84 Mindanao officials probed for not implementing environment law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 October)  – The Office of the Ombudsman has conducted a fact-finding investigation on 84 local government officials in Mindanao for failure to implement the 16-year old RA 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Gerard Mosquera, deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, told “Wednesday’s Habi at Kape” that they launched an investigation following complaints filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in February 2016 against seven mayors, seven vice mayors, and 70 city and municipal councilors in seven cities and municipalities in Mindanao.

Mosquera heads the Environmental Ombudsman Team that is in Davao City from October 25 to 28 to conduct a clarificatory hearing on the complaints against the officials.

He said the DENR complained that the local government units of Kidapawan in North Cotabato, Koronadal City in South Cotabato, Valencia in Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro City, General Luna in Surigao del Norte, Marihatag in Surigao del Sur, and Loreto in Agusan del Sur failed to implement the law.

He said the 84 officials constitute only the first batch of LGUs charged before the Office of the Ombudsman for failure to implement the law.

“This is the first sweeping campaign of the government proactively and aggressively implement and enforce the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001,” he said.

The fact-finding investigation is being conducted as part of a national campaign to ensure compliance of RA 9003.

“We are asking you to explain both collectively and individually why you failed to implement the law. Why is it that a law that has been in place for the past 16 years hindi na ipatupad within your jurisdiction,” he said.

He said officials would be facing criminal and administrative cases if they find probable cause to hold them responsible.

“We have many laws in this country that are really very good and not implemented. What is a law, if not implemented? This just becomes a piece of paper. There must be a way where we can contribute to the administration of Justice and rule of law,” he said.

Administrative charges will be “Gross Neglect of Duty” and will result to dismissal from service and perpetual disqualification to hold public office, he said.

“Results will come out, possibly within the year or early next year. We have to evaluate but it is going to be very easy for us to evaluate. We still have to go through the process which is adjudication, submission of counter affidavits,” he said.

The officials have already submitted an “explanation” for its failure to enforce the law, he said.

Mosquera said the officials claimed they have limited resources to efficiently implement the law.

But he countered that their excuses “cannot be valid” because they are “first class cities and municipalities” which have the capacity to raise funds.

“First, they admit that they violate the law. We have pictures of their open dumpsites. Aside from admitting that they violate the law, more often than not, kulang sa resources, kulang sa pondo. It’s not an excuse because other cities were able to comply with law. The law has been in place for 16 years. Hindi pwedeng walang pera,” he said.

He told the elected officials that “you are the one who applied to be the mayor of the city, you are supposed to know where to implement the law within your area.”  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)