NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Finally, at least three members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Bohol responded to the public clamor for an inquiry over serious allegations of extortion involving quarry operations in the province.
This, after Provincial Administrator Atty. Kathlyn Pioquinto (on-leave), Provincial Legal Officer and Acting Provincial Administrator Atty. Nilo Ahat and Provincial Treasurer Eustaquio Socorin said that the alleged “tong” collector is not on the payroll of the provincial government.
Earlier, permittees said a certain “Aida” of the Provincial Treasurer’s Office was the one who gave them the contact number of “Ivan” while they were asked to call him (Ivan) for them to get their delivery receipts.
1st District Board Member Ricky Masamayor and 3rd District Board Member Dionisio Victor Balite signified their willingness to take the cudgels on behalf of the majority of quarry operators who encountered alleged demands for pay-offs to persons masquerading as members of the provincial task force on the implementation of the 2020 Revised Mining Ordinance of Bohol.
The scandalous and brazen manner of a certain “Ivan” victimizing practically the quarry industry in the province will be the subject of the investigation by the provincial law-making body.
The modus operandi for the systematic extortion starts with the alleged extraction by “Ivan” together with a Capitol security official of P50.00/cu.m. of the estimated volume of limestone (anapog) from the hapless quarry operators in exchange for the approval of their quarry application and/or issuance of delivery receipts (DRs).
Masamayor announced over DYRD “Inyong Alagad” and “Patrol Balita” his intention to deliver a privilege speech on Tuesday during the SP’s regular session exposing the alleged quarry irregularities after some quarry operators approached him seeking assistance to resolve their ordeal. He invited “victims of this alleged tong collection” to send their formal complaint to his Capitol office.
Board Member Victor Balite told the Chronicle that based on his gathered facts about the alleged quarry “tong” collection, he will bring the matter to the provincial law-making body’s session on Tuesday.
For her part, 1st District Board Member Lucille Lagunay said she will sponsor a resolution calling for the conduct of an inquiry in aid of legislation to “strengthen the existing processes in the provincial government and protect its integrity from unlawful interference.” She said even without an official complainant nor sworn statement against Ivan, the provincial SP can conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation.
Vice Gov. Rene Relampagos, the presiding officer of the provincial SP has not issued any statement on the controversy when sought by the Chronicle through a text message sent at 3:50 yesterday afternoon.
“Even as we require a prior complaint to be filed together with a minimum of data to launch an inquiry, I will invoke the oversight powers of the SP to look into the manner the mining ordinance is implemented which the SP fast-tracked its approval so as not to jeopardize the operation of the quarry business,” Masamayor declared.
Masamayor was a bit miffed over observations that the SP was not keen on scrutinizing a “burning issue” that was hounding the quarry business for almost a month including contractors affected by the scarce supply and high prices of limestone from as low as P150/cu.m. to as high as P300/cu.m.
Prov’l Treasurer Socorin who called “Ivan” as Pilato” (referring to Pontius Pilate) admitted that he was clueless on the DR release controversy while he welcomed any investigation regarding this alleged “tong” collection. He asked permittees to approach him directly to avoid dealing with “Ivan”. (Chito M. Visarra)