Ombudsman suspends ARTA chief, 4 other execs for 6 months
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the preventive suspension of Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Director General Jeremiah Belgica and four other officials for alleged graft.
In its order dated May 24, the Ombudsman ordered the suspension for six months of Belgica, Deputy Director General Eduardo Bringas, Director Jedreck Ng, Director Melamy Salvadora-Asperin and Division Chief Sheryl Pura-Sumagui.
“In order to secure the documents and to prevent possible harassment of witnesses and considering further that their continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against them, they are hereby placed under PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION for a period of six (6) months pursuant to Section 24 of Republic Act No. 6770,” as stated in the order signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires.
But the Ombudsman also said in a transmittal letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea that the six-month suspension should be converted to a fine amounting to “the respondent’s salary for a number of months corresponding to the period of suspension” if the concerned officials could no longer serve the suspension.
The letter was attached to the order, which the Ombudsman sent to the Office of the Executive Secretary for immediate implementation since ARTA is under the Office of the President.
It must be noted that Belgica and the other officials are co-terminus with President Rodrigo Duterte, who is set to finish his administration on June 30.
“In the event that the penalty of Suspension/Dismissal can no longer be enforced due to respondent’s separation from the service (such as, but not limited to, retirement, resignation, or expiration of the term of office), the penalty shall be converted into a Fine in an amount equivalent to respondent’s salary for (a number of months corresponding to the period of suspension but which should not exceed six months in case of suspension and one year in case of dismissal from the service), payable to the Office of the Ombudsman, and may be deductible from respondent’s accrued leave credits or any receivable from his/her office,” Martires said in the letter dated June 3.
The Ombudsman added that the refusal or failure of any officer to comply with the order should be ground for disciplinary action.
“Compliance is strictly enjoined consistent with Sections 15(3) and 26(4) of R.A. 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989),” said Martires.
The preventive suspension was ordered after a complaint was filed by a telecommunications firm against Belgica and the four other ARTA officials for alleged violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In its complaint, the telco firm accused the five ARTA officials of allegedly favoring and providing special treatment to another telco firm in the selection of a New Major Player (NMP) in the country’s telecom industry, which was conducted by the National Telecommunications Commission.
Martires noted that the telco firm that was allegedly favored also purchased bid documents but failed to participate in the NMP selection process.
“The evidence on record shows that the guilt of respondents JEREMIAH B. BELGICA, EDUARDO V. BRINGAS, SHERYL PURA SUMAGUI, JEDREK C. NG and MELAMY A. SALVADORA-ASPERIN is strong and the charges against them involve Grave Misconduct, Gross Neglect of Duty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service which may warrant removal from the service,” Martires said.
Meanwhile, a copy of the suspension order was forwarded to the office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on June 3 for its immediate implementation.
INQUIRER.net has tried to reach out to Belgica but has yet to get a reply as of writing.