Rep. Acharon appeals 90-day suspension

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/09 March) – South Cotabato (1st District) Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. plans to file an appeal with the Sandiganbayan over his 90-day preventive suspension in connection with a graft case that was filed while he was still the mayor here.

Acharon said his counsels are currently studying his options, among them the filing of a motion for reconsideration within 15 days, regarding the Sandiganbayan fifth division’s suspension order, which
stemmed from his issuance of travel authority to the United States for two members of the city council in 2006 without proper approval from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

In its ruling issued last Tuesday, the anti-graft court granted the prosecution’s position that suspension is mandatory when a public official is charged for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The ruling was penned by Sandiganbayan Associate Justice and 5th division chair Roland Jurado and concurred by Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Alex Quiroz.

“The purpose of the suspension is to see to it that I would not hamper the ongoing processes (involving the case),” Acharon said in an interview with a local television station here.

Acharon was earlier charged of “unlawfully issuing travel clearances” to city councilors Jose Orlando Acharon and Minda Atendido on June 9-16, 2006 for their trip to Los Angeles, California.

The prosecution noted that Acharon’s action overrode the authority of then DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno after the latter disapproved travel requests by the two city council members.

Councilors Acharon and Atendido were part of the city’s delegation then for the annual Tambayayong Festival held in Los Angeles.

But the former mayor pointed out that the charges were not a “corruption case” since the two city councilors traveled and attended the events in the United States “using their own money.”

“The city government did not spend a single centavo for them and there were no government resources, properties or assets (involved in this case),” Acharon said.

He cited that he was not part of the city’s delegation, which was allotted by the local government some P2.5 million.

The Sandiganbayan, who had denied Acharon’s request for him to be exempted from suspension being now a member of the House of Representatives, directed Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to implement
the order.

But published reported quoted House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II as saying that they could not implement the order as the Constitution bars the House of Representatives from suspending a member for alleged actions that happened not during their incumbency as lawmaker. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)