Cebu provincial board to reorganize

August 17, 2009 Cebu City - Amid the fallout from the controversial Balili beach property purchase in Naga City, the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) will re-organize its different committees in order to preserve its integrity, Vice-Gov. Gregorio Sanchez said yesterday.

Sanchez told Cebu Daily News that the reorganization comes on the heels of reports that some PB members allegedly received commissions on some projects. The vice governor declined to elaborate.

Board member Juan Bolo who got berated by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for the botched Balili property purchase said he supports the reorganization.

He also denounced reports that he introduced Lumen Durano, who brokered the Balili property deal, to Garcia.

Bolo said he only relayed what Durano told him to Garcia.

“Nalipay ko ana. (I'm happy with the idea of re-organizing committee heads). Wa gyud ko ni-name drop sa governor. (I never dropped names before the governor),” said Bolo, chairman of the PB's committee on real properties.

Bolo is planning to talk with Garcia later today.

Last Saturday, Garcia accused Bolo of having introduced the property in Naga to her, negotiated for its sale and frequently followed it up.

Garcia called for a full investigation to identify the people involved in the land deal and those who have benefited from it, if any.

Sanchez said he plans to invite Romeo Balili to the Provincial Board session to shed light on the Balili property issue.

“Questions on who got commissions, if any, should be answered,” Sanchez said.

If these reports are confirmed those found guilty should resign from office, Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, environmental lawyers plan to file administrative charges today against Capitol officials who failed to answer a couple of letter-requests for the release of documents on last year's Balili beach property purchase and a coal-ash disposal agreement.

“It's been more than a month yet no actions were made. We decided to hold them (Capitol official) administratively liable,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos in a phone interview yesterday.

Fellow environment legal advocates Benjamin Cabrido and Gloria's husband Dante Ramos are part of the Global Legal Action Against Climate Change (GLACC), a nationwide network of lawyers and ecology advocates pushing for the full enforcement of environmental laws.

They sent two letters to Governor Garcia, Vice Gov. Sanchez and nine members of the PB last July 2 and 31.

Estenzo-Ramos said only Board Member Agnes Magpale responded to their requests.

She said Magpale will be spared from administrative charges they will file against the Capitol officials before the Civil Service Commission in Central Visayas (CSC-7).

Except Magpale, other Capitol officials will be facing complaints for violating provisions of Republic Act 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Law.

Section eight, paragraph b of the said law states that “all applications and/or requests submitted shall be acted upon by the assigned officer or employee not longer than five working days for simple transactions and 10 working days for complex transactions upon receipt of request.”

The lady lawyer said they consider filing a petition for mandamus before the “Green Court” which is Regional Trial Court branch 23 in Cebu City in order to compel Capitol officials to submit the documents.

She said a court injunction may stop the ongoing coal ash dumping project at the Balili Beach Property in Naga, Cebu.

Environment groups warned of large-scale toxic pollution in case the project pushes through.

Estenzo-Ramos said a case of fraud may be built in the Balili property purchase since geodetic surveys showed parts of it are either submerged in seawater or classified as timberland and thus not open for sale.

In a phone interview, Capitol consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda “thanked” the environmental lawyers for filing the complaint, saying they only wanted to embarrass the provincial government.

“They have been told through the media that the papers they have been asking are now available and ready for pick up. Instead of holding press conferences at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines building, they better go to the Capitol and get the documents,” he said.

The documents include the Deed of Sale of the Balili property, the Memorandum of Agreement between the Capitol and the Balili's, land titles of the Balili property, and a copy of the State of the Province Address (SOPA) of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

But Estenzo-Ramos described the response of Sepulveda as insulting and unprofessional.

“Yaga-yaga man nang ila. (That's an insult on our part). Can they not call us, or even fax or mail us? Why use the media in informing us?,” she said. (Inquirer)

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