Garcia stands ground, files TRO

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Friday, December 21, 2012

CEBU CITY (2nd Update, 4:15 p.m.) -- Beleaguered Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia asked the Court of Appeals (CA) Friday to set aside the Malacanang order that suspended her for six months for alleged abuse of authority.

Garcia sought the temporary restraining order (TRO), that will be effective for 60 days if granted by the appellate court. A hearing would be set to discuss the merits of her petition to reject the Palace directive dated December 17, 2012.

Sources said the case had been raffled off to the CA 12th division composed of Justices Vicente Veloso, Jane Lantion, and Eduardo Peralta.

Garcia has refused to heed the order even as Vice Governor Agnes Magpale formally assumed as acting governor last Tuesday.

She said Friday she was still waiting for updates from her lawyers in Manila as to the status of her petition for TRO, adding that she was hoping for swift action.

She reiterated she was standing by the rule of law, stressing that the suspension was an “illegal order” as it did not follow proper procedure.

“I will continue to discharge my functions as governor of Cebu, and if they want to stop me, then they have to do it over my dead body,” she said.

Magpale took her oath as acting governor on Wednesday and gave Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre an ultimatum: Report to my office or be replaced today, Friday.

Governor Gwen Garcia hears mass
Suspended Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia (center) attends a Mass celebrated at her office along with her brother Rep. Pablo John Garcia (left) and father Rep. Pablo Garcia (right). (Photo by Nera Mariz Puyo and Jolina Ylaya)

Salubre appeared at the legislative office Friday morning and met with the acting governor.

He said he will report to Magpale after receiving an order from the Department of Finance Friday morning.

Salubre also said the bonuses of Capitol employees will be released next week.

Capitol employees are having their Christmas party as of this posting Friday. Salubre said each employee will receive at least P30,000 as bonus, plus one sack of rice.

Magpale said, however, that all department heads will still discuss the supplemental budget that will tackle primarily the bonuses.

The acting governor also told Capitol employees who gathered for mass for their Christmas party that if there was another court order that would tell her to step down, she would gladly do so.

“I will not use the people who will rally behind me,” she said.

The mass at the legislative building was held simultaneous with the mass held at Garcia’s office Friday. According to a Capitol employee, it was also intended for the Christmas party.

While the Christmas party was ongoing at the Capitol building, police were still securing its perimeters.

Garcia supporters continued to arrive to express support to the suspended governor. Some of them became emotional after the mass at the governor’s office.

Evelyn Codis said she was hurt by the sudden suspension of the governor.

Garcia’s father, Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, told the suspended governor to be strong, saying “justice will triumph in the end."

’Escalating tension’

Meanwhile, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), which counts Garcia as a member, said the ruling Liberal Party (LP), through its leader Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, is escalating tension in the province.

“Right now, the DILG and the LP are escalating tension at the Provincial Capitol by dispersing her supporters and turning the grounds into a garrison,” said UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco.

He said these actions are reminiscent of the Arroyo regime’s attempt to suspend Vice President Binay, then mayor of Makati City, in 2006.

Like Garcia, Binay fought the suspension order and went to the CA that later ordered the lifting of the suspension order.

Tiangco also said that, by suspending Garcia of UNA, LP intends to gain control of the vote-rich province since Magpale is an LP member and the running mate of Hilario Davide III, who lost to the suspended governor in 2010.

"Apparently, Secretary Roxas is using the vast powers of his office to dig up old complaints against local officials and use these cases to harass and intimidate," he said.

’To get sympathy’

But LP said Friday that Garcia "just wants to get the sympathy of voters."

"She wants to get the sympathy of the voters. I would call on Governor Gwen to respect the decision of the Executive... She is allowed to seek legal remedies, but they should follow the President’s order," Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone said.

Evardone was authorized by the Aquino-led LP to speak on the matter.

Garcia is running for third district congresswoman in Cebu province in the 2013 midterm elections.

Evardone also said it was also unfair to put the blame on Roxas who implemented the suspension order.

The governor's brother, Cebu Representative Pablo John Garcia, was earlier quoted as saying that the suspension "looks like martial law with emphasis on MAR," referring to Secretary Roxas.

Roxas earlier said, though, that politics had nothing to do with the directive.

For his part, Western Samar Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento, LP secretary general, said Garcia is setting a bad precedent for local government officials. "It would appear that anybody can just defy the President," he said.

"They are making a local issue a national issue, which should not be the case...This should be about the rule of law," Sarmiento added.

But Garcia's camp maintained that the suspension order violated a provision of the Local Government Code giving the President 30 days on submission of the findings in an administrative case to issue an order.

The case was filed in 2010 by then Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez, who died in April 2011. Four months later, former Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo submitted his findings and recommendation to the Office of the President.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. signed the suspension order last Monday or over a year since the recommendation reached the Palace. (Virgil Lopez/Kathrina Alvarez/LRM/With Nera Mariz Puyo and Jolina Ylaya/USJR MassCom interns/Sunnex)

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