The Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division has affirmed its ruling on the 90-day preventive suspension of Mayor Tomas Bongalonta Jr. of Pili, Camarines Sur, pending litigation of the graft case he is facing for allegedly causing the dismissal of a then-municipal employee without legal basis.
The prosecution earlier sought the preventive suspension, which the anti-graft court granted, prompting Bongalonta to seek reconsideration.
In a resolution dated October 19, the court denied Bongalonta’s motion for reconsideration on the suspension order with prayer for dismissal of the instant case.
The ruling in part said “the arguments propounded by accused are not meritorious so as to justify a deviation from the ruling sought to be reconsidered.”
A statement issued by the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday said it was found that Bongalonta had allegedly dismissed then-municipal employee Eileen Ceron contrary to the Ombudsman’s order, which was only for suspension.
“[T]he accused knew fully well that the penalty of dismissal from the service has no legal basis, thereby depriving Ceron not only her office but also the salaries and monetary benefits attached thereto amounting to P955,285.06,” it added.
In asking the court to reconsider his his suspension, Bongalonta argued that the trial was about to be finished and thus it was “too late to impose preventive suspension.”
He also argued that the maximum suspension period should be offset with the 60-day suspension he already served as ordered by the Office of the Governor of Camarines Sur.
But the court said “there is no valid basis to offset the preventive suspension” with the suspension, which he served, adding that criminal cases are different from administrative matters.
Bongalonta sought the dismissal of his case over supposed violation of his right to speedy case disposition.
In its resolution the court said, “[a]t this stage in the proceedings, however, the off-tangent motion to dismiss brought up by accused cannot be raised as a new issue in his motion for reconsideration because he had ample opportunity to file a pleading asserting the prosecution’s inordinate delay…”
Meanwhile, the anti-graft court also preventively suspended five officials of Panglao, Bohol, for 90 days pending litigation of the graft case they are facing in connection with the procurement of a vehicle in 2008.
The order granted the prosecution’s plea to suspend Municipal Budget Officer Catalino Sumaylo, Municipal Engineer Rogelio Bonao, Municipal Treasurer Rena Guivencan, Administrative Assistant Dionisia Estopito and Administrative Aide Rene Lustre.
“In its resolution, the anti-graft court reiterated that any incumbent public officer arraigned under a valid information shall be suspended from office to prevent the hampering of the prosecution by intimidating or influencing witnesses, tampering with documentary evidence, or committing further acts of malfeasance while in office. It emphasized that the suspension is not a penalty,” the Office of the Ombudsman said in a statement.
The Ombudsman earlier filed the case before the Sandiganbayan against former Mayor Benedicto Alcala of Panglao, along with Sumaylo, Bonao, Guivencan, Estopito and Lustre, who were then members of the Bids and Awards Committee for allegedly procuring P1.46-million worth of vehiclse in January 2008 through direct contracting “without just and lawful basis.”