Apayao folks harassed due to cases filed over hydro project
Things are getting heated between community folks in Kabugao, Apayao and the accused employees of the National Commission on Indi- genous Peoples-Cordillera and local officials due to the earlier cases filed by the former over the proposed hydropower project in Apayao.
Lawyer Ryan James Solano, spokesperson of the group of lawyers representing the Kabugao community, said there were reports their clients were being threatened and harassed by the accused persons in two criminal and administrative cases filed last December and January.
“We cannot disclose the nitty-gritty yet but we received at least 20 complaints of threats and harassment, and we have evidence to back them,” Solano said.
He said they are preparing to file more cases against these persons, which will be filed before the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Office of the Ombudsman, aside from possible criminal char-ges.
Solano of Cortes Law Office, collaborated with Molintas and Partners Law; Donaal and Partners Law; Lidua, Daping and Partners Law; BMW Law; Comafay Law; and the Free Legal Assistance Group in the earlier filing over 300 counts of cases before the Ombudsman and the Apayao Provincial Prosecutor.
The cases filed were estafa, falsification of documents, and use of falsified documents as well as for acts penalized by the Ombudsman Act and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The accused are NCIP-Cordillera Acting Director Atanacio Addog, Apayao NCIP Provincial Officer Agnes Gabuat, Apayao NCIP Provincial Legal Officer Geoffrey Calderon, Kabugao NCIP Acting Head Jezryl Inopia, and the NCIP FPIC team.
Included in the charges are Kabugao Vice Mayor Fabulous Tucjang, Municipal Indigenous People Mandatory Representative John Anthony Amid, and several individuals.
The complaints stemmed from a December 2019 community resolution naming several persons as “representatives” in negotiating with Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corporation (Pan Pacific) over its proposed 150-megawatt Gened-1 Hydroelectric Power Project.
Pan Pacific, a hydropower firm, intends to build two mega dam facilities along the Apayao River, affecting the ancestral domain of the Isnag.
Many of the complainants claimed they did not sign any resolution and their signatures were forged, while others claimed they were deceived into signing the document as a receipt for government aid.
The high-ranking NCIP officials were being accused for allowing the questioned resolution to go through despite the recommendation of the NCIP regional review team there were observations of “evidently falsified signatures, repeated signatories, and dubious signatures, among others.”
The questioned resolution was then used to usher in the processing of the FPIC which led to the issuance of the certification precondition, now also a subject of complaint at the NCIP commission en banc.
On top of the cases being prepared, the collaboration of lawyers is expected to file seven separate more cases before the Ombudsman and the Provincial Prosecutor.
The lawyers also asked the Regional State Prosecutor to order the entire Apayao Provincial Prosecutor’s Office to inhibit from handling the case.
Proposed right at the heart of Apayao’s capital town of Kabugao, Gened-1 and the 250-megawatt Gened-2 HEPP threaten to submerge the Kabugao and Tawit ancestral domains.
Both are projects of San Miguel Corp. (SMC)-controlled Pan, one of the eight Philippine conglomerates and corporations that benefited from the $3-billion loan agreement the Duterte administration entered with China in 2016. – Ofelia C. Empian