Gwen on leave from UNA, backs Digong
CEBU third district Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia has decided to go on leave from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to fully support the presidential bid of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
After weighing her options, she decided to go with the decision of her local party One Cebu, her family’s unified decision, and the “clamor of the Cebuanos for a presidential candidate from the Visayas.”
“I can’t be with UNA if I am supporting Digong. That is why I am taking a leave of absence purely for that reason and no other. It was quite a difficult decision to make,” she told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview.
Garcia clarified that she was not bolting the party and was only taking a leave of absence until the national and local elections are over.
The congresswoman said she spoke with Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA president, and informed him about her decision last Saturday.
As far as she understood, her leave of absence took effect on the same day because she wasn’t required to write a formal letter.
She said Tiangco “understood” her position that there was no other way but to come out openly as a Duterte supporter.
“Cebuanos are looking at me. I was governor of Cebu for nine years. I can’t just stay silent. My voice is a voice many seek to hear,” said Garcia.
Garcia said Tiangco told her that she can “come back” anytime she wishes and that UNA has been very welcoming to her as well as to One Cebu.
The Garcia-led One Cebu, which the congresswoman founded in 2007, recently announced that it was supporting Mayor Duterte for president.
Duterte is running under the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
The announcement came about two weeks after the local party severed ties with UNA, whose standard-bearer is Vice President Jejomar Binay.
One Cebu and UNA formed an alliance in February, but the former broke the partnership off after the latter was found to have been allegedly cavorting with candidates from the opposition and failed to inform the local group about doing sorties all over the province.
While Garcia founded One Cebu, she is also one of the founding members of UNA.
Garcia said she hasn’t spoken with Binay regarding the matter, but she said Tiangco assured her he was going to talk to the vice president about it.
“Before this, my relationship with the vice president was very warm. I don’t think my decision will change. He has been a true friend in need and has been with me through thick and thin,” the congresswoman said.
She said Binay has been very supportive and helped her when she was suspended from office as governor in 2012.
Garcia’s brother, One Cebu chairman and gubernatorial bet Winston Garcia, welcomed his sister’s decision to support Duterte.
Earlier, he said emphatically that his sister was for Duterte even before she arrived at a decision, adding that they “cannot have two presidential candidates.”
Meanwhile, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he respects Rep. Garcia’s decision to support Duterte.
In a phone interview yesterday, Rama said that the decision that Rep. Garcia made was considered a “family choice.”
“I give her my full respect. Blood is thicker than water,” he told CDN.
Rama said they are not worried about this development since they still have supporters through members of the Alpha Phi Omega (Apo) fraternity of which Binay is a member. He said the fraternity has several links with other organizations.
Aside from this, they have mayors in Cebu who are friends with Binay, and they also have level by level organizations.
Toledo City Mayor John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña was in Manila for a meeting when sought for comment about Gwen’s support to Duterte.
In a statement sent by Osmeña through his information officer Alma Mondigo, Osmeña said he understands Rep. Garcia’s decision even if she did not consult him.
“(In the) Congressional level, there is no complication, but in the local level, we have to work this out,” Osmeña’s statement said.
Meanwhile, Garcia’s opponent in this year’s polls, Provincial Board Member Grecilda Sanchez, said she feels bad for Vice President Binay.
“I feel bad for him. After he helped Gwen all throughout her darkest moments, in the middle of this battle, she abandoned him,” she told CDN in a separate interview.
Garcia, who is seeking reelection, is being challenged by Sanchez, eldest daughter of the late vice governor Gregorio Sanchez.
The board member, who is running under the administration-backed Liberal Party, said Garcia’s move is an indication that One Cebu is not a strong group.
“When you transfer from one group to another, you are undecided, you don’t know where you stand,” said Sanchez.
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