PJ: Sue us, we sue backBy Peter L. Romanillos
Cebu Daily News
Rep. Pablo John Garcia yesterday welcomed the threat of gubernatorial candidate Hilario Davide III to file new charges over earthmoving activity in the Balili estate where coastal land is being backfilled with limestone.
Garcia, who is also running for the governorship in 2013, said he would file countercharges if that happens.
He said a field report on the property was made way before the backfilling was done.
“We cannot change the facts in that (report). I am really aghast with where he gets his law. This is not a murder case where you can tamper evidence by covering the body. I think he is watching too much CSI Miami,” said Garcia in a press conference at the Capitol.
His elder sister Gov. Gwen Garcia insisted that the province would earn revenue from the 24.7-hectare Balili lot whose purchase in 2008 for P98.9 million is the subject of a pending graft case in the Sandiganbayan.
The governor said she would call for a meeting soon and invite the media, government heads and groups from the private sector to elaborate on the Capitol’s plans for the controversial property.
Last August, Governor Garcia and seven others were charged before the Sandiganbayanwith two counts of graft and one count of illegal use of public funds for the Balili land purchase.
She has denied the charge, calling it a politically motivated attack.
Pablo John, who is One Cebu’s gubernatorial bet in tandem with former Danao City vice mayor “Boy” Durano, said Davide and Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and Provincial Board (PB) member Arleigh Sitoy should stop their “publicity stunts” on the Balili case.
“If he pushes through with the case, we will also sue him (Davide) for malicious prosecution under the Ombudsman law that prohibits absurd, frivolous cases filed with the Ombudsman to harass other parties. And this is a criminal offense,” said the congressman.
He said developments continue in the Balili property and are above board as no court has issued a temporary restraining order stopping it.
Congressman Garcia insisted the activity is “restoration” and not reclamation since this involves titled lands in the name of the Province of Cebu and not foreshore land.
“I have a simple challenge for him (Davide) since the debate might be too complicated for him. I dare him to show me a law which prohibits the province of Cebu from touching or enhancing the property with a case pending in Sandiganbayan,” Pablo John said.
“People expect you to speak as a lawyer. When you make a legal claim, it has to be backed up by laws,” he said.
Governor Garcia said the property is being developed as a secured landfill facility to hold coal ash waste of Korean Electric Power – SPC under a $1 million deal with Kepco.
Under the 2009 contract, Kepco-SPC paid Cebu province $500,000 up front, with two installments of $300,000 and $200,000 to follow.
An Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued in October 2010 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 7 (DENR-7), said the proposed landfill would have a lifespan of six years and accommodate a daily input of 240.6 cubic meters of coal ash waste.
The governor said they bought the Balili estate “really cheap” in 2008 for P400 per square meter.
“During that time, the usual market rate was P1,800 thousand per square meter. Plus, it already has land titles,” she said yesterday in Cebuano.
A DENR survey, however, showed that most of the property is submerged or classified as timberland , a key basis in the graft charge filed in the Sandiganbayan.
Governor Garcia yesterday said the coal ash facility is part of the Capitol’s “Balili Land Development Plan.”
“For every metric ton of coal ash coming from Kepco, we will get one dollar,” she said.
Garcia also mentioned an agreement with Cemex, a cement company, to pay P40 per metric ton of coal ash recovered.
“The fishponds are not that economically feasible. We can still use the land for better things,” Gwen said.
The governor showed reporters 10 land certitificate titles of the Balili property .
She repeated that the earthmoving activity there is not ‘reclamation’ but ‘restoration.’
“This cannot be reclamation because we have titles for the 20 hectares of land. If it already has a title, you cannot reclaim it. I’m explaining this again so that politicians in the Provincial Board can understand,” she said.
The ECC issued by the DENR, however, mentions in the scope of activities in the area “reclamation” which requires approval of the Philippine Reclamation Authority.