DENR alerts workers vs phone scammers

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has alerted all its regional offices, line bureaus and attached agencies to be on the lookout for a new phone scam targeting DENR employees.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that DENR workers have been targeted by phone scammers posing as senior executives of the agency to collect money for charity.

The DENR chief advised the employees to "hang up immediately" once they receive such kind of call, which in the first place is a violation of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

"Preventing fraud can be difficult, but it does help if there's awareness so we can avoid falling for these scams," Cimatu said.

On Cimatu's orders, DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo Jr. issued a memorandum directing all DENR officials and employees in the central and field offices "to be more vigilant in all our transactions."

The memo also covers DENR line bureaus and attached agencies, including the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, the National Water Resource Board, and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

The directive was an offshoot of a recent incident involving a phone call supposedly made by former DENR Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) of Marinduque province.

PENRO Imelda Diaz claimed she received a call from someone who introduced himself as Usec. Ignacio asking her to donate at least P60,000 for victims of the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that struck Surigao del Norte province last February.

The caller, she said, instructed her to course the donation through a church-based non-government organization in Quezon City by sending the money via a remittance service center in Boac town.

"His voice was exactly like Usec. Ignacio's, including the manner of speaking. It was unmistakably UDLI's (Ignacio's initials)," Diaz said.

The transaction did not push through after Diaz phoned Ignacio, who denied making such call.

According to Diaz, other field officers in the Mimaropa region also received similar scam calls, such as PENROs Maximo Landrito of Romblon and Mary June Maypa of Mindoro Oriental.

She said Palawan PENRO Felizardo Cayato was also targeted by the scam, although the fraudster who called him posed as former DENR Undersecretary Marlo Mendoza.

This is the first the DENR encountered a scam that targets employees of the agency as scammers usually victimize DENR clients, especially those seeking permits.

Last January, the DENR also warned the public against fraudsters offering fishpen operators exemption from the clearing operations in Laguna Lake, claiming they were "well-connected" to DENR and LLDA executives.

Source: Department of Environment and Natural Resources

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