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U.S. helps bolster PH capacity to combat wildlife crime

Theresa Tenazas
Photos show (L) DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau Wildlife Resources Division Officer-in-Charge and Head, Legal Unit Atty. Theresa Tenazas holds copies of the Rapid Reference Guides (RRG) and one of the turned-over electronic tablets

ON January 22, U.S. Embassy in the Philippines’ Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Director Kelia Cummins joined Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo, Jr., DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau Officer-in-Charge and Assistant Director Amelita DJ. Ortiz, and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Programme for Combatting Wildlife and Forest Crime Regional Coordinator Giovanni Broussard for the virtual turnover of 400 Rapid Reference Guides (RRG) and 30 electronic tablets to authorities for use in the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime in the Philippines.

The RRG, a compendium of relevant provisions of Philippine law, rules and regulations, and appropriate sentences, is a practical instrument for frontline investigators in preparing wildlife crime cases for successful prosecution. This project is part of a P38.5 million ($800,000) Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime in Southeast Asia grant implemented by UNODC in Southeast Asia and funded by INL.

The Biodiversity Management Bureau brought together many stakeholders, including the Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime, Anti-Money Laundering Council Secretariat, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police (PNP)-Maritime Group, PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, PNP-Aviation Security Group, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Customs, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, other representatives from the DENR-Regional Offices and DENR-Legal Affairs Service, to assist with the development of the field reference guide.

Utilizing UNODC’s regional expertise regarding practices for countering wildlife trafficking, the stakeholders developed an application to make the RRG available to a larger number of investigators and prosecutors via phones or tablets.

The INL-sponsored program provided 30 tablets for practitioners in the criminal justice system in charge of the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes.