Balili case moving-A A +A
Monday, February 4, 2013
I ALREADY said this before. Among the cases filed against Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, the one involving the purchase of the Balili property in Naga is the most difficult to parry. This is because of the inherent simplicity of the accusation. Why would the government buy a 24.7-hectare lot when a portion of it (almost 20 hectares) is under seawater? Outsiders looking in would find any explanation to that difficult to believe.
In the same vein, I considered the administrative complaint for grave abuse of authority lodged by the late vice governor Gregorio Sanchez with Malacañang as the weakest. Yet it was this case that President Noynoy Aquino used to suspend the governor for six months, effectively turning over Capitol to the Liberal Party. That exposed the political motivation of PNoy’s move.
When Malacañang issued the order on Dec. 18, it wasn’t sure how fast the Sandiganbayan, which had taken jurisdiction over the cases arising from the Balili lot purchase, would let the judicial process roll. To be effective as an electoral strategy, Garcia’s suspension had to be implemented early and should straddle the entire campaign period.
So instead of waiting for the Sandiganbayan or the Office of the Ombudsman to issue the suspension order, Malacañang outraced them.
Yesterday, the Office of the Ombudsman found the governor and five other provincial government officials guilty of grave misconduct for the questionable purchase of the Balili property. The other officials were former Provincial Board (PB) Member Juan Bolo, members of the Provincial Appraisal Committee (Anthony Sususco, Roy Salubre and Eulogio Pelayre) and provincial budget officer Emie Gingoyon.
But the administrative liability of Garcia, according to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, “has been mooted” by her reelection in the 2010 elections. Bolo, meanwhile, is out of the government. That left Sususco, Salubre, Pelayre and Gingoyon to bear the brunt of the ruling.
That is therefore not much of a bad news for Garcia. What is worrisome for her is the 90-day preventive suspension that Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol said may be slapped on her after the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the motion for reconsideration she and seven others filed re: the criminal cases they are facing, again in relation to the Balili lot purchase.
Meaning that even if PNoy did not suspend Garcia or even if Malacañang ruled objectively (sans politicking) on the grave abuse of authority case against the governor, she would still be eased out, albeit for only 90 days, by the anti-graft court. There wouldn’t have been a reason for Garcia to claim that politics was behind the suspension even if Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale would still take over as acting governor.
That has always been my objection to the suspension order issued by Malacañang: it is self-serving, meaning ill-intentioned. It was a disservice to PNoy’s Daang Matuwid slogan and did not make PNoy look good. Columnist Conrado de Quiros, who pushed for Aquino’s presidential run in 2010, even described the move as “witless.”
It would be interesting to find out how Garcia, Bolo and the others will defend themselves in a full-blown trial for the graft charges they are facing with the Sandiganbayan. As I said, the case is difficult to defend. But who knows what will happen during the trial?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 05, 2013.