Court orders arrest of Cebu governor

Posted on March 22, 2013

SUSPENDED CEBU Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia has been ordered arrested after she failed yesterday to appear for her arraignment on charges of fund misuse over a land purchase.

Her bail bond of ₱90,000 was also nullified amid appeals of her counsel, Tranquil Gervacio S. Salvador III, to further defer her arraignment pending a request with the Supreme Court to review the graft case.

"The prosecution moved for the issuance of warrant of arrest and cancellation of bail bond. Indeed, the court finds merit in the said motion [as] filing of the motion for reconsideration does not stop the arraignment…," said Associate Justice Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos, chairman of the second division, in open court.

Ms. Garcia did not attend the arraignment and instead spoke before the graduation ceremonies of an elementary school in Cebu, said Mr. Salvador.

The governor’s arraignment has been deferred twice. The first was scheduled last March 12 and was moved to yesterday to give time for the high court to act on her petition.

Arraignment has been reset to today with Mr. Salvador saying that Ms. Garcia will personally appear before the court.

Ms. Garcia and some members of the provincial board have been accused of conspiring to push for the approval of a land purchase that will be converted into a landfill for cement manufacturing waste. Funds for a housing program would be used to pay for half of the land price worth ₱99.7 million.

Meanwhile, co-accused Amparo G. Balili, the previous land owner, pleaded "not guilty" to the case. The court entered a not guilty plea for Emme T. Gingoyon, former Cebu provincial budget officer, after he refused to enter a plea.

In another development, Jesus A. Verzosa, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, asked the court’s third division yesterday to dismiss a separate graft case involving the alleged irregular purchase of rubber boats and spare engines, claiming the case is baseless.

Mr. Verzosa and other former members of the PNP bids and awards committee have been accused of conniving to push for the ₱131.55-million purchase of outboards motors and rubber boats from suppliers Enviro-Aire, Inc., Geneve SA Philippines, Inc. and Bay Industrial Corp. in 2009.

The items did not fit the specifications of the purchase order.

Court documents stated that the only evidence against him was his signature on the procurement documents claiming this was not enough to prove allegations of conspiracy.

"It bears stressing that the Ombudsman did not identify any particular act on the part of accused Verzosa that constitutes the alleged crime, except for the signature he affixed on the aforementioned procurement documents," the former PNP chief said.

Mr. Verzosa further said that his signature on the documents "does not all at once establish a conspiracy, even if such signature be necessary in the consummation of the alleged crime."

There was also no evidence that the former PNP chief "personally knew or met with" the suppliers or that he influenced his colleagues "to commit any illegal act in the procurement process," according to the documents.

Mr. Verzosa further claimed that he did not obtain favors from the suppliers for the approval of the purchase.

The hearing to dismiss the case has been set for Apr. 5.

Mr. Verzosa has a separate graft case involving the purchase of two used helicopters passed off as new and allegedly owned by a co-accused, former first gentleman Jose Miguel T. Arroyo.

The deal was allegedly overpriced by ₱34.63 million. -- M. J. O. Cantilero