Lawyer balks at lengthy grounding of governor

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THE LEAD defense counsel of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia accused the Office of the Ombudsman of trying to stretch the preventive suspension against the reinstated governor to prevent her from occupying her last two weeks in office.

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After Thursday’s hearing at the Sandiganbayan, defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador 3rd told reporters that the prosecution filed the motion to suspend in order to prolong Garcia’s suspension which ended on Monday.

“They simply want to extend the 180-day suspension of Governor Garcia which has already lapsed,” he said.

Earlier, the Office of the President found Garcia guilty of usurpation of power, ordering her suspended for six months since December 19, 2012 until Monday.

Salvador added that the prosecution wanted to prevent Garcia to occupy her last days in office from May 19 to July 1.

During the hearing, the defense said that Garcia cannot be suspended over the P99-million Balili estate scam because the Sandiganbayan has yet to act on their pending motion to quash.

“The motion to quash [filed in May 21]has to be resolved first before acting on the suspension,” Salvador said in open court.

He and lawyers from Romulo Mabanta said that since the motion to quash “attacked” the validity of the information, the motion to suspend that state prosecutors filed recently should not prosper since to suspend a public officer, he must first regard the information as valid.

But Associate Justice Teresita Diaz-Baldos interposed: “But she was already arraigned. If so, what did she plead to?”

In court procedure, to be arraigned means that the defendant is admitting the validity of the charge sheet and submitting his person as well before the court’s jurisdiction.

The defense said that the Cebu governor was “required” to submit herself for arraignment after the anti-graft court held that the Supreme Court has not issued yet on March 22 a temporary restraining order.

Salvador added that the defense filed the motion to quash as it was both Garcia and the defense’ “observation” that the information is defective.

However, state prosecutors said that the allegations of the defense that the information does not constitute an offense are already evidentiary in nature.

The prosecution raised that since Garcia had already been arraigned the information is deemed valid and there was nothing to quash for.

In closing, the bench pointed out that it will act on the suspension as soon as the prosecution files its last pleading.

Co-accused
Meanwhile, Garcia’s co-accused Anthony Sususco, Roy Salubre, and Eulogio Pelayre, all members of the Provincial Appraisal Committee also indicted in the Balili estate scam were arraigned on Thursday.

They pleaded “not guilty” after the charge was read to them in their two-count graft charges.

The three are indicted for issuing a resolution for the land purchase of the 24.9-hectare parcels of lot in 2008 of which 19.7-ha is believed to be submerged underwater.

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