Top Agusan del Sur cops sacked over loggingBy Franklin A. Caliguid
BUTUAN CITY, Philippines—A town police chief and the head of a provincial police intelligence unit were fired after a report submitted to the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo linked them to the continued operations of illegal logging syndicates in Mindanao.
Senior Superintendent Glenn de la Torre, chief of police of Agusan del Sur, said removed from office were Senior Inspector Bill Acapulco, chief of police of Veruela town, and Senior Insp. Romeo Villalobos, head of the provincial police intelligence unit.
Acapulco and Villalobos were named in a report on illegal logging submitted to Robredo by Isoceles Otero, special assistant to Robredo at the Department of Interior and Local Government, a few days before Robredo died in a plane crash.
Acapulco and Villalobos were among several civilian officials and law enforcers named in Otero’s report to Robredo on illegal logging in Agusan del Sur that continued in defiance of an executive order issued by President Aquino to stop all forms of commercial logging in natural growth forests.
The others named in the report include Renato Miranda, retired Marine general and now head of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force; Salimar Mondejar, mayor of Veruela town; and Victoria Plaza, councilor of Trento town.
De la Torre said police are asking Otero to help pursue charges against those he named in his report by supplying evidence.
Mayor Mondejar, however, cried foul over Otero’s report.
“Tagging me as a key player in illegal logging trade in Agusan is a lie,” said Mondejar. He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has recognized him as the best enforcer of the logging ban in Agusan del Sur.
Mondejar questioned Otero’s motive in linking the mayor to illegal logging. He said Otero wants to destroy the Mondejar name because Otero’s cousin, Clarke, plans to run for mayor of Veruela next year.
“If you want national fame, it’s fine but not at my expense,” Mondejar said, addressing himself to Otero. “This is all about the mayoralty bid of his cousin, which he openly endorsed.”
Mondejar said he was willing to submit himself to any anti-corruption investigation and lifestyle check just to clear his name.
“I am not hiding anything,” said Mondejar.
Harry Taladua, area chief in Caraga of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force, said the allegations that Miranda and other task force officials were involved in illegal logging was the work of “vested interest groups hurt by the body’s no nonsense crackdown” on illegal logging.
“Our record of apprehensions and operations throughout Caraga speak for our effectiveness and dedication to put a stop to illegal logging,” he said.
But Chito Trillanes, head of the diocese of Tandag’s social action center, said that in Surigao del Sur alone, rampant illegal logging in former logging concession areas was being run by members of the task force.
He said one of the illegal loggers is a younger brother of an army general, who has close ties with Miranda and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. He declined to name the alleged illegal logger.
Trillanes said the involvement of task force members in illegal logging operations should prompt President Aquino to immediately abolish the task force.
“The dissolution of the corrupt anti-illegal logging task force is necessary. The log ban is a failed policy,” he said.
Taladua challenged Trillanes to support his charges with evidence and file charges in court against those he claimed to be involved in illegal logging.