Anti-graft court suspends Gorriceta

ILOILO – The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division has ordered the preventive suspension of Cong. Arcadio Gorriceta (2nd District) for 90 days while it hears the legislator’s graft case.

Gorriceta has been charged with violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in connection with a P5-million Education For All project when he was still the mayor of the municipality of Pavia.

The project was funded by the pork barrel of then 2nd District congressman Augusto Syjuco.

Syjuco himself was included in the charge.

Gorriceta, Syjuco and four others were accused by the Office of the Ombudsman of “predetermining, designating and allowing” Tagipusuon Foundation, Inc. to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the municipality of Pavia to implement the Education for All Program which was allegedly padded by P999,900.

The four others were municipal accountant Eufemia Jamerlan, municipal treasurer Edwin Elumba, and private individuals Corazon Taladua and Timoteo Tomas Salvilla both of Tagipusuon Foundation, Inc., a nongovernment organization.

Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act considers it unlawful if a public official gives “any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence…”

The Sandiganbayan issued the suspension order on Jan. 23 yet. It was only made known yesterday.

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sent a copy of the resolution signed by Division Chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justices Bayani Jacinto and Reynaldo Cruz for implementation.

Gorriceta, Syjuco and the other respondents could not be reached for comment as of this writing.

But in his manifestation to the Sandiganbayan, Gorriceta had argued that he need not be suspended because he was no longer Pavia’s mayor, the position he held when he was charged.

He also cited his severe medical condition that limits his movements – renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) with spinal metastatis.

Because of this, according to Gorriceta, he could not be a “menace to the prosecution of the case nor influence or intimidate the witnesses.”

But while the prosecution did not oppose or comment on Gorriceta’s manifestation, the anti-graft court resolved that ordering the preventive suspension was “ministerial upon the court.”

“Accused Gorriceta’s physical health is of no moment, considering that the only relevant consideration for the court is applying the legal mandate for preventive suspension is the fact that the accused presently holds public office,” stressed the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division.

The anti-graft court resolution also stressed that “the mandatory preventive suspension under the law is to prevent further acts of malfeasance while in the office, the intimidation of witnesses, and the possibility of tampering with documentary evidence.”

“It is to reinforce the principle that public office is a public trust,” it added./PN


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