Various activist groups yesterday called on the national government to stop the “state of uncertainty” in the Cebu Capitol and to implement the six-month suspension of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.
Leaders of Sanlakas, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Phil. Earth Justice Center (PEJC) Inc. and Kongreso ng Maralitang Lungsod (KMLP) in a press conference yesterday.
They said Garcia should respect the law and step down immediately.
Lawyer Gloria Estenzo- Ramos, coordinator of PEJC, said Garcia has no legal basis to stay at the Capitol.
“This spectacle of suspended Governor Gwen Garcia occupying the Capitol is clearly illegal. There’s an acting governor who already took her oath of office and who’s been issuing orders and has been acting as governor,” she said.
Ramos said the impasse is “creating a state of uncertainty and anxiety” whose consequences are now being felt.
She cited the case of Sun.Star columnist Bobby Nalzaro whose column, which ran criticial commentaries of Garcia, was suspended at the start of January at the request of the paper’s owners who are relatives of Governor Garcia.
“This is causing a chilling effect on people,”she told reporters.
They called on the Office of the President and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the suspension order against Gov. Garcia.
Haide Amigable, vice president of the Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod (KPML), said enforcement of the law was not fair.
“ If the poor commit a crime, they are punished right away. But those who are powerful are exempted. Why have authorities not made Garcia step down yet?“she said.
She cited as an example the demolition of houses of poor residents, which takes place even if an appeal by the families is still pending in court.
Teody Navea, spokesman of Sanlakas Sugbo, said the government should act decisively and not wait for tomorrow’s hearing at the Court of Appeals since the suspension order of the Office of the President was final and executory.
“Instead of prioritizing projects and services for the public, all attention is on Garcia,” he said.
He called on Garcia to step down and use her time campaigning instead for the 3rd congressional seat.
“Every day she stays at the Capitol, she loses voters. The longer she stays there, the more skeletons will come out,”he said.
Aaron Pedrosa, secretary general of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) , said he was alarmed by how the Garcias are trying to exert political control even on members of the media.
He said he was saddened by Sun.Star’s suspension of Nalzaro’s column which Pedroso said was curtailing press freedom.
“We may not agree with what Nalzaro has been saying. He has called us names like leftists. But what they have done is a violation of freedom of expression. Where is this heading? “ he asked.
He said they also sent a letter to Acting Governor Agnes Magpale, asking her to disclose the true state of finances of the province.
In their letter, the grup said they don’t favor the institutionalization of the E-Gwen program (Expanded Green and Wholesome Environment that Nurtures) in Cebu towns.
Estrella Catarata, executive director of the Farmer’s Development Center in Central Visayas in a text message said Garcia should “get out of the Capitol”.
“The suspension of Gov. Garcia is a long overdue action. In fact, the corruption cases filed against her should be seriously pursued,” she said.
“She should stop saying that she has the Cebuanos’ mandate to stay at the Capitol. We don’t deserve such kind of leader here in Cebu,” she added./Carmel Loise Matus and Patricia Andrea D. Pateña