Sandiganbayan suspends new governor Catamco pending fertilizer scam trial

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The Sandiganbayan has ordered the 90-day preventive suspension of Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco, just days after assuming her new position.

The 6th Division’s order pertained to Catamco’s pending graft and malversation cases in connection with the misuse of P5-million fertilizer funds by the municipal officials of Poro, Cebu in 2004.

In a recent 7-page resolution, the court brushed aside Catamco’s argument that she was involved in the case as a private individual and not yet a public official.

The court said Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, regarding the mandatory nature of preventive suspension, pertains to “any incumbent public officer” facing valid graft charges.

“Preventive suspension applies to any office the officer might be currently holding and not necessarily to the particular office, or in this case any capacity, to which he is charged,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez.

Such preventive suspension is mandatory, and there are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about it,” the resolution added.

The court also rejected Catamco’s contention that it should wait for the Supreme Court (SC) to resolve her petitions questioning the denial of her motion to quash the cases.

Preventive suspension seeks to avoid the possibility of incumbent officials using their positions to influence witnesses or tamper with the evidence.

Catamco and her business partner and former husband Pompey Perez allegedly gained unwarranted benefits after Poro officials awarded their company, Perzebros, Co., a contract for the 3,333 bottles of Vitacrop liquid fertilizers.

At the time, the company was barely two months old. Each bottle of fertilizer, which cost P1,500, was found to be overpriced by P1,092.

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