CAGAYAN DE ORO (MDN digital, May 24) – Iligan City's lone district Congressman Frederick Siao is placed under a 90-day preventive suspension by the Sandiganbayan due to a complaint filed against him over a reported illegal leasing of lands owned by the provincial government.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division, in a resolution said, Siao's suspension is valid even if Rep Siao argued it is no longer necessary because the prosecution has already rested the reported case.
However, Presiding Judge Amparo Cabotaje-Tang insisted that “while indeed the prosecution had rested its case, the presumption is that unless the accused is suspended, he may frustrate his prosecution or commit further acts of malfeasance or do both.”
It can be recalled that the complaint of graft against the congressman stemmed from his alleged participation in giving authority to the then city mayor Lawrence Cruz to extend the lease of the involved local government lands. This happened when Siao was still a city councilor.
In 2004, the lease agreement was first entered by the local government and but allegedly it did not go through the process of public bidding. It was also learned that those owners of the private firms which leased the government lands were related to Mayor Cruz's mother.
The Sandiganbayan in its suspension order said the suspended congressman should not receive his salary. He might also going to lose his benefits under the law – in the event that he is convicted on final judgment of the graft case. However, if he also wins and get acquiatted of the charges, all his benefits would be reinstated by the government.
The Sandiganbayan suspension order also reads “This is because a preventive suspension is not a penalty. It is not imposed as a result of judicial proceedings. In fact, if acquitted, the official concerned shall be entitled to reinstatement and to the salaries and benefits which he failed to receive during suspension.”
For strict compliance of the preventive suspension order, a copy of the resolution will be forwarded to the House of Representatives for enforcement. Right after the suspension of 90 days the said order would be lifted immediately.
Despite his preventive suspension order, Congressman Siao still won a seat for his second term as congressman of the lone district of Iligan City during the 2013 Midterm National and Local elections.