MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang aired the hope on Sunday that former President Joseph Estrada, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile would not encourage suspended Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to dig in more, and instead convince her to respect the rule of law.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said it would be prudent for all government officials to “adhere strictly to the rule of law’’ given the already tense situation in the Cebu provincial government arising from Garcia’s defiance of a six-month suspension order on an administrative complaint.
“I hope not,’’ he said in a text message when asked if Garcia’s suspension would lead to a showdown between the administration Liberal Party and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance. “There is a judicial process that is in play now after Garcia petitioned for TRO with the CA.’’
Meantime, all parties, especially government officials, “must adhere strictly to the rule of law so as not to aggravate the already tense situation,’’ added the most senior political adviser to President Aquino.
Estrada, Binay and Enrile — the three top leaders of the UNA — took some by surprise when they flew to Garcia’s succor Sunday morning as she questioned the suspension order enforced by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Binay’s political nemesis.
The suspension had to do with grave abuse of authority and stemmed from the complaint of usurpation of authority filed by then Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez in 2010. Sanchez died of cancer a year later.
Garcia, a member of the politically entrenched Garcia clan, had petitioned the Court of Appeals to stop the Department of the Interior and Local Government from implementing the order, and decided to hole up in her office at the provincial capitol pending the outcome of the case.
Abad also hoped that the act of Estrada, Binay and Enrile to be by Garcia’s side did not encourage her to defy the government, and instead appealed to her to “respect the rule of law.’’
“Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Binay are responsible public officials who should be the first to uphold the rule of law. That may be an appeal they can present to Governor Garcia to ease the tension there,’’ he said.
“I am certain that the last thing they would want to do is encourage or tolerate mob rule,’’ he added.
Citing reports, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, said that Enrile himself has spoken about “following the rule of law.’’
“And so certainly it’s laudable that we, as responsible government officials, would encourage each other to follow the rule of law. I don’t think they were there to further divide the government. If true, certainly we welcome the statement of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to encourage Governor Gwen Garcia to follow the rule of law,’’ Lacierda said over government-run dzRB.
After all the case was investigated before a final decision was issued by the Office of the President, Lacierda said. “This is what the LP has been explaining to the UNA: politics has nothing to do with this. It went through a process, and that process should be respected. There is a presumption of regularity in the action of the Office of the President,’’ he said.
Lacierda said LP members themselves were not spared administrative complaints and eventually, administrative sanctions.
“We saw that in (the case of) the LP governor who manhandled a radio personality…We saw that when we filed a case against [Pagadian City] Mayor Sammy Co who is also a Liberal Party member,’’ he said. Co was involved in an investment scam.
Lacierda clarified that Garcia was under suspension, not merely preventive suspension, and should respect the rule of law, while waiting for the CA resolution on her petition.
Lacierda also said that local surveys in Cebu showed wide support for her suspension.
“We certainly encourage Governor Garcia to follow the rule of law. We’ve been monitoring the situation in Cebu and, based on what we have heard, the suspension has popular support among the people of Cebu based on the local survey. And, we certainly would encourage Governor Garcia to follow the process,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, acting Gov. Agnes Magpales has taken the “necessary steps’’ to ensure that the business of governing Cebu would not be hampered by the standoff, Lacierda said.
“So we would certainly encourage Governor Garcia to follow the rule of law. She has filed a complaint or a petition before the Court of Appeals and, until such time that it will be acted by the Court of Appeals, we would encourage Governor Garcia to follow the legal processes. We have not done that except as to say that we encourage her to follow the rule of law,’’ he said.
Lacierda said they would leave it to the DILG the handling of the Cebu situation should Garcia continue to hole up in her office in the capitol.
“Even as she is holed up in the Cebu provincial capital, if I’m not mistaken, like I said the business of governance is ongoing. Acting Governor Magpale’s orders are being honored by the provincial government. Her valid orders are being executed by the province of Cebu and its different agencies,’’ he said.