By Alex P. Vidal
“A person who has been punished is not less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment.”— B. F. Skinner
THE 90-day preventive suspension the Sandiganbayan has meted Antique governor Rhodora Cadiao for alleged violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, was the kind of punitive measure that would ruin local chief executives.
Being forced to vacate their posts temporarily for a maximum of three months means the suspended local chief executives were half guilty of the charges leveled against them.
Even if they would be acquitted, the preventive suspension tarnished their so-called aura of invincibility.
Even if the Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division has explained that “a preventive suspension is necessary to forestall the possibility that the accused may use one’s office to intimidate witnesses, or frustrate the prosecution of the case, or continue committing malfeasance” and may be lifted after upon expiration of the 90-day period, it’s already a psychological defeat for the accused, in this case Cadiao.
That’s why we call it as a preventive suspension made in the River Styx.
If anyone bathes in the River Styx and survives, according to the Greek mythology, that person will bear the Curse of Achilles and become invulnerable to most physical attacks, excluding a small spot on their body that if struck will instantly kill them.
Future political rivals would be emboldened to topple the erstwhile unconquered Cadiao now that she has been “bloodied” by the pesky preventive suspension.
Many local chief executives—village chiefs, mayors, governors, particularly—facing graft charges were never the same again politically after being canned for 90 days.
We know a lot of swaggering mayors and governors in Western Visayas and even in Metro Manila who got clobbered in the next elections after being slammed by the Sandiganbayan and even by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for 90 days.
Not all suspended local chief executives though were found guilty after serving their suspension.
There were preventive suspensions, especially those handed down by the DILG, which were political in nature.
The late former Iloilo City mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon claimed in 1989 he was suspended by the DILG after he opposed the Cory administration’s Small Town Lottery (STL) project, an accusation the Malacanang had denied.
In Cadiao’s case, the preventive suspension did not come because she stole from the public coffer and got caught.
It’s more of a case of alleged harassment or abuse of power and authority by a Goliath over David in a public office, which should serve as a warning to other “vindictive” political leaders in power.
It stemmed from her 2016 order reassigning then Provincial General Services Office chief Antonio Dela Vega to the capitol’s Culasi satellite office some 100 kilometers away from the capital town of San Jose, where the seat of provincial government is located.
Dela Vega contested the validity of Cadiao’s order before the Civil Service Commission (CSC) as he believed it was “tantamount to constructive dismissal.”
The CSC gave credence to Dela Vega’s complaint and in March 2017 subsequently ordered him reinstated to his original office in the provincial capitol.
The CSC also ordered the provincial government to pay Dela Vega his representation and travel allowance (RATA) among other benefits due him covering the time he was reassigned to Culasi from July 2016 to February 2018.
When he failed to get the benefits due him as ordered by the CSC, Dela Vega sued the lady governor before the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas in 2018.
Among Dela Vega’s allegations was that Cadiao did not sign his daily time record (DTR) resulting in the failure of both the provincial accountant and provincial treasurer to process the release of his benefits.
The Ombudsman found probable cause to indict Cadiao for one count violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 in a resolution dated Sept. 2, 2019 signed by Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente and approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Oct. 22, 2021.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)