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11 convicted for illegal logging

- Benny G. Enriquez () - April 30, 2006 - 12:00am
Eleven illegal loggers face up to 17 years of imprisonment after having been found guilty of illegal logging by a local court in Tarlac City, environment authorities said.

Regidor De Leon, executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Luzon, identified the convicted illegal loggers as Myrna Rubino, Maximo Rubino, Shane Anthony Albano, Larry Blanco, Nestor Pano, Danny Tabuli, Leonardo Raguingan, Emily Ulep, Rita Santos, Mariano Rabana and Cely Santiago.

In a decision penned by presiding judge Arsenio Adriano of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 64 in Tarlac City, the accused were found "guilty beyond reasonable doubt" of violating Section 68 of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, otherwise known as P.D. 705.

The accused were sentenced to a prison term of 10 years and one day minimum to a maximum of 17 years four months and one day of reclusion temporal, plus one year jail term for every P10,000 in excess of P22,000 worth of the stolen items, not exceeding 20 years.

According to De Leon, the accused were apprehended by the DENR forest protection team led by Avelino Bacallo in Brgy. Amacalan in Gerona town sometime in Oct. 5, 2003 boarding a truck, loaded with 2,500 board feet of narra flitches worth P250,000 which they hid under sacks of rice husks and rice bran.

He said the accused who were in the DENR watch list of illegal loggers, failed to present legal documents and even tried to run away from the DENR team, adding that the accused were fully aware that they were transporting a "premium hardwood species" whose cutting and transport is regulated by law.

The court also ordered the forfeiture of the narra flitches and truck used by the illegal loggers in favor of the government.

Earlier, presiding judge Renato Francisco of Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Malolos, Bulacan, also convicted Eugenio Salvador Tigas, Rodolfo Angeles, and Celso Solargo Selgas of up to six years prison term who were found in possession of illegally sawn lumber with a total volume of 3,160 board feet worth P12,000.

Mere possession of forest products such as lumber, without legal documents issued by the DENR, is penalized under Executive Order 277 amending P.D. 705.

Section 68 of P.D. 705 states that any person who cuts, collects, gathers or removes timber or other forest product from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land or from private land without any authority, or possess timber or other forest product without legal documents, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code.

"We do not discriminate between the big or small fish in illegal logging. We treat them as one and the same. There are no small or big violators when it comes to environmental sabotage," De Leon said, adding that forest criminals shall be dealt with decisively and without reservation by the DENR.

He also appealed to local government units (LGUs) and community residents near forest areas not to hesitate to provide the DENR with vital information that will lead to the arrest of any person suspected engaged in illegal logging.

Section 68-B of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines states that any person who shall provide any information leading to the apprehension or conviction of any person violating forestry laws, and the confiscation of forest products, are entitled to a reward equivalent to 20 percent of the proceeds of the confiscated forest products.

DENR records show that 532 forestry cases have been filed in various courts in the region since 1995, of which 55 cases resulted in convictions.
ARSENIO ADRIANO OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT AVELINO BACALLO B OF THE REVISED FORESTRY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES CELSO SOLARGO SELGAS CENTRAL LUZON DANNY TABULI DE LEON DENR DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES FOREST TARLAC CITY
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