Ombudsman dismisses Cebu Rep. Gwen Garcia

Cebu Rep. Gwen Garcia (Federal Philippines image)

OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from service of former Cebu third district representative, Gwendolyn Garcia for grave misconduct.

The Ombudsman directed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to implement the dismissal order, which also perpetually disqualifies Garcia from holding public office, cancels her eligibility and forfeits her retirement benefits.

The dismissal order announced on the Ombudsman’s website stemmed from Garcia’s purchase on June 11, 2008 of the controversial Balili property, a sprawling 249,246-square-meter lot located in Tinaan, Naga, Cebu, for P99 million.

Local authorities later discovered that 196,696 square meters of the property were underwater and part of a mangrove area.

In April 2012, the local government conducted a public bidding “for the supply and delivery of backfilling materials and other incidentals of its submerged and mangrove portions.”

The project was awarded to Supreme ABF Construction as the lowest calculated and responsive bidder with a total tendered bid of P248.75/cubic meter. Based on the records, the provincial government released a total of P24.5 million to the winning contractor.

Upon scrutiny, the Ombudsman found that Garcia, then governor of Cebu, had no authority from the Sanguniang Panlalawigan (SP) when she entered into contracts with ABF Construction.

“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. She failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract,” explained the January 15, 2018 decision of the Ombudsman on the case.

The Ombudsman said, “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.”

Meanwhile, Garcia’s co-respondent, Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial, was found 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.”

Guial was ordered suspended for three months. In case of separation from office, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to Guial’s salary for three months.

The administrative charges against 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 were dismissed for lack of merit.

p: wjg