Embattled Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymond “LRay’ Villafuerte has cried foul over the preventive suspension issued by the Sandiganbayan, saying it was punitive instead of preventive.
Villafuerte is facing graft charges based on a complaint of Carlo Batalla, former member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, over an alleged P5-million worth of petroleum products paid to a favored supplier during his tenure as governor.
“The Sandiganbayan’s order to the House leadership to implement my suspension is not even preventive but punitive. It was ostensibly done to ensure that I would not influence the investigation of the charges filed against me when I was still governor,” he said.
“While the order of the Sandiganbayan states that the preventive suspension is not a penalty, the fact that I will not be able to represent my district and serve my constituents owing to this suspension order makes it punitive and a penalty,” Villafuerte added.
He argued that Batalla’s complaint is weak because the latter also filed a malversation charge against him in connection with deliveries of petroleum products.
The charge was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman in November 2012.
In dismissing the case in 2012, the Ombudsman said “control and accountability to [the public fund used for the fuel deliveries]is likewise absent with regard to respondent Villafuerte” and that “the elements of misappropriation not present in this case, the charge of malversation against all respondents must fail.”
Graft is committed when a public official “causes any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”
Malversation, on the other hand, is committed when a public officer “who, by reason of the duties of his office, is accountable for public funds or property, will appropriate the same, or will take or misappropriate with consent, or through abandonment or negligence, permit any other person to take such public funds or property, wholly or partially, or be guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property.”
“I am confident that the charges against me would never prosper because the case has no legal leg to stand on,” Villafuerte said.
Opposition lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman earlier urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to act swiftly on suspension orders against Villafuerte and Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino, who is also facing graft charges over allegedly illegal blacksand mining in Lingayen Gulf.