The Office of the Ombudsman has suspended Narra Mayor Gerandy Danao for six months due to a violation of the Anti-Red Tape Law (ARTA).

This follows a formal complaint filed by the Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation (Citinickel) on April 22, 2022.

Palawan News obtained a copy of the Ombudsman’s decision, which consists of 8 pages, with the dispositive portion stating:

“Wherefore, finding substantial evidence, respondent Gerandy B. Danao is found liable for violation of Section 21 (b) of Republic Act No. 11032, which amended Section 11 (a) (6) of Republic Act No. 9485 in relation to Section 22 of Republic Act No. 11032 and is hereby meted the penalty of six months suspension without pay.”

The Ombudsman added that: “In the event that the penalty of suspension can no longer be enforced due to the separation from the service of respondent, the same shall be converted into a fine equivalent to his salary of six months, payable to this Office, and may be deductible from his retirement benefits, accrued leave credits or any receivable from his office.”

The Ombudsman has directed Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos to implement the decision against Danao immediately upon receipt of the order.

Confirming the suspension order, Jojo Gastanes, the spokesperson of Danao, argued that it unjustly targets the Narra residents and is politically motivated.

“Nagtataka kami dyan—finile ng Citinickel yan, matagal na. Kasama ang grave misconduct, yong sa ARTA. Plus yong sa anti-graft. Dinismiss nila yong grave misconduct, at saka… pero yong decision na yan that was already done in April 2022 na yan. Pero nag-election noon, hindi nai-serve yan. Then yong Citinickel, formally, nagkaroon sila ng motion to withdraw—nag-withdraw sila noong February 2022,” he told Palawan News in a phone call.

“Ngayong February, nagtaka kami, naglabas ang Ombudsman, pinadala sa DILG. Kaya magmo-motion for reconsideration kami. Kasi may motion na to withdraw. Pangalawa, yong sabi six months dahil nag-additional requirements doon sa mga truck, ay masyado namang ano yong six months na yon—bakit ipapataw mo? Kumbaga confidential info, merong gumalaw sa loob,” added Gastanes.

Gastanes said Danao is scheduled to go to Manila to meet and consult with his lawyers on the matter.

“Six months? Masyado naman,” he said, questioning why a decision that was made in April 2022 will be enforced now. “Anyway, decision yan. Pero pangalawa, nag-withdraw na rin ang mismong complainant.”

The case stemmed from Danao’s decision to deny the granting of the required mayor’s permit to operate to the mining company CMDC.

According to CMDC, after submitting all the documentary requirements and paying the necessary fees for 2020, its business permit was withheld due to Danao’s imposition of irrelevant requirements.

On January 23, 2020, Danao sent a letter to CMDC requiring the company to submit a certified list of all its heavy equipment used in mining operations, as well as a list of all the operators and drivers operating the heavy equipment. This was purportedly for the purpose of properly assessing the taxes to be paid by CMDC to the municipal government of Narra.

CMDC cited that, according to the Citizen’s Charter of Narra, the only requirements for the renewal of a business permit were the submission of a barangay clearance, a copy of the business permit from the previous year, the basis for the computation of gross sales, two ID pictures, an accomplished application form, and the payment of taxes and fees with official receipts.

“Said Citizen’s Charter never included the submission of a certified list of all heavy equipment and heavy equipment operators and drivers of the company as requirements, making the same irrelevant requirements. Respondent imposed the submission of said irrelevant requirements in order to complicate the renewal of complainant’s business permit,” said CMDC as represented by Ricardo Gallardo.

The Ombudsman said that without any basis for or showing of the necessity for the additional requirements, the imposition of the same by respondent amounts to violation of RA 11032.

Danao had also failed to file his counter-affidavit despite sufficient notice, said the Ombudsman, that he only complied with the order to file his position papers.

Danao had only substantially reiterated the allegations found in the complaint, the Ombudsman said.

However, he was left confused as they had received a copy of a motion to withdraw a joint administrative and criminal complaint, signed by CMDC representative Gallardo on February 28, 2023, in Narra.

In the motion to withdraw, Gallardo stated that they had filed a joint administrative and criminal case against Gerandy Danao, the mayor of Narra, for criminal violations of RA 11032 and RA 9485 on February 14, 2020. He added that Citinickel had already submitted its position paper in the case, as directed by the Ombudsman’s office in its order dated December 17, 2021.

On February 21, 2023, the board of directors of Citinickel authorized Gallardo to withdraw the complaint before the Ombudsman as the company was no longer interested in pursuing the case.

Gallardo said Citinickel has conducted its mining operations for the past few years after submitting the complete requirements for its yearly business permit renewals. He also noted that the LGU of Narra has respected Citinickel’s peaceful conduct of business in the town.

“In this regard, and considering that there has yet to be any resolution issue by the office of the Ombudsman in this case, Citinickel most respectfully prays that this complaint be withdrawn and ordered dismissed,” Gallardo said in his motion.