Chiongs cry ‘politicking’
A day after a P4.5billion class suit was filed against the city government of Naga and five other entities in the wake of the deadly landslide in Barangay Tinaan, Mayor Kristine Chiong unleashed her fury against those she called “opportunists.”
Chiong said while residents are entitled to seek justice in any venue, she also advised them to be “careful of opportunists who give them false hope and exploit their predicament to advance their personal interests.”
“Like the likes of someone who claims to be a ‘concerned citizen' nga in every issue against the city administration mosakay bisan wala apektahi sama karon sa landslide,” she told The FREEMAN in a text message yesterday.
Chiong, said she has yet to receive a copy of the complaint, did not reply when asked to name the “concerned citizen.”
Her remarks came a day after 39 residents filed a complaint before the Regional Trial Court in Naga against CEMEX Holdings Philippines Inc., Apo Land and Quarry Corp., Apo Cement Corp., Mines and Geosciences Bureau- 7, the city government, and the Cebu provincial government.
The 39 residents claim having general interest in the case and are representing the landslide victims.
Two more complainants -- Naga resident Winley dela Fuente and Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc. headed by environmental lawyer Benjamin Cabrido -- said they are suing in behalf of the next generations of Filipinos.
In a separate interview, former Naga mayor Valdemar Chiong, the incumbent mayor's father, said he does not see an issue out of the class suit, echoing his daughter statement that affected families always have that right.
He even recognized Cabrido for defending the environment.
Nevertheless, Valdemar said there are people facilitating in making up allegations against him. He specifically questioned the role of dela Fuente in the class suit.
He said these people are already “irrelevant” since they do not carry a political stronghold.
Sought for comment, Dela Fuente said Valdemar's statement was irresponsible for a former mayor who has “a greater duty to take care of the environment.”
Dela Fuente recalled originally having close relationship with Chiong that eventually turned sour when he became a vocal critic of the former mayor's alleged anomalies.
Dela Fuente also said he joined in the class suit since he feels morally obliged to protect the environment from the interests of politicians and for the next generations.
“Concerned lang ko unsa'y mahitabo if padayon ang pagguba nila sa kalikupan sa Naga in particular and Cebu province in general,” he said.
Dela Fuente said he has nothing against Kristine, describing her as a good person. He also clarified that he has no plans of entering politics.
Dela Fuente claimed being a resident of Barangay South Poblacion, Naga for 45 years now, though his family is temporarily renting in Cebu City.
Valdemar, who is running for mayor in 2019, meanwhile, denied reports he allegedly threatened to withhold the cash assistance to landslide victims behind the class suit.
“Dili ni maayo tungod kay it is damaging on the part. Nilansar baya ko… ug dili na akong taras ang manghasi,” he told The FREEMAN over a phone interview.
Mayor Kristine herself belied the allegations on Wednesday.
Now, Valdemar is eyeing to file charges against the people who defamed his reputation.
“I am talking to lawyers right now to consult from them kon unsay angay nakong buhaton,” he said.
Yesterday morning, Valdemar went to the Enan Chiong Activity Center (ECAC) to speak to evacuees and to clarify with them that the earlier reports were untrue.
As of yesterday, the provincial government and the MGB-7 have not issued a statement regarding the class suit.
Governor Hilario Davide III, in a statement furnished to The FREEMAN by the Provincial Information Office, said he has not received a copy of the complaint but expressed that he respects the right of the residents to complain.
“We have yet to receive a copy of the complaint, but then again it is anyone's right to file a complaint. On the other hand, as what I've understood based on news reports, the province was included in the case so that we can come up with a carrying capacity survey of mainland Cebu as it has authority over small-scale mining operations,” the statement read.
It further read: “Rest assured, the provincial government, through PENRO, is thorough and cautious in issuing permits to smallscale mining companies and we will continue to do so to ensure the safety of everyone. If that means coming up with a carrying capacity survey, we will.”
MGB-7 information officer Marian Codilla, for her part, said their office can only speak in a proper forum, such as during court proceedings.
“We will only make the statement at the proper forum… At the court, if there is a need for us to make a statement before the court,” she said.
As for Apo Land and Quarry Corp., it maintained that it has been religiously following the law, stressing that the landslide, which killed 78 people, was an act of nature.
“We find it very unfortunate, however, that personalities behind this action decided to pursue this case despite the clear finding of DENR technical experts that the landslide is a natural phenomenon and not caused by quarry or mining operations of APO Land & Quarry Corporation. The experts who conducted the investigation have concluded that the incident was unique and may happen in other areas and even without quarry operations,” ALQC spokesperson Chito Maniago said in a statement.
While ALQC vows to continue giving aid to rehabilitate the community, the company also expressed that it will exhaust available resources to defend itself from the class suit.
“The landslide incident was beyond anyone's control and impacted the entire community, including ourselves and our stakeholders. We want to assure the government and the people of Naga that we will continue in our efforts to help in restoring normalcy in the community and in mitigating the existing risks attendant to the geologic hazards in the affected areas,” Maniago said.
The statement further said that ALQC respects the rights of those who filed the case to seek judicial relief.
However, the firm emphasized that the operations it was undertaking near the landslide site have been compliant with all pertinent laws, rules, and regulations. These operations, it added, were also performed under the supervision and monitoring of various government agencies, both local and national levels.