By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has ordered the 90-day suspension pendente lite of two Puerto Princesa Tourism officials in light of their pending breach of conduct charge.
Tourism Operations Officer Michie Hitosis Meneses and Tourism Operations Assistant Joyce Cabanag Enriquez are two of the co-accused of Tourism Department Head Aileen Cynthia Maggay Amurao in the case for violation of Section 7(d) of R.A. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Stands for Public Officials.
They were accused of soliciting money and other favors from private individuals and entities for the tourism activities of Puerto Princesa from February to April 2014.
The suspension pendente lite of Amurao was already ordered by the anti-graft court last year. This time, Enriquez and Meneses were asked to show cause why they should not be suspended pendente lite as well.
The two of them argued that their suspension would be improper and will not serve its purpose because both the prosecution and defense have already presented their respective evidence, and the evil sought to be avoided by their suspension no longer exists because of the dismissal of the administrative case against them.
However, the anti-graft court saw no merit in their arguments. “In this case, the Court finds that all the requisites for the suspension pendente lite of accused Meneses and Enriquez exists,” the resolution read.
The anti-graft court likewise added that it possesses no discretion to determine whether a preventive suspension is necessary to forestall the possibility that the accused may use his or her office to intimidate witnesses or frustrate the prosecution.
“The presumption is that unless the accused is suspended, he may frustrate his prosecution or commit further acts of malfeasance or do both. The presumption remains even if the parties have already presented their evidence,” the court explained.
The six-page resolution is written by Associate Justice Karl Miranda with the concurrence of Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero.