Monday, September 28, 2015

Prosecutors press suspension of Marinduque Gov. Reyes

'Untouchable' Carmencita O. Reyes, 86, held office from 1978 as assemblywoman from 1978 to 1986 (Martial Law era), representative from 1987 to 1998 and 2007 to 2010, governor from 1998 to 2007 and 2010 to present. Photo: Rocky Bryan

Government prosecutors have petitioned the Sandiganbayan to issue an order of suspension against Marinduque provincial governor Carmencita Reyes over the objections of her lawyers.

In a nine-page Rejoinder filed last week, the five-man panel of prosecutors led by Louella Mae Oco Pesquera asked the Sandiganbayan to enforce mandatory suspension as mandated by the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Reyes is facing two counts of graft before the graft court's Second Division in relation to allegations that she misused P5 million allocations to the province under the Farm Input and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP). Both cases were filed back in 2011.

The sum was part of the so-called Fertilizer Fund scam in 2004 wherein some P728 million public funds were reportedly used in the procurement of unnecessary and overpriced liquid fertilizer and farm equipment.

Reyes claimed she had nothing to do with the scam, laying the blame instead on Department of Agriculture-Region 4 officials.

Reyes resisted the prosecution's move to have her suspended, saying the reason for such suspension is not applicable in her case because she is not in a position to intimidate witnesses or to prevent the prosecution from pursuing her case.

She pointed out that none of the witnesses earlier identified by the prosecution is employed by the provincial government.

Reyes also claimed that insisting on her suspension would be equivalent to depriving her constituents of the services of their duly-elected local government official.

In addition, she said her suspension would only serve to prejudice her personally because such an order can be exploited by her political opponents.

The prosecution, however, disagreed, saying the defense is asking the Sandiganbayan to step out of bounds if the court were to make her an exception.

It is argued that the Supreme Court has invariably upheld the suspension of a public official once it has been determined by the court that the defendant has been charged by a valid criminal offense under RA 3019 or any case involving fraud in government funds or properties. - Peter J.G. Tabingo, Malaya

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