Magpale padlocks Cebu Capitol

Suspended Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia is in fighting mode as she addresses the people of Oslob town to launch a briefing center for whaleshark watchers.

CEBU CITY — Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia mocked a suspension order from Malacañang by barricading herself at the Provincial Capitol for 43 days, but the situation turned around on Wednesday when she sneaked out to attend a social function and found herself locked out.

Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who was designated by President Aquino as Acting Governor following the suspension of Garcia on December 19, ordered police to put padlocks on Garcia’s office, and she posted guards outside the door.

“I have specific instructions to the police and to the civilian security unit not to let her (Garica) in if she comes back,” Magpale said.

Garcia, who served two terms as governor and has declared her candidacy for congressman in Cebu’s third district under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), sneaked out on Tuesday night to attend an inauguration of a training center in Oslob town, about 100 kms south of the city.

It was the second time she left her office since the lock-in. She went out to dance on the streets of the city during the Sinulog festival last week and then returned inside her barricades.

Although her suspension and decision to lock herself in served as rallying point for UNA, which now proclamed Cebu as opposition bailiwick, Garcia said she will not force her way back.

“Over the weekend, the mayors told me that the people already want to see me. So, I left Tuesday night so I can be with the people,” she told the Manila Standard Today.

“I have already made my point. I did not step down. I just went out to be with the people. That office belongs to the duly elected governor of Cebu. By padlocking that office, they padlocked the people’s right to enter the governor’s office,” she said.

Magpale said water and electricity in Garcia’s office were cut off and members of the media and supporters waiting for Garcia to return have been told to clear out of the office.

“The entrance has been locked. There were still 10 people inside the governor’s office. They were told to leave. Nobody can get inside,” Magpale said.

She also closed down the social hall and conference rooms near the governor’s office, which were used by Garcia’s supporters as sleeping quarters.

“They hang their clothes and sleep there. It’s not a hotel,” said Dara Acusar, Magpale’s legal and media affairs consultant.
But Garcia’s daughter, lawyer Christina Frasco, said closing down the governor’s office was illegal because a pending petition at the Court of Appeals questioning her suspension.

“The act of padlocking the governor’s office is illegal. First, because as we have maintained from the very beginning, the suspension is illegal. Second. Because we filed a petition before the Court of Appeals, which is still under adjudication,” Frasco said.

“She (Garica) has the right to return to her office … precisely because she has not been removed but has been merely illegally suspended,” Frasco said.

UNA Secretary General Toby Tiangco said the opposition would meet to discuss the issue and map out plans.