Sandiganbayan affirms graft, malversation raps vs Cebu Rep Garcia

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2018 05:32 PM | Updated as of Nov 20 2018 07:26 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan Special 2nd Division affirmed the two graft and one technical malversation cases of Cebu 3rd District Rep. Gwen Garcia over an irregular purchase of a property by the provincial government under her watch. 

Garcia is facing charges for the purchase in 2008 of ten parcels of land classified as coastal timberland which for the most part is submerged in seawater. 

In her motion to dismiss filed before the court, Garcia said her right to speedy disposition of cases was violated as the cases have been ongoing for 7 years now.

The court however noted the “conspicuous absence” of 9 motions her lawyers filed before and after her arraignment.

“If there is delay, the same may be reasonably attributed to the ordinary processes of justice. By filing these series of motions and motions for reconsiderations from an adverse resolution, accused Garcia should have reasonable expectation that the proceedings would naturally elongate for due process requires that the other side be given time to respond and the court would similarly consume time to study the submissions before it,” the court said in its resolution promulgated Monday.

The resolution was approved by 2nd Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera and Associate Justices Lorifel Pahimna and Efren Dela Cruz. 

The Balili property cases had a parallel administrative case which led to the dismissal order of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales against Garcia last February, which was not implemented by then House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

In her motion to dismiss, Garcia claimed a delay of 2 years in the investigation phase and another 5 years in the trial, with only 5 out of a total of 78 witnesses presented so far. 

Government prosecutors from the Office of the Special Prosecutor however claimed that Garcia never complained during the preliminary investigation. 

They also countered that it was actually Garcia who was delaying the trial with her numerous pleadings. 

“In sum, the present motion lacks merit as there is no vexatious, capricious and oppressive delay both in the Ombudsman investigation and trial of these cases,” the court said

Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Geraldine Faith Econg however dissented from the majority opinion.

Musngi said the prosecution failed to justify why it took them 2 years to conduct preliminary investigation while Econg noted the way prosecution witnesses were presented during the trial.