Gwen’s last 11 days: Lameduck finish or a last goodbye?
GOV. Gwen Garcia is keeping everyone guessing about how she would spend the last 11 days of her term which ends at noon of June 30.
It’s a short period for getting any real work done.
Critics said she would just be a lameduck official unable to get Capitol department heads to follow her orders, or worse, risk getting suspended a second time by the Sandiganbayan, where her graft case is being heard.
“She should return and get her things, say goodbye to the employees and thank everybody for a job well done for the last nine years. Vengeance belongs to the Lord,” said Byron Garcia, her younger brother and a former Capitol consultant.
He said there was nothing wrong with returning to the Capitol, and said the criticism over this was misplaced “as if it’s a crime for her if she returns…”
Her youngest brother Rep. Pablo John Garcia said he hasn’t spoken to Gwen about what she would do. His term as 3rd district congressman ends at noon of June 30 as well and the seat will be taken over by Gwen.
Little has been heard of or seen of Gwen since her campaign bid and May 17 proclamation in the Capitol after winning the 3rd district election in western Cebu, where she is a registered voter in Pinamungahan town.
Tomorrow, the Sandiganbayan will hear a government plea to have Gwen placed on preventive suspension pending trial of criminal charges of two counts of graft and technical malversation in the Bailili land purchase, a 25-hectare property in Naga, Cebu that turned out to be mostly under water.
Her Manila-based lawyer Tranquil Salvador III said it’s up to Garcia to decide whether or not to report back to the Capitol.
“She has the legal right to assume the remaining term of her office but I leave it to her sound discretion to take her position as governor,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Salvador said he has not recently talked with his client about the matter.
“I don’t see any reason for her (Garcia) to attend the hearing on Thursday. But if she wants to, she could come. She’s welcome,” Salvador said.
The request for a preventive suspension order was made by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in the Ombudsman’s Office, which filed the case.
A pre-trial conference was scheduled today in Manila but has been reset to July pending resolution of a motion to quash or dismiss the case filed by Garcia’s lawyers.
Salvador said only another suspension order can stop Garcia from assuming her post as governor of Cebu but that a second freeze order would already be an “overkill”.
“What? Another suspension order for her (Garcia)? Why won’t you let her assume her post as governor? She’s been suspended for six months. Just let her finish her term,’ Salvador said.
“I wouldn’t say whether or not I’m optimistic that the motion to issue a preventive suspension order against Garcia will be denied. I don’t want to preempt the ruling of the Sandiganbayan,” he added.
By returning to the Capitol, she would just be a lameduck governor, said Liberal Party Cebu spokesman Democrito Barcenas.
“Before, she called all the shots at the Capitol. Now, there are doubts whether department heads would even greet her. Whether or not she will report to work, one thing is for sure: she’s not welcome at the Capitol,” he said.
Or she risks the embarassment of being suspended a second time if the Sandiganbayan issues a preventive suspension against her in relation to the Balili case.
“If I were her, I won’t report to work. She’s no longer enjoying the same measure of obedience a governor is expected to have from others. She should avoid any embrassment,” he said.
“Before, she told us that she won’t leave the Capitol ‘over my dead body.’ Now, she’s in a quandary whether or not to return,” he said.
Barcenas said it’s now up to the Sandiganbayan whether to issue a preventive suspension against Garcia.
“I think it’s mandatory on the part of the Sandiganbayan to issue a preventive suspension if the evidence against the accused is strong. Garcia’s lawyer said another suspension is an overkill. But I said if there is an overkill, there is also over-graft.”
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