GWEN GARCIA DISMISSED

February 13, 2018

“It does seem as though the Ombudsman has singled me out [with] an act that was done when I was still governor several years ago. And you rather wonder whether this was purposely done precisely because you saw, I am very active in the hearings against Chief Justice (Maria Lourdes)Sereno,” says Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu, 3rd District).

CEBU City – Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu, 3rd District) believes that her active participation in the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Chief JusticeMaria Lourdes Sereno has something to do with her dismissal order from the Office of the Ombudsman.

“It does seem as though the Ombudsman has singled me out [with] an act that was done when I was still governor several years ago. And you rather wonder whether this was purposely done precisely because you saw, I am very active in the hearings against Chief Justice Sereno,” Garcia said yesterday.

The Ombudsman has slapped Garcia – also the House Deputy Speaker – with a dismissal order for grave misconduct over her controversial Balili property purchase when she was the governor of Cebu.

The Balili property is a 249,246-square-meter lot in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City, Cebu.

The Cebu provincial government bought the property on June 11, 2008 for P98,926,800, the Ombudsman decision stated.

Local authorities later found that the property’s 196,696 square meterswere underwater and part of a mangrove area.

In April 2012, the provincial government conducted a public bidding “for the supply and delivery of backfilling materials and other incidentals of its submerged and mangrove portions” of the property.

The project was awarded to Supreme ABF Construction which offered the lowest calculated bid of P248.75 per cubic meter.

The provincial government released a total of P24,468,927.66 to the Supreme ABF Construction.

But the Ombudsman found that Garcia had no authority from the SanguniangPanlalawigan (SP) when she entered into contracts with the Supreme ABF Construction.

“While this Office finds merit on her assertion that the P50 million allotment for the airport/seaport and other economic enterprise site development program…was a valid source of appropriation for the Balili project, such appropriation did not validly confer authority to Garcia to enter into a contract with ABF Construction for the Balili project,” the Jan. 14, 2018 decision stated.

It added, “She (Garcia) failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract.”

According to the Ombudsman, Garcia violated sections 46 and 47 of the Administrative Code of 1987 and section 86 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

Garcia was meted with accessory penalties such as perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

Meanwhile, Garcia’s co-respondent, Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial was found guilty of simple neglect of duty for “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 three months and in case he is separated from service, he must pay a penalty equivalent to his salary for three months./PN