Monday, August 14, 2006

Appointment of Awat as KSK director questioned

By Eliseo H. Valendez

CONTROVERSY IS HOUNDING the appointment of noted lawyer and environmentalist Atty. Nesario Awat as the new director of the provincial government’s Kilusan Sagip Kalikasan (KSK) starting August 1.

Gov. Joel Reyes named Awat as the head of Palawan’s environmental watchdog, replacing officer-in-charge Maj. Pablo Margarejo who has held the post since former director Capt. Reynaldo Trajano resigned last year. Margarejo will resume his regular duties as Security Officer IV in the provincial government when he returns from his sick leave, officials said.

Critics have claimed that Awat’s appointment is allegedly the governor’s “gift” to Awat, who had filed a petition in court questioning the eligibility of Palawan Congressmen Antonio Alvarez and Abraham Mitra to sit as members of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

Reyes and the two congressmen used to be political allies, but they have since gone separate ways.

The election for PCSD chairman in 2004 highlighted the rift between Reyes and Mitra, who obtained a recommendation from Pres. Arroyo for the post despite an earlier agreement that the governor would be nominated to the influential position.

As a result, Mitra became the chairman while Reyes was relegated to the post of vice chairman.

Last year, Awat and Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Palawan President Atty. Carlo Gomez filed a petition with the Court of Appeals questioning the constitutionality of the congressmen’s membership in the PCSD, which performs executive functions under the Office of the President.

The petitioners sought clarification on the possible “conflict in the separation of powers” with regard to the two legislators’ membership in the council.

Provincial Information Officer Rolando Bonoan denied the allegation from the governor’s opponents, saying “hindi na niya (Awat) kailangan ang ganitong regalo.”

In fact, Bonoan said Awat had declined the offer for the position, but “pinakiusapan lang siya ni Gov.”

He added that the provincial government believes Awat is the best person for the job as the lawyer had formerly served as the legal officer of the Bantay Palawan, the project’s name before it was changed to KSK.

Bonoan said the KSK position “has nothing to do with the case” on the PCSD membership and added that even if the lawyers did not file it, “somebody will ask that query regarding the eligibility.”

He also pointed out that if the governor is guilty, “he should have not appointed Awat.”


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