Two chieftains of indigenous tribes from Surigao del Norte filed graft and grave misconduct charges on Friday against Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. and 10 others for allegedly conspiring with one another to illegally mine, transport and sell nickel ores from ancestral lands.
The charges, filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, were in relation to ancestral lands in Barangay Cagdianao in Claver.
Datu James Biol of the Manobo tribe and Datu Renante Baklas of the Mamanwa tribe accused Pichay of resorting to fraud to gain control of Claver Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC), which allegedly evicted members of the Mamanwa tribe and other IPs from their ancestral lands.
The Mamanwas were reportedly "physically dragged out" from their ancestral lands after a Metropolitan Circuit Trial Court ruled in favor of MCTC in a case concerning mining operations in the area.
They claimed that the Mamanwas were "physically dragged out" from their ancestral land on Feb. 11, 2016.
Pichay's company has since occupied the ancestral lands following the Mamanwas' eviction.
"Respondent Pichay was mining at the site without our consent, and/or Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) considering that the previous FPIC has already been void ab initio at no point in time did the Mamanwa Tribe consented and allowed respondent Pichay from the site,” the complainants said.
Under Section 16 of Republic Act 7942, no ancestral land shall be opened for mining operations without prior consent of the IP community concerned.
After taking over the Mamanwas’ ancestral domain, the chieftains said Pichay used his power as a congressman to ship out illegally extracted minerals from the site by claiming his company needs to remove hazardous minerals.
Based on the chieftains’ estimates, the nickel ores mined and sold by Pichay from the CMDC mine has a value of around $1.8 million. The shipments were made to China, they said.
“Obviously, respondent Pichay could not have successfully committed the foregoing criminal acts which continues and persists up to the present were it not for the active participation of all the respondents from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau,” the chieftains said.
Aside from Pichay, also charged in the complaint were his mining partner Cesar Detera, former MGB director Leo Jasareno, MGB assistant director Leo Uykieng, MGB Caraga regional director Alilio Ensomo, Ador Patino of MGB Surigao City, Fe Ligtas, Teofranco Mallari, Lolita Bolayog, Allan Plaza and Jose Salve Cabiling. —KG, GMA News