MANILA - (2nd UPDATE) The Office of the Ombudsman on Monday said it has ordered the dismissal of Deputy House Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia for grave misconduct when she was still governor of Cebu.
The ruling stemmed from Garcia's approval of the purchase of the P98.9-million Balili property in Naga City in 2008, much of which was later found to be underwater, the Ombudsman said in a statement.
Garcia in 2012 tapped Supreme ABF Construction to supply backfilling materials for the submerged portion of the land for P24.47 million.
The Ombudsman however found that Garcia had no authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) when she entered into the contract with the firm.
"She failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract," Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in the Jan. 15 decision.
The Ombudsman added that Garcia violated the Administrative Code of 1987 and the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines because the certification of available funds was issued only after she entered the second contract with Supreme ABF.
The dismissal order against Garcia disqualifies her from holding public office and forfeits her retirement benefits, the Ombudsman said.
The office has directed that a copy of the decision be furnished to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for appropriate action.
Garcia, however, cast doubt on the timing of the ruling.
"The timing is rather suspect. It does seem as though the Ombudsman has singled me out on an act that was done when I was still governor years ago," she told reporters.
"I rather wonder whether this was purposely done precisely because, as you saw, I am very active in the impeachment hearing against Chief Justice Sereno," she added.
Meanwhile, Garcia's co-respondent, provincial accountant Emmanuel Guial was found guilty of simple neglect of duty “for certifying in the subject [disbursement vouchers] that the supporting documents are complete when in fact they lacked the required authority from the SP for respondent Garcia to enter into contract.”
Guial was ordered suspended for 3 months. In case of separation from office, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to Guial’s salary for the same period.
The administrative charges against Bids and Awards Committee chairperson Marivic Garces; vice chairperson Bernard Calderon; members Manuel Purog, Emme Gingoyon, Ma. Junelene Arenas, Cristina Giango, Rosalinda Jao; and acting provincial treasurer Roy Salubre were dismissed for lack of merit.
With reports from Adrian Ayalin and Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News