Bohol Gov. 68 others suspended

Ric Obedencio - The Philippine Star
Bohol Gov. 68 others suspended
Photo shows Captain’s Peak Resort.
STAR / File

Chocolate Hills Resort probe

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has preventively suspended Bohol Gov. Aris Aumentado and 68 others including town mayors for six months without pay in connection with the investigation into the controversial construction of Captain’s Peak Resort at the foot of Chocolate Hills.

The ombudsman field investigation office (FIO), as complainant, “charges public respondents with grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service relative to the construction, operation and expansion of Captain’s Peak Resort in Canmano, Sagbayan, Bohol, an establishment nestled in the middle of the iconic Chocolate Hills National Monument (CHNM), a declared protected in Bohol.”

The resort has no Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and Special Use Agreement in Protected Areas (SAPA) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

The ombudsman FIO said that the “public respondents acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence and committed gross violations” of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 and the expanded NIPAS Act of 2018.

Preventive suspension may be imposed if the evidence of guilt is strong, and the charge against such officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression, grave misconduct or neglected in the performance of duty; the charges would warrant removal from the service or the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him/her as provided under section 24 of republic Act 6770.

In a text message to The STAR, Ombudsan Samuel Martires confirmed that his office issued a preventive suspension order against Aumentado and other local officials in Bohol on May 22.

Martires said that order was signed on his behalf by Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval as he was on official leave at that time.

The ombudsman also said the suspension is “immediately executory,” notwithstanding any motion, appeal or petition that may be filed by the respondents, unless ordered halted by the ombudsman itself or any court of competent jurisdiction.

The office of Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. was tasked to implement the suspension order.
Aside from Aumentado, also ordered preventively suspended were chief executives of several towns in Bohol namely: Sagbayan mayor Restituto Suarez III, Batuan mayor Antonino Jumawid, Catigbian mayor Elizabeth Pace, Clarin mayor Eugenio Ibarra, Bilar mayor Norman Palacio, former Bilar mayor Manuel Jayectin, Bilar vice mayor Ranulfo Maligmat, Sierra Bullones mayor Michael Doria, Sierra Bullones vice-mayor Simplico Maestrado Jr., Valencia mayor Dionisio Neil Balite, Carmen mayor Conchita Delos Reyes and former Carmen mayor Ricardo Toribio.

Also ordered suspended were DENR-EMB regional director Ma. Victoria Abrera and DENR Region 7 Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) regional director Gilbert Gonzales.

Likewise ordered suspended were several barangay officials as well as regional officials of the Office of the Civil Defense, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Agriculture.

The Chocolate Hills Natural Monument in Bohol is a legislated protected area.

Bohol Island is also declared a UNESCO Global Geopark, the only tourism area in the country to secure the coveted title.

During an inquiry hearing by the joint Senate environment and local government committees, the Land Registration Authority confirmed that there are already 5,652 titled properties spanning 7,860 hectares at the Chocolate Hills. — Elizabeth Marcelo

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