DOH under fire over turtle-egg ‘smuggling’

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HEALTH Secretary Paulyn Ubial can be charged in court in connection with alleged smuggling of more than 5,000 pieces of marine turtle or pawikan eggs from the Turtle Islands by a medical team from the Department of Health (DoH), according to a cause-oriented group.

Lawyer Restituto Mendoza of the group Action for Good Governance raised the alarm on Thursday in reaction to a recent report that Ubial tried to intervene for and in behalf of Dr. Sangkula Laja and his team from the Tawi-Tawi provincial health office after they were caught in possession of the marine turtle eggs.

“Instead of the mandatory filing of the necessary criminal charges against her erring subordinates, Ubial pleaded Environment Secretary Regina Lopez for clemency for Laja and his team.

“The utter disregard of the law by Ubial and invocation of clemency before a co-equal department of government are acts that cause undue injury to the public and the environment. Ubial’s ignorance of the law that commands her to charge her subordinates and tells her that [Lopez] has no power to grant clemency to violators is dangerous, inimical to public interest and unpardonable,” Mendoza said.


The lawyer explained that mere possession of endangered species and its derivatives, such as the eggs of the marine turtles, is punishable under Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

He said violators will have to face a jail term of up to six years and a fine of up to P500,000.

Mendoza quoted the March 2 report as saying that Ubial’s action on the matter only amounted to endorsing Laja’s explanation to Lopez, accompanied by a request for clemency.

“May this matter be treated with compassion and forgiveness,” Ubial supposedly asked Lopez in the report.
The eggs were hidden in five boxes and were only visible when Laja personally distributed the eggs to his staff in “sando” bags aboard a Navy vessel, the report stated.

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