MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. for graft and usurpation of official functions for the questionable issuance of a mining permit to a small-scale mining company.
In a 32-page resolution by the special panel of the environmental ombudsman team, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also approved the indictment of Romelino Gojo, a member of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB); and private individuals Weng Chen, Camilo Esico and three others connected with Geoking Asia Mining Corp. for theft of minerals under Section 103 of the Mining Act of 1995.
The case stemmed from a complaint filed by Consolidated Mines Inc., the mineral rights holder of the area covered by the Coto Mines project. CMI has been operating Coto Mines for more than five decades.
The CMI complaint alleged that Gojo and a group of police officers led by provincial director Francisco Santiago Jr. stormed Coto Mines on Oct. 30, 2011 and presented a small-scale mining and other permits signed by Ebdane in favor of Esico.
The group dismantled the security checkpoints, established their own outpost and threatened CMI personnel. Chen and a group of Chinese men escorted by policemen entered Coto Mines the following day and hauled and transported chromite from the site valued at more than P211 million.
The ombudsman said Ebdane usurped the functions of the PMRB in issuing the mining permits, noting that under Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, the evaluation, negotiation and award of small-scale mining contracts are done by the provincial or city mining regulatory board.
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