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Iloilo mayor Alex Centena, 8 others suspended for 90 days over graft case

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Calinog, Iloilo Mayor Alex Centena and eight other municipal officials have been suspended for 90 days by the Sandiganbayan 7th Division due to a graft case filed against him, Panay News reported.

Their case stemmed from the alleged anomalous purchase of fertilizer in 2004.

Others accused were municipal treasurer Valentin Sobretodo; acting municipal accountant Meriam Celeste; municipal agriculturist Crispino Castro; municipal supply officer Jose Rex Casipe; acting municipal administrator and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) member Melanie Hilario; municipal planning and Development Officer and BAC member Rhoda Lyn Panizales; municipal engineer and BAC member Jose Edeso Enriquez; and Sangguniang Bayan secretary and BAC member Anna Lerio Caspillo.

“Section 13, supra, makes it mandatory for this Court to suspend any public officer against whom a valid Information is filed charging a violation of said law Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code, for any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property,” a portion of the March 6, 2019 resolution read.

“The presumption is that unless the accused are suspended, they may frustrate the prosecution of the case, commit further acts of malfeasance, or do both,” added the resolution signed by Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, Justice Zaldy Trespeses, and Justice Georgina Hidalgo.

In 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman charged Centena and others with graft after allegedly giving unwarranted benefits to Feshan Philippines Inc. to supply 666 bottles of Bionature liquid fertilizers worth P999,000.

“The contract with Feshan was sealed through direct contracting and without complying first with the mandatory public bidding as required under procurement rules, therefore causing undue injury to the government,” then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said.