Cagayan police probe mayor’s involvement in illegal logging

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) is verifying reports that the illegal loggers who assaulted a team of policemen in Cagayan province are being protected by a mayor.

Police Regional Office Cagayan Valley Director Crizaldo Nieves said they have received reports that Ernest Sibbaluca, one of the arrested suspects for the assault, is working for a mayor. He declined to identify the mayor.

“Actually, vina-validate nga namin 'yan,” Nieves said.

“'Yun ang sinasabi, but, alam mo mahirap magsalita until we have confirmed it. Finile naman namin ang kaso. Sa akin naman, kahit sino naman ang backer niya, e 'di isama natin kung kailangan basta may ebidensiya,” he added.

Nieves said he has already ordered concerned police commanders to conduct an investigation on the extent of involvement of politicians policemen and other personalities in illegal logging activities.

On Saturday, November 28, 2020, PNP Chief Debold Sinas ordered a province-wide manhunt against the group of illegal loggers who fired at the police conducting operations in Sitio Dalayat, Minanga, Lagum Peñablanca, Cagayan on Thursday evening, November 26.

Police Lieutenant Randy Baccay, deputy chief of police of Pañablanca Police Station, was wounded in the said incident.

Sibbaluca was arrested while the others were able to escape.

Police Captain Rohaina Asalan, chief of police of Peñablanca Police Station, said Sibbaluca has an arrest record in September 2019 for violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

Sibbaluca is facing criminal charges for direct assault upon an agent of authority and frustrated murder.

Illegal logging activities, aside from the release of excess water from Magat Dam, were blamed for the devastating floods that inundated a large part of Cagayan and Isabela provinces after Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco).

Earlier, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año admitted that some local government executives were involved in the illegal activities.

Meanwhile, Nieves said a total of 804 people in Isabela and Cagayan were evacuated anew due to the threat of another flooding brought about by the increase in water level in Cagayan River near the Buntun Bridge.

The water level has already reached 8.48 meters, which falls within the alert level.

He said the evacuation of the families in the vulnerable communities started at around 5 a.m. Sunday, November 29.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said as of 7 a.m. Sunday that low-lying areas near the lower portion of Cagayan River may experience flooding due to the rain brought about by the tailend of a frontal system and the easterlies.

These include Peñabalanca, Tuguegarao City, Enrile, Solana, Iguig, Amulung, Alcala, Baggao, Lasam, Gattaran, Lallo, Camalaniugan and Aparri.

At 6 a.m. Pagasa said two gates of Magat Dam remained open to release excess water. (SunStar Philippines)


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