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‘The biggest whitewash in the nation’s history’

September 6, 2006

Keep oil spill cases ‘airtight,’ Arroyo orders
• But fisherfolk score DoJ decision

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Nonoy Espina
Reporter

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday said she wants an “airtight” case against those found liable for the Visayas oil spill even as she gave assurances the disaster has been contained and government efforts are now geared towards bringing Guimaras province back its old glory.

“We are here again today this time to make this pledge: Guimaras will be great again,” she said on her third visit to the island province, the hardest hit by the oil spill, to preside over a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC). Arroyo said she has signed an executive order creating the Metro Iloilo Guimaras Development Council to deal with the rehabilitation of affected areas.

“I am directing Secretary Gonzales (and) the DoJ to ensure an airtight case against those found liable for violations of law,” Arroyo said. “No one culpable in this national tragedy shall walk away scot-free.”

But a leftist fisherfolk alliance claimed this was what the DoJ was doing when it cleared Petron on Tuesday of criminal liability for the oil spill.

Fernando Hicap, chairman of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), said it was “foul play” for the DoJ to “set the stage for Petron’s walk-in-the park escape” while letting “powerless people like the captain and crewmembers of M/T Solar I” take the rap.

Undersecretary Ernesto Pineda, chair of a DoJ fact-finding body looking into who can be held liable for the oil spill, said on Tuesday that Petron could not be charged criminally since it did not own the M/T Solar I. He did say the oil firm, in which the government and Saudi Aramco own 40 percent each, could be civilly liable for negligence.

“This is a preview,” Hicap said of what he said could be the “biggest whitewash in the nation’s history.”

(For the full story, click Whitewash, Sept. 6, 2006.)

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