Palace asked to suspend Southern Leyte governor | Inquirer News

Palace asked to suspend Southern Leyte governor

/ 09:05 AM November 28, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—A lawyer who filed administrative charges of grave misconduct and abuse of authority against Southern Leyte Gov. Roger G. Mercado has asked Malacañang to order his immediate suspension for 60 days.

The suspension would be in faithful compliance with the administration’s daang matuwid, said lawyer Winsor Calamba, who added, ‘‘I have faith and confidence in the leadership of President Aquino.”

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The case stemmed from Mercado’s order for the police to arrest and detain 11 workers at a crushing plant for gravel and sand in Subang Daku, Sogod on Oct. 10 allegedly for illegal quarrying. Subang Daku is a river in Southern Leyte.

Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado (congress.gov.ph photo)

Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado. PHOTO from  congress.gov.ph photo

Calamba, representing the petitioners, said Mercado was enforcing a controversial provincial ordinance that extended his authority beyond the 5-hectare limit for the insurance of a provincial quarrying permit.

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Several permitees, led by Ernestor Dacay Jr., Ma. Selena Salas, Rodolfo Servacio and Ceasar Servacio, who had questioned the ordinance in court had won an injunction stopping the provincial government from implementing it.

‘‘Governor Mercado, who is a lawyer, knowingly broke the law and brazenly defied a court injunction,” Calamba told the weekly media forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City.

Policemen carried out the arrest without proper court warrants and forcibly herded the 11 men, who were part of a 24-man crew at the crushing plant, into a provincial government coaster, said Calamba.

Ten men and a woman were taken to the PNP provincial headquarters in Maasin City where the police refused to detain them, Calamba said.

Premeditated

He said a copy of the police report said the arrests were ‘‘premeditated” and “founded on deception” by Mercado, who had claimed there was a threat to his life, prompting the provincial PNP headquarters to augment its police force in Sogod.

An affidavit signed by Police Inspector Bryan Abuel Vicedo attested to the warrantless arrest made, Calamba said. One of those arrested was a woman apprentice of the barge identified as Emmylou Sinagan.

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Calamba said a criminal complaint for kidnapping against Mercado and SPO1 Rogelio Orit, PO2 Windee Lim, lawyer Rafael Cromwell Gerong, Eva Abad and several John Does has also been filed with the prosecutors’ office in Maasin City for illegal arrest and serious illegal detention on Oct. 16.

Ozon, manager of the crushing plant, maintained that his group did not break any law, saying they were armed with a quarrying permit from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

New Mining Act

Under the new Mining Act (Republic Act No. 7942), extraction of gravel and sand in an area exceeding 5 hectares is under the authority of the MGB, while those below 5 hectares require a governor’s permit. The law was enacted by Congress when Mercado was still a congressman.

In Maasin, Mercado defended the arrest, saying the 11 workers were caught extracting sand and gravel without permit.

“They were stealing minerals when we went to the site with provincial environment and police personnel to do an ocular inspection,” said Mercado in an interview.

He added how could he be accused of illegally detaining the suspects when they were immediately turned over to the police in Maasin City in the presence of a prosecutor.

“After we arrived at the provincial police office, they were turned over to the city’s police station because the PNP provincial has no lock-up facilities,” he said.

Mercado said the sand and gravel permittees never showed up in the provincial government when they applied for a permit. With Jani Arnaiz

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TAGS: Abuse of Authority, daang matuwid, Governor Roger G. Mercado, grave misconduct, Mining Act, Southern Leyte
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