Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu 3rd district), House deputy speaker, plans to avail of all legal remedies available to contest the dismissal order issued by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
“We will file an MR (motion for reconsideration). I will not just discuss this but we will avail all legal remedies,” Garcia said when interviewed by lawyer Ruphil Bañoc on his radio program “Straight to the Point” over DyHP-AM.
Garcia also clarified that she had not yet received the order and only read the press release of the Ombudsman finding her guilty of the administrative offense of grave misconduct and was permanently disqualified from holding public office.
The dismissal order carried the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.
The case stemmed from the unauthorized P24.47 million project to backfill the submerged portions of the Balili property in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City in southern Cebu, when Garcia was still governor of Cebu province in 2012.
The former governor entered into a contract with ABF Construction in April 2012, without the authorization from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
But Garcia said the budget had already been included in the appropriation ordinance of the provincial government, which served as prior authorization for the implementation of the budget.
She said that the P50 million allotments for the airport / seaport and other economic enterprise site development programs were a valid source of appropriation for the Balili Project.
“According to them that it has no authority from the Sanggunian, but we always maintained our stand that if there is a budget supported by an appropriation ordinance, then according to the Local Government Code, this will serve already as prior authorization for the implementation of the budget,” she said.
She said she believed that her reelection as governor in 2010, had already served as condonation of whatever misdeeds she had committed or administrative charges that she had been facing, as established in the Aguinaldo doctrine.
“In 2013 the Ombudsman had sentenced me of being guilty in the purchase of the Balili property worth P98.9 million, but the Court of Appeals has reversed that decision because it is said to be whimsical and capricious, amounting to total lack of jurisdiction,” she said.
In 2008, the provincial government has purchased the Balili property and in 2010, Garcia was reelected governor which constitutes the effectivity of the doctrine, she said.
She said that in 2013, she was even elected as congresswoman of the 3rd district by the same constituents who elected her as governor, though to a smaller degree.
Due to this development, Garcia questioned the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman over the case, because the same Aguinaldo doctrine should also apply over the case.
She said the back filling materials would only serve as purchase of supply through purchase order, which had undergone the process from the budget officer, accountant to the treasurer’s office.
Garcia however admitted that the criminal aspect of the purchase of the property was still pending before the Sandiganbayan.
She also said that she had been preparing for the worst, for possible criminal charges that would be filed against her in the backfilling issue.
Garcia said that the back filling case was filed by Gov. Hilario Davide III and Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale.
She said she believed, that she was politically prosecuted by the Ombudsman, since Morales is a appointee of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and an ally of the Liberal Party.
She also said that she believed that LP would want to silence her, in pursuing the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
She also cited the impeachment case against Morales which is pending in the House of Representatives and waiting to be endorsed by a congressman.
She also claimed that her opponents only wanted to divert the attention from Sereno’s impeachment trial towards her.
Garcia will also continue to serve her duties as a congresswoman until House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez will decide over her dismissal order.
But earlier, Alvarez said in a statement that he would not enforce the dismissal order, claiming that this has no legal basis because it had come late, after Garcia had already been elected as representative of the 3rd district of Cebu.
“Yang dismissal order na ’yan, ang treatment ko diyan iyong dismissal niya as governor, not as congressman … Late ang decision. Dapat noon pa nilabas ’yan noong sya ay isang gobernador pa lang,” he said.
Running for Governor
The deputy house speaker said she was also considering running again for governor in the next election against Governor Davide.
She said the clamor of the Cebuanos for her to run again for the post and her recent dismissal order from the Ombudsman, are a clear manifestation that the incumbent governor is afraid of her. /With a report from Correspondent Morexette Marie Erram