MANILA, Philippines - As the standoff in Cebu between suspended Gov Gwen Garcia and the Aquino administration escalates, so does frustration between the two camps.
On Friday, December 28, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas said he was offended by Garcia's comments that there is martial law in Cebu, and argued that on the contrary, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is exercising maximum tolerance, despite serious threats and provocation on its personnel.
“Notwithstanding the open defiance of a lawful order, we are employing maximum tolerance and patience,” Roxas said. “Please recall that the violation for which the suspended governor is being sanctioned is grave abuse of authority but hanggang ngayon, inaabuso pa rin nila ang kapangyarihan nila (until now, they are still abusing their power).”
Garcia's family, who spent Christmas in the Cebu Capitol, became involved in deeper tensions after Garcia's son, Pablo "Paulo" Garcia Codilla III, became the subject of a direct assault complaint filed by Inspector Alvino Enguito.
Paulo allegedly struck Enguito's head several times when the latter dismantled tents inside the Capitol grounds on Wednesday, December 19, the same day Garcia was suspended.
In return, Paulo on Wednesday, December 26, filed robbery charges against Enguito, Roxas and other Region 7 officials for forcibly taking and withholding tents he rented for a prayer vigil in the Capitol.
Garcia was served a 6-month suspension order from the Office of the President on December 19, but the governor has refused to leave her office, calling the suspension illegal. She has challenged her suspension before the Court of Appeals.
Policemen continue to guard Capitol grounds amid the standoff, which has become a national issue interspersed with political dynamics.
"No end to persecution"
Paulo's sister Christina Garcia Codilla-Frasco said the charges filed against Roxas and his men stemmed from 100 PNP members storming into Capitol grounds and forcibly dismantling and withholding prayer vigil tents.
She told Rappler that her brother asked police for a written order but was "waylaid and pushed."
Roxas is part of the complaint for allegedly ordering top police officials to dismantle the tents. Aside from Enguito, Central Visayas Police Regional Director Marcelo Garbo and PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion Commanding Director Leopoldo Cabanag are subjects of the complaint as well.
"There is no end to their persecution," Christina said in a text to Rappler.
She added that Gov Garcia may possibly file a future case in relation to Paolo's complaint.
"We have objected to the illegal actions of the PNP in the Capitol since day one, namely garrisoning the area, surrounding us with hundred of armed police, destructing Sugbo TV satellite, preventing entry and conducting illegal search of people at the gate," she said.
"We are presently studying the legal recourse available to as a consequence of these acts."
Part of mandate
Aside from Roxas taking exception to the reactions of Garcia's camp, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it still has not received nor seen an official copy of the complaint filed by Paolo.
In a statement, DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero also defended policemen, saying he is "confident that the PNP in Cebu know what they are doing and their actions are consistent with established crowd control protocols."
He added that the DILG's role in serving Garcia's suspension is part of the department's mandate, and pursuant to the Office of the President's directive.
The DILG also said the tents are all accounted for and are in the hands of the PNP for safekeeping. It said the dismantling was "part of police efforts to maintain peace and order in the Capitol ground."
Cash flow problem?
Meanwhile, the provincial government is reportedly experiencing a cash flow problem according to Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre.
In a press briefing, they explained that the money in the province's coffers is not enough to cover Cebu's outstanding financial obligations, worth P200 million.
Salubre recommended that Acting Governor Agnes Magpale settle its current obligations, presenting a cash report that showed only P90 million was available in the general fund.
He said this was the "first time" in recent years that the Capitol was "short of funds to settle our payable," while other officials said that Sugbo TV and Sugbo News, which are allegedly used for political propaganda, take up most of the province's expenditures. - Rappler.com