Gov says graft raps politically motivatedBy Carmel Loise Matus
CEBU CITY—Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has dismissed as “politically motivated” the filing of two counts of graft and one count of illegal use of public funds at the Sandiganbayan for the purchase of 24.9 hectares of land worth P98.9 million in Naga City that turned out to be mostly under water.
Garcia told reporters on Thursday night that she found the timing of the filing suspicious because it was done after the announcement that she was among the possible senatorial candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in the 2013 elections.
She added that the charges were filed a day before she was to deliver the State of the Province Address.
“It is rather eerie that it (the filing) occurred now. The political season is on,” Garcia pointed out.
The governor said they have filed two motions—motion to dismiss and reiterative motion to dismiss. They had yet to receive copies of the resolutions on the two motions.
“I will meet the charges head on. I know that the case did not have merits,” she said.
The pending graft cases will not affect Garcia’s standing at the UNA and her inclusion in the senatorial lineup, said Vice President Jejomar Binay who was in Cebu with other UNA stalwarts.
“We have no reason not to support her. She is the first lady governor of Cebu and first lady governor to run for senator whose talent and confidence have been proven,” Binay told reporters during the Armed Forces of the Philippines Commander’s Forum at the Central Command.
Garcia and two of her corespondents—Anthony Sususco and Emme Gingoyon—met on Friday morning with her four lawyers at the Capitol.
They were spokesperson Rory Jon Sepulveda, legal officer Marino Martinquilla, consultant and head of the Committee on Discipline and Investigation Lito Astillero and Cristina Garcia-Frasco, daughter of the governor who will be the lead counsel.
After the meeting, Sepulveda, who spoke on behalf of the group, said that they would prioritize the posting of the bail.
The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday found probable cause to indict the governor with two counts of graft and one count of illegal use of public funds for the 2008 purchase of 24.9-hectare Balili estate in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City.
It turned out that at least 19 hectares of the property was under water, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Garcia, the Ombudsman said, also signed the deal with the Balilis despite the province having no funds earmarked for it.
The Ombudsman said the officials also lied about the real condition of the land and disregarded findings that more than half of it is under water to ensure passage of a provincial board resolution authorizing Garcia to enter into the deal.
Charged with one count of graft with Garcia were Gingoyon, then provincial budget officer; Sususco, then chair of the Provincial Appraisal Committee (CPAC), then provincial Board Member Juan Bolo; then CPAC members Roy Salubre and Eulogio Pelayre; and landowner Amparo Balili and her lawyer Romeo Balili.
Garcia said she found it strange that only her name came out.
“We are not aware that the others who were included in the complaint were dropped from the case,” she said.
The other respondents in the Balili case included the late Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez and provincial board members at the time of the transaction. With a report from Chito O. Aragon, Inquirer Visayas