CEBU CITY—Gov. Gwen Garcia thought she could sneak out from the governor’s office in the Capitol, where she had been holed up for over a month in defiance of a suspension order from Malacañang.
She did, but only to discover 16 hours later that the office had been padlocked.
“No one is allowed inside the premises, except upon further orders. For strict compliance,” acting Gov. Agnes Magpale said in a one-page memorandum.
Garcia was in Oslob town, 117 kilometers south of Cebu, to inaugurate the briefing center of the Oslob Whale Watching program in Barangay (village) Tan-awan when she learned that her office had been padlocked, on orders of Magpale, by provincial administrator Eduardo Habin.
The Office of the President, upon the recommendation of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, has ordered Garcia’s relief for grave abuse of authority for usurping the powers of the vice governor.
The governor, however, has refused to leave since Dec. 19 last year and even dared the police to forcibly remove her. Her removal could only happen “over my dead body,” Garcia had said.
Habin, who was escorted by policemen, closed down the office past 2 p.m. during her absence. In less than two hours, the power supply was cut off and the entrance was cordoned off with a police yellow line.
Bess Francia, Garcia’s secretary, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that she and 10 other employees, as well as two lawyers, were still inside the office when the policemen came.
“Once we go outside, we cannot go back. There is a horde of policemen preventing us from coming back,” Francia said.
They would remain inside the office because they believe that the police and Magpale were “stepping on their rights” as provincial employees and citizens, she said.
However, at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the police told them to leave, and they did without any resistance.
Sources told the Inquirer that Garcia sneaked out of her office at about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, her face covered as she boarded the vehicle of her brother, Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu’s third district.
The governor slept in her house in the city before she left for Oslob on Wednesday morning for the inauguration of the briefing center, the sources said.
On Jan. 20, Garcia left her office to dance in the Sinulog Grand Parade at the Cebu City Sports Center grandstand. She went back later and stayed in her office until Tuesday night.
During a news conference in Oslob, Garcia told reporters that she would go back to her office after her visit to the town.
“Of course, … that’s still the office of the governor and I am the duly elected governor. No overacting governor can ever take that away. The people elected me as governor. The office of the governor stands,” she said.
Her mood, however, changed when a reporter informed her that her office had already been padlocked by Magpale. It took her three seconds before she could reply.
She asked her brother, Byron, to verify the report. But later, she said it would be up to the Cebuanos to judge Magpale for her actions.
Magpale is running for vice governor under the Liberal Party, with Hilario Davide III as standard-bearer.
Garcia will switch places with Pablo John who is running for governor under One Cebu. She will seek the congressional seat in the third district.
Garcia condemned Magpale’s closure order move and warned that she would file charges if any of her personal belongings left in the office is lost.
“I would just wish to remind Magpale that I still have personal effects inside the office. As you have seen, there are furniture, paintings and others. We have an inventory of these things and have taken footages. Since they have the key (to the padlock), they will be facing robbery charges (if these are lost),” she added.
Magpale told reporters that she had been tolerating Garcia’s presence in the Capitol for over a month.
The governor’s move to slip out was a mockery of the President’s order, Magpale said over TV5.
She said Garcia’s supporters were also staying at the Capitol’s offices and used these as sleeping quarters and for doing their laundry.
Hungry for power?
Pablo John condemned Magpale’s action, saying this only showed her “hunger for power.”
He recalled that the vice governor claimed that services in the Capitol were not disrupted and that President Aquino himself remarked during his visit here that there was no standoff.
“If the operation in the Capitol is normal, if there are no disruptions, if there is no standoff, why was it necessary to padlock the governor’s office,” he asked. “(It is because) she (Magpale) is greedy for power. She even wanted to be called governor, not only ‘acting’ (governor).”
Pablo John said his sister would never step down from office.
“The governor just stepped out of the governor’s office, but she is never stepping down as governor,” he said. With a report from Ador Mayol, Inquirer Visayas
Originally posted: 4:24 pm | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013