Forest ranger killed in Nueva Ecija

MANILA, Philippines – A government forest ranger was shot by an unidentified assailant in Nueva Ecija on Friday, October 25, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Citing reports, the DENR in a statement on Monday, October 28, said Ronaldo Corpuz, who was assigned to the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, was "shot multiple times by an unidentified assailant while he was closing the gate of their house at around 7:35 pm on October 25."

The DENR said Corpuz was brought to the Premier Hospital in Cabanatuan City and went through surgery to remove the bullets from his body, but was declared dead on Sunday, October 27.

"[These] senseless attacks against forest defenders must come to an end," said DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, who urged the police to go after Corpuz's killer.

According to the DENR, days before his death, Corpuz and a Bantay Gubat team conducted a surveillance operation against timber poaching and illegal transport of forest products in Rizal, Nueva Ecija.

Three people were charged with violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines after 26 pieces of Yemane lumber or Gmelina with a volume of 742 board feet were seized by the team during the operation.

Corpuz was the 3rd environmental worker killed this year, according to the DENR. Earlier, on September 11, Gaudencio Arana, one of DENR's longtime informant also assigned to the CENRO in Muñoz, was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants.

On September 4, DENR forest ranger Bienvinido Veguilla Jr was hacked to death while trying to arrest suspected illegal loggers in El Nido, Palawan. According to the DENR, 5 of 6 suspects in the case have been charged with murder and violation of PD 705.

Following the recent deaths, Cimatu called for the immediate passage of a law creating the DENR Enforcement Bureau, which would "primarily benefit our foresters who are exposed to various risks and dangers when they perform their tasks on the field."

Cimatu, a retired military general, had also asked Congress for a law that would authorize forest rangers to carry firearms for their protection. – Jee Y. Geronimo/Rappler.com