Palace defends suspension of Cebu governor

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 04 2013 08:37 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2013 01:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Palace has defended before the Court of Appeals (CA) the legality of its order suspending Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for six months over the complaint of the late Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. in 2010.

In a 29-page opposition, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said the Office of the President (OP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) did not violate any law in issuing and serving the suspension order last month.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) rebutted the allegation in Garcia’s petition that the OP and DILG violated the Local Government Code of 1991 by implementing the order pending her appeal.

The OSG argued that the decision of the OP in administrative cases is final and executory and an appeal does not prevent the decision from becoming so. He cited sections 67 and 68 of the Local Government Code.

It also questioned petitioner’s argument that the administrative complaint against her should have been dismissed since the complainant had already passed away in April 2011 and was not substituted in the case.

Citing two Supreme Court decisions, the OSG stressed that the death of a complainant does not automatically extinguish the case against a respondent in administrative cases.

“Once an administrative complaint is given due course, the government becomes the real aggrieved party and the complainant’s death will not exonerate the public official of administrative charges,” it further argued, adding the complainant had become a mere witness.

The OSG also justified the legality of Garcia’s suspension based on the merits of the complaint of Sanchez.

It explained that the OP and DILG found that Garcia signed the appointment papers of contractual employees for the vice governor’s office in 2010 and charged their salaries to the budget allocation for the vice governor’s office.

The budget for the contractual employees was removed in 2011 for “unknown reasons” but was restored after Sanchez’s death.

“This evokes malice and bad faith,” the OSG pointed out. He said the budget reduction came after Sanchez left Garcia’s political party, which “lends itself to the belief that a scheme to restrict the functions of the (vice governor) was employed.”

“This counters the very purpose of the Local Government Code which is to distribute power among elective local officials, allow a check and balance,” it added.

Lastly, the OSG countered the technical ground raised by Garcia that she had not personally received the suspension order as required in the rules. It claimed that the order was posted on the door of Garcia’s office.

With these arguments, the OSG asked the 12th division of the appellate court not to grant Garcia’s plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the implementation of the suspension order against her.

The OSG filed the opposition with the CA last Friday.

The CA division composed of Associate Justices Vicente Veloso, Eduardo Peralta Jr. and Aurora Jane Lantion tackled this pleading of the Palace in a hearing last Wednesday.

It, however, has deferred ruling on the prayer for TRO and instead set the case for oral argument on Jan. 10.

The governor earlier accused the ruling Liberal Party of working to control vote-rich provinces like Cebu. She also cited as another example the case of Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr., who was charged recently with plunder for allegedly protecting and operating jueteng in his province.

Sanchez, in his complaint, accused Garcia of usurping his authority by slashing his budget for the salary of contractual employees under his office. He died in April 2011, even before the DILG, then headed by the late secretary Jesse Robredo could start its investigation.

Garcia denied the charges and explained that the decision to put the funds intended for Sanchez to her office was approved by the Provincial Board.