Magpale, Garbo sued for closing Sugbo TV-A A +A
Thursday, January 3, 2013
CEBU CITY -- For closing a cable news channel and newsletter run by the Cebu Provincial Government, Acting Governor Agnes Magpale, two police officials and a lawyer will face complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Rowena Zulueta and Rufo Carzano of Sugbo TV charged Magpale, Police Regional Office (PRO)-Central Visayas Director Marcelo Garbo Jr., Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB)-Central Visayas Chief Leopoldo Cabanag and lawyer Czareem Joseph Estella with grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct, oppression, conduct unbecoming of a public official, grave coercion and violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
They said the respondents “proceeded, without heed or caution, to exercise absolute and unbridled power” and, in closing Sugbo TV and Sugbo newsletter, violated civil liberties, like freedom of the press.
Magpale, in an interview, said she made it clear the suspension of operations is temporary.
“If she has the power to close the Balili property, which is owned by the Province, the same is true with the acting governor,” said lawyer Estella, one of the respondents.
Also on Wednesday, 31 casual employees, out of the 35 who work on the cable channel and newsletter, declined to renew their contracts.
In their letter addressed to Magpale, they said: “Beyond the need to address our basic necessities and those of our families, is the stronger will to keep our dignities intact.”
All 31 declined to renew their contract, “until our grievances have been properly redressed and the legality of your position as acting governor has been resolved.”
Work contracts of all 35 employees expired last Monday, December 31, but Magpale announced she would extend these for a month.
Director Garbo, for his part, said he acted within the bounds of the law.
“All my actions are within the parameters of police procedure… I am merely implementing,” he explained.
Told about the Garcia camp’s allegation of a “personal vendetta” against the governor, the police general said: “I do not want to enter into a political battle with them.”
Garbo said his orders to the police force are transparent. “Whatever we do, we notify them and tell them (Governor Garcia’s camp) before we implement it. That is how transparent we are to them,” he added.
Back to work
Some 50 police personnel continued to guard the Provincial Capitol on Wednesday, when work resumed after the holiday break.
Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) Chief Arnel Banzon said the police are stationed there for security and visibility.
“During the holidays, it was just right for us to be strict with those who wanted to enter since it was a holiday. They had no business in the Capitol,” explained Banzon.
Since work already resumed on Wednesday, they are not that strict, he added, but will still secure the area.
The latest complainants alleged that Sugbo TV and Sugbo News were shut down by Magpale last December 21 without any legal order.
Lawyer Astrox Canama assisted Zulueta, Sugbo TV head, and Carzano, a reporter.
Zulueta said they were told by Magpale in a meeting that the channel “does not promote the tourism of the Province of Cebu, but instead, promotes the personal interest of Governor (Gwendolyn) Garcia.”
They said Magpale’s allegation was “hearsay” and had not been investigated.
After the meeting with Magpale, Zulueta said she and her fellow employee Katrina Tabanao returned to their office and informed their staff about the channel’s closure.
Several persons later barged into the office and demanded that the employees leave, she alleged.
“At first, we hesitated to leave the premises, but a person whom we would later know to be respondent Atty. Estella, together with some policemen, shouted at us in a coercive and intimidating manner,” said the complainants.
They said Estella did not show a written order, and the police frisked them.
“All these acts instilled fear in us, scaring us extremely, as we were gravely concerned by the uncertainty that lay ahead for our safety,” they said.
Estella later allegedly shouted at Sugbo News’ staff members to close the paper’s Facebook account and leave the office. After they had left, the complainants said the offices of Sugbo TV and Sugbo News were padlocked.
The satellite uplink room of Sugbo TV was also allegedly forced open and redirected to stop the broadcast.
Complainants said they “constantly” consulted Magpale for the past several months to see if she had any accomplishments, but they said the vice governor’s projects were “seldom” and “very few were newsworthy.”
They also cited the Civil Code of the Philippines, which states that no local elective official has the power to suppress or order the closure of any establishment in case it is in the nature of public nuisance, which can only be determined through a court hearing.
“It is the Province of Cebu who suffers and continues to suffer, as it is being deprived, every single day, from its lawful use of its property and the right to broadcast and publish the good news of its projects and accomplishments, as well as those of its component cities and municipalities, to the Cebuanos,” said the complainants.
Acting Governor Magpale said that even before the suspension, they were already reviewing Sugbu TV and Sugbu News, as part of their annual budget examination.
“But we were very emphatic that the closure is only temporary,” said Magpale.
Magpale said that Zulueta even promised to submit all the tapes to her.
So they agreed that Estella would follow Zulueta to her office for the tapes.
“We were following her to pick up the tapes, as she promised. Pag-abot didto wala na siya, wala na ang tapes (When they got there, she was missing and so were the tapes),” Estella said. (KAL/JBT/OCP/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 03, 2013.