IN Day 4 of the Capitol impasse, suspended Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia received visitors in her office, explaining for the nth time why she will be spending Christmas there instead of going home.
She sat in front of a brightly decorated Christmas tree to deliver a videotaped Christmas message for Consolacion residents, whose activity she won’t be able to attend.
In her message, she explained her case to the people and why her suspension was illegal.
She rarely leaves the office now, the better to avoid the risk of having it padlocked during her absence.
At one point, she approached news reporters who kept vigil with her to ask if they had eaten. She asked her staff to serve food – spaghetti, lechon, fruit salad, buko salad, lechon, kaldereta, and cassava cake.
She sleeps on a sofa bed brought in by the family so she can rest properly in a private room.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, one of her most powerful allies, is set to visit her later today.
Security at the Capitol premises is extra strict. To enter, one must present an ID and register in a logbook with policemen guarding the entrance gate of the compound, a practice that has spurred Garcia’s criticism that the Capitol has been turned into a “garrison”.
Even the vehicle of Archbishop Jose Palma wasn’t allowed to enter on Friday evening. The archbishop had to walk from the road to the Capitol building.
A senior Capitol career official visited Garcia yesterday to wish her a merry Christmas and ask her to “please understand” that he had to respect the new order of business at the Capitol.
She told Provincial Administrator Eduardo Habin to “pray for me”.
Habin, one of the oldest officials who served at the Capitol for 32 years, was one of the department heads who already expressed support for acting governor Agnes Magpale last Friday.
“I’m not loyal to an individual person but I’m loyal to the service”, Habin said.
No temporary restraining order was issued on Friday by the Court of Appeals in Manila where Garcia has sought relief.
“Well, I said I would stay here, so I’m still here,” said Garcia, who used stronger language two days ago when she said she would only leave the Capitol “over my dead body.”
Acting Governor Magpale, in a separate interview, said she hopes the archbishop advised her to follow the rule of law and peacefully leave the office.
In a light vein, Magpale had suggested that the running electric and water bills for the occupied wing of the governor’s office was a cause for concern.
“Mao gyud na kay kami ra ba gyud nagkasabot mi nga tipid-tipiron ang kwarta sa gobyerno kay we don’t have that much money,” she said.
Magpale said that while Cebu province may be the richest province in assets, that’s not true in terms of cash, as an ongoing financial review is finding out.
Garcia’s father, Rep. Pablo Garcia frowned on Magpale for questioning the continued stay of his daughter in the office.
“Only her functions were suspended but she is still entitled to an office”, Pablo said.
Worried about reports that the police plan to physically evict Gwen from the Capitol, the congressman said he called up Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo on Friday.
“They can be charged with kidnapping or grave coercion because that‘s unconstitutional. You cannot do that unless there’s a court order or a warrant”, Pablo said.
Pablo said if his daughter spends Christmas in her Capitol office, the family would be there with her and wait for the court to eventually issue a TRO.
In a press conference, seven visiting Barili town barangay captains complained of the difficulty of getting in. It took them 30 minutes to enter the Cebu Capitol. The police had to buy a logbook for them to register their names.
“We were asked what political party we came from. We were made to wait,” said barangay captain Romulo Cabanag.
Gwen bristled: “Why are they afraid to allow those who want to sympathize with me to enter? Those who want to visit Magpale are allowed to get inside. Are these policemen guardians of peace or guardians of Magpale?” Garcia said.
She said she would prepare a complaint on this.
“It seems that martial law is being implemented in Cebu, beginning in the Capitol.”