REELECTED Dumanjug town Mayor Efren Guntrano “Gun-gun” Gica and his brother, vice mayor-elect Erwin “Wado,” are facing criminal complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas for allegedly hitting a worker from the rival political party last May 11, 2019.
Mayor Gica, though, denied the allegations and appealed to those responsible for the complaints to “stop the mudslinging.”
In a complaint dated May 22, a certain Hector Quirante from Barangay Ilaya in Dumanjug, accused the Gica brothers of committing serious physical injury, serious illegal detention, grave coercion, planting of evidence and violation of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban.
“It is most respectfully prayed that this complaint be given due course and that a corresponding information be filed with the proper court after the usual investigation thereon,” read a portion of the complaint.
In his nine-page complaint, Quirante said he was hired by the group of Dumanjug mayoral bet Cesar Baricuatro as a driver to transport food, supplies and personnel in connection with the May 13 elections.
At around 11 a.m. of May 11, he was reportedly asked to bring one of Baricuatro’s supporters, whom he identified as a certain Leah Asentista, to Barangay Kantangkas.
But Asentista allegedly quickly alighted from the motorcycle and left Quirante behind after noticing the vehicle of Mayor Efren.
After the incident, Quirante said he decided to go home, but a vehicle behind him started blowing its horn, and eventually overtook and blocked his motorcycle.
“I was forced to stop. I then saw Wado, an incumbent municipal councilor (of Dumanjug), disembark from the vehicle and point his firearm at me. He then approached me and suddenly hit me in the mouth area, causing one of my front teeth to fall and another front tooth to crack. He then kicked me twice and punched me in the stomach,” Quirante said.
Vice mayor-elect Erwin’s men, who were reportedly armed with long firearms while wearing civilian clothing, allegedly dragged Quirante and forcibly took him inside a backup vehicle.
“The man who dragged me into the backup vehicle sat beside me, still holding his long firearm. They forcibly brought me to their headquarters, which is also the house of the Gicas,” Quirante said.
He alleged that he was punched again by one of the men, and that his cellphone and jacket were forcibly taken from him. He was also reportedly handcuffed.
Mayor Efren reportedly told Quirante not to get involved in politics, and later, a hand gun held by the vice mayor-elect, was allegedly used as planted evidence against him.
Quirante said he was brought to the Dumanjug Police Station, and overheard Gica’s camp mentioning “citizen’s arrest.”
But because his gums were reportedly bleeding and his right eye was swollen, the police officers brought Quirante to the Barili District Hospital.
Last May 14, incoming vice mayor Erwin reportedly filed three complaints against Quirante for violation of the Comelec gun ban, the Comprehensive Firearm and Ammunition Regulation Act, and for attempted murder.
Quirante lamented that the allegations against him were “all fabricated and lies” because he had no firearm with him.
“I was hired as a mere driver for the rival political party. Supporting the rival candidate of the Gicas, this earned me the ire of the Gicas,” he added.
Sought for comment, Mayor Efren replied: “Nganong apilon man gyud ko? Number one, wala ko diha paghitabo. Number two, gidakop ni siya tungod nakit-an nagdala og armas, tungod nani-on og armas.” (Why drag me into this? Number one, I wasn’t there when it happened. Number two, he was arrested because he was seen carrying a firearm, because he was pointing a firearm.)
“Number three, I have CCTV footage to prove nga wala ko mogawas sa amo from May 9 to 14, 2019. Binoang man na ila. Hangyo ko sa mga nagpaluyo ani nga complaint sakto na intawn, maluoy mo. Human na ang election. The people have made their choice kinsa ilang gusto mo-lead sa atong province, district ug sa lungsod. Let’s all work together to make Cebu number one, and for a progressive and peaceful Dumanjug.” (Number three, I have CCTV [security camera] footage to prove that I have not gotten out of our house from May 9 to 14, 2019. This is nonsense. I’m appealing to those behind this complaint, enough is enough, have pity. The elections are over. The people have made their choice on who they want to lead our province, district and town.)
This, though, is not the first time the Gica brothers were involved in controversy.
Last May 2, the Sandiganbayan placed reelected Mayor Efren on a 90-day preventive suspension following his arraignment over graft, falsification and malversation charges.
A resolution from the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division dated April 3, stated that the mayor-elect’s suspension is mandated under Section 13 of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In 2018, the Court of Appeals merely “noted” Mayor Efren's appeal to be reinstated to his position following the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss him from service for serious dishonesty and grave misconduct in 2017.
The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the reelected mayor from service for tampering with a restaurant receipt amounting to P11,435 to bloat the amount to P21,435 in 2014.
The Ombudsman ordered the cancellation of Mayor Efren’s civil service eligibility and barred him from working again in government.
Apart from the dismissal, the Ombudsman also indicted Mayor Efren for malversation of public funds, three counts of falsification of official documents and for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Also in 2018, the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas begun investigating the criminal and administrative complaints against vice mayor-elect Erwin for his alleged failure to file his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) from 2013 to 2017.
The case stemmed from the complaints filed by former Dumanjug mayor Nelson Garcia, who accused the Gica brothers of not filing their SALNs from 2013 to 2017.
Mayor Efren was vice mayor from 2013 to 2016 while vice mayor-elect Erwin has been serving as councilor from 2013 until he was elected as vice mayor in the 2019 midterm polls.