Court urged to suspend Pangasinan lawmaker

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The prosecution has asked the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division to order the suspension of newly elected Pangasinan 5th District Rep. Amado Espino Jr., pending litigation of graft cases filed against him and several others for allegedly authorizing two unqualified firms to extract black sand in the Lingayen Gulf area in 2011.

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Espino, who is out on bail, was governor of Pangasinan at the time the alleged irregularity was committed.

In a three-page Motion to Suspend Accused Pendente Lite (pending litigation) filed on Friday, the prosecution invoked Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which provides that “[a]ny incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this act… is pending in court shall be suspended from office.”

Espino was arraigned last month.

“Wherefore, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that this Honorable Court issue an order suspending accused Espino from discharge of public office pending trial of this case,” the prosecution said.

In filing the two counts of graft against the former governor last March, the Office of the Ombudsman alleged that the respondents gave unwarranted benefit, privilege or advantage to Xypher Builders Inc. and to Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. and caused undue injury to the government.

The firms were allegedly authorized to conduct soil remediation and/or magnetite and mineral extraction activities within Barangay Sabangan in Lingayen Gulf, even if they were “not lawfully entitled to conduct mining activities within said protected area.”

Based on the charge sheets, the two firms were allegedly not duly accredited by or registered with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board and the mining activities allegedly lacked the requisite area clearance from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. also did not possess any business permit from the municipality of Lingayen, the Ombudsman alleged.

Named respondents in the first graft case were Espino, former provincial administrator Rafael Baraan, then-provincial housing and homesite regulation officer Alvin Bigay and ex-members of the board of directors of Xypher Builders Inc. Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar, Avery Pujol, Cynthia Camara and Lolita Bolayog.

In another graft charge, Espino and Baraan were named respondents along with former members of the board of directors of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. –Cesar Detera, Edwin Alcazar, Bolayog, Denise Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Camara, Glenn Subia and Emiliano Buenavista.

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