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House Deputy Speaker sacked over purchase of P98M underwater property

/ 12:22 PM February 12, 2018
Gwendolyn Garcia

Cebu Rep. and House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia. (File photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered the dismissal of House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia from service over her questionable purchase of a P98.9-million Balili property when she was the governor of Cebu.

The Ombudsman suspended the Cebu third district representative for grave misconduct when it 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 Office of the Ombudsman has directed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to implement the dismissal order, which carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

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In June 2008, Garcia purchased the Balili property – a 249,246-square meter lot located in Tinaan, Naga in Cebu for P98,926,800. Local authorities, however, later discovered that 196,696 square meters of the property were underwater and part of a mangrove area.

The housing project was awarded to Supreme ABF Construction as the lowest calculated and responsive bidder with a total tendered bid of P248.75 per cubic meter. Based on the records, the provincial government released a total of P24,468,927.66 to the winning contractor.

“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.”

The Office of the Ombudsman, meanwhile, suspended for three months Garcia’s co-respondent in the complaint – Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial – due to simple neglect of duty “for certifying in the subject, the disbursement vouchers, (which) the supporting documents are complete when in fact they lacked the required authority from the SP for respondent Garcia to enter into contract.”

On the other hand, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed for lack of merit the administrative charges against Acting Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre  as well as Bids and Awards Committee Chairperson Marivic Garces; Vice-Chairperson Bernard Calderon; and members Manuel Purog, Emme Gingoyon, Ma. Junelene Arenas, Cristina Giango, Rosalinda Jao.                      /kga

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TAGS: Balili property, Cebu, Ombudsman, Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia
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