Changes have begun as a new administration under Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale started looking into expenses of TV and radio programs paid for by the Cebu provincial government.
Magaple also requested for policemen to guard sensitive offices in the Capitol compound including the treasurer’s office and TV facilities.
The 24-hour cable program Sugbo TV, a pet project of suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, was temporarily shut down on Friday.
Three AM radio stations were also sent letters notifying the management that pending review, block-time announcers on province-paid programs should not go on air without the approval of Magpale.
She assured that payments will still be made to the radio stations following the terms of the contracts, which expire on Dec. 31.
The letters were sent to radio station dyLA, dyRF and dyKC which air the daily program “One Cebu” or “Hiniusang Sugbo”, the name of the political party led by Garcia.
“Pending the outcome of the review, I am requesting you in my capacity as the acting Chief Executive of Cebu to immediately restrain and disallow any and all persons from anchoring Capitol paid radio programs in your station, unless prior approval from the undersigned is first sought,” said Magpale’s letter dated Dec. 20.
A radio dyLA station official confirmed receiving the letter on Friday.
Station manager Jun Tagalog said that even before he got the letter, he took the program off the air two days earlier when the suspension order on Garcia was served.
He said the Province of Cebu was a “valued client” whose contract has been existing for more than five years with repeated contract renewals. The show was airing 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Magpale, who took her oath as acting governor four days ago, said she was concerned about the Capitol’s state of finances and how government-paid programs were allegedly being used for propaganda of the One Cebu party.
She said she had to request for police assistance for this.
“Maybe they will call it an overkill but there’s so much to protect in the Capitol – documents, contracts, and expensive equipment of Sugbo TV,” she said in a dyLA interview.
The province pays US$14,000 a month for the satellite uplink of Sugbo TV and P100,000 a month to Skycable, she said, based on revelations of the governor’s chief of staff in a budget hearing of the Provincial Board last Dec. 10.
At the time, Magpale was raising questions about why blocktimers paid by the Capitol were “attacking the opposition on air” and whether this was part of “promotion” in the annual budget.
THREAT TO SUE
Rep. Pablo John Garcia threatened to sue.
“We will certainly file a case. Sugbo TV has contractual obligations to certain carriers. The province may suffer damages,” said Garcia’s brother, who observed that people were asking why Sugbo TV was no longer on air.
Pablo John said Magpale should stop using her “questioned powers.”
“Magpale will never be governor. Even if she is acting governor, there is still a governor. Governor Gwen’s functions may be suspended but she is still the governor,” said the congressman, who is running to fill his sister’s seat in the 2013 election.
Gwendolyn Garcia, whose speeches and public appearances are documented in detail by the in-house TV crew, said she was “saddened for Cebuanos” by what’s happening and didn’t expect the vice governor to close the cable TV station.
She crticized Magaple, calling her action one done “under orders by over-acting….we know who’s over-acting.”
Expansion plans were afoot for Sugbo TV, which was launched in 2008.
Twelve cable operators signed an agreement in 2011 to show the program in different parts of the Philippines.
Last May, the Capitol advertised bids for the construction of a P3.67 million Sugbo TV Building in the Capitol compound.
Its programs include features on Cebu tourist destinations, heritage sites and trends, but critics also noted that Sugbo TV was mainly promoting only one official, Gwendolyn Garcia.
Sugbo TV’s office in the Capitol and a separate studio – an air-conditioned container van located next to a satellite dish – were locked and placed under police guard since Friday.
Its 35 casual workers, whose contracts end on Dec. 31, were advised to return to work after Christmas.
Magpale said she instructed the operations head of Sugbo TV to submit the names of the staff and details of their work. A review committee will recommended whether the casual employees would be rehired.
Police reported an attempt by Congressman Garcia to reopen the Sugbo TV office but he was stopped.
“I’m receiving the report now. There’s an attempt to reopen so I gave another order to secure the place and dili gyud tugutan (not allow it at all)”, said Magpale yesterday.
The Provincial Board in past weeks has been discussing the need to define the role of the Capitol’s media arms like Sugbo TV, Sugbu News and other forms of media exposure.
A proposed ordinance “Enhancing the functions of the Provincial Information Office” was filed by PB Member Arleigh Sitoy.
Sugbo News, the official publication of the governor’s office, will also be reviewed but Magaple said she learned that the bi-monthly magazine stopped publication five months ago due to purchasing problems.
About 50,000 copies of the full-color, tabloid-size magazine were printed per issue and distributed in restaurants, schools, and government offices.
Under the proposed 2013 budget of Cebu province, Sugbo TV will have a budget of P8 million next year.
Sugbo News will have a budget allocation of P22 million for printing./Correspondents Jhunnex Napallacan amd Carmel Matus