THE Sandiganbayan has ordered the suspension of former congresswoman and now Mandaue City Councilor Nerissa Soon-Ruiz for 90 days for her alleged involvement in the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
An ABS-CBN television news report Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, said the Sandiganbayan’s 5th Division issued a resolution dated Dec. 4, 2019 to suspend Ruiz for 17 counts of graft, seven counts of malversation of public funds and 10 counts of malversation of public funds through falsification.
The anti-graft court sent a copy of the suspension order to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for implementation.
The 90-day suspension of Ruiz will start as soon as she receives the DILG order.
Ruiz told SunStar Cebu she already expected the suspension order as reports had come out alleging that she, as a member of the House of Representatives then, representing the province’s sixth district, was one of the lawmakers to face charges for the misuse of their PDAF from 2007 to 2009.
“In conscience, I have done nothing wrong when I was still a congresswoman because we have no direct hand in choosing the projects to be funded by PDAF. We can merely identify the projects needed to be funded. But I’m glad the hearing can proceed so I can defend myself in the proper forum,” she said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
She added, “Whatever it is, I’m glad the case is finally proceeding.”
Ruiz’s case is scheduled for hearing on Jan. 30.
Although she is not required to appear in the hearing, Ruiz said that if her lawyers in Manila were to say so, she would attend.
Ruiz said she already told Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Vice Mayor Glenn Bercede and her fellow councilors and City Administrator Jamaal Calipayan about the suspension order.
Ruiz added that she sees the 90-day suspension as time for her to relax and take a break.
In 2013, the Commission on Audit identified at least 74 lawmakers, including Ruiz, who allegedly exceeded their pork barrel allocations from 2007-2009.
This alleged fund misuse led to a political scandal that resulted in the arrest of several personalities, including businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles who was believed to be the scam’s mastermind.
Reports said the government was defrauded of some P10 billion in the scam that involved several senators and House members. (KFD)