Tingting backs suspended Cebu governor

Posted at 12/22/12 9:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III’s aunt, Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, visited beleaguered Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia at the provincial capitol late Tuesday.

The former Tarlac governor said she was taking a risk in visiting Garcia amid tension at the provincial capitol over the President’s suspension of the Cebu governor.

Cojuangco stayed with Garcia until 3 a.m. yesterday.

“I came to see Governor Gwen because she is a friend. She supported me and I’m just returning the gesture of friendship. Having been a governor, I know what she feels right now,” Cojuangco said.

She said she had the blessing of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the founding chairman of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), to be in Cebu and give Garcia moral support.

“Loyalty and gratefulness are the two attributes that we must possess and that is why I am here in Cebu for the governor,” she said.

Cojuangco is the only UNA senatorial candidate to visit the beleaguered governor, while others sent text messages to Garcia.

Cojuangco said she sent a text message to her niece, the President’s sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, that she was in Cebu to give her “full-support” to Garcia.

The former Tarlac governor is the wife of UNA vice president Peping Cojuangco Jr., who is also PDP-Laban secretary-general and maternal uncle of President Aquino, who heads the ruling Liberal Party.

Cojuangco arrived at the provincial capitol building at 10 p.m.

Garcia’s daughter and legal counsel Christina Garcia-Frasco with Mayor Duke Frasco and Rep. Pablo John Garcia welcomed Cojuangco.

Garcia waited for Cojuangco at her office along with the governor’s father, Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia. The two hugged each other, and Cojuangco assured Garcia of support in her fight against the six-month suspension order from Malacañang.

The suspension order served by the DILG last Dec. 18 stemmed from an administrative complaint filed by the late vice governor Gregorio Sanchez in 2010.

Cojuangco said she was also bothered by the turn of events. She said Malacañang is apparently running against those who are not allied with the administration, particularly in areas where there is no solid organizational structure of the ruling LP.

“It’s very obvious that what they did was for the Liberal Party,” she said.

Cojuangco cited the case of Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino who was accused of being on the take from illegal gambling activities in the province. Espino is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and is being challenged by Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza, a member of the LP and close friend of President Aquino.

According to Cojuangco, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II is now handling the decision-making in Malacañang. She refused to elaborate.

Garcia, on the other hand, insisted the six-month suspension imposed on her “is unprecedented in its harshness.”

The case “involved purely procedural questions regarding the implementation of the budget, and no accusation of malversation of public funds, or involvement in illegal activities such as gambling, or any offense involving moral turpitude,” she said.

More importantly, investigations into administrative complaints are supposed to be concluded within 120 days from the date of filing, as provided in the Local Government Code, she pointed out.

This case, however, was revived and acted upon more than two years after it was filed.

The complaint “survived the death of the complainant and has outlived the mandatory 120-day period” for such probes to be terminated, she said.

Garcia filed a petition before the Court of Appeals, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the suspension order.

Garcia is on her third and last term, but is fielding her brother, Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia, in next year’s gubernatorial race.

Pablo John will be challenged by two independents and LP’s Hilario Davide III, son of former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr.

Davide ran against Garcia in 2010, but lost by 96,341 votes. His running mate, Sanchez, won and filed the case against Garcia four months into their term.

Garcia dug in and slept at the Capitol building for three nights, along with supporters, family and friends.