The Bohol police command has recommended the filing of appropriate administrative and criminal charges against officials of the local government unit (LGU) of Anda for their alleged negligence of duty and apparent tolerance of illegal quarry activities that had claimed four lives so far.
Senior Supt. Angeles Geñorga, Bohol police director, told members of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) on Thursday that after his personal inspection and initial investigation, he concluded that the illegal quarry in Anda has been going on for several years, noting that the manual (mano-mano) limestone extraction had caused massive damageto the environment.
Geñorga said that following the death of two quarry workers last Monday, he immediately ordered the chief of police of Anda to implement the law strictly and monitorthe quarry area closely to avoid repetition of the same tragedy.
The police director told the council that he would recommend the filing of criminal and administrative charges against officials of the town and the barangay for their failure to stop the illegal activity for years.
Under the law, the mayor of Anda is mandated to implement laws and ordinances.
The existence of illegal activities in a town manifests either tolerance or approval of the town officials, sources said.
Bohol Tribune sources said laws could notbe implemented when the officials themselves are lawbreakers.
In an interview with local radio station, acting Mayor Nilo Bersabal, who assumed the top post of the town after the Ombudsman suspension of mayor Angelina “Inday” Simacio over an overpriced project, admitted on air that he had benefited from the illegal quarry. Bersabal owns a hollow block-making business in Barangay Candabong, Anda, where two persons were killed on March 5, 2018 after a landslide at the quarry site. In August 2011, two minors were also killed at the same quarry site in Anda.
Another former official Anda, former vice-mayor Eddie Tan, is also an alleged owner of a hollow block business in the town. One of his dump trucks was allegedly found at the quarry site.
Anapog, or limestone, is one of the main ingredients for making hollow blocks, in replacement of the erstwhile preference,refinedsand from the seashores.
According to former Anda municipal administrator Enie Makinano, Simacio and her live-in partner, Paulino Amper, used to own a construction company/store.
Makinano, in an interview over station dyTR on Saturday, said that the illegal quarry activities in Anda started as early as in the 1990s.
Paulino Amper and Simacio have been ruling the town of Anda for the last 30 years since the late 1980s.
The only time that the quarry operation stopped was when Metodio “Dodong” Amper (a distant relative of Paulino) was elected Mayor of Anda in 2013, according to Makinano.
Makinano said that from 2013 and 2016, or during the three-year administration of ex-mayor Dodong Amper, all quarry activities in Anda totally ended.
In fact, Makinano revealed, a dump truck hauling limestone from Anda and being owned by a neighboring town Mayor was apprehended by law enforcers as part of the crackdown of illegal quarry mandated by ex-mayor Dodong Amper.
But the illegal quarry activities resumed after the 2016 elections following Simacio’s return to power.
“Naundang lang ang mga illegal nga pag-quarry sa lungsod sa Anda niadtong paglingkod ug mayor ni Dodong Amper sugod sa 2013 hangtud sa 2016,” Makinano said.
Gov. Edgar M. Chatto told The Bohol Tribune that upon his assumption as governor in 2010 he already took notice of the quarry operation in Anda, and after an investigation, he ordered a full stoppage of any quarry activity in the town.
Chatto said that when ex-Mayor Dodong Amper and the provincial government worked on the road concreting project from Suba to Badiang, in a tourism road pushed by Chatto, no quarry materials were taken from the mountains of Anda, as part of his commitment onpreserving the environment of the town.
Meanwhile, Chatto stood firm on his decision to shut down the killer quarry site in Anda after two persons were pinned down under the rubble following a landslide on Monday.
“The Provincial Government’s answer is no,” said Chatto when asked by Anda town officials, barangay Candabong residents and national agency representatives by any chance residents be allowed to go back and work on the quarry site.
Chatto, who rushed to Anda on Wednesday night right after receiving reports that the bodies of Valerio Galeya and Ariel Abac were already retrieved.
He met with the victims’ families and Anda local government unit officials.
Chatto was with Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) Officer Anthony R. Damalerio and Acting police provincial director Sr. Supt. Angel Geñorga during the visit.
Damalerio and Geñorga gave their respective inputs about the Search and Retrieval Operations that happened earlier that day, in cooperation with TaRSIER 117 and other similar units from neighboring municipalities.
Chatto clarified certain issues with Anda local government officials led by Acting Mayor Nilo Bersabal. The top issue was the gamble of residents to work in the illegal quarry due to lack of livelihood.
The governor was shocked to learn some residents continue to work at the illegal quarry since they want “easy money and bigger income.”
The residents have been told to stop the illegal activities. However, the residents were adamant to continue working on the deadly quarry site. They are willing to gamble their lives on the quarry site since,in the event of an accident, their bodies can be found, unlike in the sea.
Bersabal said that residents are tempted to engage in illegal quarrying at the site since they are their boss. Residents who work in the quarry site earn handsomely, and need not follow certain work hours.
Chatto gave the directive to representatives from the Office of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development (OPSWD) to immediately engage residents in a dialogue the soonest time possible and look for means to start more livelihood projects in the area.
He said laws must be implemented, with no compromises, “especially if human lives are in peril.”
As can be remembered, said quarry site was used by the Provincial Engineer’s Office (PEO) during the time of the late Gov. Erico B. Aumentado.
The permit for the site was no longer issued by the Chatto administration and ordered closed.
The governor directed Geñorga to investigate the incident further and give the report to him the soonest.
He also instructed Anda town and barangay officials to help in the stoppage and seriously implement pertinent laws.
Chatto personally handed over financial assistance from the Provincial Government to the victims’ families, telling them not to hesitate to ask for further assistance, financial or otherwise.(with report
from Janet Villarojo/DSA)