Group demands probe on alleged military involvement in illegal logging

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A FORMAL formal complaint against officials of the 6th Infantry Division is being prepared by a group of concerned citizens in Kidapawan City over the alleged involvement of the military in illegal logging.

The complaint, according to Abner Francisco of the group called Watch, will also be submitted to the United Nations complaint desk on environmental issues. Watch stands for Watchful Advocates for Transparent, Clean and Honest Governance in North Cotabato.

On the night of November 20, police intercepted two military trucks full of illegally cut lumber from a protected area in Alamada towns in North Cotabato. An army escort, identified as Unting Guiabel was wounded when he refused to heed to yield to the demand of the police. The Army trucks were supervised by one Capt. Sarcon Angue.

There were no arrests made. The seized lawaan flitches, consisting of around 2,000 board feet, were left at the Alamada Police Station and later turned-over to Department of Natural Resources in Midsayap town.

“This is a very shameful and sad incident,” said Francisco. “Imagine, those who we expect to protect our environment are the ones destroying it. We cannot trust the investigation being conducted by the 6th Infantry Division.We are afraid of the possible whitewash if they investigate themselves.”

The group has also filed sent the complaint against 6th ID to the Office of the President.

Francisco is a local radio commentator and environmentalist. His group advocates for the protection of the remaining forest covers of the province.

Francisco said a source has told them that at least 180 flitches of red and white lawaan had already been transported from Campo 10 of Barangay Rangayen in Alamada to Midsayap. The illegally cut trees were sneaked out using military vehicles. Early in November, the source told Francisco, a number of military trucks hauled out illegally cut trees from the town.

Mayor Viriginia Concepcion has refused to give comments on this. She was not responding to calls and text messages.

She, however, issued a letter in response to the criticisms over her silence by Charm Radio in Kidapawan City. She denied having done nothing to address the issue. What she did, however, was to only settle the tension between the army and policemen following a November 20 incident.

Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado Jr., a peace advocate and an environmentalist, said residents of Alamada should demand a probe on the smuggling attempt. Investigators must come from a “third party”–comprised of representatives from independent cause-oriented groups, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and local government units in North Cotabato.

“This is a very serious concern,” the priest said. “This apparently involves officials of the division. The trucks would not be used without the permission and blessing of the higher-ups.”

Due to this controversy, a special Army Board of Inquiry arrived today, Friday, in Cotabato City to conduct an investigation, said Col. Dickson Hermoso, Inspector General and spokesperson of of 6th Division.

“We will assure someone will answer to this mess,” he said in a telephone interview.

The enlisted personnels who were allegedly involved, the team leader Capt. Angue, have been restricted to go out of the camp. Angue is yet to give an explanation on how the military vehicles were used in the smuggling of the illegally-cut trees.

The environmental officer of Midsayap, Ambulo Bantugan, has confirmed that the flitches were undocumented.

The provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindmanao has ealier declared a total log ban in their bid to save the remaining forest covers.

Alamada is the town where the majestic Asik-Asil falls can be found. | NewsDesk



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