Robredo report links execs to illegal loggingBy Arlyn dela Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A task force on illegal logging of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) headed by a retired general is protecting illegal loggers and financiers in the Caraga Region (Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat islands).
A confidential report to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo specifically mentioned the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force headed by Gen. Renato Miranda as being involved in the trade.
The report was submitted by Isoceles P. Otero who was designated by Robredo as Special Assistant to the DILG after the seizure of more than 4,000 illegally cut logs (7,255 pieces in an earlier Inquirer news story) upon the initiative of the local government of Butuan City. The haul was the biggest one-time seizure in the history of the campaign against illegal logging not just in the Caraga region, but in the Philippines.
Otero’s appointment was signed on Aug. 8 through Department Order No. 662 and took effect immediately.
Three days after his appointment, Otero submitted his first report. His second report was dated Aug. 18, the day Robredo was reported missing after a plane carrying him and three others crashed in waters off Masbate City.
In the Aug. 18 report, Otero told Robredo of “disturbing” information about the alleged involvement of the DENR-Task Force assigned to go after illegal logging operations.
The report said: “Sir Secretary, I received a disturbing report regarding our anti-illegal logging network. I still have to check the data further but I think the news is worth to be here in my report just for your information.”
The report added: “The Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force headed by Gen. Renato Miranda is the subject of the worrying information about protection and corruption. A certain Colonel Ga, allegedly under the orders of General Miranda, is collecting protection money from key players of the illegal logging trade.”
Miranda’s office is Mindanao based, while the Colonel Ga mentioned in Otero’s report is a retired Marine officer based in Surigao province in the Caraga Region.
But Miranda denied the “disturbing information.”
“Colonel Ga is the best man to do the job against illegal logging operators there. Siya pa nga ang nakapananakit sa operasyon ng mga illegal loggers paanong siya ang magiging protector? (He’s the one going after those involved in illegal logging operations so how can he be their protector?) A visit to his home in Surigao City and you will see that I have appointed the best man for the job. Hindi corrupt yan (he’s not corrupt),” Miranda told the Inquirer on the phone regarding Otero’s report.
On allegations that Ga could be acting on his orders, Miranda said it’s baseless and a total lie since it was his task force that coordinated and implemented the seizure upon orders of Butuan Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr.
The seizure last June of more than 4,000 illegally cut logs estimated to be worth P12 million (P16 million in an earlier Inquirer report) has resulted in the investigation of the mayors of five Agusan del Sur towns namely Esperanza, San Luis, Talacogon, Las Nieves and La Paz, a move initiated by Robredo’s office.
Miranda added: “I do not know who this Otero is but all I know is that he ran for governor in Agusan del Sur and lost in the last election.” Otero, like Robredo is a member of the Liberal Party.
Reached on the phone, Ga also denied the Otero report. “The records of the Task Force would speak for itself; we are doing our jobs and we are addressing the problem.”
Otero’s Aug. 18 report also implicated the central office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other highly-placed officials.
All the way to Palace
According to the report, “The reported conspiracy goes higher to (the) DENR central office and up to Malacañang.”
The Inquirer learned about Otero’s report to Robredo from Otero himself in a phone interview.
Said Otero: “Saka na lang ako magsasalita tungkol sa illegal logging operations dito nang detalyado. Na-appoint nga ako ni Sec. Robredo rito pero ni hindi nga ako nagka-opisina at yun nga namatay na siya. Pero dun sa report ko sa kanya, confidential report, I named names. Malalaking pangalan, basta (I will talk about illegal logging operations in detail later. True, I was appointed by Secretary Robredo but I still didn’t have an office. And then he died. But in my confidential report, I named names, big names. You’ll see).”
Asked if a copy of the confidential report could be made available, Otero said he would send the report in due time.
A law firm representing Otero later sent a copy of the report via e-mail.
In his report, Otero recommended the transfer of police Senior Insp. Romeo Villalobos, Intelligence Chief of the Philippine National Police in Agusan del Sur, because of his being a son-in-law of Trento town municipal councilor Victoria Plaza, whom Otero described in his report as “deeply involved in illegal logging.”
Also recommended to be transferred to another assignment was police Insp. Bill Acapulco, police chief of Veruela town, because of his alleged closeness to Veruela town mayor Salmiar Mondejar whom Otero described as “a key player in the illegal logging trade.”
In his earlier report dated Aug. 11, 2012, Otero told Robredo how illegal loggers and their financiers had changed their operations since the June seizure of illegal logs in Butuan City.
Pictures of illegal logs
Supported by pictures taken Aug. 10 along Ihawan River, Otero’s report noted that transporting logs from cutting areas has shifted from the main Agusan River to several of its tributary rivers, then to processing plants within the province. Pictures submitted to Robredo showed logs, a combination of lawaan and falcata logs, deposited along the length of Ihawan River.
The report stated that almost everyone from residents to barangay and municipal officials participate and tolerate illegal logging operations in Agusan del Sur because there is no alternative source of livelihood in the province.
First posted 12:53 am | Saturday, September 8th, 2012