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Bohol governor appeals suspension over Chocolate Hills fiasco

By: Leo Udtohan - Inquirer Visayas | June 16,2024 - 05:03 PM

Aumentado appeals Ombudsman’s suspension over Chocolate Hills fiasco

BUSINESS WITHIN THE HILLS Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort in Sagbayan, Bohol, shown in this August 2023 photo, has trended on social media after netizens called out the government and its owners for allowing its construction and operation within the Chocolate Hills, a protected area. | File photo

TAGBILARAN CITY — Suspended Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado has requested the Office of the Ombudsman to reconsider its decision suspending him for six months.

The request comes, pending an investigation on the construction of a resort at the foot of the Chocolate Hills.

Aumentado filed a motion for reconsideration that seeks to lift the preventive suspension order issued against him.

READ: Bohol governor, 68 others suspended for 6 months

His lawyers filed the appeal on June 10.

“This motion aims to protect my rights and ensure that the principles of due process are upheld,” Aumentado said in a statement.

READ: LIST: All 69 officials suspended due to Chocolate Hills resort

“The people of Bohol deserve a government that is transparent and just. I am fully committed to protecting the Chocolate Hills as it truly is a natural wonder,” he added.

Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort

He told the Ombudsman that he had no hand in the approval of permits obtained by Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort in Sagbayan town.

READ: Chocolate hills resort: Bohol governor tells DENR to take legal action ASAP

Aumentado said the resort’s development commenced in 2018 when he was still a congressman representing Bohol’s second district.

He also pointed out that he was not invited to nor had attended the Protected Area Management Board meeting on July 14, 2022 where the resolution endorsing the development of Captain’s Peak Resort was approved.

READ: House bill sets rules for Chocolate Hills in Bohol

“I did not receive any invitation and I did not attend this meeting. It is not fair to hold me accountable for decisions made without my knowledge or participation,” he said.

Aumentado said there is an absence of strong evidence of guilt, a requisite for the issuance of a preventive suspension order.

“There is no document or act that links me to the approval or support of the resort’s construction, operation and expansion. My conscience is clear. I have no hand in that fiasco, whatsoever,” he said.

Preventive suspension

Aumentado was among 69 government officials slapped with a six-month preventive suspension by the anti-graft office on May 20.

The Ombudsman said Captain’s Peak was constructed, operated and developed without the required Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Compliance Certificate and Special Use Agreement in Protected Areas from the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The resort was given permits from the mayor’s office and other permits for business, building and location for the years 2020 to 2024 despite its repeated failure to secure the permits and clearances from the DENR.

The Chocolate Hills, the tourist attraction of Bohol, comprises 1,776 of conical hills spread over the towns of Bilar, Carmen, Batuan, Sierra Bullones and Sagbayan.

Over the years, there were at least 500 establishments constructed within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument.

In 1997, then President Fidel Ramos, through Presidential Decree No. 1037, declared the Chocolate Hills as a Natural Monument, to protect the area.

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TAGS: appeal, Governor Erico Aris Aumentado, Office of the Ombudsman, suspension

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