Lawmaker asks Sandigan to reconsider his suspension

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Pangasinan Fifth District Rep. Amado Espino Jr. is asking the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division to reconsider its order to suspend him pending litigation of graft cases that he is facing along with several others for allegedly authorizing two supposedly unqualified firms to extract black sand in the Lingayen Gulf area in 2011.

Earlier, the court granted the prosecution’s plea for preventive suspension of Espino under Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which mandates the preventive suspension of incumbent public officers facing a valid graft charge.

“Thus, accused respectfully submits that reversible error was committed in ordering the suspension of herein incumbent congressman in pursuant to Section 13 of Republic Act 3019. As such, cccused humbly submits that the assailed resolution be reconsidered and set aside based on the following protestations,” the defense said in a motion for reconsideration filed last week.

The lawmaker’s camp maintained that Section 13 of the anti-graft law is “unconstitutional” and an “archaic” provision.

“A suspension, regardless of its nature as preventive or as a penalty, is still an act of removing the public’s rightful representative in Congress,” it said, adding that suspending Espino will render him unable to comply with his constitutionally-mandated duties to his constituents.

The preventive suspension must also be done administratively by the House of Representatives, according to the defense.

Further, it maintained that Espino cannot affect or disturb the evidentiary documents because these are not in his custody but are with the government agencies and the Office of the Ombudsman and that he is not in the position or in the power to converse with, much less influence, the prosecution’s witnesses.

The defense argued that the dangers, which suspension under the anti-graft law seeks to prevent, may have been present when it was enacted in 1960, considering the proximity of regular courts or prosecutors’ location to the public officer’s seat of power, but that these dangers no longer exist with the current structure of government.

“However, now, such fear or danger does not exist. The 1987 Philippine Constitution has effectively created independent constitutional bodies answerable to no one and having national jurisdiction, particularly the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan. By the nature of their independent and superior creation, these institutions cannot be influenced or intimidated in any way by a mere city or provincial public officer,” it said.

“Thus if the danger sought to be addressed by the preventive suspension cannot possibly exist, such suspension should not be implemented,” the defense added.

Espino’s camp said the filing of the case against him was allegedly part of a plot to destroy his reputation.

The defense thus asked the court to reconsider and set aside its ruling that ordered his preventive suspension.

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