Sandiganbayan suspends Coast Guard chiefBy Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the 90-day suspension of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) chief Edmund Tan due to a pending graft case over the allegedly unlawful detention of a barge in the Visayas five years ago.
The PCG commodore protested the automatic suspension, saying the Office of the Ombudsman had already dismissed related administrative charges last year after the complainant issued an affidavit of desistance. He said he would file a motion for reconsideration.
In its ruling, the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division had said the suspension was mandatory under antigraft law.
“He is hereby directed to cease and desist from performing and/or exercising the functions and duties, as well as enjoying the salaries, benefits, and privileges of his present public position or any other public office or position,” the court said in its resolution.
Tan is the second administration official ordered suspended this year. Earlier, the antigraft court’s Fourth Division also ordered the 90-day suspension of presidential adviser and Laguna Lake Development Authority chief Nereus Acosta over graft charges. Acosta has finished serving his suspension.
Tan’s case stemmed from his alleged unlawful detention of a barge carrying a shipment of iron ore when he headed the coast guard’s Visayas command in 2007. Businessman Reynaldo Chua Jr. complained he lost P500,000 due to penalties from his shipment’s prolonged stay in the dock. Tan allegedly ordered the detention by citing a temporary restraining order, which was found to be fictitious.
Tan denied the charge, saying the barge was held because it had no anchors.
Tan asked the court to call a pre-suspension hearing so he could challenge the validity of the criminal proceedings.
But in its resolution, the antigraft court said the validity of the charge against Tan was no longer an issue.
It said Tan had been given the chance to contest the basis of his criminal case. It noted that he had the chance to file a motion to quash the charges against him before his arraignment, but chose not to use it. After his arraignment and pre-trial, he filed a motion seeking the dismissal of the case, but the court denied this.
At present, Tan’s case is already undergoing trial and several witnesses have taken the stand.
The court also said a full-blown pre-suspension hearing was not a requirement for it to resolve the prosecution’s plea to suspend Tan.
It said it was enough that Tan was given a fair and adequate opportunity to challenge the validity of the criminal proceedings against him through filing various pleadings.
As for Tan’s arguments about the supposed insufficiencies in the charge sheet against him, the court said these were not defects that would invalidate it.
The PCG chief’s arguments are matters best threshed out in the trial, it added.
In a statement, Tan argued that the criminal aspect should have been dismissed after the complainants withdrew. A motion to dismiss the case was pending. “This is a classic example of ‘justice delayed, justice denied,’” he said.
“I just can’t understand why a decision on this has to take so long to resolve at the Sandiganbayan. And now they are suspending me when this should have been decided already,” he added. With Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted at 02:03 pm | Wednesday, July 11, 2012