Garcia is still Cebu governor, says lawyer

Posted at 12/19/2012 3:07 PM | Updated as of 12/19/2012 3:07 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has not been suspended and is still the acting governor of the province, her legal counsel insisted Wednesday.

This, after the Malacañang confirmed this morning that it has suspended Garcia for six months for alleged grave abuse of authority.

Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas said a laywer from the DILG, accompanied by Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Director Marcelo Garbo, served the order to Garcia's office in Cebu. The governor, however, was in Manila.

"I would like to clarify the misconception that the governor has already been suspended. She has not been suspended for two reasons. First, the alleged suspension order has not been validly served against her. The Supreme Court has decided a suspension order can only take effect if it is personally received by the respondent," Atty. Christina Garcia-Frasco, also a daughter of the governor, said on ANC.

Garcia-Frasco added that only a photocopy of the suspension order was posted in the hallway of the governor's office.

"It is very clear again under law and jurisprudence that posting merely a photocopy of an order does not constitute valid service."

"Therefore, her suspension is not in effect and Vice Governor Agnes Magpale is not the acting governor. Governor Garcia is still the validly elected governor of the province of Cebu and she continues to exercise her mandate," she said.

Political harassment

The suspension order stemmed from a complaint filed in November 2010 by the late Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez against Garcia for allegedly withholding the budget for his office.

Garcia-Frasco said they find the order questionable and unjust since they participated in the formal investigation launched last year and Sanchez, who died in 2011, was also not able to prove the allegations against Garcia.

"The complainant at the time of investigation had already died. Where else can you find a proceeding where it can continue despite the death of the complainant?"

"The complainant's side was not able to prove their allegations. Sadly, justice has not prevailed in this case. Our defense seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and they don't care even if there are no evidence to hold up against Governor Garcia," she added.

The United Nationalist Alliance earlier said Garcia's suspension was politically-motivated.

"With Governor Garcia suspended, the vice governor, who is a member of the Liberal Party and the running mate of the LP gubernatorial bet, takes over, thus giving the administration party effective control over the province.

Garcia-Frasco, likewise, claimed it is very clear that this is a case of political harassment.

"All they care about is suspending her and removing her from office. They want to take over the capital. They want to take over the resources for the upcoming elections," she said.

But despite this, the governor will continue exercising her duties in the province, her legal counsel said.

"Governor Garcia has never been one to evade any challenge so definitely she will face this head on. Governor Garcia will continue to exercise her mandate given to her by the people of the province," Garcia-Frasco said.