The anti-graft court said Ruiz' suspension is mandatory under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Over links to pork barrel scam: Ruiz faces suspension
Gregg M. Rubio (The Freeman) - January 10, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Sandigan-bayan Fifth Division has ordered a 90-day preventive suspension of former Cebu sixth district congresswoman and now Mandaue City Councilor Nerissa Soon-Ruiz in connection with multiple criminal cases on her alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

The court directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the suspension order.

The anti-graft court said Ruiz' suspension is mandatory under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Section 13 states that an incumbent public official “shall be suspended from office” if he or she is charged with a valid case information of a crime under RA 3019 or under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) or for any offense involving public funds or property or fraud against government.

Ruiz said she was already informed by her lawyer in December about the suspension order.

“Naghuwat mi nga ma-implement na para ma-hearing na kay pila na na ka tuig (We are waiting for the implementation of the suspension so hearing could start because that is long overdue),” Ruiz told The FREEMAN.

She said she also inquired with the city director of DILG but was informed that there was no order received yet.

She added that she already informed Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes about the suspension.

Ruiz was elected number one councilor in Mandaue City in the May 2019 elections. She had been elected to five terms as a member of the House of Representatives representing the sixth district of Cebu from 1992 to 1998, and from 2001 to 2010.

Filed by the Ombudsman last year, the cases against Ruiz stemmed from the alleged misuse of her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel from 2007 to 2009 during her term as representative.

The Ombudsman said Ruiz, in conspiracy with the officials of the abolished state firms National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor), Technology Resource Center (TRC) and National Livelihood and Development Center (NLDC), allocated and released her PDAF to three questionable non-government organizations (NGOs).

 It added that NGOs Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI), Gabaymasa Development Foundation Inc. (GDFI), and Gabay at Pag-asa and Masa Foundation Inc. (GPMFI) were unilaterally chosen by Ruiz to be her partners in the implementation of her PDAF-funded livelihood projects without the benefit of a public bidding required under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Ruiz is facing a total of 34 cases which include 17 counts of violation of RA 3019, seven counts of malversation of public funds as defined and penalized under the RPC, and 10 counts of the complex crime of malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents, also under the RPC.

The anti-graft court said the validity of the case information against Ruiz was already affirmed when it denied with finality her motion to quash the cases.

Ruiz was already arraigned last November 15, during which she entered a not guilty plea.

“[She] had already entered her pleas to the charges, which shows her acquiescence to the validity of the [case] Informations,” read a resolution promulgated last December 4, a copy of which was obtained by reporters only yesterday.

The court found no merit on Ruiz' argument that the court must first await the decision on the petition that she is about to file before the Office of the Ombudsman, wherein she will appeal that her name be stricken off the charge sheets.

The court also said Ruiz' argument is “premature” considering that she has yet to file the supposed petition.

“Even if a favorable relief from such petition from the Office of the Ombudsman will be obtained, the Court is not necessarily bound by the determination of the latter. It is settled, that once an Information is filed in Court any disposition of the case rests in the Court's sound discretion,” it added.

Lastly, the court also gave no weight on Ruiz' claim that there was no need to suspend her as she could no longer use her position or power to influence potential witnesses or tamper potential documentary evidence since the formal trial of the cases has already begun.

“Suffice it to state that the Court has neither the discretion nor duty to determine whether preventive suspension is required to prevent the accused from using his office to intimidate witnesses or frustrate her prosecution or continue committing malfeasance in office,” it said.

“Once the [case] information is found to be sufficient in form and substance, then it becomes the Court's ministerial duty to issue the order of suspension. There are no ifs and buts about it,” it added. Banat News Philstar News Service, JMD (FREEMAN)

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with