Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Tuesday filed with the House ethics committee counter charges of unethical behavior against Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay over alleged illegal mining activities in Claver, Surigao del Norte.
Barbers accused Pichay of violating the Anti-Graft Law and the 1987 Constitution, abuse of authority, inappropriate behavior, conflict of interest and conduct unbecoming of a public official "for muscling his way into stealing the business identity, theft of minerals and profiting at least P86 million" from the mining activities.
Barbers filed the ethics complaint a day after delivering a privilege speech before the House plenary, detailing his accusation that Pichay had illegally taken over a 433-hectare mining site operated by Claver Mineral Development Corp. in Surigao del Sur.
He said Pichay "pretended to be the president of CMDC to cause the filing of an ejectment suit against the people occupying the suspended mining site."
According to Barbers, Pichay, in October 2015, acquired majority shares in Hen Hao Equipment Corp. and Earth Power Mining Corp. He said Hen Hao's former name was Earth Power, which in turn used to have the same name as CMDC until the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered its renaming.
Barbers claimed Pichay used his connections at the SEC and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to take control of the mining firm and continue its alleged illegal nickel ore mining operations.
Barbers claimed the Mamanwa indigenous group in the area had been oppressed, manhandled, and abused by the group of Pichay when the latter allegedly illegally and forcibly took possession of a mining site.
In a statement, Pichay denied Barbers' allegations as "utter lies without basis and which are motivated by partisan politics." He challenged Barbers "not to hide behind his cloak of parliamentary immunity."
In response, Barbers said: "It is funny when Pichay accuses me of hiding behind parliamentary immunity instead of answering the charges squarely. His tactic is the escape and defense of the guilty."
"Nobody is doing anything to smear Mr. Pichay's reputation. You can all dig into the numerous administrative and criminal cases that have filed against him in the past in various court. Just Google his name and you will find out that he himself, not anybody, had openly and brazenly smeared his own name and reputation," added Barbers.