22 face graft complaint over mining

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A group of concerned citizens from Zambales raised graft charges against Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and local government officials over the damage allegedly brought about by mining.

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Included in the complaint are: DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno, Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Municipal Mayor Consolacion Marty, former Municipal Mayor Luisito Marty, and several others.

The complainants – Josephine Astadan, Salvador Cortez Jr., Berto Merced and Edgardo Obra – filed the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday. The group identified themselves as residents of Sta. Cruz, Zambales and members of the group Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS).

The respondents were charged with violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Sections 16, 389, 444, 465 and 484 of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines, among others.

“We are filing a case for the environmental destruction brought [about]by mining and the non-implementation of environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Solid Waste Management Act among others by the DENR and local government officials,” said CCOS Chairperson Dr. Ben Molino in a statement.

“We have had enough of their inefficiencies and their empty promises. We want justice for Zambales and its people,” Molino added.

Likewise named respondents were Lauro Garcia who leads the MGB Region 3 Multi-Partite Monitoring Team and lawyer and Central Luzon MGB Regional Director Danilo Uykieng.

The DENR Secretary, Regional Director, and the MGB Director approved the mining permits of Benguet Corporation Nickel Mines (December 2007), David M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI) (2008), Eramen Minerals, Inc. (April 2005), Filipinas Mining Corporation, Inc./LNL Archipelago Minerals, Inc. and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation from 2005 onwards, the complainants noted.

“Since the operations of the abovementioned mining companies, there was a widespread gradual destruction and pollution of the land and waters of our beloved town. The damage to the environment of Sta. Cruz, Zambales by mining is well documented,” they said in the complaint, which cited a 2009 Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) article entitled “Mining turns Zambales river into color of blood.”

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