SORSOGON CITY – The Regional Trial Court Branch 53 of Sorsogon City in its order dated September 16, this year, dismissed the petition filed by the anti- mining group who questioned the legality of the operation of the iron ore mine in the Municipality of Matnog, reasoning that the rules and procedures for environmental cases under Administrative Matter No. 09-6-8-C defines the jurisdiction of a regional trial court over the territory where the actionable neglect or omission occurred.
Subsequently, Judge Rofebar Gerona, further avers that Administrative Order No. 23-008 issued by the Supreme Court limits the jurisdiction of Branch 53 to hear environmental cases to Sorsogon City, the municipalities of Donsol, Pilar, Castilla, Casiguran and Juban.
It likewise told the petitioner that being a special civil case for continuing mandamus with prayer of damages and attorneys fees and issuance of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO)the rules and procedures for environmental cases is very instructive.
Plaintiffs through their lawyer, Attorney Joven Laura of the National Union of People’s Lawyer file an urgent motion for reconsideration with prayer of recussion on September 19, at 2:15 in the afternoon, questioning the dismissal of the Case No. 2011-8338.
In its arguments, it said that the actionable neglect or omission occurred on the part of Governor Raul Lee that he is holding office at the provincial capitol in Sorsogon City where all the acts of negligence was committed and pointed that the alleged mining permit attached to the records are all issued in Sorsogon. The mining permits issued in Sorsogon City are in fact one of the subjects of the petition.
With its other arguments, the urgent motion seeking recussion or inhibition for the presiding judge Gerona plainly states to quote … “undersigned knows fully well as everybody in Sorsogon that the Honorable Judge had been a supporter of Governor Lee for quite sometimes before his assumption to office as the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 53. In fact, the Honorable Judge previously ran for Board Member and then congressman under the political party of Governor Lee…” further quoting “… while plaintiffs however are trusting the competence and impartiality of the Honorable Judge, yet in order to avoid future suspicion by reason of the foregoing, we therefore pray for the recussion of the Honorable Judge”.
The urgent motion in its prayer, asked the presiding judge to recuse in handling the case, to reconsider the September 16, 2011 order and then immediately issue the temporary environmental protection order and such other just and equitable relief.
It will be recalled that the anti-miners groups spearheaded by the Alyansa Laban sa Mina sa Matnog (ALMMA), Bayan Sorsogon, Fr. Alex Jerus and private individuals residing in the Municipality of Matnog opposed the operation of the iron ore mine in Barangay Bolacawe, in Matnog town for it violated R.A. 7076 otherwise known as the People’s Small Scale Mining Act, R.A. 7942, the Philippine Mining Act, R.A. 7160, Local Government Code.
Their campaign to stop the illegal operation of the iron ore mines started with a signature campaign, pickets, rallies, radio interviews but inspite of their concerns a permit was issued for its operation by Governor Raul Lee sided by Director Reynulfo Juan of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the neglect to act judiciously by Sec. Ramon Paje of DENR, cause the anti-miners to implead them in the special civil case. The other respondents are Antones Enterprises, Global Summit Mines Development Corp., TR Ore, Antonio C. Ocampo Jr., Victoria A. Ajero, Alfredo M. Aguilar and Juan M. Aguilar, with addresses outside of Sorsogon province. (Felix ‘Boy’ Espenida/BicolToday.com)
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