Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has lauded the swift conviction of three men who were caught illegally transporting 10 heads of the critically endangered Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) from Palawan province to Tagaytay City last June.
In a two-page order dated July 18, Presiding Judge Liezl Rosario Mendoza of the Municipal Trial Court in Tagaytay City Branch 1 sentenced Simforoso Salazar, Jorlan Torrequimada and Victor Equisa to up to three months in jail and ordered to pay a fine of P20,000 each, after pleading guilty to violating the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
The court ruling came just 20 days since the three accused were caught at a checkpoint in Tagaytay City on June 28.
Cimatu said the swift arrest, conviction and jailing of the three illegal wildlife traders was a sign of just how hard the authorities were trying to clamp down on poachers and wildlife traffickers and traders in the Philippines.
The conviction verdict, he said, provides hope and inspiration for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and law enforcement agencies that go after wildlife offenders.
“We welcome this recent victory not only for the wildlife species that were rescued, but also for the future generations who will benefit from the recuperation and proliferation of its kind,” Cimatu said.
Ten heads of the Philippine pangolin were recovered from the convicted wildlife traders during a routine checkpoint conducted by law enforcers in Tagaytay City.
Following their arrest, the DENR—through the Philippine Operations Group of Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade or Task Force POGI—immediately filed the case against them. POGI is a composite team of wildlife law enforcers from various agencies including the Biodiversity Management Bureau, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police.
The pangolins, found in a cramped cage in a van compartment, were initially taken to a DENR rescue center, where they were fed and treated for the bruises.
The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) said that out of the 10 pangolins that were rescued, only three survived.
The remaining live pangolins were sent back to their natural habitat in Palawan, the PCSD added.
Classified as a critically endangered species, the Philippine pangolin only thrives in Palawan where it is locally called “balintong.” It is hunted because of the high demand for its scales and meat that are used for traditional Chinese medicine.
RA 9147 prohibits the killing, injuring, collection, selling and transport of threatened and endangered wildlife species. (DENR)