Garcia 'unlikely' to get TRO before Jan. 10

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Thursday, January 3, 2013


CEBU CITY (Updated) -- The Office of the President violated the law when it ordered the suspension of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and caused irreparable damage, her lawyers said Wednesday.

These were two of the reasons the Garcia camp offered in their reply to the Court of Appeals (CA), which asked them to answer the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) opposition to stop her suspension.

Court sources said the CA’s 12th Division decided to set oral arguments at 10 a.m. of January 10. After the debate next week, the case will then be submitted for resolution.

Governor Garcia has not left her Capitol office since December 19, when the Department of Interior and Local Government left a copy of her suspension order for six months.

Lawyers of the Liberal Party (LP), in a press conference Wednesday, said there is no longer any use for a temporary restraining order (TRO) because the suspension has been implemented and Acting Governor Agnes Magpale is functioning in the governor’s place.

“A TRO pre-supposes urgency. They could have acquired it early on,” lawyer Orvi Ortega said.

Damage

But in a separate press conference, lawyer Christina Frasco, the governor’s daughter and lawyer, said that in asking for a TRO, the petitioner only needs to show three things: her clear and unmistakable right to be protected; a violation of that right; and prevention of an irreparable damage.

As regards her right, she said, Governor Garcia was elected for three terms. Irreparable damage was done when barricades were put up around the Capitol, when Sugbu TV and Sugbu News were closed, and when Magpale stated that the Province is “bankrupt.”

Sources said present in Wednesday’s deliberation of the CA were Justices Vicente Veloso, Aurora Jane Lantion, and Eduardo Peralta.

Malacañang has denied the speculation that politics was a factor in penalizing Garcia. The suspension is the result of her hiring consultants in 2010 without the consent of the Provincial Board (PB) and her cutting the budget of the office of then Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr.

“There is no basis to find grave abuse of authority on the part of Governor Garcia for the reduction of the vice governor’s budget, because said reduction was approved and carried out by the Provincial Board, through its passage of the appropriations ordinances enacting the annual budget,” the Garcia camp said in their reply to the OSG.

120-day limit

Opposing Garcia’s petition to restrain her suspension, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza quoted two Supreme Court decisions in 2005 and 2009, which said that the death of a complainant does not extinguish an administrative case against a public official.

It added that the budget for the contractual employees under the Office of the Vice Governor was removed for unknown reasons, but restored after Sanchez’s death.

“This evokes malice and bad faith,” said Jardeleza.

Garcia’s lawyers pointed out that the suspension violated, among others, Section 66 of the Local Government Code, which provides that complaints similar to what was filed against Garcia should be investigated within 90 days.

In addition, Rule 10, Section 1 of Administrative Order 23 gives the President 30 days to decide on an administrative case against a public official.

Despite that 120-day limit, the Garcia camp has pointed out, the suspension of the governor was handed down 474 days after it should have been rendered. It is also timed to remove her from office in the last six months of her final term.

“They keep on saying that the governor should follow the rule of law,” Frasco said, but yet the suspension order itself violates the Local Government Code and the Rules of Court because it proceeded even after the complainant died.

Substitution

There was no valid substitution after Vice Governor Sanchez died, lawyer Frasco said.

“Well settled is the rule that failure to make a substitution pursuant to Section 17, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court is a ground for a dismissal of an action,” the governor’s reply read, quoting the Supreme Court in Rodriguez vs Jardin.

Frasco said the six-month suspension is too harsh, as the case does not involve corruption nor moral turpitude, but differences in interpreting the law.

She compared Garcia’s case with that of Governor Jocel Baac, a Liberal Party member in Kalinga Province who, caught on video, stormed a state-run radio station and hit a broadcaster in the head with a microphone.

The Office of the President suspended Baac for only a month. Governor Garcia filed a petition for a review with a prayer for a TRO last December 21, two days after a copy of the suspension order reached her office. (OCP of Sun.Star Cebu/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 03, 2013.

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