The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed criminal charges against Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and 11 others for the construction of the P830 million Cebu International Convention Center.
Aside from Garcia, those cleared in the 12-page ruling released on December 14, 2020 were:
Eduardo T. Habin, then Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chair
Roy G. Salubre, BAC co-chair
Cristina B. Gianco,
Necias A. Vicoy, Jr.
Emme T. Gingoyon
Glenn F. Baricuatro
Bernard E. Calderon
Marino D. Martinquilla,
Eulogio B. Pelayre, and
Willy Te, WT Constructions Inc., vice president.
The latest ruling of the Ombudsman overturns the March 31, 2016 resolution by then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales which stated that Garcia violated the law when she allowed WT Construction, Incorporated (WTI) to perform additional works without an appropriation, contract, and public bidding.
The December 2020 decision was penned down by Daniel Von Evan Panelo, Graft Investigation and Prosecution officer III, and was approved by Assistant Ombudsman Jose Balmeo Jr, and Ombudsman Samuel Martires.
This latest development comes not long after the Sandiganbayan acquitted Garcia in the criminal cases surrounding the procurement of the Balili property.
In this latest dismissal, the Office of the Ombudsman ruled that not all elements of the crime under Sec. 3(e) RA No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corruption Act were present, lacking specifically the third and fourth requirement.
The Ombudsman said that there was no sufficient evidence to back the claim that the respondents acted in bad faith, manifest impartiality, or gross inexcusable negligence.
“They were not motivated by corruption considering that their resort to an alternative mode of procurement was premised on their mistaken belief that the same was appropriate,” the ruling read.
The Ombudsman also said that the construction of the property did not cause undue injury to any party including the provincial government or gave any unwarranted benefits, advantage or partiality.
“(T)he local government unit did not spend more money than it was supposed to and there was no showing that the respondents obtained benefits as a result of the transaction. Further, there were no unwarranted benefits given considering that the respondents gave sufficient justification in resorting to alternative modes of procurement and the materials were purchased at marker cost,” they said.
In the overturned 2016 joint order, then ombudsman Morales said, Garcia violated the law when she allowed WT Construction to perform additional works without an appropriation, contract, and public bidding. This, Morales said, gave the contractor unwarranted benefits and caused undue injury to the government in the amount of at least P257,413,911.73.
Garcia told Rappler that she would hold a press conference on the decision on Wednesday, January 6.
The CICC was built in 2006, as the primary venue for the 12th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings, and the second East Asia Summit in 2007.
The building was heavily damaged in 2013 by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol, and Super Typhoon Yolanda. — Rappler.com