THE MISSING P10 THOUSAND
Ombudsman orders dismissal of Dumanjug Mayor Efren Gica for allegedly pocketing P10, 000
In what is another twist in the long-standing feud between two political rivals, Dumanjug Mayor Efren “Gun-gun” Gica now seems to find himself at the burning end of the stick.
A complaint filed against him by the person he unseated almost a year ago — former mayor Nelson Garcia — has led to an order for his perpetual disqualification from public office.
The cause for Gica’s dismissal is the cost of P10,000.
The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas found Gica guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct for allegedly pocketing about P10,000 from a cash advance obtained by Gica on April 25, 2014, when he was still the vice mayor of the southern town.
For the P10,000 which Gica failed to properly account for, the anti-graft office also found probable cause to indict him for malversation of public funds, falsification of official documents and violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The order to dismiss Gica from service and his criminal indictment both stem from a complaint filed by Nelson Garcia, the former mayor of Dumanjug whom Gica defeated in the town’s hotly contested elections last May.
Garcia filed the complaint against Gica before the Ombudsman on July 15, 2014, weeks after serving his own 60-day preventive suspension over an administrative complaint filed by Gica against Garcia before the Cebu Provincial Board (PB). Gica complained that Garcia usurped authority when he appointed a municipal secretary without consulting with the town council.
During Garcia’s suspension, 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 Gica to pay for 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 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, claimed Garcia.
Garcia anchored his claims on a supposed certified true copy of a Ding Qua Qua Dimsum original receipt (OR) of the dinner taken by Gica and his companions at the Chinese restaurant located in JY Square, Lahug.
Garcia further claimed that Gica falsified and inflated the list of dinner attendees to make it appear that there were 100 persons when only 39 guests attended.
A menu consisting of rice, calamares, calderetang kanding, pork mechado, beef steak, chicken menudo, embutido, pansit canton, crab meat, lasagna, fruit salad and soft drinks was also listed in the purchase order.
“Ding Qua Qua is a Chinese restaurant and so does not serve these kinds of food,” Garcia pointed out in his complaint.
In a decision penned by graft investigation and prosecution officer Portia Pacquiao dated October 18, 2016, the Ombudsman found 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.
According to the anti-graft office, this was done “for the purpose of concealing his act in obtaining for his personal benefit the amount of P10,000.”
“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.
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 secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) was directed to implement the dismissal order, while corresponding information will be filed in the proper court with regard to the criminal charges against Gica.
A check with DILG Regional Director Rene Burdeos by Cebu Daily News showed that the local government office had yet to receive a copy of the order, while Gica received his copy only last Tuesday.
In an interview with CDN, Gica said that he will file a motion for reconsideration by next week to contest both the dismissal and indictment meted against him by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Gica claimed that he was unable to present his side nor his own documents to belie Garcia’s charges because he did not receive any summons to file his counter affidavit and position paper.
According to Gica, the charges against him were decided based on a mere technicality.
Gica explained that while the alleged overprice happened while he was the acting mayor of Dumanjug, Garcia had returned as mayor less than a week after that dinner event.
“Less than a week after, nibalik si Mayor Nelson ni-anang pag-liquidate nato (Mayor Nelson returned by the time I liquidated the amount),” he said of Garcia, who by then had finished serving the PB-imposed suspension.
“So siya na ang naa’y mga control sa mga documento. Hopefully, ang technicality, ila lang unta ta tagaan og oportunidad ana nga matagaan ta og due process kay sayon ra man pagtubag ana kay kompleto man ko og dokumento (So it was he who had control of the documents. Hopefully, they will give me the opportunity for due process because it would be very easy for me to refute all those claims because I have complete documents),” Gica said.
Gica said that despite not being able to submit a counter affidavit and position paper to the Ombudsman, he submitted a counter affidavit and counter complaint before the PB to contest Garcia’s claims.
Gica questions why only one receipt was presented by Garcia in his complaint when there were originally four receipts submitted by Gica in his liquidation report to the municipal treasurer to cover the total amount they spent for meals during the seminar.
Gica said that he had all the necessary documents to corroborate his defense and was confident that the charges against him would eventually be dismissed.
Considering that Garcia had also allegedly filed several complaints over the same issue both in the Office of the Ombudsman and before the PB, Gica said that they will also raise the defense of forum shopping against Garcia.
“Positive ta nga kining maong kaso, tungod sa mga nakita nato nga mga matawag nato nga maihap na mga sayop ug sa ebidensya na mga dokumento nato, ma-dismiss ra g’yud ni,” he said. “Confident kaayo ko. So nothing to worry tingali (We are positive that this case will be dismissed because there are several flaws in the complaint and we have with us documentary evidence. So there is nothing to worry about, maybe),” said Gica.
For his part, Garcia said that the decision is proof that there is, after all, justice.
“Nalipay ta nga after all, naa gyud dia’y hustisya kay hapit na man unta ko nawad-an ug pag-asa kay pila na ni ka tuig nga wala gyud tagda, wala gitubag (We are happy that, after all, there is justice. I almost lost hope because it’s been several years and we’ve had no answer),” Garcia said.
“Na-feel vindicated ko nga ang akong pag-defend sa coffers sa municipality, klaro man ning kawat, gikawatan man gyud niya og P10,000, na-protected nako ang kwarta sa katawhan (I feel vindicated in my defense of the town’s coffers. It’s very obvious that he stole P10,000. I was able to protect the people’s money),” said Garcia.
“People who are responsible should face the consequences of their actions,” he added.
Garcia hoped that Gica would immediately step down as mayor of Dumanjug.
“He cannot prevent that; that is executory,” Garcia said.
“I’m hoping, nga which I did before nga ilaha kung gi-suspenso (when they had me suspended), step down right away without any gubot (hassle). I hope he will also do the same and give it to his vice mayor.”
Dumanjug’s vice mayor is Rainero “Rene” Asentista, a member of the Liberal Party.
“Dili ni akong kadaugan. Kadaugan ni sa katawhan sa Dumanjug (This is not my victory but the victory of the people of Dumanjug) because this is their money, this is not my money. They should be the one who should rejoice that finally, there is justice.” said Garcia.
Garcia added that as he is out to protect the people’s interest, especially when it comes to government funds, Gica could expect more cases will be filed against him by Garcia.
“I will be filing cases left and right just to protect the money of the people of Dumanjug,” Garcia said.
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