EXPLOSIVE DOCUMENTS: ROBREDO REPORT LINKS EXECS TO ILLEGAL LOGGING
 

[PHOTO -EXPLOSIVE DOCUMENTS The 10th floor office of Jesse Robredo and his condo both in Quezon City are secured by the Presidential Security Group. At right is the first page of the report on illegal logging submitted by DILG Special Assistant Isoceles P. Otero to Robredo. INQUIRER PHOTO]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Arlyn dela Cruz -A task force on illegal logging of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) headed by a retired general is protecting illegal loggers and financiers in the Caraga Region (Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat islands).

A confidential report to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo specifically mentioned the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force headed by Gen. Renato Miranda as being involved in the trade.

The report was submitted by Isoceles P. Otero who was designated by Robredo as Special Assistant to the DILG after the seizure of more than 4,000 illegally cut logs (7,255 pieces in an earlier Inquirer news story) upon the initiative of the local government of Butuan City. The haul was the biggest one-time seizure in the history of the campaign against illegal logging not just in the Caraga region, but in the Philippines.

Otero’s appointment was signed on Aug. 8 through Department Order No. 662 and took effect immediately.

Three days after his appointment, Otero submitted his first report. His second report was dated Aug. 18, the day Robredo was reported missing after a plane carrying him and three others crashed in waters off Masbate City.


[THIS PHOTO SHOWS GENERAL RENATO MIRANDA IN 2008:
On June 20, 2008, Detained Philippine Marine Major General Renato Miranda (L) with Colonel Nestor Flordeliza (R) speaks to journalists after a military court dropped four charges against the 28 Philippine army and marines officers. The detained officers still face mutiny charges. The officers were arrested shortly after the government announced in February 2006 that it had foiled to destabilise the government of President Gloria Arroyo. (AFP/Getty Images)

‘Worrying information’

In the Aug. 18 report, Otero told Robredo of “disturbing” information about the alleged involvement of the DENR-Task Force assigned to go after illegal logging operations.

The report said: “Sir Secretary, I received a disturbing report regarding our anti-illegal logging network. I still have to check the data further but I think the news is worth to be here in my report just for your information.”

The report added: “The Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force headed by Gen. Renato Miranda is the subject of the worrying information about protection and corruption. A certain Colonel Ga, allegedly under the orders of General Miranda, is collecting protection money from key players of the illegal logging trade.”

Miranda’s office is Mindanao based, while the Colonel Ga mentioned in Otero’s report is a retired Marine officer based in Surigao province in the Caraga Region.

Miranda’s denial

But Miranda denied the “disturbing information.”

“Colonel Ga is the best man to do the job against illegal logging operators there. Siya pa nga ang nakapananakit sa operasyon ng mga illegal loggers paanong siya ang magiging protector? (He’s the one going after those involved in illegal logging operations so how can he be their protector?) A visit to his home in Surigao City and you will see that I have appointed the best man for the job. Hindi corrupt yan (he’s not corrupt),” Miranda told the Inquirer on the phone regarding Otero’s report.

On allegations that Ga could be acting on his orders, Miranda said it’s baseless and a total lie since it was his task force that coordinated and implemented the seizure upon orders of Butuan Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr.

The seizure last June of more than 4,000 illegally cut logs estimated to be worth P12 million (P16 million in an earlier Inquirer report) has resulted in the investigation of the mayors of five Agusan del Sur towns namely Esperanza, San Luis, Talacogon, Las Nieves and La Paz, a move initiated by Robredo’s office.

Miranda added: “I do not know who this Otero is but all I know is that he ran for governor in Agusan del Sur and lost in the last election.” Otero, like Robredo is a member of the Liberal Party.

Reached on the phone, Ga also denied the Otero report. “The records of the Task Force would speak for itself; we are doing our jobs and we are addressing the problem.”

Otero’s Aug. 18 report also implicated the central office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other highly-placed officials.

All the way to Palace

According to the report, “The reported conspiracy goes higher to (the) DENR central office and up to Malacañang.”

The Inquirer learned about Otero’s report to Robredo from Otero himself in a phone interview.

Said Otero: “Saka na lang ako magsasalita tungkol sa illegal logging operations dito nang detalyado. Na-appoint nga ako ni Sec. Robredo rito pero ni hindi nga ako nagka-opisina at yun nga namatay na siya. Pero dun sa report ko sa kanya, confidential report, I named names. Malalaking pangalan, basta (I will talk about illegal logging operations in detail later. True, I was appointed by Secretary Robredo but I still didn’t have an office. And then he died. But in my confidential report, I named names, big names. You’ll see).”

Asked if a copy of the confidential report could be made available, Otero said he would send the report in due time.

A law firm representing Otero later sent a copy of the report via e-mail.

Recommendations

In his report, Otero recommended the transfer of police Senior Insp. Romeo Villalobos, Intelligence Chief of the Philippine National Police in Agusan del Sur, because of his being a son-in-law of Trento town municipal councilor Victoria Plaza, whom Otero described in his report as “deeply involved in illegal logging.”

Also recommended to be transferred to another assignment was police Insp. Bill Acapulco, police chief of Veruela town, because of his alleged closeness to Veruela town mayor Salmiar Mondejar whom Otero described as “a key player in the illegal logging trade.”

In his earlier report dated Aug. 11, 2012, Otero told Robredo how illegal loggers and their financiers had changed their operations since the June seizure of illegal logs in Butuan City.

Pictures of illegal logs

Supported by pictures taken Aug. 10 along Ihawan River, Otero’s report noted that transporting logs from cutting areas has shifted from the main Agusan River to several of its tributary rivers, then to processing plants within the province. Pictures submitted to Robredo showed logs, a combination of lawaan and falcata logs, deposited along the length of Ihawan River.

The report stated that almost everyone from residents to barangay and municipal officials participate and tolerate illegal logging operations in Agusan del Sur because there is no alternative source of livelihood in the province.

Robredo opened probe into Puno’s P600-M ammo project By Arlyn dela Cruz Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:19 am | Sunday, September

[PHOTO -Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno admits receiving feelers from gambling operators asking how to operate jueteng under the Aquino administration. The negotiations failed though because Puno was “not trained to handle such situation.”]

Among the investigations being carried out by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo before he died on Aug. 18 was a P600-million deal involving the procurement of ammunition for the Philippine National Police.

The purchase would require a direct release of funds from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The proponent of the purchase was his undersecretary who oversaw the PNP, Rico E. Puno.

A source at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) told the Inquirer that the purchase came under a procurement system that was a redesigned version of the Combat, Clothing and Individual Equipment (CCIE) program in the PNP that had long been scrapped because of abuse in the use of funds and fictitious purchases.

“No one has initiated any investigation into how this procurement process is done until Jesse Robredo became secretary of the DILG,” the source, who asked not to be named for obvious reasons, said.

The new process is called Priority Supply Equipment (PSE), which allows the purchase of large quantities of supplies like ammunition through an authorized unit within the PNP.

All firearms and ammunition purchases must pass through the PNP Firearms and Explosives Unit, or PNP-FEU. Puno’s proposed acquisition was no exemption.

The source said Robredo launched an investigation to determine the ammunition inventory of the PNP and examine it against the actual needs of policemen.

The investigation began a few months before the Aug. 18 plane crash in Masbate province that killed Robredo and two others.

“What Robredo wanted [was answers to] legitimate questions and the only problem with that investigation was that it was the first of its kind,” the source said.

“There was never a question about the use of this system involving the purchase of firearms and ammunition until Robredo came,” the source, speaking in Filipino, added.

The investigation centered on Puno’s office and certain PNP units, including the FEU, the source said,

Puno was aware of the investigation, the source said, adding that he had no idea how far it had gone and whether the President knew about it.

Malacañang confirmed on Friday that Robredo was investigating sensitive matters when he died, but did not explain what were being investigated or whether Puno was involved.

INQUIRER 2010 NEWS REPORT

Aquino aide a ‘jueteng king’ Bishop: Puno gets P8M per month By Christian V. Esguerra, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. Inquirer Northern Luzon, Central Luzon Desk First Posted 00:40:00 09/22/2010 Filed Under: Casinos & Gambling, Gaming & Lotteries, Government, Graft & Corruption

[PHOTO -Aquino aide a ‘jueteng king’ Bishop: Puno gets P8M per month]

By Christian V. Esguerra, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. Inquirer Northern Luzon, Central Luzon Desk First Posted 00:40:00 09/22/2010 - MANILA, Philippines?Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, a close friend of President Aquino?s, was identified Tuesday as one of the two ?ultimate recipients? of payola from operators of ?jueteng,? an illegal numbers racket, allegedly getting up to P8 million a month.

To spare Mr. Aquino from further embarrassment, several senators urged Puno to either take a leave of absence or resign from his post.

Puno and retired Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa were named the top beneficiaries of jueteng money, according to a list Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz submitted to the three Senate committees jointly investigating the illegal numbers game.

Puno, Verzosa and retired Senior Supt. Rey Cachuela were collectively known as the ?Three Kings? on the list, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer last week.

The list showed that Puno and Verzosa were allegedly receiving every month P5 million to P8 million each in exchange for allowing jueteng operations to continue.

Cachuela allegedly collected on behalf of the ?Three Kings? from a certain Elly Fontanilla, their point man on the ground. Fontanilla reportedly replaced a certain Boy Tangkad who was gunned down last year.

Since July

In an interview with the Inquirer on Sunday, Cruz, head of the People?s Crusade Against Jueteng, said Puno began getting jueteng payola soon after he assumed office two months ago.

Asked why Puno was supposedly getting only between P5 million and P8 million, Cruz said: ?He?s just new.?

The archbishop said his information was based on reports collected from his group?s network covering all 86 dioceses in the country.

At the hearing, Cruz said, ?I have here the list of alleged jueteng operators, payola recipients.?

Jueteng operators

The list identified as jueteng operators Gov. Lilia Pineda for Pampanga, Gov. Amado Espino for Pangasinan, Paul Dy for Isabela, retired Chief Supt. Eugene Martin and Mayor Mauricio Domogan for Baguio, Danny Soriano for Cagayan Valley, Boy Jalandoni for Bacolod, and retired Chief Supt. Ricardo Padilla for San Pedro, Laguna, and Pasay, Parañaque and Muntinlupa?all in Metro Manila.

Verzosa, who was in Singapore, promptly issued a statement through lawyer Benjamin de los Santos ?vehemently? denying any involvement in the underground lottery.

In contrast, Puno took several minutes and needed some urging from senators to categorically deny his involvement in jueteng activities. ?Yes, I deny receiving any money, payola from jueteng,? he said.

Ready to step down

Puno later told reporters he was willing to step down in the face of the allegations.

?I already told him (Mr. Aquino) that if I?m already a burden to you, you may let me go,? he said in Filipino.

Double whammy

Sen. Miguel Zubiri said Puno?s inclusion in the list of jueteng protectors submitted by Cruz gave him a ?double whammy? after being named among those culpable in the bungled rescue of Hong Kong tourists held hostage by a dismissed policeman.

?That?s strike two. He has to go. He doesn?t have to wait for strike three, especially since they are friends,? Zubiri said.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said it would be ?more practical? for Puno to take a leave of absence to lift the burden from the President.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada does not see how Puno could salvage his reputation by staying on his post. ?He?s too hot to handle right now,? said Estrada in an interview.

Cruz initially wanted to reveal the contents of the list in executive session. But he later agreed to senators? suggestion that he submit a copy to the joint committees and have Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, read the names.

P30-billion industry

Puno said jueteng operations involve around P30 billion in sales annually. Small Town Lottery (STL)?which was envisioned to wipe out jueteng?earned only P9.5 billion from March 2006 to August 2010, according to Romualdo Quiñones of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

?Can you stop jueteng?? Majority Leader Sen. Vicente ?Tito? Sotto III asked the newly appointed PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo, who replied: ?Yes.?

Bacalzo said, ?illegal gambling activities may stop particularly in instances where law enforcement units conduct renewed and intensified efforts.?

?But for how long? That?s the quandary we are facing. Temporarily we can. But the PNP cannot do it alone to stop it permanently,? he added.

Questioned by Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Cruz said it was easy to stop jueteng.

?Jueteng has only two feet?the local public official and local police official,? he said. ?If these two agree that no jueteng operations will be allowed, believe it or not, they will be gone.?

Laundering via US boxing

Cruz also revealed that jueteng operators were using boxing matches in the United States as an opportunity to launder money from the underground lottery. He did not elaborate.

Puno came under fire for refusing to identify the so-called ?friends and local officials? who had offered to arrange a meeting between him and known jueteng operators.

Governor Pineda

It took several questions before Puno yielded and said that one of the alleged jueteng lords seeking a meeting with him was Governor Pineda of Pampanga.

?I don?t meet with these people because I know my position and my closeness to (Mr. Aquino) and if I agree to meet with them, even secretly, (the President) would be linked to me,? he said.

PNP watch list

Puno said he did not want to name the people seeking an audience with him because they were supposedly on the PNP watch list?a document Bacalzo himself was not aware of.

?If we divulge their names, the investigation will lose its meaning,? he said. ?They will be guarded already and (revealing the names would) destroy months of surveillance.?

Puno claimed he had also prepared a ?paper? on jueteng, which senators doubted considering the quality of his answers at the hearing.

?You came with a paper. You must know every nook and corner of it, unless you are just bluffing that you wrote a paper,? Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told him.

The senators were unhappy with Puno?s answers. ?We would just like to convey to you the sense of the body here that we are very disappointed with the quality of your answers,? Guingona said.

Denials

The local officials linked by Cruz to jueteng in northern and central Luzon denied protecting the operators of the illegal numbers game or receiving protection money from them.

Pineda said she respected the opinion of Cruz but urged him that instead of criticizing her, he should join and help her improve the lives of her constituents.

Pineda?s husband, Rodolfo ?Bong? Pineda, ?runs STL now,? Cruz said. In the 2000 Senate investigation of jueteng operations, Bong Pineda was identified as among the jueteng financiers who ?centralized? payola for then President Joseph Estrada.

In a statement, Governor Pineda on Tuesday said STL was the game allowed by law to operate in Pampanga.

In Pangasinan, Governor Espino denied he was running jueteng operations in the province. ?That?s a big lie,? Espino said in a telephone interview. ?I deny it completely.?

Flanked by city officials

In Baguio City, Mayor Domogan was flanked by city and Cordillera police officials when he faced reporters to disown the report linking him to jueteng.

?I am not a gambling lord. I am not a gambling coddler... I do not even gamble... I have always been against jueteng. [Archbishop Cruz] should evaluate his statement. He must know it?s not fair to accuse anyone [of a crime]. It?s so un-Christian,? he said.

In Isabela, Gov. Faustino Dy III said his brother, Rep. Napoleon ?Pol? Dy, ?is not in any way involved in jueteng operations.?

Governor Dy, however, said his brother, a former mayor of Alicia town, was one of the franchise holders of STL in Isabela?s third congressional district.

Representative Dy denied any involvement in jueteng.

?If Atong Ang is the one feeding Cruz with information, we have a big problem because Atong Ang is the one operating (a jueteng-like illegal numbers game) in Isabela,? he said.

Not brother?s keeper

Jefferson Soriano, a former police director of Cagayan Valley, said his brother, Danny, was not involved in jueteng operations in Cagayan. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac in Manila; Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Gabriel Cardinoza, Vincent Cabreza and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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