The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division has found sufficient grounds to try the graft charges against Pangasinan Gov.Amado Espino Jr. and several others for allegedly authorizing two unqualified firms to extract black sand in the Lingayen Gulf Area in 2011.
In March, the Office of the Ombudsman filed two counts of graft against Espino.
“After going over the Information [charge sheets]in this case and evaluating the Joint Resolution dated 28 January 2014 of the Office of the Ombudsman, the evidence in support thereof, and the records of the preliminary investigation attached thereto, the Court finds that sufficient grounds exist for the finding of probable cause and for the issuance of warrants of arrest against accused-movants and the rest of the accused,” the court’s Sixth Division said in part in a resolution promulgated on Monday.
The ruling threw out the omnibus motion filed last March 15 by Espino, Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan, and Provincial Housing and Homesite Regulation Officer Alvin Bigay who sought dismissal of the case for lack of probable cause.
According to the court, the arguments raised by the respondents “are matters of defenses that are best addressed during the trial of these cases.”
Espino and Baraan posted P60,000 bail for the two counts of graft on Monday afternoon.
Bigay, indicted only in one case, posted P30,000 bail.
Named respondents in the first graft charge were Espino, Baraan, Bigay and then-members of the Board of Directors of Xypher Builders Inc: Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar, Avery Pujol, Cynthia Camara, and Lolita Bolayog.
Meanwhile, in the second graft charge, Espino and Baraan were included along with then-members of the Board of Directors of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc: Cesar Detera, Edwin Alcazar, Bolayog, Denise Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Camara, Glenn Subia, and Emiliano Buenavista.
The Ombudsman alleged that the respondents gave unwarranted benefit, privilege or advantage to Xypher Builders Inc. and to Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc. and caused undue injury to the government.
The firms were authorized to conduct soil remediation and/or magnetite and mineral extraction activities within Barangay Sabangan in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan even if they were “not lawfully entitled to conduct mining activities within said protected area.”
Based on the charge sheets, the two firms were allegedly not duly-accredited by or registered with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board and the mining activities allegedly lacked the requisite area clearance from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc. also did not possess any business permit from the Municipality of Lingayen, the Ombudsman alleged.
It also added that “Baraan upon authority of accused Espino” issued a Gratuitous Permit and that Espino issued a Mineral Ore Expert Permit in favor of Xypher Builders Inc., thus allowing the firm to unlawfully sell to DH-Kingstone Holdings Co. Ltd. and export minerals to China worth P10.75 million which the Ombudsman said was the amount of undue injury suffered by the government.
Also, “Baraan upon authority of accused Espino” issued a small scale mining permit in favor of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc.
The Ombudsman recommended P30,000 bail each in both graft charges for the respondents’ provisional liberty.