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Gwen Garcia locked out of Cebu governor's office

CEBU CITY, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - After almost a month, the provincial government of Cebu has finally reclaimed the Office of the Governor. 

Suspended Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn "Gwen" Garcia left her office on Tuesday evening to visit three towns in the southern part of the province, and the space was padlocked by the police while she was away.

Acting Cebu Gov. Agnes Magpale issued an order to secure the entire wing of the capitol where the governor’s office is situated. 

“We have tolerated it for the longest time. But since we discovered that she left the office last night (January 29). This is just too much, and as the administrator of the building I have to secure the place,” Magpale said in a News 5 Cebu report.

On his Twitter account, Garcia's younger brother, Cebu 3rd District Rep Pablo John Garcia, hinted that his sister still planned to return to her office.

Rep Garcia tweeted a photo with his sister and their father, Deputy Speaker and Cebu 2nd District Rep Pablo Garcia, in Oslob.

The suspended governor is running to replace her brother as representative of Cebu's 3rd district. 

Magpale also explained that the province can no longer spend for the electricity used in Garcia's office. 

"Tama na talaga ito. One month and 11 days. Sobra na, abuso na ito." (This has got to stop. This is enough. This is abusive.) 

Garcia's daughter and lawyer, Christina Garcia-Frasco, protested the police's move also on Twitter.

FOLLOWING ORDERS.

Policemen padlocked the office upon orders from the Cebu acting governor

Office shut tight

At around 2 pm, a team from the maintenance department of the Legislative Building sealed two main doors leading to the governor’s office.

Policemen secured the entrances with large wood planks and chains.

Supt Leopoldo Cabanag, chief of Regional Public Safety Battalion No. 7, told reporters that they were given strict orders to prevent anyone from entering the governor’s office.

Garcia’s lawyers, Ramsey Quijano and Lito Astillero, tried but failed to convince Magpale’s counsel Dara Acusar to postpone the implementation of the order.

RESTRICTED AREA.

Any person entering the padlocked office would be arrested for trespassing

A verbal tassel ensued between two parties until Garcia’s lawyers eventually gave in to Magpale’s order.

The acting governor's counsel warned those who insisted in staying in the governor’s office that they would be charged with trespassing if they refused to vacate the area.

“We have tolerated the presence of the suspended governor. And as suspended governor, she’s not entitled to an office anymore,” Magpale said.

Garcia responded from Oslob: “As duly elected governor, I am entitled to an office. And that office is the Office of the Governor. I see no reason why they (Magpale) need to padlock it. They locked it, they have the keys…that’s a new case of robbery.”

LAWYERS QUARREL.

Conversation between Acting Cebu Gov Agnes Magpale and her lawyer Dara Acusar

Suspension order

This is not the first time Garcia left her office since holing up in the capitol. Early this month, she briefly stepped out to dance at the Sinulog festival. Yet that time, she was able to return. 

Garcia has holed up in her office at the capitol since the Office of the President issued a suspension order on her last December 2012.

The Office of the President suspended Garcia for 6 months for grave abuse of authority in bypassing the Office of the Vice Governor and the provincial council in hiring contractual employees.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government ordered Magpale to take over. Magpale has been taking office in another building at the capitol.

SHUT TIGHT.

The door to the Cebu governor's office is locked with wooden planks and chains by the police

Garcia is fighting her suspension order, filing a petition before the Court of Appeals. The Court held oral arguments in her case this month but did not issue a temporary restraining order.

The Garcia camp has cried "political persecution," accusing Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of playing politics. Garcia is a member of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Magpale is part of Roxas' ruling Liberal Party (LP). Roxas is LP president on leave. The acting governor is the running mate of the rival of Rep Pablo John Garcia, LP gubernatorial bet Hilario "Junjun" Davide III.  

Roxas and President Benigno Aquino III though rejected claims of a power grab, saying Garcia should follow the rule of law by stepping down. - Rappler.com