Fight not yet over: Barbers accuses Pichay of illegal mining
The fight is not yet over between these two bitter political foes in Surigao.
Surigao Del Norte Rep. Robert “Ace” Barbers took to the plenary to accuse his rival Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. of corporate theft and takeover of the mining firm Claver Mineral Development Corp.
In his privilege speech on Monday, Barbers asked Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate Pichay for allegedly taking over the mining firm in Claver, Surigao Del Norte through illegal means.
In a statement, Pichay denied the allegation as “utter lies without basis motivated by partisan politics.”
Barbers said Pichay claimed to be the new president of the mining firm after buying substantial shares from previous owner Ms. Fe Ligtas.
Barbers said from 2002 to 2006, Ligtas sold all the shares to the Hervic Calo group and the Ireneo Cesar group.
The congressman added that due to alleged fraudulent reasons, Ligtas after divesting her shares, re-registered the firm at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the same name.
The Cesar group then went to the SEC to contest Ligtas’ move, compelling the SEC and the Court of Appeals to revoke Ligtas’ re-registration.
Barbers said Ligtas later changed the name of the firm to Earth Power Mining and Development Corporation, and later to Henhao Equipment Corporation.
But Pichay as the new president of Claver mining firm allegedly used the stolen corporate identity to file and win an ejectment case against the occupants of mining firm in Claver.
Barbers accused Pichay of forcibly and illegally taking over the mining firm, evicting the local Mamanwa tribes who have government-approved cadastral claims over the area.
Barbers said Pichay should be held liable for corporate identity theft and mineral theft, as well as violating the 1987 Constitution and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Barbers said Pichay violated Article 6, Section 14 of the Constitution which states that “No Senator or Member of the House of Representatives, directly or indirectly, be interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Government during his term of office. He shall not intervene in any matter before any office of the Government for his pecuniary benefit.”
Barbers also said his rival violated Section 3(h) of the anti-graft law, which defines as a corrupt act “directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
“I call on the leadership of this House to do something to help my constituents who are suffering over these indescribable abuses of power, and to redeem the honor of the House of Representatives from this unspeakable madness,” Barbers said.
Barbers asked Congress to refer his privilege speech to the House committee on natural resources for the proper investigation in aid of legislation.
“Congressman Pichay stole the identity of a legitimate corporation, the CMDC-1 and used that it in all his transactions, cases and communications. This is corporate identity theft. Second, since he is not the lawful owner of CMDC-1, yet shipped-out minerals for material gain, this is mineral theft,” Barbers said.
Pichay said these allegations have already been raised by the camp of Barbers to smear his reputation.
The congressman urged Barbers to be “man enough” to declare his allegations outside the halls of Congress, chiding him for hiding “under the skirt of parliamentary immunity.”
“But meanwhile, we urge Barbers to be man enough to air his charges outside the halls of Congress so he can be made answerable for his lies. He should be man enough not to hide under the cloak of parliamentary immunity,” Pichay said.
Pichay said Barbers has an axe to grind against him after Pichay fielded candidates against Barbers since the 2007 elections.
“We also urge him to come clean on the reason for his attacks on me, namely, that he blames us for his political debacles in his province since 2007, because we supported his political opponents who won over the Barbers clan,” Pichay said.
Barbers and Pichay’s political spat started supposedly when Pichay claimed to have fielded the Romarates and Matugas in Surigao Del Norte to end the Barbers rule in the province in 2010. Barbers has denied the allegation.
Barbers only regained his congressional seat in the 2016 elections, but his brother Lyndon failed in his congressional and mayoralty bids in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Surigao del Norte was the bailiwick of the Barbers, before the patriarch former congressman and senator Robert Barbers died of heart attack in 2005.
The political spat escalated in the middle of a House constitutional amendments hearing the proposed Charter change measure and a fistfight was averted by their colleagues. Pichay has filed an ethics complaint against Barbers for disorderly behavior.
Barbers also accused Pichay of pressuring environment officials to secure ore shipment permits for the latter’s mining firm Claver Mineral and Development Corp. (CMDC), which was halted under the Duterte administration.
Pichay denied using his political clout to get preferential treatment.
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