The anti-graft court acquitted Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia in the case involving the provincial government’s purchase in 2008 of a P98.8 million property that was mostly underwater.
The decision on Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-0175 was handed down on Thursday, November 26, and published on the Sandiganbayan’s website on Wednesday December 2.
Garcia and the 7 other respondents were charged in 2010 with violating Section 3 of Republic Act 3019, or the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.
Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the decision with Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi, Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega, and Karl Miranda concurring.
The Sandiganbayan highlighted in its decision that neither the Commission on Audit nor the Internal Audit Service “disallowed the entire transaction.” It said this fact weighed in favor of the accused “insofar as establishing the regularity of the transaction.”
Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera Jr. dissented with the motion to grant Garcia’s demurrer to evidence, or motion to dismiss on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
He said in his dissenting opinion that the prosecution’s presentation of witnesses and documentary evidence were “prima facie” sufficient to convict Garcia and the co-accused in the case against them.
Garcia said she felt vindicated by the anti-graft court’s decision.
“My family suffered immensely, immeasurably for 8 long years purely because of political motivation,” Garcia told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, November 2.
“I feel vindicated but I am also just as happy for my family because now they too are vindicated,” the Cebu governor added.
She said she was also happy the other accused in the case had been cleared by the Sandiganbayan.
The others cleared were:
- Retired provincial assessor Anthony Sususco,
- Former provincial Board Member Juan Bolo,
- Former provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre,
- Former provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyon,
- Romeo and Amparo Balili, owners of the property,
- Former provincial treasurer Roy Salubre.
Gwen’s daughter Christina Garcia Frasco, a lawyer and mayor of Liloan town, Cebu, said that what made this dismissal “sweet” was that the court made its ruling “not based on the strength of the defense but on the weakness of [the prosecution’s] evidence.”
Garcia said during the press conference that at least 14 other cases had been filed against her but said the cases were “politically motivated.” – Rappler.com