SC affirms CA decision clearing Gwen of Balili case

·2 min read

“JUSTICE has prevailed, as always.”

This was what Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said upon receiving word that the Supreme Court (SC) had affirmed the decision of the appellate court to dismiss the administrative charges filed against her and 10 other Capitol officials over the controversial purchase of the Balili property in the City of Naga.

In its 12-page decision promulgated on Sept. 14, 2021 but uploaded on the SC’s website on Nov. 24, the SC denied the petition filed by the Office of the Ombudsman to review the 2014 decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to clear Garcia and 10 others Capitol officials.

In its petition, the Office of the Ombudsman asserted that the condonation doctrine or the Aguinaldo doctrine has “no statutory and constitutional basis and should, thus, be reevaluated in light of the 1987 Constitution.”

The condonation doctrine protects reelected public officials from being removed for an administrative misconduct committed during a prior term.

“Under existing laws, accountability is a strict and continuous responsibility of every public officer in the discharge of their official acts. The condonation doctrine does not amount to total exoneration because it only extinguishes administrative liability but not the administrative offense,” the Ombudsman argued.

But the SC agreed with the CA that while the court no longer subscribes to the use of the condonation doctrine as defense which became final in April 2016, it cannot be applied in Garcia’s case since the administrative charges against her were filed in 2010.

“Here, the three complaints for grave misconduct were filed against respondent and other individuals prior to her reelection as Governor of the Province of Cebu in 2010. Since the events that transpired here occurred prior to the finality of Carpio-Morales on April 12, 2016, respondent can still avail of the benefits of the condonation doctrine as a consequence of her reelection in 2010. In fine, respondent’s administrative liability—both the offense and penalty— are deemed completely erased,” the SC said.

Bought for P98 million, the Balili property refers to a 24.9-hectare property, of which a huge portion turned out to be underwater. (JKV)

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