Members of the Philippine National Police reportedly led by P/Col. Marion Balonglong, the city police chief, arrested a team of government environmental enforcers investigating illegal settlers in Barangay Matahimik-Bucana, Puerto Princesa City Wednesday.

Initial reports obtained by Palawan News indicate that the environmental officers that included Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO) forester Roldan Alvarez, members of the city government’s anti-squatting unit, and local barangay officials were held at gunpoint, and arrested for questioning before they were released later the same day.

Ryan Abueme, chairman of Barangay Matahimik-Bucana, told Palawan News the police team was led by Col. Balonglong himself.

“Tinutukan sila ng baril ayon sa kwento ng aking mga tanod. Nakadapa sila tapos tinutukan,” Abueme said.

“Base sa kwento ay parang natadyakan yata ang dalawang taga-CENRO. Base sa kwento, ‘yon nga ang tumadyak si Col. Balonglong,” he added.

The team, composed of barangay peace officers (tanod), along with the officials from DENR-CENRO and City Anti-Squatting Office (CASO), was reportedly handing out “notices to vacate” to the illegal settlers in the mangrove area.

Abueme said the incident happened at around 11:30 in the morning when city policemen arrived in the area and pounced on the DENR-CENRO team, ordering them to lay on the ground.

The environment officers, who Abueme said were even wearing their uniforms, were reportedly questioned by the police officers about the legitimacy of their operation and were asked about certain suspects in a reported robbery incident in the area.

Abueme said the PNP officers were not able to produce a warrant of arrest at the time and handcuffed the members of the team as they were brought at the station for further questioning.

“Nagpakilala ‘yong ating mga tanod at saka ‘yong ating DENR-CENRO ay hindi naman in-acknowledge. Pinakita ang mission order saka ‘yong mga documents na magve-verify na talagang legitimate ‘yong kanilang operation doon sa certain area,” Abueme said.

The environment officers and the local officials were released at around 4 in the afternoon.

DENR-CENRO officials have yet to issue a statement. However, according to a source who requested anonymity, the environment office is keen on pressing charges.

Palawan News repeatedly sought the side of Col. Balonglong and the PPCPO on the incident to no avail.

Asked to confirm the report, Balonglong flatly denied that the incident happened, replying “wala” to Palawan News’.

(With reports from Jayra Joyce Taboada, Romar Miranda, Ruth Rodriguez, and Celeste Anna Formoso)