In a span of about nine months, suspended Dumanjug Mayor Efren “Gun-gun” Gica found himself in exactly the same situation.
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered him dismissed from the service for falsifying his liquidation report and other supporting documents to conceal the misappropriation of P10,000 in public funds.
Along with Gica’s dismissal from service, the anti-graft office also ordered his perpetual disqualification to hold public office, the cancellation of all his civil service eligibility and the forfeiture of all his benefits.
The decision — dated July 27 and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio–Morales on Oct. 12, 2017 — was received by Gica last week, about nine months after the anti-graft office ordered his dismissal from the service in February over the same offense.
But the Ombudsman reinstated him in March after giving weight to Gica’s contention that he was not given a chance to answer the allegations against him. But the mayor was suspended barely three months after being reinstated over a different case —for leading a police raid in an absence of a search warrant.
Gica’s father and lawyer, Edgar Gica, wanted the Ombudsman to clarify if the recent decision was a new one or related to the first decision since nothing in the document discussed about the motion for reconsideration they filed in the anti-graft office for the February decision.
“There seems to be no logical explanation about this. We’re doubting the decisions of the Ombudsman. It’s like killing Mayor Gun-gun twice over,” he told Cebu Daily News over the phone.
Incidentally, both decisions from the Ombudsman were penned by Portia Pacquiao, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer.
CDN went to the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, on Tuesday but no one was ready to issue a statement.
An officer of the Ombudsman, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak, said they had yet to appoint an official spokesperson following the appointment to the judiciary of the person earlier designated to issue statements to the media.
Since he assumed his post in 2014, Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente has repeatedly declined any media interview.
Mayor Gica said he will seek the intervention of the Court of Appeals to reverse the second decision of the Ombudsman.
“The decision of the Ombudsman? I felt like I nearly lost all hope on them. (But) we still have legal remedies,” he said.
Gica said they would also raise the defense of forum shopping against complainant, former Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia whom he accused of filing several complaints over the same issue both in the Office of the Ombudsman and at the Cebu Provincial Board.
Forum shopping refers to the move of litigants to file cases in multiple courts over the same offense or issue.
“The case is still active at the Provincial Board. Hence, there is really forum shopping and yet the Ombudsman decided on the administrative case filed against me. That’s really a big question mark,” he said.
Sought for comment, Garcia downplayed Gica’s claim, saying he already withdrew the complaint he filed at the Provincial Board.
He advised Mayor Gica to simply accept his fate and move on.
“It’s a tie for both of us,” said Mayor Garcia who along with six other former town officials were sacked by the Ombudsman in 2016 for their refusal to recognize the appointment of a town council secretary in 2013.
Garcia served as mayor of Dumanjug from 2010 to 2016. He sought reelection but lost to Mayor Gica in last year’s elections.
Garcia filed a complaint against Mayor Gica at the Ombudsman on July 15, 2014, weeks after serving his own 60-day preventive suspension over an administrative complaint filed against him at the Provincial Board.
Mayor Gica complained that Garcia usurped authority when he appointed a municipal secretary without consulting with the town council.
During Garcia’s suspension, Mayor Gica took over the helm of Dumanjug town as acting mayor; and it was then that he obtained a cash advance of P50,000 to attend an Association of Local Budget Officers (Albo) seminar in Cebu City.
The amount was used by Mayor Gica to pay the meals of barangay officials during the Albo conference. He later returned P28,565 to the municipal treasurer or what was left of the amount he advanced.
In his complaint, Garcia alleged that Mayor Gica “willfully misappropriated and pocketed for his own personal benefit” the amount of P10,000 when Gica declared before the municipal treasurer that the total cost of dinner during the Albo seminar was P21,435 when it was only P11,435.
Garcia anchored his claims on a supposed certified true copy of a Ding Qua Qua Dimsum original receipt of the dinner taken by Mayor Gica and his companions at the Chinese restaurant at JY Square, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.
He said that Mayor Gica falsified the list of dinner attendees to make it appear that there were 100 persons when there were only 39 guests who attended.
Also, the dishes stated in the purchase order — rice, calamares, calderetang kanding, pork mechado, beef steak, chicken menudo, embutido, pansit canton, crab meat, lasagna, fruit salad and soft drinks — were not served in Ding Qua Qua, which specialized in dim sum.
In a decision, the Ombudsman found Mayor Gica guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct for making “untruthful statements” in his liquidation report and for falsifying the purchase order and original receipt that he submitted.
The act was done “for the purpose of concealing his act in obtaining for his personal benefit the amount of P10,000,” the anti-graft office said.
“Respondent’s act in obtaining public funds in the amount of P10,000 for his personal use and falsifying his liquidation report and supporting documents to conceal the misappropriation clearly constitute grave misconduct,” the Ombudsman decision read.
The secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) was directed to implement the dismissal order.