The Sandiganbayan has suspended for 90 days Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and three employees of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as well as six officials of other government agencies.
Also ordered suspended were Budget and Management Specialist Chief Rosario Nuñez and DBM Administrative Assistants Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare, Technology Resource Center (TRC) Chief Accountant Marivic Jover, National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) President Gondelina Amata, NLDC Directors Emmanuel Sevidal and Chita Jalandoni, NLDC Project Development Officer Sofia Cruz and Gregoria Buenaventura who is also of NLDC.
In its ruling promulgated on March 9 and made public on Tuesday, the anti-graft court’s third division granted the move of the prosecution team to suspend the government officials who are respondents in the graft complaints filed against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in connection with the pork barrel scam.
“It is now settled that Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019 makes it mandatory for the Sandiganbayan to suspend any public official against whom a valid information charging violation of that law . . . is filed,” the court said.
“Once the information is found to be sufficient in form and substance, then the court must issue the order of suspension as a matter of course. There are no ifs and buts about it. This is because a preventive suspension is not a penalty. It is not imposed as a result of judicial proceedings,” it added.
Relampagos, Nuñez, Paule and Bare have questioned their indictment, insisting that there is no probable cause to charge them.
But the court said the validity of the charges had been settled because the accused have been arraigned and they were given ample opportunity to challenge the complaints.
“Taking into consideration the public policy involved in preventively suspending a public officer charged under a valid information, the protection of public interest will definitely have to prevail over the private interest of the said accused. At any rate, should they be acquitted, they shall be entitled to reinstatement and to the salaries and benefits which they failed to receive during their suspension,” it said.