Palace suspension order vs Gwen ‘final’, says OSG
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said President Benigno Aquino III did not violate any law in ordering Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia suspended for six months.
The OSG, in a petition dated Dec. 27, formally opposed Garcia’s petition to stop her suspension in the Court of Appeals.
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said the embattled governor’s petition should be denied for lack of merit as she had “failed to demonstrate that there was a flagrant abuse of the exercise of the power of suspension” by the Office of the President.
He said the decision of the Office of the President in administrative cases is “final and executory” and that an appeal does not prevent the decision from becoming final based on Sections 67 and 68 of the Local Government Code of 1991.
While Garcia said the case should have been dismissed after the complainant Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. died in 2011, the OSG said this was not so.
In administrative cases, the death of a complainant does not automatically extinguish the case against a respondent, said the government’s legal counsel.
“In this class of proceedings, the complainant is only treated as a witness,” said Jardeleza citing two Supreme Court decisions in 2005 and 2009.
“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,” he added.
Garcia’s suspension for six months was a penalty for an administrative complaint for grave abuse of authority. It stemmed from the complaint of vice governor Sanchez about a series of alleged acts of “tyranny” where the budget of his office and the Provincial Board was reduced by 61 percent by Garcia, and that she bypassed the legislature in taking over the appointment of employees and consultants of the legislative branch.
The OSG said Garcia “misread” another 2005 Supreme Court ruling which she cited in supporting her claim that the vice governor did not have the authority to appoint.
The OSG said the Office of the President and the Department of the Interior and Local Government 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,” said Jardeleza. 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,” said the OSG.
The OSG also countered Garcia’s claim that she did not receive a copy of the suspension order, saying it was posted on the door of Garcia’s office in the Capitol.
Garcia arrived shortly after DILG Regional Director Ananias Villacorta went to her office, where staff refused to officially receive the order.