By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:19:00 01/18/2011
MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said her department would look into allegations of violations committed in the construction of the Aurora Pacific Economic and Freeport Zone (Apeco), describing testimony and evidence presented to her as apparently “extensive and complex.”
A group of farmers, fishermen, Dinagat tribe leaders and their supporters asked De Lima on Monday to help them press a case against Apeco, a pet project of Senator Edgardo Angara which cost the government at least P1 billion to build.
The group said Apeco violated various laws, including the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and Extension and Reform (Carper), Fisheries Code, Indigenous People’s Rights Acts, Government Auditing Code and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“I’m minded to create a panel to look into the allegations,” said De Lima in a text message to reporters after a press conference of the group protesting Apeco.
She said the panel would assess the pieces of evidence that have been presented by the group “and determine what case or cases may be filed and against whom.”
“The facts, as presented to me, appear extensive and complex,” said De Lima. “Hence, thorough study is essential.”
In a press conference, a member of the Dinagat tribe, a fisherman, a farmer and a landowner narrated Apeco’s alleged negative impact on their lives.
There was no consultation among the people of the town, they said.
Build a case
Bienvenido Salinas Jr., lawyer for the Task Force Anti-Apeco, said the testimony of Casiguran residents showed several violations.
Salinas said while his group hasn’t filed a formal complaint at the DoJ, it expects the DoJ to “build a case” against Apeco.
He said key members of the Angara clan sit in the Apeco board—Rep. Sonny Angara and Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.
Architect Felino Palafox Jr., whose firm was initially hired as master planner of Apeco, said while Senator Angara doesn’t sit on the board of Apeco, he appeared to be “micro-managing” the freeport.