Quirino DENR official shot deadBy Melvin Gascon, Villamor Visaya Jr. |Inquirer Northern Luzon
DIFFUN, Quirino—A Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) official in the province was shot and killed on Tuesday by two men at a DENR checkpoint in Maddela town, police and DENR officials said.
Alfredo Almueda, 59, community environment and natural resources officer of the Maddela-Nagtipunan area, was attacked in Barangay Villa Sur past 12 a.m. on Tuesday, New Year’s Day, while he and forest guards Gene Martin and Ronaldo Calonge were at a DENR checkpoint on a dirt road leading to Barangay San Pedro.
“They proceeded to the area after they got a tip through a text message that a shipment of illegally cut logs would be passing there,” said Supt. Domingo Lucas, Quirino police director.
Police said the suspects, armed with an M-16 Armalite rifle, fired at Almueda’s Isuzu pickup from about 10 meters as it was parked near the checkpoint and with the DENR official sleeping in the driver’s seat.
Almueda, former acting provincial environment and natural resources officer in Isabela, died from a bullet in the right eye. His pickup had 11 bullet holes and police recovered 22 shells.
Benjamin Tumaliuan, DENR director in Cagayan Valley, said he informed Environment Secretary Ramon Paje of the attack on Almueda’s group.
Tumaliuan praised Almueda for his dedication to his job, saying the slain official was the top performing community environment officer in Cagayan Valley from 2010 to 2012.
Lucas said the guards could not identify the suspects or their number. But he said it appeared the attack was carried out by two persons.
“[Almueda] had received death threats in the past, which prompted him to see to it that he always had companions whenever he moved around. They finally got him,” he said.
Investigators were tracking the sender of the text message, raising the possibility it was a ruse to bring Almueda to the area.
This was the second attack on a DENR official in the region in 11 months. On Feb. 7 last year, DENR forest specialist Melania Dirain was shot and killed in her office in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan.
Earlier, the environment offices of Cagayan Valley, the Cordillera, Ilocos and Central Luzon combined their manpower with the police and military to crack down on illegal logging along their common boundaries.
The joint effort was prompted by a series of attacks on foresters, including Dirain.