The take-no-prisoners, win-at-all-costs strategy of MalacaÃ±ang in the coming May elections may soon claim another victim, this time in Mindanao. At least, no one can accuse the Palace and its Liberal brain trust of not spreading the ill will throughout the land, in their determined bid to grab vote-rich localities from the opposition stalwarts who control them.
In Cagayan de Oro City, hundreds of residents have been gathering outside city hall since news spread that the popular Mayor Vicente Emano was about to be suspended by MalacaÃ±ang Palace. No one is surprised that Emano, who heads the CDO-based Padayon Pilipino party, is not a political ally of President Noynoy Aquino.
Emano is supposedly going to be suspended for failing to do his job in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by typhoon Sendong in the city. Cagayan de Oro was one of two citiesâ€”Butuan being the otherâ€”hard hit when mud and illegally-cut logs that cascaded from the mountains as a result of the heavy rains that inundated Northern Mindanao at the typhoonâ€™s height.
As I recall, Cagayan was merely the victim of the typhoonâ€™s wrath, which was magnified by the unabated illegal logging activities in the upland areas outside the city. Emanoâ€™s job of succoring to his constituents was also made more difficult by MalacaÃ±ang, which refused to give much-needed aid to the city precisely because Emano was not an ally, unlike the mayor of equally-stricken Butuan.
To this day, no one of significance has been punished by MalacaÃ±ang for illegally cutting the trees in the upland areas of Northern Mindanao, the direct cause of the tragedy in Cagayan and Butuan, which left thousands dead and hundreds more missing. By suspending Emano, the Palace seems intent on hitting two birds with one stoneâ€”finding someone to blame for Sendong and making a preemptive strike at a powerful member of the opposition in a strategic locality.
By the way, Emano is facing Gov. Oscar Moreno in the May elections for the mayorship. It is no surprise, as well, that Moreno is the candidate of Aquinoâ€™s Liberal Party.
If it pushes through, the suspension of Emano will neutralize yet another major opposition leader to favor Aquinoâ€™s Liberals, just like in Cebu (where Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is holed up in her provincial capitol) and Pangasinan (where Gov. Amado Espino has been charged with plunder and receiving payoffs from illegal gambling lords). Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who hands down the suspension orders on local officialsâ€” and who just happens to be the chieftain-on-leave of the Liberals â€”must be very busy these days.
After Emano, it seems that MalacaÃ±ang will head back north to Luzon in its bid to look for local officials to suspend and prevent from campaigning all over the country. One source has told me that Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan has been charged before the Ombudsman for supposedly putting up overpriced Christmas decorations in the countryâ€™s summer capitalâ€”and may soon be suspended, as well.
Itâ€™s still many months until the May polls. Who knows who else will be punished by MalacaÃ±ang simply because they donâ€™t kowtow to Aquino and Roxas?
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Speaking of Cebu, Iâ€™ve been told that police attempted to sabotage a prayer rally organized by supporters of Garcia yesterday at historic Fuente OsmeÃ±a by preventing busloads of people from outside the city from joining the assembly. This is not the first time policemen under the command of Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo, regional PNP commander, have been accused of favoring Garciaâ€™s tormentors led by acting Gov. Agnes Magpale.
Magpaleâ€™s supporters, by the way, have also scheduled a rival prayer rally on the same day elsewhere in Cebu City. There were no reports that Garboâ€™s cops harassed or prevented people from joining that mass action.
It was Garbo who tried to force a resolution to the standoff in Cebu by giving Garcia up to the end of last month to vacate her office at the provincial capitol, where she has stayed since being suspended by Roxas more than three weeks ago. That deadline came and went, with Garbo not making good on his threat to forcibly remove the governor from her office, thankfully.
Personally, I fail to understand why Roxas, Magpale and the Cebu police want to evict Garcia. If it is true that the acting governor already controls all of the province and is now exercising all the powers of Garciaâ€™s office, why should the suspended official be removed physically?
Is Garcia supposed to be suspended or has she been ordered removed, physically, from office? Why do they need to threaten to cut off the power and water to Garciaâ€™s office, then, like the new Cebu overlords keep threatening?
I think Magpale and her people have been infected with the Aquino-Roxas virus which makes them seek not only victory over their political foes but their utter humiliation, as well. This is sad, because Garciaâ€™s suspension has still not been upheld by the courtsâ€”and she is still the duly elected governor who deserves a modicum of respect.