MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Grace Padaca has to stand trial in the graft and malversation charges filed against her when she was still governor of Isabela.
In a decision, the Sandiganbayan junked Padaca’s motion for reconsideration which had argued her supposed immunity from criminal prosecution since she is a presidential appointee in the Comelec.
The anti-graft court disagreed, however, saying a presidential appointment does not cloak the official from prosecution for acts committed while he or she was still holding a different position.
President Aquino appointed Padaca on October 2, 2012 while she was facing an arrest for the allegedly unlawful release of P25 million to Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation, Inc. (EDWINLFI), a non-government organization, while she was governor in 2006.
Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas came to the rescue and said President Aquino would be paying for her P70,000 bail bond.
Padaca’s lawyers claimed she can only be removed via impeachment. If she is convicted for the graft and malversation charges, her removal from office would be in conflict with this constitutional guarantee, they said.
"It would require an unprecedented stretch and bending of the law to utilize her appointment as a cause to dismiss or suspend the ongoing court proceedings. To sustain the motion of the accused undermines independence and the exercise of judicial authority of the Court on account of an intervening executive act; this violates the fundamental principle of separation of powers," the resolution penned by Associate Justice Jose R. Hernandez said.
The resolution was concurred in by Associate Justices Samuel R. Martires and Maria Cristina J. Cornejo.