NBI probes Chavit Singson, daughter for wild duck hunting
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MANILA, Philippines – Reports that former Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson and his daughter hunted and killed vulnerable and protected wildlife in the Philippines are now being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The issue first surfaced when an Instagram post by Singson's daughter Richelle Singson-Michael showed her and her father proudly holding up carcasses of wild ducks. In the photos, Singson-Michael aims a hunting rifle while surrounded by grassy, forested terrain. She and her father pose beside a row of the dead birds.
The post – now deleted – sparked outrage among bird watchers and environmentalists all over the world. A Change.org petition by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines to stop the Singsons' deadly sport now has more than 1,100 signatures.
The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) has begun its investigation of the case but has called on the help of the NBI Cybercrime Unit to probe the online evidence linked to the case – specifically, the Instagram and Facebook posts of Singson-Michael. The unit has the power to coordinate access to relevant social media accounts of the younger Singson.
Vulnerable, endemic species
The wild ducks killed by the Singsons for sport appear to be Philippine wild ducks, a vulnerable species protected by Philippine law.
The Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act imposes imprisonment of up to 4 years and a fine of P30,000 to P300,000 for the killing of vulnerable species.
Singson-Michael later told local media that the photos were in fact not taken in the Philippines.
But PAWB Wildlife Division chief Josie de Leon does not buy this: "The photos were clearly of Philippine wildducks. These are found only in the Philippines."
She added that though the Singsons have a permit to keep wild ducks, they do not have license to hunt them down.
There are 234 species of birds found only in the Philippines, according to the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.
"The survival of many of these species is already under threat from loss of habitat. Our wildlife cannot survive being hunted whether for sport, recreation, or sustenance," they added.
The group blasted the Singsons for their alleged actions which "encourage others to imitate them and are one of the causes of the decline and possible extinction of our unique Philippine species."
This is not the first time the older Singson has been linked to controversial wildlife hunting. The 5-term Ilocos Sur governor was heavily criticized online for leaked photos showing him hunting down lions in Africa for his birthday.
He keeps tigers and other wild animals in his Baluarte Zoo, now a popular tourist attraction in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. The zoo's website says it is "dedicated to facilitating education, conservation and protection of endangered species and wildlife."
The outrage of animal lovers was stoked earlier this month over an American reality television show about a female lion-hunter.
Singson played a key role in the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada in 2001. A longtime Estrada friend, he became a whistleblower and accused Estrada of earning from jueteng, an illegal numbers game. – Rappler.com