MANILA - Surigao del Sur Congressman Prospero Pichay lashed out at allegations that he illegally acquired a controlling stake in a mining company which later forcibly evicted an indigenous people's (IP) community within its concession area.
On Friday, Datu James Biol and Datu Renante Buklas, chieftains of Manobo and Mamanwa IP groups in southern Philippines, filed graft and grave abuse of authority complaints against Pichay before the Office of the Ombudsman.
They accused Pichay of conspiring with Mines and Geosciences Bureau officials to pursue mining operations in a 433-hectare land in Barangay Cagdianao, Claver, Surigao del Norte. Mamanwas laid ancestral domain claims over the land area.
Pichay, after taking over Claver Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC) operations on February 11, 2016, forcibly evicted the Mamanwas from the site.
Biol and Buklas questioned Pichay's authority to mine and force Mamanwas away.
"The latest ruling from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on May 6, 2016, reveals that Pichay had no claim whatsoever in the said corporation. In fact, SEC revoked all papers of Pichay," the complaint read.
CDMC, under Pichay, also allegedly failed to give royalties to Mamanwas.
In a phone interview, Pichay asserted his claims over CMDC. He also challenged Biol and Buklas to bring the case to a proper court and show documentary evidence to prove their ownership over the mining land.
"Pursue your case in the regional trial Court and then show your documents. Mag-appeal kayo kung tingin niyo mali ang Municipal Trial Court," Pichay said. "If you are legitimate owners…then I will give you royalty (sic)."
The congressman questioned the Biol and Buklas' complaints before the Ombudsman, saying the complainants appeared to be forum shopping.
These allegations have already been brought up before the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), but were eventually ruled in his favor, Pichay added.
Aside from Pichay, other respondents were former and incumbent MGB officials Cesar Detera, Dir. Leo Jasareno, Asst. Dir. Danilo Uykieng, Regional Dir. Alilio Ensomo, Engr. Ador Patino, and Jose Salve Cabiling.