Court orders preventive suspension of Bohol Governor Art Yap
CEBU CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Sandiganbayan, in a resolution dated September 18, ordered the preventive suspension of Bohol Governor Arthur Yap over his alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
The anti-graft court ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the 90-day suspension against the first-term governor.
Yap is accused of helping funnel P62 million in pork barrel funds to phony non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
His co-accused in the case is former Misamis Occidental 1st District representative Marina Clarete.
The Bohol governor said in a motion to quash informations that there are still questions on the validity of evidence against him, thus it would be “premature” to implement a preventive suspension.
He also argued that he cannot manipulate evidence or unduly influence the witnesses against him, considering that he left the Department of Agriculture in 2010. Yap was the agriculture secretary during the term of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The prosecution said, however, that Yap already admitted the validity of the information filed against him by entering a “not guilty” plea during arraignment.
The court also emphasized that the suspension was not a penalty.
"There are no ifs or buts about it. This is because a preventive suspension is not a penalty," the order read. "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."
When asked to comment on the suspension, Yap sent Rappler an opinion from the Office of the Solicitor General on his pending petitions with the Supreme Court.
The opinion states that Yap "did not act with partiality, bad faith, or inexcusable negligence" in the use of Clarete's PDAF funds.
Yap's defense is that he did not honor Clarete's endorsements or participate "in any way" in the release of government funds to the PDAF implementing agencies.
He also said he did not have discretion to deny the request since the fund was already covered by the General Appropriations Act.
In his statement, he criticized the Sandiganbayan for not declaring him innocent.
He also complained that the Supreme Court has not yet acted on his petition since 2018 despite the government lawyer's opinion that the charges have "no basis in fact or law."
Yap won his first term as governor of the Central Visayas province by only a hairline, receiving 326,895 votes in the final count, only 2,161 votes over ex-Cabinet secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco’s 324,734 votes.
Evasco accused Yap of vote-buying and filed a protest against him a week after the midterm election.
Prior to being elected governor of Bohol, Yap served as the province’s 3rd District representative for 3 terms. – Rappler.com