Guv invokes Arias Doctrine, files motion for reconsideration

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Sunday, August 12, 2012


GOVERNOR Gwen Garcia invoked the Arias Doctrine and asked the Office of the Ombudsman to overturn its resolution indicting her and seven others for graft charges over the Balili lot purchase in 2008.

Garcia, through her Manila-based lawyers who include her daughter Christina Frasco, filed a motion for reconsideration and cited the 1989 case of Amado Arias vs. Sandiganbayan as her main defense.

The jurisprudence says a public officer could not be faulted for an offense if he merely relied in good faith on his assistants.

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Respondents

“Her (Garcia) good faith reliance on her subordinates should not result in criminal liability or be equated to a conspiracy to commit the crimes for she is charged,” the governor’s pleading read.

Last July 20, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales charged before the Sandiganbayan Governor Garcia with two counts of graft and technical malversation for the allegedly irregular purchase of the 24.9-hectare Balili beachfront property in Naga City, Cebu.

Also charged with one count of graft were Provincial Assessor Anthony Sususco, Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre, Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre, former provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyo, former Provincial Board member Juan Bolo, lot owner Amparo Balili and Romeo Balili, the estate’s executor.

The respondents have all posted bail.

In the resolution, Ombudsman Morales said the Capitol officials entered into the contract with landowners without any fund specifically appropriated for the purchase in its annual budget for 2008.

The anti-graft office also 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 lot purchase when the latter was “definitely not germane” to the housing program.

It also said Gingoyon certified that funds were available even though there was no 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 bought the Balili lot for P99.6 million and paid P98.9 million. It later went to court to get back the portion paid for parts of the land (196,696 square meters) that turned out to be submerged in water.

Arias case

In the Arias case, the Supreme Court (SC) cleared the respondent, a former chief auditor of the Rizal engineering district in Pasig City, of conspiracy with fellow public officers.

“Guilt must be premised on a more knowing, personal, and deliberate participation of each individual who is charged with others as part of a conspiracy,” the SC said.

“The careless use of the conspiracy theory may sweep into jail even innocent persons who may have been made unwitting tools by the criminal minds who engineered the de-fraudation,” it said.

In her pleading, Garcia said she could not be faulted when it was discovered that the Balili property is mostly underwater.

The governor said she relied on the report of the technical working group (TWG), which conducted the assessment on the property.

Garcia also said the TWG report did not indicate that the property was submerged.

She said she only found out about this after the purchase, which she insisted was “advantageous” to the government.

She said the Capitol earned about $1 million for the ash disposal facility on the Balili lot that the Provincial Government entered with Kepco SPC Power Corp.

“Thus, the original purchase of the Balili properties has resulted in several agreements that have been greatly advantageous to the government,” she said. (GMD)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 12, 2012.

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