Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje condemned the killing of Forester Melania B. Dirain as he sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to fast track the investigation.

Paje said the killing could be related to the anti-illegal logging campaign in the region. “The investigation is still on-going, but we could not somehow blame her murder to our step-up campaign against illegal logging because of the official circumstances that For. Dirain was into at the time of her death,” Paje said.

Dirain, 47, was shot dead Tuesday (Feb. 7) right inside her office by an unidentified gunman. She was a Forestry Specialist at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan.

Paje said that based on a radio message, Dirain, a mother of three and a widow, was gunned down by an unidentified armed man inside her office between 7:30 and 8:30 in the evening, while she was talking to a male office messenger.

Dirain died on the spot. Five spent shells from an apparent caliber .45 and four deformed slugs were recovered from the crime scene.

The report also indicated the gunman, wearing black pants, black jacket and a scarf on his head, left the scene immediately after the shooting.

Forester Dirain joined the DENR in 1989 as a forest guard. In January 2010, she was promoted to the position of Forestry Specialist.

At the time of her death, Dirain was the team leader of the CENR Office in the apprehension of undocumented lumber, flitches, and other forest products in the area.

Field reports indicate that the most recent anti-illegal logging operations made by her team was last January 27 when they apprehended in Alcala town, also in Cagayan Province, some 118 pieces of undocumented lumber of premium hardwood, with estimated volume of 2,167 board feet, aboard a six-by-six truck owned by the Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Group with plate number SHD 961.

The confiscated forest products, including the conveyance, are presently impounded at the DENR’s field office in Alcala, Cagayan.

In a report to the DENR chief, DENR-Region 2 Executive Director Benjamin Tumaliuan said that Dirain was the first lady forester that he designated to coordinate with local government units that are known to be “hotspot areas” for illegal logging.

“Being a female, we thought they would not harm her,” Tumaliuan explained in his spot report.

The latest killing of a DENR field officer happened a year after Executive Order (EO) No. 23 was enforced last February 1, 2011, placing the entire country under a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests.

“It compels this administration to lead the way in repelling this affront on our environmental law enforcers, which is why the creation of an anti-illegal logging task force is one of the salient aspects of EO 23,” Paje said, stressing that high in the agenda of the task force is to identify the protectors and financiers of illegal logging activities, “whether they be in government or not.”

The EO also provides for the creation of anti-illegal logging task force to be composed of the secretaries of the DENR, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, the chief of the Philippine National Police and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Paje stressed that laying down the national policy on logging moratorium is only the first step, but the real test of its bite, he said, “is in the enforcement in the battlefield where our co-workers who stand in the way of illegal loggers are the ones being silenced.”