Wounded DENR employee gets honors, promotion

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Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu today personally handed Joselito Eyala a Certificate of Commendation at Room 640 in Philippine General Hospital where the latter is confined and awaiting surgery to remove bullets lodged in his palate and back.

Secretary Cimatu lauds Eyala, a forester at DENR Palawan, for his “remarkable dedication to public service, bravery, and leadership” when he and his team apprehended timber poachers and confiscated an unregistered chainsaw in Sitio Casicaan, Barangay Bacungan, Puerto Princesa on August 23, 2017 at around 5:00 pm.

The owner of the chainsaw, Florante Saycon, retaliated by firing a homemade gun that hit Eyala at the back. Eyala sustained two gunshot wounds that rendered him unconscious.

When he regained consciousness, Eyala crawled into the Casicaan River and allowed the current to carry him for five hours. He then walked and crawled in the middle of the night until he was able to get help at around 1:00 am the following day.

A farmer brought Eyala on a carabao sled to Bacungan councilor Daniel Anjan, who then took him to Palawan Adventist Hospital in Puerto Princesa.

Meanwhile, Eyala’s three other companions, Forest Ranger Roldan Alvarez and Forest Technicians Roy Mercader and Glenn Dexter Eleazar, scampered for safety as Florante chased them.

Mercader hid in the river for seven hours while Alvarez and Eleazar sought cover in the bush the whole night. They were found in the custody of Barangay Bacungan at around 8:00 am on August 24.

Secretary Cimatu’s commendation says what Eyala did was “beyond the call of duty” which “deserves the highest praise and recognition.”

The Secretary also conferred Eyala with a Purple Heart Medal, an honor usually given to soldiers wounded in the line of duty.

“I am so proud of Lito,” says Eyala’s wife, Cynthia.

Meanwhile, DENR MIMAROPA Regional Director confirms she has just approved Eyala’s promotion from Forester I to Forester II.

“This is the least we can do to express our appreciation to Lito for his commitment to live up his duty as a protector of the forest and our environment,” Bernardino said.

Eyala, who  still have difficulty speaking, is overwhelmed and almost teary-eyed when he gave a thumbs up sign.

Bernardino also announced due recognition shall be given to Alvarez, Mercader, and Eleazar.

For his part, Secretary Cimatu also gave commendations to Air Force and AFP personnel who helped airlift Eyala from Palawan to Manila and transferred him to Philippine General Hospital on August 25.

In a related development, DENR is preparing to file criminal charges against Florante Saycon who was arrested during a follow up operations by the Philippine National Police on August 24, 2017.