A MULTI-sectoral group in Cebu has launched a private initiative urging Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to run for senator in the May 2022 national elections.

However, Garcia remained steadfast in her stand not to seek a higher post next year.

The “Gwen Garcia for Senator Movement: Ang Probinsyana, Cebu’s Pride” held a press conference on Thursday, April 29, 2021, to publicly call on Garcia to take a shot at the 2022 senatorial polls.

The group headed by community organizer Edward Ligas includes as convenors, San Fernando Municipal Administrator Neil Papas, Cebu City Vendors Association representative Maria Pino, Cebu Market Vendors Multi-purpose Cooperative chairman Erwin Goc-ong and Marissa Rubin, a Provincial Capitol employee.

“With the undisputed political dominance of the Garcias in Cebu today, we find no reason for Gov. Gwen Garcia not to run for a Senate seat this 2022. We know she will win,” the group said in a statement.

The group said it was high time for a “pure-blooded” Cebuano to represent Cebu in the Senate.

Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III was the last Cebuano to serve in the Senate from 1995 to 2016.

Serge is the older brother of former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña and son of the late senator Serging Osmeña.

Ligas said the group still had to talk to the governor and would welcome a personal dialogue with her if given the chance.

Ligas said although the senatorial race would be risky for Garcia, this would be a “doable risk” considering that Cebu is a vote-rich province.

Garcia became the first lady governor of Cebu and first congresswoman of the province’s 3rd Congressional District.

For his part, Papas, who is also a professional boxing judge, said Garcia’s decision to open up businesses and livelihood in the province amid the pandemic was “effective aggression,” a term used in boxing that is among the criteria for scoring a boxing match.

Effective aggression is suitable for a senator, Papas said.

The group plans to come up with an online petition to strengthen its call for Garcia to run for senator.

With the convenors were other members of the movement who carried placards bearing the words: “Panahon na Alang sa Tinuod nga Cebuano Senator,” “Gwen Senator for 2022 Cebu’s Pride” and “Gwen for 2022, Pro-poor Cebu’s Pride.”

Pino claims the movement currently has about 4,500 members.

‘No thanks’

Meanwhile Garcia told reporters that she had no plans of running for the Senate.

In a press conference, Garcia said her plan is to seek reelection next year.

“Wala ko nagpacute (I’m not trying to be cute). I have no intentions whatsoever of seeking national office. Read my lips: I’m running for governor again because I feel that I am more needed here in the province of Cebu at this time and in the next years that will follow as we try to recover in this pandemic,” Garcia said.

Although she thanked the group for the political endorsement, Garcia doubts the group’s motives.

“Well, I do not know if I should thank them or whether I should ask if they no longer want me as governor of Cebu. Actually, if they truly believe that I am needed in the national seat, I will run there. Thank you for their trust and confidence in me,” Garcia added in a mix of Cebuano and English.

In a comment, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino said Garcia should not seek a national position.

“Everyone knows that she is highly qualified. But let me be selfish now because of the difficult times, very trying times. We still need Governor Garcia to still be the governor of Cebu,” said Dino.

For Deputy Speaker Pablo John “PJ” Garcia, the governor’s brother, the group’s endorsement was very “suspicious.”

“I think if there are people who want Gwen to run for senator at this time, that would only be her opponents. So I’m sorry, I don’t know this group but I am deeply suspicious of groups like this that suddenly came out of nowhere now that the election is drawing near,” Representative Garcia said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Representative Garcia said the governor’s political opponents know very well that if she runs for reelection, they would have no chance of winning at all.

The governor admitted there were discussions between her and her allies on the possibility of a Senate run, but she dismissed the idea so she can fully serve Cebu.

“It would be inconsistent for her during this difficult time in the province that she would now leave Cebu for some higher office. So it is inconsistent with her nature because she had demonstrated time and time again even when she was urged to run for senator, she said there is only one Cebu for me especially now that we are in the middle of a crisis,” Representative Garcia added. / ANV