CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 31 Oct) – Members of the local environmental group Sulog lambasted the Mines and Geosciences Bureau here for its “Pontius Pilate-like” reaction on the illegal mining lawsuit they filed against two Chinese they “caught operating a gold mining barge” in Barangay Pagalungan here last week.
City Prosecutor Fidel Macauyag thrashed the complaint on the same day, last Monday, saying that the complaint will not hold in court on the grounds of “non-participation” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and that the complaint documents lacked the apprehension affidavit of the arresting officer.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Sulog member Edwin Dael said that prior to the operations last week, they had a closed-door meeting to iron out the raid and assess the information given to them by their informants in the area.
“In that briefing, it was clear to all of us that the mining barges that are actively operating are in Pagalungan and not in Tumpagon,” said Dael. Although he admitted that they may have committed some lapses in the filing of the case, the city prosecutor dismissed the charges against Zhong Hengyuan, 43, and He Jiancheng, 42, both residents of the People’s Republic of China.
Both Chinese, who are allegedly operating gold mining barges along Iponan River, are not only overstaying aliens but are also in the country with a tourist visa.
“When we arrived in the area, I was really surprised why Engr. (Daniel) Belderol insisted on going to Barangay Tumpagon when it was already settled that we will go to Pagalungan since our informants in the area had already confirmed the ongoing mining operations,” said Dael.
For his part, MGB Regional Director Rex Monsanto supported Dael’s claim that there was a briefing before the operation. He said Belderol is the division chief of MGB’s Mines Management Division.
“There was indeed a briefing before the operation. As to the details, Engr. Belderol could provide,” Monsanto’s text message reads. He also forwarded this reporter Belderol’s cellphone number. As of this writing, Belderol has yet to respond.
In an earlier interview, Richard Nixon Baban, chair of Sulog member Bangon Kagay-an, has said that it is unfair to blame Macauyag for junking the illegal mining case last Monday since the agency tasked to protect the environment did not step up to its mandate.
“I don’t blame (City Prosecutor Fidel) Macauyag for junking the complaint. To blame him is unfair. The problem lies with DENR’s MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau),” Baban said.
Baban has vowed to file next week administrative cases against the MGB officials for “willful dereliction of duties.”
MindaNews quoted Monsanto as saying that the DENR staff that headed the raiding team went to Tumpagon, while the police, Army and Sulog members went to Pagalungan where the two Chinese overstaying aliens were caught on the barge.
He also said that they did not plan to file a case against the illegal aliens since their staff were not in the area during the raid and arrest.
“So whose fault was that? They were not in Pagalungan because they were busy putting stickers on the abandoned barges in Tumpagon. If they were really serious in stopping the illegal mining along Iponan River, then Belderol should have divided his team so that one of his staff could have accompanied us when we arrested Zhong and He,” said Dael.
Sulog member Bob Ocio, who also joined the raid last week, said he does not blame their members for the dismissal of the illegal mining charge.
“At least, I declared a citizen’s arrest because nobody in this city does. No, we are not going to blame ourselves for trying to do a job these people never perform,” said Ocio. (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)