DENR welcomes two Senate bills that seek to strengthen wildlife conservation

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has welcomed two Senate bills that aim to strengthen existing laws against illegal wildlife trade in the country. “We give our full support to the initiatives of the legislators who are seeking to reinforce and recalibrate the existing Wildlife Act, particularly against wildlife traffickers who wreak havoc to our biodiversity that causes the imbalance in our ecosystems, impacting not only our livelihood but our economy in general,” Mr. Cimatu was quoted in a press release issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Saturday. The two bills are No. 2078 or the The Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2021, and No. 2079 or the Revised Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2021, filed by Senators Cynthia A. Villar and Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, respectively. Copies of the proposed measures were released during the annual World Wildlife Day on Mar. 3. Bill 2078 proposes that a provision on regulating the collection, possession, use and trade of wildlife, and its by-products and derivatives be included in the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001. The bill also calls for the amended act to cover all wildlife species across the country. Ms. Villar’s bill also seeks to recognize the authority of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government over wildlife species in its territory. Bill 2079 also proposes that the DENR and the Department of Agriculture have legal oversight over terrestrial plant and animal species, and critical aquatic habitats. “Both bills hope to “establish a more stringent legal framework, improve enforcement mechanisms, and strengthen inter-agency cooperation against illegal wildlife trade, among others,” the DENR said. Earlier this month, DENR Undersecretary Jim O. Sampulna said the pandemic has made efforts to monitor and curb the lucrative illegal wildlife trade in the country more challenging as fewer manpower could be deployed. — Angelica Y. Yang

Justice chief says police request for list of lawyers representing suspected terrorists ‘out of line’

THE request made by a local police officer to a regional trial court for a list of lawyers representing suspected members of communist terrorist groups has no legal basis, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters on Saturday. He said such move was “totally out of line and completely bereft of any statutory or legal basis,” citing that “lawyers are professionals and are not directly or personally involved in the causes that they represent.” Lt. Fernando G. Calabria, Jr., who headed the intelligence unit of the Calabayog City police, sent a letter to the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court making the request. The Philippine National Police (PNP) has since removed Mr. Calabria from his post. Mr. Guevarra said while the Department of Justice has no authority to interfere with the matter, it will take a stand and “will oppose and call out any such activity if the same is in violation of existing laws or established policies, or unnecessarily endangers the security of certain classes of persons, most especially lawyers.” The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, in a statement,  has condemned the cop’s action. “The letter disregards the very basic principle that lawyers are free and even duty-bound to represent those accused regardless of political or ideological persuasions so that their rights are protected, due process is observed, justice is done, and that the rule of law is upheld,” the lawyers’ group said. In his letter dated Mar. 12, 2021, Mr. Calabria requested for a “list of lawyers (who) represent CTG (Communist Terrorist Group) personalities in the court… for subsequent submission to PNP higher offices.” The PNP spokesperson said no such order was issued to police officers. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago