The Office of the Ombudsman has found Mayor Jean Feliciano of Brooke’s Point, Palawan guilty of “Oppression or Grave Abuse of Authority” following her illegal actions in stopping the operations of Ipilan Nickel Corporation and demolishing mining properties.
The Ombudsman said that “she is suspended for one (1) year from service without pay” for taking “undue advantage of her official position”.
Records show that Feliciano issued a Closure Order dated May 22, 2017, a Cease and Desist Order dated July 24, 2017, and a Demolition Order dated August 11, 2017 against Ipilan Nickel on the strength of a resolution from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revoking the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of the company.
But the DENR resolution has yet to attain finality at the time pending a decision on Ipilan’s motion for reconsideration, making the ECC valid and subsisting, the Ombudsman said.
Without authority, Feliciano led the demolition of gates, fences, staff house, and other structures in the mine site, an event “duly supported by reports and affidavits of witnesses” according to the Ombudsman. In a June 5, 2020 Resolution, the DENR eventually confirmed the validity of Ipilan’s ECC and recalled the Cease and Desist Order it issued. “We have always conducted our operations under applicable rules and regulations and remain firmly committed to responsible mining. We hope this decision will allow us to move towards community development and sustainable growth in Brooke’s Point and nearby communities,” said Engr. Carlo Matilac, project operations head of Ipilan Nickel. The cutting of trees in the area earlier elicited reactions from some quarters but the Office of the Ombudsman notes that Ipilan had a valid Special Tree Cutting and EarthBalling Permit.
It says that the mayor has arrogated to herself the power to establish violations of a permit, which her office did not issue. This is irregular, bordering on oppression, as it was even done without due process or allowing Ipilan to explain its side. The absence of a mayor’s permit and other permits cannot be used against Ipilan as she publicly made her intentions clear that she was against mining in her area. The Office of the Ombudsman also cites a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) between the government andIpilan Nickel, which remains in force. The local government of Brooke’s Point is bound by the MPSA and the mayor should have dealt with INC in “good faith” before rushing to issue any adverse orders and destroy mining properties.