By Edwin Fernandez
ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat: Governor Suharto Mangudadatu has ordered the 45-preventive suspension of this town’s vice mayor and five town council members for alleged graft and corrupt practices, a provincial official said Tuesday.
Lorenzo Balo, Sultan Kudarat provincial legal officer, said the suspension order was contained in an administrative order issued by Mangudadatu after the chairpersons of Barangays Kolambog and Dansuli filed charges against Castillo and colleagues for violation of R.A. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Vice Mayor Lord Dean Castillo of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat was suspended effective Monday along with Municipal Councilors Rene Aristoza, Mariblithe Cartujano-Garingo, Gina Belmes Dael, Ryan M. Dumaran and Clarice Lagdamen.
“The suspension would allow the respondents to air their sides in the proper forum,” Balo said.
In February this year, Castillo and co-accused went to the court to post bail after loose talks circulated in town that the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) is set to arrest them.
“We were not arrested; we voluntarily went to the court to post bail, went to the police to submit necessary documents,” Castillo said in a statement on February 3. “We are not in any way involved in graft or corruption.”
He said he and other local officials did not receive any subpoena from the provincial prosecutor’s office to air their side on the case filed against them.
The vice mayor recalled that barangay officials in two villages of Isulan had filed complaints against their respective village chairs after they were removed from their corresponding jobs following the 2019 elections.
Castillo said the complaints against the barangay chairpersons were filed before the Isulan town council and it is still pending.
The village chairpersons, meanwhile, filed charges against the vice mayor and five other council members before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Sultan Kudarat for violation of RA 3019.
The accused are out on bail but could not perform duties as they were suspended for 45 days.
In a statement, Castillo and his co-respondents said they will abide by the governor’s order and obey the law even if it was against their will.
“Our lawyers are working to challenge the order that we believed is unfair and oppressive,” the accused said.
“We maintain our position that we have done no wrong and we have only stayed true to our principle to give equal opportunity for everyone to be heard,” the group said. “In due time and through legal means, we will be back to as your lowly public servants in our beloved municipality.”
Philippine News Agency