The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas will look into reports that government-owned vehicles were used to ferry supporters of suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to and from her prayer rally at the Capitol last Wednesday.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol yesterday said graft investigators will determine whether there is basis to develop the reports into a full-blown case.
“Media reports can be used as a lead but we need documents and witnesses,” he told reporters.
Apostol said a formal complaint should be filed before the office to substantiate the allegations.
Liberal Party Cebu spokesman Edgar Gica said the party is preparing at least 16 cases to be filed against Garcia over the continued use of government supplies, use of government vehicles to transport her supporters during a rally at the Capitol last Wednesday, and for maligning Magpale’s name.
“We’re preparing everything,” said Gica.
Among the vehicles noticed in Wednesday’s Capitol rally were four Suroy Suroy tourist buses and an assortment of barangay and municipal vehicles from Dumanjug, Liloan, Oslob, Dalaguete, Medellin, Tabuelan and Moalboal.
“Government vehicles are strictly for official use only. They could not be used for private purposes,” said Apostol.
“We have penalized several individuals for illegal use of government vehicles. Anyone who commits a mistake should be held answerable.”
Apostol declined to further comment on the issue in order not to compromise possible investigation by the anti-graft office.
Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale said her lawyers are looking into the matter.
She told Cebu Daily News they have photos of the vehicles and will take “proper action.” She did not elaborate.
Ananias Villacorta, regional director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), said local government units (LGUs) can use their service vehicles only when transacting official business in connection with programs and projects, attending conferences, seminars, conventions and other governmental functions.
DILG legal officer, Ayesha Nogra said: “LGU vehicles bought with public funds must only be used for public purpose and/or for official functions only.”
Hilario Davide III, chairman of the Liberal Party in Cebu and the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the May elections, said the use of government resources for purely partisan political activities is highly improper and illegal.
“I deplore the use of government resources for what is clearly a partisan political activity,” he said in a statement.
Governor Garcia said she is ready to face the charges that will be filed against her.
“It establishes a pattern does it not? … I would call them desperate charges. It’s one thing to file charges. It’s another thing to prove them. But let me remind them, they might be too busy on running after me, they might forget to campaign,” she added.
The Office of the Ombudsman has been reminding government officials and employees not to use government-owned vehicles for personal trips otherwise they face reprimand or suspension.
They shouldn’t use a government vehicle to places like markets, restaurants, hotels, resorts, or any other places where no official business is involved.
The Ombudsman have been encouraging the public to report any misuse of government vehicles under its Oplan Red Plate campaign.
While official travel must be covered by a trip ticket issued and signed by an agency’s administrative officer, the rule is often ignored. /Ador Vincent S. Mayol and Carmel Loise Matus