KALIBO, Aklan – A regional trial court judge has inhibited himself from a case over the demolition of several structures that allegedly violated the government’s easement rule along Bulabog Beach in Boracay Island.
In his order issued on Monday, Judge Ronald Exmundo of the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 inhibited himself “to avoid perception of bias and partiality,” following the Motion for Leave of Court to Intervene filed by Solicitor-General Jose Calida.
“A Motion for Leave of Court to Intervene was filed by the movant-intervenor Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which the Court has granted. On the said motion, movant alleged that by the Court issuing temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of the plaintiff indicates bias against the government,” Exmundo said.
Last Oct. 15, Exmundo issued a TRO, directing Malay mayor Frolibar Bautista to cease and desist from implementing the government’s demolition in Bulabog Beach in the island in favor of the 10 owners of the “illegal” structures who only named the local government of Malay as the defendant to the case.
“It is irresponsible, if not outright reprehensible, for any party to seek the restraint of the demolition of illegally built structures after the Supreme Court affirmed the authority of the task force and its partner agencies to conduct rehabilitation works, including demolition, on the island,” Calida’s motion said.
The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force was created through Executive Order No. 53 on May 2018 and is composed of various government agencies including the local government of Malay – to which the DENR sits as the lead agency.
“The Honorable Court should be on guard of the present suit which conveniently disregarded not only the higher authority of the task force, pursuant to a presidential directive, but also the ruling of the Supreme Court via Zabal, by the plaintiffs’ non-inclusion of the DENR as defendant,” the motion said.
“It is hard to imagine the Honorable Court unaware of both the presidential directive and the Supreme Court decision,” it added.
Task force officer Natividad Bernardino earlier said the clearing and demolition of illegal structures due to the violation of the easement rule in the island were legal.
“We have to show the government’s resolve in establishing order in Boracay and we have been fair enough in the enforcement of regulations here,” Bernardino added.
She said the owners of the 10 structures were part of the 52 non-compliant in the Bulabog area, in which 42 of them have self-demolished to abide by the government’s regulation of the easement law.
“If this case drags on, this will become a bad precedence for other destinations that are badly needing major uplift and repair,” Bernardino added, citing El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Panglao in Bohol and Siargao in Surigao Del Norte.
Exmundo’s inhibition came as a surprise, which delayed the resolution of the case while the demolition of the structures has been ongoing in the world-famous island.(With a report from Noel Cabobos/RadyoTodo/88.5FM/PN)