DENR orders probe on LA Union landgrabbing

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union — The Regional Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here has ordered an investigation into an alleged land-grabbing scheme in La Union linking some employees of the department.

The order of DENR Regional Director Paquito Moreno Jr. came following the complaint of one Ann Paredes, accusing Graciano Boquiren and Santiago Santiago, Jr., both employees of DENR; and Arnel Manalac, a private land surveyor, of having allegedly conspired with each other in the conversion of a titled property she bought located in Barangay Pugo, Bauang, La Union into a ‘land underwater’, causing its reversion to the State.

Paredes also accused officials of the judiciary and military of being involved in the reported land-grabbing scheme, alleging that after her property was reverted, it was awarded to the group of Alberto Hidalgo through foreshore lease agreement purportedly approved by then regional director Samuel Peñafiel.

Moreno directed the DENR regional legal division to investigate the alleged land-grabbing activity and to file administrative and criminal charges against all those involved, including former DENR officials and private individuals whoever they may be.

“We appreciate Ms. Paredes for her courage of revealing this allegedly anomalous landgrabbing scheme involving DENR officials and employees,” said Moreno pointing out that he was not yet the regional director when the alleged anomalies in the issuance of foreshore lease agreement happened.

Moreno assured the complainant that appropriate actions are ongoing and, if substantial evidence warrants, administrative sanctions will be imposed on Boquiren and Santiago.

Moreno said the regional office maintained a 24-hour hotline – 09984797464 – manned by the Regional Public Affairs Office to receive complaints from the public concerning the services of the regional office or against any of its officials and employees.

“We welcome complaints and act on them expeditiously consistent with President Duterte’s avowal of clean government,” said Moreno, even as he pleaded to the people to support environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s sincere effort to cleanse the department from unscrupulous officials and personnel. PNA/