Sandiganbayan places Roderick Paulate on 90-day suspension
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has placed actor and Quezon City Councilor Roderick Paulate on a 90-day preventive suspension in relation to graft cases he is facing after allegedly hiring ghost employees.
According the decision from the Seventh Division dated March 11, all the conditions warranting the preventive suspension of Paulate, who is accused of violating Section 3 of R.A. 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, were present.
“To warrant the preventive suspension of accused, the following conditions must be present: that the Information must be valid, and that accused must be charged with the covered offense, i.e. violation of RA 3019, or crimes defined under Title Seven, Book 11 of the RPC (Revised Penal Code), or any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property,” the eight-page decision said.
“We find that all of the requisite conditions exist in the case at bar,” they added.
In April 2018, Paulate was charged with graft and falsification of public records after he and his aide, driver and liaison officer Vicente Bajamunde, allegedly conspired to hire 30 non-existent contractual workers, causing undue injury worth P1.1 million within five months.
Paulate, who is seeking the vice mayoralty of Quezon City, later posted bail worth P246,000 for his provisional liberty.
In the decision, the court relayed that Paulate said his preventive suspension has no bearing since these are meted to prevent the accused from interfering in the investigation. He asserts that he cannot obstruct the investigation as the case is already in the pre-trial stage.
“Accused further argues that the purpose of preventive suspension is to prevent accused from obstructing investigators in the gathering of evidence and possible witnesses. However, this case is already in the pre-trial stage and thus, there is nothing that could be influenced since the Ombudsman is already done with the investigation of the case,” the court explained.
Paulate’s camp also cited Section 62 (c) of the R.A. 7160 or the Local Government Code, which prevents the imposition of suspensions 90 days prior a local election.
However, Sandiganbayan noted that the prosecution should be given time to prepare for trial, and under no such condition should investigation be hampered and witnesses be influenced or intimidated.
The court emphasized that Paulate is an elected official who “logically possesses” influence.
Aside from these, they also added that Section 62 of R.A. 7610 was referring to administrative cases, and not criminal cases like what Paulate is facing.
“It should be stressed, however, that the ban provided under Sec. 62(c) of RA No. 7160 refers to preventive suspension imposed in administrative cases […] On the other hand, the preventive suspension referred to in this case is pursuant to Sec. 13 of RA No. 3019, which requires a valid Information in a criminal case,” the court explained. /je
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