LINGAYEN– Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan described as “very harsh and sweeping indictment” the order of the Office of the Omnbudsman dismissing him and Alvin Bigay, provincial housing and urban development officer.
“This is a sad development considering that the motion for reconsideration of the resolution which we filed remains pending and unresolved,” Baraan said.
The Ombudsman ordered the two key officials of the provincial government dismissed from the service for abuse of authority and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.
The anti-graft body also stripped Baraan and Bigay of retirement benefits and perpetually disqualified them from holding public office. Their civil service eligibilities were also ordered cancelled.
“This is a very harsh and sweeping indictment of public servants whose only fault is their over-eagerness to help improve the lives of their provincemates by way of helping in the overall effort to attract investors, generate livelihood and income opportunities for the people,” Baraan said in a press statement.
The writ implementing the Ombudsman resolution that ordered the dismissal of the two provincial officials was served by DILG Regional Director Julie Daquioag in compliance with a memorandum from the Office of the Undersecretary of Local Government.
Baraan and Bigay filed on Dec. 16 with the Ombudsman an “Urgent Motion to Lift the Implementing Order” until the earlier motion for reconsideration is resolved.
“We believe that the joint resolution handed down overlooked our basic constitutional right to due process,” Baraan said. He, however, expressed the hope the Ombudsman will be “able to pass upon some grave errors and other basic issues which we discussed in our motion for reconsideration.”
“Although this predicament has caused us despair, we understand that this is all part of the process that we need to go through to clear our names. We remain steadfast in our belief that truth and justice will eventually prevail,” Baraan said.
The two provincial officials were accused before the Ombudsman of alleged involvement in the illegal quarrying of black sand in an area within a proposed golf course project near the shoreline of the Lingayen Gulf.
The regional director of the Geosciences and Mines Bureau (GMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), however, declared there was no illegal mining undertaken in the area.
The EMB official had maintained that extraction of black sand was necessary to allow turf grass to grow on the golf course.
The agency has also determined that the extracted magnetite sand remain stockpiled in an area near the proposed golf course project, and were never exported as claimed.
The provincial government started land site development of the proposed project as a way of attracting investors.
The GMB finding was later confirmed by the complainants themselves in an affidavit stating that “not a single grain of magnetite sand has left the area and the stockpile remains intact where it was originally stored.”
The case stemmed from a complaint filed against Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino, Baraan, Bigay and 11 other government officials and private individuals in 2012.
The administrative case against Gov. Espino was dismissed on account of the doctrine of condonation with his re-election in 2013.
In a statement, Espino lamented the dismissal of Baraan and Bigay as “a very sorrowful experience.”
“It is very unfortunate that the provincial government have to suffer from actions that are prudent and highly necessary to accelerate economic development for the benefit of our constituents,” he said.
The provincial chief executive, however, remains hopeful that justice will be won in no time for his two key executives.
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