MANILA, Philippines - The six-month suspension of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and the filing of plunder and administrative charges against Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. will not ruin the chances in the coming mid-term elections of the 12 senatorial candidates of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), Malacañang said yesterday.
“The (LP) candidates will carry their own. These are peripheral and separate issues from what the voters will be concerned with come May 2013 when they troop to the polling places,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Her declaration was in response to concerns that LP-led senatorial bets may suffer potential backlash from the administration’s treatment of the governors of the two vote-rich provinces.
Malacañang also warned that Garcia and her supporters are courting trouble with their defiance of the suspension order.
“It is clear that that suspension was a valid order, at least until it is overturned by the courts, so she is obliged to follow the law. It can’t be that if you don’t want the decision, you will not follow. That would lead to chaos,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said.
“Governor Garcia has a recourse and if the courts rule that she has to stay, then she will stay. But, in the meantime, she should comply with the valid order and all government officials are also obliged to follow the law and encourage their fellow government officials to abide by the law,” Carandang said.
Asked if Palace officials were disappointed by Vice President Jejomar Binay’s reportedly advising Garcia to defy the suspension order, Carandang said they were not.
“It’s Christmas and I’m thinking of other things,” he said. “I think that’s an issue that we will deal with after the holidays.”
“On our part, it’s really just that this is a process that has to be followed. And you cannot choose which law you will follow and which you will not, so let’s all follow the law and let’s not create a situation where people are encouraged to violate the law,” he said.
Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the top three leaders of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), flew to Cebu on Saturday on a chartered plane to show support for Garcia.
The three visited her at the provincial capitol, where she had barricaded herself along with some supporters. Garcia, formerly of the Lakas party during the Arroyo administration, had jumped to Binay’s UNA.
Estrada revealed Binay’s advice to the suspended Cebu governor in an interview with The STAR on Monday.
The former President also said it was “un-Christian” for the administration to have suspended Garcia during the Christmas season. “They could have done it after the holidays,” he said.
Rule of law
Carandang also said that as government officials, Binay, Enrile and Estrada should have convinced the Cebu governor to follow the rule of law.
“So we’re hoping that as leaders of the government they can encourage her to do the right thing,” he said.
Carandang said acting Cebu Gov. Agnes Magpale should be the authority to be recognized since “there has been no ruling on her (Garcia) TRO.”
Magpale is a sister of Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, but Malacañang dismissed insinuations that he had a hand in Garcia’s suspension.
The LP also accused Binay of undermining Malacañang’s authority.
Acting LP spokesman and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said if the Vice President is truly a partner of President Aquino in good governance, he should not be making it difficult for the administration to enforce its orders.
“He should have told Gov. Garcia to respect the decision of the Office of the President to suspend her in connection with an administrative case, and to await the action of the Court of Appeals on her petition for a temporary restraining order,” he said. But UNA said Evardone has no moral authority to castigate Binay for expressing support for Garcia.
“Coming from Congressman Evardone, who before 2010 used to be one of GMA’s most loyal defenders and used to insist that GMA was on the right side of the law, and who now speaks of ‘letting the legal process prevail,’ I doubt their definition of what is ‘legal’,” UNA secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco said in reaction to Evardone’s statement.
Malacañang, meanwhile, also has to deal with the repercussion of filing plunder charges against Espino for the latter’s possible jueteng links. Espino is also facing an administrative complaint before the Office of the President filed by jueteng whistleblower Mayor Ricardo Orduna of Bugallon town in Pangasinan.
Reelectionist Espino of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) is facing off with LP’s Hernani Braganza, mayor of Alaminos town in Pangasinan, in the May 2013 elections.
The NPC was co-founded by Aquino’s maternal uncle, billionaire Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is on leave as president of the ruling LP, accompanied Orduna in his press conference after the latter filed plunder charges against Espino before the Ombudsman.
PNoy to campaign
Earlier, President Aquino said he would personally campaign for the administration senatorial bets.
“So will I be campaigning? Yes. But I also have to run the country. So initially, I think, it will be office work and all the meetings in the morning, some campaigning in the afternoon, and refereeing at night,” he told the Bulong Pulungan forum.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, another LP stalwart, has been designated campaign manager for the 2013 elections.
“(Drilon) has accepted the position. We are all committed to making this transformation happen. So we might get more people into the team. There’s so much that has to be done, the more people working at achieving the end result ensures the (victory),” Aquino said. With Jess Diaz, Aurea Calica