House Deputy Speaker and Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwendolyn Garcia was sacked after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered her dismissal over grave misconduct charges.
According to the statement of Ombudsman, the decision rooted from Garcia’s approval to purchase the P98.9-million Balili property in Naga City last 2008, which the local authorities later discovered that much of the property were underwater and part of a mangrove area.
In 2012, Garcia as former Cebu governor allegedly threw herself into unauthorized contracts with Supreme ABF Construction. The provincial government awarded a P24-million to the contractor after it won a public bidding to supply backfilling materials for the submerged part of the land.
Morales, however, found out that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) did not approve the contracts.
“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 said in the January 15 ruling.
“She failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract,” she added.
The Office of the Ombudsman stressed that Garcia violated the Administrative Code of 1987 and 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.”
The Ombudsman directed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to implement the dismissal order.
The dismissal order perpetually disqualifies Garcia from holding public office, cancels her eligibility to hold such office, and forfeits her retirement benefits.
Meanwhile, Garcia questioned the timing of the ruling when she was asked for a comment regarding the Ombudsman’s decision.
“Without touching on the merits of the case, the timing is rather suspect. It does seem as though the Ombudsman has singled me out on an act that was done when I was still governor several years ago,” she told reporters in a chance interview.
“I rather wonder whether this was purposely done precisely because, as you saw, I am very active in the impeachment hearing against Chief Justice Sereno,” she added.
Nonetheless, Garcia said that she would entrust it to the decision of the House leaders to implement the order. She added that she will continue to perform her duties as Cebu 3rd District Representative and will actively participate in the impeachment hearings against the Chief Justice.
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, for his part, said that the House still has to fully consider the dismissal order as the lower chamber has its own internal rules.
Apart from this, the Ombudsman also found Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial, Garcia’s co-respondent, guilty of simple neglect of duty for “certifying in the subject [disbursement vouchers] that the supporting documents are complete when in fact they lacked the required authority from the SP for respondent Garcia to enter into contract.”
The Provincial Accountant was suspended for three months.
The administrative charges that Bids and Awards Committee chairperson Marivic Garces; vice chairperson Bernard Calderon; members Manuel Purog, Emme Gingoyon, Ma. Junelene Arenas, Cristina Giango, Rosalinda Jao; and acting provincial treasurer Roy Salubre are facing were dismissed for lack of merit.