UNA SENATORIAL BET POSTS BAIL OVER ‘RECYCLED CASE’
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, under siege from the Aquino administration after being declared one of the senatorial candidates of emerging opposition coalition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), posted the other day a P90,000 bail over graft charges the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales filed against her over an alleged anomalous purchase in 2008 of a 25-hectare property but the suspension on her will carry.
Garcia posted the bail ahead of an arrest warrant and prior to her delivering the State of the Province Address (Sopa) in Cebu City.
“I will face this and I will not cower,” Garcia said in reaction to the filing of the case against her.
The Ombudsman is a known ally of President Aquino, having administered Aquino’s oath of office when he was elected
President in the 2010 elections.
The UNA felt the timing of the filing of the case against Garcia was part of a political assault against UNA from the ruling party while UNA leader Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who attended Garcia’s Sopa, said the motive behind the filing of the case against Garcia was “obviously political.”
Enrile, however, said the charges against Garcia would not affect her inclusion in the UNA senatorial line up. “She is innocent until proven guilty of the charges,” Enrile said.
An emotional Garcia said during the her Sopa address the timing of the filing of the graft charges before the Sandiganbayan last Thursday and the immediate raffling of the case yesterday proves politics was at work behind the case.
Garcia said she was thankful to those “responsible for all of these machinations as the people can see through the ugly hand of political harassment and political persecution” behind it.
Garcia said the objective of those who filed the case was to stop her from delivering the Sopa the other day.
Earlier, UNA described the case against Garcia as “political harassment.”
Garcia filed a motion to dismiss the case but said she was ready to face accusers and prove her innocence.
In a resolution signed July 13, 2012, Morales found probable cause to indict Garcia for violating Section 3 (g) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and for technical malversation.
Morales also found probable cause to indict Garcia, Cebu provincial board member Juan Bolo, Cebu Provincial Appraisal Committee (CPAC) members Anthony Sususco, Roy Salubre and Eulogio Pelayre, provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyon, and private respondents Romeo Balili and Amparo Balili for violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019.
The other respondents posted P30,000 bail.
The case stemmed from three separate complaints filed in 2010 by Manuel Manuel, Crisologo Saavedra and the Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Office of the Visayas Ombudsman against the purchase by the Cebu provincial government of the Balili property in Naga, Cebu.
The memorandum of agreement (MoA) dated April 21, 2008 covered eleven parcels of land with a total area of 249,246 square meters and a purchase price of P400 per square meter, or a total of P99,698,400, of which P98,926,800 had been paid.
In the MoA, the purchase was described as a “good opportunity for the Province of Cebu to develop and cater to the needs of any interested investors.”
However, portions of the property were found to be beneath the sea.
Garcia in her Sopa address said she would not give in to “political persecution”and appealed to Cebuanos to support her.
Among those who attended Garcia’s Sopa address were UNA stalwarts led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, former president Joseph Estrada, Enrile and the other UNA senatorial bets.
Also there to show their support were Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and former congressman Antonio Cuenco of the PDP-Laban.
In her 40-minute speech, Garcia said Cebu “remains the undisputed top province in the country” with no debts and assets that grew from P28.6 billion in 2010 to P29 billion at the end of December 2011.
“I can finally say now on my final term as governor that the state of the province is strong, and even stronger than it has ever been,” she said.
“In one short year, I will leave this office hopeful that I have helped create Cebu a more unified than what it was in 2004,” Garcia, who served as Cebu governor for three terms, said.
“The forces of division will always be there, conspiring as they are now, to divide us Cebuanos to satisfy the narrow interest of a few,” she said.
“My eight years in politics have thought me that in this enterprise where timing is everything. There is no such thing as a coincidence,” Garcia said.
Garcia said she learned of her impending arrest last Friday from “a well-placed and well-timed leak in media.”
“For myself, I shall stand my ground and endure this early storm which the returning dark clouds of traditional politics bring and will fight to the last destination of this, our continuing voyage,” she said.
The UNA, the other day, said it expects more political harrassment against its members on the runup to the elections next year after the filing of a technical malversation case and an impending preventive suspension order on Garcia.
UNA secretary-general Jose Virgilio Bautista cited information that Gov. Auring Cerilles of Zamboanga, whose sympathies were with UNA, will be another target of harassment.
Bautista called the move against Garcia as political harrassment since it was timed near UNA’s announcement of its senatorial lineup that included Garcia.
“Local executives are being threatened if they refuse to join the ruling party. The on-going rigodon of police, fire, and prison officials, who are not aligned with their political supporters, shows that the dirty tricks being played are not confined to the elected officials,” Bautista added.
UNA urged the administration to shun acts of political harassment and persecution or risk losing “the moral high ground from where it claims to draw popular support.”
“Electoral contests must be fought with dignity and high principles, not with harassment and dirty tricks,” Bautista said.
He called for the immediate cessation of political harassment against Garcia and other UNA supporters. “The road to clean elections in 2013 must start now,” Bautista said.