Cimatu ‘outraged’ by unlawful arrest of eight DENR employees in Puerto Princesa

Published June 13, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu was “outraged” by the unlawful arrest and detention of eight employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and two others while they were doing field work at Barangay Iwahig in Puerto Princesa City last June 10.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu (DOT / MANILA BULLETIN)
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu

“It is totally unacceptable that these environmental enforcers who continue to perform their duties despite the COVID-19 pandemic have to suffer violence at the hands of the police, who should be assisting them in their operations,” Cimatu said.

He has called for the swift resolution of the case involving the illegal arrest and police brutality suffered by its team at the hands of Puerto Princesa City Police Director Col. Marion Balonglong.

Cimatu, however, believes it was just an isolated case and would not affect the partnership between the DENR and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in enforcing environmental laws.

“As much as I’m furious at what happened to my men, I hope this incident won’t affect the cordial relationship and collaborative partnership the DENR has with the PNP in the fight against environmental crime,” he said.

The DENR chief also said he has already brought the matter to Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, who has supervisory authority over the PNP.

According to reports reaching the DENR Central Office in Quezon City, the DENR workers—together with a representative from the city government’s Bantay Bakawan and a barangay watchman—were conducting an investigation on the illegal occupation and massive mangrove cutting at Sitio Bucana when they were intercepted by Balonglong and his men.

The DENR employees, who are assigned at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Puerto Princesa City, consisted of three foresters, four forest rangers and one forest protection officer.

At first, the DENR team thought Balonglong’s group was the police security they requested to assist them in their operation until they were suddenly subjected to full body search and told to lie down on the ground.

Balonglong allegedly kicked and punched at gunpoint one of the forest rangers, Roldan Alvarez, whom he accused of stealing galvanized iron sheets.

After the body search, they were supposedly ordered to board a police service vehicle which brought them to a vacant lot where they were again asked about their purpose of going to the mangrove site.

They were later brought to the police station in Barangay San Pedro where Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer Felizardo Cayatoc, who approved of the DENR operation, asked for their release.

Balonglong allegedly ordered their release after Cayatoc agreed to sign a document stating that the DENR personnel were in good mental and physical condition when they were turned over to him.

READ MORE: P. Princesa police chief relieved for alleged mauling of forest rangers