The reported plan to file 16 new charges against suspended Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is the ruling party’s tack to “strangle” political rivals in the May elections, the opposition’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said Tuesday.
Blasting the Liberal Party, UNA, a coalition of parties led by deposed President Joseph Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay, said the ruling party was using “high-handed” and “repressive tactics” to force Garcia out of the Cebu capitol in an effort to take control of the vote-rich province.
“Why the sudden downpour of cases against Gov. Garcia? We can only assume that a creeping crackdown on the LP’s political rivals is now in full swing,” UNA Secretary General Tobias Tiangco said in a statement.
“The Liberal Party is now plagued with political bullies and has become a despotic, repressive political machine,” he added.
UNA senatorial bet Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, President Aquino’s aunt, also criticized Garcia’s suspension, claiming the filing of other cases against Garcia “is obviously not in line with her nephew’s “Tuwid na Daan” motto.
“The timing and motivation in the belated filing of these supposed cases are simply highly suspect,” Cojuangco said.
Malacañang suspended Garcia last December, upholding a recommendation by the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo that cited Garcia for grave abuse of authority when she usurped part of the budget of the office of the vice governor to hire her chosen consultants. She restored the budget after the death of Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr., her policial rival.
The administration was reported to be preparing other cases against Garcia, who has since holed up in her office at the Cebu provincial capitol, refusing to heed the six-month suspension order.
UNA insisted that the suspension was a form of “harassment” against the popular governor.
Last week, the Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Garcia’s case but did not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on her suspension order.
Garcia’s lawyers had argued that Garcia was not properly served the suspension order because she was not in her office when the order was served and what was served were just photocopies of the order. Garcia’s camp also claimed a TRO was needed “so as not to cause serious and irreparable injury to his client and that of people of Cebu.”
Garcia’s petition noted that the suspension order was issued more than a year after Sanchez complained about the budget issue, and three weeks before the ban on the suspension of public officials would take effect on Jan. 13. Elections are only four months away.
Veloso, said the three-member court would weigh the arguments and issue a resolution on Garcia’s petition shortly.
Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale has been designated as acting Cebu governor.