MANDAUE, Cebu—President Aquino on Wednesday maintained that there was no standoff at the Cebu Capitol building where suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has been holed up since Dec. 19 in defiance of a six-month suspension order meted against her by Malacañang.
There is no standoff in the sense that acting governor Agnes Magpale has been exercising the functions and duties of the province’s chief executive, Mr. Aquino said.
“Magpale is able to exercise the function of governor and the provincial government of Cebu is able to carry out its delivery of the services, carry out its functions for the benefit of the people of Cebu,” he said.
The President also cited reports that “the police have actually diminished their presence about three weeks ago.”
Mr. Aquino was here Wednesday for the opening of the Austal Phil. Shipyard in Balamban town, and to present the senatorial candidates of the ruling Liberal Party coalition in Mandaue City.
At a press briefing here, Mr. Aquino said the administration was maintaining a policy of maximum tolerance at the capitol but would not hesitate to take more drastic action if the situation should call for it.
He denied the claim of the rival United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) that the administration coalition was bullying the UNA’s members.
Mr. Aquino reiterated that politics had nothing to do with the suspension of Garcia who was found guilty of grave abuse of authority for allegedly usurping the powers of the vice governor.
The late Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez filed the complaint against Garcia in 2010.
Mr. Aquino said that it took two years to decide the complaint against Garcia because the legal process was strictly followed.
He said there was also an intervening event, the death in a plane crash last August of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
He explained that the government’s job was to implement the laws. “In the case here in Cebu, there was an investigation to determine precisely the veracity of the charges and the complaints filed against the governor,” he said.
The President was accompanied by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
Mr. Aquino also brought with him some of the administration senatorial candidates—Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Jamby Madrigal, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, Riza Hontiveros and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara. Candidate Cynthia Villar was represented by her son, Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar—whom he urged the people to support.
“Here with us are some of our senatorial candidates, public servants whom I personally chose and trusted. I am the one telling you now, we need them so we could continue to push for the development of our country. Let us support them because, not only are they not corrupt, it is also clear to them that they should fight for what is right,” he said.
He said his candidates needed to win to ensure the continuation of his “tuwid na daan” (right path) vision, as a “U-turn” could disrupt the development and progress experienced by the country under his leadership.
Also present were Magpale, Hilario Davide III, the Liberal Party candidate for Cebu governor, and the latter’s father, former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr., as well as LP-allied congressmen and local politicians.
Meanwhile, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, an LP leader and a political adviser of the President, said he did not see Garcia’s suspension as backfiring against the administration candidates in vote-rich Cebu.
“I don’t think so…The President is not for whimsical and arbitrary use of power,” he said.
Abad maintained that the suspension of Garcia has “legitimate basis.”
Abad said reports that the LP was planning to bring more charges against Garcia did not come from the LP national headquarters in Manila.
“We’re not sure if it came from a local party chapter. We have to clarify with them,” he said.