• Court upholds suspension of Pangasinan accountant

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    The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division has affirmed its order for the 90-day preventive suspension of Pangasinan Provincial Accountant Arturo Soriano pending litigation of the graft charges he is facing in connection with the award of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) interim maintenance deal to a joint venture in 2012.

    In a six-page resolution promulgated on January 18, the court denied for lack of merit his plea to reconsider the earlier ruling that granted the prosecution’s motion for his preventive suspension.

    “This Court, in its Resolution dated October 26, 2016 explained the reasons for placing accused Soriano under suspension pendente lite. The grounds herein posited by accused Soriano are mere reiterations of the arguments in his Opposition to the Motion to Suspend,” the anti-graft court said.

    It added that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that suspension pendente lite (pending litigation) under Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act is mandatory.

    “As this Court ruled in its October 26, 2016 Resolution, the conditions to place accused Soriano under preventive suspension are present: (1) accused Soriano is an incumbent public official; he is the Provincial Accountant of Pangasinan having been appointed to said position in August 2014, and, (2) he is charged under valid Information for violations of R.A. No. 3019 and R.A. 9184,” the anti-graft court said.

    RA No. 9184 is the Government Procurement Reform Act, while Section 13 of the anti-graft law mandates the preventive suspension of incumbent public officers facing a valid graft charge.

    The dismissal of the administrative case against Soriano also has no effect on the propriety of the suspension order because criminal cases are distinct from administrative ones, it said.

    Soriano was among the then-incorporators of the Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams) charged with graft along with former MRT-3 General Manager Al Vitangcol 3rd in connection with the award of the MRT 3 interim maintenance deal to PH Trams and Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corp. joint venture even when Soriano was his supposed uncle-in-law.

    REINA TOLENTINO

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