MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) yesterday deferred acting on the petition of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to stop the order suspending her.
After deliberations, three members of the CA’s 12th division opted to defer action on her prayer for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the suspension order for six months.
Instead, the CA division ordered the respondents, Office of the President and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), to immediately file an answer to Garcia’s petition.
Garcia’s camp yesterday filed a reply to the opposition of the Solicitor General to their petition for a TRO.
Lawyer Christina Garcia-Frasco told media that the suspended governor has cause of action in seeking the TRO based on “flagrant abuse of the power of suspension.”
Frasco maintained that the suspension order “has no legal effect” since it was not personally served on Garcia.
The appellate court scheduled the case for oral argument on Jan. 10.
But a resolution will be issued today, according to a source in the division composed of Associate Justices Vicente Veloso, Eduardo Peralta Jr. and Aurora Jane Lantion.
Although the appellate court did not issue the TRO sought by the petitioner, it does not mean such prayer was already denied.
The source explained they would decide on whether to issue the TRO after the oral argument and hearing the side of the respondents.
The suspension order against Garcia stands in the absence of a TRO from the CA.
In her petition filed last Dec. 21, Garcia argued Malacañang violated Section 66 of the Local Government Code, which states that the Office of the President must release a decision 30 days after the investigation.
Garcia recalled the investigation into the complaint filed in 2010 by then Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. for supposed withholding of his office’s budget had terminated last Aug. 31.
This means Malacañang should have come up with its decision last September to comply with the rule, Garcia pointed out, but the suspension order was handed down only last Dec. 17, or about two and a half months after the deadline.
Garcia stressed the Office of the President violated its own Administrative Order 23, which provides for 30 days to decide on cases upon transmittal of records from the DILG.
The records of the case were reportedly forwarded to the OP last July 26. The decision should have been issued 30 days after, but it came out last Dec. 17 or 144 days later.
On a technical ground, Garcia said the suspension order was not personally served on her by the DILG when it was implemented last Wednesday.
Sanchez, in his complaint, accused Garcia of usurping his authority by slashing his budget for the salary of contractual employees under his office.
Sanchez died in April 2011, even before the DILG, then headed by the late Secretary Jesse Robredo, could start its investigation.
Garcia denied the charges and explained that the decision to put the funds intended for Sanchez under her office was approved by the Provincial Board.
Garcia claimed the suspension order on her was illegal and a “power grab” by Malacañang meant to install the ruling Liberal Party members in the province.
The DILG has installed Vice Gov. Agnes Almendras Magpale as governor of Cebu. Garcia dug in and declared she would continue discharging her duties as governor.
Garcia went on to issue an executive order ordering all department heads and employees not to obey the orders of Magpale.
Magpale, on her part, found herself being sued for ordering the closure of a local cable television provider.
Two employees of the provincial government of Cebu assigned in Sugbo TV, a cable news channel, filed charges against Magpale and three others before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.
The complainants said Magpale ordered the closure of the cable TV outlet for “promoting the personal interest of Governor Garcia.”
Cebu gubernatorial candidate Hilario Davide Jr., on the other hand, said it would be doubtful if a TRO can be issued in favor of the suspended governor.
Davide explained the TRO was meant to restrain Magpale from assuming the post as Cebu governor, not to stop the suspension order.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima said there are no plans to forcibly remove Garcia from the capitol building. – DJ Sta. Ana, Gregg Rubio, Mylen Manto, Mitchelle Palaubsanon/The Freeman