Palace: We’ll deal with Cebu’s Garcia after holidays

Ayee Macaraig
Will Suspended Cebu Gov Gwen Garcia be evicted before the end of the year?

MONDAY EVICTION? Embattled Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia says police "threatened" to evict her from the provincial capitol by Monday. Malacañang says it is not aware of any such order and will deal with the issue after the holidays. File photo from Christina Frasco's Twitter account

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – Suspended Cebu Governor Gwendolyn “Gwen” Garcia warned of a plan to evict her from the provincial capitol soon but Malacañang said it will deal with the issue after the holidays. 

On Saturday, December 29, Garcia posted on Twitter that Police Regional Office 7 Director Marcelo Garbo Jr threatened to physically remove her from the capitol by Monday, December 31.

Garcia’s daughter, lawyer Christina Garcia Frasco, explained to Rappler that she got information from local reporters that Garbo gave her mother the Monday “ultimatum.”

Rappler’s calls to Garbo have been unanswered as of posting time. 

Yet Palace Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said he was not aware of any order given to the Philippine National Police to evict Garcia.

“The order I know is for maximum tolerance. We will deal with the issue after the holidays,” Carandang told Rappler in a phone interview on Saturday, December 29.

Frasco though said Garcia plans to stay in the capitol “until we have exhausted all legal remedies.” She warned the police that her mother will resist eviction.

“We filed a petition for review with prayer for TRO. Gen Garbo has no right to physically remove her without a court order. That is tantamount to kidnapping. We will fight that legally with full force,” Frasco said.

Garcia questioned her suspension before the Court of Appeals last December 20. She asked the court to review the decision of the Office of the President to suspend her for 6 months for grave abuse of authority.

The Office of the President ruled that she abused her authority in hiring contractual employees without prior authorization from the Office of the Vice Governor and the provincial council. It stems from a case filed by the late Cebu Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr in November 2010.

Garcia has remained holed up in the Cebu provincial capitol for over a week now, insisting that her suspension was “patently illegal” and not personally served.

Asked if Garcia will spend New Year in the capitol, Frasco said, “She spent Christmas there. We are prepared to spend New Year there, too.”

Frasco said supporters continued to visit her mother in past days, including resigned Sen Juan Miguel Zubiri and the president’s aunt, former Tarlac Gov Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco.

SECOND VISIT. Former Tarlac Governor Tingting Cojuangco visits suspended Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia for the second time in the provincial capitol last week. Photo from Christina Frasco's Twitter account

Last Sunday, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada also visited Garcia in a show of support and have since defended her. 

The three are top leaders of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), where Garcia is a member and congressional candidate for Cebu’s 3rd district. Zubiri and Cojuangco are UNA senatorial candidates.

Garcia and UNA have cried political persecution, accusing the ruling Liberal Party (LP) of orchestrating a “power grab” in Cebu. Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II is LP president on leave. (For more on the political dynamics, click here.) 

SolGen responds to TRO plea

Carandang confirmed that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its response to Garcia’s petition before the Court of Appeals.

He told Rappler that the OSG filed its response on behalf of the Executive Branch last week. Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza has directed media queries on the response to Malacañang.

“The argument is that the suspension order is final and executory. You can’t TRO it. You can’t revisit it anymore,” Carandang said. 

The Communications Secretary also responded to Garcia’s refusal to stand down.

“You cannot choose what laws to comply with and not to comply with. If the courts rule in her favor, she will be reinstated but there is no court order saying the suspension is invalid.”

“There was a petition filed before the court. In the absence of a TRO, that’s presumed to be a legal order. She has no business staying in the capitol while there is no TRO,” Carandang added. 

Province bankrupt?

Garcia also issued a statement Saturday responding to the press conference of Acting Governor Agnes Magpale on the province’s finances. Upon taking her oath of office, Magpale said her first priority is to look into the financial status of the provincial government. 

Garcia said Magpale’s statement that the province is bankrupt is “irresponsible as it is false.”

In the press briefing earlier this week, Magpale and Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre said that the money in the province’s coffers is not enough to cover Cebu’s outstanding financial obligations, worth P200 million.

Salubre presented a report that showed only P90 million was available in the general fund. He said that only the general fund can be used and the estimated payables in his office is already almost P200 million.

In response, Garcia said Magpale “conveniently omits” that the province has a Trust Fund amounting to over P204 million and a Special Education Fund worth P61 million.

Garcia added that the province has a total of P387 million in cash in bank and assets of over P28 billion. She said Magpale also omitted projected revenues that will cover Cebu’s projected payables.

Provincial Board Member Peter John Calderon has said though that the trust fund is used for specific purposes while the general fund is used for the capitol’s payables. –  

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