issues, it appears that the respondents were able to comply with the requirements as prescribed under Presidential Decree 1096 regarding the structures complained of,” the resolution read.
The decision followed a February 13 letter from the Velascos addressed to the City Administrator’s Office (CAO) along with supporting documents for the issuance of appropriate building permits. According to the prosecution, receipt of the letter and documents were evidence that the local government has acknowledged the tourist spot’s compliance with the requirements set by the city, and therefore is grounds for dismissing the charges against the tourist spot’s owners.
With the charges dismissed, permits acquired and violations fixed, the tourist spot is slated to return to operations, but the owners have yet to announce its reopening.