She seeks cash examination of Capitol: ‘I won’t touch trust funds’
“I need people I can rely on,” she said, after emphasizing that she would not touch trust funds of the province to settle over P200 million in payables that surfaced in the last week of 2012, her second week in office.
She said she wrote the DOF’s Bureau of Local Government and Finance to conduct the cash examination and to immediately replace provincial treasurer Roy Salubre.
The “loss of confidence” stemmed from “several lapses,” she said, after meeting with Capitol department heads to discuss how to settle obligations to suppliers that landed on her lap.
Provincial employees were able to report for work at the Capitol at 8 a.m. yesterday, using only one designated entrance. People can freely enter the compound but access to the east wing of the Governor’s Office is limited to her visitors and the media.
Suspended Gov. Gwen Garcia removed chains and padlocks on the doors of both floors of the Captiol which she had ordered hastily installed on New Year’s Eve by her security guards when she feared the police would raid the building to arrest her.
Garcia’s stay-in protest entered its 15th day as she continued to defy a six-month suspension order imposed by the Office of the President.
“If anything happens to any one of my children, I will hold General Garbo personally responsible,” Garcia said in a press conference on Jan. 1
She said they were alarmed to notice that her son Pablo “Paulo” Garcia III was being followed by unidentified men, and could be the target of reprisal after he figured in a confrontation last Dec. 19 with policemen sent to remove tents used by Garcia supporters at the Capitol premises.
Paulo and his wife Michelle, present in the press conference, turned emotional. She started to cry, and the 33-year-old businessman, who manages the family’s 20-year-old security agency comforted her.
Acting Governor Magpale said her order for “super maximum tolerance” was being carried out well by Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo Jr., police regional director, in view of Garcia’s vow not to leave the Capitol “over my dead body” unless the court issues a temporary restraining order against what she considers an “illegal suspension”.
“I have a lot of patience,” said Magpale, when asked how long Garcia would be allowed to occupy the Governor’s Office.
“I’ve been criticized for not doing that (eviction) but I’m sure she’ll be enlightened.”
The Court of Appeals in Manila has set Jan. 10 as the date for oral arguments of Garcia’s petition. (See story on page 2)
Members of the PNP Regional Safety Batallion were able to reenter the Capitol yesterday where they were assigned to guard sensitive offices like the treasury, cash division and legislative building where Magpale holds office, as well as the compound premises.
At Camp Sergio Osmena, Garbo said he is just awaiting orders from superiors on how to handle the situation.
“Suspended Governor Garcia is a politician. I don’t want to enter into a political and legal battle them. I’m just a plain and simple police officer,” he said, denying again that he sent SWAT members at dawn to enter the Capitol or had a plan to raid it by Dec. 31 and forcibly remove Garcia.
“They are entitled to their own opinion. I just don’t want that the insinuations, the figment of their imaginations… please don’t include the PNP.”
Garbo was named a respondent in robbery charges and an administrative case for grave abuse of authority, along with Magaple and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and two other police officials in a separate complaints filed by Paolo Garcia over the Dec. 19 incident, where a police inspector was whacked in the head by Garcia supporters.
Garbo said he had suggested to Magpale to set a time frame to resolve the Capitol impasse “by the end of the holiday season”.
“Anyone can take a guess – there’s the (feast of the) Three Kings, it could be after the Sinulog. Mahaba itong laban na ito , na gustong pahabain ni suspended Governor Gwen. I don’t know if she can stay longer because she has to dance the Sinulog and she has to campaign.” (It’s a long fight that Governor Gwen wants to make longer.)
“Hindi pwedeng bibiglain natin siya. (We can’t pull a surprise on her). I will follow the rule of law, baka sila pa ang hinid sumsunod sa rule of law (maybe they are the ones not following the rule of law,” he said.
The Garcia family has criticized the police buildup around the Capitol and scrutiny of visitors at the gate as a return to “martial law”.
Garcia’s daughter Christina Frasco, a lawyer and Capitol consultant, said the police were giving their supporters a hard time in entering the premises and raising “unfair, unsubstantiated” allegations but “no evidence that we are bringing guns.”
The replacement of Provincial Treasurer Salubre is part of the fiscal housekeeping Acting Governor Magpale said she would do as her promise to manage the Capitol with “transparency and accountability”.
Salubre announced on Dec. 21 a Christmas bonus of P30,000 for each Capitol employee, but apparently failed to mention that the total sum of P51 million for the bonus would still be be taken from the P90 million cash he said was available in the province coffers as of Dec. 26.
The cash flow problem facing the Capitol, which the treasurer also announced in a press conference last Thursday with Magpale, is worrying the new administration.
“I won’t let myself be distracted by Garcia’s presence in the Capitol. My main priority is to make sure we pay our obligations,” said Magpale.
While the situation is not one of bankruptcy, she said, the Province can’t settle all the payables worth P200 million at once, but in staggered amounts even as more bills continue to surface.
Provincial Board (PB) Member Peter John Calderon, head of the committee on budget, said Salubre gave a cash report last week that “was not accurate” by announcing that the cash available from the General Fund was P90 million net of P51 million needed to pay the for Capitol employees.
The bonus has not yet been released.
Governor Garcia has criticized Magpale for having an “elementary understanding” of budget procedures, and said some expense items should be reclassified from the General Fund to the Trust Fund.
Magpale, however, was emphatic, that “We can’t use that,” because trust funds are set aside for a specific purpose.
In a meeting with Capitol department heads yesterday, she said she clarified this with Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial and other finance staff.
“The accountant said the trust fund cannot be reclassified…we cannot use that money,” she told reporters.
Guial, who is also the assistant provincial treasurer will function as OIC treasurer.
Asked if the provincial treasurer had misled them about the cash report, she said “no, not necessarily misled, maybe he was not very thorough.”
Salubre, in a separate interview, said he would just follow whatever the DOF orders and stood by his report as accurate data of the fiscal status of the province.
The treasurer of a local government is a DOF employee, and not a under directly under the governor or mayor, hence the letter request to the DOF to replace Salubre immediately and conduct a cash examination.
“In light of our financial situation, we are looking for ways to reduce expenses,” said Magpale.
For example, the purchase of 24 air-conditioned tourists buses for the e-Gwen program and the Suroy-suroy tourism caravans costs P68 million.
While several buses have already been delivered, seven pending units may be deferred.
The priority will go to paying the Capitol employees bonus, and an extended two-month contract for outsourced doctors, nurses and janitors hired by the Perfect Clean General Services for medical staff in district hospitals, the Capitol and other offices. /Carmel Loise Matus, Jucell Marie Cuyos and Dale G. Israel