A 60-day preventive suspension awaits Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and co-accused government officials in the Barili land case.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol, in an interview yesterday, said this step follows for respondents working in the government after the filing of graft charges against them in the Sandiganbayan.
“That is mandatory (preventive suspension) after arraignment. Its purpose is to see to it that the officials won't be able to influence the outcome of the case,” Apostol said.
No date has been set yet for arraignment, which is the early stage of a trial where the accused is made to plead guilty or not guilty to the offense charged.
The suspension itself is not a penalty or a finding of guilt since the merits of the case still have to be heard.
Three hours before Governor Garcia delivered her last State of the Province Address (SOPA) yesterday, she posted bail in the Cebu Palace of Justice.
Accompanied by her daughter-lawyer Cristina Codilla-Frasco, the governor paid a cash bond of P90,000 for her temporary liberty in the two counts of graft and one case of technical malversation of funds filed by the Ombudsman in Manila with the Sandiganbayan.
A release order was issued by Regional Trial Court Judge Soliver Peras of Branch 10 who also accepted the bail of three other Capitol officials and a retired provincial assessor.
Without waiting for warrants of arrest to be issued againt them, they presented to the judge copies of the information or complaint.
Other respondents who posted bail were Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre, retired provincial assessor Anthony Sususco, Provincial Budget Officer Emme Gingoyon, and Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre.
Each posted a cash bail of P30,000 for one case each in the Balili lot purchase.
Apostol said the respondents who managed to post bail shall attend all the proceedings and hearings of the charges before the Sandiganbayan unless they have valid reason not to do so.
Garcia's co-accused provincial treasurer Roy Salubre yesterday expressed dismay over the filing of charges against him in relation to the Balili lot fiasco.
“I was surprised. I'm sad and worried,” said Salubre who is a lawyer.
Salubre believed politics has something to do with the filing of the charges before the Sandiganbayan.
“As we look at it, we are hit by the cross fire. Maybe, the governor is their main target,” he said.
Pelagio said only a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court could stop the implementation of the preventive suspension order which is known as “pendente litis” or suspension pending litigation.
The charges against the respondents were raffled off to the Sandigbayan's second division yesterday.
Pelagio said a preventive suspension can be issued after the arraignment of the accused upon the request of the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
“Our purpose is to see to it that justice shall prevail. Those who committed a mistake shall be sanctioned,” Apostol said.
In the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019, Sec. 13 deals with “suspension and loss of benefits.”
It says “Any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this Act or under Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code or for any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property, whether as a simple or as a complex offense in whatever stage of execution and mode of participation, is pending in court, shall be suspended from office .”
Apostol recalled that the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas in 2010 found sufficient basis to hold Governor Garcia another respondents for mal investigation.
Last Friday, the Ombudsman Office in Manila elevated the case to the Sandiganbyan.
He received yesterday a fax copy of the information or complaints filed against the respondents before the Sandiganbayan. But Apostol saidt these are not official and he has to secure the full 49-page resolution of the Ombudsman.
Capitol consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda, in a phone interview, echoed Deputy Ombudsman Apostol's statement on preventive suspension.
“The preventive suspension is issued for valid and proper informations alleging charges of graft and where government funds are involved. It's a matter of procedure,” Sepulveda told Cebu Daily News. /Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter