Ombudsman affirms criminal charges vs Espino, et al
DAGUPAN CITY – The Ombudsman affirmed its decision indicting Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr. and several others for violating the anti-graft and corrupt practices law, after they engaged the services of unqualified contraractors to extract black sand along the Lingayen Gulf.
The black sand mining was done at the coastal villages of Lingayen Gulf, supposedly for tourism and golf ourse developmment.
The joint order, signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on January 11, denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Espino, dismissed Pangasinan Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan, former Provincial Housing and Urban Development Officer Alvin Bigay and officers of the companies contracted for the black sand mining.
The Ombudsman decided that Espino and the two former officials issued permits and transacted with two companies – Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures (Amovi) and Xypher Builders, Inc. – that were “unqualified undertake the ecotourism, golf course development and/or mining activities and thus were criminally liable for their actions.”
The companies also did acquire needed documents like Environmental Compliance Certificate and were not members of Philippine Contractors Accredidation Board.
“(But) despite this glaring infirmity, they still negotiated and contracted with these unregistered contractors and authorized the magnetite extraction activities, thereby evincing their manifest partiality in favor of said (companies),” the Ombudsman said.
“All indictments against them, as originally written in joint resolution dated February 28, 2014, stand. The office maintains the finding of grave misconduct and meting the penalty and accessory penalties against Baraan and Bigay,” the order prepared by Jasmine Ann Gapatan, graft investigator/prosecution officer II, said.
Baraan and Bigay were found administratively liable for grave misconduct and were meted out the penalty of dismissal from the service, with the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.
Espino was likewise sued administratively but the case was dismissed after he was reelected in 2013 because of the doctrine of condonation. The cases were filed on January 2012.
(The doctrine of condonation prohibits the disciplining of elective officials for a wrongful act committed after they are reelected.)
But he and the two former provincial officials still face the criminal aspects of the case.
The Ombudsman said the issuance of the Provincial Government (albeit subsequently cancelled) of a Small Scale Mining Permit to an unqualified mining company was clearly unwaranted, since a mining company does not fall within tlre definition of a small-scale miner under Rep. Act No. 7076 (People’s Small Scale Mining Act of 1991).
“AMOVI should not have been granted any construcion concession, including for magnetite extraction contract, in the very first place. Not being a construction company duly acredited by the PCAB, there was no respondents for Espino and Baraan to transact with AMOVI. Yet despite despite this glaring infirmity, they still negotiated and contracted with this unregistered contractor and authorized the magnetite extraction activities, thereby evincing their manifest partiality in favor of said company,” the Ombudsman said.
Morales said the grant of a Gratuitous Permit by the Provincial Government signed by Baraan and facilitated by Bigay, merely highlighted the grant of unwaranted beneflt given to an unaccredited contractor.
She added that the partiality was made more (evident) when they authorized or allowed the same contractor to conduct mining activities despite the lack of the requisite Mines and GeoSciences Bureau- Department of Environment and Natural Resources area clearance.
She said by reason of the precipitate and irregular issuance by Espino of the export permit, the State lost minerals in the conservative amount of Pl 0,750,000.
She also said a golf course project poses potential impact to the environment, and thus needed clearances from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Also facing criminal charges are the board of directors of Amovi, namely: private respondents Cesar E. Detera, Edwin T. Alcazar, Lolita D. Bolayog, Denise Ann P. Sia Kho Po, Annlyn P.
Detera, Cynthia D. Camara, Glenn R. Subia and Emiliano F. Buenavista;
and the Board of Directors of Xypher Builders, Inc. (Xypher) namely:
private respondents Michael R. Ramirez, Gina P. Alcazar and Avery Pujol
(with Cynthia D. Camara and Lolita D. Bolayog as interlocking directors of both companies
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