Sandiganbayan suspends solon over P2.5-M unliquidated funds
The Sandiganbayan has suspended South Cotabato Representative Pedro Acharon Jr. who faces graft charges for failing to liquidate some P2.5 million used for a dinner festival in Los Angeles, California.
According to an Ombudsman press release on Wednesday, the anti-graft court’s Second Division granted its request to impose a 60-day preventive suspension on Acharon.
“The authority of this Court to order the preventive suspension of an incumbent public official has both legal and jurisprudential support,” the court said in its resolution promulgated Jan. 28, 2016.
Acharon was suspended pending his graft litigation for allegedly failing to liquidate P2.5 million spent for the Tambayoyong Festival in Los Angeles, California, from June 9 to 16, 2006, when he was General Santos City mayor.
The budget was intended for the dinner of 37 participants, but only 17 showed up. Acharon allegedly failed to liquidate the P2.5 million and caused undue injury to government.
In suspending Acharon, the court said it found no merit in his claim that “he no longer approves or implements disbursement of public funds, as he used to do as former City Mayor of General Santos City in which capacity he was charged in this case.”
Acharon is the incumbent South Cotabato First District representative.
The court said Acharon could be suspended even for an offense committed in a position he previously held.
“For as long as the accused occupies a public office, he can be suspended pendente lite” as “suspension follows the accused in whatever other government position which he/she may be holding at the time of suspension,” the court said.
The court also found no merit in his defense that “his constituents would be deprived of representation if he were to be suspended.”
The court directed Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to implement the suspension order.
In asking the court to suspend Acharon, the prosecution said the lawmaker pleaded not guilty to the charges on March 18, 2014, and thus the suspension against him should be mandatory under the law.
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