As I See It

We’re still alive, Merry Christmas!

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Yehey! The world did not end last Dec. 21! The sun is still shining, the trees and plants are still growing, the birds still sing and butterflies still fly and bees still buzz, flowers are still colorful and fragrant, the wind still caresses tree leaves and branches, clouds still sail in the sky, waves still rush to the shore, the earth still spins—all’s right with the world.

When I went to sleep on Dec. 20, I was hoping that when I woke up I would see angels but afraid that I would be surrounded by flames. When I opened my eyes the next morning, what I saw through my bedroom window was the blue sky with puffs of beautiful white clouds. I was ecstatic. I thought I was in heaven.

Then there was a soft scratching on my window. I thought it was angels wanting to come in to serenade me with their harps. But it was only the fire tree in the backyard, with a brisk breeze causing its branches to brush against my window.

Then I smelled coffee brewing and bacon frying and I was back on earth. We were still alive and would still be alive to celebrate Christmas.

And so to everybody, happy greetings of Merry Christmas. Till the next doomsday prediction.

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Gov. Gwen Garcia of Cebu said she would spend Christmas with her family in her office in the Provincial Capitol. She has been there since she was suspended for abuse of authority.

Gwen has been suspended for six months, which means she would still be out of office during the May 2013 elections.

“It is nothing but a preelection power grab by the ruling Liberal Party,” said Garcia.

The opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) seconded her accusation. It branded the series of suspensions of local officials as a hatchet job on non-LP elective officials ahead of the May polls. It cited the investigation of Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino of the Nationalist People’s Coalition after he was tagged by a whistle-blower as protecting “jueteng” operations in his province.

Garcia has chosen to defy Malacañang, staging a mini “people power” at the Provincial Capitol grounds and ordering provincial government officials and employees to ignore the Palace appointment of Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale as her replacement during the suspension period.

“I am the chief executive of this provincial government and our department heads shall follow orders from the duly elected and duly installed governor with a mandate from the Cebuano people,” said the combative Garcia. “This is plain and simple power grab. What they are doing is clearly an abuse of power.”

It is ironic for the defiant governor to be crying “abuse of power” because she has been suspended for the same offense committed against then Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez, who died of lung cancer in April 2011. When Sanchez was still alive, Garcia virtually “castrated” the Office of the Vice Governor when she reduced its annual budget by 61 percent and froze the overtime pay of its employees. Sanchez sued her for grave abuse of authority; his complaint was decided on and promulgated by Malacañang only this month.

In his suspension order of Dec. 17, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said Garcia’s move was “suggestive of harassment, oppression and vindictiveness” tantamount to grave abuse of authority because she promptly restored the slashed budget after Sanchez died and was replaced by her erstwhile ally, Magpale, then a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

UNA ignored this administrative case and saw the suspension, along with the earlier investigation of Governor Espino on a jueteng exposé, as the opening salvo of a grand LP scheme to take control, before the May 13 polls, of vote-rich provinces like Pangasinan and Cebu where the reelectionist governors belong to rival political parties.

“This is without a doubt a power grab by [Interior Secretary Mar] Roxas and the LP,” said the UNA secretary general, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco. “Apparently, Secretary Roxas is using the vast powers of his office to dig up old complaints against local officials and use these cases to harass and intimidate. This is not ‘daang matuwid.’ This is ‘Gloria Part 2.’”

Other UNA leaders said the next targets on the LP “hit list” are non-LP governors in similarly vote-rich provinces such as Lilia Pineda in Pampanga, David Suarez (the House minority leader’s son) in Quezon, and Juanito Victor Remulla in Cavite.

They allege that actions against non-LP governors point to an “LP-orchestrated demolition job in preparation for the May elections because Liberals occupying elective positions have supposedly been spared of similar punitive steps.

Not true. An LP governor and an LP mayor are also in the wringer on different charges. LP Gov. Jocel Baac of Kalinga and LP Mayor Samuel Co of Pagadian City have also been charged, proof that there are no sacred cows in the government’s campaign for good governance.

Co was charged last November with syndicated estafa by the National Bureau of Investigation for his alleged involvement in the pyramid scam of Aman Futures Group Philippines, which had conned some 15,000 investors in the Visayas and Mindanao of their hard-earned money totaling a staggering P12 billion.

Baac, meanwhile, was suspended last July for attacking his critic, broadcast journalist Jerome Tabanganay, while the latter was in the announcer’s booth of the state-run dzRK Radio ng Bayan. Baac had barged into the booth while Tabanganay was hosting his show “Agenda ng Bayan,” and threatened to kill the latter, who had linked the governor to jueteng operations and illegal logging in the province.

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