El Nido forest ranger hacked to death

PALAWAN, Philippines – A government forest ranger was hacked to death while trying to arrest suspected illegal loggers in El Nido town.

The victim was identified as Bienvinido "Toto" Veguilla Jr, 44, a forest ranger of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, police said on Thursday, September 5.

Veguilla and 5 other rangers were patrolling Sitio Kinagawan, Barangay Pasadeña on Wednesday, September 4, when they were informed of the alleged illegal logging activities nearby.

Acting on a tip, the enforcement team led by the victim proceeded to the area at around 5 pm and saw Cardo "Carding" Fulgencio from afar, cutting logs and lumbers using a chainsaw.

Sensing the arrival of authorities, Fulgencio's group fled and left the chainsaw.

As the forest rangers were on their way back to their office with the confiscated chainsaw, the suspects' group, armed with a bolo and a homemade shotgun, returned and blocked them.

Cardo Fulgencio, Glen Fulgencio, and Fernan "Broy" Flores cornered Veguilla, while 3 unnamed accomplices served as lookouts.

Flores hacked Veguilla, who had fired at the former using a service firearm.

The arrested Flores sustained a gunshot wound and was brought to the Palawan Northern District Hospital in Taytay town for treatment.

The Fulgencios and 3 other John Does, however, managed to evade arrest and are still at large. Police authorities launched a manhunt while preparing for the case filing against the suspects.

Veguilla's case is the latest so far in the deadly attacks against Palawan forest defenders.

In 2017, an El Nido forest ranger was killed while in an anti-logging operation. In the same year, a forester was shot and wounded while confiscating an illegal chainsaw in Puerto Princesa City.

Palawan has almost 700,000 hectares of forest – the largest of all the Philippine provinces – that need to be patrolled, government data show. – Rappler.com