Mayor of Naga, Cebu suspended by Sandiganbayan for 90 days
MANILA, Philippines – Incumbent Mayor Valdemar Chiong of Naga town in Cebu has been ordered suspended for 90 days by Sandiganbayan for graft charges.
According to a resolution from the Sixth Division dated July 25, Chiong’s suspension is mandated for government officials accused of graft, in accordance with Republic Act 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Chiong is accused of giving unwarranted benefits to gas company Petronas Energy Philippines Inc. when he allegedly issued a business permit in April 2014 even if the said establishment has not secured a Fire Safety Inspection Certification from the Bureau of Fire Protection.
After he was ordered to explain why he should not be suspended this May 2019, the accused reasoned that he could no longer impede on the investigation and intimidate witnesses as the documentary evidence was already attached to his judicial affidavit.
He also insisted that if the anti-graft court suspends him, it would mean preventing him from discharging his functions as Naga City mayor.
“Thus, he asserts that to suspend him pendente lite will definitely prevent him from discharging his duties and responsibilities during that period and nullify the will of the people who elected him,” Sandiganbayan said.
“Accused Chiong’s contention is unmeritorious. The suspension pendente lite of the said accused is mandated under Section 13 of Republic Act No. 3019,” the court explained.
Sandiganbayan also noted that since the information against Chiong is valid, suspending the official involved follows as a matter of course.
“The second argument of the accused Chiong, that he now holds office as the Mayor of the City of Naga, also holds no weight. It is of no consequence that accused Chiong is presently holding office,” it added.
Under Section 13 of R.A. 3019, government officials preventively suspended and later on acquitted of the charges are entitled to reinstatement if possible, and to the salary and monetary benefits they did not receive while suspended.
However, in case of a conviction, all the benefits that should have been given to the accused would be forfeited, along with his or her retirement and gratuity pays.
In the last 2019 midterm elections, Chiong ran under the Nacionalista Party and edged out his opponent Delfin Señor by over 24,500 votes. His daughter, former mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong, meanwhile secured the vice mayoral post.
Copies of the suspension order were sent to the Department of Interior and Local Government for implementation. After the 90 day period, Chiong’s suspension would eventually be lifted. /je
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