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Sinas orders crackdown on armed illegal loggers in Cagayan Valley

PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas has ordered a massive pursuit operation against a ‘armed and dangerous’ illegal loggers in Cagayan who were involved in a shootout with a police team in Peñablanca last Thursday which resulted in injuries to a young lieutenant, the Journal Group learned.

“More aggressive operations will continue against illegal logging activities on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte despite this temporary setback,” said Sinas as he instructed Police Regional Office 2 director, Brigadier Gen. Crizaldo O. Nieves to press charges against at least eight suspects who remained at-large after shooting it out with the Cagayan policemen for nearly 20 minutes.

Nieves said the suspects opened fire at a police team checking the reported presence of illegally-cut timber piled along the riverbank in Sitio Dalayat, Barangay Minanga, Peñablanca, at around 4:50 p.m. Thursday hitting Lt. Randy Baccay, deputy chief of the Peñablanca Municipal Police Station.

The incident occurred as the Cagayan Police Provincial Office headed by Colonel Ariel N. Quilang continued its anti-illegal logging operations in the province while still rebuilding from the aftermath of the massive flooding that swept the region in the wake of powerful typhoon ‘Ulysses’ two weeks ago.

“Our policemen were working to drift the illegally-cut timber when they were fired upon prompting them to seek cover from the rocks along the river. A 2nd burst of gunfire hit Lt. Baccay in his right butt,” said Quilang.

Sinas instructed Nieves to extend a P50,000 financial assistance for the medical expenses of Baccay who was immediately evacuated to the Dr. Ronald P. Guzman Medical Center in Tuguegarao City for treatment.

Quilang said the policemen were inspecting and documenting the illegally-cut logs when the suspects fired at them while hiding in vantage positions. Although Baccay was hit, other members of the team retaliated triggering the shootout.

Follow-up operations conducted by PRO2 and Cagayan policemen led by PRO2 Deputy Regional Director for Operaitons, Col. Romaldo Bayting lee to the arrest of Ernest Sibbaluca, a 45-year old businessman from Bgy. Minanga who was identified as among the attackers. A background check showed Sibbaluca was previously arrested for violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines in September 2019.

The suspect is now facing criminal charges for qualified direct assault upon an agent of authority, frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder, said Peñablanca police chief, Captain Rohaina Asalan.

Brig. Gen. Nieves and Colonels Quilang and Bayting pinned the PNP Medalya ng Sugatang Magiting to the wounded policemen.