Secretary Robredo wants DENR-Caraga chief out

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 June) — Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo has asked Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Jesus Paje to boot out Caraga Regional Executive Director Leonardo R. Sibbaluca in the wake of seizures of millions worth of illegal logs in Butuan City this month.

“I have recommended to Secretary Paje to relieve the DENR regional director in Caraga,” Robredo, who was in town Thursday, told reporters.

He said he found it ridiculous that the presence of DENR checkpoints had failed to stop the transport of hot logs.

At least 4,000 logs seized on June 3 reportedly came from a town in Agusan del Sur and passed through four DENR checkpoints undetected.

MindaNews tried to contact Sibbaluca through his mobile number but failed.

“DENR is the primary agency to address the illegal logging operations. When we visited Butuan City recently, may apat na checkpoints pala ang DENR along the way. Hindi naman siguro supersonic ang transport ng logs na hindi nila nakikita. They should be made to explain,” Robredo said.

He said he has issued show-cause orders to four unnamed mayors for their “possible involvement in illegal logging operations.” But he clarified that his office has not filed any charges against them.

“I have sent show-cause letters to the four mayors in relation to the illegal logging operations. They will be given 10 days to reply, but I was told that these four mayors will be visiting our office anytime this week,” he said.

“We have a directive from the President to call the attention of the PNP (Philippines National Police) and LGUs where illegal logging is still rampant. The President has reiterated the one-strike policy of the administration with regard to illegal logging,” said Robredo.

As for the death threats received by local journalists allegedly from illegal loggers, Robredo said they will have to submit a formal request for police protection.

“If they (threatened journalists) strongly feel that they are in danger, they can always file a formal request to the PNP, where the PNP can then evaluate the severity of the threat and protect them,” he said.

Last Tuesday morning, Mindanao Gold Star Daily editor-in-chief Herbie Gomez received a text message from 09335352774. Also threatened in the text message is the paper’s Gingoog City correspondent Edwin Iyo and publisher Ernesto “Toto” Chu.

“Apil apil ka Herbie sa tarantado nimo nga tao ninyo sa Gingoog. Iapil ka namo ibahog ka namo kang Lolong. Nagtuo ka na d mi kakuha iny number tanan. Iapil pa namo si Mr. Chu. Otrohon namo inyo bday. Taga Cabantian ni!” (You are just like your stupid correspondent in Gingoog City. You think we cannot get your numbers. We will feed all of you to Lolong including Mr. Chu, and change your birthday. This is someone from Cabanti-an) the text message read.

Lolong is the world’s biggest crocodile in captivity. It was captured in Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur and is now being kept as an attraction in Bunawan town of that province.

The threat came after the paper published a banner story titled “Robredo: Probe Cenro in Gingoog” on June 15 that Robredo ordered the filing of charges against one Roger Edma.

The article quoted local officials of Butuan City as saying that 10,067.5 board feet of hot logs seized there last June 2 belonged to Edma.

Edma allegedly moved the questionable lumber to Butuan City from Barangay Cabanti-an, Magsaysay town, Misamis Oriental.

In the same story, Robredo was quoted as having asked the DENR to investigate several officials of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office of Gingoog City after reports that illegally-cut logs had been confiscated in Butuan City.

Gomez also said that Iyo told him that he has been receiving “similarly-worded death threats” after the Robredo story came out. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)