President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday said he is standing by his office’s decision to suspend Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, reiterating that it was done regardless of political affiliation and that Garcia’s violation of the law was clear.
“I am sorry, the evidence is so clear (against Garcia),” said Mr. Aquino.
The President also dismissed talk of politics playing a key role in the investigation for illegal gambling and plunder of Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino.
Mr. Aquino said Espino has been tagged by a “credible” witness.
In both cases, the President said it was his duty to enforce the laws as the top executive of the land.
At the Department of Interior and Local Government, Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said Garcia, who is holed up in her office at the Cebu provincial capitol, may stay there for as long as she wants since there are no plans to bodily remove her.
Roxas, whose office enforced the suspension order against Garcia, said the provincial government, under acting Gov. Agnes Magpale, is functioning anyway despite Garcia’s refusal to leave the governor’s office.
The President and Roxas made the statements as hundreds of supporters of Garcia were mobilized to gather at a prayer rally in the provincial capitol to support the suspended governor’s bid to remain in office.
The prayer rally organized by the Garcia camp was matched by Mass organized on the other hand by the camp of Magpale, the acting governor.
Those who attended the rally are mostly members of Garcia’s One Cebu Party. They wore red shirts and carried placards with the words “Stand Up Cebu.”
The suspended governor was present, also wearing a red shirt. The rest of the Garcia clan were there, too.
But frustration rained on the rally as the Sandiganbayan, the antigraft court, junked the suspended governor’s plea to lift a hold departure order against her for another case, this one involving the purchase of a lot by the provincial government that was mostly under water.
Talking to reporters in Camp Crame, Roxas said Garcia’s claim that there was a plan to drag her out of the capitol was fiction. “Let’s just let her make her own speculation,” said Roxas.
“Why do we have to bodily (move her out)? What else is there to do when the services are being provided by the provincial government?” he said.
“As long as the government services are not hampered, if some people want to stay in their offices, then that’s their right,” said Roxas.
In an ambush interview in Malacañang, Mr. Aquino said there was no politics involved in either Garcia’s or Espino’s case.
“We are blind as to party affiliation,” the President said.
“The reverse is to do nothing, and to be accused of not fulfilling our oath to faithfully execute all laws of the land,” he said, adding: “It just so happened that they are not our party mates.”
On Garcia’s case, the President said what the suspended governor did was obviously a violation of the law.
He said the investigation of Garcia started under the late Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and “passed through a very long process before it was brought to the Office of the President.”
Garcia had been charged with and found guilty by the Office of the President of usurping the authority of the late Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez, whose budget for hiring personnel had been cut off by Garcia until his death.
After Sanchez’s death, the budget for personnel of the vice governor’s office was restored by Garcia.
“I think it has clearly been established that when the vice governor, who was not her ally, died she restored the budget,” said Mr. Aquino.
“So removing the budget was really intentional,” the President said.
The suspension order was signed on Dec. 17 by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, who belongs to a Palace faction said to be at odds with Roxas. With Carmel Loise Matus and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas