By Joel J. Jabal
The Mindoro Post
Governor Alfonso V. Umali, Jr. has said he would vacate his office in compliance with a 90-day preventive suspension order issued by the Sandiganbayan.
In an April 29 letter to Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Umali said he is “voluntarily submitting” himself to the 90-day preventive suspension as ordered by the special anti-graft court last January 17.
Umali, a staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino, is facing a graft case at the Sandiganbayan in connection with a P2.5 million loan extended by the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro to ship owner Alfredo Atienza in 1994.
Umali, then provincial administrator, and former Governor Rodolfo Valencia were the signatories in the deal that the court found to be “grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.”
The two, along with Atienza, then vice governor Pedrito Reyes and provincial board members Jose Enriquez and Jose Leynes, were sentenced in September 2008 to imprisonment of up to 10 years. They were barred from holding public office.
The officials had argued that the provincial assistance was made to help Atienza repair and maintain the roll-on roll-off vessel MV Ace, which was to ply the Calapan-Batangas route.
They said that the vessel was used by the province in the aftermath of four strong typhoons that hit Oriental Mindoro in 1993.
They pleaded for a retrial. In 2009, the Sandiganbayan agreed to retry the case and last January 7 it issued a resolution ordering Umali’s 90-day preventive suspension.
Umali is president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines and chairman of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, which also made him a member of the powerful Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council. He is also the national treasurer of the administration Liberal Party.