Mandaue City councilor suspended over graft charges
CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan placed Mandaue City Councilor Nerissa Soon-Ruiz under a 90-day preventive suspension due to pending 34 counts of graft and malversation.
According to charges filed by the Ombudsman in 2019, Soon-Ruiz allegedly acted in conspiracy with government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) in the transfer of her Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) allocations to fake non-governmental organizations from 2007 to 2009 when she served as representative of Cebu's 6th district.
She allegedly colluded with GOCCs, including the National Agribusiness Corporation, Technology Resource Center, and the National Livelihood and Development Center (NLDC).
Her PDAF were also allegedly funneled into the Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Incorporated, Gabaymasa Development Foundation Incorporated, and Gabay at Pag-asa and Masa Foundation Incorporated without going through public bidding.
The funds were inteded for livelihood projects in her district and Cebu City.
She pleaded not guilty during her arrignment last November 15.
Ruiz, a physician and local politician, said she planned on challenging the inclusion of her name among the accused.
She claimed the suspension was moot since cases are already on trial, and, since she is no longer congresswoman, she is not in a position to intimidate or influence prosecution witnesses.
“Suffice it to state that the Court has either the discretion nor duty to determine whether preventive suspension is required to prevent accused from using his office to intimidate witnesses,” the Sandiganayan said in its response.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government was directed by the anti-graft court to implement the suspension against Ruiz.
Ruiz ran for vice governor in 2016 as the running mate of former Government Service Insurance Corporation chief Winston Garcia.
In December, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said she would no longer allow funds to be transferred from the provincial government to NGOs or civil society organizations to avoid PDAF-like scams from happening in the province. – Rappler.com