Relieved Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) Director Marion Balonglong is now facing a string of criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman due to the controversial arrest and maltreatment of eight employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last June 10.
The DENR filed criminal charges against Balonglong last June 21 for torture, unlawful arrest, slight physical injuries, obstruction of apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders, and graft and corruption.
The former PPCPO chief was also charged administratively for grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in violation of Republic Act 6317, or “The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”
The DENR, in its 18-page complaint, provided full details of the illegal arrest and maltreatment suffered in the hands of Balonglong by eight workers assigned at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO)-Puerto Princesa City.
According to the complaint, the eight victims composed of three foresters, four forest rangers and one forest protection officer were conducting a follow-up investigation in a mangrove area at Sitio Bucana, Bgy. Iwahig-Matahimik when they were rounded up by a group of policemen led by Balonglong “in full battle gear.”
The group conducted an investigation in connection with the discovery on June 7 of illegal occupation and massive mangrove cutting in the area where the DENR team seized some 73 pieces of cut mangrove trees, one galvanized iron sheet and four drum containers.
In the said incident, Forest Ranger Roldan Alvarez, one of the members of the DENR investigating team, identified Balonglong as the one who “repeatedly kicked and stomped” him at gunpoint while they were being subjected to full body search and were ordered to lay down on the ground.
The complaint also stated that at one point, Balonglong stepped on Alvarez’s head with his foot and in his combat boots.
And despite identifying themselves and their official mission to Balonglong, the DENR team was then brought to the site which they investigated on June 7 and there, Alvarez was made to kneel for almost an hour while the rest of the team were ordered to sit in one corner. After a while, the DENR team was transported to the police station aboard three PNP vehicles while Alvarez was made to board a white van with PCol. Balonglong and three other police officers.
It is also stated in the complaint that while on their way to PPCPO headquarters in Bgy. San Pedro, Balonglong allegedly put a transparent cellophane on the head of Alvarez and gradually pulled it until the latter found it difficult to breathe.
The Department called it as an apparent attempt of Balonglong to force Alvarez to admit possession of some construction materials, which the former City PNP Director claimed to be missing from the mangrove area.
The DENR workers were only released following a long dialogue between Balonglong and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer Felizardo Cayatoc and signed a document stating that the workers were in good mental and physical condition when they were turned-over to him.
Because of the incident, it is also reiterated in the complaint that Balonglong should be held accountable for breaking the guidelines and protocols for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.