• Graft court suspends South Cotabato lawmaker

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    THE Sandiganbayan’s Second Division ordered a 60-day suspension of Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. of South Cotabato’s first district, pending litigation of the graft case filed against him in connection with cash advances totaling P2.5 million in 2006 while he was the mayor of General Santos City.

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    The anti-graft court also directed House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., to implement the suspension order.

    “[T]he authority of this Court to order the preventive suspension of an incumbent public official has both legal and jurisprudential support,” the Office of the Ombudsman quoted on Wednesday the court’s Resolution approved on January 28, 2016.

    The court also granted the prosecution’s motion for the lawmaker’s preventive suspension.

    In 2012 the Ombudsman charged Acharon Jr., along with former General Santos City Finance Administrator Marcelino Dospueblos and private individual Chriselda Macion in connection with two cash advances totaling P2.5 million intended for the “Pagana Dinner Show and Tambayayong Festival” held in Los Angeles, California.

    Macion was the president and representative of the non-government organization called General Santos City Tourism Association Inc.

    The Ombudsman alleged that the respondents knew that the sum was intended for 37 participants when only 17 were able to participate in the said festival. They allegedly failed to liquidate the P2.5 million thus causing undue injury to the government.

    Acharon had argued against his preventive suspension saying that as incumbent congressional representative, he no longer approves or implements disbursement of public funds unlike when he was mayor.

    He added that his constituents would be deprived of representation if he will be suspended, but the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division did not give weight to his arguments.

    “For as long as the accused occupies a public office, he can be suspended pendente lite [pending litigation],” the court said, “suspension follows the accused in whatever other government position which he/she may be holding at the time of suspension.”

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