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Barbers-Pichay 'war' rages

  • Written by Jester P. Manalastas
  • Published in Nation
  • Read: 259

SURIGAO del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers yesterday filed an ethics complaint against Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay for alleged illegal mining activities and other serious transgressions.

The eight-page complaint is the counter-charge of Barbers to Pichay, who last month filed a complaint before the House committee on ethics for misbehavior.

The two Mindanao solons engaged in a verbal tussle and came to a near fistfight during the first hearing on Charter Change (Cha-Cha).

Barbers asked the House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to investigate Pichay’s involvement in illegal mining.

He said Pichay has violated the anti-graft law and the Constitution, was guilty of abuse of authority, inappropriate behavior, conflict of interest and conduct unbecoming of a public official, for muscling his way into and stealing the business identity, theft of minerals and gaining at least P86 million from a suspended mining firm in Claver, Surigao del Norte.

Barbers said it is not tolerable for a congressman to pursue his financial interests while discharging his public duties.
    
“Mr. Pichay clearly falls in this category and, in the eyes of the public, he does not creditably reflect the good name and reputation of this august Chamber,” he said.
    
According to Barbers,  he has voluminous documents that would show proof that Pichay violated the Constitution and Anti-Graft laws when he committed “direct or indirect financial interest in any contract, franchise or special privilege granted by the government” and for “intervening in any matter before any office of the government for his own pecuniary benefit.”
    
Pichay’s role in the corporate identity and mineral theft of CMDC started in 2015 when he claimed he had bought substantial or majority shares of the CMDC from one Ms. Fe Ligtas.
    
Between 2002 and 2006, Ms. Ligtas had sold all her shares to the Hervic Calo group and the Ireneo Cesar group.  The Court of Appeals, in its recent decision on the CMDC corporate squabble, stated that Ms. Ligtas owns only 0.03 percent of the firm.
    
Ms. Ligtas later formed a new corporation and tried to re-register it with the SEC using the same CMDC name.  Upon discovery though, the SEC ordered her to rename it. She complied by renaming it to Earth Power Mining Corporation, and later to Henhao Equipments Corporation.  She later sold her majority shares to Pichay.
 
“This means that what Mr. Pichay bought, if he really did, wittingly or unwittingly, from Ms. Ligtas was a firm totally different and distinct from CMDC,” Barbers said.
   
Using spurious documents to lay claim, take control, and operate the CMDC mine site; and removing the stockpile of nickel ores at the suspended mine site for environmental reasons as a pretext, Barbers said Mr. Pichay managed to muscle his way into obtaining permits to mine, haul, ship and sell minerals from the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Board.
   
Pichay’s reply
   
Pichay is ready to face the complaint filed against him before the House Committee on Ethics and will prove his detractor Barbers wrong.
    
Pichay expressed confidence that the House ethics committee will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the complaint against him.
    
Pichay described Barbers’ revelations in his privilege speech “all lies” and

motivated by political vendetta.
    
Contrary to the claim of Barbers, Pichay said his group had purchased the Claver Mineral Development Corp. (CMDC) in October last year when he was not yet a member of the House.
    
He said the company already had an existing mineral sharing agreement with the government even before he purchased shares in CMDC, and thus the transaction was not contrary to any provisions under the Constitution or laws as alleged by Barbers.
    
“The CMDC offices, mine site and wharf are also located in Carrascal, Surigao del Sur and not in Surigao del Norte as Barbers claimed. This is but another example of the inaccuracies and outright lies being peddled by Barbers,” Pichay stressed.
    
Pichay also pointed out that the new mine owners were not operating the mine, but rather rehabilitating it to reverse the environmental degradation caused by the previous management which saw the mine’s closure in 2012 by the Minerals and Geosciences  Bureau (MGB).
    
On the other hand, he said CMDC had also gone through the proper process to acquire ore shipment permits during the previous administration before he became congressman. The ore shipments were part of the mine rehabilitation program mandated by the MGB, since these were waste ores accumulated during the cleanup and were not the result of a resumption of mine operations.
 
“We have gone through all proper processes to secure the necessary permits from the MGB.”