LUNA, Apayao - A forest ranger manning a checkpoint was gunned down in Apayao, the environment department in far-flung Barangay San Isidro, Luna town reported.

Forest Ranger Kennedy Eber Bayani, who was assigned to man one of the checkpoints in the barangay, was gunned down in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) checkpoint at 8:20 p.m. on July 9.

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The Luna police reported that the fellow rangers were about to go out from the checkpoint kitchen, when a gun burst was heard and the victim shouted "naalaakon manong (I was hit)," after which the victim fell down.

Operatives from the Luna town police and the Luna Police Crime Laboratory, which reportedly hold office near the checkpoint, rushed the victim to the Far North Hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Bayani started with the DENR in 1998. He has been active in forest law enforcement.

On Feb. 19 last year, he met an accident where he was injured during one of the Luna's forest protection confiscations, said DENR-CAR spokesperson Abner Villanueva.

He was a member of a team, which confiscated tanguile, red lauan, and maya-pis lumber and flitches in Sitio Taballay, San Gregorio, Luna, Apayao.

He was hospitalized and sustained bone fractures when a part of the confiscated lumber they were transporting fell on him, Villanueva said.

Bayani is reportedly the first victim of the all-out war against forest destroyers in the country under the Aquino administration. The incident is currently being investigated by the Luna Police and the DENR in the Cordillera.

DENR Regional Executive Director Clarence Baguilat is appealing through its central office and other concerned office for assistance in solving the dastardly criminal act and to bring justice for Bayani.

Baguilat said the intensive forest protection drive being waged now by the DENR is in pursuance of the initial pronouncement and directive of newly installed DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje who ordered his regional officials to put a stop to illegal logging in their areas in 30 days.

Prior to the order of Paje, the DENR in the Cordilleras have earlier put up several checkpoints in identified hot spots manned by DENR-CAR personnel and their counterparts in Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions through a memorandum of agreement. ( Ace Alegre)