By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY --- The Office of the Ombudsman has issued another round of suspension order to Mayor Krisel Lagman Luistro of Tabaco City, a top official of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Tuesday.
The Ombudsman suspended Luistro due to her failure to comply with an order to close an open dump site operated by the city government despite the earlier warning it has issued, Eloisa Pastor, DILG regional director said.
The Environmental Team of the Environmental Ombudsman Program has slapped a one-year suspension against Lagman-Luistro after the team found her to be liable for gross neglect of duty.
The order also carries a directive for her to immediately close and rehabilitate and desist from establishing an open dumpsite in Barangay San Antonio in Tabaco City.
Lagman-Luistro was reportedly in Manila on official leave of absence when the suspension order was served on Tuesday.
As this developed, Lagman-Luistro in a phone interview on Tuesday describes the Ombudsman suspension order as unmeritorious saying that she has complied with the order closing the open dump site on March 17, last year.
She said “when I received the order on March 2015 for us to close the 3-hectare open dumpsite I immediately scouted for an alternative area where we can build a sanitary landfill in compliance to the order.”
Lagman-Luistro said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) tasked to monitor the compliance has prepared quarterly report checking on their compliance.
She said a 5-hectare land in Barangay Marirok in Tabaco City has been acquired by the local government for the setting up of a sanitary landfill for the city.
When asked what legal remedy would she intend to do, Lagman-Luistro said she has ten days to at least file two legal motions with the Ombudsman and the Court of Appeals (CA).
She would ask Ombudsman to reconsider the merits of their decision in suspending her for one-year, taking in consideration the action she had taken in closing down the open dumpsite in March 2017.
As for the Court of Appeals, she would request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) questioning the procedure of execution of the OMB order.
In July this year, the Ombudsman slapped a suspension order to two Albay town mayors and several local officials for their failure to comply with proper waste disposal program under RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Management Act of 2000.
Affected by the order were local officials who assumed their elective post in 2013 to 2016 but were operating and maintaining open dumpsites in their respective areas.
The National Solid Waste Commission in February 2016 has warned six Albay towns, including a city that it sued before the Office of the Ombudsman for continuing to operate open dumpsites in their respective areas in violation of the Ecological Solid Management Act of 2000.
Facing charges were the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Polangui, Tiwi and Tabaco City, according to the Environmental Managemen Bureau (EMB).
In an earlier report, the six Albay towns were among the 50 towns and cities across the country that belong to the first batch of LGU’s that have been assessed and validated by the NSWC to be non-compliant with the ecological solid management act despite the repeated warnings.
The report said the six LGUs were included in the first batch to be advised to comply with the law or face administrative and criminal charges.
The commission assessment found out that the five towns and Tabaco City in Albay have violated the solid waste management act by using open dump in their waste disposal and that despite the warnings, they failed to close these open garbage dump sites as required by law.
So far, only the Legazpi City government operates a solid waste disposal landfill in the entire Bicol region, the report said.