Archbishop calls for end to Cebu political crisis

By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2013 04:12 PM | Updated as of Jan 07 2013 03:08 AM

CEBU CITY, Philippines -- Churches all over Cebu on Sunday called for peace and offered prayers for the end of the political crisis hounding the province.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma officiated a mass Sunday morning which he offered for the immediate resolution to the standoff that, he said, is already affecting the country's jewel in the south.

"My only prayer is that we hope this crisis would be resolved the sooner the better" Palma said. "It affects us in many ways. Cebu is presented as rather a troublesome region."

Palma is barely a year old as Archbishop of Cebu, replacing the now Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Vidal.

He admitted that he is not privy to the political history and events that led to the suspension of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia but said the stand-off places the image of Cebu in an entirely undesirable way.

"While we used to think, in these past few months. we're No. 1 in terms of development, progress and investments ...Yet because of this crisis, Cebu is presented not really in good light," Palma explained in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News.

Aside from the Catholics, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines also called for peace. Haniel Joses Taganas, pastor for the UCCP-Bradford United Church said, "This is high time for our leaders to prove they are leaders by coming together and sit down."

He added: "We do not let people suffer with what's happening with our government. We have so much problems to tackle"

Taganas also included in his Sunday's worship service prayers for immediate resolution of the suspension case against the governor. "This is not the time for quarreling; this is the time to settle things up" he said. "I call on both sides to settle things not just for the sake of your leadership, but for the people, for the sake of God."

Garcia, for her part, also prayed for the immediate resolution of her suspension, which we will be the subject of an oral argument at the Court of Appeals on Thursday.

"I pray for justice to prevail" she said. "It's a matter subject to the appreciation of the court, but importante we can also lift our eyes to God and pray."

Garcia has expressed readiness to defend her position before the court on Thursday with former Chief Justice Renato Corona lawyer, Atty. Tranquil Salvador, as her lead lawyer, and with her daughter Atty. Cristina Frasco as part of the legal team.

She said they will prove to the court that the Office of the President has no legal basis in suspending Garcia, citing several violations in the Local Government Code and Malacanang's Administrative Orders as far as investigation and suspension of local officials are concerned.

"The charges are very flimsy. I trust my lawyers, I trust the law firm itself, it has an impeccable reputation. They go even beyond just a 100% preparation, they walk that extra mile," Garcia said.

On Sunday morning, Garcia's brother, Bairon Garcia, went to visit her sister who has been living at the provincial capitol for the past 19 days. He was dismayed over the alleged show of force by the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership on Saturday when several members of SWAT were seen hovering around the government center.

There were also pronouncements previously made by Garcia that there have beem threats to forcibly evict her from her office anytime soon.

But Acting Governor Agnes Magpale have repeatedly denied that there are concrete plans to physically force Garcia out of her office, saying the presence of police personnel in the Capitol is part of the strict security measure to maintain peace and order in the area.

Bairon Garcia, however, reminded police personnel deployed around the capitol to give their due respect to the still-elected Cebu governor who was temporarily suspended and not yet removed from office.

"Let me remind all police personnel sa kapitolyo, salute to my sister because she is an elected official, that's general order No. 10," he said, referring to what Garcia says a provision on the PNP manual.