THE Sandiganbayan’s First Division has suspended for 90 days North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza pending litigation of the graft charges filed against her over allegedly anomalous purchase of diesel fuel in 2010.
Earlier, the prosecution asked the court to suspend Mendoza pendente lite (pending litigation), citing Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which mandates preventive suspension of incumbent public officers facing a valid graft charge.
“Wherefore, in light of all the foregoing, the prosecution’s motion is hereby granted. As prayed for, accused Emmylou J. Taliño-Mendoza is hereby suspended as Governor of the Province of North Cotabato, and from any other public office which they may now or hereafter be holding, for ninety (90) days from receipt of the resolution,” the court said in a three-page resolution promulgated on October 25.
The court ordered that a copy of the ruling be provided to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, “who is directed to implement this order, upon notice of the finality of this ruling.”
Mendoza had opposed the prosecution’s move, arguing that her preventive suspension would serve no purpose because she never impeded or hampered the prosecution’s efforts to secure evidence “nor is she minded to do so.”
The defense also argued that the acts imputed to her are not enough to constitute a violation of the anti-graft law that would warrant her mandatory suspension, saying her participation in the purchase of the fuel came only after the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) determined the manner of procurement and the supplier.
But the court said in its ruling that “[t]he validity of the Informations in these cases had been established. In fact, the accused had already been arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.”
Informations refer to the charge sheets.
“Indeed, that it is mandatory for the court to immediately issue the suspension order upon a proper determination of the validity of the information was reiterated by the Supreme Court in the case of Dela Cruz v. Sandiganbayan,” the anti-graft court added in part.
Associate Justice Efren de La Cruz, who leads the court’s First Division, and Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Michael Frederick Musngi signed the ruling.
The Office of the Ombudsman earlier filed the charges before the Sandiganbayan against Mendoza alleging that the fuel, worth P2.4 million, was bought from a gasoline station owned by her mother without calling for a public bidding.
According to the defense, direct contracting was resorted in purchasing the fuel upon the BAC’s recommendation, not upon Mendoza’s direction.
It said she “relied on good faith” upon the BAC’s determination that direct contracting was justified under the circumstances, adding that the purchases were made in line with RA. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
During the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation, Mendoza said in defense that “it was only the Taliño Shell Station which was willing to accommodate the credit term requested by the provincial government.”
But the Ombudsman held that “there was no compelling justification for dispensing with the requirement of public bidding.”