MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has found suspended 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.
In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Garcia and the 5 others are guilty of misconduct for approving the nearly P100 million purchase of 11 parcels of land owned by the Balili Estate.
It said the estate had a total area of 249,246 square meters and purchased for an aggregate amount of P99,698,400, of which P98,926,800 has already been paid.
The Ombudsman said the purchase was tainted with irregularity since "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.
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.
Aside from Garcia, the 5 others are 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.
The decision noted that the administrative liability of Garcia and Bolo "has been mooted by their reelection in the 2010 National and Local Elections.”
It said Sususco, Salubre, Pelayre and Gingoyon were meted the penalty of dismissal from the service, together with its accessory penalties.
The 26-page joint decision on the Garcia case was signed last January 25, 2013.
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.
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. She also found probable cause to indict Garcia, Bolo, Sususco, Salubre, Pelayre, Gingoyon, and private respondents Romeo Balili and Amparo Balili for violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019.