Garcia cries 'martial law' in Cebu

by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 05 2013 12:20 PM | Updated as of Jan 06 2013 06:26 AM

CEBU, Philippines - Suspended Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is crying foul over the alleged police garrison being put in place around the provincial capitol.

On Saturday morning, more than a dozen members of Cebu's police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) squad were seen deployed in the area.

This is in addition to the 50 other policemen who have also been deployed on a rotation basis around the Capitol to implement strict security measures within the government center.

All who enter the vicinity are subject to strict inspection.

"Parang martial law na tayo dito, if we will not stand up for them, eh, let's give up hope and let creeping martial law take over us," Garcia said.

All gates of the Capitol are closed except for one where all vehicles and provincial personnel converge. The area is also heavily guarded by PNP.

The main gate of the Capitol, as well as other entrances in the government center, are also closed

Acting Governor Agnes Magpale, however, denied that they are creating an atmosphere of chaos and tension in the capitol.

Magpale said it is her job now to protect the interest of the Cebuanos, particularly peace and order in the area.

"In the light of recent events, nagrally sila, although they were not able to muster ganun kadaming tao, but I'm evaluating," Magpale said.

"It is not martial law, there is no martial law, its business as usual here."

The rare security measures at the Capitol came at a time when the famous Sinulog Festival is about to start this week.

Several local officals have complained that the deployment of police at the government center may scare tourists and local residents who will join the celebration that starts January 11, and it may create a bad impression of chaos and disorder.

But PNP Regional Director Marcelo Garbo said they will reduce the number of police at the Capitol in time for the Sinulog Festival.

The PNP would also need to re-distribute police elsewhere in the city for the religious activity.

Garcia, meanwhile, is hopeful that the Court of Appeals will rule in favor of her petition and grant her prayer for a temporary restraining order (TRO) so she can start joining the celebration the following day.

The Sinulog Foundation Incorporated (SFI) has invited Garcia to grace the occasion by dancing for the Sto. Nino, which the governor has done yearly.

But Garcia is not sure if she can perform the act for the 9th and last time as governor of the province.

"I hope circumstances will allow me to be able to dance again in offering of thanksgiving para sa atong sugbo," Garcia said.

SFI Executive Director Ricky Ballesteros also reminded other politicians who may have the intention of campaigning during the festival to avoid election-related behavior and take opportunity of the presence of more than a million people who are expected to join the event.

They will strictly prohibit the distribution of any campaign materials and use of banners, streamers or tarpaulins, he said.

While Ballesteros admitted it may be hard to monitor politicians, he stressed it will be the people themselves who will be observing them.

"Those who behave properly ma-aapreciate yan sa sinulog ng mga Cebuano," Ballesteros said.