Lack of judge keeps justice elusive for slain forester



BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—A year ago, forester Melania Dirain was shot and killed by a lone gunman inside her office in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan, but the suspect still roams, and the case has yet to move in court.

The Regional Trial Court (RTC)  Branch 12 in Claveria, Cagayan, is still waiting for a judge to hear the case as a replacement for presiding Judge Leo Reyes who died last year.

“The case will not move unless a judge is assigned,” said Prosecutor Jerry Nebab of the Department of Justice (DOJ) office in Cagayan.

Nebab is hoping the Supreme Court would appoint a judge for the RTC branch this month.

Dirain’s family, as well as colleagues in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said with the case stalled, initial efforts to give justice to her death would lead to nothing.

“We are saddened that no case has been filed [in court] even though there was an initial apprehension of the suspect,” said Benjamin Tumaliuan, DENR head in Cagayan Valley.

Dirain was Cagayan Valley DENR’s first female forestry specialist and the second-highest officer in  the community environment and natural resources office in Sanchez Mira, which covers the five Cagayan towns of Sanchez Mira, Santa Praxedes, Claveria, Pamplona and Abulug, DENR officials said.

Juliet Magdasoc, Dirain’s sister, said family members had lost track of the progress of the case.

“The last piece of news we heard about it was that the gunman had been caught and that a [criminal information] was already filed,” she said.

Dirain, 46, was gunned down inside her office at the DENR compound in Barangay Centro 2 at 7:45 p.m. on Feb. 7, 2012. Days after the shooting, police arrested Adorable Caligan without a warrant, after he was supposedly identified in a closed-circuit television  footage taken by cameras installed at the DENR office.

Caligan was, however, released as no case had been filed against him within the 36-hour prescribed period. Witnesses refused to issue sworn statements implicating him, Nebab said.

On Oct. 12 last year, the DOJ recommended the filing of murder charges against Caligan, and the case was raffled off to the RTC Branch 12.

“But during that time, Judge Reyes was already bedridden and he eventually died. That is why no warrant of arrest was issued [against the suspect],” Nebab said.

Tumaliuan said he and DENR personnel were worried that Dirain’s case would be repeated in the case of forester Alfredo Almueda.

Dirain and Almueda have been hailed as “environmental heroes” for meeting their deaths on duty.

Almueda, the community environment and natural resources officer  of Nagtipunan-Maddela area in Quirino province, was gunned down at an anti-illegal logging checkpoint on Jan. 1.

“For us, there is no use for environmental heroes if justice is not attained,” Tumaliuan said.

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  • bayankopdi

    If this is the kind of system Dirain is facing the best is hire a gun man 20,000 pesos price is more than enough and justice is done.  It is 100% sure that the gun man is identified by the CCTV so need to go to the courts…what are you waiting for…This is not taking the law in to your hands …this is plane justice.

    • John_Cruz

      If the victim is my relative I can hire 3 pro-gunmen to carryout justice for P2M.

    • butchred

       brad kung tinodas mo ung gunman, e di wala na pag asa malaman kung sino mastermind!

  • Loggnat

    The court official in charge of this regional trial court should be replaced or demoted for incompetency. Justice delayed is justice denied. The family of the victim should take to a higher court Sandiganbayan or Ombudsman or whoever is the watchdog for the courts to penalize them for the unacceptable delay in replacing the judge for this regional trial court. The justice system in the country is a big and an embarrassing joke. 

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