By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
Pili Mayor Tomas Bongalonta, Jr. of Camarines Sur and two of his co-accused have dodged a preventive suspension order before the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division because their case does not fall under the provisions of the law on preventive suspension.
Bongalonta, together with former Pili Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (PIPSEMO) head Engr. Edilberto Bongon and Police Corporal Joel Berja were slapped with a charge for violation of Section 8(c) in relation to Section 11 of R.A. 8041, otherwise known as the National Water Crisis Act of 1995 and Article 286 of the Revised Penal Code or Grave Coercion.
In a resolution dated November 27, the anti-graft court directed the accused to show cause why they should not be preventively suspended under Section 13 of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In their explanation, the accused said the law does not apply to them because their violations do not fall under the coverage of Section 13 of R.A. 3019. They added that their violation of the said laws do not even fall under any of the provisions of the RPC on Bribery.
While the anti-graft court noted that the coverage of Section 13 of R.A. 3019 is not limited to graft violations or any of the provisions of the RPC on Bribery, it nonetheless accepted the explanation of the accused.
In this case, the anti-graft ruled that the offenses the accused are charged with do not involve fraud upon government or public funds or property.
“From the foregoing, it is apparent that fraud, trickery or deceit is not an essential element of the offenses the accused are charged with in the present cases. Hence, the accused not being charged with any of the offenses covered by Section 13 of R.A. 3019, their suspension under said provision is not warranted,” the resolution read.
The four-page resolution was written by Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.
Back on March 1, 2011, the three of them and 16 other John Does were accused of forcibly preventing the urgent repair and installation of water pipelines being undertaken by workers of Metropolitan Naga Water District (MNWD) in Sitio Spring, Brgy. Del Rosario, Pili.
The MNWD enjoys a legal easement of passage of its water from a source owned by it, but Bongalonta and his co-accused reportedly carted away equipment and tools amounting to P358,830 against the will of the workers and management of MNWD.
As a result of their actions, they delayed the civil works of the MNWD, to the detriment of its consumers and public service.