Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Energy officials face suit

Energy officials face suit
By Vincent Mayol, Carine M. Asutilla
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 02:18pm (Mla time) 11/19/2008

CEBU CITY, Philippines - A group of environmentalists on Tuesday filed a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas against officials of the Department of Energy in Central Visayas for allegedly denying them entry into the DOE-7 offices last Friday.

Environment lawyers Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Benjamin Cabrido led members of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens’ Movement in filing the complaint for violation of citizen’s rights and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

DOE-7 director Antonio Labios and Energy Industry Management Chief Saul Gonzales were named as respondents.

The complaint stated that the group went to the DOE-7 office along Osmeña Boulevard last Friday to deliver a demand letter and “hopefully discuss” with energy officials the complaints of fisherfolk from the town of Sibonga, southern Cebu, over offshore oil exploration in the town’s waters.

The complainants said the guard of the Metrobank Building’s lobby stopped the group from entering the building.

The guard called the DOE-7 office and informed them of the group’s presence. The guard later told the group that Labios was not around and that the group was not allowed to proceed to the DOE-7 office on the 11th floor.

The guard allegedly threatened to turn off the power to the elevators if they insisted on going up.

Cabrido talked with someone from the DOE-7 office through the guard’s phone. The DOE-7 personnel told Cabrido that he was not authorized to receive the letter.

The guard later told the group that only two people could proceed to the DOE-7 office.

Ramos, however, insisted that if the group could not go up to the office, then someone from DOE-7 should come down and meet the group.

Gonzales, who served as acting DOE-7 director in Labios’ absence, later came out and received the letter. He also explained that the group was not allowed up because the DOE-7 office was too small to accommodate them.

The complainants, however, said they were treated with “gross disrespect and subjected to humiliation and indignity.”

Ramos said their rights were violated because government officials were supposed to make the lives of people better through service.

She described the DOE-7 officials’ actions as “unprofessional, discriminatory, unjust discourteous and callous.”

Cabrido said that as a public office, DOE-7 should allow the public to enter their offices.

Cabrido said the group was considering filing a complaint against the DOE-7 officials with the Civil Service Commission. He said he would ask the commission to subject DOE-7 officials and employees to a seminar on conduct and what it is to be a public servant.

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