DUMAGUETE CITY -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has asked the barangay captain of Puhagan in Valencia, Negros Oriental, to submit her affidavit regarding the apprehension of cut trees loaded in an ambulance last March.
In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Efren Rombaoa, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer II (Cenro), said they have not yet filed a formal complaint against those apprehended as they need to also get the side of Puhagan barangay captain Leonarda Sarita.
Rombaoa said that they need “to give her a chance to explain her side on what happened".
According to Rombaoa, the persons who were apprehended after they were found loading forest products in the ambulance of Barangay Puhagan had “implicated her” in their affidavits submitted earlier, but he did not elaborate.
Rombaoa said he had written the barangay captain last week to submit her affidavit before the DENR can move ahead with the process of investigation.
A police blotter from the Valencia Police Station showed that sometime on March 20, 2017, a team of DENR-Cenro personnel intercepted and apprehended three men for conveying forest products on a government ambulance without the necessary permits.
The police report identified the three as Policarpio Bantillo Bartolome, 60 years old, married; Alfredo Trumata Marquez, 42, married; and, Quirico Abrantes, 56, married, all residents of Barangay Puhagan, Valencia.
Confiscated during the operation were forest products consisting of 12 pieces “logbolts” of Agoho tree species of different dimensions with a total volume of 0.0682 cubic meters, and a Nissan Urvan marked with “AMBULANCE” belonging to Barangay Puhagan.
Rombaoa said the suspects failed to present a permit to cut and a permit to transport.
Rombaoa said as soon as they have received the affidavit of the barangay captain, the Denr here will review all affidavits submitted and give the persons involved a chance to explain because “that is the essence of due process”.
After a review by their legal division, they will come up with a resolution to be forwarded to the DENR regional office which will finally dispose of the report, Rombaoa pointed out.
Meanwhile, Rombaoa said the Puhagan ambulance was released to the local government unit (LGU) of Valencia, based on Department Administrative Order No. 97-32.
The said order states that government vehicles if apprehended during an illegal activity related to the environment, must be released to the immediate supervisor of the government entity who has jurisdiction over the said conveyance, he said.
Rombaoa said they had earlier asked the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Negros Island Region to take custody of the ambulance.
However, the DILG in Negros Island Region said the ambulance should instead be turned over to Valencia town.
Valencia Mayor Edgar Teves had agreed to take custody of the said ambulance but because he was away at the time, the vehicle was turned over instead to the vice mayor, said Rombaoa.
Rombaoa assured that the release of the ambulance will not have any bearing on the possible criminal liability of those involved.
He also clarified that guards of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) had only assisted the Cenro II personnel, who were at the geothermal site for routine patrol when the apprehension took place.
Rombaoa also explained that under Sec. 16 of Presidential Decree 705 as amended, forest products, regardless of kind, volume and size, and even for “firewood”, that are without documents are subject for apprehension. (PNA)