OMB finds Garcia guilty of grave misconduct

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales declared Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and five other provincial officials of Cebu guilty of Grave Misconduct in connection with the irregular acquisition of the Balili Estate in 2008.

Aside from Garcia, the Ombudsman also found Juan Bolo, Member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cebu; Anthony Sususco, Roy Salubre, and Eulogio Pelayre, all members of the Provincial Appraisal Committee; and Emme Gingoyon, Provincial Budget Officer, guilty of Grave Misconduct.

In a 26-page Joint Decision signed on 25 January 2013, Ombudsman Morales stated that the administrative liability of  Garcia and Bolo “has been mooted by their reelection in the 2010 National and Local Elections” while Sususco, Salubre, Pelayre and Gingoyon were meted the penalty of dismissal from the service, together with its accessory penalties.

The case stemmed from three separate complaints filed by the Office of the Ombudsman – Visayas’ Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Office (PACPO-Visayas), Manuel Manuel and Crisologo Saavedra in connection with the irregular purchase by the Cebu Provincial Government of the Balili estate consisting of 11 parcels of land with a total area of 249,246 sq.m. for an aggregate amount of P99,698,400, of which P98,926,800 has already been paid.

The purchase was made possible through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by Garcia on behalf of the Province of Cebu, for the acquisition of the Balili Estate located in Tina-an, Naga, Cebu, at P400 per sq.m.

The Decision stated that the transaction was tainted with irregularities as the provincial government at that time had no available funds specifically appropriated for the purpose of “providing a good opportunity for the Province of Cebu to develop and cater to the needs of interested investors.”It said 50% of the total payment made by the provincial government “actually came from the [P50M] budget of the province not specifically earmarked for that purpose but for Site Development and Housing Program under Social Services”.

It also noted that of the 11 parcels of land, “about 196,696 square meters of the total area of 249,246 square meters is submerged in seawater”, hence, it cannot be used for the intended purpose of developing an international seaport and attract investors nor even for site development or housing.

It added that, “the use of funds for a purpose other than the specific purpose for which the fund was appropriated is per se illegal.”

The administrative charge against Mariflor Vero, Michelle Languido, Roger Dumayac, and Pilar Yburan, all members of the Technical Working Group; and Sangguniang Panlalawigan members Victor Maambong, Julian Daan, Wilfredo Caminero, Peter John Calderon, Joven Mondigo Jr., Teresita Celes, Rosemarie Durano, Wenceslao Gakit, Alfred Francis Ouano and Bea Mercede Calderon was dismissed.

Ombudsman Morales earlier ordered the filing of criminal charges against Garcia for violating Section 3(g) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), and for technical malversation punishable under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.

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