Surigao court orders arrest of MGB chief

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Sept) – For snubbing a court hearing twice, a Regional Trial Court here has ordered the arrest of Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) acting chief Leo L. Jasareno to compel his presence at the next court date.

Judge Victor A. Canoy, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 29, issued the arrest warrant after Director Jasareno failed to appear during the August 27 hearing. The warrant of arrest was released on the same day, which was emailed to MindaNews today upon request.

The MGB official is facing an “indirect contempt” case filed by Shuley Mine, Inc., which is mining nickel in Nonoc Island. The island is part of this city.

Jasareno also did not appear during the August 2 hearing, when the court first expected his presence.

In a text message to MindaNews, Jasareno said he will comply with the court order and confirmed his attendance during the re-scheduled hearing on September 12. He declined comment on the warrant of arrest.

Canoy said he was forced to issue a warrant of arrest against the MGB official after finding that the latter “lied” when he said he could not come to the August 27 hearing because he was scheduled to attend a hearing at the House of Representatives on the same day.

“However, the Calendar of Committee Meetings in the House of Representatives for August 27, 2013 does not show that respondent Jasareno will be attending any of these hearings,” the judge pointed out.

“In other words, respondent Jasareno has no House Committee hearing today (August 27) and he lied when he said that he has in his motion,” the order stated.

Canoy’s order instructed government authorities to arrest the MGB official “to ensure his attendance” on the September 12 hearing.

The judge, however, said Jasareno can be released by paying an unspecified bail.

SMI filed the indirect contempt case in May following Jasareno’s series of stoppage orders against the company. These directives, however, violated prior court orders prohibiting the agency from disrupting the company’s operations in Nonoc until all legal issues are resolved.

The judge said he wanted to hear why Jasareno had issued stoppage orders despite two existing injunctions prohibiting MGB from doing so. Canoy was one of two local judges who issued an injunction against MGB in 2011.

“The court wants to find out personally from him why he did not comply with these existing writs,” the visibly annoyed judge told Jasareno’s legal counsels during the August 2 hearing.

The Nonoc case has already earned Jasareno a graft case at the Ombudsman. Former MGB-Caraga director Roger A. de Dios accused the MGB chief of committing “corrupt practice” by making him defy the court orders and relieving him when he did not comply for fear of being cited for contempt.