by Carmel Loise Matus and Christine Emily Pantaleon
After a day of waiting by both camps, the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) confirmed that it has suspended Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for six months on charges of usurpation of authority.
DILG Secretary Mar Roxas held a press conference at Camp Crame to explain the governor’s suspension while DILG-7 Regional Director Ananias Villacorta read the decision with Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale in attendance at her office.
Due to Garcia’s suspension, Magpale will assume as acting governor with Provincial Board (PB) Member Julian Daan as acting vice governor. The governor met with allies and department heads at her office and supporters at the Capitol grounds.
Governor Garcia insisted that she is still the governor of the province while her younger brother, Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu’s 3rd district, questioned the timing of the suspension six months into next year’s elections.
“Governor Gwen is deeply hurt by the suspension but she’s drawing strength from her Cebuano supporters,” Pablo John said. About nine buses filled with supporters from Daanbantayan were brought to the Capitol grounds.
In a TV interview, Governor Garcia also questioned the timing of the suspension. “This isn’t about drugs or illegal gambling…why serve the suspension on me now? We question the manner and timing of the order,” she said.
The suspension order was posted outside of the governor’s office while Villacorta read the memorandum confirming Governor Garcia’s suspension at Magpale’s office.
Magpale was sworn in as acting governor by Villacorta later. The six-month suspension which started yesterday stems from the 2010 adminstrative case for usurpation filed in Nov 2010 by the late vice governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr.
“For those saying that politics was the motive, I say that we have accommodated the governor because this isn’t a preventive suspension. It went through due process,” Roxas said in a radio interview.
Despite the change in leadership, there was untoward incident that occurred and it was business as usual at the Provincial Capitol. Governor Garcia met with Capitol department heads and business leaders where she issued an executive order directing them not to honor the order of the DILG.
She also transferred to a new conference room and shook hands with supporters who held a rally in front of the Capitol building. The governor insisted that she’s still the governor and she didn’t abuse her authority.
“I have always acted within the bounds of my authority. This is clear use and abuse of authority (on the part of the administration,” she told her supporters and allies alike.
The Cebu Liberal Party (LP) voiced elation over Garcia’s suspension order.
LP-Cebu chief and gubernatorial candidate Hilario “Jun-Jun” Davide III said the governor’s suspension represents a “triumph of justice” for Cebuanos.
For its part, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) accused Roxas of politicking for serving the suspension order on Governor Garcia.
In a statement, UNA said the suspension was done without due process and contrary to President Aquino III’s motto of “matuwid na daan (straight path).”