By Cheryl A. Galili
THE CALATEGAS Irrigators Services Association or CISA has filed graft and corruption charges against Palawan Governor Joel T. Reyes, members of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), municipal council of Narra, the two House representatives and several others to the Office of the Ombudsman.
CISA said Reyes and many others violated sections 3 (e) and (j) of Republic Act 3019 and section (e) of Republic Act 6713 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Those who were charged are Mayor Lucena Demaala, municipal council members Bayani M. Agapito, Janeth E. Goh, Sunny G. Batul, Randolf S. Pe, Lila P. Almarez, Arlie M. Deles, Tomas A. Tabinga and Ceferino M Genovea. The charges also include House representatives Abraham Kahlil V. Mitra and Antonio Alvarez and Sec. Alfredo E. Abueg Jr., Vice Governor David Ponce de Leon, Romeo B. Dorado of PCSD and other members and former Narra mayor Lucena Demaala.
The members of the Palawan Board (PB) being accused are Joselito A. Cadlaon, Ernesto A. Llacuna, Gil P. Acosta, Modesto Rodriguez II, Edmundo F. Balerite, Derrick R. Pablico, Vicky T. De Guzman, Alice F. Fabellon at and former Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president and ex-officio member Mark Dior S. Madamba.
In the complaint affidavit of Teofilo Tredez and other farmers in Barangay Calategas, Narra, it is stated that the PCSD intended and maliciously taken for granted the fact that the areas applied for by Patricia Louise Mining and Development Corporation (PLMDC), Narra Nickel Development Corporation (NNDMC) and Palawan Alpha South Resources Development Corporation (PASRDC) are within the “core zone” of the municipality that should not have any activity.
The CISA said the mining companies allegedly filed for applications to get Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearances in Narra however, it is clear in an evaluation report of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) in February 2006 that the areas are within a core zone because of the existence of trees that compose a critical watershed area.
Core zones are areas in Palawan that need protection and where activities detrimental to their health are not allowed.
Dorado was sued apparently because he refused to give a copy of the evaluation report to the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC). “Dorado violated Article III, Section 7 of our Constitution and Republic Act 6713 regarding the right of an individual to obtain public documents,” the complaint said.
The Narra officials were included in the case, the complaint stated, for altering the Environmental Critical Areas Network (ECAN) map of their municipality by approving the passage of Resolution 2006-936 on February 17, 2006 that voided Resolution No. 2005-881 that was passed on September 28, 2005.
From being a core zone, the municipal councilors changed the classification and made it into a controlled-use zone without conducting consultation with the people of Narra, the affidavit said.
Even if the areas have been reclassified into a controlled-use zone, small scale or large scale mining should not be done because according to PCSD Resolution 05-250, the use of a controlled-zone should not be any activity that profits.
The affidavit cited “Section 10 (b) buffer zone a. restricted use Area b. Controlled use Area: Strictly controlled mining and logging which is nor for profit (i.e. communal forest, CBFM, etc. almaciga tapping, tourism development, research grazing and gathering of honey, rattan and other minor forest products maybe allowed).”
Alvarez and Mitra, former House representative Alfredo Abueg Jr. and the rest are being charged too for approving the mining applications for SEP clearances despite knowing the possible violations.
Aside from altering the ECAN map, the mining companies were also given SEP clearances on April 21, 2006 despite their protest.
The members of the PB, the affidavit further stated, plotted together in speeding up the endorsements of the mining companies in spite of obvious protest from CISA.
In response to the charges, all the parties involved said they are ready to face CISA in court to prove their innocence. Provincial Information Office Rolando E. Bonoan, Jr. said a counter affidavit is already being prepared by the office of Reyes to be submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman before the 10-day deadline.
“Governor Reyes and the other officials charged are already preparing their response to the charges,” Bonoan said. He denied that the provincial government is not taking the case for granted but it “has no basis.”
Ponce de Leon, on the other hand, said they have asked the Ombudsman for a 15-day extension to make a reply. “We have received the subpoena already and we are finalizing our answers. Of course, ours is complete and absolute reputation of the charge. We have adequate factual and legal basis for our action,” he strongly stated.