PH Ombudsman vs. House of Representatives?

Omb Conchita Carpio Morales (left) and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Image ©

PHILIPPINE House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he will not implement the dismissal order of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales against former Cebu governor now provincial Representative Gwendolyn Garcia saying “there is no legal basis” for him to do so.

Alvarez, a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, made known his stand shortly after learning that Morales issued the dismissal order against the lady lawmaker, which stemmed from a case filed against her.

The House Speaker insists that there is nothing in the Constitution that allows him to implement the dismissal order.

“In fact, it is not within the power of the Ombudsman to discipline, much more to remove, any member of the House of Representatives. So pag ginawa ko yan, I will be violating the Constitution since merong nakalagay sa Constitution na kami lang yung may kapangyarihan to discipline and remove any member from the House of Representatives,” Alvarez explained.

“Yung dismissal order na yan, ang treatment ko diyan, yung dismissal as a governor, not as a congressman. Late yung decision, late yung order, dapat noon pa nilabas yan nung siya ay isang gobernador pa lang,” he added.

Morales issued the dismissal order, which also carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits, after Garcia, who now represents the third district of Cebu, was found guilty of grave misconduct.

Political pundits say Alvarez’ refusal to implement Morales’ order seems to be a retaliation for her recent refusal to implement a Malacañang issued suspension order against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang. However, the Ombudsman, in refusing to implement the suspension order, cited a Supreme Court ruling which says that the President has no power over the deputy Ombudsmen, something Alvarez apparently failed to do in order to justify his current stance. 

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Garcia. Photo ©

It will be recalled that on June 11, 2008, Garcia purchased the controversial Balili property, a sprawling 249,246 square meter lot located in Tinaan, Naga, Cebu, for Php98,926,800.00. Local authorities later discovered that 196,696 square meters of the property were underwater and part of a mangrove area and unfit for the intended projects.

In April 2012, the local government conducted a public bidding “for the supply and delivery of back filling materials and other incidentals of its submerged and mangrove portions.”

The project was awarded to Supreme ABF Construction as the lowest calculated and responsive bidder with a total tendered bid of Php248.75/cubic meter. Based on the records, the provincial government released a total of Php24,468,927.66 to the winning contractor.

Upon scrutiny, the Ombudsman found that Garcia had no authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP)when she entered into contracts with ABF Construction.

While this Office finds merit on her assertion that the Php50million allotment for the airport/seaport and other economic enterprise site development program (a capital outlay expenditure that was carried over to the 2012 Annual Budget of the province), was a valid source of appropriation for the Balili project, such appropriation did not validly confer authority to respondent Garcia to enter into a contract with ABF Construction for the Balili project. She failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract,” the Decision dated Jan. 15, 2018 said.

The Ombudsman also added that “Garcia violated Sections 46 and 47, Chapter 8, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 and Section 86 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, which proscribe entering into a contract unless a certification of appropriation and fund availability for the expenditure is issued. It is undisputed that the [certification of available funds] was issued only after the [second] contract was entered into by respondent Garcia.”

Meanwhile, Garcia’s co-respondent, Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial was found guilty of Simple Neglect of Duty “for certifying in the subject [disbursement vouchers] that the supporting documents are complete when in fact they lacked the required authority from the SP for respondent Garcia to enter into contract.”

He was ordered suspended for three months. In case of separation from office, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to Guial’s salary for three months.

The administrative charges against Bids and Awards Committee Chairperson Marivic Garces; Vice-Chairperson Bernard Calderon; members Manuel Purog, Emme Gingoyon, Ma. Junelene Arenas, Cristina Giango, Rosalinda Jao; and Acting Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre were dismissed for lack of merit.

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