As MalacaÃ±ang would have us believe, Gwendolyn Garcia is a very bad person — bad enough to be summarily suspended from her her position as duly-elected Governor of Cebu for a period of six months. That is enough time for the 2013 elections to come to pass with Cebu under the watch of now “acting governor” Agnes Magpale who erstwhile served as Vice Governor and was then appointed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to replace Garcia during her suspension. Magpale, not surprisingly, is a member of the Liberal Party which Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III is a member of.
So there is some method to this latest case of BS Aquino madness. Now effectively overlord of the Philippines’ Supreme Court and House of Representatives, Aquino it seems is setting his sights on the Senate as his next conquest. And with Cebu happening to be the next biggest cesspool of voters in the country, it only makes sense that a loyal vassal of the king be in charge there during that crucial “democratic” exercise to make sure things go according to plan.
What is Garcia supposedly accused of? According to Aquino’s henchmen, it is for “grave abuse of authority” she allegedly perpetrated as governor. The basis of that claim is an administrative complaint filed by the late vice governor Greg Sanchez Jr back in 2010 alleging that Garcia violated the Local Government Code by “usurping” the authority of the office of the vice governor over the hiring of contractual and casual personnel.
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Garcia’s position on that matter is that in her role as Governor, she was acting well within the scope of authority her office confers. The following excerpt from a brief on the suspension order (published on Trigger.ph) cites a specific aspect of that position, something to do with the hiring of consultants for the Legislative Research Codification Project (LRCP) the brouhaha around which forms part of the late Sanchez’s complaint…
Governor Garciaâ€™s appointment of employees of the Office of the Vice Governor, including the LRCP personnel, does not, in any way, constitute usurpation of Vice Governor Sanchezâ€™s authority because the latter possesses no such appointing authority of appointment over said LRCP personnel.
The mere assignment to the Office of the Vice Governor or a work detail to the LRCP or the attendance at a Legislative Codification-related seminar does not vest the Vice Governor with the authority of appointment. If anything, the assignment or work detail to the Office of the Vice Governor is simply a consequence of the power of appointment over these employees, which, by law and established practice, is to be exercised exclusively by the Governor.
Either way, the order issued by MalacaÃ±ang to suspend Garcia reportedly rests on thin ice. According to Garcia…
(1) It is â€œan old caseâ€.
(2) The original complainant is deceased.
(3) The action was based on â€œthe account of a witness who was not even present during the alleged incidentsâ€.
Furthermore, if the account published by Trigger.ph of the manner with which the suspension order against Garcia was effected by MalacaÃ±ang is accurate, there is enough reason to argue that no such suspension is in effect today and therefore, any order to install Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale as â€œacting Governorâ€ is illegal.
Governor Garcia was not at her office at the time of service of the Suspension Order. Thus, Director Villacorta posted a photocopy of the Order at the hallway of the Office of the Governor. Director Villacorta subsequently proceeded to administer the oath of office of Vice Governor Agnes Magpale as â€œacting Governorâ€ of Cebu.
Because the suspension order handed out by the DILG was allegedly not served in person, “[the] service of the Suspension Order is invalid and has no legal effect”…
According to the Supreme Court in the case of Reyes v. Comelec (G.R. No. 120905, March 7, 1996), a suspension order shall only take effect upon personal service on the public official.
Even the posting of the photocopied Suspension Order at Governor Garciaâ€™s office is invalid. In Far Eastern University v. FEU-NRMF Employees (G.R. No. 168362, October 12, 2006), the Supreme Court ruled that mere posting of an order is not valid service.
Since the Suspension Order was not personally served upon Governor Garcia, it has no legal effect. Clearly, Governor Gwen Garcia is NOT suspended.
Too bad MalacaÃ±ang habitually bungles the way it carries out its witchhunts (for instance, failing to follow the proper procedure when serving suspension orders or using grossly flawed evidence when impeaching Supreme Court chief justices, among others). In this recent case, a spectacular legal battle between Aquino and Garcia over the office of the Governor of Cebu would’ve made for interesting (and lucrative) media diarrhoea. Instead, Garcia seems to have a strong case for remaining holed up in her office.
Being a politician herself, it is unlikely that Garcia is the standout exception to the rule in Philippine politics that she makes herself out to be. According to a Sun Star Cebu opinion piece, Garcia had for some time been using her position “to promote the candidacy for governor of her brother Pablo John who had always been at her side in recent months” and had been “spending provincial funds in their sorties and bribing municipal officials, barangay leaders, and barangay health workers all over the province of Cebu.” And as for the whole people poweresque dance number Cebuanos are supposedly mounting to save her hide from BS Aquino’s jackbooted henchmen, a plot is also thickening underneath the over-my-dead-body rhetoric that has become all but a clichÃ© in Philippine ocho-ocho politics…
Hundreds of barangay health workers from some municipalities were bused in to the Capitol grounds to show their support to the beleaguered governor. Many health workers when interviewed by the media complained that they joined the trip because they were misled into believing that they would receive bonuses from the governorâ€™s office.
Until now the governor is holed up in her office in the Capitol, defying the suspension order of MalacaÃ±ang. Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, who has been sworn in as acting governor, is now recognized by the DILG, as well as by all the department heads in the Provincial Government, as the duly-constituted acting chief executive of the Province.
Apparently, Garcia is desperately trying to replicate the events in Makati City in 2006 when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unsuccessfully attempted to implement the suspension order on then Makati mayor Jejomar Binay.
Consistent with the nature of the Philippine National “Debate” this is really all just a conflict fueled by voters’ personal loyalties and partisanism among the so-called “thought leaders” and chattering classes of the land. Step back from all that and regard the circus from the brilliant perspective of a disaffected outsider and all you will see is a celebrity President on a mission to secure his feudal clan’s family jewels crossing swords with a dynasty matriarch in the nation’s second-best province who failed to keep her nose clean and to whom the irony of her call for “people power” (a Pinoy tradition popularised by her adversary) escapes.
They’re all the same folks. Poltical parties? Which ones are involved here? One is called, get this, the “United Nationalist Alliance” (UNA). What exactly does being a “nationalist” mean in a nation that cannot even define what being “Filipino” means? The other is the “Liberal Party” — as if being “liberal” actually means something within the pointed head of the average Filipino voter.
One thing’s for sure. If things go well for us who observe and comment on moronisms like these, the Gwen Garcia debacle will be to 2013 what the Renato Corona trial was to 2012. It will be another good show with the same sorry cast of characters.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.