FOUR officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have asked the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division to junk the latest motion of the Office of the Ombudsman asking for their preventive suspension based on two pending graft charges.
In their nine-page Joint Opposition, DBM Undersecretary Mario L. Relampagos, Budget and Management specialist Rosario Nuñez, and administrative assistants Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare protested that they have already served three previous suspension orders all arising from similar cases involving alleged irregularities in the disbursement of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocations of lawmakers.
These were for periods covering July 28 to October 25, 2015 in the graft cases against former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, November 12, 2015 to February 9, 2016 in the graft cases of former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa, and January 13 to April 11, 2016 for the graft charges against former Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Constantino Jaraula.
Each of the defendant is facing 104 counts of graft charges filed in various divisions of the graft court. They were accused of conspiring with the lawmakers and executives of bogus private foundations in defrauding the government by funneling PDAF into non-existent livelihood or agricultural assistance projects.
A preventive suspension is effective for 90 days during which the public official’s pay is withheld.
“Accused humbly implore the aid and succor of the Honorable Court. Despite the tremendous suffering, they remain hopeful – confident in the ability and wisdom of the Honorable Court to dispense justice. It is difficult enough to be dragged into these PDAF cases without any basis, to be suspended and lose means of livelihood is grossly unjust,” the DBM officials said.
The defendants claimed they were wrongfully dragged into the PDAF cases even if they were not accountable officers in the contemplation of existing laws since they never had custody of the PDAF.
Likewise, they pointed out that no direct evidence of their alleged conspiracy with other accused was presented in court.
They said the act of signing the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) do not constitute a covert criminal act.
In the case of Relampagos, he invited the Court’s attention to check that he did not sign any SARO or NCA.
“Note that the accused have already suffered greatly when they served (earlier) preventive suspensions. Wherefore, in the highest interests of substantial justice, it is most respectfully prayed that the Motion to Suspend Pendente Lite be denied for utter lack of merit,” the defendant DBM officials said