Cebu News

Ombudsman clears Frasco couple  over turnover of ambulances to Danao

Gregg M. Rubio - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the complaints filed against Deputy Speaker Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco and former Liloan mayor and now Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco over the delivery of Ambulances needed for Covid-19 emergency response in Danao City. The Ombudsman also cleared now Cebu Fifth District Provincial Board Member Michael Joseph Villamor.

The criminal and administrative complaints were filed by Danao City barangay captains Don Roel Arias and Joselito Cane of barangays of Looc and Poblacion, respectively, which had been the recipients of much needed ambulances during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a Joint Resolution approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on September 4, 2023, the anti-graft body dismissed the criminal complaints against Frasco, Garcia Frasco and Villamor for want of 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 found complainants allegations to be “insufficient and hugely lacking to support a finding of conspiracy among Villamor and public respondents (Frasco and Garcia Frasco)”.

In a joint statement, Cong. Frasco and Sec. Garcia Frasco said, “We welcome the Ombudsman’s dismissal of these politically charged complaints as a triumph of justice. The Ombudsman’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.”

On the allegation of complainants for violations of Section 3(a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act claiming that the Respondents induced, influenced or forced barangay employees to commit illegal acts of using unlicensed or unpermitted ambulances, the Ombudsman said that this claim “deserves scant consideration.” In fact, the Ombudsman found that contrary to the “hearsay” and unsubstantiated allegations of the complainants, their own evidence showed that the barangay personnel welcomed the ambulances and were even delighted to have received the ambulances from Cong. Frasco. Further, there is no evidence that the barangay personnel actually used the ambulances especially with complainants’ admission that they immediately turned over the ambulances to the City Government of Danao.

The Ombudsman also rejected the complainants’ allegations of violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 and found the claims to be “without basis”. According to the Ombudsman, “the records of the case” are “bereft of any indication that he (Cong. Frasco) performed his official duties through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence”. Further as to former mayor Garcia Frasco, she “was not in the dispatch of her official duties at the time of the alleged commission of the acts complained of”.

The Ombudsman rejected the argument that the requisite permits were not obtained or that there was negligence in the procurement of the ambulances because records in fact showed that the delivery of the ambulances came after the Province of Cebu made an urgent request for them from the National Government.

The Ombudsman lamented that at the time when the entire nation was grappling with the much-dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, it defies reason to fault Cong. Frasco and accuse him that the delivery of life-saving ambulances is an act of 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” and in fact extended to other barangays in other municipalities in the Province of Cebu.

As for Sec. Frasco’s act of accompanying her husband during the deliveries, it was clear to the Office of the Ombudsman that the same was not in the dispatch of her official duties, but simply an act of a wife celebrating Valentine’s Day while the latter was working for the good of his constituency.

Further, that Garcia Frasco cannot be held criminally or administratively liable because she had no participation in the request and acquisition of the ambulances, she took no official participation in the delivery of the ambulances and which was not made upon her instruction as mayor of Liloan, Cebu, she attended the turnover in her private capacity as wife of the Congressman and the delivery was not contingent on her presence. (CEBU NEWS)

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