MANILA, Philippines – Acting governor of Cebu Agnes Magpale, who replaced suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, has dismissed allegations that martial law is being implemented in the province.
Magpale debunked claims that the closure of Sugbo TV and the heavy police presence at the Cebu capitol show abuse of power.
“Wala kaming ipinapatupad na martial law. I am here by rule of law,” she told dzMM on Wednesday.
Magpale defended the shutdown of the government-owned TV network, saying the closure is only temporary pending review of its operations.
The network, which Magpale said was supposed to promote tourism in the province, is an “adjunct of the office of the governor.”
She revealed plans to institutionalize the network following reports that it was over budget and was being used for campaigning.
“Marami na kaming reklamo na natanggap diyan. Noon pa, before the suspension order was given, there was already a request to review the budget, policy, format, etc.,” she told.
Magpale said the local government of Cebu spends roughly P1 million monthly to maintain the network.
“Freedom of speech is very much alive in Cebu. Walang nagbago. Hindi ‘yan totoo na na-curtail ang freedom of speech,” she said.
She also defended the presence of armed security at the capitol, saying it is part of her mandate to promote peace and order.
United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general Toby Tiangco slammed the suspension of Garcia, describing it as a form of “harassment.”
Tiangco said Magpale’s actions as acting governor “are glaring violations of the law and clear abuse of power.”
“The LP-affiliated vice governor closed down two media outlets on flimsy grounds. The police erected barricades and deployed armalite-wielding policemen to the capitol. Supporters of the Governor and even employees were prevented from entering the grounds,” he said.
Garcia spends Christmas at capitol
Garcia, who refuses to vacate her office, spent Christmas at the capitol. She is still holding office at the executive building.
Magpale, meawhile, is holding office at the legislative building.
She said Garcia’s defiance of the suspension order does not affect her role as acting governor.
“Habang nabibigay ko ang serbisyo sa mga kababayan ko, I don’t want to be distracted by her presence. Ang importante ginagawa ko ‘yung dapat kung gawin. As I’ve said time and again, I will only do what is legal and what is good for the province of Cebu,” she said.
Magpale added that she has full control of the transactions and orders in the province.
“Hindi na siya nagi-issue ngayon, it is just her physical presence in her office,” she said.
Garcia was suspended in relation to an administrative case filed in 2010.
She has filed a petition before the Court of Appeals to stop the suspension.