SC upholds Sandiganbayan suspension order versus Iligan mayor Regencia

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The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the petition of Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia questioning the Sandiganbayan’s order to suspend him pending his trial for usurpation of authority.

In a recent 3-page notice, the SC 1st Division said Regencia failed to show that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing its February 14, 2018 resolution that placed him under preventive suspension for 90 days.

The SC rejected Regencia’s contention that Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which mandated the suspension of officials facing trial for “any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property,” did not apply to the crime of usurpation of authority.

Citing its 2005 decision in the case of Miranda v. Sandiganbayan, the SC said usurpation of authority also involved fraud, because the accused allegedly assumed duties and performed acts “under pretense of official position.”

The 90-day preventive suspension order, which aims to prevent an incumbent official from using his powers to tamper with the evidence or intimidate witnesses, was already served by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on June 6, 2018.

Regencia was accused of continuing to perform his duties even when he was detained as the suspected mastermind in the December 11, 2014 ambush on the convoy of then-Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, in which three aides died.

Despite the designation of acting Mayor Ruderic Marzo, Regencia allegedly issued directives and memoranda, signed checks and vouchers, and even filled up various city government positions while in jail.

Regencia was freed on January 30, 2017, following the dismissal of his murder case.

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