Gov. Gwen Garcia or Gwen Garci?

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx

The controversy over the suspension of Cebu governor Gwen Garcia for grave abuse of authority and her subsequent defiance of the suspension order because of legal technicalities was summed up in a question by a columnist from a major daily : “Is it the rule of law or the rule of politics?”

The rule of law as defined by my online dictionary is “the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws.”

Ideally, the rule of law checks the capriciousness of politicians. In reality, politicians are good at disguising capriciousness as rule of law. And so, with as much legal piety as they can muster, both sides in the Garcia controversy cite the rule of law to back up their support for or opposition to the implementation of her suspension. 

The administration points to substance – the evidence against Garcia – to back up its suspension order. Garcia, on the other hand, points to form – the suspension came too late, 474 days after the deadline mandated by the Local Government Code – to back her defiance of the suspension order.  

Which side is with the rule of law? Both could be because politicians will never run out of arguments to support whatever side they are on. 

From the Palace –  “Our position is that this is a process that has to be followed and we are all obliged to follow the law. And you cannot choose which law you will follow and which you will not so let us all follow the law and let us not create a situation where people are encouraged to violate the law.”

From the UNA coalition –  “So it only shows that there is really a process, okay? Governor Garcia opted to file in court also. Why then, can’t they halt the suspension in the meantime? After all, they’re saying it’s not a preventive suspension, it’s a penalty.” He added, “You know, that account about me and Senator Enrile and President Erap, that’s true. And we were there primarily para makipaggitgitan na manaig ang rule of law.” 

From the Liberal Party – “If they believe in legal processes, they should have advised Gwen to leave the Capitol and let the legal process take due course because she herself has sought refuge in the legal system in filing a motion for temporary restraining order.”

At any rate, the Court of Appeals will decide which side is more right. Will it uphold substance over form or form over substance? 

Whichever way the CA decides, one party will feel aggrieved and will howl that the rule of law was sacrificed on the altar of politics. The baying will never end.  The pressing question then is, can you do anything to end this endless barking back and forth?

Yes, you can do something about it. Gwen Garcia’s suspension is in the hands of the Court of Appeals but her political future, and her allies as well, is in your hands. You are the predicate, you decide their fate. You are the sovereign, they are your subjects. Rule wisely. You can vote against Garcia and her allies if you believe an abusado should not be in public office or you can take their side if you believe that an abusado can be abused through bad form. 

As for me I’m tempted to follow the advice of Jobak, my spiritual adviser from the Cordilleras – “Just focus on Gwen Garci of Viva Hot Babes, she’s a far more interesting subject than Gwen Garcia of Cebu.” Om…

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • I find it strange that the Office of the President under the local government code is vested with the power to suspend governors and mayors of “highly urbanized, independent component or component” cities under administrative proceedings. These are elected, not appointed officials.

    The LGC was meant to provide for local autonomy, but this procedure treats them like political appointees. Even local non-elected, career public servants have the right to appeal to the Civil Service Commission. No such framework for elected officials. This exposes the proceedings to charges of political persecution, whether founded or unfounded.

    Under the US federal system, governors are investigated by provincial board (as in the case of Sarah Palin). I can’t see why provincial boards and city or municipal councils should not be given this authority. At the national level, the president can be impeached by congress, so why shouldn’t these legislative bodies at the local level be given the same status? The national government should only step in when dealing with violations of human rights or threats to national peace and security as in the case of the Ampatuans.

    • manuelbuencamino

      It might be time for another look at the LGC.

    • UPnnGrd

      When Mindanao gets ceded over to Murad and Jaffar, that may become how it happens.

  • Cha

    Excellent point about voter power in all this. I just hope the message reaches mainstream.

  • Not to worry. Binay showed his values. His popularity will drop. What a cast of crusty egos, eh? I sottoed a photo of them praying together. They are the old Philippines, the one that makes earnest people shudder. The challenge is to get this picture spread beyond the internet set.

    • UPnnGrd

      Binay has gotten more brave with each month, though…. right? As Mon Tulfo has noted… Binay has made an open challenge.

    • manuelbuencamino

      Joe,

      Careful about using the verb sottoing. You might get enriled – That’s what happened to Philstar columnist Yoly Ong who got sued for libel by Enrile for telling the truth and as a result causing him “mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation.” Strangely enough in this country truth is no defense against libel.

      • Yes, well, the place is downright scary when that authoritarian bent comes crawling out of the upper echelon woodwork. When Justin Bieber does a little photoshop work and has a resolution put forward to ban him from the Philippines then we have an even worse condition. Gross inferiority complex in the wrapping of nationalism, and authoritarian vengence. It’s almost as bad as US Republican extremists.

      • Plus, I am perfecting the notion that nothing I say in my blog is truthful. It is all fiction, satire, literary exaggeration, or opinion, and therefore any meaning assigned to it is solely the reader’s, not mine, so I can’t be held accountable for any pain they impose upon themselves by mis-interpreting my good intent. I don’t have to argue truth or its relevance.