DENR puts more bite in fight vs wildlife crime
Manila (12 November) -- Gone are the days of wildlife crime cases being thrown out of the courtroom or dismissed by state prosecutors due to "inadmissability" or "weak evidence," all because of small but costly procedural lapses made by wildlife officers during an arrest or apprehension.
Wildlife officers are now better able to lodge airtight cases in court and score convictions against wildlife criminals, thanks to the "Wildlife Law Enforcement Manual of Operations" (WLEMO) which is now a must for all wildlife law enforcers to know by heart.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje recently issued Memorandum Circular 2010-17 calling for the adoption of the WLEMO which, he said, "shall serve as guide in the enforcement of Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001".
The manual, according to Paje, was subjected to thorough evaluations by no less than members of DENR wildlife traffic monitoring units and wildlife enforcement officers, Deputy/Special Deputy Environment and Natural Resources Officers (DENRO/SDENROS) and wildlife enforcement officers (WEO) who are mostly volunteers from private and public agencies helping in combating illegal wildlife trade.
WEOs, which currently number 1,076, are authorized to seize illegally collected, possessed and traded wildlife resources; arrest even without warrant any person who has committed, is committing or is in the act of committing any of the offenses enumerated in RA 9147, and assist in the filing of appropriate complaints against violators of the Act.
The WLEMO will be distributed nationwide through the DENR's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) and its 16 regional offices which are also ordered to hold seminar and trainings "to ensure efficient and application of the Manual of Operations by all concerned."
Paje expressed optimistism that the WLEMO will help reduce delay in the trial and prosecution of offencers as it will vastly improve the quality of evidence- gathering for cases presented to the prosecutors.
According to PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim, only five cases had been fully documented and filed in court from more than 45 incidences of illegal collection, possession, transport and/or trade of wildlife species recorded by her office from January 2007 to May, 2010.
"The manual provides the set of standards and protocols on monitoring wildlife transport and trade," Lim said, citing that the effort to develop the manual has brought together the expertise of 11 government entities of six national agencies involved in enforcement and prosecution, namely : the Department of Justice (Office of the State Prosecutor and National Bureau of Investigation), Department of Finance (Bureau of Customs), Department of Interior and Local Government (Philippine National Police and Local Government Units), Department of National Defense (Armed Forces of the Philippines), Department of Transportation and Communication (Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Ports Authority and Manila International Airport Authority), and Department of Agriculture (Bureaus of Fisheries &Aquatic Resources and Plant Industry).
The development of the WLEMO was strongly supported by the Development Academy of the Philippines and the United States Department of Interior, with valuable assistance of Tanggol Kalikasan legal experts.
Illustrated flowcharts are provided in the manual, from investigation to filing and prosecution of cases, giving users easy reference on the rules of engagement in the planning and executing of an apprehension or raid in accordance with existing laws, especially on matters like warrantless arrests, securing search warrants, conducting surveillances and inspections.
The WLEMO also contains photos of all threatened wildlife species that are subject for confiscation and the directory of all WEOs.
The manual is divided into three books, each broken into chapters. Book 1 details relevant wildlife policies being implemented by the DENR;
Book II provides for the protocols on investigation and surveillance, arrest and search, detention and seizure; seizure and handling, and filing and prosecution of cases, they came into full consideration the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases issued by the Supreme Court in April 2010.
Another chapter presents a set of protocols to address implementation gaps in wildlife law enforcement scenarios in airports and seaports while another outlines the protocols to be observed relating to the custody of seized and confiscated wildlife specimens, by-products and derivatives.
Book III consists of standard monitoring, reporting and documentary forms to facilitate the prosecution of wildlife-related cases. (www.denr.gov.ph) [top]