Malinao mayor gets 3-month suspension
By Jorge Hallare
LEGAZPI CITY --- The mayor of Malinao, Albay was meted a three-month suspension by the sixth division of the Sandiganbayan on charges of graft and corruption stemming from the construction of a cockpit arena in the town, a decision issued on April 4 disclosed. Malinao Mayor Avelino “Billy” Ceriola said the 90-day suspension order, a copy of which he received on Tuesday (April 11) morning, was for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. He said the three-page order directed him to cease and desist from further performing and/or exercising the functions, duties and privileges of his position as municipal mayor. The decision was signed by Associate Justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada as chairperson and concurred by Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr. and Karl B. Miranda. The case, which was filed against Ceriola by municipal councilor Irene Fajut in 2013 during his first term as municipal mayor, stemmed from the construction of the Malinao cockpit arena in Barangay Balading. Fajut had accused Ceriola of conflict of interest and further claimed that the cockpit’s construction did not have any business permit. Ceriola, in an interview, said the case filed against him was part of “political harassment by councilor Fajut and her allies.” He pointed out that all the papers pertaining to construction of the cockpit arena were all legal and that it had a business permit to operate. “There was no conflict of interest here as the cockpit arena is owned and run by my family. It’s a family business. It’s not mine,” he added. Ceriola said he would file a motion for reconsideration in the Sandiganbayan as soon as possible but will continue to fulfill his duties as town mayor until ordered otherwise by the Department of Interior and Local Government.