By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help identify and arrest those behind the killing of a DENR informant in Rizal, Nueva Ecija last September 11.
“I hope the PNP will look deeply into this case and bring those perpetrators to justice, so that we can say that the death of yet another environmental defender has not been in vain,” Cimatu said.
Fifty-six-year-old Gaudencio Arana, a long-time DENR informant assigned at the office of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) in Muñoz town, was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants on the night of September 11.
According to CENRO Florencio Lalu, Arana was one of those “responsible in giving accurate information regarding the illegal activities within Pantabangan and Rizal in Nueva Ecija leading to the apprehension of several illegally sourced wood products, conveyances and chainsaws.”
Lalu said this “could have earned the ire of unscrupulous individuals conducting illegal activities within these municipalities.”
Arana was the second environmental worker killed in a week.
Last September 4, alleged illegal loggers stabbed DENR forest ranger Bienvenido Veguilla Jr. to death using a jungle bolo in El Nido, Palawan.
Five suspects—Dexter Sumalague, Welmer Juancho, Felman Flores, Ricardo Fulgencio, and Ruel Fulgencio— have already been arrested and charged accordingly for murder and violation of Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.
Cimatu had earlier vowed to do everything in his power to protect DENR workers from “fearless, cunning and greedy” individuals who destroy the environment for their own selfish interests.
The DENR chief urged lawmakers to pass a law that would create an Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) in the DENR in order for the agency to effectively stop environmental crimes, such as illegal logging and smuggling of wildlife species.
He also asked the Congress to come up with a legislation authorizing forest rangers to carry firearms to protect themselves against illegal logging syndicates and other environmental criminals.
With the proposed creation of the EPEB, forest rangers will be authorized to carry firearms in the conduct of their daily patrol.
In the meantime, Cimatu said forest rangers should be provided police escorts whenever they conduct patrol.