Rally gets 5T, ties up traffic-A A +A
Thursday, January 10, 2013
AN ESTIMATED 5,000 people joined a rally yesterday afternoon to show support for Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, whose court battle against her suspension may reach a turning point today.
For at least three hours, traffic filled several streets in Cebu City, especially when the crowds walked from Fuente Osmeña to the Capitol building.
Garcia’s lawyers will argue today that her suspension by Malacañang is illegal, in part because the complainant, the former Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr., had died before the proceedings closed and no one had correctly taken his place as complainant.
On the eve of the hearing, the governor and her political allies told the crowd about their ordeal, questioned the moves made by Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale, and asked for payback in the May elections.
Rep. Pablo John Garcia, who is running for governor, said someone once suggested to him that One Cebu must get back at those who are persecuting the governor.
“Ilubong sila sa umaabot nga eleksyon. Ipakita nga ang Sugbo, One Cebu (Let us bury them in the elections. Show them that Cebu is One Cebu),” Pablo John said.
Police teams who barricaded the Capitol grounds from the rallyists, or stood at street corners on the march route, reported back to Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) officer-in-charge Mariano Natuel that the rally was peaceful. “Super maximum olerance” worked.
Non-participants felt the rally’s effects on the traffic.
After a mass in Fuente Osmeña ended at 4 p.m., Garcia’s supporters began marching toward the Capitol, a kilometer away. They occupied the entire junction in front of the Capitol building, forcing traffic enforcers to divert traffic from portions of Escario St. and Osmeña Blvd. for more than an hour.
Fuente Police Chief Chuck Barandog said that over 200 police personnel were deployed.
Although they sometimes yelled in response to speeches, the crowd was not unruly. They cheered loudest when Governor Garcia, surrounded by security, walked out of the Capitol to address them, on top of a makeshift stage.
Garcia said it was not easy on her part to see her family frightened whenever SWAT teams appeared in the Capitol compound. It was, in parts, a more emotional speech than the one she delivered at the Dec. 30 rally.
She said she hoped to dance during the Sinulog.
That will depend on whether or not the Court of Appeals rules, after a hearing that begins today, decides to issue a restraining order against her suspension.
Garcia said in an interview that after she saw the huge crowd, she felt overwhelmed. “It was all worth it,” she said.
Among the charges she repeated in her speech was the damage that Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale may have caused in questioning the Capitol’s finances.
“Sa iyang tinguha nga ako dauton, wa niya panumbalinga nga iya nga gidaot ang probinsya sa Sugbo (In her desire to malign me, she has failed to realize that she is maligning Cebu),” Garcia said.
Apart from Governor and Congressman Garcia, the speakers also included Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, 4th district).
Mayors, barangay officials and supporters carried props for the event. Some help placards that said “Gusto ko mopuli (I want to take over”, with a drawing of Magpale holding on to a map of Cebu.
For many, the trip to the Capitol began early in the morning.
A group of youngsters from a southern town of Cebu said that they were picked up from their barangay and given P200 each. Others said they received nothing and were promised nothing, but wanted to show their support.
“We were only four from our barangay who wanted to come here. Others did not want to, but dili man sad ni pugsanay so wala namo sila pugsa (no one was forced to show up here),” said one barangay captain of Carcar City.
Groups from Aloguinsan, Barili, Toledo City, Dumanjug and San Remegio, among others, joined the march.
The Land Transportation Office (LTO) fielded three teams to monitor passenger buses, but received no reports of buses operating outside their lines or overloading.
Macario Getaruelas, LTO 7 operations chief, said that the three teams were stationed in Jagobiao, Mandaue City; Cebu International Convention Center; and Lawaan 1, Talisay City.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) did not conduct special operations yesterday and just left it to LTO and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to enforce the law, said Director Ahmed Cuizon.
Passenger buses operating outside their line are required to secure special permits, otherwise they will be apprehended, he explained.
Near Fuente Osmeña during the mass, one bus marked “Suroy-Suroy Sugbo” was parked.
Around the corner, a large truck marked “Municipality of Ginatilan” had neat rows of white plastic chairs, enough to carry around 40 persons.
Getaruelas said it’s not the mandate of the LTO to apprehend government vehicles used in transporting rallyists, but that the Office of the Ombudsman has the power to investigate that.
LTO 7 Director Raul Aguilos, in a separate interview, said they coordinated with the City Traffic Operations and Management (Citom) in enforcing traffic laws.
Last Dec. 30, the Garcia camp complained that hundreds of their supporters failed to participate in their first rally at the Capitol because their buses were flagged down by the police and sent back to where they came from.
But as of press time yesterday, LTO 7 Assistant Regional Director Arnel Tancinco said there was no report of passenger buses being stopped for carrying rallyists.
The governor’s supporters said otherwise.
Before the event, they said, their people were stopped at checkpoints in the towns of Barili, San Fernando, Naga City and Minglanilla.
Toledo Vice Mayor Arlene Zambo said 5 e-Gwen multicabs were issued with temporary operator’s permits for alleged overloading in Naga and Minglanilla.
She said she was not stopped at the checkpoint because she was in a private vehicle.
Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia, the governor’s brother, said the supporters experienced difficulties on their way to Cebu City.
Zambo and Garcia said that the mayors will meet on Jan. 18 on what to do about the “unfavorable” treatment by the police.
Citom Executive Director Atty. Rafael Yap said the traffic on Osmeña Blvd. started to build up at 3:57 p.m. after thousands left the Fuente Osmeña Circle and walked to the Capitol.
Traffic spilled over to Escario St. and Juana Osmeña St.
“I just want to make that clear, that there was no road closure but only diversion of routes,” Yap said. He did not approve any permits to have the road going to the Capitol closed, he said.
Around 5 p.m., Yap said the traffic on Osmeña Blvd. and Escario St. started to return to normal, after supporters left the intersections in front of the Capitol and began to head home.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 10, 2013.