Siargao mayor serves 90-day preventive suspension 

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DAPA, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 18 Dec) –  The mayor here has vacated his post following the 90-day preventive suspension order issued by the Sandiganbayan Third Division over a graft case involving alleged anomalous purchase of heavy equipment.

Mayor Peter Rauya told MindaNews over the weekend that he filed a motion for reconsideration and motion to hold in abeyance the decision but the Sandiganbayan has yet to respond.

In a letter to Ruaya dated December 9, Lilibeth Famacion, regional director of the Deparment of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Caraga said his motion for reconsideration was denied and the DILG received a directive order on November 28, 2016 to cause the implementation of the 90-preventive suspension.

The DILG served the preventive suspension order on the mayor on December 12.

According to  the DILG letter obtained by MindaNews, Vice-Mayor Francisco Gonzales was designated acting mayor of Dapa effective December 12.

Gonzales is among nine officials – former and incumbent – accused of graft,from the P13-million worth of heavy equipment purchase approved by the municipal Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) despite its exclusion from the municipal Annual Procurement Plan for 2008. The heavy equipment units were also shipped prior the actual BAC procurement proceedings.

In August this year, the prosecution sought the suspension of Ruaya after he was re-elected as mayor.

The Sandiganbayan granted the prosecution’s request despite Ruaya’s argument that his suspension has no basis.

Ruaya said he could no longer influence or intimidate witnesses because both panels were done marking the pieces of evidence and that prosecution’s key witnesses were already presented.

In a four-page resolution promulgated on September 27, 2016, the  Sandiganbayan reiterated that the suspension of a public official facing criminal charges is mandatory under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“The court trying a case has neither discretion nor duty to determine whether preventive suspension is required to prevent the accused from using his office to intimidate witnesses or frustrate his prosecution or continuing committing malfeasance in office,” the Sandiganbayan noted.

The court found Ruaya’s argument that he could not use his office to intimidate witnesses devoid of merit because the Supreme Court itself has upheld mandatory suspension under RA 3019.

Ruaya was charged with violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2011 over the allegedly questionable payment of P13 million to a supplier of heavy equipment in 2008 for the purchase of four dump trucks, one pay loader, and one grader.

According to the case information sheet filed by the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan, the payment was made by the local government to Six-R Mercantile despite Ruaya’s knowledge that the procurement of the heavy equipment was not included in the approved Annual Procurement Plan (APP) of Dapa in 2008.

The Ombudsman also found that the heavy equipment was shipped and delivered to the municipality before the BAC started procurement proceedings.

According to the Ombudsman, the BAC started procurement activities knowing fully well that there were no funds available for the acquisition of the heavy equipment.

The BAC reportedly also recommended the use of the alternative method of procurement despite the absence of the conditions for a negotiated procurement.

The Sangguniang Bayan was also found to have authorized Ruaya to contract and conclude an additional loan with the Land Bank of the Philippines to finance the acquisition of heavy equipment and approved the BAC’s recommendation for their purchase.

The Ombudsman said Ruaya gave Six-R Mercantile unwarranted damage and prejudice by approving BAC’s recommendation to resort to negotiated procurement, and negotiating with the contractor without any legislative authorization.

Aside from Mayor Ruaya, also charged by the Ombudsman were members of the Dapa’s Sangguniang Bayan at the time the purchase of heavy equipment was made: Henry Tiu, Kenneth Joel Tiu, Florita Gotico Tesiorna, Francisco Gonzales, Dionisio Ruaya, Renz Jerald Ruaya, Simproso Ranza Jr., Zosima Cuizon and Alicia Durero. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)

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