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Baraan, Bigay leave Capitol

OMBUDSMAN’S ORDER

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—Two top ranking officials of the provincial government of Pangasinan were dismissed from service following the implementation of a joint resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the alleged unlawful magnetite mining operations in this coastal town.

In a memorandum signed by Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Austere Panadero dated Nov. 28, 2014, it ordered Director Julie Daquioag, officer-in-charge of the DILG in Region 1 for the implementation of the joint resolution of the Ombudsman where respondents Rafael Baraan, provincial administrator of Pangasinan, and Engr. Alvin Bigay, head of the Provincial Urban Housing and Development Council were “adjudged guilty of grave misconduct and meted the penalty of dismissal from the service, with the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture or retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service”.

In the order, it said that in the 1st Indorsement dated Oct. 15, 2014 which was received by the DILG on Oct. 27, Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan, referred the said Ombudsman Resolution to the secretary of the DILG for immediate implementation against respondents Baraan and Bigay.

Both Baraan and Bigay have not been reporting for work since last Friday week. They filed their motion for reconsideration but legal luminaries who asked not to be identified said this will not stay the implementation of the order.

In a statement Friday of Governor Espino, he said that,” It is very unfortunate that the provincial government has to suffer actions we believe, are prudent and highly necessary that we have done to accelerate economic development for the benefit of the constituents.”

The statement added,” We lament this very sorrowful experience dealt on Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan and Housing Chief Alvin Bigay as a result of unexpected decision of the Ombudsman.”

Espino said he believes however “that this will be won in no time for our two executives”.

In OMB-C-C-12-0028-A, respondents Amado Espino Jr. (Pangasinan governor), Baraan, Cesar Detera, Edwin Alcazar, Lolita Bolayog, Denise Ann Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Cynthia Camara, Glenn Subia and Emiliano Bautista were indicted for violation of Section 3(E) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, in relation to the unlawful magnetite mining operations of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc and respondents Espino, Baraan, Bigay, Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar, Avery Pujol, Cynthia Camara and Lolita Bolayog be indicted for violation of Section 3(E) of RA 3019, as amended, in relation to the unlawful magnetite mining operations of Xypher Builders Inc.

The same administrative disciplinary case OMB-C-A-12-0024-A was dismissed against Espino on account of the doctrine of condonation by reason of his re-election to the same position (in 2013).

The case stemmed from the complaint filed on Jan. 16, 2012 by Vicente Oliquino et. al. from coastal barangays of Sabangan, Capandanan and Malimpuec where they accused the respondents of operating illegal black sand or magnetite mines.

Lingayen Gulf was declared by then President Fidel Ramos as an environmentally critical area.

ECO-TOURISM PROJECT

On June 30, 2007, Espino then elected governor, made plans for the development of the area covered under Proclamation No. 1258, series of 1998. Utilizing his own personal resources, respondent Espino cleared the area of wild vegetation and informal settlers, the Ombudsman resolution said.

The area was to be made into an eco-tourism complex.

The complainants averred that respondents’ collective actuations are criminally and administratively actionable. They alleged that the eco-tourism-cum-golf course project is a ploy to disguise their unlawful mining activities.

Respondents countered by invoking regularity in the performance of their official duties, arguing that the project is actually a duly-authorized land development undertaking of the province that is highly favorable to the latter.

The Ombudsman said there are reasonable grounds to believe that the magnetite extraction activities by Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders were unlawful.- (Tita Roces) 

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