Bukidnon village chief, 2 others face illegal logging charges

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 September) — The barangay chair of Kibongkog, San Fernando, Bukidnon and two others are facing charges of alleged illegal logging filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor.

Leon Equipelag, special forestry prosecutor, signed the complaint against Kibongkog barangay chair Vicky Yandug, Rodolfo Barometro, Roger Limbo, and other unnamed suspects for allegedly violating Sec. 68 renumbered as Sec. 77 of Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Code as amended.

The complaint dated July 30, 2010, said that on July 20, at about 1:15p.m. in Kibongkog, “did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and criminally cut, gather, collect, and remove and or caused to be cut, gathered, collect, removed, and or possessed undocumented lumber of naturally grown species.”

Equipelag noted that lumber was obtained without transport permit from the DENR secretary or his duly authorized representative.

The DENR placed the total number of lumber at 78 pieces with volume of 555.2 board feet at P277,600 at P50 per board feet.

Felix Mirasol, the DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer in Malaybalay, endorsed the complaint and the joint affidavit of witnesses to Atty. Mirabeaus A. Undalok, provincial prosecutor on August 3, 2010.

Mirasol told MindaNews the complaint is important in Bukidnon where a logging moratorium still holds.

He said the case is the latest involving barangay officials but is not the only one that surfaced in Bukidnon. He added that the public, including barangay officials seem to have overlooked the law.

According to witnesses Melchor Llagas, Romeo Rayos, and Alberto Ecuacion, all DENR employees tasked to verify earlier reports of illegal cutting in the area, they saw some of the lumber identified above were used in the renovation of the barangay hall. Some lumber were placed on the ground near a church building.

Limbo, a barangay councilman, told the DENR employees, the lumber was to be used in the renovation after the go-signal of Barometro, president of a people’s organization called LIKAFSCO.

Yandug and Limbo, in their joint counter-affidavit filed at the provincial prosecutor’s office on August 31, said they had no intention to cut and possess lumber without permit.

“We were of the honest belief that we already had the necessary permit at that time. Besides the lumber did not redound to benefit of any private individual as it was used in the renovation of the Barangay Hall of Kibongkong, San Fernando, Bukidnon.

Both barangay officials argued that they were assured by Barrometro that they had already complied with all the requirements for the permit. Acting in good faith, they said, they had the log cut into lumber.

On June 21, 2010, the Kibongkog barangay council passed a resolution asking for the assistance of LIKAFSCO, through Barrometro, its chair, for an endorsement of a request to the CENRO to “slice the drop logs and standing dead trees to be used in the renovation of the barangay’s session hall.

LIKAFSCO is Community Based Forest Management Agreement holder, based on the affidavit.

Yandug transmitted the endorsement to Mirasol. On July 8, according to the two in affidavit, Mirasol replied through a letter directing the barangay council to coordinate with Barrometro.

“We then coordinated and in fact submitted several documents to Rodolfo Barrometro to comply with the requirements for securing the necessary permit,” they said in the affidavit.

But the DENR CENRO argued that there was no permit when they proceeded with the cutting.

The complaint is now under preliminary investigation at the prosecutor’s office. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)