ILOILO – Cong. Arcadio Gorriceta of the 2nd District denied pocketing funds from the P5-million Education For All project when he was the mayor of the municipality of Pavia in 2004.
In an interview with Panay News yesterday, Gorriceta also defended municipal accountant Eufemia Jamerlan and municipal treasurer Edwin Elumba.
“Bisan isa ka sentimos waay na sila sang may gin-remedyo ukon ginkawat,” stressed the congressman.
The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division ordered the preventive suspension of Gorriceta for 90 days while it hears the legislator’s graft case – violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the Education For All project funded by the pork barrel of then 2nd District congressman Augusto Syjuco.
The Education For All project involved the distribution of free school supplies and uniforms to public schools.
“Ang matuod sini, wala ako sang may gin-remedyo ukon ginkawat,” said Gorriceta.
In its complaint filed at the Sandiganbayan, the Office of the Ombudsman accused Gorriceta of “predetermining, designating and allowing” Tagipusuon Foundation, Inc. to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the municipality of Pavia to implement the Education for All Program which was allegedly padded by P999,900.
Other respondents in the complaint were Syjuco, Jamerlan and Elumba, and two other personnel of the nongovernment organization Tagipusuon Foundation, Inc., Corazon Taladua and Timoteo Tomas Salvilla.
“Indi ako nag pre-determine sina,” said Gorriceta who recalled being a first-term mayor in 2004 when Pavia was identified for the Education For All project.
He said he first consulted the Commission on Audit (COA) and then governor Niel Tupas Sr. about it.
COA, according to Gorriceta, advised him to seek authority from the Sangguniang Bayan, which in turn gave him such to proceed.
Gorriceta expressed confidence of overcoming the graft case.
“Despite sang akon sitwasyon, atubangon ko ini kay way ko sala,” he stressed.
In his manifestation to the Sandiganbayan, Gorriceta argued that he need not be suspended because he was no longer Pavia’s mayor, the position he held when he was charged.
He also cited his severe medical condition that limits his movements – kidney cancer with spinal metastasis.
Because of this, according to Gorriceta, he could not be a “menace to the prosecution of the case nor influence or intimidate the witnesses.”
The anti-graft court resolved, however, that “accused Gorriceta’s physical health is of no moment.”
“The only relevant consideration for the court in applying the legal mandate for preventive suspension is the fact that the accused presently holds public office,” stressed the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division in a resolution.
It also stressed that “the mandatory preventive suspension under the law is to prevent further acts of malfeasance while in the office, the intimidation of witnesses, and the possibility of tampering with documentary evidence.”
Gorriceta said yesterday he has yet to receive a copy of the order suspending him./PN