Ombudsman wants Tuguegarao mayor suspended

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STATE prosecutors urged the Sandiganbayan to suspend a police-turned-mayor in line with the P34-million Robinson chopper controversy.

In a three-page motion to suspend pendent lite (pending trial), government lawyers led by acting director Omar Sagadal of the Office of the Special Prosecutor wanted Jefferson Soriano be booted out of his office as the mayor of Tuguegarao City in Cagayan.

Implicated as a deputy director general in 2012, Soriano won the highest city post in the May 2013 elections in the northern city.

But with a graft charge before the Sandiganbayan, Soriano should be suspended as the city chief as enshrined in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, prosecutors said.

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“Any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information . . . shall be suspended from office,” the prosecution’s motion read.

Citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, fiscals said that the Anti-Graft law “makes it mandatory for the Sandiganbayan to suspend” the officials facing corruption charges.

Soriano is among the police officers, including former police chief Jesus Verzosa, who are facing criminal lawsuits in line with the P34-million chopper controversy.

To recall, the case stemmed from the dubious purchase of the Philippine National Police (PNP) of two Robinson R44 Raven 1 helicopters in 2009 from Manila Aerospace Trading Corp.

Allegedly, the PNP purchased the choppers as brand new but investigation showed that these were previously owned by Jose “Mike” Miguel Arroyo, husband of former president and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga.

Prosecutors said that now that Soriano was arraigned on July 11 and pleaded “not guilty” to the one-count graft, he is already under the jurisdiction of the court.

“Considering the nature of the indictment and validity of the criminal information . . . suspension of the accused pendete lite is mandatory,” the prosecutors said in closing. JOHN CONSTANTINE G. CORDON

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