DENR seeks review of case vs 'killers' of endangered birds
CEBU CITY, Philippines – The regional environment office here is not giving up its case against researchers who allegedly killed several endangered black shama birds, a species exclusively found on Cebu Island.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas (DENR-7) has asked Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to review the decision of a local prosecutor that junked their suit, as well as the subsequent appeals they made.
The respondents in the case are researchers and teachers from the Cebu Normal University (CNU), who were all charged with violating Republic Act 9147, or the Philippine Environment Code.
The DENR-7 petition to De Lima highlighted 3 alleged errors committed by Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro in dismissing the environment case.
The petition said that Castro mistakenly believed that the killing of the black shama (Copsychus cebuensis) was authorized by the DENR-7. The environment office said they did not.
Second, Castro said the case should be administrative and not criminal.
Lastly, the DENR said that the prosecutor “erred” in believing that “respondents cannot be legally indicted for the offense charged because dissecting a Black Shama does not constitute killing or destroying because they had not intent to end or terminate a living thing or slaughter it for food.”
“The Gratuitous Permit (issued by DENR) specifically provides that the permitees shall release the captured species after acquiring the needed samples,” the petition argued.
“In their counter-affidavits, all respondents alleged that they asserted in good faith and prudence in the conduct of their research but in the procedures laid down (in RA 9147), they miserably fell short of its requirements... the research that they conducted is in fact unauthorized,” said Ariel Rica, head of the Protected Area and Wildlife Division in its written appeal through lawyer Philline Rosamae Reluya-Yu of the DENR-7 legal division.
Named respondents include Ninokay Beceril, Elrich Sydney Barinque, Ephem James Fernandez, Edward Lawrence Opena who were then doing their thesis in College in 2014,.
The DENR also charged teachers in the CNU biology department, namely Nimfa Pansit and Joezen Corrales, as well as the group’s thesis adviser Edward Lawrence.
The September 3, 2014 case against the group was dismissed by Castro on November 5, 2014.
After receiving a copy of the case in March 2015, the DENR-7 filed a motion asking Castro to reconsider her decision. More than a month later Castro junked the motion.
The DENR decided to seek De Lima's intervention through a June 26 petition.
Thesis on the black shama
On April 1, 2014, the CNU researchers conducted research on Cebu’s black shama – a bird which is only found in the remaining patches of forest covers in Cebu Island specifically in Barangay Nug-as in the Municipality of Alcoy.
Their thesis was originally entitled “Diet preference of Cebu black shama in Cebu Island” when they asked for authorization from the DENR.
The research title was then changed to “Gut content composition of Cebu black shama,” wherein they dissected a total of 8 heads of the endemic bird. The specimens were caught in several areas on Cebu island, such as the Tabunan protected area in Cebu City as well as the forest patches in Alcoy and Argao towns.
The dissection and taxidermy of the bird was protested by the DENR and later was the subject of the case against the students.
Castro ruled in favor of the researchers, who believed that the permit they got was already an authority for them to dissect the species for research.
Based on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the DENR-7, there are only estimated 2,500 remaining population of the black shama, locally known as siloy. Most of the birds are found in Alcoy.
The bird that thrives only in forests makes melodic sounds. Its feathers are described to appear black from afar but sometimes they turn dark blue when light reflects on them. – Rappler.com