Court junks ‘illegal mining’ cases vs 2 foreigners-A A +A
Monday, October 29, 2012
THE City Prosecutor’s Office in Cagayan de Oro dismissed Monday the three cases filed against two Chinese nationals who were arrested last week during a raid on barges allegedly doing mining activities along the Iponan River.
City Prosecutor Fidel Macauyag said the cases were dismissed due to “insufficiency of evidence.”
Zong Hengyuan, 43, and He Jiancheng, 42, both residents of the People’s Republic of China, are facing at least three cases in violation of the Philippine Mining Act, Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, and Executive Order 074-2012 issued by City Mayor Vicente Emano.
The cases were filed by members of environment group Sulog.
The two Chinese nationals were arrested by a composite team from the Philippine Army, police stations in Lumbia in Cagayan de Oro and Opol town in Misamis Oriental, and representatives from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) during a raid in a barge in Sitio Araw-Araw, Barangay Pagalungan in Cagayan de Oro City Thursday last week.
The team also padlocked at least four barges that were allegedly disguised as dredgers but were actually excavators scooping the river bottom for gold.
However, Macauyag said the filing of the complaint “did not carry the imprimatur by the DENR or any of its authorized representatives.”
He said the complaint lack the participation of the DENR, the government agency mandated by law to implement the Philippine Mining Act.
“The DENR is mandated by law to be the in-charge in these kinds of violations. The court will honor even just a letter from the DENR addressed to the city prosecutor recommending the case filed by Sulog,” Macauyag said during Monday’s inquest at the Hall of Justice.
He said the complaint also lacks the affidavit of the arresting officers and inventory and photos of the evidence.
“How can this case stand in court?” Macauyag said.
Only the affidavits of Sulog members Ralph Vincent Abragan and Roldan Maglunsod were submitted to the court.
However, Macauyag said the three cases were “dismissed without prejudice,” which means these can still be filed back provided all the necessary documents are submitted.
Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro tried to call Rex Monsanto, the regional director of MGB, for comment but he declined to give any statement as he is reportedly in a meeting.
Instead, he requested Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro to call him the next day.
But even with this, the raiding team vowed to conduct more surprise inspections and seizure operations on barges found to be doing illegal mining along the Iponan River.
Senior Inspector Rogelio Labor Jr., commander of Opol Municipal Police Station, said the surprise inspections and seizures will be done as a follow-up of their first operation to swoop down on firms doing illegal mining.
Labor said based on their records, they have monitored at least six existing barges and dredging machines along the Iponan River.
But environment groups earlier claimed there were at least 12 barges believed to be doing illegal mining activities along the river.
“Since the existing barges and dredging machines are quite large, we don’t have the capacity to carry them but we assure that the vital parts of the machines will no longer be useful,” Labor said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 30, 2012.