The anti-graft law does not exempt members of Congress from the preventive suspension it mandated, the prosecution said in response to an appeal of Pangasinan 5th District Rep. Amado Espino Jr. opposing the move to suspend him pending litigation of his graft cases.
The prosecution earlier asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to preventively suspend Espino pending litigation, citing Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which mandates the preventive suspension of incumbent public officials facing a valid graft charge.
Espino opposed the move but the prosecution said his arguments “should not be given merit for lack of factual and legal basis.”
“The authority of the Sandiganbayan to issue preventive suspension under Sec. 13 of RA 3019 has long been settled by the Supreme Court in the case of Defensor-Santiago vs. Sandiganbayan when it stated that Republic Act 3019 does not exclude from its coverage the members of Congress,” the prosecution said.
It added that the Supreme Court made a distinction between the preventive suspension imposed by the Sandiganbayan and the suspension imposed by Congress on its members.
Espino’s camp earlier filed its Comment/Opposition to the prosecution’s plea that he be preventively suspended, saying Section 13 of the anti-graft law “is an unconstitutional and archaic provision.”
The anti-graft law mandates suspension to prevent defendants from intimidating or influencing witnesses or tampering with documentary evidence considering their powerful position.
Espino’s camp said pieces of documentary evidence are not in his custody but are with the government agencies and with the Office of the Ombudsman.
It added that Espino, who is out on bail, cannot possibly continue any alleged act of malfeasance he is accused of because he is now a congressional representative and no longer the governor of Pangasinan.
But the prosecution aid in its Reply, “As regards the argument of accused that he is no longer in position to cause the destruction of documents and to influence witnesses, and that his suspension will be of disservice to his constituents, the same are self-serving.”
Espino, then Pangasinan governor, and several others were charged for allegedly authorizing Xypher Builders Inc. and Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. to extract black sand at the Lingayen Gulf area even as the firms do not have necessary permits to operate.