Pangasinan Rep. Espino suspended for graft over black sand mining
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division on Thursday ordered the suspension of Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr. for 90 days amid a graft trial over alleged black sand mining in the province.
In its resolution, the anti-graft court granted the prosecution’s motion to suspend Espino, who was charged with counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Section 13 of RA 3019 states that incumbent public officials being prosecuted under a valid information involving fraud of public funds should be suspended from office.
This was despite Espino’s opposition that only the Congress can order his suspension, and that his suspension would be “in violation of the wishes of general public” as it “will deprive his constituents of their voice in Congress.”
The former Pangasinan governor, who won a congressional seat in the May elections, was accused of authorizing the issuance of permits in 2011 to Xypher Builders Inc. and Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. to conduct soil remediation and mineral extraction in barangay (village) Sabangan in Lingayen.
“The authority of this Court to order the preventive suspension of an incumbent public official, including members of Congress, charged with violation, not only of the provisions of RA No. 3019, as amended, but also of offenses under Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code or for any offense involving fraud of public funds and property, has both legal and jurisprudential support,” the resolution read.
“Once the information is found to be sufficient in form and substance, it is the ministerial duty of the Court to issue a preventive suspension order and ‘there are no ifs and buts about it.’ That the accused has recognized the validity of the information or it is sufficient in form and substance is no longer in dispute when he entered his plea or was arraigned,” it added.
The companies that Espino allegedly authorized were not registered with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board and lacked requisite area clearance from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the prosecutors said.
In his motion to dismiss the case, Espino claimed there was no need for the firms to secure clearance from the MGB because the excavation of black sand was not related to mining. In Alexandria’s case, Espino said the permit was to allow the extraction of black sand from a lot supposedly intended to be built as a golf course. JE/rga
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