THE Chamber of Mines of the Philippines sued Environment Secretary Regina Lopez before the Office of the Ombudsman Monday, accusing her of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The complaint stems from Lopez’s Sept. 6 announcement that she would close 23 mining companies and suspend five others for violating environmental laws.
The chamber complained that the announcement was made even before the affected mining companies were given the results of a mining audit conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The affected companies were devastated by the turn of events, but powerless to stop the suspension. Several companies demanded to see the actual results of the mining audit but to no avail.
The chamber also hit Lopez for her “false and unfounded allegations against mining companies” that created problems for them with the Filipino public and their international clients.
In various news reports from September 2016 to January 2017, Lopez revealed her biases against mining companies.
“At the hearings at the Commission on Appointments, Lopez showed a lack of knowledge in the laws and process,” the complaint stated.
“She could not even define a watershed or a mineral production sharing agreement,” the complaint added.
The chamber said Lopez caused undue injury to a party, acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
The chamber also said Lopez “hired an excess of undersecretaries despite the lack of plantilla positions, using the slot meant for provincial environment and natural resources officers.”
During a CA hearing, Lopez said, “I need people whom I trust... The organic personnel do not have the capability to do what I want... What about the work I want to do for our country?”
The chamber said Lopez showed “complete and utter disregard of the law and simple regulation in order to fulfill her own personal interest and needs.”
Meanwhile, an employee of EcoGlobal Inc. is set to file this week a separate case against Lopez for publicly admitting that she had intervened with the Department of Energy last year in favor of a private company that was awarded a service contract for a $100 million power plant in Zamboanga City.
Lester Pascua, a spokesman for the complainant, said EcoGlobal Inc. paid for a trip to France for Lopez and her five-person party which left for Paris on Oct 2, or a day before the DoE awarded it the renewable energy service contract.
“Lopez could be found guilty for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for having sought to influence the DoE to award the contract to EI and for traveling to France with all expenses paid by the company to visit one of its partners in Paris,” Pascua said.
Earlier reports showed that on Sept. 29, EI CEO Jean-Philippe Henry issued a letter of guarantee to the French embassy in Manila pledging to pay the Lopez party’s “airfare, hotel accommodations, insurance coverage, and travel allowances for the entire duration of their business trip.”
Sabrina Simbulan, president and trustee of EFI earlier said that she and the EFI board of trustees did not authorize Henry’s withdrawal of funds for Lopez’s trip.
Lopez in earlier reports also admitted that she texted DoE Director Mario Marasigan, head of the Renewable Energy Management Bureau last September to ask him to award the power plant contract to EcoGlobal.
Based on internal communications revealed by company officials who have subsequently filed criminal cases against Henry, Lopez reportedly texted Marasigan without the knowledge of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
Based on the internal company communications in their WhatsApp network, Henry was in regular communication with Lopez on their difficulties in securing the RESC from the DoE for the proposed $100 million 30 MW solar plant in Zamboanga City which EI applied for in October 2015.
In her texts, Lopez scolded Marasigan for failing to more swiftly process EI’s RESC application, which she said should only take only 45 days to process.
However, approvals for new energy service contracts can undergo legitimate delays caused by the failure of the project proponent to pass all technical, legal, and financial requirements.
Company officials also claimed that the WhatsApp messages also showed Henry thanking Lopez profusely for her texts to the DoE official. Lopez and Henry had reportedly connected before her appointment as DENR secretary on proposed environment projects to be implemented by Henry with Lopez.
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