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Mayor Cortes downplays charges filed against him for mangrove cutting

By: Mary Rose Sagarino - CDN Digital Correspondent | May 29,2024 - 08:45 PM

rainy season

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes. | CDN Digital photo / Mary Rose Sagarino

MANDAUE CITY, Philippines — Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes has downplayed the cases filed against him, stating that they are unfounded and motivated by personal vendetta.

Maria Priscilla Melendres filed charges against Cortes, city councilors, and two other city officials for oppression, gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices, as well as environmental laws.

This is in relation to the cutting of mangrove trees in Barangay Paknaan, which started in November 2022, and which Melendres claims to own.

In a letter released to the media, Cortes stated that the relief channel was implemented under the General Welfare Clause of the Local Government Code to clear the outfall of Butuanon River, allowing floodwater to flow freely towards the Cansaga Bay and Mactan Channel.

This project was initiated in response to severe flooding in September 2022, which affected 11 of the 27 barangays of Mandaue City and led to the city declaring a state of calamity.

Others named in Melendres’ complaint include Jamaal James Calipayan, city administrator, and Buddy Alain Ybañez, head of the City Risk Reduction Management Office.

Cortes claimed that the project was implemented to protect and secure the safety of residents from flooding along the Butuanon River.

In fact, hundreds of families in Sitio Pagatpatan in Paknaan have been safeguarded from flash floods during the rainy season.

Melendres had previously filed the same complaint against BNR Construction and Development Corp., the lessor of the heavy equipment used for cutting the mangroves.

However, this was dismissed by the City Prosecutor’s Office due to lack of probable cause, stating that the dredging project was authorized by the city government.

The resolution also found that Melendres was not an offended party and lacked legal standing to file the case.

Melendres has reportedly filed four different cases: one with the prosecutor, one with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office, one with the Office of the President, and one with the Ombudsman, all stemming from the same incident and facts, hoping for a favorable resolution.

Mayor Cortes described the allegations as childish and a distraction from the city’s governance.

“My administration and I remain committed to the highest standards of public service, focusing on the welfare and development of Mandaue City,” said Cortes. He added that Melendres is one of many “claimants” of city-owned properties and lands in Barangay Paknaan, which the local government unit (LGU) is actively pursuing and repudiating.

Her claim was reportedly based on a lease contract entered into by her grandmother and the city during the administration of Cortes’ father, Mayor Demetrio “Boy” Cortes.

“[The allegation] is a groundless attack on leaders who have worked tirelessly for the protection of our constituents and the betterment of our city,” he added.

Cortes, city officials, and city councilors expressed their willingness to cooperate with any lawful investigation and are confident that justice will prevail.


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TAGS: Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, mangroves

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