PRESS RELEASE: December 2, 2008

Office of the Ombudsman
Charges filed against Mayor, other officials of Malay, Aklan for illegal construction of hotel resort in Boracay

lifted from:

The Field Investigation Office (FIO) of the Office of the Ombudsman has forwarded for preliminary investigation administrative and criminal charges against the Mayor and other officials of the municipality of Malay, Aklan for allowing the construction of a hotel-resort in a protected forestland.

Charges of violation of Section 3(e) and (j) of Republic Act 3019 (The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, R.A. 1586 (An Act Proclaiming Certain Areas as Environmentally Critical), and Presidential Decree No. 705 (Forestry Code) were recommended against Ceciron S. Cawaling, Mayor; Engr. Elizer B. Casidsid, Municipal Engineer; and Alma S. Belejerdo, Zoning Administrator, all of Malay, Aklan; Jesus A. King, Barbara L. King, Richard L. King, John L. King, and Rafael L. King, incorporators of of J. King and Sons Company, Inc., contractor of the project.

Cawaling, Casidsid and Belejerdo were also recommended to be administratively charged for Gross Neglect of Duty, Gross Misconduct, and Conduct grossly prejudicial to best interest of the service for their failure to stop the construction of Boracay Crown Regency.

In the complaint filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), it was alleged that the Boracay Crown Regency and Convention Center is being constructed on a piece of wetland which falls within the classification of protected areas by the DENR.

The complaint said that J. King and Sons Company "did not comply with the requirements of Environmental Laws prior to the construction of the Boracay Crown Regency", and that the respondent local officials were "negligent in suspending the construction as likewise liable in the issuance of the building permits without the required Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC)."

A physical assessment conducted by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Division of the DENR revealed that the said area is a wetland, as evidenced by the slightly saline or brackish waters, lush shrubs and mangroves, and the various species of fish found there. In addition, the said area was called by the locals as "lasinan," or an area used for making salt, and is connected to the Dead Forest, an opening to the sea.

The complaint also averred that the respondent local officials had been negligent in implementing Resolution No. 042 issued by the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay, which was issued in response to the DENR's call for a moratorium on new construction of structures/buildings in Boracay. Records showed that the said resolution was enacted on September 26, 2007 and signed by Cawaling on October 10, 2007. Cawaling only directed Casidsid and Belejerdo to implement the said resolution on January 2, 2008.

The FIO also recommended that Cawaling, Casidsid and Belejerdo be placed under preventive suspension pursuant to Section 34 of R.A. 6770 (The Ombudsman Act of 1989) to facilitate the conduct of the investigation.

If found guilty, they may face imprisonment of up to 15 years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the Government of any prohibited interest and unexplained wealth manifestly out of proportion to his salary and lawful income.

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