CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/17 Feb) — Mayor Vicente Emano welcomes the Court of Appeals’ order to submit his response on the environmental class suit filed against him even as he claims the move is politically motivated.
In his Sunday morning radio program,“Mayor’s Move,” over Mellow Touch 95.7 FM, Emano said the class suit will be the best way to ferret out the truth behind the gold mining operations in the hinterland barangays here.
Sulog, a citizen’s coalition of survivors of Typhoon Sendong, professionals and environmentalists, on February 7 filed a petition for the issuance of writs of kalikasan, continuing mandamus, with “prayer for issuance of temporary environmental protection (Tepo) and/or environmental protection order (Epo)” at the Court Appeals, against City Hall, the City Council, environment department and mining firms allegedly operating along the rivers of Cagayan and Iponan.
The group is asking the court to compel the city government, DENR 10 and MGB 10 to do its constitutionally-mandated task to protect the city’s environment.
Writ of kalikasan
The writ of kalikasan and continuing mandamus are legal reliefs issued by a court to require a person, group or entity to perform or to refrain from performing a particular act.
The filing was spearheaded by Bangon Kagay-an chair Richard Nixon Baban and members Tito Noel Mora, Edwin I. Dael and Richie Neri Concepcion, Save CDO president Ralph Abragan and Gold Star Daily columnist Benjamin Contreras.
Emano said he will answer the allegations so the truth will come out. Speaking in Cebuano, he told listeners he was included in the lawsuit because of allegations he was raking in millions from mining.
“Maayo gyud na nga makita og kinsa gyu’y nagtugot ana. Ako ba? Kanang ga-mining dira kay foreigners man kaha na. May pa pandakpon na, tortyuron nila” (It’s best to know who really gave them permission. Was it I? Those who are mining there, aren’t they foreigners? Better arrest them, torture them), the mayor said.
Emano explained that it is the national government that gives out the permits, not the city and that he has powers only over small-scale mining operations.
He said it would be good to find out who really raked in money from these firms.
The Court of Appeals on February 13 ordered the respondents to submit their reply. It said it would take as “an admission of the complaints” should the respondents fail to comply within the “non-extendible 10 days.”
The City Council, which has been identified as one of the respondents of the class suit, received their copy of the court order last Friday, February 15. But Vice Mayor Cesar Ian Acenas, presiding officer of the legislative body, declined to comment on Sulog’s class suit.
“I have yet to read the resolution of the Court of Appeals and I would rather let the mayor issue his statement first before I give mine as the head of the City Council,” he said.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have yet to issue their statement on the suit.
Emano said the suit is a direct political harassment since he is the only local chief executive blamed and sued for the destruction and loss of lives due to a natural calamity.
He said he was being blamed for the hundreds who perished in the flashfloods spawned by Typhoon Sendong.
“As far as I can remember, they were already living in Isla de Oro and Cala-cala since I was 18 years old,” said Emano, who is in his 60s.
He said Typhoon Pablo also led to deaths and destruction but no local government official was sued.
He added that his political enemies have even resurfaced the plunder case against him which he claimed was “dismissed by the Ombudsman two times.”
Sulog called on civic groups, progressive organizations and Sendong survivors to join in the petition.
“Relatives of the victims of Sendong, survivors and civic groups can still add their voices as citizen complainants even if we have already filed the petition by submitting their sworn statements, photographic evidences on the gold mining in the upland barangays along the rivers of Cagayan and Iponan,” Baban said in a text message Sunday.
Rhodora Bulosan, chair of Sendong Survivors’ Collective, said they are grateful and congratulated Bangon Kagay-an for taking the initiative in filing the suit to hold the city government accountable. She added that Baban invited their group to join in the filing of the petition.
But Bulosan said they did not join because they do not want to be caught in the political crossfire.
She said Baban is running for city councilor under the ticket of Oscar Moreno, three-term Misamis Oriental governor who is running for city mayor against Emano.
“We are against the performance of City Hall (on disaster relief) but not all our members are anti-Emano,” she added.
Sendong Survivors’ Collective has some 6,000 individual members grouped into 50 collectives spread across the hard-hit barangays in the city.
“Our member-families in barangays Carmen, Pagatpat, Kauswagan, Consolacion, Puntod and Tablon reported that they still have not received their livelihood funding support which then City Administrator Leon Gan promised during our dialogue last year. We do not want our member-families pushed to mendicancy,” she said.
Survivor Aristotle Albarena, married, 62 years old and a long-time resident of Barangay Consolacion—one of the worst-hit barangays during the flood— said it is high time that government be held accountable for the destruction wrought by Typhoon Sendong.
“I am hopeful that this environment class suit will put a stop to the wanton logging and mining in our hinterland barangays, because this time it is the Court of Appeals that is hearing the case,” Albarena said. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)