Sandigan suspends Antique town mayor

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has ordered the suspension for 90 days of Mayor Genevive Lim-Reyes of Caluya town in Antique in connection with the charges she is facing over the alleged illegal cutting of coconut trees in 2014.

In a resolution promulgated on Aug. 10, the anti-graft court’s fifth division granted the motion of the prosecution panel to suspend Reyes pending her litigation for one count each of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 5 of RA 8048 or the Coconut Preservation Act.

The court said the suspension of a public official charged with fraud on government or public funds or property is mandatory.

The anti-graft court said suspension is not a penalty, but “a mere preventive measure that arises from the legal presumption that unless the accused is suspended he may frustrate his prosecution or commit further acts of malfeasance or do both.”

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman on April 6, the cases stemmed from Reyes’ order to cut 245 coconut trees in a five-hectare farm in Sitio Poocan, Barangay Tinogboc, which is owned by a certain Juliet Ramos.

The ombudsman said the cutting of the trees did not undergo legal processes, such as public consultation with the occupants of the lot as well as “judicial recovery of possession” initiatives.

There was also no permit from the Philippine Coconut Authority, it said.

Reyes had been earlier suspended for six months over the eviction of the occupants of the same coconut farm to pave the way for a housing project.

Graft probers said the municipal council did not approve the housing project.



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