VP Binay backs suspended Cebu governor, on collision course with PNoy

(Updated 2:21 p.m.) Vice President Jojo Binay and other leaders of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) are backing the decision of embattled Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to defy the six-month suspension slapped on her by the Office of the President.

"The UNA leaders expressed their full support for Governor Gwen. The Vice President advised Gov. Gwen to stay strong and that UNA and the UNA leadership are solidly behind her," Binay's spokesperon Joey Salgado told GMA News Online in a phone interview Monday.

He said this was what UNA leaders Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told Garcia when they visited her in Cebu on Sunday. Accompanying them were senatorial candidates Nancy Binay and former Senate President Ernesto Maceda.

Asked if UNA advised Garcia to hold on to her post, Salgado said there was no such thing.

"Walang ganun. Since it's already in the court, they told her to exhaust all legal remedies," he said.

Salgado also just quoted Binay as saying that he was "glad" Garcia asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the implementation of the six-month suspension order on her for alleged abuse of authority.

"He is glad that the governor has taken the matter before the courts. He's hopeful it will be decided judiciously and fairly," he said.

Asked if they would provide her any additional legal help, he said Garcia's lawyers are already handling the case. 'No ill will between Binay, Palace' In Malacañang, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang maintained that there exists no ill will between Binay and the Aquino administration despite the visit of the Vice President's group to Garcia. “It’s Christmas and I’m thinking of other things. I’m not disappointed. I think that’s an issue that we will deal with after the holidays,” Carandang said.

“We’re hoping that as active members of the government, Senate President [Juan Ponce] Enrile and Vice President Binay can reason with Governor Garcia and ask her, again, what we have been saying all along: Follow the rule of law,” he said. 'Rule of law'

In a separate interview, UNA secretary general Rep. Toby Tiangco told GMA News Online that their party leaders gave "moral support more than legal."

"The main purpose of the trip was to visit Gov. Gwen," he said, adding that the official stand of the coalition is to observe the "rule of law."

"I'm sure walang pagtatalo dun sa respecting the rule of law pero yung kabila, iba ang definition ng rule of law," he said.

Tiangco was pertaining to Malacañang's message to Garcia for her to "follow the rule of law" until the CA comes out with a decision.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that since the CA has yet to issue an order stopping the execution of the suspension at this time, “the suspension stands.”

“She filed [a petition with the Court of Appeals]. Until such time it will be acted by the CA, we would encourage Gov. Garcia to follow the legal process,” he said.

Garcia has defied the suspension order, as she questioned its nature. She had also described the suspension order as a "power grab."

Tiangco also said that his interpretation of the law was that since the case is pending before the CA, the executive branch cannot enforce the suspension order.

"The most important thing is that it's already in the hands of the co-equal branch of government. Judicial courtesy must be practiced, ibig sabihin they must not move until the CA hasn't moved on the case," he said.

Aside from this, he also questioned the supposed restrictions being imposed on Garcia and her supporters.

"Rule of law ba yung ipinagbabawal na magpasok ng pagkain sa provincial capitol? Yung supporters ni Gov. Gwen pinahihirapan din pumasok, yan ba ang rule of law na tinatawag? Bakit kailangan na yung mag pulis dapat naka-armalite, yan ba ang rule of law?" he said.

Salgado said this "saddened" VP Binay because the situation reminded him of the previous administration's attempt to suspend him in October 2006.

"He has directed the police ground commander at the provincial capitol to observe the rule of law and allow the governor's supporters to show their support without undue restrictions," he said, to which the commander supposedly agreed.

— with Patricia Denise Chiu/RSJ/HS, GMA News