Monday, August 30, 2010


Police Inspector Christopher Mazo, Lianga's newly installed chief of police, was supposedly warned by some friends not to accompany a team of DENR (Department of the Environment and Natural Resources) personnel who were set to verify allegations of illegal logging operations in the hinterlands of Barangay Diatagon north of the Lianga town proper last August 21. The group was set to conduct an ocular inspection of a quantity of newly cut timber as part of an ongoing probe into the timber cutting operations of SAMMILIA (see previous post), a local cooperative granted a community based forest management agreement by the government.

The DENR inspection activity became necessary after a earlier group composed of local DENR personnel, Lianga local officials and non-governmental representatives had recommended that the cooperative be formally investigated for possible violations of the conditions of its forest management agreement. A shipment of its cut timber at the Diatagon wharf had also been found to have been possibly mis-declared in terms of actual volume and had been earmarked for seizure pending the result of a more thorough probe.

Mazo had been only on the job as chief of the Lianga municipal police station for a couple of days and would probably have been excused for not going but perhaps he was a conscientious man and only wanted to make a good impression on the people of the town. He eventually decided to help escort the DENR team. That decision he paid for with his life.

At about midday on that Saturday, Mazo and several others were on-board an open truck on the way back to Lianga after the inspection sortie. The truck which was part of a convoy of several vehicles ferrying the DENR team and their security escorts back to the town was near Sitio Danao some 21 kilometers from Barangay Diatagon when it was fired upon by a group of armed men. The sniping ambush killed Mazo and wounded at least two other DENR personnel.

The New People's Army through Maria Malaya, National Democratic Front spokesperson for the northeastern Mindanao region, quickly claimed responsibility for the ambush and blamed Insp. Mazo and the DENR team for being part of a massive deployment of government troops in the area. Malaya also accused the DENR team of using the pretext of the illegal logging investigation to extort money from small-scale loggers within the SAMMILIA forest concession area.

Personally I, like so many concerned residents here in Lianga, had welcomed the DENR investigation into SAMMILIA's timber cutting operations. This is despite the running joke among many observers here that likens the task of asking the DENR to investigate SAMMILIA's operations as akin to sending a totally blind and deaf man to see and critique a new movie showing in the city.

After all, if indeed SAMMILIA had been not complying with the legal restrictions on its timber cutting operations in the past years then the DENR should have been the first to sound the alarm. It is supposed to be the main government agency monitoring that cooperative's operations and DENR personnel are supposed to be keeping a tight leash on its logging activities. That local DENR officials may be turning a blind eye to SAMMILIA's illegal logging activities can only be logically assumed, if such over-cutting and mis-declaration of timber stocks can be proven. Otherwise, the same officials should all be fired for gross incompetence and negligence of duty.

The ambush killing of Lianga's police chief by purportedly NPA guerrillas has also complicated what is already a tense and tenuous situation. I would have thought that the NPA with its avowed pro-poor and pro-environment sympathies should have bucked all forms of illegal logging and should have allowed the DENR to finish its probe on the SAMMILIA logging controversy. At the very least, that government agency with the prodding of non-governmental organizations and environmental protection groups would have the chance, slim though it may be, to redeem itself by come out with a definitive finding on the allegations levied against the logging cooperative.

As of now, the heightened tensions between government security forces and the local communist insurgents have made the quick and expedient completion of the DENR probe difficult if not outright impossible to achieve. What has started out to be a seemingly uncomplicated case of allegations of illegal logging has become entangled and mired in the larger issue of peace and order in the midst of an ongoing rural insurgency.

One can almost be forgiven if, in the final analysis, one has the temerity here to speculate that this might exactly be what certain parties and interests may have intended to happen in the first place. If that is indeed the case then Insp. Mazo's killing will serve no more useful purpose than becoming another insignificant and soon forgotten footnote (like so many other similar killings in the past) in the decades old insurgency war that continues to rage in this small corner of the world. And in the meantime, the people of Lianga may be waiting in vain for a clear and authoritative result to the DENR probe into SAMMILIA operations or even for some result to come out any time soon.

But then one can be completely wrong for even harboring such speculation. In this case, I certainly hope so.


  1. Benjie,
    I'm afraid that expecting the DENR to do the right thing on this issue, is a feat beyond them at this time. See for my present dealings with the DENR. I'm not sure I am seeing the bigger picture here, but I will say that certain matters are starting to become focused. I hope that more attention can be drawn to this issue and that a quick resolution will be forthcoming for all the matters at the DENR right now.

  2. Benjie,
    Just wanted to let everyone here know that I will be meeting with the CENRO August 31, 2010. I have posted my present crisis on our blog at If anyone in the community wishes to show support for our cause they may feel free to join us in our meeting at the DENR office. I am still waiting for them to give me an exact time for the meeting. I will try to post that information when it becomes available.

  3. Well the meeting went as expected, in other words, it didn't go at all. The Interim CENRO who told me on Thursday August 26 that we would meet today to resolve the issue with all parties present. Choose to be in Butuan on his last day of rotation here at the Lianga office. Should I view this as a blatant conspiratorial act, or just another government official who is unwilling to do the job the taxpayers are paying him for?

    Though I can't blame this Interim for not wanting to deal with the blatant failures of the DENR in Lianga in the past. Who would possibly want to try to fix all the problems that have recently presented themselves with DENR taking center stage. (Police Chief murder, Confiscated Lumber, and Land Management issues where you face dozens of fake documents and false claims by Professional Settlers.

    As it stands right now, there is a meeting with all parties rescheduled for September 2, 2010 with the newly arrived CENRO who will only be here for a two week rotation. The future looks bleak for any resolution of this issue.

    I do not wish to add extra bad light to our community, but if changes don't come soon I will be forced to air this in the court of public scrutiny using the News Media websites to escalate this to a higher authority. I'm open to suggestions or comments.
    Mark Borders

  4. Anonymous11:33 AM

    I am from Lianga but with the happening since i left that place way back in 1980's could be my reason for not coming back. How many times did the NPA's ambush convoy and attack the police headquarter in Lianga and how many lives were lost? Unless the civilian population of Lianga will stop supporting this Godless ideology, then there is no hope for peace in that place. I am an advocate of change for good but not through the barrel of a gun. What happen to Police Insp. Mazo could happen to anyone of us. Damn with the NPA's.

  5. Anonymous5:25 PM

    Damn the NPA!!! kasabwat yan ng SAMMILIA!!! How can they be called pro-poor and protector of the people when they are culprits of environmental degradation and cause of un-peace and underdevelopment of the municipality.

  6. Graham read12:54 PM

    Its about time the Philippines came into the 21 century,these things will happen always while corruption is rife,starting with every mayor in the Ohills,and any one who has access to giving permits to land and businees,locations?
    Graham read from Holland
    Ex military and had a house for 15 years in sibulan dumagete,