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Bill seeks to exempt officials from suspension over charges in past positions

MANILA, Philippines – Several House leaders filed a bill that would exempt incumbent officials from preventive suspension orders for cases involving their previous positions in government. 

House Bill (HB) Number 3605 was filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, and Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, who is part of the minority bloc. 

As of Monday, September 26, another 52 lawmakers have supported the measure. 

HB Number 3605 seeks to add the following lines to Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) Number 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act: "That in case such incumbent public officer is no longer connected with the office wherein the offense charged was committed, the preventive suspension order shall no longer be implemented."

The proponents of the bill reasoned that RA Number 3019 was enacted "with the laudable intent of breathing life into the time-honored principle that a public office is a public trust."

"As preventive suspension is imposed to prevent an accused from influencing potential witnesses or tampering with records, the change in circumstances of the public officers effectively removes this threat, making the provision in line with the spirit and intent of the law," said Alvarez, Fariñas, Suarez, and Roque in their explanatory note. 

The bill was filed after preventive suspension orders were separately ordered against Pangasinan 5th District Representative Amado Espino Jr and Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte. 

Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered Espino's suspension for allegedly allowing illegal black sand mining operations in Pangasinan in 2011, back when he was still governor. 

Villafuerte faces graft charges for supposedly allowing the payment for petroleum products to Naga Fuel Express Zone without proper bidding when he was still governor.

The House of Representatives then held an all-members caucus, where it was decided that the House committee on rules would discuss what actions to take over the 90-day suspension orders against the two lawmakers.

Fariñas earlier explained that the House's historical practice is to not implement suspension orders issued against congressmen over cases involving their previous positions.

But Alvarez gave an assurance that they would uphold the law concerning the suspensions of Espino and Villafuerte. 

"Depende kung ano 'yung nararapat, kung ano 'yung legal, 'yun ang susundan natin (We're going to follow what is right and legal)," he said. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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