KIDAPAWAN City – The Department of the Interior and Local Government has served a suspension order against Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco.
The order, served Thursday, stemmed from charges filed at the Sandiganbayan accusing her of supplying overpriced fertilizers worth P5 million to the local government of Porro, Cebu in 2004 when she was still a businesswoman.
The anti-graft court said the purchase was done without a public bidding.
Catamco said the suspension order made her feel “very, very hurt,”saying the case was “without merit.”
She called the order “very oppressive,” as the court only used as basis a complaint letter from a nongovernment organization that has no interest in the case.
She said the case has no merit and the Sandiganbayan ordered her suspension based simply on the fact that she is an incumbent official as provided for in the Local Government Code of 1991.
The court did not consider the time the alleged crime was committed, she said during a press briefing on Friday.
But the court said Catamco has to be suspended to prevent her from influencing the case.
“But how can I influence Porro, Cebu where the governor is Madam Gwen Garcia and I’m here in North Cotabato?” she said in Filipino.
The governor claimed her case is the first of its kind and that the Supreme Court still has no jurisprudence concerning it.
“This is considered a gray area. Also, this is a question of law. You can question the Supreme Court about this. But you see, the High Court has not set a jurisprudence set on a case like mine,” she stressed.
In her absence, Vice Gov. Lala Taliño-Mendoza will assume as the acting governor.
“Under the law, the OIC is not allowed to hire or fire an employee. But after that, she can do whatever she wants,” said Catamco.
Catamco said whoever was behind her suspension was “having a party.”
“But mind you, their happiness will just be temporary,” she said.
She explained that the 2004 graft case against her was revived in March 2019, a few days before the official campaign for the May 2019 elections began.
“In 2018, the Ombudsman did not even dare file a complaint against me. It was only in March 2019 that this NGO, out from nowhere, that wrote the Sandiganbayan telling the court to suspend me for the alleged graft practices that I committed in 2004,” she said.
Catamco ran and won as governor in May 2019 against the vice governor’s father, former Carmen municipal mayor Roger Taliño.
Catamco ran under the ruling PDP-Laban while the Taliños ran under the Nacionalista Party. (Malu Cadeliña-Manar, Mindanews)