Sandigan orders arrest of Garcia over Balili case-A A +A
Thursday, March 21, 2013
MANILA (Updated) - Suspended Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia was ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan Second Division on Thursday for not showing up at her arraignment for graft and malversation cases stemming from the purchase of the Balili property in 2008.
But Garcia’s counsel, Tranquil Salvador III, said the arrest warrant and the confiscation of the bail worth P90,000 will not take effect if Garcia appears in the new schedule of arraignment at 1:30 p.m. today, Friday.
Salvador clarified that Associate Justice Teresita Diaz Baldos of Sandiganbayan Second Division did not order her arrest. The court merely ordered Garcia’s presence in today’s arraignment.
Salvador assured the court Thursday that Garcia will appear in Friday’s arraignment.
“It cannot yet be implemented, the issuance of the order being different from its implementation. Besides, as appearing in the same order, the court recognized her commitment to appear tomorrow (Friday),” he told Sun.Star.
On Friday, Salvador said Garcia will be asked by the court why she skipped her scheduled arraignment. The court will then decide if it will revoke the arrest warrant.
"Be there and see if she will appear," he said when asked if the governor will personally enter her plea.
Salvador said his client failed to attend the hearing because she had a speaking engagement in a graduation ceremony and attended a "blessing of congressional headquarters" in Argao, Cebu.
Garcia is seeking a seat in the House of Representatives in the May 13 midterm elections.
He said they earlier filed a motion to defer the arraignment scheduled on March 21. When the court denied their motion on the day of the arraignment, it was too late for the governor to fly to Manila.
Salvador said the court did not immediately act on their motion to defer the arraignment. They only received the court’s denial of their motion on the evening of March 19.
The next day, they asked for the court’s reconsideration, but it was denied in open court during Thursday’s arraignment.
With Garcia’s absence, Salvador said, the public prosecutors immediately asked the court to issue an order. But the order was for the governor to appear in today’s arraignment, said Salvador.
“So we made a commitment that she will be there tomorrow,” said Salvador.
Bought in 2008, the P98.9-million Balili Estate in Tinaan, Naga City, must be used by the Cebu Provincial Government for several purposes.
However, the Ombudsman said a "large portion" of the 11 parcels of land were submerged in seawater, thus they cannot be used for the intended purpose of developing an international seaport and attracting investors.
Also charged with graft were former Provincial Board member Juan Bolo, former provincial assessor Anthony Sususco, provincial treasurer Roy Salubre, provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre, provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyon and lot owners Amparo and Romeo Balili, who entered a not guilty plea.
The court, meanwhile, entered a not guilty plea on Gingoyon’s behalf.
Garcia was ordered suspended last December on a different charge of grave abuse of authority based on a complaint by then vice governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. She has questioned her six-month suspension before the Court of Appeals. (Virgil Lopez/OCP of Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)