In a memorandum issued on Aug. 28, Martires said the courts must be allowed to issue suspension orders motu propio or on their own initiative, in accordance with Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Edd Gumban/File
Ombudsman: 'No need to suspend officials facing raps'
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - September 7, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Newly appointed Ombudsman Samuel Martires has an unconventional order to state prosecutors: to no longer seek the suspension of government officials facing charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan and any other lower court.

In a memorandum issued on Aug. 28, Martires said the courts must be allowed to issue suspension orders motu propio or on their own initiative, in accordance with Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The memorandum was addressed to the ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor, Prosecution and Monitoring Bureaus of area or sectoral offices and the Prosecution, Information, Evaluation and Monitoring Services.

“All concerned shall no longer be required to file motions to suspend accused pendente lite (pending litigation) before the Sandiganbayan or the lower courts,” it read. “All motions for suspension pendente lite which have been filed before the issuance of this memorandum but which remain unresolved by the trial courts are ordered withdrawn.”

As for motions already granted by the courts but are still under appeal by the accused, Martires said “the handling prosecutor shall withdraw the motion and accordingly inform the appellate court that the motion has been withdrawn.”

He cited in his memorandum a previous Supreme Court (SC) ruling in Luciano vs Mariano where the high tribunal declared that under Section 13 of RA 3019, “solely the court in which the criminal case has been filed shall wield the power of suspension.”

Martires also cited the SC ruling on Flores vs Layosa in which it was explained that the purpose of Section 13 of RA 3019 is to allow “courts to issue the suspension order motu propio.”

Suspension vs Honasan

Martires’ new directive prompted the prosecution panel to withdraw its earlier motion seeking the preventive suspension of Sen. Gregorio Honasan II in graft cases related to the alleged misuse of P30 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel in 2012.

In a manifestation filed Sept. 1, the prosecution informed the Sandiganbayan Second Division that it is withdrawing its motion for suspension against the lawmaker “in utmost deference (and) faithful compliance” with Martires’ directives.

It maintained, however, that the court must suspend Honasan even without a motion.

In a text message sent to reporters, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang agreed that a motion is not a prerequisite for a court-ordered suspension of an accused government official.

Tang said the court’s First, Fifth and Seventh Divisions have had occasions of issuing suspension orders without any motion from the prosecution.

She also said that the Third Division, which she chairs, “has not done so yet.”

OMBUDSMAN SAMUEL MARTIRES SANDIGANBAYAN
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