Morales upholds decision to indict Gwen for graft

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 04 2013 08:30 AM | Updated as of Feb 04 2013 04:30 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has upheld the anti-graft agency’s decision to indict suspended Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for graft and technical malversation of public funds before the Sandiganbayan.

The ombudsman also junked the appeals filed by Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Juan Bolo; budget officer Emme Gingoyon; Appraisal committee chairman and provincial assessor Anthony Sususco; treasurer Roy Salubre; provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre; and private respondents Romeo and Amparo Balili.

Garcia’s criminal cases stems from the alleged anomalous purchase of a 24.7-hectare property worth over P98 million for a housing project in Tinaan, Naga City in 2008.

“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 Office of the Ombudsman said in its latest ruling.

Ombudsman Morales denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Garcia and her co-accused for lack of merit, with prosecutors informing the Sandiganbayan of the ruling.

The anti-graft court’s Second Division chaired by Associate Justice Teresita Diaz-Baldos earlier denied the suspended governor’s request that the hold departure order (HDO) issued against her be lifted pending the resolution of her appeal.

In its latest decision to indict Garcia, the Office of the Ombudsman said there was unlawful diversion of more than P49.8 million in public money from the social services budget of the province since there was no appropriation for such land acquisition.

The anti-graft agency’s 21-page ruling said an admission by defendant Balili that no survey was conducted before the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement for the sale of the property and Bolo’s statement that he “informed Garcia twice that the estate is adjacent to the sea” is evidence against the accused.

“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 Office of the Ombudsman said.

“All the other grounds raised in respondent-movants’ motion for reconsideration merit no consideration as they are merely repetitions of the matters that have already been dwelt on in the assailed issuances,” the decision reads.