BAGUIO, Philippines – Baguio City prosecutors have dismissed four counts of criminal charges filed by city hall against the owners of a tourism park in Pinsao village for lack of merit.
The local government complaint against Pio and Hajji Velasco, the owners of the Igorot Stone Kingdom, was trashed in a two-page decision by Prosecutor Oliver Isabelo Prudencio and approved by City Prosecutor Conrado Catral Jr. on Monday, March 13.
The Pinsao property, an approximately 6,000-square-meter, and multi-level cultural theme park that features traditional Ifugao stonework, was forced to temporarily shut down before the complaint was filed late last year.
It was the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO) that filed the complaint in November 2022 on behalf of the city government, alleging that the Velascos violated the National Building Code.
CBAO head Johny Degay had alleged that the theme park’s owners continued construction work on the site despite a standing cease-and-desist order from his office.
Degay said their investigation showed that the property had several safety hazards. These included structures built with grouted stone riprap terraces and an unfinished four-story building with a roof deck made of reinforced concrete and hollow blocks.
He said there was also a drainage and steel bridge, and stone domes of varying sizes with interior finishes made of stones without any support, except for cement grouts that were supposed to prevent the stones from detaching.
Prosecutors, however, found that the Velascos were able to fulfill the requirements to secure the permits and address the concerns raised, and that city hall actually acknowledged the theme park’s compliance with the requirements, prompting them to dismiss the charges against its owners.
“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 was based on a February 13 letter from the Velascos to the City Administrator’s Office (CAO) with supporting documents for the issuance of building permits.
The prosecutors said they considered the receipt of the letter and documents as evidence that the local government acknowledged the tourist spot’s compliance with the requirements.
With the complaint dismissed, the theme park, which was shut down by city hall, is expected to resume operations, but its owners have yet to make an announcement. – Rappler.com
Angel Castillo is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.
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