• Sandigan suspends DOJ prosecutor

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    The Sandiganbayan’s First Division has suspended Assistant State Prosecutor Diosdado Solidum Jr. pending litigation of charges against him for breach of conduct and direct bribery.

    The anti-graft court granted a request of special prosecutors under the Office of the Ombudsman to preventively suspend Solidum.

    “As the accused had already been arraigned in these cases, the validity of the informations [charge sheets]had already been established. Hence, there is no more legal impediment to put the accused under preventive suspension,” the court said in a four-page resolution.

    It was signed by Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz, who leads the First Division, and Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Rodolfo Ponferrada.

    Based on the prosecution’s four-page Motion to Suspend Accused Pendente Lite (pending litigation), Solidum is Prosecutor II in the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

    They cited Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the anti-graft law, which provides for the 90-day preventive suspension of any incumbent public official facing a valid graft charge.

    It aims to prevent accused public officers from intimidating or influencing witnesses or tampering with documentary evidence considering their powerful position.

    Solidum vehemently opposed the prosecution’s move and argued, among others, that his previous administrative suspension for six months prevents the court from suspending him under RA 3019.

    But the court disagreed.

    “Apropos is the case of Villaseñor and Mesa vs. Sandiganbayan, where the same core issue was raised: Does preventive suspension in an administrative proceeding bar preventive suspension in a criminal case founded on the same facts and circumstances?” it said.

    In the case, the Supreme Court held that “criminal and administrative cases are distinct from each other” and may proceed independently of each other.

    The Office of the Ombudsman charged Solidum in 2013 for allegedly demanding P2.5 million, which he allegedly later reduced to P1.2 million, from Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea) union members in exchange for a favorable ruling on a petition for review filed before the DOJ and assigned to him for resolution.

    Based on a statement by the office dated August 12, 2013, the Palea members appealed a Pasay City Prosecutors Office ruling, which found probable cause to charge 241 members of Palea for alleged violation of the Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2008.

    The case stemmed from their work stoppage in September 2011.

    Complainant and Palea President Gerardo Rivera reported to DOJ Secretary Justice Leila de Lima a July 29, 2013 meeting in Quezon City where he said Solidum assured him that he can reverse the decision at the earlier stated amount.

    The Justice secretary then directed the National Bureau of Investigation to act on the matter and on August 8, the NBI caught Solidum receiving the envelope containing marked money in an entrapment.

    Solidum was arraigned on September 4, 2014 and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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