LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – A local court acquitted a chicken dung trader for alleged violation of Municipal Ordinance 24-2017 after finding that the prosecution has not proven the elements of the offense charged against her.
In a 5-page judgement, Judge Melita Amylesha G Delson-Macaraeg of the Municipal trial court (MTC) of La Trinidad stated that Rose Lagadeo Maliones was charged under Section 3A.01 of the La Trinidad Tax Code or Municipal Ordinance No. 24-2017, which stated that all persons are required to obtain a mayor’s permit to engaged in business for the privilege of conducting business in the municipality, including all economic enterprises of all educational institutions, government-owned and controlled corporations and other institutions or establishments similarly situated.
In the information charged against Maliones, the court noted that the business alleged to have been conducted by the accused without the requisite mayor’s permit is the trading and storage of chicken dung, thus, to secure a conviction in the said case, the evidence adduced by the prosecution must have proven the appropriate elements beyond reasonable doubt. Among the prescribed elements of the case are Maliones had been trading and storing chicken dung at the area and she is not the holder of a mayor’s permit to trade or store chicken dung.
The court pointed out that the prosecution has proven with definiteness the fact that Maliones has no mayor’s permit for the trading and storage of chicken dung and it would be impossible for her or anyone in that matter, to get or to have gotten such a permit because of Administrative Order No. 08, series of 2010, that prohibits the transportation and trading of chicken dung in the municipality.
Further, the court stipulated that the problem lies in the allegation that Maliones was trading and storing chicken dung and for the said to be established, the prosecution must prove that the act was committed and that it was Maliones who committed it.
As regards the act of trading and storing chicken dung at the rea in Shilan, the court noted the testimony of Serfin Marzan who related that the trading and storage of chicken dung by Maliones was being carried out in Shilan because they would often see the place full of trucks loaded with chicken dung whenever they would conduct tax mapping.
While he claimed that the truck would go in and out of the lot to buy loads of chicken dung, Marzan informed the court that there was no cash being exchanged in the alleged transactions. While the inspector was able to talk to the alleged buyers, he claimed nobody would want to give their names or that of the person from whom they bought the dung.
However, the persons informed the inspector that they bought sacks of chicken.
The court asserted that the aforesaid statements are all hearsay and applying the rules on evidence, there is no proof that the business of trading and storage of chicken was conducted t the area.
Moreover, the court emphasized that the identity of the accused conducting the alleged business was not also established. According to Marzan, his office initially identified Nora Lagadeo to be the owner of the purported business, however, he was later informed by Nora that it was her sister Rose who owned the same.
While the link of the purported business to Nora may be based on the personal knowledge of the witness, the court claimed that the link to the accused is pure hearsay and cannot be considered by the court.
When asked during the hearing why he said that Rose was the owner of the business, the court stated that Marzan cited that it was because Rose was at the vicinity for many times. He also mentioned that Maliones was allegedly managing the place.
However, the court explained that the aforesaid allegations were not sufficiently substantiated. Even if properly proven, the court added that the same cannot be even considered as circumstantial evidence that may prove the element of the offense because they do not necessary lead to a logical conclusion that Maliones is the owner of the chicken trading and storage business, granting for the sake of argument that there is one.
The court disclosed that while one could pressure that since Maliones was said to be managing the place, then she could be the owner of the business, such a presumption cannot be the basis of a conviction in criminal cases where proof beyond reasonable doubt is required.
In view of the dearth of competent evidence, the court said that it found that the prosecution has not met its burden of proving the elements of the offense beyond reasonable doubt.