THE Sandiganbayan has thrown out the appeal of Ronda, Cebu municipal engineer Oscar M. Pilapil to recall its September 3, 2019 resolution placing him under preventive suspension for 90 days.
In a five-page resolution issued last November 25 and penned by Associate Justice Karl B. Miranda, the Sixth Division stressed that it has no discretion on imposing the suspension once there has been a determination that a public official was charged with a valid information for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or any offense involving public funds or fraud against the government.
Pilapil was named among the co-accused of former Ronda municipal mayor Mariano Blanco III together with municipal budget officer Thelma Landiza, assistant municipal treasurer Brigida Cabaron, clerk Frauline Requilme, and utility worker Evelina Tan.
They were charged with 15 counts of graft for allegedly violating procurement rules under RA 9184 requiring prior posting on invitations to bid on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).
Among the transactions covered by the investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman were the construction of a public school building, a barangay hall, a municipal legislative building, and a day care center as well as supply contracts for medicines and construction materials.
In contesting his suspension, Pilapil said he and his family will suffer financially if the suspension is enforced since his job is their only source of income. He added that he continues to incur legal expenses because of his cases.
At the same time, he cited his previous suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman for one month and one day when the cases were undergoing investigation.
The Sandiganbayan however clarified that a preventive suspension is not a penalty but a measure to prevent the accused from using his office to intimidate witnesses or otherwise frustrate his prosecution.
“The protection of public interest must necessarily prevail over private interest. Even the law itself provides for the reinstatement of the public officer concerned and payment to him of the salaries and benefits for the duration of the suspension in the event of an acquittal,” the court noted.