Briones: The turnaround

Publio J. Briones III
·2 min read

I GUESS most of you have read the news by now. For those who haven’t, we’ll, it’s about time you did.

“The Office of the Ombudsman has overturned its previous decision and decided to dismiss criminal charges against Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and 11 others over alleged anomalies in the construction of the P830-million Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) in 2006.”

Before you do a double take, I’m not making this up. That’s why it’s in quotation marks.

For more than a decade, Garcia and 11 others were hounded by accusations that they committed “manifest partiality, evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence” and, get this, “undue injury to the government,” which, for one who is admittedly not familiar with the law, are elements to determine if a violation of Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, indeed took place.

But the Ombudsman, in a 12-page decision issued on Dec. 14, 2020, said it found “sufficient basis” to overturn the previous Ombudsman’s issuances and dismiss the criminal charges.

But we’ve known all along that the governor had done nothing wrong. And by “we,” I mean her friends and family, her allies and basically any Cebuano with an iota of intelligence who refuses to be affected by winds of political change.

I belong to the latter category who have supported Garcia’s administration as one of her many consultants a long, long time ago and who continues to believe in her leadership.

So am I biased? Of course, I am.

But let’s face it. Had it looked at all the facts when these were first presented, the Ombudsman would have saved a lot of trouble and not appear like it had been manipulated or strong-armed into coming up with bogus accusations.

Hmm. I should stop here. As I said, I know the law as much as I know Catholic dogma, which is me saying that this is way over my head.

Before Garcia’s term ended in June 2012, the CICC was damaged by an earthquake. In 2013, another earthquake dealt it a much heavier blow with super typhoon Yolanda sealing its fate in November that year.

Of course, the prudent thing to do under those circumstances would have been to fix the building, right? But no. The facility was left to rot.

In 2016, the filing of criminal charges against Garcia and her co-respondents “for using ‘alternative methods’ of procurement in the CICC project” was approved. That same year, Garcia’s successor allowed the CICC to be turned into an evacuation site for fire survivors in Mandaue City.

Now who’s guilty of gross inexcusable negligence and of committing undue injury to the government?

But what do I know? I’m just a biased Gwen supporter who is ignorant of the law.