Garcia leaves Capitol; office padlocked-A A +A
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
CEBU CITY (Updated) -- On orders of Acting Cebu Governor Agnes Magpale, the doors leading to the office of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia were padlocked at 3 p.m. Wednesday while she was out visiting southern towns.
Provincial Administrator Eduardo Habin led Capitol employees and Magpale’s consultant in padlocking two doors on the ground floor of the Capitol that lead to Garcia’s office.
Around 10 uniformed policemen were posted outside another door, the remaining access to her office.
“People inside can go out but we are not letting anybody in anymore,” Magpale said, adding that they made sure they will not be liable for illegal detention.
Magpale gave the order to padlock the governor’s office at 2 p.m. An hour later, personnel from the Provincial Engineer’s Office bolted the door on the ground floor with wood planks.
Only the governor’s chief of staff, Elizabeth Francia, her secretary Amor Sarmiento and some staffers of Sugbu TV were left in Garcia’s office when the police came to padlock it.
Photos by Jophet Budlat of Sunnex
Soon after, power and water supply to Garcia’s office were cut off, leaving its occupants in the dark.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Gwen’s daughter, lawyer Christina Garcia-Frasco, said they are sure that there are legal consequences to what Magpale did and are studying their options.
In a news conference Wednesday, Magpale said she learned that Garcia goes out at night and comes back to her office. She called this a mockery of President Benigno Aquino III’s order that Garcia be suspended for six months.
“Abusive na sad kayo; the next room has been used as sleeping quarters of her supporters, and they’re using the banyo to wash their clothes. There has to be an end to this,” Magpale said.
So when Garcia left her office Tuesday night, Magpale sought the help of Habin, the Commission on Audit (COA), Provincial General Services Office (PGSO) acting head Eva Encabo, the Civil Security Unit (CSU), the police, and her consultant lawyer Dara Acusar to “deactivate” Garcia’s office.
Acusar said some of the items inside the governor’s office are government properties, which is why they requested COA to assist them and to conduct an inventory.
After Magpale’s closed-door meeting with the COA and Capitol officials, Habin and Acusar proceeded to Garcia’s office and informed Francia of the order.
Magpale directed Habin, Provincial Engineer Hector Jamora, CSU Operations Chief Valentino Cruz and the chief of the Tactical Security Agency to coordinate with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in securing Garcia’s office.
“No one is allowed inside the premises except upon further orders,” Magpale’s order stated.
Francia protested, saying the closure of the office is a clear violation of their rights.
“You can see for yourself how they are closing us up, like a pigsty,” said Francia, adding that most of them are women being bullied by armed policemen.
At 3:45 p.m., Acusar and Habin told Francia that they must leave the office but Francia stood her ground.
At this point, Garcia’s lawyers Lito Astillero and Ramsey Quijano intervened and questioned the order, while engineering personnel continued to secure the doors with wooden planks.
Quijano protested and asked why the employees started to padlock the doors when the order had yet to be served.
But Habin said they already gave Francia a copy of the order.
Quijano also questioned why the order was directed to Habin and not to the personnel inside Garcia’s office. But Habin said they are there to enforce the order.
Astillero asked for more time to study the order, but Acusar said the governor and her staff were already given enough time, 42 days to be exact.
“You are challenging the order, go ask the acting governor,” Acusar told the two lawyers.
Frasco, for her part, gave six reasons why closing the governor’s office was illegal. She cited the pending motion at the Court of Appeals (CA) questioning the legality of Garcia’s suspension, and said that Magpale preempted the CA’s decision.
Second, as the incumbent governor, Garcia has the right to continuously occupy the governor’s office, her daughter says.
Third, Section 60 of the Local Government Code provides that a public official may only be removed by a written court order. Fourth, assuming that the suspension is legal, it is only up to June 17, “so why padlock it if Governor Garcia can still return?”
Frasco also pointed out that Garcia’s staffers are not suspended, “so why deprive them of the use of that office?”
Lastly, she said the governor has some personal effects inside the office and depriving her of these is a crime under the Revised Penal Code.
Like a hotel
Magpale clarified that she ordered Habin to implement her order, and not the personnel inside Garcia’s office, as these people are not legally recognized and should not be holding office there.
“With the suspension of the governor, she is not entitled anymore to salary emoluments, office space and staff,” said Magpale.
She said the casuals may continue working but should report to the office of Acting Vice Governor Julian Daan.
In an interview over the ABS-CBN News Channel, Magpale said she has been tolerating Garcia’s presence in the governor’s office for over a month.
“Sobra na po ang ginagawa niya. Lalabas siya, magkakampanya tapos babalik dito. Ginawa na niyang parang hotel ang Capitol building. What used to be the old session hall, inoccupy na ng kanyang supporters, doon natutulog. Naglalaba na sila doon (This is too much. She leaves to campaign, then she wants to return. She is treating the Capitol like a hotel),” she said.
“We cut the MOOE (maintenance and operating expenses budget) in all offices by 20 percent and yet she is spending so much. Kuryente niya (tumatakbo ng) 24 hours, air-condition, everything,” Magpale continued.
She said the delivery of services to the Cebu constituents will continue. (OCP/Sun.Star Cebu)