Cebu gov, 4 others post bail on P99-M graft caseBy Ador Mayol
CEBU CITY—Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and four of her co-respondents have posted bail for a graft case filed against them for alleged irregularities in the purchase by the provincial government for P99 million of 24.7 hectares of land half of which turned out to be under water.
Garcia and Eulogio Pelayre, provincial engineer, went to the Palace of Justice here to post bail three hours before the governor delivered her annual state of the province address on Friday. Garcia paid a cash bond of P90,000 and P30,000 for Pelayre.
Garcia and seven others are charged with illegal use of public funds at the Sandiganbayan. The governor was charged also with two counts of graft, which Garcia said was political harassment.
Former Board Member Juan Bolo, landowner Amparo Balili and lawyer Romeo Balili each posted P30,000 bail on Monday.
The other respondents— Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre, Provincial Budget Officer Emme Gingoyon and retired Provincial Assessor Anthony Sususco—have yet to post bail. Bolo, who is now based in Dapitan, maintained his innocence.
‘Just following orders’
“I’m really sad because I did not commit any wrongdoing. I was just following orders from the governor,” he said.
Bolo, 68, said he negotiated with the Balilis on the sale of their 24.7-ha property to the provincial government but he didn’t make money out of the transaction.
He said he relied on the findings of the appraisal committee about the value of the property and had reported “every step” to the governor.
Amparo, widow of Luis Balili who owned the property, and nephew Romeo, who acted as executor of the estate, said the transaction was above board.
“I never expected to be included in this case. We can’t help it. It’s there. I could not do anything. Let the lawyer take care of that,” Amparo said.
Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict Garcia and seven other individuals for the 2008 purchase of the Balili Estate in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City.
At least 19 ha of the property are under water. The Ombudsman said Garcia 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 sign the deal.
The respondents are to be arraigned by the Sandiganbayan’s second division in 30 days.
A 90-day preventive suspension awaits the governor and other active government officials.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol said a preventive suspension is “mandatory” after arraignment to ensure that “officials won’t be able to influence the outcome of the case.”
The governor’s younger brother, Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu’s third district, said the family would exhaust all legal means to stop the suspension of his sister.