CEBU CITY, PHILIPPINES- They threw anything at her except the kitchen sink, in short, her rival and critics indulged in “negative campaigning” but after the smoke cleared, Gwendolyn Fiel Garcia emerged as the victor in the just concluded May 13, 2019 polls.
It is her 6th straight political victory, not losing any single election since she became Governor in 2004.
She got reelected in 2007 with almost half-million votes (452, 882) lead over her rival former Cong. Antonio Yapha and got her third term in 2010, defeating incumbent Gov. Hilario Davide lll.
Along the way, since she was identified with the opposition, she got troubles against the administration of former Pres. Benigno Aquino lll which led to what she calls as “illegal suspension order” and “illegal power grab” in December 2012.”
She hauled herself in the capitol building for several days but when she went out to visit a town, she did not anymore made it back to the governor’s office as it was padlocked by the then Central Visayas Police Regional Director Marcelo Garbo, the infamous “narco general” named by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.
Garbo is believed to be the fair-haired boy by then Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas who implemented the suspension order over an issue of alleged withholding of budget for employees of the Vice Governor’s office of the deceased, Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez.
With that issue hounding her, Gwen managed to become the congresswoman of the Cebu 3rd district in the 2013 elections and won reelection in 2016.
She decided not to seek her last term for 2019 and instead decided to run as governor, and lo and behold, despite the issues of “perpetual disqualification from public office” over an Ombudsman case of the Balili property in Naga, among others, Gwen got her vindication when she overwhelmingly won against the very same person who became the “instant Governor” during her suspension, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale.
She entombed Magpale’s wish to become Governor through an election by a lead of 288, 723, garnering 887, 290 votes up against Magpale’s 598, 567.
Katherine Navarro-Bethune of the “Gwen is Back Team” said that the timely ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) in reversing an earlier Ombudsman rule immensely helped their cause.
The CA Cebu station presided by Justice Gabriel Ingles, issued the order last May 10, exactly three days before the polls, which may have influenced the Cebuano’s decision on whom to vote (Garcia is also the anointed candidate of Pres. Duterte raising her hand for endorsement during a PDP-Laban Cebu campaign rally in April).
Bethune, a former journalist who used to work with Garcia in the defunct Sugbu TV said they made efforts to secure a copy of the ruling “pronto.”
“We really have to find a way how to get hold of a copy, have it printed and distributed so that the people will know,” Bethune who flew from Australia, where she is based just to help Garcia in her campaign told iNews.Ph.
For Atty. Manolet Dinsay, head of the Garcia campaign legal team said the reason for their success is the “candidate herself.”
“There’s only one, our candidate. Our candidate, without that kind of candidate, we wouldn’t have won regardless of the machinery and all. It’s the candidate herself.”
Dinsay who used to be Garcia’s performance management consultant who is also part of her transition team once she sit on June 30, described the returning Governor as easy to be like by the voters, “sayon kaayong ibaligya.”
“Sayon kayong ibaligya, bisan pa ug dili ibaligya paliton na. That’s Gwendolyn Garcia, she is the main reason why she won. There had been many candidates, also well organized, also highly qualified but they are not Gwen.”
For Prof. Joseph Elvir Tubilan, also a former journalist, who has covered the capitol beat for quite a time including the previous terms of Garcia, said, that the Governor-elect who holds the distinction as the “very first ever woman Governor of Cebu” connects with the people well.
He described Garcia as well loved by the C, D, E voters, the majority, belonging to the middle class and those below.
Tubilan who holds a doctorate in communications (Ph.D. Com) also credited Garcia’s eloquence in public speaking which could even make some of her audience cry when she speaks.
“She communicates well with her constituents especially those who are CDE voters. Pinangga kaayo siya sa mga babaye ug mga bata plus maayo modiskurso nga dunay higayon nga motulo ilang mga luha. With her accomplishments in her previous administration that cuts across all sectors, it really helped a lot, “Tubilan who now teaches journalism and communication subjects in Cebu Normal University (CNU) told iNews.Ph.
For Garcia herself, the negative campaigning against her did not work. She said her victory is also for the Cebuanos, describing it as a proud moment for the Cebuano electorates.
“Until the right time, until in God’s perfect time, the people regained that authority through the power of the ballot and with one resounding voice, shouted out to everyone, not just in this province but the entire country that the Cebuanos had chosen Gwen Garcia to lead again this beloved province of ours. This is one proud shining moment for Cebu and the Cebuanos.”
“To my opponents, learn from this, negative campaigning never works with the Cebuanos because the Cebuanos are intelligent electorates. Never again insult their intelligence.”
That’s Gwen, who according to Atty. Dinsay and Prof. Tubilan, won for one reason, herself – Gwen Garcia.