Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has expressed outrage and sadness over the killing of yet another employee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last Thursday.
Joash Peregrino, a special investigator at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur, was gunned down in his car parked in front of a store near the DENR office. He and his wife, also a DENR employee, stopped by the store on their way home.
Peregrino is the fourth DENR worker killed in the line of duty in a span of two months.
“Counting the number of people killed in the line of duty under my watch as DENR chief is disturbing if not outright enraging,” Cimatu said.
Despite this, however, Cimatu said there will be no let up in the DENR’s intensified drive against environmental offenders and in fulfilling its mandate to protect and preserve the country’s environment and natural resources.
“Though our intensified actions against violators of environmental laws are taking a toll on our people, we will not relent,” Cimatu said.
The DENR Secretary called on the police to bring Peregrino’s killers to justice even as he reiterated his appeal for Congress to pass a legislation creating an Enforcement Bureau within the DENR.
“Again, I urge Congress to support us in our call for the creation of an Enforcement Bureau that will give the DENR stronger enforcement powers,” he said.
According to DENR CARAGA Regional Executive Director Felix Alicer, Peregrino just received his regular appointment as special land investigator.
Peregrino was handling numerous land conflict cases at DENR Bislig, Alicer said.
“The killing of our colleague, Special Investigator Peregrino, may also have something to do with the strengthened efforts of our personnel at the field offices led by our CENR officers, on anti-timber poaching and smuggling,” Alicer said.
CENRO Bislig has been active in the apprehension and retrieval of abandoned and illegally-cut trees inside government timber lands.
Last September 4, forest ranger Bienvenido Veguilla Jr. was hacked to death when he and his team came across illegal logging activities while patrolling in El Nido, Palawan.
A few days later or on September 11, Gaudencio Arana, a long-time DENR informant at CENRO Munoz in Nueva Ecija was killed by motorcycle-riding men.
Forest Ranger Ronaldo Corpuz, who was also assigned at CENRO Munoz, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside his house on October 25.