Ombudsman junks Garcia appeal on graft raps
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Suspended Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia and 7 others accused of graft over the purchase of a property in Cebu are heading for trial in the Sandiganbayan after the Ombudsman dismissed their appeal.
In a 21-page order signed on January 25, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Garcia and the others for lack of merit.
“All the grounds raised in respondent-movants’ motions for reconsideration merit no consideration as they are merely repetitions of the matters that have already been dwelt on,” the Ombudsman’s order read.
Prosecutors Jose Balmeo Jr. and Janet Leah Ramos informed the Sandiganbayan Second Division of the Ombudsman’s ruling in a compliance filed late Friday, February 1.
The Ombudsman in July last year charged the governor with two counts of graft and one count of illegal use of public funds for the purchase of a P98.9-million land with area of nearly 25 hectares in Tiga-an, Naga, Cebu.
Charged with Garcia in the first graft case were 5 other Cebu officials, namely, Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Juan Bolo, Provincial Budget Officer Emme Gingoyon, Provincial Appraisal Committee Chairman and Provincial Assessor Anthony Sususco, Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre, and OIC Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre. Also charged were landowners Romeo and Amparo Balili.
The Ombudsman said the accused diverted at least P50 million in government funds intended for housing and site development programs to pay for the land, of which 19 hectares were under water.
No survey was conducted before the agreement on the sale was signed, noted the Ombudsman, citing an admission by Romeo Balili.
“Such admission bolster this Office’s finding that the parties, most especially Garcia, had acted with gross inexcusable negligence in the purchase of the estate,” the Ombudsman declared.
“Without doubt, the purchase of the Balili property is grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government… given that the substantial portion thereof is submerged in seawater and cannot be utilized for the province’s housing program.”
The Ombudsman also said the accused conspired with each other in carrying out the “anomalous” purchase as shown by their “concerted acts” and “indispensable participation in the planning, preparation and consummation” of the transaction.
Garcia was suspended by the Office of the President for 6 months starting December over a separate case. She was found guilty of grave abuse of authority in connection with administrative charges filed against her by the late Cebu Vice Governor Greg Sanchez Jr. in 2010.
Garcia, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance, refused to leave the Cebu Capitol and sought a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals on her suspension. – Rappler.com