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'triumph of justice'

Frasco couple cleared of liability over turnover of ambulances to Danao City during pandemic

By: Doris C. Bongcac - CDN Digital | October 30,2023 - 06:42 AM

File photo: Cebu 5th district Rep. Duke Frasco and Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco with actress-host Toni Gonzaga and her husband director Paul Soriano during the UniTeam rally at the South Road Properties in Cebu City.

File photo: Cebu 5th district Rep. Duke Frasco and Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco with actress-host Toni Gonzaga and her husband director Paul Soriano during the UniTeam rally at the South Road Properties in Cebu City. | Photo from the FB page of Duke Frasco

MANDAUE CITY, Cebu – The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the complaints filed against House Deputy Speaker Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco and his wife, former Liloan Mayor and now Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco, over the delivery of ambulances for use in Covid-19 emergency response in Danao City.

Also cleared of the charge for ‘lack of basis’ was Cebu Fifth District Provincial Board Member Michael Joseph Villamor.

“We welcome the Ombudsman’s dismissal of these politically charged complaints as a triumph of justice. The Ombusdman’s findings affirm what we have maintained all along: the complaints are baseless and filed without regard for the public good which would have been well served by much needed ambulances during the pandemic,” Rep. Frasco and Sec. Garcia-Frasco said in a joint statement.

In March 2022, Barangay Captains Don Roel Arias (Looc) and Joselito Cane (Poblacion), accused the couple of violating Republic Act (RA) 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for distributing ambulances that were registered under the name of the Cebu Provincial Government.

Arias and Cane alleged that the respondents “illegally and unjustifiably delivered vehicles as ambulances to Barangays Looc and Poblacion” on Feb. 14, 2022 take advantage of the government’s facilities and resources to promote their candidacies in the  May 2022 election.

Frasco ambulances

File photo: Rep. Frasco and Sec. Garcia-Frasco pose for a photo during the delivery of one of the ambulances. | Contributed

Lacked probable cause

In a Joint Resolution dated September 4, 2023, which was approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires, the anti-graft body said that the complaints against Frasco, Garcia-Frasco, and Villamor lacked probable cause.

The anti-graft body also dismissed the administrative complaint against Frasco for lack of jurisdiction and against Garcia Frasco for want of substantial evidence.

As for Villamor, the Ombudsman said that the complainants allegation was “insufficient and hugely lacking to support a finding of conspiracy among Villamor and public respondents (Frasco and Garcia-Frasco).”

On the accusations that they violated Section 3(a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for having induced, influenced or forced barangay employees to commit illegal acts for using the unlicensed or unpermitted ambulances, the Ombudsman said that this claim “deserves scant consideration.”

In addition, the Ombudsman found that contrary to the “hearsay” and the unsubstantiated allegations of the complainants, barangay personnel welcomed the ambulances and were even delighted to have received the ambulances from Rep. Frasco.

Further, no evidence was presented that the barangay personnel actually used the ambulances in question, especially after the complainants said that they immediately turned these over to the City Government of Danao.

Without basis

The anti-graft body also rejected the complainants’ allegations on the violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 after it found that the claims were “without basis.”

In its decision, the Ombudsman said that “the records of the case” are “bereft of any indication that he (Rep. Frasco) performed his official duties through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”   It added that Garcia-Frasco “was not in the dispatch of her official duties at the time of the alleged commission of the acts complained of.”

The Ombudsman also rejected accusations that the requisite permits were not obtained or that there was negligence in the procurement of the ambulances because records show that the delivery of the ambulances was made after the Province of Cebu made an urgent request for more ambulances from the national government.

It said that at the time when the entire nation was grappling with the much-dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, it defies reason to fault Rep. Frasco and accuse him that the delivery of the life-saving ambulances was an act tarnished with graft and corruption.

Further, the Ombudsman said that the “allocation of the needed budget, as facilitated by Vincent Frasco, negates the element of bias because the delivery of ambulances was made not only for the benefit of a single or few selected barangays.”

As for Sec. Garcia-Frasco’s act of accompanying Rep. Frasco during the delivery of the ambulances, the Ombudsman that this was not in the dispatch of her official duties.  Instead, it was an act by a wife who was celebrating Valentine’s Day with her husband, who was working on that special day for the good of his constituency.

Moreover, it said that the DOT secretary cannot be held criminally or administratively liable because she had no participation in the request and acquisition of the ambulances.  Also, she did not take any official participation in the delivery of the ambulances, a gathering that she attended as Frasco’s wife while the said delivery was not contingent on her presence.



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TAGS: ambulances, Christina Garcia-Frasco, Danao City, Duke Frasco, Ombudsman

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