Cebu governor cleared of graft, malversation

Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Cebu, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the graft and technical malversation charges filed against Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia in connection with the provincial government’s alleged anomalous purchase of a property.

In an 81-page resolution promulgated on Nov. 26, the anti-graft court’s special second division granted Garcia’s demurrer to evidence or motion to dismiss the cases due to the weak evidence of the prosecution.

Former provincial board member Juan Bolo, budget officer Emme Gingoyon, assessor Anthony Sususco, treasurer Roy Salubre, engineer Eulogio Pelayre and private land owners Amparo and Romeo Balili were also cleared of the charges.

“The prosecution failed to muster the required quantum of evidence. There being no sufficient basis to sustain the indictment, the court is left with no choice but to dismiss the cases,” the court ruling read.

Garcia and her co-accused were charged with technical malversation or illegal use of public funds and two counts of graft over the purchase in 2008 of a 24.92-hectare Balili property in Naga, Cebu worth P98.9 million. The land was intended for the provincial government’s housing project and international seaport.

The Office of the Ombudsman said 19.67 hectares of the property was found to be submerged in water and unfit for human settlement as well as the construction of a seaport.

However, the court said the prosecution failed to establish how the presence of water within the property rendered the contract grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.

The court also sided with Garcia’s argument that the provincial government complied with the requirements before it entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Balilis for the purchase of the property.

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