Judge Gerona inhibits self in Matnog iron ore mine case

(From left) Judge Rofebar Gerona and Executive Judge Victor Ella during the oath-taking of Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee last June 30, 2010. PHOTO BY ANGEL AYALA, BicolToday.com
(From left) Judge Rofebar Gerona and Executive Judge Victor Ella during the oath-taking of Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee last June 30, 2010. PHOTO BY ANGEL AYALA, BicolToday.com

By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr., BicolToday.com

SORSOGON CITY (BicolToday.com/Sept. 28, 2011) – The anti-mining group in Matnog, Sorsogon are not too happy with the decision of RTC Branch 53 Presiding Judge Rofebar Gerona when he inhibited himself from hearing the merits of the arguments raised by plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 2011-8338, that seeks for continuing mandamus, damages, attorneys fees with prayer for the issuance of Temporary Environment Protection Order (TEPO), this was conveyed after the hearing of the case at the sala of Pairing Judge Victor Gella of RTC Branch 52 here.

The group downplayed the impartiality of Gerona though his order of September 16, 2011, dismissing the civil suit for lack of jurisdiction. .” Such move the anti-mining group said, becomes necessary when they urged their counsel, Atty. Joven Laura of the National Union of People’s Lawyer to file an urgent motion of reconsideration with prayer of recussion for they have seen the bias of the honorable judge when he dismissed the civil suit.

In their prayer, they argued that “…everybody probably in Sorsogon that the Honorable Judge (Gerona) had been a political supporter of Governor Lee for quite sometimes before his assumption to office as the Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 53, … the Honorable Judge previously ran for Board Member and then congressman under the political party of Governor Lee.” This is undeniable facts which the honourable judge cannot escape his bias, they said.

Subsequently, Gerona in his order dated September 20, this year, stated that “he had ceased to be associated with Governor Raul Lee since the year 2007 and that his previous political association with him notwithstanding, he could still fully discharged his judicial function with the cold mutuality of impartial judge”.

Adding, “in order to erase or dispel any doubts on his objectivity and impartiality, undersigned hereby voluntarily inhibits himself from the case.” The case was transferred to the sala of RTC Branch 52 Judge Victor Gella being a pairing judge for environmental cases.

Atty. Joven Laura of the National Union of People’s Lawyer, counsel for the plaintiff during the media interview. Photo by BicolToday.com

When interviewed at the Bulwagan ng Katarungan here, Atty. Laura in a guarded statement, said that personally he don’t have any ill-feelings with Judge Gerona, that his personal and professional respect remains with him but have to take the cudgels being the counsel of the plaintiffs to exhaust legal remedies which his clients are but exercising.

It will be recalled that the case was filed by the anti-mining group of Matnog that impleaded Sec. Ramon Paje of DENR, Reynulfo Juan of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Governor Raul Lee for their failure to act on the environmental damage caused by the on-going mining operation for iron ore being conducted at Barangays Bolacawe and Bon-ot Daco in the Municipality of Matnog. Included in the suit are four private individuals and three other business group who are tied-up in the operation of the iron ore mine in the said municipality.

Noticeable are the non-appearance of the counsel for Sec Paje, Director Juan and the other private respondents, only the Provincial Legal Officer, Atty. Antonio Huab, representing the interest of the Provincial Governor was on hand.Both parties will await the resolution by Judge Victor Gella of the motion for reconsideration filed by plaintiffs on September 20, 2011 for them to file their respective answers and pleadings. BicolToday.com

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