Binay warns Cebu cops not to force out Garcia

MANILA — The Office of the Vice President on Sunday warned police officials in Cebu against using force to carry out threats to remove suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who has lived in her office in the past two weeks in defiance of a suspension order imposed by Malacañang for alleged abuse of authority.

Ira Pozon, head of the Vice President’s Office for Special Concerns, said Police Central Visayas Regional Director Marcelo Garbo should abandon plans to physically take out Garcia from the Capitol because it was an “un-Christian and provocative act” that could heighten the tension in the province.

“Can Garbo guarantee that there will be no injuries or casualties if he pushed through with the forcible removal of Garcia?” Pozon asked.

Garcia, who spent Christmas with her family in her office, has asked the Court of Appeals to stop the six-month suspension that covered the last remaining months of her term. Malacañang has designated Vice Governor Agnes Magpale as Acting Governor, and she claimed last week that the provincial treasury was almost bankrupt.

The suspension has rattled political alliances and members of the ruling coalition led by President Aquino’s Liberal Party. In the House of Representatives several members threatened to bolt the coalition.

Pozon, sustaining the political assault on LP that Binay started last week, said Garbo should be transparent and declare where his orders came from if he will insist in removing Garcia despite her pending petition in court.

“Does this mean that you have received orders from higher ups, particulary the Secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government and the Director General of the National Police, or are you acting on your own?” Pozon asked.

“Due process and the rule of law, not to mention judicial courtesy, require that you hold in abeyance your decision to remove the governor from the provincial capitol,” he said.

He said resorting to violence to remove Garcia was “un-Christain considering that we are still observing the the most joyous season for Catholics” and Garbo should work to maintain peace and order in the province and not to spark unrest.

“We hope that you will be discerning and responsible enough to realize that physically removing the governor from her office while the process of appeal is not yet complete invites charges of abuse of authority and violation of due process,” Pozon said.

Garcia, who has served two terms as governor and has announced plans to run for congressman in Cebu’s third district, lashed back at Magpale for misleading the public about the financial health of the province.

“It is utterly ironic that only six days before declaring the province bankrupt, Vice Governor Magpale boasted of giving bonuses in the amounts of P30,000 each to over 1,300 capitol employees, P10,000 more than the previous year. This is surely not the actuation of a bankrupt government institution,” she said.

She said the province has P90.4 million in the general fund, over P200 million held in trust, and receives P133 million monthly as its Internal Revenue Allotment.

In the Court of Appeals, officials said Garcia was not likely to get judicial relief until January 2 when the justices returned from the long holidays.

The appealate court did not act on her petition for temporary restraining order on her suspenion because two members — Associate Justices Vicente Veloso and Aurora Jane Lantion — went on leave to write decisions on pending cases.

Another member, Associate Justice Eduardo Peralta, was also on leave and was replaced by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, who could not act on the peitition because of the absence of the two members, a senior official said.

In the House of Representatives, a senior official of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said several of their members have entered into “secret pacts” with LP to ensure their re-election and in exchange support senatorial LP candidates.

“Majority of the members of the LP coalition have become our secret allies. There was a gentleman’s agreement. It was an unwritten rule that was also approved by the UNA top brass,” said UNA Secretary General and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco.

But the continued persecution of some political leaders in Cebu and Pangasinan, where charges of accepting P1 billion bribe was filed against the governor, have cause rifts in the coalition, Tiangco said.

NUP President and Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino has threatened to bolt the LP coalition as a result of alleged persecution by Malacanang of the governors of Cebu and Pangasinan.

“How can the NUP possibly support the LP coalition’s 12-member slate in Cebu when a family member of the supposed leaders that would campaign for them is being politically persecuted and harassed,” Antonino said.