Tuguegarao mayor suspended for 90 days over PNP’s defective rubber boats
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has ordered the suspension for 90 days of Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano in connection with the alleged anomalous procurement of P132 million worth of defective rubber boats when he was still a ranking police official.
In a nine-page ruling, the anti-graft court’s Third Division threw out Soriano’s plea asking the court to credit the “excess suspension” he served when the Office of the Ombudsman ordered his dismissal as mayor last year over a different case.
The policeman-turned-politician argued that suspending him again from office would only “further perpetuate injustice and violate (my) rights and (my) constituents’ rights” since it was the Ombudsman which sought his suspension in the two separate cases.
But the court said Soriano’s claims were “bereft of merit and should be denied.”
It said the suspension order it issued on Feb. 28, 2014, which the court upheld on Oct. 2, 2014, clearly involved a different case from the one, which the Ombudsman used as basis in its dismissal order.
“Accused Soriano’s claim that the distinction between the administrative and criminal cases should be disregarded … does not convince,” the court said in its Nov. 2 resolution.
“(I)t must be emphasized that in the administrative case, the penalty of dismissal from the service was imposed by the … Ombudsman. In the present case, the suspension … which is not a penalty, is being imposed by this court, and not by the… Ombudsman,” it added.
Soriano, who retired in 2009 as chief for administration of the Philippine National Police, was fired as mayor by the Ombudsman for grave abuse of authority when he approved the operation of a flea market in 2013 without the city council’s authorization.
However, the Court of Appeals granted his motion questioning the Ombudsman’s decision.
In its April 16 ruling, the appellate court ordered Soriano’s reinstatement and ruled that he was only guilty of simple misconduct. It said the mayor should only be suspended for three months.
Since he relinquished his post for more than seven months, he said he had already served the separate 90-day suspension meted out on him by the anti-graft court regarding the rubber boat scam.
Soriano, a former chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, was the chairman of the PNP bids and awards committee when it approved the purchase of 75 rubber boats and 18 spare engines for the PNP Maritime Group in 2008 without a public bidding.
In its Sept. 26, 2012 resolution, the Ombudsman approved the filing of graft charges against Soriano and seven other police officials after it found various irregularities in the procurement of the water vessels.
It said the outboard motors were not functional, rendering the rubber boats useless. SFM
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.