THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas sacked Efren Guntrano Gica as Dumanjug mayor for tampering with a restaurant receipt amounting to P11,435 to bloat the amount to P21,435 in 2014.
Graft Investigator Portia Pacquiao ordered Gica dismissed from the service for serious dishonesty and grave misconduct.
“Respondent’s acts in obtaining public funds in the amount of P10, 000 for his personal use and falsifying his liquidation report and supporting documents to conceal the misappropriation clearly constitute grave misconduct,” read Pacquiao’s 15-page decision, which Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved.
The ombudsman ordered the cancellation of Gica’s civil service eligibility and barred him from working again in government.
Apart from the dismissal, the ombudsman also indicted Gica for malversation of public funds, three counts of falsification of official documents and for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The dismissal came barely eight months after the ombudsman reinstated Gica as Dumanjug mayor in March this year.
In a four-page joint order, Pacquiao ordered Gica restored to his position after realizing that the anti-graft office issued the resolution and decision without considering the respondent’s defense.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed by former mayor Nelson Garcia, who accused Gica of tampering with a Ding Qua Qua receipt for P11,435 so it would appear to be P21,435 last Aug.12, 2014.
Gica, for his part, said that he could not be held liable for malversation of public funds since he had no custody of public funds as the then vice mayor.
Gica said that the cash advances that he obtained were all used for payments of meals during the barangay assembly of the Association of Local Budget Officers seminar in Cebu City.
But Pacquiao said that Gica falsified the liquidation report, purchase order and Ding Qua Qua official receipt “for the purpose of concealing his act in obtaining P10,000 for his personal benefit.”
“Having failed to return and account for the P10,000, the same is presumed to have been used by respondent for his personal benefit,” the decision read.
Gica plans to ask the Court of Appeals to prevent the dismissal order from being implemented, adding that he will not file a motion for reconsideration before the ombudsman.
Gica said that the charges filed by Garcia were laden with politics.
“I am hopeful that the Court of Appeals will look at the merits of the case. Nevertheless, it’s something I shouldn’t be upset with although the decision did hurt. Everything happens for a reason,” he said in Cebuano.
Meanwhile, Garcia said the development is a victory for the town’s people. “The people’s prayer was heard,” he said.
By law of succession, Vice Mayor Rene Asentista will replace Gica, while number one Municipal Councilor Cesar “Sarsi” Baricuatro will become vice mayor.
Garcia debunked Gica’s allegation that the anti-graft office was biased for the Garcias because he (Garcia) was also suspended during his term as town mayor based on charges that Gica had filed.
Garcia pointed out that the anti-graft office also gave Gica a chance to submit his affidavit and position paper. “Giving him a chance is not an act of bias,” Garcia said.
Gica recently left the Liberal Party to join the administration party, PDP-Laban. (EOB, Rolyn May Jumao-as, USJ-R Intern)
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on November 22, 2017.
Latest issues of SunStar Cebu also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.