• Court suspends Marinduque governor

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    The Sandiganbayan’s Second Division suspended Marinduque Gov. Carmencita Reyes for 60 days pending litigation of the graft and illegal use of public funds/technical malversation charges filed against her and several others.

    Reyes and several others including agriculture officials were implicated in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

    The Office of the Ombudsman filed the charges in 2011 alleging that P5 million that the province received were diverted and used to buy equipment from a firm without public bidding in 2004.

    In a four-page Resolution promulgated on October 8 and made public on Thursday, the Sandiganbayan granted the prosecution’s motion “and accordingly orders the suspension pendente lite [pending litigation]of Carmencita Reyes as Provincial Governor of Marinduque, and from any other position which she may now or hereafter be holding, for a period of 60 days.”

    “Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Honorable Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government for the implementation of this suspension order, with the directive to inform this Court of any action taken thereon within 10 days from receipt hereof,” it said.

    Reyes had opposed the prosecution’s motion, arguing that her continued stay in office will not affect the prosecution’s presentation of its case because all its evidence were already marked and its witnesses were not employees of Marinduque province.

    According to the court’s ruling, she also alleged that her suspension “would work injustice to her, especially at this time when candidates for the forthcoming 2016 elections are about to file their certificates of candidacy, and may be taken advantage of by political opportunists.”

    But the court held that granting the prosecution’s motion becomes compulsory on its part, considering that a preliminary investigation had been conducted in the case and that Reyes had already been arraigned in January 2014.

    “The political considerations or factors being raised by the accused cannot override the mandatory character of suspension pendente lite that must be observed by the Court, which should remain apolitical,” it said.

    Reyes, who ran under the Liberal Party and won the gubernatorial race in Marinduque in 2013, pleaded not guilty during her arraignment.

    REINA TOLENTINO

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