MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said she will not step down as the province's governor despite a suspension order from Malacañang.
Garcia said she will stand her ground and will not leave office, calling the order “patently illegal.”
“I have not been served my copy of the suspension order so I will continue to serve as governor of Cebu,” she told radio dzMM Wednesday.
“I swore to uphold the law and obey all legal orders but a patently illegal order, I cannot obey that because this order is patently illegal. It would wish to overturn the will of a million Cebuanos who elected and re-elected me two times over,” she added.
Garcia said she met with the province’s department heads after the suspension order was issued and they “are one in agreement” that she is still recognized as the rightful governor of the province of Cebu.
She said Cebuanos should not be confused with Malacañang’s order to suspend her for 6 months.
“I assure the Cebuanos that in accordance with their mandate, I shall continue to discharge the functions of the office of governor of the province of Cebu until the remedies of due process affords me and unavailable under our laws are exhausted,” she said.
She also assured Cebuanos that her supporters will not resort to violence until the matter is resolved. Garcia said she is planning to seek legal remedies.
Garcia’s suspension stemmed from a complaint filed by the late Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez that she withheld funds.
Garcia alleged that the decision to remove her from office is politically motivated, saying her adversaries have been trying to keep her from holding office since 2010.
“There seems to be a growing pattern, I am not the only one here that’s getting this abuse of political power. I think some other officials that are not aligned or do not belong to the ruling party are also getting the same kind of political harassment,” she said.
Garcia cited the plunder charges against Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr. as attempts by the administration to grab power in the two “vote-rich” provinces of Cebu and Pangasinan.
However, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas dismissed allegations that Garcia’s suspension was the handiwork of the ruling Liberal Party.
“Sa mga nagsasabi na pulitika ito, pwede ba sagutin nalang ang nilalaman ng reklamo? Kasi kung nagkasala po kayo, ang gobyernong ito papanagutin kayo ano man ang partido ninyo,” he told dzMM in a separate interview.
Roxas also refuted that the timing is suspect, stressing that the recommendation for Garcia’s suspension was signed by the late Jesse Robredo as early as July 2012.
The recommendation was then submitted to the Office of the President and was reviewed thoroughly, said Roxas.
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale took oath on Wednesday to replace Garcia.
Roxas said the police, banks, and the national government now recognize Magpale as the acting governor of Cebu.
“Unless there is a lawful order that reverses this, hindi papahalagahan ang kanyang [Garcia] mga utos,” he said.
He expressed sadness that Garcia refuses to heed Malacañang’s order, describing her actions as a “tantrum.”
“Medyo tantrum kapag sinabi mo [that you won’t step down] dahil lawful order ito,” he said.
But Roxas stressed he will exercise patience, noting that he is not out to cause any trouble in Cebu.
“Hindi pulitika ito, trabaho ito. Gumawa siya ng paglalabis sa kanyang otoridad…‘yan ang dahilan kung bakit pinatawan siya ng suspension,” he said.
LP blasts 'wangwang mentality'
The Liberal Party (LP) also said politics had nothing to do with the suspension.
In a statement released Wednesday, the ruling party said “the law applies to everybody and to immediately accuse the President of playing politics reeks of the kind of wangwang mentality that was blatantly displayed in the days of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
LP called Garcia's defiance of the suspension order “proof of her and her party's wangwang mentality.”
“This is exactly the kind of governance that we have overturned and will not return to under a Liberal administration,” the party said.