MANILA, Philippines - The people of Cebu themselves are suggesting that authorities should cut the electricity and water supply of the office of suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to force her to leave the capitol, the province's current top official said Saturday.
Acting Governor Agnes Magpale, in an interview on ANC, said this is the popular opinion making rounds in local media.
"I never ordered the cutting of water and power. These have been suggested. This must have been misunderstood. The radio stations here are conducting surveys. One of the most popular suggestions is to cut power and water," she said.
She added that Garcia should just step down, end her self-imposed barricade at the provincial capitol, and join President Benigno Aquino's campaign for better governance.
"I am inviting the governor to step down peacefully and join the matuwid na daan," Magpale said. "Just please observe the rule of law and join the daan na matuwid."
She said Garcia should follow the law and recognize the suspension order issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
"Under the rule of succession and under the rule of law, I should be running the provincial government," she added.
Garcia, who has been holed up in her office at the capitol for 18 days and counting, has filed a petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop her suspension.
The CA has deferred acting on her petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and instead ordered the Office of the President and DILG to file an answer to Garcia’s petition.
"We should respect the rule of law. While waiting for that (TRO), the suspension order came and all the functions of the governor have been transferred to me," Magpale said.
She added that while Garcia "is the elected governor and she is entitled to stay there (capitol office), she doesn't seem to accept that she is a suspended governor."
Magpale said the provincial government is continuing to exercise its functions despite Garcia's refusal to step down.
"Everything is normal. The violence they have been talking about has only been coming from their [side]. The other day, a policeman was assaulted, a policeman was hit, insulted. That was caught on camera," she said.
"From Monday to Friday, capitol gates are open and it's business as usual. It was a weekend when she locked herself in and she closed the doors of the main building of the provincial capitol. It's really business as usual," she added.
"I am discharging my duties as acting governor very normally," Magpale said.
She also denied Garcia's allegations of a police buildup at the capitol grounds. "I checked with police, the ground commanders, they denied."
"We did not order the SWAT team to be there. The PNP personnel now in the capitol have been reduced considerably. We are now evaluating the situation of her continued stayed there, day-to-day," she said.
Garcia rues 'squatter treatment'
Garcia, in a separate phone interview on ANC, lamented the alleged shabby treatment she is getting from Magpale and the police.
She also lashed out at political rival Rep. Tomas Osmeña, whom she accused of having a hand in moves to force her out of the capitol.
"They want me out. In fact, they are calling me a squatter now in my own office," Garcia said.
While not mentioning Osmeña's name, Garcia claimed that on Saturday morning, a lawmaker was allegedly barking orders at police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams deployed to secure the capitol.
"A certain congressman was seen walking around, seeming to direct these people. That caused a lot of tension," she said.
She also alleged that she has to face the threat of being bodily removed from her office.
"We live under the constant threat of being attacked at the governor's office. Time and again, the (regional police chief Director Marcelo) Garbo Jr. said they would force me out of the capitol."
"Garbo had given me an ultimatum to leave the capitol by the 31st of December, otherwise they would bodily remove me. Because of the sharp reaction, they had to backtrack. These are constant threats," Garcia claimed.
She said she has no plans in stepping down despite her suspension order and the CA's decision not to issue a TRO on Friday. "I'm still here. I already said that I will stay here and stand for the mandate the people of Cebu have given me as the duly-elected governor."
"As a citizen of this country, we are entitled to due process and we are entitled to pursue all legal remedies. We will pursue all avenues that will be given us," she said.