4 Capitol execs face dismissal-A A +A
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
THE Office of the Ombudsman found suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and five others guilty of grave misconduct over the Balili lot purchase in 2008.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ruled that the transaction between Garcia, five Capitol officials and the lot owners was "tainted with irregularities" since the Province had no funds at that time allocated to buy the property.
Excluding Governor Garcia, Ombudsman Morales dismissed the respondents from the service and forfeited all their benefits in favor of the government.
The dismissed Capitol officials are Provincial Assessor Anthony Sususco, Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre, and Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre, who were all members of the Provincial Appraisal Committee; and Provincial Budget Officer Emme Gingoyon.
Garcia escaped administrative liability since her reelection in 2010 mooted the penalty, under the Aguinaldo Doctrine.
Likewise, the penalty imposed on former Board Member Juan Bolo, who allegedly broached the idea of buying the Balili lot to Garcia, was also rendered moot since he is no longer working in the government. (The ombudsman misstated in its decision that Bolo was reelected in the May 2010 elections.)
In an ANC interview, Governor Garcia said she believes the ombudsman is "specifically trying to pin me down on misconduct when, in fact, there can be no administrative liability."
"I believe that this kind of (ombudsman) statement is really more to add to the ongoing political harassment that I am already experiencing," said Garcia.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol said the ruling was a victory for the anti-graft office's battle against corruption.
"Since the finding was grave misconduct, the penalties include disqualification from the service with all the accessory penalties, which usually is with prejudice to reentry to government service," Apostol told reporters.
Apostol said the respondents may file their motion for reconsideration.
Tranquil Salvador III, Governor Garcia's lawyer, said they have not yet received a copy of the Ombudsman's ruling. But Salvador said that the administrative case of misconduct was rendered moot and academic by Garcia's reelection in 2010.
"Hence, there is no liability or penalty to speak of. It is unfair to correlate this with the Office of the President's case since those two cases are completely different," Salvador told Sun.Star Cebu in a text message.
Salubre and Pelayre declined to comment until they receive and read their formal copy of the decision. Salubre said he did not believe initially that he would be dragged into this case.
Gingoyon said he has not answered a formal administrative complaint against him, so he was surprised to learn about the decision.
"Under sa atong demokrasya naay due process di ba? (Aren't we entitled to due process in a democracy?)," Gingoyon said.
Former provincial assessor Susuco retired last March 31, 2012 after serving the Capitol for 40 years, one month and 15 days.
Based on the Capitol's records as of Dec. 31, 2012, Gingoyon has been with Capitol for 27 years, five months and 22 days. Pelayre has been in the service for 26 years, four months and 13 days, while Salubre has worked for the Province for 18 years, 11 months and 28 days.
The ombudsman's ruling on the administrative aspect of the case came barely six months after Morales charged Garcia with two counts of graft and technical malversation before the Sandiganbayan last July 20.
Also charged with one count of graft were Sususco, Salubre, Pelayre, Gingoyon, and Bolo.
The ombudsman also found basis to indict for graft the lot owner, Amparo Balili, and Romeo Balili, the estate's executor. They were spared from administrative liability, though, being private individuals.
In the resolution issued last July, 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 the 26-page joint decision dated Jan. 25, 2013, Morales said the transaction was "tainted with irregularities as the Provincial Government at that time had no available funds specifically appropriated."
'Illegal per se'
The Province had said it bought the Balili lot because the officials saw "a good opportunity for the Province of Cebu to develop (it) and cater to the needs of interested investors."
But the ombudsman pointed out that 50 percent of the total payment came from the P50-million budget earmarked for "site development and housing program" under Capitol's "social services.
And because parts of the property are underwater, the ombudsman said it "cannot be used for the intended purpose of developing an international seaport and attract investors nor even for site development or housing."
"The use of funds for a purpose other than the specific purpose for which the fund was appropriated is per se illegal," Ombudsman Morales said in her decision.
The ombudsman dismissed the administrative case against Technical Working Group members Mariflor Vero, Michelle Languido, Roger Dumayac, and Pilar Yburan. Former Provincial Board members Victor Maambong, Julian Daan, Wilfredo Caminero, Peter John Calderon, Joven Mondigo Jr., Teresita Celes, Rosemarie Durano, Wenceslao Gakit, Alfred Francis Ouano and Bea Mercede Calderon were also cleared of the same administrative case.
It was an unrelated administrative case that led the Office of the President to suspend Governor Garcia on Dec. 19, 2012. She is fighting that suspension in court.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 05, 2013.