Deadly Malampaya funds


Doctor Gerry Ortega, the 142nd journalist killed since 1986, was not just a critic of local mining in Palawan. In fact, I met him more than eight years ago because of his involvement in a civil society group, Kilusan Love Malampaya. The group advocates that the people of Palawan should have an “equitable share” in the wealth generated by the Malampaya natural gas and oil field and in the percentage identified by the Local Government Code: 40 percent of all such income generated by Malampaya. This initiative led to the filing of a case, which was finally the subject of oral arguments by the Supreme Court last year. On the basis of the court hearings, it is clear that the Malampaya issue is a three cornered fight: between civil society of Dr. Gerry and Bishop Pedro Arigo who want to enforce the literal provisions of the Constitution and the Local Government Code, the local government that entered into an illegal provisional sharing agreement which Justice Antonio Carpio described during oral arguments as effectively “ an amendment of the law”, and the national government of former President Arroyo that sought to spend the Malampaya funds as its pork barrel.
It is unfortunate that Doc Gerry did not live long to see the outcome of the case that he has lived for. Meanwhile, it is my duty as a friend and as his counsel to correct the mistake of national media speculating that his death may be related to his opposition to three on-going mining projects in Palawan.

The truth is that prior to his death, Doc Gerry was in constant contact with me concerning Commission on Audit reports which detail how Palawan’s local government officials have misused sums given to Palawan as part of the provisional sharing agreements. He was the one who furnished me with a copy of just one of the many COA reports that involved ghost projects, inferior projects and crass misappropriation of public funds. Some of the recommendations of the COA were: “ Refund of P49 million representing excessive cost of projects, disallowance of a P25 million consultancy project, refund of P6 million representing deficiencies, file appropriate charges against (then) Governor Joel T .Reyes, Vice-Governor David Ponce-De Leon, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the Provincial Administrator x x x”.

While Dr. Gerry’s dedication to the preservation of the environment was in fact notable, police authorities should not discount the involvement of these local officials as masterminds in his murder. I, together with many Palawenos, believe that ultimately, it is these local elected officials of Palawan who may have the motive to silence Dr Gerry.

As of the writing of this column, it has been reported that the gun used for the murder is registered in the name of the former provincial administrator of former Governor Reyes.

Dr. Gerry was first and foremost, one of my closest friends. I will miss him. Already, I miss his weekly phone patch during his daily broadcast in the local affiliate of RMN in Palawan. Ironically, Doc Gerry took over the slot of another broadcaster, Dong Batul, who himself was murdered.

Perhaps it is high time that President Noynoy Aquino once and for all take back his earlier pronouncement and marching orders to Secretary Leila De Lima to run after tax cheats and smugglers as a matter of his highest priority. Please, please: it’s high time that this administration, swept into power on a platform of change, should now accord the highest priority to investigating, prosecuting and punishing the killers in our society.

The Center for International Law, of which I am the chairman, that stood as counsel for Doc Gerry and KLM, and as an advocacy group that seeks to promote freedom of expression, condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent murder of Doc Gerry as yet another affront on freedom of the press. We call upon President Aquino to spearhead an investigation into his death, even if some of those who may want to see Doc Gerry dead happen to be his party mates.

***

The bomb attack on a passenger bus along EDSA has highlighted anew the country’s inability to deal with modern-day terrorism. Part of the problem is not that we do not have sufficient legal infrastructure to deal with terrorism, as in fact we do, including the dreaded Human Security Act that I have consistently criticized as being inconsistent with our human rights obligations; but that we do not have a working justice system to effectively investigate and punish terrorist.

Recall that when world class bomber, Al Ghozi, was apprehended and detained in Camp Crame, the notorious bomber, probably not liking his food ration, simply walked out of his detention cell. Ironically, it has also been reported that our government created the dreaded Abu Sayaff terrorist group and that the past dispensation allowed our territory to be used as a training ground by the Jemiah Islamiah and other terrorist groups.

In like manner that a working criminal justice system is the panacea to the malaise of extralegal killings, the same is also the panacea to the problem of terrorism. Absent a working legal system, what we will continue to have is more of what we see every day: the streets of Manila and the Philippines reduced into a jungle where lawlessness and terrorism prevail. Will anyone please tell me: who’s in charge here?

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7 comments on “Deadly Malampaya funds

  1. simonsbd says:

    i want comment on the senate inquiry – will anything hppen will anything change or will the star witness suddenly die and all forgotten and amputuans go home with golden handshake

  2. anna says:

    Palawan is going downhill too. This is really very bad news.

  3. Renato Pacifico says:

    We cannot afford environment now. Either children go hungry or save the environment. Everywhich way something gotta lose

    • Both our children and environment are precious resources we must keep. We need not ignore one for the sake of the other. In fact, a healthy environment not only offer rich soil good for food production but also clean air for our children to breathe. I believe we have so much resources to feed our children. The only problem is that we are not able to protect those resources from thieves. It is encouraging that some of those people are exposed now and I hope that stolen money be recovered from them and these money be used to feed our children body, mind and soul, altogether.

  4. Ricky says:

    Salam, i am dismayed and im sure that you also felt the same. currently we’re all facing financial probblems because of the global effect on oil price increase, i’m absolutely sure that philippines oil refinery like malampaya gas reources is quite enough to be used to support the country’s need for oil and gas. it can surely bring down wet and dry goods prices and other comodities. question… why cant we use this resources first and later import if needed? we live in a country rich in natural resources why cant we filino’s be the first to use it???

    • harryroque says:

      Thanks, Ricky. I feel much better that there is at least another soul that has similar thoughts. We are a poor people living in a very rich country

  5. Now is the time for us to explore most vigorously for alternative sources of energy afar from fossil fuels. We have the sun, wind, water and geothermal sources of power which are practically not dependent on fossil fuel. If it need be that our systems are not designed to harness energy from the four sources mentioned above and we need fuel to run our engines, for example diesel fuel for our gas turbines, trucks, buses, cars and jeepneys, we have a source that is clean and renewable and practically free from toxic emissions coming from the petroleum based diesel fuel. We can derive this fuel from plant sources like coconuts, jatropha, to name two and other plant sources. With the prices of petroleum products getting higher each day there is an attractive incentive to develop plantations of these shrubs and trees to supply our demand for diesel fuel. We also can produce diesel fuel from WASTE VEGETABLE OIL and ANIMAL FATS. The fuel is popularly known as BIO-DIESEL and the best thing about this BIO-DIESEL is that everyone can make it themselves and wont panic anymore if petroleum refineries shutdown. Bio-diesel is one emerging fuel for us and there will be more in the days to come.Let us just keep on searching and exploring and beware of some forces protective of big oil companies’ interest. Surely, these forces will move heaven and earth to put blockades on whatever way possible to protect their interest and their clients’.
    Thank you very much.

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