Hold departure order issued vs Cebu governorBy Ador Vincent Mayol and Carmel Loise Matus
CEBU CITY, Philippines—Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and seven others facing graft charges for the alleged anomalous purchase of a beach-front property in Naga City, Cebu, can no longer travel abroad without permission from the Sandiganbayan.
But Garcia, who is scheduled to attend the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod in the Vatican on October 21, said she would file a motion and ask the Sandiganbayan to lift the hold departure order against her.
“I would really, really hope that Cebu will be represented in the person of the governor when the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod will be realized on the 21st of October,” said Garcia. “We hope that our MR (motion for reconsideration) will be seriously considered.”
The Sandiganbayan’s 2nd division issued the hold departure order, dated July 24, against Garcia and seven others who were charged with graft for the irregular purchase of 24.7 hectares of property for P98.9 million which turned out to be mostly under water or classified as coastal timberland.
The order was signed by Associate Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos, Napoleon Inoturan and Oscar Herrera.
Also included on the hold departure list are provincial treasurer Roy Salubre, provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyon, retired provincial assessor Anthony Sususco, provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre, former board member Juan Bolo, landowner Amparo Balili and her lawyer Romeo Balili.
The Bureau of Immigration was directed to implement the orders.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol said the respondents could not leave the Philippines until they have been arraigned.
“The issuance of a hold departure order is automatic once charges are filed in court,” said Apostol in a phone interview. “They should subject themselves to arraignment before they can seek the permission of the court to leave the country.”
“Everytime they would leave the country, they have to seek the permission of the court. Also, they have to report to the court once they come back here,” he said.
Garcia’s lawyers have filed a motion asking the Office of the Ombudsman to reconsider its decision to indict her on two counts of graft and one count of illegal use of public funds.