An Army detachment commander and a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit member linked to timber-poaching activities were cleared of charges after the admission of Department of Environment and Natural Resources personnel that they had requested them to facilitate the retrieval of timber abandoned by unidentified persons in Brgy. Bunga, Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental.
Despite being cleared of the allegations, the relieved detachment commander, SSgt. Danilo Galapin, is not returning to his former position, Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said.
Lactao said the clearing of Galapin is without prejudice to the revival of a case against him, if new evidence or testimonies come out later.
With the clearing of the Army and CAFGU personnel, Lactao yesterday ordered a “stand down” on the participation of Army personnel and government militiamen in the campaign against timber poaching in Negros Occidental, pending the adoption of a “protocol” on their assistance to the environmental protection campaign of DENR, Provincial Environment Management Office and Task Force Ilahas.
He said the protocol that will define specific guidelines, duties and functions of each participating agency in the environmental protection campaign, will prevent the occurrence of a similar situation as that which put the Philippine Army and CAFGU personnel to “shame.”
DENR Forester Philip Lemoncito, in a letter, said they have coordinated with Galapin and CAFGU members under his command on Aug. 17 in Brgy. Bunga, Don Salvador Benedicto, in facilitating the immediate retrieval of the illegally-cut timber, abandoned at Spur 7 in Brgy. Bagong Silang of the town.
Lemoncito said they, referring to Galapin and his men, verbally agreed to recover it, before it will be taken away by poachers.
Lactao said the hauling of lumber by CAFGU members, as requested by the DENR, may have been taken for their involvement in poaching activities.
Task Force Ilahas, in a report to TFI executive officer Jose Ma. Valencia, reported the discovery of the cutting of premium species of trees, with their lumber sold to well-off personalities constructing rest houses in Brgy. Bagong Silang, Don Salvador Benedicto.
TFI also received reports on the alleged involvement of Army and CAFGU personnel.
Lactao said lack of coordination and miscommunication among agencies caused humiliation to concerned Army and CAFGU personnel. He, however, admitted that Galapin may have committed some lapses, by not informing them that the DENR had requested the hauling of timber.
Investigations of the 303rd Infantry Brigade showed that the poaching activities in Brgy. Bagong Silang, Don Salvador Benedicto, was discovered on July 9, and the Community Environment and Natural Resource Office-Bacolod authorized personnel of the Benejiwan detachment on Aug. 19 to haul the abandoned timber that actually took place on Sept 8.
TFI operatives and personnel of the Don Salvador Police Station scoured the forest areas of Spur 7 in Don Salvador Benedicto, and discovered stockpiled of slices of tanguile, estimated at 273 board feet.
In an investigation report of the 303rd IB, Galapin said they were deputized by the DENR in environmental protection and preservation.
DENR Forester Hadji Piansay requested Galapin and the CAFGU members under his command to recover the white lauan logs (not tanguile as reported earlier), sliced into lumber, at the Spur 7 creek.
Galapin also said no proper coordination exists between DENR personnel assigned in Don Salvador Benedicto and TFI.
Lactao said CAFGU member Jolito Bautista who was identified by residents as involved in the hauling of lumber, meanwhile, is returning for duty to the Benejiwan detachment, after he was cleared.*GPB