Multisectoral members of the Zero Tolerance Organization, a watchdog group in Oriental Mindoro, are asking voters in the province to be wary of which politicians they plan to vote for in the May 13 elections.
“With the midterm elections about to occur again, we now have the power to choose who will lead us. We have the power in our hands to shape our destiny. Although much of the national spotlight is focused on the senatorial elections, the local election is where we should be invested in the most,” the group said in a statement Friday.
They cited the case of reelectionist 1st District Rep. Paulino Salvador “Day” Leachon, who is running for a second straight term despite a 90-day preventive suspension ordered by the Sandiganbayan due to corruption charges when he was the mayor of Calapan City.
Last October, Leachon asked the anti-graft court’s approval for a 16-day trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Tokyo, Japan, while the trial of his graft case continues.
Leachon told the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division that he intends to travel to Denmark from Oc. 18 to 25, where he is expected to attend the 18th Anti-Corruption Conference, and then to Japan from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4 to meet the Filipino community.
Zero Tolerance said the lawmaker’s trip for an anti-corruption gab was “ironic” given his current case, saying Leachon “has a lot of explaining to do to his constituents.”
“We are asking voters in our area to think before casting their votes come May. Are the leaders we elected really who they seem to be? This time, we should ask ourselves if the leaders we elected before are competent and free from corruption charges. And if they have a spoiled record, why are we still voting for them?” the group added.
The lawmaker could not be reached for comment at presstime.
Leachon was charged with graft for allegedly allowing the delivery of sand to a property owned by private respondent Juan Vinas using five city-owned dump trucks and their drivers without the corresponding payments.
State prosecutors atttempted to withdraw the case in 2013, but the Sandiganbayan proceeded with it after finding probable cause to indict Leachon and three others.
Calapan City engineer Benjamin Acedera, Leachon’s co-accused, has also been ordered suspended.
The congressman had argued that the Sandiganbayan should put the suspension order on hold. However, the Supreme Court rejecting his petition, allowing the Sandiganbayan to serve the suspension without any legal hindrance.
Leachon is running for reelection under the administration PDP-Laban party against entrepreneur Malou Flores-Morillo of the PFP.
The corruption case against him was “pretty straightforward” said Zero Tolerance, as Leachon reportedly allowed the use of five city-owned dump trucks to deliver sand to a property owned by Vinas.
“Although there were no reports of payments to the former mayor, it is pretty clear that diverting the use of government-owned resources for private reasons is a crystal-clear case of malversation of public property,” the group said.
Both Leachon and Acedera were accused of using the dump trucks owned by the city government to haul sand for Vinas without payment of the corresponding rentals to the prejudice of the city government, the Sandiganbayan noted.
The anti-graft court had directed the solon to stop exercising his legislative functions while serving his 90-day suspension. The court also ordered the temporary suspension of all his benefits such as monthly salary and allowances.