6 more pilgrims charged for Banahaw bushfire

By Michelle Zoleta, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 23 2014 10:04 AM | Updated as of Mar 23 2014 06:04 PM

SARIAYA, Quezon, Philippines – Six more pilgrims were charged for starting the bushfire that razed some 50 hectares of forestland in Mt. Banahaw last Thursday.

Officials said the six pilgrims were turned over by rescue teams to the police on suspicions they started the fire, along with several other pilgrims.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) said the six were on their way down from the mountain in Barangay Concepcion Pinagbakuran when they were spotted by rescue teams.

The six were identified as Criste Ababa Bulante, 45, of Las Piñas City; Merencia Eugencio Santiago, 44, of Nueva Ecija; Jinky Mae Dumanan Dulay, 21, of Taguig City; Francisco Saculsan Alpapara, 73, of Pasay City; Richard Abanilla Espita, 43, and Tristan Joe Cruz Alpapara, 28, both from Las Piñas.

They were charged with violation of Republic Act 9847, or the law declaring Mt. Banahaw and the nearby Mt. Cristobal in Laguna as protected landscape.

The six were members of the Hiwaga ng Bundok Banahaw Inc., a group of devotees trekking to the mountain annually during summer.

They were earlier reported missing as five from their group were charged but later released after paying the penalty, on suspicions of starting the fire in the mountain.

The revered mountain spans the boundaries of Laguna and Quezon, attracting thousands of devotees every year, especially in the run-up to Holy Week. The devotees perform rituals to supposedly recharge their spirituality.

They admitted going up the mountain to observe their panata (pledge).