CEBU CITY—Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Thursday dared police to forcibly remove her from the governor’s office where she has been holed up since Wednesday after she was ordered suspended for six months, saying her removal could only happen “over my dead body.”
In Malacañang, a spokesperson for President Benigno Aquino appealed to Garcia to first respect the order and “avail [herself] of legal remedies.”
Abigail Valte, one of Mr. Aquino’s spokespersons, said while Garcia has yet to receive a legal remedy, “we appeal that the decision be respected and the suspension be followed.”
Valte said she does not foresee violence marring the standoff in the provincial capitol.
Garcia said she remains to be governor despite the oath taking of Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale as acting governor.
“I will continue to discharge my function as governor of Cebu and if they want to stop me, then they have to do that over my dead body,” she said at a press conference after meeting with her department heads for two hours.
Garcia said she was ready in case police try to forcibly remove her from office.
“I shall continue to hold office right here and they can only stop me if they will physically drag me out of this office,” she said.
She said her lawyers are seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the suspension order. She, however, declined to say which court the petition was filed in.
Garcia has been staying at her office at the capitol since Wednesday after the Department of the Interior and Local Government served the suspension order and installed Magpale as acting governor.
Garcia was ordered suspended based on the complaint filed by the late Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez in 2010, accusing her of usurpation of authority.
Security was tight at the capitol, which has been brimming with policemen.
A police truck was parked in front of the capitol grounds, which were barricaded and guarded by at least 30 policemen. Another police truck and a fire truck were parked at the gate leading to the governor’s office.
Police removed tents where Garcia supporters had gathered.
Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo, regional police chief, said he has yet to receive an order to use the “full force of the law.”
Garbo said that police, however, now recognize Magpale as the legitimate governor.
Magpale admitted that department heads in the provincial capitol did not heed her call for a meeting.
“If they will not heed my orders, I will charge them with insubordination,” she said.
Asked to comment about Cebu having two governors, Magpale replied: “For the record, there’s only one governor and she’s acting governor Agnes Magpale.”
Garcia said the capitol’s department heads had assured her of continuing loyalty. She said the officials “all came to reaffirm their commitment to the duly elected governor.”
“As far as they are concerned, there’s only one governor and it is the governor who was given the mandate by Cebuanos not just once, not just twice but three times, and that governor is Gwen Garcia,” said Garcia.
At least 26 incumbent and former mayors also went to the capitol to express support for Garcia, according to her brother, Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia, head of the League of Municipalities in the Philippines (LMP)-Cebu chapter.
The province has 44 towns and seven cities under its jurisdiction.
The mayor said the LMP would issue a statement declaring support for his sister.
Garcia warned that banks holding deposits of the capitol would be in trouble if they recognized another authorized signatory.
Magpale said she has written to the banks to inform them that she was the acting governor of Cebu. With reports from Chito O. Aragon and Carmel Loise Matus, Inquirer Visayas