The Ombudsman has dismissed a graft complaint filed by a group of citizens against former Palawan governor Abraham Kahlil Mitra for issuing a local permit to a mining company when he was still chair of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).
The case pertained to the issuance of a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance to MacroAsia Corporation when he was still the governor of Palawan and chair of the PCSD. The permit, according to the complainants, gave permission to the mining company to conduct exploration activities in swaths of forests in the town of Brooke’s Point that have been classified as “core zones” or “restricted use” zones where mining activities are prohibited by law.
In a six-page decision signed by Regina C. Anniban-Navarro, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III of the Office of the Ombudsman and concurred by Gil Felix Hidalgo of the Office of the Assistant Ombudsman dated June 1, 2018, the Ombudsman ruled that Mitra was not liable for graft since the SEP permit was issued by the PCSD as a collegial body.
“Respondent (Mitra) cannot be faulted in the issuance of the SEP clearance considering that it was the Council, as a collegial body, that approved MacroAsia’s application,” the ruling stated.
The complaint was filed by Ismaela B. Boco, Hilario A. Fabila, Jr., John Sernan Sambajon, Janice O. Baltazar and Jose Romano H. Francisco, all residents of Palawan.
The Ombudsman also upheld Mitra’s defence as stated in his counter-affidavit claiming that the SEP Clearance issued to the mining company “does not grant the proponent (mining company) an enforceable mining right” and that it was merely a requirement it needed to submit to the Bureau of Mines before it can conduct exploration.
“It must still go through the process of applying for an exploration permit with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau that will ultimately define the area of coverage,” the ruling stated.
Reacting to the Ombudsman ruling, Mitra who is current chair of the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) said the case was filed against him as a form of political harassment.
“Am happy it was dismissed as it really had no merits right from the start and was merely used to harass me as they thought I was going to run in last election,” Mitra said.
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