Slain DENR exec fought uphill battle
Colleagues say Almueda complained prosecutors making logging war toughBy Melvin Gascon |Inquirer Northern Luzon
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—The Quirino environment official who was murdered on January 1 had always felt bad over setbacks that his office’s campaign against illegal logging suffered in the hands of government prosecutors, his colleagues said on Thursday.
Alfredo Almueda, community environment and natural resources officer (Cenro) of the Maddela-Nagtipunan area, also had complained of the harassment that he and his personnel had been receiving in the enforcement of President Benigno Aquino III’s order on the total log ban, they said.
“We often hear him cursing, mincing no words about how disgusted he was because he felt that the prosecutor’s office [in Quirino] had been sabotaging their efforts against illegal logging,” said a source at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who asked not to be named due to the sensitive nature of the issue.
Almueda was gunned down by two men while on a stakeout with two other foresters at a DENR checkpoint in Barangay (village) Villa Sur in Maddela town at around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Regional State Prosecutor Rommel Baligod dismissed the allegations that the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors were not cooperating with the DENR in its illegal logging drive.
“In illegal logging cases, prosecutors can’t be partial toward the DENR by ruling in its favor even when the law or the evidence does not warrant it. In theory, they must decide cases based on the evidence and in accordance with the applicable law,” Baligod said in a statement.
Almueda and 28 other DENR personnel vented their frustration in a letter to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje on Sept. 18, 2012.
“When you implement the laws, rules and regulations without fear and letup, you will be creating enemies,” the letter read.
They expressed dismay at facing harassment suits filed by illegal logging suspects, while the cases they had filed at the DOJ always ended up dismissed.
“Sad times, stiff challenges and even disappointments may fall upon us but the officers and personnel of [the DENR office in] Nagtipunan, Quirino, will stand upright and safeguard the interest of the public and the department,” they said. With a report from Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon