CA hears oral debates on Garcia plea

Posted at 01/10/13 3:45 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals 12th Division did not issue an injunction against the continuing suspension of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia at the close of oral arguments today.

Division Chairman Justice Vicente Veloso, however, said the application for injunction is now submitted for resolution, rejecting the government's motion for 3 more days to submit written memoranda on their arguments.

Garcia's camp filed a petition asking for the issuance of either a temporary restraining order or a status quo ante order. The petition cited alleged "grave irreparable damage" on the part of Garcia because of her 120-day suspension, which was served December 17, 2012.

Garcia's lead counsel Tranquil Salvador said Garcia's rights are protected by the Constitution and law, and that the penalty imposed on Garcia for alleged usurpation of powers was very harsh.

Salvador said Garcia will continue to stay in the provincial capitol as the justices deliberate on the issuance of an injunction.

He expressed hope that the outcome will be in their favor, noting that it is usual for justices to ask questions that may seem to favor one side or another just to get clarity.

"Pag nakikinig ka naman diyan lahat ng points nire-raise. All the issues ina-identify and ask questions. May mga tanong na parang pabor sa kanila. That wouldn't in any way say they'd be deciding in one's favor. This is a collegial body. Magdeliberate pa yan,” he said.

Salvador hopes a ruling will be issued in 3-4 days.

"I don't want to say bilang abugado matagal na mahirap sabihin ang husgado ganito magdesisyon. Respect them. Give them chance to deliberate and hope for the best,” he said.

Oral arguments

During the oral arguments, Veloso said the CA has to balance the interest of both petitioner and respondent, noting the irreparable damage on the parts of both.

He said that should an injunction be granted, the damage on the part of government is that it can no longer impose the 120-day suspension since the period of restraint would eat into the period of suspension even as Garcia's term of governor, her third and last, would end by June 30, 2013.

Veloso also noted clashes between legal points, in particular, the petitioner's choice of asking for a TRO or SQA because of grave and irreparable damage instead of a petition for certiorari to protect the rights of both parties. Veloso noted that the CA's powers of injunction are limited compared to the powers of injunction of the Supreme Court.

Both sides also argued over the power of the President to discipline, with petitioner questioning how Garcia was denied her right to a speedy resolution of her case when it was decided by the Office of the President over a year after it was filed.

The administrative case decided by the OP stems from an administrative complaint over Garcia’s appointment of officials under the office of the Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez.

Sanchez has since died and replaced by top board member, Agnes Almendras Magpale. She is the sister of Cabinet Secretary and presidential buddy Jose Rene Almendras.

Salvador noted before the court the political color of the suspension.

Garcia is an ally of Vice President Jejomar Binay under the latter's United Nationalist Alliance. Garcia was also Cebu governor when the province gave President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a 1 million vote lead in the 2004 elections.

Garcia's suspension was carried out by the Department of the Interior and Local Government led by Secretary Mar Roxas.

For her part, Garcia's daughter, Cristina Garcia Frasco expressed satisfaction at the close of the oral arguments today.

"Very happy. We were given the opportunity to ventilate the merits as well as urgency for need for the issuance of a TRO. We will exhaust all our legal remedies. Certainly, the  road does not end here. We remain hopeful. Sana nga ma-grant,” she said.

Frasco said her mother will stay put in the provincial capitol.

"Yes, (she will stay). Solid position namin from the very start. Di validly served ang suspension order. Totoo talaga siguro lahat naman ng tao, buong Pilipinas alam na illegally sinuspend ng Office of the President si Gov. Gwen Garcia. It was very good indeed na pinoint out yun ni  Justice Veloso,” she said.

No cameras, cellphones and electronic gadgets were allowed inside the session hall during the oral arguments.