Provincial board recommends suspension of Cebu town mayor

Dale G. Israel

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Provincial board recommends suspension of Cebu town mayor
Allies of controversial Dumanjug town Mayor Nelson Garcia, however, succeed in postponing the approval of the decision for another week

CEBU CITY, Philippines – After getting online flak for comments against dolphins and whale-sharks, Dumanjug town Mayor Nelson Garcia is facing yet another problem – this time, for an impending suspension over a “grave abuse of authority” case filed against him. 

The Cebu Provincial Board committee on investigation on Monday, March 2, recommended the suspension of Garcia but allies of the mayor succeeded in postponing the approval of the decision for about a week. 

After about an hour of discussion, the board – mostly composed of members of the administration Liberal Party (LP) – gave in to the request of the minority One Cebu Party to give them one week to read the committee report. 

Mayor Garcia was at the gallery during the deliberations and listened to the discussions. The session included two “recesses” that allowed board members to argue off record. In the end, the body decided in favor of deferment due to “humanitarian” reasons. 

Kadtong resolution niya ni Board Member Sanchez puro bakak (The resolution of the committee are all lies),” said Garcia, who said he believes he can not get a fair trial with the LP majority Provincial Board. 

The case – filed by Dumanjug Vice Mayor Efren Guntrano “Gun-gun” Gica of the Liberal Party – stemmed from Garcia’s move to designate a municipal secretary, a function that was supposedly under the powers of the vice mayor. 

Garcia made it to national headlines in February for saying that he was in favor of killing of whale sharks and dolphins as they consume tons of fish, which he said decreases the catch of fisherfolks. 

In an interview after the session, Garcia said he will seek legal remedies when the Provincial Board finally gives the green light for his suspension. 

“I have 30 days to make my move. After 30 days, I can file a motion at the Office of the President and this order, everything will be halted,” said Garcia, a member of the local One Cebu Party. 

Provincial Board Member Grecilda Sanchez, vice chair of the committee on investigation, read the committee report during the Monday plenary session. 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

During the session, Board Member Joven Mondigo, who is allied with the Garcias, reminded his colleagues of another case filed at the Office of the President. He said that it would be better to wait for replies from the Office of the President. 

Another One Cebu party ally, Board Member Alex Binghay, told the body that he was not able to read the committee report as he only saw it an hour before session started. Another board member Sun Shimura shared the same manifestation.

Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who presided over the session, called for a recess twice before the body decided to defer approval. The case will be discussed again on Monday, March 9. 

CONTROVERSIAL. Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia says the case is nothing but a 'grand conspiracy' between the Cebu Provincial Board and his vice mayor. File photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

Background of the case

Garcia sought the case to be dismissed. He said this was merely was a political exercise and a “grand conspiracy” between members of the Board and his Vice Mayor. He added that he was not given a chance to air his side of the story before the board as a whole. 

“I have asked them to just give me a chance to air my side in one session so that the Board Members will be able to look at the truth of the issue at hand,” Garcia said in the vernacular. 

Garcia designated Emmylou Cabonillas as Sangguniang Bayan secretary on June 25, 2013 and again on September 8, 2014, preventing the vice mayor from appointing a Sangguniang Bayan secretary as provided for in the local government code. Garcia already served a six-month preventive suspension because of the same case. 

“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 committee said that Garcia also did not deny the accusations that he appointed a Sangguniang Bayan secretary aside from other established facts. 

“The respondent Mayor clearly constituted 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,” Sanchez read from the committee report.

“The committee will not close its eyes and tolerate the acts of the respondent mayor, lest it becomes a bad precedent, a tool for crippling the branches of government, and an example which is definitely not worth emulating,” the report added. 

The committee on investigation is chaired by Arleigh Sitoy and its members include Sanchez, Raul Alcoseba, Peter John Calderon, Christopher Baricuatro, and Miguel Antonio Magpale. – 

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