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Panglao execs suspended for 90 days over graft rap

Panglao island in Bohol province. File photo
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has ordered five municipal officials in Bohol suspended in connection with a graft case over the allegedly anomalous purchase of a vehicle.
 
In its resolution dated September 19, released to the media on Monday, the anti-graft court's Fifth Division granted the motion for suspension pendente lite (pending litigation) filed by the Office of the Ombudsman's prosecution team against Panglao municipal budget officer Catalino Sumaylo, municipal engineer Rogelio Bonao, municipal treasurer Rena Guivencan, administrative assistant Dionisia Estopito and administrative aide Rene Lustre.
 
The Fifth Division sided with the prosecution's argument that under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the suspension of incumbent public officials is “mandatory” if they are charged under a valid case information with a crime under the Revised Penal Code or for any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property.
 
The Fifth Division said that since all the accused public officer were already arraigned, the information of the case against them is already considered valid.
 
The court said the suspension is necessary “to prevent the accused public officer from hampering his or her prosecution by intimidating or influencing witnesses, tampering with documentary evidence or committing further acts of malfeasance while in office”.
 
Panglao Mayor Nila Montero is directed to implement the suspension order.
 
The five suspended municipal officials were co-accused of former Panglao Mayor Benedicto Alcala for violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019.
 
The case stemmed from the alleged procurement of a Kia Sorento in January 2008 worth P1.46 million through direct contracting instead of a public bidding.
 
The ombudsman, which filed the case last year, said the Panglao officials' resort to direct contracting was without just and lawful basis.
 
The ombudsman further said that the vehicle purchase was not considered as an allowable expense under the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of Budget and Management's Joint Circular No. 01 Series of 2005 as the money was allegedly drawn from the municipal government's Development Fund.
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