Jojo Binay was furious. Don’t even think about it, his legal office told Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo for saying he was perfectly prepared to remove Gwen Gacia from her office. Garcia of course, as most everyone knows by now, is the embattled Cebu governor who has been holing out in the province’s capitol in defiance of her suspension by Malacañang over a fairly old case.
“Due process and the rule of law, not to mention judicial courtesy, require that you hold in abeyance your decision to remove the governor from the provincial capitol,” the Vice President’s office told Garbo. Garcia currently has her case on appeal in the Court of Appeals. But legality has little to do with it. At the very least, Garcia is UNA’s bet in one of Cebu’s congressional districts, and her suspension is clearly an effort to debilitate her. At the very most, well, this issue is dear to Binay’s heart.
That’s so because he was a victim, or near-victim, of that too. His nemesis, Gloria Arroyo, after kicking out several mayors opposed to her with relative ease, turned her attention on him. Ronnie Puno, her chief berdugo in local governments descended on the Makati City Hall at dawn with heavily armed military men to flush him out. Except that Binay, who had been alerted of their coming the night before, had dug in with heavily armed men in turn, and was prepared to gut it out. Puno blinked first and slunk away, preventing a bloodbath. And Binay from being removed.
My sympathies are with Garcia in this respect.
Let me be clear: I do not like Gwen Garcia. I do not like her brother, Winston. I only like the fact that their younger brother, Byron, had the bright idea to showcase the inmates of a Cebu prison dancing to “Thriller” a-la Michael Jackson in tribute to him after his death. But otherwise, I do not like all of them. They were some of Arroyo’s most rabid cohorts. They were some of those who made life in this country, and not just in Cebu, miserable for their countrymen.
But suspending Garcia has got to be one of the most witless things done by government. Or by Mar Roxas. Ben Evardone, a Liberal Party stalwart, says this has nothing to do with politics, this has nothing to do with Roxas. Really? Less than five months before the elections? And shortly after accusing Amado Espino, a scourge of the Liberal Party, of being a coddler of gambling lords, if not a gambling lord himself? A thing quite incidentally they have yet to supply proof of. Who the hell is the head of the Liberal Party? And who the hell is the head of the DILG? Well, P-Noy has only himself to blame. He put him there.
The witless nature of the enterprise is patent.
Not the least of them is that it reminds us of Binay’s own experience with Arroyo. Arroyo’s case against Binay, one of corruption, never even got noticed, let alone flew off, all everyone saw was Arroyo’s arbitrariness and haste to get rid of an inconvenience. Government’s case against Garcia won’t even get noticed, let alone fly off, all everyone will see is Malacañang’s, or the Liberal Party’s, arbitrariness and haste to get rid of an inconvenience.
The case is forgettable enough in itself, one of usurpation of authority stemming from Garcia’s use of her vice governor’s budget to pay off her sycophants. Of course you can always make a case of it, as you can with all office intramurals. But coming as it does on the eve of elections, it will not be seen as principle, it will be seen as pettiness. It will not be seen as decency, it will be seen as tyranny.
Quite apart from that, it will impact badly on P-Noy’s anticorruption drive. The Arroyo camp tried to depict the Corona impeachment as a case of vindictiveness, persecution, and selective justice, and nobody bought it. The surveys all pointed to public approval of the impeachment, the surveys all pointed to the impeachment as fully justified. Corona stood in the way of justice, Corona stood in the way of fighting corruption, Corona stood in the way of prosecuting Arroyo, it was only right that he should be brought to court and judged by his peers. Not so this one. This one has electioneering written all over it, this one has selective justice written all over it, this one has cynicism written all over it.
This one stokes to life the ashes of the Arroyo camp’s charge of vindictive politics, and makes it harder to prosecute her. It doesn’t advance the cause of fighting corruption, it derails it. The impetus that came with the ousting of Corona comes to a halt, slamming into a wall. The perception that government can be petty too, the perception that government can be arbitrary too, cannot possibly do it well. Naturally Arroyo dispatched Elena Bautista-Horn at once to Cebu to commiserate with Garcia, with the message that she would have done it herself except that government wouldn’t let her. Why shouldn’t she bleed the thing for all it’s worth? Why shouldn’t she compare her plight to that of Garcia? Her enemies have just given her the opportunity to.
And finally, can anything be more counterproductive? With Arroyo out of power, the dominance of the Garcias in Cebu has tremendously waned. Gwen herself dropped out of the senatorial race late last year because she wasn’t getting any traction in the surveys. That now looks premature, given all the free advertisement the Liberal Party has been giving her. Who knows? Maybe she just might reconsider her position to settle for the House of Representatives and revive her senatorial bid. Certainly, her persecution—as she has made her suspension out to be, and not without reason—stands to get a lot of sympathy among Cebuanos for her, her father and her brother who are running for various offices. Her brother, Pablo John, is seeking to succeed her as governor.
They manage a rout of their foes next year, they won’t have UNA to thank.