CEBU Representative Gwendolyn Garcia has asked the Sandiganbayan to defer the upcoming pre-trial proceedings in her graft and technical malversation charges, citing pending petitions questioning her indictment before the Supreme Court.
In a motion filed at the Sandiganbayan Second Division, Garcia's legal counsel Tranquil Salvador III said that her right to due process will be violated if the anti-graft court pushes through with the pre-trial and pre-trial conference on July 16.
Salvador accused the prosecution of violating legal procedures.
“Proceeding with pre-trial proceedings and eventually, trial proper ... will violate Congresswoman Garcia’s rights as an accused, as she will be forced to answers charges in, and possibly be convicted for, informations (sic) that, among others, contain facts that do not constitute an offense,” the motion read.
Garcia's legal team said that once the pre-trial is completed, the lawmaker will be bound by the ground rules when she is in fact assailing the validity of her indictment and the pre-trial brief.
The defense argued that originally, the prosecution said it intended to present 274 pieces of documentary evidence but trimmed this down by more than 100 after Garcia submitted her own pre-trial brief.
“Several of the deleted pieces of documentary evidence are in fact, advantageous to Congresswoman Garcia, such as tax declarations and zoning classifications covering the properties subject of this case and copies of resolutions showing that Congresswoman Garcia sought to demand refund of the payments made (to the previous owners),” the motion read.
Garcia was charged with two counts of graft and one count of technical malversation in September 2012 in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of a 24.92-hectare lot known as the Balili property in Tiga-an, Naga, Cebu worth P98,926,800 in 2008.
The purchase happened when Garcia was governor of Cebu.
Prosecutors said 19.67 hectares of the property was submerged in water based on verification surveys conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman held that there was unlawful diversion of P49,849,200 from the province’s social services budget since there was no appropriation for such land acquisition.
The first graft case named Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Juan Bolo; Provincial Budget Officer Emme Gingoyon; Provincial Appraisal Committee chairman and Provincial Assessor Anthony Sususco; Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre; and OIC Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre as co-accused of Garcia.
Former property owners Romeo and Amparo Balili were named private defendants.
Garcia is the lone defendant in the second graft case and the technical malversation charge. (Sunnex)