Bohol town water project: Mayor, 6 executive charged

MANILA, Philippines — A town mayor in Bohol and six national government officials have been charged with graft over the grant of an alleged fraudulent permit in connection with a water resource project.

A 24-page complaint filed on Thursday before the Office of the Ombudsman by Bohol Clean Water Alliance (BCWA) named Mayor Maria Pureza Chatto of Balilihan town as among the respondents.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon, senior state counsel Rosario Elena Laborte-Cuevas, Department of Science and Technology director Juanito Batalon, National Hydraulic Research Center director Roberto Soriano and National Water Resources Board (NWRB) executive director Sevillo David were included in the charge sheet.

In a supplemental complaint, BCWA said the ombudsman should hold Chatto administratively liable for “disorderly behavior.”

The complaints stemmed from the NWRB’s grant of a conditional water permit (CWP) to the Balilihan municipal government over the Bugwak Spring water resource project in June 2022.

The six national government officials “acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross negligence” when they affirmed the validity of CWP in favor of the Balilihan municipal government through an NWRB resolution dated Jan. 20, 2023, even though they knew that the permit was “fraudulently obtained,” the complaint stated.

BCWA said it had been established that the Balilihan government misrepresented its CWP application when it “inaccurately and falsely” claimed that the diversion point of the water project is in Barangay Sto. Niño in Balilihan when it is located in Barangay Magsaysay in Sevilla town.

The complainants said the “willingness to disregard” the factual findings made during an ocular inspection by NWRB staff members “speaks of gross partiality.”

In a statement, Chatto said the complaint was “baseless and politically motivated.”