Sandiganbayan orders 90-day preventive suspension of Naga City (Cebu) mayor

Published August 14, 2019, 1:50 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has ordered the 90-day preventive suspension of Naga City Mayor Valdemar Mendiola Chiong of Cebu in light of his pending graft charge involving the reportedly anomalous issuance of a mayor’s permit.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

On April 7, 2014, Chiong was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for giving undue advantage to Petronas Energy Philippines Inc. when he issued Mayor’s Permit No. RO1-484-2014 in favor of Petronas despite its lack of the pre-requisite Fire Safety Inspection Certification from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

The anti-graft court issued a show cause order dated May 22, 2019 telling Chiong to explain why he should not be preventively suspended from office pursuant to Section 13 of R.A. 3019 and Section 4, Rule VIII of the 2018 Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan.

Section 13 of R.A. 3019 states that “any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this act…shall be suspended from office.”

Meanwhile, the 2018 Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan requires any accused public officer against whom a valid information is charged to explain in writing why he should not be suspended.

On July 14, Chiong filed his compliance alleging that the suspension was no longer necessary because there was no more possibility on his part to intimidate possible witnesses against him or hamper his prosecution.

Since he also won the mayoral bid in the 2019 mid-term elections, Chiong said that it was his mandate to fully discharge the functions of city mayor. By suspending him, Chiong argued that he would be prevented from carrying out his duties and responsibilities.

However, the Sandiganbayan said in its resolution that his contention was unmeritorious. “The suspension pedente lite of the accused must follow as a matrer of course,” the resolution read.

“It is doctrinal that suspension pedente lite applies to any office that the public officer is currently holding,” it added.

The seven-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero with the concurrence of Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.