Gwen slams ‘forces of division’ in State of the Province AddressBy Ador Vincent Mayol, Carmel Loise Matus, Marian Z. Codilla
Cebu Daily News
Addressing a full plenary hall in the Cebu International Convention Center, she repeatedly denounced what she called the “forces of division” and gave less attention to a prepared accomplishment report of her last eight years.
The emotional speech was a much-awaited response to graft charges filed against her and seven others before the Sandiganbayan just a day before in connection with the 2008 purchase of land in the Bailli estate in Naga City, which turned out to be largely underwater.
Three hours before her SOPA, Garcia posted cash bail of P90,000 in a judge’s office to head off an arrest warrant. However, she faces a 60-day preventive suspension ahead, which the Visayas Deputy Ombudsman said was “mandatory”. (See story on page 2)
Garcia described the graft case as a malicously timed personal attack and appealed to Cebuanos to support her.
“Would you allow dirty politics to destroy the opportunity to have your first woman governor your first woman senator?” she asked the crowd.
The audience applauded and replied “Dili” (no).
In the front row were Garcia’s new Manila-based allies in the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, former president Joseph Estrada, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and several fellow senatorial aspirants.
Also there showing their support were Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and former congressman Antonio Cuenco of the PDP-Laban.
The plenary hall was filled with barangay, town and city officials in Cebu province, including health workers, tanods, and fisherfolk wearing T-shirts that said “Gwen Garcia, One Philippines”. (See related story on page 2.)
The guest list included PNP officials, business chamber leaders, and private sector partners of Capitol programs.
In her 40-minute speech, Garcia said Cebu “remains the undisputed no. 1 province in the country” with no debts and that assets grew from P28.6 billion in 2010 to P29 billion at the end of December 2011.
“I can finally say now on my final term as governor that the state of the province is strong, and even stronger than it has ever been,” she said.
“In one short year, I will leave this office hopeful that I have helped create Cebu a more unified than what it was in 2004,” said Garcia of her third term as governor.
“But the forces of division will always be there, conspiring as they are now, to divide us Cebuanos, city or province, south or north, this party or that party, to satisfy the narrow interest of a few,” she said.
Garcia said some people wanted to keep others away from attending the SOPA and that the timing of the Sandiganbayan cases was suspicious.
“My eight years in politics have thought me that in this enterprise where timing is everything. There is no such thing as a coincidence. I guess it is foremost, in each and everyone of your minds, of the impeccable timing of the information by the Ombudsman right today before the Sandiganbayan and the immediate raffling of the cases filed against me,” Garcia said.
Garcia mentioned no names, in lashing out at her critics and “the ugly hand of political harassment and political persecution”.
“In fact, they wanted to put me in prison so I could not give you an accounting of the province,” she said.
She said she learned about “my impending arrest planned for this day of the SOPA” from “a well-placed and well-timed leak in media. The same rehashed and answered charges that they three years ago had hoped would keep you from reelecting me as governor,” she added.
Garcia said she would “fight for Cebu” and “won’t let anybody defeat me.”
“For myself, I shall stand my ground and endure this early storm which the returning dark clouds of traditional politics bring and will fight to the last destination of this, our continuing voyage,” she said.
The governor said she was touched by people who tell her “Pag-makaisog Gwen. Ania mi para mi para nimo. We are here for you Gwen.’”
As she had announced earlier, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale did not attend the SOPA with other members of her Bakud party to avoid a “clash” of rival political parties. Absent were Provincial Board Members Judge Sybico, Ivy Remedios Durano-Meca and mayors and officials from the 5th district.
PB Member Thadeo Ouano and Arleigh Sitoy were also not there. But 10 other legislators attended.
In the Balili land scam, the provincial government bought 24.7 hectares of land owned by the late engineer Luis Balili in barangay Tinaan in Naga City and paid P98.9 million.
A survey of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) confirmed that 82 percent or 20.2 hectares out of the 24.7 hectare Balili property in Naga was timberland or public land and therefore not subject for sale.