By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has ordered the 90-day suspension pedente lite of Bogo City Councilor Cresencio Verdida of Cebu in light of his pending graft charges involving the reportedly irregular disbursement of P20 million to the Bogo Municipal Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BMEMPC).
Verdida, who was the municipal accountant at the time, is facing two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In an order dated May 22, Verdida was directed to show cause why he should not be suspended pedente lite in accordance to Section 13 of R.A. 3019, which states that “any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this act…shall be suspended from office.”
Verdida answered on July 4, saying that he has already resigned as Municipal Accountant of Bogo City and is now a councilor. He argued that it is impossible for him to commit further malfeasance because it takes the collective action of all members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod to do it.
Verdida also appealed to the humanitarian side of the court, explaining that he would be burdened without his salary as councilor, since it is his only source of income.
The anti-graft court saw no merit in his arguments. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that preventive suspension under Section 13 of R.A. 3019 is mandatory. Section 13 of R.A. 3019 is clear and explicit that there is hardly room for any extended court rationalization of the law,” the resolution stated.
Verdida is facing charges together with former Bogo City Mayor Celestino “Tining” Martinez III, former municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez, former municipal budget officer Mary Lou Ursal, and former municipal assistant treasurer Julio Ursonal Jr.
Martinez, Verdida, and the others reportedly conspired with one another and awarded BMEMPC, a private corporation, P20 million worth of public funds back in 2007. However, that money was supposed to go to agricultural and livelihood assistance for farmers, fishermen, and other members of the marginalized sector.
The P20 million came from the Department of Agriculture (DA) as part of the Ginintuang Agrikulturang Makamasa (GAM) program. Instead of supporting the GAM, the money became available instead to BMEMPC members through salary loans, which the accused took advantage of.