The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday afternoon served the 90-day preventive suspension order issued by the Sandiganbayan against Governor Arthur Yap, a Capitol official said.
Provincial Administrator Kathyrin Pioquinto confirmed that she received the suspension order which was served by DILG regional director Leocadio Trovela at her office inside the Capitol in Tagbilaran City at 3:20 p.m.
“It’s immediately effective upon receipt,” said Pioquinto, adding that Yap will return to office on February 17, 2020.
Vice Governor Rene Relampagos whose office was furnished a copy of the order meanwhile took over as acting governor.
Pioquinto, echoing Yap’s previous statements, highlighted that the suspension is merely preventive and not a a penalty nor an indication of guilt.
“Ang preventive mandatory suspension regardless of your guilt or innocence as long as you have a pending case in the Sandiganbayan you have to implement that,” she said.
Section 13 of Republic Act 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, mandates the suspension of a public official from office pending prosecution for any offense involving public funds or property or fraud on the government.
Pioquinto said that Yap is barred from executing official functions such as the signing of documents or presiding over meetings but is not prohibited from attending events. He is also allowed to enter the Capitol and other government offices.
“Of he course he can [enter]. Wala man siya gi-TRO (temporary restraining order) na dili siya maka-enter,” she added.
Yap’s suspension order reached the DILG’s regional office in Cebu late Friday last week and was supposed to be served Monday but Trovela had a previously set engagement in Manila.
Suspension orders for mayors of the province have previously been served by DILG provincial director Johnjoan Mende, but since Yap is an elected governor, it was the regional director who personally brought the order.
Yap’s suspension stemmed from a case filed against him and several others for alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Yap, as a former agriculture secretary, is one of the co-accused of former Misamis Occidental 1st District representative Marina Clarete in the alleged misappropriation of her PDAF or pork barrel allocation totaling P62.63 million between 2007 and 2009.
The governor who is on his first term however has been anticipating his suspension even before the Sandiganbayan issued the order in September for the DILG’s implementation.
“I have already asked my lawyers that if mo gawas na ang 90-day suspension, dawaton nato. Way problema na. When the DILG receives the order from the Sandiganbayan we are going to act for compliance so that in 90 days I can go back to my duties as governor,” he said in an earlier interview.
Yap has also expressed confidence that his name would be cleared after years of being implicated in the fund mess, noting that even the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has sided with him in having the case junked.
“The OSG asked the SC (Supreme Court) to nullify the said Ombudsman Resolution,” said Yap.
“In fact, the OSG characterized the OMBs action as wantonly in violation of the laws of evidence when it lumped all the implementing agencies and Me in determining liability. The OSG said that there was not a single piece of evidence showing my participation in the implementation of the assailed PDAF contracts, “he added.
Yap also highlighted that two similar cases filed against him involving the PDAF of other congressmen have already been dismissed.
“In the case of former Bukidnon Congressman Candido Pancrudo, the Ombudsman said that I simply transferred the funds to another government entity, not a private one. Hence, the act was not manifestly or grossly disadvantageous to the government. The case of former La Union congressman Thomas Dumpit was also dismissed on the ground of insufficiency of evidence and lack of allegations establishing my involvement in any conspiracy. Why then would the Clarete case against me prosper when my involvement is simply to transfer funds to another government agency?” he said.