Cebu mayor fighting suspension faces new rap for ‘illegal drug raid’
CEBU CITY — When it rains, it pours.
While still battling a ruling to remove him from government service, Mayor Efren Gica of Dumanjug town is facing another suspension from the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas for leading a police raid without a search warrant, firing at the air conditioners of a drug suspect, and taking away the suspect’s appliances.
Aside from Gica, the anti-graft office also found his older brother, Dumanjug Councilor Erwin Gica, guilty of misconduct and oppression.
“Despite the questionable search, … Gica personally participated in the search while Sangguniang Bayan Member Gica aided the policemen in using his vehicle in transporting the confiscated items and bringing the complainant to the police stations,” said graft investigation and prosecution officer Carmelle Baybay-Suson in her ruling. “Respondents’ presence and participation in the search, despite the absence of a search warrant, constitutes misconduct. Furthermore, respondents’ acts also amount to oppression, a misdemeanor committed by a public officer who … inflicts upon any person bodily harm, imprisonment, or other act of cruelty, severity, or excessive use of authority.”
The Ombudsman Visayas resolved the complaint without any explanation from the two respondents who failed to submit their counter-affidavits.
Suson’s decision was approved by Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente.
The Department of Interior and Local Government was directed by the Ombudsman to enforce the ruling. Mayor Gica appeared unfazed by the decision of the Ombudsman Visayas.
“Wala ko nahadlok ana. Naa mi daghan legal remedies. (I am not afraid of that. We have many legal remedies),” he said in a phone interview.
His options, he said, would include the filing a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman to contest the decision, and to request the Court of Appeals to issue a temporary restraining order stopping the enforcement of the suspension order.
“They (Ombudsman) just cannot deprive the people of Dumanjug of the person they chose to lead them. I am confident the ruling will be reversed,” said Mayor Gica.
He said Nilo Quirante, the owner of the house that was raided was a known drug personality in their municipality.
Mayor Gica said he went to the house of the complainant only after he was informed by the police that an operation was to be conducted.
“I know this case is politically motivated. The Ombudsman should have determined whether or not the complainant was credible,” he said.
When the controversial raid happened on Aug. 9, 2015, Gica was serving as acting mayor of Dumanjug in place of then Mayor Nelson Garcia who, at that time, was suspended by the Cebu Provincial Board for “grave abuse of authority.”
The case against Mayor Gica at the Ombudsman Visayas was filed by Marlene Quirante, a caretaker of the house raided by policemen who were allegedly accompanied by Gica brothers.
In her complaint, Quirante said the respondents went inside their house even without a search warrant.
Upon the instruction of Mayor Gica, the policemen allegedly took one generator, three television sets, electric pump, electric fans, and a juicer.
Quirante said the respondents also fired their guns at the house’s three air conditioners and a water tank.
She said Nilo Quirante was brought to the police station where the latter was accused of keeping a pack of shabu (methampethamine hydrochloride).
Nilo was eventually charged with possession of illegal drugs and was released from prison on bail.
A neighbor of the complainant executed an affidavit to corroborate the latter’s accounts.
On October 19, 2016, the Ombudsman-Visayas also found Gica guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct for allegedly pocketing about P10,000 from a cash advance of P50,000 he obtained when he was still the vice mayor of Dumanjug—81 kilometers south of Cebu City.
In March 2017, the anti-graft office, however, took back the dismissal order after it gave weight to the claim of Gica that he was not given due process. Deputy Ombudsman Clemente gave Mayor Gica the chance to submit a counter-affidavit to refute the allegations. SFM
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