Cavite town mayor, 2 others dismissed for allowing water project
MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed Indang, Cavite Mayor Bienvenido Dimero and two other municipal officials for grave misconduct in connection with the project of a private firm seeking to extract water from the town's rivers.
Dimero, Councilor Arcadio Ramos, and Barangay Captain Roberto Aterrado were also perpetually disqualified from holding public office, based on the Ombudsman's decision received by Cavite environmentalists on Wednesday, January 27.
The 3 officials also face criminal charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan after the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict them for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Ombudsman said in a decision sent to the Save Waters of Indang Movement (SWIM) on January 18.
Dimero and Aterrado are accused of accepting bribes from water company PTK2 H20 to allow the construction of a water filtration plant in Ikloy River in Indang without the required permits.
Ramos is charged with indirect bribery and corruption of public officials for allegedly offering bribe money from PTK2 H20 to other councilors, and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees.
Cavite residents and environmentalists banded together to form SWIM to oppose the water project for lacking an environmental impact assessment and other permits.
In 2008, Dimero issued a certification to PTK2 H20 authorizing it “to utilize, use, or tap” 4 rivers in Indang. In 2012, the company began ground clearing operations and excavation in Barangay Kayquit II.
Aterrado, the barangay captain, “failed to ensure that PTK2 had the necessary local permits, licenses, or clearances prior to the conduct of construction activities,” the Ombudsman said in its resolution.
The mayor and barangay captain were evidently conspiring together “because the latter would not have committed such acts or omissions without the authority and consent of the former," the Ombudsman said.
Apparently in cahoots with the company, Dimero and Aterrado “clearly acted with gross inexcusable negligence, manifest partiality or evident bad faith, and gave undue advantage, unwarranted benefit or preference to PTK2," the Ombudsman added.
Ramos, meanwhile, allegedly offered his fellow councilors P30,000 each from PTK2 H20.
Four councilors – Rey Zafra, John Marc Cayao, Estelita Lopez, and Robinson Bernarte – testified about the bribery before the Ombudsman.
Indang Vice Mayor Perfecto Fidel and 4 other councilors – Elpidio Legaspi, Ruperto Baes, Virgilio Rodil, and Virgilio Fidel – are also suspected of accepting bribes from the water company. The Ombudsman said it would conduct an investigation into the allegation.
The Court of Appeals had earlier issued a Writ of Kalikasan – special legal remedy for communities threatened by imminent environmental damage – stopping PTK2 H20’s controversial water project.
"This is our second victory for the environment," said SWIM's Iluminada Silao.
"After securing our historic Writ of Kalikasan, which stopped the PTK2 water project from draining the waters of Indang, the Ombudsman decision made the erring public officials pay for supporting such a disadvantageous project," Silao added.
Zafra, one of the councilors who exposed the bribery, said the decision “shows that the strong arms of justice will not spare environmental plunderers.”
Aside from lacking permits, the PTK2 H20 project was thought to be unsustainable since it sought to extract more water than the Indang rivers were capable of discharging.
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