‘Unusual’ interest in Balili lot triggers ombud’s charges-A A +A
Saturday, July 21, 2012
AN UNUSUAL interest in buying the lot. Disregarding the papers submitted by the Technical Working Group. Entering into a contract without allocated funds. And certifying and releasing public funds not meant for the purchase.
These were the “concerted acts” of Capitol officials that accorded lot owners Amparo and Romeo Balili “unwarranted benefits,” said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Last July 20, Morales charged before the Sandiganbayan Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia with two counts of graft and one of technical malversation, over the Province’s purchase of the 24.9-hectare Balili beachfront property in 2008.
During her State of the Province Address last Friday, Governor Garcia vowed to “endure this storm that the dark clouds of traditional politics portend,” referring to the filing of the cases a day before her State of the Province Address.
In the resolution, Ombudsman Morales said she noticed the “unusual interest” of former Provincial Board Juan Bolo in all stages of the transaction.
Bolo had sponsored the resolution authorizing Garcia to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the lot owners. Bolo had also prepared the deed of sale and facilitated the payment of the purchase price.
Cebu Provincial Appraisal Committee (CPAC) members Anthony Sususco, Roy Salubre and Eulogio Pelayre “deliberately omitted” in their report the true status of the land, the ombudsman said.
They also disregarded the documents submitted by the Technical Working Group.
Ombudsman Morales said that the Capitol officials entered into the contract without any public fund specifically set aside to buy the property.
Under the memorandum of agreement, the lot purchase was to provide a “good opportunity for the Province of Cebu to develop and cater to the needs of any interested investors.”
But the Ombudsman said that the Province “did not have any fund specifically appropriated for that purpose” in its annual budget for 2008.
The anti-graft office questioned why P49.8 million, which had been allocated for the Province’s site development and housing program in 2008, was used for the Balili land purchase when the latter was “definitely is not germane” to the housing program.
Former provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyon also certified the availability of funds despite the absence of an appropriation.
Part of the disbursed funds was originally intended to buy 11 parcels of land with a total area of 249,246 square meters.
The Province has already paid P98.9 million of the P99.6-million total price of the Balili property in Naga, Cebu. It later went to court to get back the portion paid for parts of the land (196,696 sq. m.) that turned out to be submerged.
Omudsman Morales found probable cause to indict Garcia for allegedly violating Sect. 3(g) of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), and for technical malversation.
She also indicted Bolo, Sususco, Salubre, Pelayre, Gingoyon, and lot owners Romeo and Amparo Balili for allegedly violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019.
The governor posted P90,000 as bail last Friday, a few hours before her annual speech. The four other Capitol officials also posted P30,000 bail each.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 22, 2012.