Quezon officials suspended anew for same offense

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    THREE municipal officials of Mulanay, Quezon have to serve a second round of suspension from public office for the same act – the alleged anomalous procurement of a generator set in 2013 from an unqualified supplier.

    In a four-page resolution issued last January 12, the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division affirmed its November 6, 2020 resolution ordering municipal engineer Delio De Leon, municipal budget officer Noel Eroa, and revenue collection clerk Marina Panlillo be placed under 90-day preventive suspension based on a pending graft charge filed against them and former mayor Joselito Ojeda in 2019.

    Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the resolution, concurred in by Associate Justice Alex L. Quiroz and Edgardo M. Caldona.

    The case involves allegation of conspiracy among the defendants in favoring supplier-contractor Alta Maxpower Corporation (AMC) with the award of the contract to deliver a generator unit worth P500,000.

    Prosecutors said the supplier should have been disqualified due to ineligibility under RA 984 or the Government Procurement Reform Act for supposed lack of technical documents, delivery schedule, and after sales warranty.

    In challenging the court’s suspension order, the defendants argued they have already served a full year of suspension from October 2, 2018 to October 3, 2019 slapped by the Office of the Ombudsman in an administrative case arising from the same procurement transaction.

    They pointed out the purpose of the recent suspension – to prevent them from hampering the prosecution, intimidating or influencing witnesses or tampering with documentary evidence – has already been served during the year when they had to leave their offices.

    The anti-graft court, however, overruled their arguments, saying suspension based on the administrative case was a penalty for misdeeds while in office while suspension under a pending graft case is not a punishment but merely to prevent defendants from hampering the prosecution as well as the prevent them from doing any other malfeasance in office.

    “The administrative case has no effect on the criminal case. Criminal actions will not preclude administrative proceedings, and vice-versa, insofar as the application of the law on preventive suspension is concerned,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    It pointed out that if the defendants win an acquittal they will be entitled to salaries and benefits that they did not receive while serving suspension.