QUEZON, Nueva Vizcaya – Embattled indigenous peoples (IPs) recently filed graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 2 and FCF Minerals Development Corporation for allegedly collaborating, conspiring and scheming with each other to violate pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 1019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In their 7-page sworn affidavit, Don Felix Guillao, Quevora Guillao, Billy Guillao, Eva Guillao, Santhor Guillao and Lizson Guillao identified the respondents to the graft case as MGB Region 2 regional director Engr. Mario Ancheta, FCF Minerals Development Corporation Darren Patrick Bowden, FCF General Manager Lorne Harvey and John Does.
The complainants are the ancestral land owners of a parcel of land located at Runruno covered and covered by Original Certificate of titles (OCTs) consisting of an area of more or less 70 hectares where their structure and improvements were built and high value crops planted.
On the other hand, FCF is a grantee of a financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) from an exploration permit.
The complainants claimed that on March 13, 2023, they received a notice of entry dated February 17, 2023 from a representative of the MGB Region 2 at barangay Runruno together with letters of communication.
According to them, prior to receipt of the said documents or on August 31, 2022, they received a letter from FCF inviting them for the presentation of an alleged assessment or valuation made on their crops, structures and improvements of their parcels of land, particularly at the Pasto area.
Based on the said assessment and valuation made on their crops, structures and improvements at their parcels of land, which FCF commissioned for itself, the company reportedly offered compensation on their crops, structures and improvements, inviting MGB Region 2 personnel and from the local government unit.
On December 22, 2022, the complainants disclosed that FCF made an offer of P10,333,016.22 representing compensation for all the crops within the company’s mining design at the Pasto area consisting of 7.2 hectares and all structures within the 70 hectares, including advance payment for the conduct of drilling exploration outside tier mining pit.
While the negotiations were going on for the compensation of their crops, structures and improvements at the Pasto area, the complainants narrated the occurrence of a series of incidents.
The complainants asserted that several illegal entries were commenced by MGB Region 2 in collaboration with the mining company to their ancestral claim, particularly at the Pasto area since August 22, 2022 with the alleged presence of personnel from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP) not only to cause fear and intimidation to them but also to cause damage to their properties without just compensation.
When Ancheta learned that they will be filing a complaint, the ancestral land owners narrated that a certain Mr. Prado was sent to their residence to allegedly inform them that certain cases will be filed against them if they will pursue the current case against personnel of MGB Region 2 and mining company officials.
Further, while FCF was trying to negotiate the compensation due them for their crops, structures and improvements that were already destroyed and damaged, the complainants explained that the MGB Region 2 allowed the company to reportedly enter their ancestral lands and continue their mining activities without the value of their land, crops, structures and improvements being compensated.
Worst, the IPs argued that the negotiations initiated by the company were even made in bad faith since their offer for compensation was without legal basis or the same was premised on their commissioned assessment led by representatives of the MGB Region 2, local governments and a certain legal officer from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) without their active participation as land owners.
Unknown to them, a composite team to make assessment and validation of improvements was created and submitted a report, remarks and recommendations to the MGB Region 2 and was even furnished to the mining company on February 2, 2023, without their having been informed of the same.
To sum it all, the complainants accused Engr. Ancheta and FCF officers collaborated, conspired, devised and schemed to make an alleged assessment and valuation of their crops, improvements and structures without their knowledge and active participation and coming up with a measly sum of P15,519,857.46 covering the valuation of all their crops, improvements and structures within their ancestral claim consisting of more or less 70 hectares.
Ironically, Ancheta wrote a letter dated February 15, 2023 addressed to FCF approving the bond to enter their ancestral land in the amount of P3 million when in fact, as early as April 2022, Ancheta allowed, consented, protected and assured the company’s entry to their ancestral land that led to the alleged destruction of their crops, structures, improvements and their established sources of livelihood.
The complainants underscored that the alleged acts of Ancheta and his personnel in allowing, aiding and abating FCF and its officers and in conspiracy with each other to conduct mining activities within their ancestral land claims without alleged posting bond and or prior to the posting of the same, as required by existing laws, giving unwarranted benefits to the company to their damage and prejudice in violation of existing laws and regulations.