Sandiganbayan suspends Cotabato gov
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the suspension of Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza for three months as she faces a graft case over the anomalous purchase of fuel from her mother’s gasoline station.
In a three-page resolution on Oct. 25, the antigraft court’s First Division granted the motion filed by the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor to suspend Mendoza pending the litigation of her graft case.
The court said under Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), suspension is mandatory for public officials facing valid graft charges. It said the validity of the charge had been established because Mendoza had entered a “not guilty” plea during her arraignment.
Prosecutors had requested Mendoza’s suspension because of the “possibility” that she might use her position to intimidate witnesses and hamper her prosecution. Mendoza disagreed and said her suspension will not serve this purpose.
The court rejected her contention, saying the mandatory rule on suspending public officials leaves “no room for interpretation.”
“The court has neither the discretion nor the duty to determine whether preventive
suspension is required to prevent the accused from using [her] office to intimidate witnesses or frustrate her prosecution or continue committing malfeasance in office,” the resolution read.
Mendoza’s suspension covers 90 days from receipt of the resolution. The court directed Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno to implement the order.
Mendoza is accused of graft for authorizing the release of P2.4 million to pay for 49,526 liters of fuel to be used by a road grader and four dump trucks during the province’s two-day road rehabilitation project.
The provincial government, however, directly contracted Taliño Shell Station, which is owned by Mendoza’s mother, instead of holding public bidding, the Ombudsman said.
The governor had said the gas station was the nearest establishment to the project site and the only station willing to sell fuel on credit.
In an earlier interview, Mendoza denied that she handpicked her mother’s station but noted it offered the lowest price.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said there was “no compelling justification” for disregarding the requirement of public bidding.
Morales also cited an instance where the amount of fuel the provincial government bought far exceeded the amount actually consumed by the equipment.
For Morales, this indicated that the remaining fuel was converted to cash for the benefit of those involved in the transaction.
A staff member from Mendoza’s office on Thursday said the governor had yet to receive a copy of the suspension order. WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER MINDANAO
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