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Philippine bishop leads protest over land scam

Indigenous people to sue ecozone for criminal irregularities

Philippine bishop leads protest over land scam
The Aurora ecozone website staff, Manila

January 18, 2011

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Residents and indigenous peoples in the northern Philippine province of Aurora are set to file a suit against the administrators of an economic zone over alleged land grabbing. Residents of Casiguran town trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Monday to ask for a probe into the alleged irregularities surrounding the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO). “We’re here at the DOJ to seek an audience with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. I’m with the indigenous people of Aurora and we will file a criminal case against APECO,” said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo. “The ecozone violates many laws, like the Comprehensive Agrarian Reporm Program law, Fisheries Code, government auditing law and graft and corruption. We are filing a criminal case,” he said. He said there are pending investigations in both houses of Congress about the issue in Congress “but this time, we’re filing a criminal case.” He said the project will deny farmers and tribal people the rights over 12,000 hectares of irrigated lands covered by land reform. The Casiguran locals, also accompanied by prominent Architect Felino Palafox Jr., accused officials of wasting public funds in the creation of the economic zone in their home province. Sen. Edgardo Angara and his son, Aurora Rep. Jun Edgardo "Sonny" Angara co-sponsored Republic Act No. 10083, the law that created APECO. The younger Angara and Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, the senator’s sister, sit on the economic zone’s Board. "They had no environmental impact study, land conversion study, feasibility study, seaport study, and airport study," Palafox said. Justice Secretary De Lima said she will create a fact-finding body to look into the allegations. "The panel will assess the evidence so far available, advise what other documents/evidence are needed to build a strong case against those involved in the anomalies, determine what case may be filed and against whom," said De Lima. Related reports Priest warns against economic zone funding Philippine Church helps farmers fight eviction Bishops discuss land reform law with senators PL12903.1637
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