Bukidnon gov denies allowing treasure hunt in Malaybalay village

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/06 September) – Bukidnon Governor Alex Calingasan has denied reports linking him to a gold digging operation in Purok 6, Barangay Magsaysay here that destroyed a footbridge used by children during rainy days.

Workers using a backhoe owned by the Malaybalay-based Decano Engineering and Construction dug at one end of the bridge, causing it to collapse.

Calingasan told MindaNews on Sept. 3 that he did not give consent to any mining or digging operation in the area.

In a telephone interview Friday he said the perpetrators were just using his name and might have faked a note purportedly signed by him allowing the digging.

But he admitted that someone whose name he could not remember approached him about a project in Magsaysay. He vowed to investigate it next week.

The village officials themselves could not identify who is really behind the digging.

But the residents of Purok 6 were mad at barangay chair Virgilio Tadlas for allegedly allowing the treasure hunting operation, purok chair Joanne Revisado, who reported the incident to barangay council, last week said.

The barangay council responded right away by conducting an inspection and documentation.

Villagers who confronted the diggers said they were shown a note allegedly signed by Calingasan saying the project should not be delayed.

Villagers showed the hand written note to reporters, allegedly signed by Calingasan.

Tadlas said he used the note as basis in allowing the operation but that he warned the diggers not to destroy the bridge.

He reported the incident to Malaybalay Mayor Ignacio Zubiri, who then instructed the City Environment and Natural Resources Office to inspect the site, on August 23.

Tadlas also sought the advice of Calingasan on August 20. He said he asked the ENRO to cancel the planned inspection after the governor reportedly said he was dismayed with what happened and promised to extend help in repairing the bridge.

ENRO head Maria Anita Fernandez on September 2 said that Zubiri verbally ordered her to conduct an investigation.

She admitted calling off the inspection upon hearing from Tadlas that the governor had “already discussed the issue thus the inspection is no longer necessary”.

She said she thought the problem was already addressed until a village councilman came to retrieve the documents they gave her because Calingasan reportedly asked for a copy of the note with his alleged signature.

The ENRO is yet to receive a formal complaint on the incident, she added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)