Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Governor fights Ombudsman on suspension

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia asked the Sandiganbayan Second Division on Wednesday, June 19, to junk a motion filed by the Office of the Ombudsman seeking her suspension from office over charges of graft and malversation.
Garcia – who is on her last term as provincial governor, and has just won as congresswoman of the 3rd district – has just finished serving out a 6-month suspension imposed on her in December 2012 by the Office of the President.
President Benigno Aquino III held her guilty of grave abuse of authority for usurping the power of the vice governor and hiring consultants without the approval of the provincial board.
The Ombudsman's motion for her suspension, meanwhile, was filed last June 5.
In a 12-page opposition filed through her lawyers, Garcia disputed the prosecution’s claim that she effectively admitted the validity of the information against her when she underwent arraignment last March 22 and submitted “not guilty” pleas.
The governor was indicted on two counts of graft and one malversation charge in connection with the purchase of the 24.92-hectare property known as the Balili Estate for P98.93 million in 2008.
Prosecutors said around 80% of the property were found to be submerged in water.
Named co-defendants were 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 B. Pelayre; and private defendants Romeo and Amparo Balili.
They were accused of conspiracy in binding the provincial government in a “grossly disadvantageous” transaction, causing it undue injury and unlawfully diverting P49,849,200 from the province’s social services fund allocations to partly pay for the land acquisition.
In her opposition, Garcia pointed out that she made no admission on the validity of the information and in fact filed a motion to quash dated May 21, 2013, asking the court to dismiss the charges.
“It is elementary that a Motion to Quash is filed precisely to question the validity of the information. The prosecution’s claim that Governor Garcia has admitted to the validity of the Informations is erroneous at best and, at worst, a blatant misrepresentation,” the defense said.
In addition, Garcia argued that the purpose of suspension of a public official has already been accomplished by her recently concluded suspension for 6 months.
“It simply makes no sense to suspend her at this time precisely because she has already been prevented access to her Office that there is no other purpose for the Prosecution’s Motion to Suspend than to further embarrass and harass Governor Garcia. Such machinations are not only oppressive, they are cruel,” the defense stressed. –

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