Pangasinan black sand case: Trial to proceed
DAGUPAN CITY — The Sandiganbayan would proceed with the trial of former governor now Rep. Amado Espino and two other former officials of Pangasinan province over black sand extraction in the town of Lingayen during Espino’s term in the provincial government.
The antigraft court, however, dismissed conspiracy charges against five officials of two mining firms involved in the extraction.
Aside from Espino, trial would proceed against former provincial administrator Rafael Baraan and former provincial housing officer Alvin Bigay.
The case stemmed from the alleged unlawful permission granted by the local officials, led by Espino, for unqualified companies to extract black sand in the Lingayen Gulf in 2011.
In the 20-page decision dated Jan. 28 but made public only recently, the Sandiganbayan dismissed for insufficiency of evidence the charges against Cynthia Camara, Gina Alcazar, Ann Lyn Detera, Denise Ann Sia Kho Po and Glenn Subia.
They were either incorporators or board directors of Xypher Builders Inc. and Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. or Amovi.
The two mining firms conducted black sand extraction in the coastal villages of Lingayen after Espino granted them permits.
The Sandiganbayan decision, which was issued after the accused filed a joint demurrer to evidence, said the five mining officials’ interest in the companies did not render them privy to the alleged illegal mining.
“The prosecution failed to allege and prove the precise degree of participation of the said accused in the offense charged,” said the decision.
Lawyer Nolan Evangelista, counsel of Espino and other local officials, said the Sandiganbayan decision was not against his clients.
“The decision was in so far as some members of the board of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. and Xypher Builders Inc. are concerned,” Evangelista said.
He said Espino and Baraan did not file a demurrer, giving way to a full-blown trial.
In a demurrer, the defense asserts that even if all the factual allegations are true, they are insufficient to establish a valid cause of action.
Evangelista said only Bigay filed a demurrer, which the court did not grant.
In December 2016 while already Pangasinan representative, Espino served the 90-day preventive suspension order issued against him by the Sandiganbayan in connection with the illegal mining case.
The Sangiganbayan said Espino and Baraan, as governor and provincial administrator, were the ones responsible for the issuance of small-scale mining permit (SSMP) to Amovi and the government gratuitous permit (GGP) to Xypher.
This was despite the two companies’ apparent lack of requirements, such as registration with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board, area clearance from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and business permit (in the case of Amovi) from the Lingayen town government.
The issuance of SSMP and GGP paved the way for the extraction of black sand in the coastal areas of Barangay Capandanan, Estanza, Sabangan and Malimpuec. —WITH REPORTS FROM YOLANDA SOTELO AND GABRIEL CARDINOZA
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