Graft Court Suspends Zambo Congresswoman, Bacolod City Mayor

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REP. AURORA CERILLES and Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella

QUEZON CITY — The Sandiganbayan has ordered the preventive suspension of Rep. Aurora Enerio-Cerilles of Zamboanga Del Sur, Mayor Monico Puentevella of Bacolod City, Mayor Pepito Reyes of Perez, Quezon and Vice-Mayor Dante Garcia of Tubao, La Union for various violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. 3019) in connection with the purchase of allegedly overpriced medical supplies, fogging chemicals and computers.

Cerilles is facing charges before the Sandiganbayan for the purchase of allegedly overpriced medical supplies in 2001 amounting to nearly P7 million. The charges against Puentevella involve the anomalous utilization of his Priority Development Assistance Fund amounting to P26 million to purchase overpriced computer packages for public schools in Bacolod City. The computer package was reportedly bought at P400,000.00 each. Meantime, Reyes is undergoing trial for allowing his brother to operate a cockpit, while Garcia is facing charges for the purchase of allegedly overpriced fogging chemicals and chlorine without the required public bidding.

In four separate Resolutions, the anti-graft court ordered Puentevella, Reyes, and Garcia to cease and desist from performing their present government functions for a period of 90 days, while Cerilles was preventively suspended for 60 days.

Ombudsman prosecutors maintain that Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019 unequivocally mandates the suspension of a public official from office pending a criminal prosecution.

The Sandiganbayan ruled that “the suspension of a public officer charged with an offense that is covered by Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019 is but a fortification of the principle that public office is a public trust” and that “they must at all times, be accountable to the people in the fulfillment of their duties.”

In a separate criminal case, the Sandiganbayan also ordered the preventive suspension for 90 days of Court Interpreter II Candelaria Mangulabnan of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, San Fernando, Pampanga. Mangulabnan is facing charges of Direct Bribery.

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