Unintentional-A A +A
Sunday, July 22, 2012
THE uncanny timing of their filing with the Sandiganbayan does give rise to questions whether the criminal charges against Gov. Gwen Garcia along with seven others in connection with the purchase by the Province of the Balili lots were meant to harass the Cebuana senatorial aspirant.
But why should the Aquino government single her out for persecution? The United Nationalist Alliance is a friendly force, insofar as the President is concerned. So friendly, in fact, that one of its leading lights, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, had suggested, perhaps in a moment of exuberance, that UNA and the President’s Liberal Party form a common, super senatorial ticket.
It couldn’t be because of her friendship with former President Arroyo because the latter has closer friends who have relentlessly attacked P-Noy and they haven’t been sued by the ombudsman, least of all on the day before they were to deliver an important speech, such as the State of the Province Address.
Yes, the timing was embarrassing to the governor but I doubt if it was intentional. If it had happened during the time of the previous ombudsman, that (the ill intent) would have been easier to believe. But the current one is of sterner stuff and it is almost unthinkable that she would allow her office to be used to harass someone who is not even a political opponent of the one who appointed her.
In any case, being charged does not mean that the accused is already guilty. For want of an appropriate English translation, let me describe the situation in our native tongue: layo ras tutunlan.
Even the talk of suspension is premature since, as Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol explained, that will come only after the arraignment of the accused. Considering the motions that, under the rules, can and are expected to be filed and the Sandiganbayan’s calendar of cases, it wouldn’t be soon when the arraignment can be had. That means that Garcia will continue to sit as governor unless she is suspended for some other complaint or reason.
Indeed, it would be prudent of the governor to expect the ombudsman to act, meaning dismiss or elevate to the Sandiganbayan, on the other cases filed against her. Some of these complaints were filed ahead of the Balili case. That the ombudsman had chosen to resolve it earlier than the others could perhaps be due to the fact that the evidence made it easier to decide.
But while the trial on Baliligate could come only many months later, it is never too late to prepare for one’s defense. As City Mayor Mike Rama said, the governor has a battery of good lawyers (Noy Pabling and PJ are bar topnotchers) who know what ought to be done.
I’m sure that at this point, they have already taken notice of a statement attributed to former Provincial Board member John Bolo, one of the governor’s co-accused. John, if you recall, was the one who told the governor about the Balili property and the offer to sell it. When the controversy on the lot purchase first came to light, it seemed that his thumbprints were all over the transaction.
Sun.Star Cebu (see The Balili Timeline in yesterday’s issue) says that Bolo then claimed that he was merely following the governor’s instructions. According to one newspaper report, he made the same assertion last Thursday when he was interviewed
after the ombudsman filed the charges against them.
Any lawyer will tell you that when the accused start pointing fingers at each other, it is going to be nightmarish for the defense.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 23, 2012.