SC asked: Scrap doctrine shielding reelected execs
The Supreme Court is being asked to abolish a 56-year-old legal doctrine that reelected public officials have used to defend themselves against administrative complaints arising from their actions during their previous term.
The last time the “Aguinaldo doctrine” made headlines, it was being invoked by the camp of embattled Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.
A former barangay (village) councilor from Quezon City recently filed a petition asking the high court to nullify the Aguinaldo doctrine, saying it contravenes public accountability under the Constitution and violates the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, as well as the Local Government Code.
“For more than half a century, the Supreme Court authorized the voters to pardon their public officials who are found guilty of misdeeds from grave misconduct, abuse of authority and corruption, as long as the electorate put them back to office,” Henry Giron of Capri, Novaliches, said in his petition filed June 22.
The doctrine entered Supreme Court jurisprudence through a 1959 decision involving then San Jose, Nueva Ecija, Mayor Arturo Pascual, which stated that administrative offenses by elected officials are deemed “condoned” upon their reelection.
It became known later as the Aguinaldo doctrine when the tribunal applied it in a 1992 ruling in favor of then reelected Cagayan Gov. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, who was facing administrative cases for taking part in a coup attempt against Cory Aquino administration in 1989. The cases were declared “moot and academic” after Aguinaldo was voted back into office in 1992.
In a statement sent to the Inquirer on Saturday, Giron said: “This case will have national importance and a transcendent effect, especially with the elections next year. Will (public) officials again be allowed to escape from their current cases?”
“Is the electorate more powerful than the Constitution? The Constitution has a public accountability provision, so I believe the Supreme Court erred in the 1992 decision,” he added.
Giron cited a case closer to home: In 2012, he filed an administrative complaint against a former barangay chair, but it was dismissed and deemed “moot and academic” by the Quezon City council through a resolution in 2014 because the official was elected barangay councilor in 2013.
He said he filed the complaint after a TV public affairs program aired allegations that the village official illegally sourced the power supply for his computer shops.
Failing to convince the council to reconsider its resolution, Giron took his case to Malacañang in November 2014, asking the Office of the President to declare that the Aguinaldo doctrine should not apply to public officials elected to a “different position.”
The office of Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, however, released a decision in June stating the “condonation rule” could still be applied even if the official ran for a different post.
In his Supreme Court petition, Giron asked that the 1959 Pascual decision be deemed “irrelevant” under the 1987 Constitution. Should the court still consider the doctrine valid, it should at least declare that it does not apply to officials reelected to other positions, he argued.
Claiming “popular support” for his cause, Giron also recalled that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales questioned the Aguinaldo doctrine when it was invoked by the legal team of Mayor Binay in April.
Binay’s lawyer, Sandra Marie Coronel, cited it to challenge a March 11 order from the Ombudsman that put Binay under preventive suspension pending an investigation into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.
While interpellating Coronel during the oral arguments on the suspension order, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno described the doctrine as an “unfortunate doctrine made on legally insecure foundations” and an example of “bad case law.”
Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, meanwhile, said the 1959 doctrine may be outdated since it was established under the guidance of the 1935 Constitution.–With Inquirer Research
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