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GWEN’S FORTRESS

Capitol gets locked up to keep out police


The east wing of the Capitol, where the Governor’s Office is located, looks like a bunker ready for an assault.

French windows overlooking the quadrangle are boarded up with plywood and tied with aluminum wire.

All doors of the Capitol building on two floors have heavy chains and padlocks. A security guard checks anyone who wants to enter.

The extra security measures were personally supervised at dawn by suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who said she fears the police will try to raid her office and force her out to end a standoff that enters Day 14 and a New Year.

“We survived the night. We stand with courage,” she said in her Twitter post yesterday.

Garcia’s string of tweets from the previous night are reactions to what she indicated are signs of a pending eviction.

Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo, head of the Police Regional Office 7, denied sending a SWAT patrol to the Capitol on Monday dawn or setting a Dec. 31 deadline to remove the suspended official.

“That’s not true. We have no plan to remove her physically. We haven’t received such order from the PNP chief or the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government,” Garbo said in a radio dyLA interview.

“These people are politicians, they’re up to something. This is just a matter of projection,” he said.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma visited Garcia again at 6 p.m. and stayed for one hour before going on to his 9 p.m. New Year’s Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral.

“I will continue to pray for her,”he told reporters, but repeated that, like his first visit last week, their conversation will remain “confidential”.

Garcia later said he wished her a “hopeful New Year”.

Yesterday, several uniformed PNP officers assigned to secure Capitol offices were shut out. They couldn’t enter to start their morning shift. The doors were locked.

Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale, in a separate interview, said her standing order to the police to follow “super maximum tolerance” in the spirit of the Yuletide season is being carried out and that she was grateful that Garbo’s men have shown self-control even when provoked.

After Sunday’s pro-Garcia rally in front of the Capitol, which drew about 1,000 supporters with placards saying “Padayon Gwen” and “LP stop harassment”, Magplale said the next steps have to be discussed when work resumes on Jan. 2.

“We will have to assess the situation… we’ll see,” said Magpale.

Garcia is spending New Year’s Eve with her family inside a fortified Capitol as they continue to wait for the Court of Appeals in Manila to act on their petition for a temporary restraining order filed last Dec. 20.

Instead of issuing a TRO, the court asked the Office of the Solicitor to file its comment on Garcia’s position that her suspension by the Office of the President was “illegal”.

As the principal law officer and legal defender of the Government, the OSG in its Dec. 27 comment said President Benigno Aquino didn’t violate any law in ordering Garcia’s suspension.

The OSG, citing the Local Government Code, said the decision of the Office of the President in administrative cases is “final and executory” and that an appeal does not prevent the decision from being implemented.

Her father, Deputy Speaker “Pabling” Garcia said the OSG was “wrong” and that an order of the President is appealable.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, an ally, visited Garcia at the Capitol yesterday morning.

He said he didn’t want Cebu city police involved in the Capitol impasse, and would ask the new OIC police chief sr. Supt. Mariano Natuel to look in to the reported presence of a SWAT team.

“Let the determination of who should be the rightful governor will be left alone,” he told reporters.

The rear entrance near the Provincial Assessor’s Office has been padlocked. Policemen who were detailed at the Treasurer’s Office, Accounting Office and the CCTV room were no longer allowed entry inside the Capitol building yesterday. At least four policemen were detailed for each office.

Gwendolyn, asked what was her New Year’s wish, said she is ‘hopeful that justice and truth will prevail’.

“Ako ning gilantaw nga dakong pagsulay kanako apan may katuyoan ang kahitas-an sa tanan nga panghitabo sa tagsa tagsa nato nga kinabuhi,” she said in an interview.

(I look forward to this big challenge because I know that there’s a higher purpose for each single life.)

“Ang importante dili ta mawad-an ug paglaum ug pagsalig sa labaw nga makakagahum nga nakakita niining tanan ug nasayod ug unsa gyud ang kamatuoran,” she added.

(What’s important is not to lose hope or faith in the Almighty who sees everything and knows the truth.)

Acting Governor Magpale said she still hopes Garcia will peacefully leave the government building and continues to “pray for their enlightenment.” /Carmel Loise Matus and Jhunnex Napallacan, Correspondents


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