Sandigan suspends Antique mayor for graft

Mayor Johnny Flores Bacongallo of Patnongon (Photo from Facebook)

By: Gerome Dalipe

THE Sandiganbayan suspended Mayor Johnny Flores Bacongallo of Patnongon, Antique for 90 days for his involvement in the alleged anomalous purchase of a 40-ton rice mill worth P9.9-million in 2007.

The anti-graft court’s Third Division placed Bacongallo under preventive suspension while the investigation against him and his 10 co-accused for violation of the anti-graft court law is ongoing.

“The court finds that the said allegations properly impute fraud purportedly perpetrated by the accused against the government,” read the Sandiganbayan’s resolution.

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has indicted Bacongallo, former Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier and nine other town officials for awarding a P9.9-million pork barrel-funded project to a private individual.

They were charged with one count of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which is giving unwarranted advantage to a private party.

The indicted incumbent officials are Mayor Bacongallo and Councilor Felix Gregorio Barrientos.

The seven other respondents are former Patnongon Mayor Henry Mondejar and Councilors Gemma Cepeda, Thomas Bacaoco, Al Brian Crespo, Rene Philip Cayetano, Teopisto Estaris Jr. and Erika Orcasitas.

Private respondent Efren Esclavilla, the board chair of Greater Antique Development Cooperative, was also charged with the same offense.

In the resolution, the Sandiganbayan held the charge sheet is sufficient in “form and substance” to warrant Bacongallo’s 3-month suspension.

“Taking into consideration the public policy involved in preventively suspending a public officer charged under a valid information, the protection of public interest will definitely have to prevail over the private interest of the accused,” read the Sandiganbayan’s resolution.