Gwen, daughter Christina elated by case dismissal

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CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, said she felt vindicated after the Sandiganbayan dismissed the corruption and technical malversation cases filed against her and seven others over the 2008 purchase of the Balili property.

“I feel vindicated, of course, but I’m also just as very happy for my family because now they, too, are vindicated. Destroying one’s reputation also destroys the reputation of the family. I’m also happy for the seven others who were cleared,” the governor told reporters.

“And I feel that once again it has been proven that truth will set us free. Justice has been served,” she added.

Her daughter, Liloan Mayor Ma. Esperanza Christina Frasco, described the dismissal of the case as “sweet.” Frasco was among the lawyers who defended the governor.

“What makes this dismissal sweet is that the court, in its ruling, dismissed the case against Governor Gwen not because our defense was strong but because the prosecution was weak and the case had no basis,” Frasco said.

For businessman Crisologo Saavedra, the people of Cebu Province should be the final judge.

“There are many opinions. The legal opinion is that we got the dismissal, but we will have to ask the people of Cebu what are their opinions,” he told SunStar Cebu on Wednesday.

Saavedra did not file the graft cases against Garcia and seven others, but had filed plunder complaints against the Province of Cebu over the Balili property deal.

The plunder charges were dismissed for lack of evidence in 2011.

Saavedra said the people of Cebu’s “perception” on this case is as salient as the legal resolution, which he said is solely based on evidence presented to the court.

He said he has nothing personal about it, but was merely advocating against corruption and trying to protect the interest of the public.

He refused to comment further, saying there is still a possibility that the Office of the Ombudsman will file a motion for reconsideration.

The case stemmed from the purchase of 11 parcels of land totaling 24.9 hectares in the City of Naga for P98.9 million in 2008. Officials later found that a large portion of the property was submerged in water and could not be used for a housing site as intended.

The Sandiganbayan Special Division, in a ruling issued on Nov. 26, granted the demurrer to evidence, or a motion to dismiss the case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence.

Aside from Garcia, those charged were former members of the Cebu Provincial Appraisal Committee, namely, former Board Member Juan Bolo, former Capitol Assessor Anthony Sususco, former Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre, incumbent Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre, incumbent Provincial Budget Officer Emme Gingoyon, and property owners Amparo and Romeo Balili.

The Sandiganbayan also lifted the hold-departure order issued against Garcia and her co-respondents while their cash bonds were cancelled and released as well. (ANV / WBS)