AN EX-BODYGUARD of Tabuelan Mayor Raul Gerona has filed graft charges against him and his brother, Vice Mayor Rex Casiano Gerona, before the anti-graft office over the construction of a private wharf and a reclamation project in Barangay Tabunok, in the northwestern Cebu town.

But Mayor Raul Gerona, in an interview, dismissed the complaint against him and his brother as “politically motivated,” saying that Junel Genita, the complainant in the case, was hired by his political opponent to throw shade on his reelection bid.

In a complaint sent on March 24, 2022, Genita asked the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City for a fact-finding inquiry on Tabuelan’s municipal council over a resolution they passed endorsing Gerona’s application for a Special Agreement for Protected Areas (SAPA) in 2014.

Gerona had filed the resolution before their municipal council when he was still vice mayor of the town.

Genita claimed that Gerona participated in the deliberation of the resolution which was a requirement for the construction of the private wharf and reclamation project.

He added that the mayor’s brother, who was town mayor then, also approved the resolution.

He claimed that the resolution passed by the Tabuelan municipal council was “unlawful and irregular” for several reasons, including that it allowed Gerona to construct a private wharf and port in Barangay Tabunok even though there was an existing wharf in the area located at least 300 meters from it.

Genita added that the resolution was not even ratified by the Cebu Provincial Government, which was a requirement before implementation.

Genita also questioned why Gerona was able to secure a property where the private wharf and port was established even though the area is under the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape and is not covered by any exemption for use by private individuals.

Genita said there was an illegal reclamation undertaken by Raul Gerona within the protected area.

Genita also implicated other public officials who participated in the approval of the resolution, the official who issued the Environmental Compliance Certificate, the official who issued a Permit to Construct Private Commercial Port, who signed the memorandum of agreement.

But Gerona told SunStar Cebu that he was able to secure the legal documents needed for the establishment of the wharf, including approvals from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Cebu Port Authority.

Gerona added that he didn’t use public funds to establish the port and underwent the similar process of application like any other regular person.

“I even sought an opinion from the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and other agencies on how I can comply with the requirements. And so far, our constituents have benefited from the port,” Gerona said.

He also claimed that Genita, who initially served as his bodyguard, was being used by his political opponent to ruin his chances of winning in this year’s elections.

Challenging Gerona for mayor on May 9 is Fe Obenza Oca, while running against Rex for vice mayor is Antonio Ong Obenza.