Ombud indicts Gica; elevates criminal case to Sandigan
Suspended Dumanjug Mayor Efren “Gun-gun” Gica has suffered yet another blow to his political career.
He may not only face dismissal from public service but also criminal liabilities over the same offense of misappropriating P10,000 in public funds.
The Office of the Ombudsman has indicted Gica for malversation of public funds, three counts of falsification of official documents, and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).
It stemmed from the same case filed by his political rival, former Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia, who complained that Gica bloated the amount paid for conducting a budget seminar in a Chinese restaurant in Cebu City last 2014 from P11,435 to P21,435.
“We will question both — the decision in the administrative and criminal cases, the former (administrative case) before the Court of Appeals and the latter case (criminal case) before the Supreme Court — for being baseless and unfounded in fact and in law (and) issued by the Ombudsman with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction,” Gica said in a text message to Cebu Daily News when sought for comment.
In their 15-page decision of the criminal complaint, which was dated on July 27 and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on October 12, the anti-graft office also elevated the case to the Sandiganbayan for further action.
But a copy of their decision was only furnished to members of the media last Friday, or four days after copies of its administrative counterpart were released.
Gica is currently serving a one-year suspension meted by the Ombudsman in the Visayas last July from another complaint filed by Marlene Quirante, accusing him and his brother, incumbent town Councilor Edwin Gica, for illegally detaining her brother whom the Gicas suspected as a drug peddler.
Gica vs. Garcia
Gica was first elected as mayor of Dumanjug, a town located 81 kilometers southwest of Cebu City, during last May 2016’s hotly-contested elections. He won against Garcia who had been the municipal mayor since 2010 and was seeking reelection.
But the two rival politicians’ feud started even before the elections.
Gica filed a complaint against Garcia in 2013 for usurpation of authority after the latter allegedly failed to consult to the town council on appointing a secretary for the municipal government.
Gica, at that time, was Dumanjug’s vice mayor.
This led to a 60-day preventive suspension of Garcia in 2014
Two years later, the Ombudsman meted Garcia, along with six other town officials, a penalty of dismissal from public service.
Four months after that, acting upon Garcia’s complaint filed before their office in 2014, the Ombudsman also imposed the same penalty on Gica.
Garcia, in an earlier interview with reporters, announced that he decided to file both administrative and criminal complaints against Gica two days after he was ordered by the Ombudsman to be placed under a 60-day preventive suspension in 2014.
Sought for comment on the Ombudsman’s decision, Garcia said he was grateful that the anti-graft office had taken action on the complaint that he filed against Gica.
The findings of the Ombudsman’s Graft and Investigation Officer, Portia Pacquiao, revealed that Gica’s attempt to conceal the P10,000 misappropriated funds constitute as grounds to hold him criminally for malversation of public funds.
In addition, the Ombudsman recommended the filing of the three counts of falsification of official documents against Gica after the anti-graft office found proof that Gica allegedly erased and altered the receipts to bloat the amount paid for dinner for a meeting at a restaurant.
Gica also allegedly made it appear that there were 100 people who attended the meeting when only 39 people were present.
For causing undue injury to the government, the Ombudsman also found probable cause against Gica for violating RA 3019.
But Gica’s father and lawyer, Edgar Gica, said they would continue to question the decision.
He said that the Ombudsman did not properly look at their evidence.
“We emphasize that the Ombudsman did not even bother to evaluate properly our evidence consisting of the four official receipts from four different restaurants and our theory that there was forum shopping,” the lawyer told CDN.
He added that Gica’s election as mayor should be considered as condonation since he was promoted from vice mayor to mayor of the town.
Further, the lawyer also said that it was Garcia who allegedly suppressed the presentation of the original receipts and allegedly falsified the Ding Qua
Qua receipt which he allegedly used as evidence “for his benefit” as complainant of the case. / With Correspondent Morexette Marie B. Erram
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