Sandigan suspends Espino
The Sandiganbayan ordered the suspension for 90 days of Pangasinan fifth district Rep. Amado Espino Jr. for his involvement in illegal black sand mining in his province while he was still the governor.
BLACK MOUNTAIN. This mountain of black sand is a proof that black sand was illegally mined in the coastal barangays of Lingayen.
Espino was charged with two counts of graft at the Sandiganbayan for giving permits to illegal black sand mining in Pangasinan from 2011 to 2013 along the Lingayen Gulf, an environmentally critical area.
Seven others were charged with Espino—dismissed provincial administrator Rafael Baraan and housing official Alvin Bigay; Cynthia Camara and Lolita Bolayog of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc.; and Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar and Avery Pujol of Xypher Builders Inc.
He pleaded not guilty when arraigned on July 14.
The Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division said the 90-day preventive suspension is mandatory for anyone charged with graft.
The Sandiganbayan said, “Accused Espino is hereby directed to cease and desist from further performing and exercising the functions, duties and privileges of his position as congressman of the fifth district of Pangasinan… effective immediately upon receipt hereof and continuing for a period of 90 days.”
The court directed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to enforce the suspension order, five days upon receiving the order.
The Ombudsman said a small-scale mining permit was issued to Alexandra Mining in June 2011 but which later canceled, and the firm was ordered to vacate the Lingayen Gulf area.
In August 2011, Espino entered into an agreement with Xypher Builders to remove the metallic materials from the stockpile left behind by Alexandra Mining.
The extraction of the magnetite or black sand took place from 2011 to 2013 within an area that was enclosed by the provincial government with a 3-kilometer-long, 6-foot-high concrete wall that spans the coastal barangays of Sabangan, Estanza and Malimpuec.
Resident Rolando Rea, 72, one of the complainants, said the provincial government made it appear that the wall was part of a planned golf course along the coast of Lingayen, but the wall actually served to keep residents from witnessing the illegal black sand mining.
Rea is happy with the court order. He said, “I may be losing my sight due to glaucoma but I am not losing my faith in the courts.”
The Ombudsman held Espino, Baraan and Bigay criminally liable for issuing permits and transacting with Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders when these were not accredited contractors or qualified to undertake mining activities.
Espino had also been named by President Duterte as among dozens of government officials involved in the drug trade.
Espino had denied the accusation.
Time for a break.
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