DENR wins case vs killer of 'threatened' kalaw bird

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has secured a conviction in a wildlife case in connection with the killing of a Rufous hornbill, a threatened bird species locally known as kalaw, in Ilocos Norte province in 2014.

Judge Conrado Ragucos of Branch 19 of the Bangui Regional Trial Court sentenced Michael Datu to a jail term of up to four years after he pleaded guilty to killing the kalaw, which is penalized under Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Protection Act.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu lauded the court ruling as a "decisive victory for the country's wildlife as it sends a strong signal that wildlife crimes cannot go unpunished."

Buoyed by the legal victory, Cimatu said the DENR "will continue to uphold its mandate in protecting the environment, particularly the diverse biodiversity species that comprise the multitudes of ecosystems in the country."

The case stemmed from a photo posted on Facebook showing a man, who was later identified as Datu, holding up a dead kalaw and with a rifle hanging across his body. The photo was posted on the Facebook page of Wild Bird Club Philippines.

This prompted an investigation by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Bangui.

With the help of the local police and some witnesses, Datu was tracked down and made to admit he was the man in the photo and that he "accidentally" killed the bird.

After the case was filed in court, Datu was arraigned twice.

During his first arraignment, he pleaded not guilty to the crime. He later on changed his mind and pleaded guilty during rearraignment.

The Rufous hornbill, also known as the Philippine hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), is a large species of hornbill found only in the Philippines and is listed as among the terrestrial threatened species under DENR Administrative Order No. 2004-15.

The bird is categorized as "vulnerable" under the Convention of the International Trade in Engangered Species of Wildlife Flora and Fauna or CITES, a global treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. ###