Lopez defends ex-DENR exec Leo Jasareno: 'He's really clean'
MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez defended former undersecretary Leo Jasareno from allegations that he granted special favors to some mining companies that were spared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) audit.
"I deal with my own experience. If you do a lifestyle check [on Jasareno], there's nothing to show. He's honest," Lopez said at a Palace press briefing on Thursday, February 9. (READ: 'Corruption, gov't inefficiency' to blame for environmental destruction)
She was answering questions from reporters regarding Jasareno, who headed DENR's mining audit team before he was replaced by President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2016.
Jasareno, who is now a consultant of Lopez, was former director of the DENR's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
"I was in ABS-CBN Foundation, I had Bantay Kalikasan there, and in my experience of dealing with him [Jasareno], total malinis, really really malinis (totally clean, he's really really clean)," Lopez said.
Now that she's leading the DENR, Lopez said she needs somebody she can trust like Jasereno.
"So with his guidance, and I understand it, I still make all the decisions; he just gives me technical feedback. And at every step of the way, he's been breathtakingly honest," she explained, as she talked about Jasareno's lifestyle, from his old car and home, to the "same white barong" he wears even though it's "too short."
Asked about the allegation of Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers that Jasareno granted special favors to some mining firms, Lopez said it is "not true at all, not even a little."
"Show some evidence. He has been very fair. When I ask him a question, he tells me the right thing. I don't even know who owns the mine when we make decisions," she said.
Lopez added: "It's all allegations without a shred of evidence. I'm not going to make decisions, especially if my experience has been profoundly of sincere and non-negotiable honesty."
The environment secretary noted that while there have been many complaints about Jasareno, "every single person that has complained about him has not been able to give one shred of evidence."
On Thursday – exactly a week since she announced the results of the mining audit – Lopez maintained that she followed the rule of law when she decided to close 23 mines in the country and suspend 5 others. (READ: Lopez: Mining audit team wanted fines, I chose closures)
"What I did was pretty something 'di ba (right)? Twenty-three mines, oh my God. What I was thinking, because I don't know how long I'm going to last here. My Commission of Appointments [confirmation] is coming. If I'm in [ABS-CBN], I'm just a tree-hugger 'di ba (right)? But now I'm DENR secretary, so let me use my position now, because I don't trust politics," she said candidly.
She added, "Now that I'm still here, DENR secretary, so let me close the mines, so at least I can show the public what it is." (READ: After DENR's mining audit, what happens now?)
Mining firms on Tuesday, February 7, invoked the Freedom of Information measure in compelling the DENR to release the full results of the mining audit. – Rappler.com