Panglao Municipal Mayor Leonila Montero, Councilor Edward Mejos and his mother Marcelina Mejos are facing a criminal complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas for the construction of a building within the 20 meter salvage zone.
For nearly six months, businessmen and local residents watched in utter disbelief as the alleged illegal structure located in Alona Beach, Barangay Tawala, Panglao visibly stood out like a sore thumb after a South Korean investor demolished a previously existing one story old building and erected a much taller edifice.
Hera Greek Taverna, the Korean owned establishment sits on a 94 sq. meter prime beachfront property designated as Lot No. 4218-A registered under the name of Marcelina Mejos and was reportedly bought by the Korean for a hefty price of P6 million or P69 thousand per square meter.
The lawyer of the Korean businessman identified as George Co Tan aka Park confirmed the deal to the Chronicle on condition of anonymity.
Montero was accused of authorizing the illegal construction of a business establishment owned by Marcelina Mejos and a Korean investor within the 20 meter salvage zone “despite being aware of the fact that the said construction is in violation of national laws and regulations, including the municipal ordinance”.
Montero also “undermined and breached her very own issuance of Executive Order (EO) No.9, Series of 2014” and created a salvage zone enforcement team to enforce the stringent provisions of the salvage zone and easement along the shorelines of the municipality.
Even a certification signed by Montero on January 7, 2015 reminded Marcelina Mejos, registered owner of the 94 square meter titled lot to observe a setback of 20 meters from the salvage zone and to comply with all other relevant laws and regulations.
The criminal complaint lambasted Montero’s implementation of her EO as “selective” and “a sham” and denounced her salvage zone measures as vindictive and punitive against those who are not close to her.
The complaint further decried the demolition orders issued by Montero within the “no build zone” while exempting and excluding a particular property owner similarly situated.
EO No. 9, Series of 2014, considered a landmark executive order was signed by Montero on August 27, 2014 entitled “Enforcing the Salvage Zone and Easement along the Shorelines of this Municipality and creating the Salvage Zone Enforcement Team for the Purpose”.
The illegal building issue spilled over to the courts after Marcelina Mejos, under whose name the lot is titled filed a petition for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the Municipal Engineer from implementing several orders to “stop immediately all illegal building activities in your premises”.
However, Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos, Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court of Bohol Branch 2 denied the issuance of the TRO on the grounds that “the court sees no necessity for the issuance of the TRO as there is nothing to restrain at the moment”.
Montero confirmed during an interview with DYRD “Â Alagad” on September 28, 2015 that the Mejos property was within the 20 meter salvage zone and guaranteed a “special consideration without precedent” kind of permit apparently to appease the foreign investor identified as a South Korean.
The so called special permit, according to Montero forbids owners of similar illegal structures along the shorelines of the municipality to invoke the “special consideration” granted to the Korean investor.
The complaint slammed Montero for her “mind boggling” admission over the airlanes that the property of Mejos is within the no build zone showing that “she is acquiescing to the illegal construction of her political ally and party mate”.
Councilor Mejos was implicated in the criminal complaint for “persuading, inducing and/or exerting influence” on Montero and Barangay Tawala Captain Saturnina Hernando to “allow, tolerate, and even endorse the illegal construction of the Korean in their family’s beachfront property within the 20 meter no build zone, according to the complaint.
“As a municipal councilor, Mejos knew that it violated the municipal zoning ordinance on beachfront easement and even executed an Affidavit of Undertaking that the building construction will comply with the 20 meter setback”, Â continued the complaint.
The “special permit without consideration” was apparently issued to appease the so called Korean businessman and the lot owner who is the mother of municipal councilor Eduard Mejos, a member of the powerful administration block of the Sangguniang Bayan of Panglao.
The mother of Councilor Mejos was included in the criminal complaint for allegedly taking advantage of family or close personal relation to gain material or pecuniary advantage by directly or indirectly requesting her son to intervene in her transaction involving the Korean.
ABOVE THE LAW
Montero brooked no opposition to the application for business and building permits of the Korean investor and respondents Mejos ignoring a notice of illegal construction dated September 7, 2015 and a notice of cancellation of permit dated September 8, 2015 issued by Municipal Engr, Rogelio Bunao.
A one story building was previously standing in the beachfront property covering 42 square meters but was demolished allegedly by the Korean without a demolition permit and started to construct a new one prompting Municipal Engineer Rogelio Bonao to revoke a previously issued building permit for renovation and issue a stoppage order for illegal construction.
Bonao issued a notice of illegal construction against Mejos on September 1, 2015 for “encroachment of the salvage zone/protected area in violation of article V; Section 18 of the Municipal Zoning Ordinance and the National Building Code and to stop immediately all illegal building activities”.
According to sources familiar with the land deal, a certain George Co Tan, a South Korean businessman Â with the assurance that all documents were in order including a certification from the barangay that the property is located outside the 20 meter salvage zone.
With that guarantee, Park agreed to buy the property at P65,000 per square meter, demolish the old structure and built a new one free of all liens and encumbrances.
However, Park belatedly discovered that the prime lot he bought is now the subject of a stoppage order, a notice of cancellation of permit and a notice of illegal construction issued by the Office of the Building Official and signed by Municipal Engineer Rogelio Bunao and Municipal Planning & Development Coordinator (MPDC) Jovencia Asilo.
Park demanded the cancellation of the contract and the return of his money unless the LGU will straighten out his land problem.
A make or break meeting reportedly brokered by Montero and attended by top officials of the LGU of Panglao at the “Sea World”, a restaurant allegedly owned by Park ended in a deadlock after Bonao refuse to budge from his position not to issue a building permit to the Korean.
Montero came to the rescue of respondents Mejos with a dubiousÂ Â “winning formula” packaged as a “special consideration without precedent” ordering for the issuance of a special permit to the owners of the property to construct, build and erect structures within the 20 meter salvage zone but prohibits owners of structures similarly situated to invoke the so called special consideration.
The complaint prayed for the preventive suspension of Montero and Mejos pending investigation of the accusations.Â (Chito M. Visarra)