Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia barricades own office after suspension
Gwendolyn Garcia has been holed up since her suspension on cronyism charges on December 17
The governor of the Philippines' most progressive province has defied a presidential order suspending her from office over allegations of cronyism.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has boarded up the windows of her office where she has taken refuge for the past 20 days and told police they could only remove her "over my dead body".
Her security consultant brother Byron - who once gained international media attention for teaching inmates at a maximum security prison in Cebu to dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller - said the inmates would riot if the police tried to detain his sister. He also challenged the Cebu police chief to a fistfight.
The South China Morning Post repeatedly tried to reach Garcia in her office yesterday but the switchboard operator said she could not be connected because her office was swamped with calls.
Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said Garcia's six-month suspension starting on December 17 stemmed from an administrative case that claimed she usurped the powers of the late vice-governor Gregorio Sanchez by slashing 68 per cent of his office budget and appointing her own people there.
Garcia has not denied these charges. But she said the administrative case should have lapsed with Sanchez' death in 2011 and the decision from Manila should have been issued much earlier so her suspension would not cover the campaign period for elections this May 13. "A suspicious person might think there was a political agenda behind the timing of her suspension," Casiple said.
Casiple said Garcia's suspension would effectively bar her relatives from promoting their candidacies by denying them appearances at the inauguration of government projects.
The siege of the suspended governor bares the extent of family feuds in Philippine politics, which remain dominated by a network of politically powerful clans. Garcia is a daughter of House Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia. Three other brothers are a congressman and a mayor and vice-mayor of two Cebu towns.
The Garcia clan were staunch supporters of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and now support Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who has made his presidential ambitions known. Binay, along with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the still-opular deposed president Joseph Estrada have publicly supported Governor Garcia.
This year's elections would be "a proxy war" between Binay and whoever President Benigno Aquino endorsed for 2016, Casiple said. Cebu, with two million voters, is a swing province. Casiple said Cebu was among the areas where massive cheating took place in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Garcia blames the rival Osmena clan - allies of Sanchez - for her troubles. She also accused Aquino's Liberal Party of a power grab since Agnes Magpale, the acting governor, is a sister of Aquino's secretary to the cabinet.