News Briefs: May 25, 2019
Iligan City Rep. Siao suspended for 90 days for graft
The Sandiganbayan third division has ordered the suspension of Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao for 90 days in connection with his graft case. Siao’s case stemmed from his alleged involvement in the illegal leasing of government lands in the province. During his suspension, Siao will not receive his salary as Iligan City representative. In the event he is acquitted, the Sandiganbayan explained that he would be compensated for the benefits withheld during the period of suspension. “This is because a preventive suspension is not a penalty… 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 said. Siao, who won reelection, earlier argued that the suspension was unnecessary, since the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence, and thus Siao can no longer affect the case by continuing to remain in his position. However, the anti-graft court disagreed, saying Siao still needs to be suspended since “he may frustrate his prosecution or commit further acts of malfeasance or do both.”— PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
Court transfers ex-intel officer Guban to Manila City Jail
A Manila regional trial court on Thursday ordered the transfer of former customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban to the Manila City Jail, after denying his appeal to remain under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation. In an order dated May 23, Branch 35 Judge Maria Bernardita Santos said Guban’s request to remain under the bureau’s custody “would create confusion and disorder.” Guban, along with dismissed Police Col. Eduardo Acierto, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency deputy director Ismael Fajardo Jr., and five other people, face charges of importation of illegal drugs before the court. They allegedly conspired together to smuggle P2.4 billion worth of “shabu” hidden in magnetic lifters intercepted at the Port of Manila, and another P11 billion worth of drugs believed to have been hidden in four other lifters discovered in Cavite province. Guban had appealed Santos’ May 10 decision ordering his transfer to the city jail, saying his life was in danger after testifying against several individuals, including his co-accused Acierto and Fajardo.—KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING AND JOHN MARWIN ELAO
Ex-agri chief Alcala pleads not guilty in garlic cartel case
Former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was arraigned on Friday at the Sandiganbayan fifth division and pleaded not guilty to his graft charge in connection with his alleged involvement in the manipulation of garlic prices from 2010 to 2014. Also arraigned was Laila Matabang, a private individual and co-accused. She also entered a not guilty plea. The arraignment of the rest of their co-accused has been deferred to July 5. In April, Alcala posted bail at the Sandiganbayan for his provisional liberty. Alcala and his 23 co-accused face one count each of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for their alleged collusion to manipulate garlic prices in the local market in 2013 to 2014. The prosecution accused Alcala and then Bureau of Plant Industry director Clarito Barron, former National Plant Quarantine Services Division (NPQSD) chief Luben Marasigan, and current NPQSD head Merle Palacpac of conspiring to favor the Vegetable Importers, Exporters, Vendors Association of the Philippines (Vieva) which got majority of the import permits issued between 2010 to 2014 despite a suspension order. According to the prosecution, a certain Lilia Cruz who is a Vieva member, was appointed chair of the National Garlic Action Team in July 2013, which gave her access to “vital information” regarding the supply and production of garlic in the market.—PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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