Pangasinan Fifth District Rep. Amado Espino Jr. has informed the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division that he would begin serving his 90-day preventive suspension on Thursday, saying he was expecting a speedy trial of his anti-graft case.
The court had denied his motion for reconsideration of an earlier ruling that ordered his preventive suspension pending litigation of the graft charges filed against him and several others for allegedly authorizing two supposedly unqualified firms to extract black sand in the Lingayen Gulf area in 2011.
In a manifestation filed on Wednesday, Espino’s lawyer said he “respects the duly constituted authorities and gives high regard to this Honorable Court and its legal processes and orders.”
“As such, [the]accused voluntarily submits to the preventive suspension imposed by the Sandiganbayan for a period of ninety  days to commence on December 15, 2016, until March 15, 2017. Such voluntary submission, however, is in no way, an admission of guilt or culpability,” it said.
The defense added that he “accepts this preventive suspension with a heavy heart as it effectively deprives his constituents of its voice in Congress” but he is nevertheless voluntarily submitting to the same.
“I will submit myself voluntarily to face the 90-day suspension order of the Sandiganbayan because I want the speedy trial of my case” Espino disclosed in his manifestation.
While serving his 90-dayssuspension until March 15, the lawmaker said he will attend to other private business and consultations with his constituents.
Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act mandates the preventive suspension of incumbent public officials facing a valid graft charge.
Meanwhile, Espino again denied his involvement in the black-sand anomaly, saying sworn affidavits of the complainants were only used by his political opponents in the 2013 and 2016 local and national elections.
In March, the Office of the Ombudsman charged Espino and several others for allegedly authorizing Xypher Builders Inc. and Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. to extract black sand in the Lingayen Gulf area when he was provincial governor even when the two firms were “not lawfully entitled to conduct mining activities within said protected area.”
Named respondents in one graft charge were Espino, former Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan, then-Provincial Housing and Homesite Regulation Officer Alvin Bigay and then-members of the Board of Directors of Xypher Builders Inc. – Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar, Avery Pujol, Cynthia Camara and Lolita Bolayog.
In the other graft charge, Espino and Baraan were named respondents along with former members of the Board of Directors of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc., – Cesar Detera, Edwin Alcazar, Bolayog, Denise Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Camara, Glenn Subia and Emiliano Buenavista.