Ombudsman dismisses Gwen Garcia


THE Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of House Deputy Speaker Gwen over the purchase of the 24.9-hectare Balili property in 2008 and a contract to develop it in 2012.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales dismissed Garcia from public service after she found the former Cebu governor guilty of grave misconduct.

The dismissal order carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

The ombudsman also directed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to implement the dismissal order, but the latter said it would be unconstitutional to do so. Deputy Speaker Garcia also questioned the timing of the dismissal order, considering her active role in the hearing of an impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (See related story).

In the decision dated Jan. 15, 2018, the ombudsman ruled that Garcia couldn’t show proof that she had been authorized to enter into a contract to acquire filling materials for the former resort property.

For housing, port

On June 11, 2008, during Garcia’s second term as Cebu governor, the Province acquired the 24.92-hectare Balili property in Tinaan, Naga for P98.926 million. It was supposed to be intended for the Capitol’s housing and seaport projects.

However, an investigation showed that 19.67 hectares of the property were underwater and unsuitable either for human settlement or a port project.

In April 2014, the Court of Appeals nullified the ombudsman’s decision that found Garcia liable for an administrative case of grave misconduct.

It pointed out that Garcia’s reelection as governor in 2010 meant that she couldn’t face any administrative liability for the 2008 purchase.

Filling materials

In April 2012, the Cebu Provincial Government conducted a public bidding “for the supply and delivery of back-filling materials and other incidentals of its submerged and mangrove portions.”

The Capitol eventually awarded the contract to Supreme ABF Construction, whose price was P248.75/cubic meter.

Records from the provincial treasurer showed the Provincial Government released a total of P24,468,927.66 to the winning contractor.

But the anti-graft office said that Garcia had no authority from the Provincial Board when she entered into contracts with Supreme ABF Construction.

Allocation, not authority

“While this office finds merit on her assertion that the P50-million allotment for the airport/seaport and other economic enterprise site development program was a valid source of appropriation for the Balili project, such appropriation did not validly confer authority to respondent Garcia to enter into a contract with ABF Construction for the Balili project,” read part of the decision.

The ombudsman said that Garcia violated provisions of the Administrative Code of 1987 and the Government Auditing Code.

Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial was also found guilty of simple neglect of duty for certifying documents for disbursement vouchers despite the lack of authority from the Provincial Board.

The ombudsman suspended Guial for three months without pay. If he has left office, the punishment shall be converted into a fine equivalent to Guial’s salary for three months.

The ombudsman dismissed for want of evidence the administrative cases against Bids and Awards Committee chairperson Marivic Garces; vice chairperson Bernard Calderon; members Manuel Purog, Emme Gingoyon, Ma. Junelene Arenas, Cristina Giango, Rosalinda Jao; and acting provincial treasurer Roy Salubre.