Ombudsman dismisses Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia ; Garcia, doubts order's timing

Ombudsman dismisses Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia ; Garcia, doubts order's timing

Is this a simple case of reprisal?

The Office of the Ombudsman has just handed down a decision ordering the dismissal of Deputy House Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia for grave misconduct when she was still a governor of Cebu.

The ruling came a case where then Governor Garcia approved of the purchase of the P98.9- million Balili property in Naga City in 2008, much of which was later found to be underwater, said the Ombudsman in is decision.

Cebu Representative and House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia ( photo credit Gwen Garcia FB page)

The Ombudsman found that she had no authority from the Sanguniang Panlalawigan (SP) to enter into contracts with Supreme ABF Construction for the acquisition of the controversial property.

The Ombudsman has directed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to implement the dismissal order, which carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding office, cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

The Balili property was purchased in 2008 by Garcia it is a 249,246 square meter lot located in Tinaan, Naga in Cebu for P98,926,800. Local authorities later found out that 196,696 square meters of the property were underwater and part of a mangrove area.

Supreme ABF Construction being the lowest and calculated responsive bidder won to make the housing project. Provincial records shows that the government released P24,468,927.66 for the former as contractor of the project.

“While this Office finds merit on her assertion that the P50 million allotment for the airport/seaport and other economic enterprise site development program (a capital outlay expenditure that was carried over to the 2012 Annual Budget of the province), 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,” the Ombudsman ruling noted.

“She failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract,” it added.   *

The Ombudsman decision likewise said that “Garcia violated Sections 46 and 47, Chapter 8, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 and Section 86 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines which proscribe entering into a contract unless a certification of appropriation and fund availability for the expenditure is issued. It is undisputed that the [certification of available funds] was issued only after the [second] contract was entered into by respondent Garcia.”

A reprisal?

Deputy Speaker Garcia doubts the timing of the ruling of the Ombudsman.

"The timing is rather suspect. It does seem as though the Ombudsman has singled me out on an act that was done when I was still governor years ago," she told reporters.

"I rather wonder whether this was purposely done precisely because, as you saw, I am very active in the impeachment hearing against Chief Justice Sereno," Garcia  added

Report from ABS-CBN

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