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PNP probes alleged bribery in Northern Mindanao Hanjin project

May 3, 2008 1:21am
MANILA, Philippines - The police will look into allegations of bribery and extortion made by a local government unit against a Korean industrial company, officials said Friday.

In a press conference at Camp Crame, Quezon City yesterday, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo V. Puno instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate allegations of a P400-million bribe offer to Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental Mayor Paulino Emano.

According to Mr. Emano, he was offered P400-million in contracts by officials of Hanjin to allow continued operation of the ship-building facility in the town.

On the other hand, Hanjin officials, through a letter-complaint filed before the office of Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, said one of its representatives was manhandled and roughed-up by men identified as municipal employees of Mr. Emano.

In the same letter, the Korean industrial firm also complained of alleged harassment of its employees by municipal officials.

PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Avelino I. Razon, Jr. created task force Tagovill, an investigating body to be led by Police Director Jefferson P. Soriano, Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) chief, to look into the accusations of the town mayor.

Mr. Puno said they would investigate Mr. Emano first and ensure that Mr. Emano is not using his political power to extort Hanjin. "In spirit of transparency, there would be no secret lost to the investigation," he said.

"The allegation of Hanjin is a severe blow to promote investments in the country. We will ensure local officials will cooperate in the government’s national effort of job creation on different projects all over the country," he added.

In a statement, Senator Pilar Juliana "Pia" S. Cayetano, chairperson of the committee on environment and natural resources, said, "I am outraged to hear that Hanjin offered such favor to the local official to allow them to continue construction even without first securing a municipal building permit and environmental compliance certificate, among others. These are basic requirements under the law, regardless of whether you’re a local or foreign investor."

Ms. Cayetano noted that Hanjin shows "utter refusal to abide by our laws" and the government is apparently seen "tolerating" the "violations of national and environmental laws," adding that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is "playing deaf and dumb again on what could possibly be another bribery attempt brought to her attention."

"We should send a clear message to investors that they are welcome but they must abide by our laws. If they do not want to follow our laws then they should leave our country," she added.

Hanjin had planned to operate a $2-billion shipyard that would extend from Tagoloan to Villanueva in Misamis Oriental. Its training center alone would occupy eight hectares, while the planned shipyard would be on a 70-hectare property in Tagoloan and on a 400-hectare property in Villanueva.

Mr. Emano earlier issued an order for Hanjin to cease operations after the company failed to present an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and a municipal building permit.

While investigations are ongoing, police chiefs of Tagoloan and Villanueva towns, Chief Inspector Claudio Mariquit and Senior Inspector Nanette Odchigue respectively, had been relieved from their posts, said Mr. Razon. — Jhoanna Frances S. Valdez and Bernard U. Allauigan, BusinessWorld
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