With an eye on her trip to Rome , Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday said she will ask the Sandiganbayan to lift its hold departure order against her.
She said would file a motion for reconsideration in hopes of attending the Oct. 21 canonization rites of Blessed Pedro Calungsod in the Vatican.
“I believe in the power of prayer. I would really hope that Cebu will be represented in the person of the governor when the canonization will be realized on Oct. 21,” she said.
Her arch critic, Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City's south district, said the travel ban was a prelude to a more serious step, a preventive suspension order.
“If this is a flimsy case, the anti-graft court would not got this far,” he said of the hold departure order.
“Congratulations,” he said, “she is the first governor in the 443 years of the province to get a hold departure order.”
Garcia was at the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) yesterday to attend a daycare worker's symposium with her younger brother, Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu's 3rd district.
The governor asked her followers to “pray to San Pedro Calungsod” in relation to the graft charges filed against her and seven others in the P98.9 million Balili property purchase.
“Let us pray to San Pedro Calungsod. He is our Cebuano saint. In the end the truth will conquer all. Right will triumph over evil,” Garcia said.
The governor faces two counts of graft and one count of illegal use of public funds in relation to the case.
Her lawyers said the goernor was “not aware” the Balili properties were under water until after the 2008 purchase was made because she relied on subordinates in the Provincial Appraisal Committee, who omitted a technical report describing 20 of 24.7 hectares as submerged land.
Garcia said she expected the hold departure order .
“In fact there was a warrant of arrest but they did not release that,” she said. Garcia and her co-accused were allowed to post bail in Cebu before a warrant was actually issued.
For now, Garcia said she will stay in Cebu.
Her lawyers earlier filed a motion for reconsideration and reinvestigation, and asked the Ombudsman to suspend further proceedings until this is resolved.
The ball is now with the Ombudsman since the Sandiganbayan decided to suspend its proceedings,” Garcia said.
One of the respondents, former Provincial Board (PB) member Juan Bolo, in a phone interview, said he has no plans to leave the country.
Bolo said he and his wife are based in Dapitan City following his re-election defeat in 2010.
He said he didn't receive a copy yet of the Ombudsman resolution which found probable cause to indict him, Garcia and seven others for the Balili lot purchase.
He said he filed a motion for reconsideration on his case.
Respondent Romeo Balili, the family estate executor, said he has no plans of leaving the country either. He said he had just arrived from a trip Europe last month.
“Anyway, if I want to leave the country, I will ask permission from the court,” Balili added.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol earlier explained that the respondents wont be allowed to leave the country unless they are arraigned to ensure that the court acquires jurisdiction over them.
Balili said he requested the Sandiganbayan to suspend his arraignment due to a pending motion for reconsideration he filed before the Ombudsman regarding his indictment in the Balili case.
In case he's allowed to travel abroad, Balili said he will return to the country. “I won't leave my wife. My wife and my children are worth coming back than this case,” he said.
Balili yesterday went to the Palace of Justice to attend the hearing on the case filed by the Capitol in a bid to recover the P37.8 million out of the P98.9 million it paid to the Balili family.
The amount represents the areas of the 24.7 hectare Balili beach property in Naga City, south Cebu that are mostly submerged in water and classified as coastal timberland.
Amparo Balili, the widow of lot owner Luis Balili, is seeking the dismissal of the case.
Regional Trial Court Judge Raphael Yrastorza of Branch 14 denied the pleading.
Amparo, through her lawyer Cesar Tabo-tabo, filed a motion for reconsideration.
Provincial Attorney Marino Martinquilla said the province would go after the Balili family.
Also covered under the hold departure order were provincial treasurer Roy Salubre and provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyon, retired provincial assessor Anthony Sususco and Provincial Engr. Eulo. /Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter with Correspondents Carmel Loise Matus and Edison de los Angeles