Editorial: Public office is not absolute power

Posted on December 21, 2012

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Suspended Gov. Gwen Garcia has vowed to stay put in the Capitol, saying she would only leave “over my dead body”.

In clinging to her post, Garcia invokes a mandate of Cebuano voters who elected her to serve until June 30, 2013, just six months away, the same period of the penalty of suspension.

Acting Governor Agnes Magpale insists that her ascension to the governor’s office is a matter of duty, based on the rule of succession in the Local Government Code.

Garcia doesn’t lack for supporters but how many are ready to barricade themselves in with her at the Capitol for the Christmas holidays?

The barangay health workers who arrived by busloads from remote towns were amply supported. With the change of signatories, though, fund releases in the Capitol would no longer support the cost of bus rentals, packed lunches and their overnight lodging in the Sugbo budget hotel.

Capitol employees, especially department heards, are caught in the crossfire.

Their Christmas bonus hangs in the balance, a hefty P20,000 based on last year’s gift, while Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre ponders where his loyalty belongs – his boss or the institution.

Garcia was unprepared for the lightning bolt that was a six-month suspension.

She was confident the decision wouldn’t hurt her. Reliable sources said the Garcia camp was expecting the case to result in only a reprimand.

Being kicked out of her well-appointed Capitol office and the welcoming arms of her supporters in variuos towns is particularly painful coming in the last six months of her swansong term.

Is this the way for the eight-year reign of Cebu’s first woman governor to end?

The six-month suspension over a usurpation of authority case filed by the late vice governor Greg Sanchez in 2010 is indeed harsh. It is tantamount to removal from office.

Is this political harasssment or a justifiable suspension? Possibly both.

If Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who penned the decision in July, had not died in a plane crash in August, we’re sure he woud have acted swiftly to implement the suspension so it doesn’t land a week before Christmas. Few would be able to say Robredo acted based on political favors. He was Mr. Good Governance with no tolerance for abuse.

But behind the scenes, perhaps efforts were made as well to delay the release— until it fell, conveniently at a period that inflicted maximum pain with little time to get relief from court.

The lament about political harassment can lead the public away for the core issue, which is accountability of public officials.

An election mandate does not confer absolute power. Public service is still bound by checks and balances.

Let the rule of law prevail in the Capitol.

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