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Probe of Pandan Narra Seizure Set - CT

The Philippine National Police in Catanduanes will make a full report on the controversial seizure of more than 200 pieces of narra lumber near a Pandan councilor’s farm and impose appropriate sanctions on erring lawmen, including relief from their posts.

PNP provincial director Senior Superintendent Rodegelio Gerero made the vow during a meeting between Governor Joseph C, Cua, Vice Governor Alfred M. Aquino and members of the provincial board, on one hand, and the Philippine Amy.

Cua also said that the DENR is also sending an investigation team to probe the conduct of foresters and policemen involved in the seizure, including allegations of bribery.

In the same meeting, Gov. Cua asked Army Lt. Col. Romeo Basco of the 83rd Infantry Battalion based in Lictin, San Andres for help in preventing the smuggling of narra lumber to the Bicol mainland. In response, Lt. Col. Basco promised to ask Army units in coastal areas of the mainland to guard entry points in Tiwi and Tabaco, both in Albay. Basco claimed that the New People’s Army has been earning revolutionary tax on the illegal cutting and smuggling of lumber.

According to the report of the CENRO team, Foresters Sofio Cabrera Jr. and Jose San Roque had conducted the verification of the apprehension of illegally-sourced narra made by Camp Camacho policemen PO3 Salvador Avila and PO2 Willy Bailon and Pandan police headed by Insp. Rosauro Palanca at 5:30 P.M. of Sept. 11 inside the compound of Libod barangay chair and municipal councilor Raul; Tabirara at Bagawang, Pandan.

Tabirara presented a certification from CENRO dated Sept. 24, 2008 authorizing him to utilize 1,029.9 board feet of narra from a legitimate source. However, an inventory of the 63-piece stockpile stated that the lumber was freshly cut and with no DENR hatchet markings at both ends, thus presumed to be illegal in nature. The team also found some pieces of narra inside the compound but Tabirara denied ownership of the same.

An inventory of narra lumber inside the Toti Furniture Shop and Sash Factory inside the same compound but owned by Jose Bañadera of Sto. Domingo, Albay, showed the same result, 58 freshly-cut pieces with no hatchet markings.

Unfavorable weather, lack of vehicles and sufficient time to haul the lumber plus that prevailing critical situation at the area forced the team to leave the area to return the following morning.

At 5 A.M. of Sept. 12, the team returned but the lumber was already outside the compound. The 123 pieces of narra with a volume of 1,303 board feet were recovered while a follow-up operation led by PD Gerero led to the recovery of another 114 pieces with a volume of 975 board feet.

The CENRO report recommended the confiscation of the lumber and the possible filing of charges against Bañadera and Tabirara for violation of Sec. 77 of Presidential Decree 705 as amended.

On the other hand, a separate report by the Catanduanes police noted that the two cops, who were with Pandan police led by Insp. Palanca, saw the stockpile in plain view inside the compound and that both Bañadera and Tabirara were at the scene. An official source told the Tribune that the two lawmen were supposed to proceed to Bagawang without the knowledge of the Pandan police.

In an interview, PD Gerero disclosed that sometime after 5 P.M. of Sept. 11,one of the two CENRO foresters called him to report that they found only 60 pieces of abandoned narra lumber, only to change their tune seconds later to 116 pieces after Gerero told them that his cops had informed that there were 116 pieces inside the compound.

There have been allegations of bribery in the seizure from Tabirara and Bañqdera, who is reportedly financed by a certain Atty. Balayo of Tabaco City. The Camp Camacho logbook shows that a certain Atty. Yanni Balayo visited the office of the provincial director for official business at 4:20 P.M. of Sept. 11.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 24 September 2009

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