Zambales governor charged with graftBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A mining company has filed graft charges against Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and other provincial officials at the Ombudsman for allowing small-scale miners to take over its mines in the province and haul off its stockpile of minerals.
Benicio Eusebio, president of the Consolidated Mines Inc. (CMI), accused Ebdane and other Zambales officials of granting permits to small-scale miners to take over the company’s mines in 2011 and transport chromite fines, or leftovers from 50 years of chromite mining in the firm’s Masinloc site.
Officials of CMI have been protesting the continued raiding of the firm’s chromite “towers.” They said the small-scale mining permits were used not to conduct mining but steal from CMI.
Eusebio said the hauling of minerals from the firm’s stockpile from October 2011 until May this year brought losses to CMI worth at least P211 million.
CMI is a company engaged in the mining, milling and trade of gold, silver, copper and other minerals.
It said it is the mineral rights holder of the area covered by the Coto Chromite Project in Sitio Coto, Masinloc town, known as Coto Mines. Coto Chromite has a mineral production sharing agreement now pending renewal by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
“In the interest of fair, just and independent investigation, and considering that the evidence of guilt against the impleaded public officials is strong, I earnestly appeal for their immediate preventive suspension pending the resolution of this complaint,” Eusebio said in the complaint.
Charged with Ebdane for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Code of Conduct for Ethical Standards for Public Officials, among others, were provincial employees Benjamin Manabat and Eusebio Gojo, provincial director Francisco Santiago, Col. Rolando Portrera and Insp. John Romero.
The other respondents were identified only as Police Officers 2 Laconsay and Ferrer, Fallolin, Palatalon, Cardona, Quimba, Amugia, Evangelista, Ejanda, Caldos, Mardoss, Cantillas, all policemen and other unidentified men.
CMI also filed charges against small-scale miners Camilo Esico; Jeff Elago, Amoe Echon, Dennis Ocul, Efren Melgar and Reynaldo Dait, and against Joel Refuega and Bernard Adalla, and Weng Chen and other employees of the Geoking Asia Mining Corp.
In his complaint, Eusebio said that on Oct. 28, 2011, Weng Chen and others entered CMI premises without authority and in defiance of a court injunction against them, and two days later, police officers, Gojo and Refuega “forcibly entered” the Coto Mines without authority.
He said the men dismantled the checkpoints and seized the mobile phones of the company’s security men on the road leading to Towers 8 and 9 where the chromite fines were stored. He said the police set up their own outpost, and Santiago “directed the operations of the Coto Mines.”
When confronted over the takeover of the mines, they presented small-scale mining permits, ore transport permits and mineral ore export permits issued by Ebdane to Esico.
Eusebio said Ebdane also issued small-scale mining permits to Elago. He said Esico and the other men who got permits were not qualified small-scale miners.