CEBU CITY, Philippines – After a one week postponement, the Cebu Provincial Board on Monday, March 9. finally approved “unanimously” the investigation committee report suspending Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia for 6 months over a “grave abuse of authority” case filed against him.
Garcia will, however, get a 30-day window to submit his response to the decision. During Monday’s session, Garcia’s allies at the provincial board did not register any objections but made appeals to shorten the mayor’s suspension from 6 months to only three months.
Garcia earlier threatened to sue the entire Provincial Board if they suspend him. But after the resolution was approved Monday, Garcia said he still needs to study the details of the investigation committee before making any legal moves.
Garcia was seated at the gallery during the session. Unlike last week, Garcia’s allies did not move to block the approval of the suspension order.
Even Provincial Board Member Sun Shimura, a known Garcia ally, said he agrees with the committee report decision finding the mayor guilty of the charges.
“Uyon man gyud mi sa decision sa committee report, at fault man gyud ang mayor. Ours was just to reduce the penalty (to only three months) for humanitarian reasons,” Shimura told Rappler in an interview. Shimura belongs to the minority bloc affiliated with One Cebu Party.
(We agree with the decision of hte committee report, the mayor was really at fault. Ours was just to reduce the penalty (to only 3 months) for humanitarian reasons.)
The board members did not engage in lengthy discussions during the session. The board approved the committee report after Majority leader Arleigh Sitoy presented it to the body.
Board Member Alex Binghay of the opposition bloc One Cebu Party asked the Board to shorten the suspension term to three months. The Board referred his request to the committee for further study. Sitoy moved to adjourn afterwards.
Garcia, of the One Cebu Party, is facing suspension orders from the provincial board over the “grave abuse of authority” case filed against him by his vice mayor Guntrano Gica of the Liberal Party. The case questioned Garcia’s move to designate a municipal secretary – a function that is supposedly under the vice mayor’s jurisdiction.
During the Tanon Strait Summit in February, the controversial mayor earned criticism for favoring the killing of whale sharks and dolphins. He said they consume tons of fish, which in turn decreases the catch of fisherfolks.
In an interview after the Monday’s session, Garcia said the whole process is politically motivated and pointed at Board Member Grecilda Sanchez as being the individual behind the case. Sanchez is the daughter of the late vice governor Gregorio Sanchez, whose complaint led to the suspension of then governor Gwen Garcia in December 2012.
Unlike last week, Mayor Garcia’s comments on the case were limited by an accompanying lawyer.
In a separate interview, Sanchez said that it would be an insult to the “intelligence” of entire Provincial Board to say that the case was her doing all along.
“It was a collective effort, a collective decision,” Sanchez said.
In June 2013, Garcia designated Emmylou Cabonillas as Sangguniang Bayan secretary, preventing the mayor from appointing one for the position as provided for in the local government code.
“Being the Municipal Mayor, the respondent is expected to be knowledgeable about the basic principle of separation of powers between the executive and the legislative, which is strengthened by the Local Government Code,” the committee report read.
“The respondent Mayor clearly constitutes an undue interference on the functions of the complainant Vice Mayor and consequently an undue interference in the legislative branch of the Municipality of Dumanjug which is the Sangguniang Bayan,” it added.
The report also said: “The committee will not close its eyes and tolerate the acts of the respondent mayor, lest it become a bad precedent, a tool for crippling the branches of government, and an example which is definitely not worth emulating.”
The committee on investigation is chaired by Sitoy, with Sanchez as vice chairman, and Raul Alcoseba, Peter John Calderon, Christopher Baricuatro and Miguel Antonio Magpale as members. – Rappler.com
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