Another provincial governor may soon join unseated governor E.R. Ejercito of Laguna province but for another offense.
Charges of illegal arrest and serious illegal detention, and grave abuse of authority have been filed before the Office of the President against embattled Gov. Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte province.
Lawyer Winsor Calamba, representing a group of businessmen allegedly ordered illegally arrested by Mercado, said the governor is facing an administrative complaint in Malacanang for grave misconduct, abuse of authority, conduct prejudicial to service and oppression.
“Mercado should be immediately suspended to prevent him from using his office to influence both the administrative and criminal cases,” Calamba said during a press conference in Quezon City.
The complaints were filed one October 16 by two of 11 persons allegedly detained illegally by Mercado on October 10, for alleged illegal quarrying of gravel and sand in Sogod, Southern Leyte.
But Calamba said the complainants, led by Captain Federico Ozon, had a quarrying permit from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Under the new Mining Act or Republic Act No. 7942, extraction of gravel and sand in an area exceeding five hectares is under the authority of the MGB. Those below five hectares require a governor’s permit.
Calamba said Mercado, who is a lawyer himself, broke the law and defied a court injunction prohibiting the governor from enforcing a controversial provincial ordinance that extended his authority beyond the five-hectare limit.
The governor ordered the illegal arrest and detention of Ozon, Emmanuel Maucesa, Aldrin Canete, Rolly Taglocop, Hernani Halipa Jr., Emmylou Sinaga and Rodel Tabacan Ozon while they were in a crushing plant in Subangdaku in Sogod.
They were forced under threat to their lives to board a provincial-owned bus and brought to the Provincial Police Headquarters against their will.
The Maasin City police refused to detain them, Calamba said, because they were illegally arrested in Sogod without any MGB or DENR personnel and with only the governor’s environmental officers present.
“Warrantless arrests are not obtaining as well such that the very act complained of is aggravated as shown by the police report,” said Calamba.
Based on a police report, the Philippine National Police regional headquarters in the Bicol region ordered its field operating men to disengage from the governor’s party, sensing that the arrest made without a in court order.
Mercado “clearly violated the mandates of the Local Government Code of 1991”, Calamba said, and “appeared to have pursued his own political agenda to persecute his perceived political opponents.”