PARTY-LIST group Sanlakas has filed a complaint for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duties against reelectionist Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia before the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas, for her alleged failed response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic that has led to the death of 2,504 individuals in the province.
Teodorico Navea, secretary-general of Sanlakas Party-list Cebu Chapter, led the group in filing the 15-page complaint Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.
Two other complainants were listed as urban poor leaders Celsa Santillan of Mandaue City and Crescito Ditchon of Talisay City, both Provincial Council members of Sanlakas Cebu.
The complaint alleged that Garcia violated Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Administrative Code of 1987.
According to Sanlakas, the governor downplayed and belittled the pandemic, leading the public to believe that Covid-19 is a simple flu, and advocated the use of the scientifically unproven “tuob” or steam inhalation to treat it.
The complainants further argued that Garcia failed to immediately purchase vaccines and conduct aggressive vaccination among her constituents, resulting in a low vaccination rate that prevented the province from reaching a strong herd immunity status.
“To date, the Province of Cebu, even with the staggering amount of public resources that it enjoys has only a vaccination rate of around 20 percent while public education and campaign for vaccination have been very limited,” the complaint read.
The governor’s move to disregard the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases rules on the conduct of swabbing for returning overseas Filipino workers was also criticized by the complainants, who said it resulted in the third wave of the pandemic in the province that even spread to Mindanao.
Included also in the complaint is the governor’s alleged unjustifiable underusing and withholding of public funds that were allocated in her office in the year 2020, as out of the P13 billion budget, only P3 billion was spent for Covid-19 response.
Garcia fired back at Sanlakas for filing the complaint against her, saying: “They are making a mockery of the justice system by filing this baseless and ridiculous complaint. All in their desperate attempt to gain media mileage, hoping to bolster their dwindling political stock. Pathetic.”
In an interview with reporters, Navea said they were not happy with the performance of the governor and they want this case to be a precedent for cases against other local government units in the country.
The national secretary-general of Sanlakas who also serves as the party’s legal counsel, Jose Aaron Pedrosa Jr., also told reporters that they want this to become an election issue so that candidates who are seeking government positions will discuss their platforms on health and pandemic response.
“Kapila nata nagsurge. We have seen the pattern pero walay ka usaban,” said Pedrosa. (We’ve had a surge several times already. We have seen the pattern, but there has been no change.)
The party-list also criticized the governor for claiming that the drop in Covid-19 cases in the province is due to her programs.
They also lambasted her for always saying that Cebu is the richest and number one province with the situation on the ground, like hospitals, showing otherwise.
Their complaint said the Province of Cebu’s 16 provincial hospitals have limited bed capacity, forcing many to flock to the hospitals in the metro cities for treatment.
“We cannot understand. If it is the richest, why cannot they provide resources? Nganong mag two years na mao man lang gihapon?” Pedrosa added. (Why is it that as we approach two years, the situation has not changed?)
Asked if the case will prosper, Pedrosa said they want to be optimistic and it is up to the Office of the Ombudsman to decide, but their message is clear that there is neglect in the performance of duties of the governor. (ANV, CTL)