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Gwen won’t give up governor’s seat

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VICE Gov. Agnes Magpale takes her oath as acting governor of Cebu province. CARMEL LOUISE MATUS/INQUIRER VISAYAS

CEBU CITY—Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia refused to heed the six-month suspension order issued by the Office of the President after she was found guilty of  grave abuse of authority, calling it “power grab.”

She told a news conference at the capitol building on Wednesday that she issued an executive order announcing that she remains to be governor and that all provincial government employees should follow her.

She said she issued the order “just to clear the confusion.” “I am the chief executive of this provincial government and our department heads shall follow orders from the duly elected and duly installed governor with a mandate from the Cebuano people,” said the defiant Garcia.

“This is plain and simple power grab. What they are doing is clearly an abuse of power,” she said.

Garcia said suspending her for six months was tantamount to removing her from office.

“That it is imposed five months before an election, in which the ruling party is making a bid for this office, to ensure that a party member and ruling party candidate [and  sister of a Cabinet secretary] sits at the helm of the province during the election period, drowns out the feeble legal arguments upon which the entire case rests,” she said.

She was referring to Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, the sister of Secretary Rene Almendras, who belongs to President Aquino’s inner circle. Magpale is running for vice governor under the Liberal Party with former Councilor Hilario Davide III as governor.

But the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Central Visayas said it will recognize only Magpale as acting Cebu governor.

Ananias Villacorta, DILG director for Central Visayas, said he has issued notices to government offices to recognize Magpale as acting governor.

The suspension is a result of a complaint filed by the late Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez in 2010 against Garcia, accusing Garcia of cutting the vice governor’s budget by 61 percent and stripping the vice governor of authority to appoint staffers and consultants.

In her defense, Garcia said that under the Local Government Code, she had authority to appoint employees and allot funds.

Sanchez died of cancer on April 29, 2010, while the case was still pending.

Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas issued a memorandum directing Garcia to comply with the suspension order.

At least 200 supporters of Garcia assembled at the capitol grounds. Tents were put up and busloads of supporters were brought in, carrying placards with the words “We love Cebu. Junk Suspension.”

Garcia was not around when the suspension order was served. Her chief of staff, Elizabeth Francia, refused to receive the order, which was posted at the door of the governor’s office.

Vice Governor Magpale took her oath as acting governor at another building in the capitol compound.

Julian Daan, provincial board member, took an oath as acting vice governor.

In a news conference, the Garcia said that as far as she was concerned, she had not received a copy of her suspension order and would continue exercising the powers of the governor.

She said it puzzled her why the case survived the death of the complainant and the mandated 120-day period within which all administrative cases shall be terminated.

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Tags: Cebu , Gwendolyn Garcia , Politics

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