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HENRY EDQUIBAN BARRERA v.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES


438 SCRA 221 (2004), THIRD DIVISION (Carpio Morales, J.)

Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019, as amended, unequivocally provides that the accused public official "shall
be suspended from office" while the criminal prosecution is pending in court.

FACTS: Henry Barrera, the Mayor of the Municipality of Candelaria, Zambales was indicted before
the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019. An administrative case was also filed
against Barrera before the Office of the Ombudsman which recommended that he be faulted for abuse
of authority and be penalized with suspension from office without pay for six (6) months. Barrera filed
a motion but it was denied. He thus filed a petition for review of the Ombudsman decision before
Court of Appeals which denied the same. The Sandiganbayan ordered Barrerra‘s preventive suspension
for a period of ninety (90) days.

ISSUE : Whether or not the Sandiganbayan erred in placing Henry Equiban Barrera under preventive
suspension for a period not exceeding ninety (90) days

HELD: Henry Barrera admits in his memorandum filed before the Supreme Court that upon his receipt of
the resolution directing his preventive suspension, he started serving the same. The issue has thus been
rendered moot and academic. Besides, the Sandiganbayan, by Decision dismissed Criminal Cases on the
ground that the elements of the offense under Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 were not established beyond
reasonable doubt.

At this juncture then, a determination of whether the preventive suspension under Section 13 of Rule
3019 is mandatory and automatic would not have any practical effect on the existing controversy. En
passant, if the administrative case filed against Barrera has been terminated also in his favor, he may
invoke Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019.

It is Barrera‘s contention that Section 13, R.A. 3019 should not be taken in isolation but should be
viewed in light of the rationale behind the suspension, the purpose being to prevent the officer
or employee from using his position and the powers and prerogatives of his office to influence
potential witnesses or tamper with the records which may be vital in the prosecution of the case against
him. And, so Barrera maintains, since the prosecution failed to prove, if not substantially allege that he is
abusing the prerogatives of the office, intimidating possible witnesses and/or tampering with
documentary evidence during the pendency of the cases against him, the suspension order should not
have been issued.

It has been long settled, however, and it bears reiteration that Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019, as amended,
unequivocally provides that the accused public official "shall be suspended from office" while the
criminal prosecution is pending in court. The rule on the matter is specific and categorical, leaving
no room for interpretation. There are no ifs and buts about it. The court has neither the discretion nor
duty to determine whether preventive suspension is required to prevent the accused from using his
office to intimidate witnesses or frustrate his prosecution or continue committing malfeasance in office.
Bolastig v. Sandiganbayan so teaches.