Angaras in hot water over Aurora freeport

By Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2011 06:44 PM | Updated as of Jan 18 2011 08:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines - International architect Jun Palafox, running priest Fr. Robert Reyes, farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, priests, and local leaders of Aurora have met with Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to submit their affidavits and other documents to prove that that there's basis to file criminal charges against Senator Eduardo Angara, Rep. Sonny Angara, Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, and Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport (APECO) officials. 

They claimed that there is a conflict of interest since the congressman and the governor are members of the APECO Board of Directors, while the senator was among those who penned the APECO law.
 
In their affidavits and other documents, the group also said it is not environmentally safe to build the APECO in a chosen location.
 
They added that the law creating the APECO was passed without the approval and consultation with the people of Casiguran, Aurora, which is allegedly a violation of the Local Government Code and the APECO Law itself.
 
They also accused the Angaras of violating of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and Extension and Reform (CARPER) law, the Fisheries Code, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the Government Auditing Code, and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
 
Casiguran parish priest Fr. Jose Francisco Talaban said with many residents relying on farming and fishing, APECO threatens the province's food security.  
 
He said Angara-Castillo endorsed the project despite strong opposition from thousands of farming, fishing and tribal community members who will be displaced as vast tracks of irrigated agricultural, forest and ancestral lands have been appropriated for the project. 
 
Palafox, who was initially commissioned by Senator Angara to design the APECO project, called it "worse than C-5." 
 
He alluded to alleged anomalies in the use of public funds.  
 
Palafox said he was forced to drop the project after his research showed that the area where the project will be constructed at an area prone to flooding, "tulad ng nangyari noong 
Ondoy."  
 
De Lima, in a text message, said she is assessing the issue.
 
"I'm studying the matter and I'm minded to create a panel to look into the allegations of the multi-sectoral group, which brought out the alleged anomalies surrounding APECO,” she said. 
 
“The panel will assess the evidence so far available, advise what other documents/evidence are needed to build a strong case/s against those involved in the anomalies, determine what case/s may be filed and against whom.  The facts as presented to me appear extensive and complex.  Hence, a thorough study is essential," she explained.