Pro-environment groups ask CA to review Ombudsman’s decision on Kaliwa Dam project

January 26, 2024

Stop Kaliwa Dam Network on Jan. 25 sought a judicial review from the Court of Appeals (CA) to challenge the Ombudsman’s decision regarding complaints filed against the proponents of the Kaliwa Dam.

Catholic priest Pete Montallana, co-convener of the network, filed a Certiorari petition before CA after the Ombudsman dismissed the case against the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) officials allegedly involved in the construction of access roads for the Kaliwa Dam project. 

“The Ombudsman dismissed our complaint despite the admissions under oath by DPWH and MWSS officers themselves during the 2020 Senate hearings that the Kaliwa Dam’s access road construction proceeded amid violations of several laws and regulations,” the priest said. 

Montallana said the public officials “must be held accountable” for the cutting of trees and the destruction of the mountain to pave the way for the construction of the road.

Certiorari is a court process to seek judicial review of a decision of a lower court or government agency. The petition urged the CA to order the Ombudsman to conduct a probe into the alleged irregularities  

The petition urges the CA to direct the Ombudsman to conduct a fact-finding investigation and impose administrative penalties on DPWH and MWSS officials. 

The Kaliwa Dam access road construction began in 2018 with a P400 million MWSS budget, two years before the Senate Committee exposed compliance deficiencies.

“The Ombudsman clearly and gravely erred in unceremoniously dismissing the complaint,” said Atty. Ryan Roset of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) and one of the legal counsels of the petitioner. 

“Worse, there was no sufficient discussion on their factual and legal basis either, and no conduct of a formal investigation or any effective exercise of its mandate in the face of overwhelming factual, jurisprudential, and legal evidence,” he added. 

The Kaliwa Dam Project is an integrated dam system involving the construction of a dam on the Kaliwa River in Rizal province and a smaller dam downstream in Quezon province.

The project site falls within two adjoining Dumagat ancestral domains and will reportedly displace at least 15,000 tribal people.

The project got its funding from a US$248 million loan from China and is one of 75 flagship infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the government of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

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