Sandiganbayan suspends Iligan City congressman for 90 days
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has placed Iligan City Lone Dist. Rep. Frederick Siao under a 90-day preventive suspension amid a graft complaint filed against him over alleged illegal leasing of government lands in the province.
In a resolution dated May 21, the Sandiganbayan Third Division said Siao’s suspension is valid even if the lawmaker argued it is no longer necessary since the prosecution has already rested its case, thus, “there is no longer any danger that he may tamper with any records and evidence or intimidate the witnesses with his influence and authority.”
But the resolution by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang asserted: “While indeed the prosecution had rested its case, the presumption is that unless the accused is suspended, he may frustrate his prosecution or commit further acts of malfeasance or do both.”
The graft complaint against Siao stemmed from his alleged participation in authorizing former Iligan Mayor Lawrence Ll. Cruz to extend the lease of local government lands when he was still city councilor.
The lease agreement, which was first entered into in 2004, supposedly did not go through public bidding. It was also revealed that the contractors leasing the lands – Kiwalan Lumber Company and Salvatori Development Corp. – were related to Cruz’s mother.
While under preventive suspension, Siao should not receive his salary as Iligan City congressman. He might also lose benefits under the law if he is convicted on final judgment. In the same manner, he may be reinstated and have his salaries and benefits returned if he is acquitted.
“This is because a preventive suspension is not a penalty. It is not imposed as a result of judicial proceedings. In fact, if acquitted, the official concerned shall be entitled to reinstatement and to the salaries and benefits which he failed to receive during suspension,” the resolution explained.
A copy of the Sandiganbayan resolution will be forwarded to the Speaker of the House of Representatives for enforcement. After 90 days, the suspension order would immediately be lifted, the anti-graft court said.
Siao won for a second term as Iligan City congressman in the May 13 midterm elections. He will serve in the 18th Congress until 2022. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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