The Office of the Ombudsman has found suspended Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia guilty of grave misconduct for approving the purchase of the 24.9-hectare parcels of lot, now famously known as the Balili property, in 2008.
Pegged at P99.7 million, the Cebu capitol allegedly already paid P98.93 million for the 11-parcel land, of which 19.7-ha is underwater.
The decision stated that the transaction was tainted with irregularities as the Provincial Government at that time had no available funds specifically appropriated for the purpose of “providing a good opportunity for the Province of Cebu to develop and cater to the needs of interested investors.”
It said 50% of the total payment made by the Provincial Government “actually came from the [P50M] budget of the province not specifically earmarked for that purpose but for site development and housing program under social services”.
The verdict, however, was meted with a caveat, when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Garcia could no longer be sanctioned because of her re-election in 2010.
The country’s jurisprudence states that “a re-elected local official may not be held administratively accountable for misconduct committed during his prior term of office.”
“The rationale for this holding is that when the electorate put him back into office, it is presumed that it did so with full knowledge of his life and character including his past misconduct. If, armed with such knowledge, it still re-elects him, then such re-election is considered a condonation of his past misdeeds,” the High Court’s decision, anchored on what is commonly known as the Aguinaldo Doctrine, states.
While Garcia may be thumbing her nose at the Ombudsman over a verdict that does hold water anymore, she is still, however, facing graft and technical malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan over the same controversy.
It is not a double whammy after all. But, just the same, it does not make her least guilty of the charges.
What is even worst is that her reputation is badly tarnished and the people know her better now. This is going to be a big issue that won’t leave her at peace for as long as she is in politics.
Her political career may not be at risk, but for sure, for the Cebuanos, she is a marked woman.