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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 93252 August 5, 1991

RODOLFO T. GANZON, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and LUIS T. SANTOS, respondents.

G.R. No. 93746 August 5,1991

MARY ANN RIVERA ARTIEDA, petitioner,


vs.
HON. LUIS SANTOS, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Local Government, NICANOR M.
PATRICIO, in his capacity as Chief, Legal Service of the Department of Local Government and SALVADOR
CABALUNA JR., respondents.

G.R. No. 95245 August 5,1991

RODOLFO T. GANZON, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and LUIS T. SANTOS, in his capacity as the Secretary of the
Department of Local Government, respondents.

Nicolas P. Sonalan for petitioner in 93252.


Romeo A. Gerochi for petitioner in 93746.
Eugenio Original for petitioner in 95245.

SARMIENTO, J.:

The petitioners take common issue on the power of the President (acting through the Secretary of Local
Government), to suspend and/or remove local officials.

The petitioners are the Mayor of Iloilo City (G.R. Nos. 93252 and 95245) and a member of the Sangguniang
Panglunsod thereof (G.R. No. 93746), respectively.

The petitions of Mayor Ganzon originated from a series of administrative complaints, ten in number, filed against him
by various city officials sometime in 1988, on various charges, among them, abuse of authority, oppression, grave
misconduct, disgraceful and immoral conduct, intimidation, culpable violation of the Constitution, and arbitrary
detention.1 The personalities involved are Joceleehn Cabaluna, a clerk at the city health office; Salvador Cabaluna,
her husband; Dr. Felicidad Ortigoza, Assistant City Health Officer; Mansueto Malabor, Vice-Mayor; Rolando Dabao,
Dan Dalido, German Gonzales, Larry Ong, and Eduardo Pefia Redondo members of the Sangguniang Panglunsod;
and Pancho Erbite, a barangay tanod. The complaints against the Mayor are set forth in the opinion of the
respondent Court of Appeals.2 We quote:

xxx xxx xxx

In her verified complaint (Annex A), Mrs. Cabaluna, a clerk assigned to the City Health, Office of Iloilo City
charged that due to political reasons, having supported the rival candidate, Mrs. Rosa 0. Caram, the petitioner
City Mayor, using as an excuse the exigency of the service and the interest of the public, pulled her out from
rightful office where her qualifications are best suited and assigned her to a work that should be the function
of a non-career service employee. To make matters worse, a utility worker in the office of the Public Services,
whose duties are alien to the complainant's duties and functions, has been detailed to take her place. The
petitioner's act are pure harassments aimed at luring her away from her permanent position or force her to
resign.

In the case of Dra. Felicidad Ortigoza, she claims that the petitioner handpicked her to perform task not
befitting her position as Assistant City Health Officer of Iloilo City; that her office was padlocked without any
explanation or justification; that her salary was withheld without cause since April 1, 1988; that when she filed
her vacation leave, she was given the run-around treatment in the approval of her leave in connivance with
Dr. Rodolfo Villegas and that she was the object of a well-engineered trumped-up charge in an administrative
complaint filed by Dr. Rodolfo Villegas (Annex B).

On the other hand, Mansuelo Malabor is the duly elected Vice-Mayor of Iloilo City and complainants Rolando
Dabao, Dan Dalido, German Gonzales, Larry Ong and Eduardo Pefia Pedondo are members of the
Sangguniang Panglunsod of the City of Iloilo. Their complaint arose out from the case where Councilor Larry
Ong, whose key to his office was unceremoniously and without previous notice, taken by petitioner. Without
an office, Councilor Ong had to hold office at Plaza Libertad, The Vice-Mayor and the other complainants
sympathized with him and decided to do the same. However, the petitioner, together with its fully-armed
security men, forcefully drove them away from Plaza Libertad. Councilor Ong denounced the petitioner's
actuations the following day in the radio station and decided to hold office at the Freedom Grandstand at Iloilo
City and there were so many people who gathered to witness the incident. However, before the group could
reach the area, the petitioner, together with his security men, led the firemen using a firetruck in dozing water
to the people and the bystanders.

Another administrative case was filed by Pancho Erbite, a barangay tanod, appointed by former mayor Rosa
O. Caram. On March 13, 1988, without the benefit of charges filed against him and no warrant of arrest was
issued, Erbite was arrested and detained at the City Jail of Iloilo City upon orders of petitioner. In jail, he was
allegedly mauled by other detainees thereby causing injuries He was released only the following day.3

The Mayor thereafter answered4 and the cases were shortly set for hearing. The opinion of the Court of Appeals
also set forth the succeeding events:

xxx xxx xxx


The initial hearing in the Cabaluna and Ortigoza cases were set for hearing on June 20-21, 1988 at the
Regional Office of the Department of Local Government in Iloilo City. Notices, through telegrams, were sent to
the parties (Annex L) and the parties received them, including the petitioner. The petitioner asked for a
postponement before the scheduled date of hearing and was represented by counsel, Atty. Samuel Castro.
The hearing officers, Atty. Salvador Quebral and Atty. Marino Bermudez had to come all the way from Manila
for the two-day hearings but was actually held only on June 20,1988 in view of the inability and
unpreparedness of petitioner's counsel.

The next hearings were re-set to July 25, 26, 27,1988 in the same venue-Iloilo City. Again, the petitioner
attempted to delay the proceedings and moved for a postponement under the excuse that he had just hired
his counsel. Nonetheless, the hearing officers denied the motion to postpone, in view of the fact that the
parties were notified by telegrams of the scheduled hearings (Annex M).

In the said hearings, petitioner's counsel cross-examined the complainants and their witnesses.

Finding probable grounds and reasons, the respondent issued a preventive suspension order on August 11,
1988 to last until October 11,1988 for a period of sixty (60) days.

Then the next investigation was set on September 21, 1988 and the petitioner again asked for a
postponement to September 26,1988. On September 26, 1988, the complainants and petitioner were present,
together with their respective counsel. The petitioner sought for a postponement which was denied. In these
hearings which were held in Mala the petitioner testified in Adm. Case No. C-10298 and 10299.

The investigation was continued regarding the Malabor case and the complainants testified including their
witnesses.

On October 10, 1988, petitioner's counsel, Atty. Original moved for a postponement of the October 24, 1988
hearing to November 7 to 11, 1988 which was granted. However, the motion for change of venue as denied
due to lack of funds. At the hearing on November 7, 1988, the parties and counsel were present. Petitioner
reiterated his motion to change venue and moved for postponement anew. The counsel discussed a proposal
to take the deposition of witnesses in Iloilo City so the hearing was indefinitely postponed. However, the
parties failed to come to terms and after the parties were notified of the hearing, the investigation was set to
December 13 to 15, 1988.

The petitioner sought for another postponement on the ground that his witnesses were sick or cannot attend
the investigation due to lack of transportation. The motion was denied and the petitioner was given up to
December 14, 1988 to present his evidence.

On December 14,1988, petitioner's counsel insisted on his motion for postponement and the hearing officers
gave petitioner up to December 15, 1988 to present his evidence. On December 15, 1988, the petitioner
failed to present evidence and the cases were considered submitted for resolution.

In the meantime, a prima facie evidence was found to exist in the arbitrary detention case filed by Pancho
Erbite so the respondent ordered the petitioner's second preventive suspension dated October 11, 1988 for
another sixty (60) days. The petitioner was able to obtain a restraining order and a writ of preliminary
injunction in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 33 of Iloilo City. The second preventive suspension was not
enforced.5

Amidst the two successive suspensions, Mayor Ganzon instituted an action for prohibition against the respondent
Secretary of Local Government (now, Interior) in the Regional Trial Court, Iloilo City, where he succeeded in
obtaining a writ of preliminary injunction. Presently, he instituted CA-G.R. SP No. 16417, an action for prohibition, in
the respondent Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, on May 3, 1990, the respondent Secretary issued another order, preventively suspending Mayor
Ganzon for another sixty days, the third time in twenty months, and designating meantime Vice-Mayor Mansueto
Malabor as acting mayor. Undaunted, Mayor Ganzon commenced CA-G.R. SP No. 20736 of the Court of Appeals, a
petition for prohibition,6 (Malabor it is to be noted, is one of the complainants, and hence, he is interested in seeing
Mayor Ganzon ousted.)

On September 7, 1989, the Court of Appeals rendered judgment, dismissing CA-G.R. SP No. 16417. On July 5,
1990, it likewise promulgated a decision, dismissing CA-G.R. SP No. 20736. In a Resolution dated January 24,
1990, it issued a Resolution certifying the petition of Mary Ann Artieda, who had been similary charged by the
respondent Secretary, to this Court.

On June 26,1990, we issued a Temporary Restraining Order, barring the respondent Secretary from implementing
the suspension orders, and restraining the enforcement of the Court of Appeals' two decisions.

In our Resolution of November 29, 1990, we consolidated all three cases. In our Resolutions of January 15, 1991,
we gave due course thereto.

Mayor Ganzon claims as a preliminary (GR No. 93252), that the Department of Local Government in hearing the ten
cases against him, had denied him due process of law and that the respondent Secretary had been "biased,
prejudicial and hostile" towards him7 arising from his (Mayor Ganzon's) alleged refusal to join the Laban ng
Demokratikong Pilipino party8 and the running political rivalry they maintained in the last congressional and local
elections;9 and his alleged refusal to operate a lottery in Iloilo City.10 He also alleges that he requested the Secretary
to lift his suspension since it had come ninety days prior to an election (the barangay elections of November 14,
1988),11 notwithstanding which, the latter proceeded with the hearing and meted out two more suspension orders of
the aforementioned cases.12 He likewise contends that he sought to bring the cases to Iloilo City (they were held in
Manila) in order to reduce the costs of proceeding, but the Secretary rejected his request.13 He states that he asked
for postponement on "valid and justifiable"14 grounds, among them, that he was suffering from a heart ailment which
required confinement; that his "vital"15 witness was also hospitalized16 but that the latter unduly denied his request.17

Mayor Ganzon's primary argument (G.R. Nos. 93252 and 95245) is that the Secretary of Local Government is
devoid, in any event, of any authority to suspend and remove local officials, an argument reiterated by the petitioner
Mary Ann Rivera Artieda (G.R. No. 93746).

As to Mayor Ganzon's charges of denial of due process, the records do not show very clearly in what manner the
Mayor might have been deprived of his rights by the respondent Secretary. His claims that he and Secretary Luis-
Santos were (are) political rivals and that his "persecution" was politically motivated are pure speculation and
although the latter does not appear to have denied these contentions (as he, Mayor Ganzon, claims), we can not
take his word for it the way we would have under less political circumstances, considering furthermore that "political
feud" has often been a good excuse in contesting complaints.

The Mayor has failed furthermore to substantiate his say-so's that Secretary Santos had attempted to seduce him to
join the administration party and to operate a lottery in Iloilo City. Again, although the Secretary failed to rebut his
allegations, we can not accept them, at face value, much more, as judicial admissions as he would have us accept
them18 for the same reasons above-stated and furthermore, because his say so's were never corroborated by
independent testimonies. As a responsible public official, Secretary Santos, in pursuing an official function, is
presumed to be performing his duties regularly and in the absence of contrary evidence, no ill motive can be
ascribed to him.
As to Mayor Ganzon's contention that he had requested the respondent Secretary to defer the hearing on account
of the ninety-day ban prescribed by Section 62 of Batas Blg. 337, the Court finds the question to be moot and
academic since we have in fact restrained the Secretary from further hearing the complaints against the
petitioners.19

As to his request, finally, for postponements, the Court is afraid that he has not given any compelling reason why we
should overturn the Court of Appeals, which found no convincing reason to overrule Secretary Santos in denying his
requests. Besides, postponements are a matter of discretion on the part of the hearing officer, and based on Mayor
Ganzon's above story, we are not convinced that the Secretary has been guilty of a grave abuse of discretion.

The Court can not say, under these circumstances, that Secretary Santos' actuations deprived Mayor Ganzon of
due process of law.

We come to the core question: Whether or not the Secretary of Local Government, as the President's alter ego, can
suspend and/or remove local officials.

It is the petitioners' argument that the 1987 Constitution20 no longer allows the President, as the 1935 and 1973
Constitutions did, to exercise the power of suspension and/or removal over local officials. According to both
petitioners, the Constitution is meant, first, to strengthen self-rule by local government units and second, by deleting
the phrase21 as may be provided by law to strip the President of the power of control over local governments. It is a
view, so they contend, that finds support in the debates of the Constitutional Commission. The provision in question
reads as follows:

Sec. 4. The President of the Philippines shall exercise general supervision over local governments. Provinces
with respect to component cities and municipalities, and cities and municipalities with respect to component
barangays shall ensure that the acts of their component units are within the scope of their prescribed powers
and functions.22

It modifies a counterpart provision appearing in the 1935 Constitution, which we quote:

Sec. 10. The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus, or offices, exercise
general supervision over all Local governments as may be provided by law, and take care that the laws be
faithfully executed.23

The petitioners submit that the deletion (of "as may be provided by law") is significant, as their argument goes,
since: (1) the power of the President is "provided by law" and (2) hence, no law may provide for it any longer.

It is to be noted that in meting out the suspensions under question, the Secretary of Local Government acted in
consonance with the specific legal provisions of Batas Blg. 337, the Local Government Code, we quote:

Sec. 62. Notice of Hearing. — Within seven days after the complaint is filed, the Minister of local Government,
or the sanggunian concerned, as the case may be, shall require the respondent to submit his verified answer
within seven days from receipt of said complaint, and commence the hearing and investigation of the case
within ten days after receipt of such answer of the respondent. No investigation shall be held within ninety
days immediately prior to an election, and no preventive suspension shall be imposed with the said period. If
preventive suspension has been imposed prior to the aforesaid period, the preventive suspension shall be
lifted.24

Sec. 63. Preventive Suspension. — (1) Preventive suspension may be imposed by the Minister of Local
Government if the respondent is a provincial or city official, by the provincial governor if the respondent is an
elective municipal official, or by the city or municipal mayor if the respondent is an elective barangay official.

(2) Preventive suspension may be imposed at any time after the issues are joined, when there is reasonable
ground to believe that the respondent has committed the act or acts complained of, when the evidence of
culpability is strong, when the gravity of the offense so warrants, or when the continuance in office of the
respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other
evidence. In all cases, preventive suspension shall not extend beyond sixty days after the start of said
suspension.

(3) At the expiration of sixty days, the suspended official shall be deemed reinstated in office without prejudice
to the continuation of the proceedings against him until its termination. However ' if the delay in the
proceedings of the case is due to his fault, neglect or request, the time of the delay shall not be counted in
computing the time of suspension.25

The issue, as the Court understands it, consists of three questions: (1) Did the 1987 Constitution, in deleting the
phrase "as may be provided by law" intend to divest the President of the power to investigate, suspend, discipline,
and/or remove local officials? (2) Has the Constitution repealed Sections 62 and 63 of the Local Government Code?
(3) What is the significance of the change in the constitutional language?

It is the considered opinion of the Court that notwithstanding the change in the constitutional language, the charter
did not intend to divest the legislature of its right or the President of her prerogative as conferred by existing
legislation to provide administrative sanctions against local officials. It is our opinion that the omission (of "as may be
provided by law") signifies nothing more than to underscore local governments' autonomy from congress and to
break Congress' "control" over local government affairs. The Constitution did not, however, intend, for the sake of
local autonomy, to deprive the legislature of all authority over municipal corporations, in particular, concerning
discipline.

Autonomy does not, after all, contemplate making mini-states out of local government units, as in the federal
governments of the United States of America (or Brazil or Germany), although Jefferson is said to have compared
municipal corporations euphemistically to "small republics."26 Autonomy, in the constitutional sense, is subject to the
guiding star, though not control, of the legislature, albeit the legislative responsibility under the Constitution and as
the "supervision clause" itself suggest-is to wean local government units from over-dependence on the central
government.

It is noteworthy that under the Charter, "local autonomy" is not instantly self-executing, but subject to, among other
things, the passage of a local government code,27 a local tax law,28 income distribution legislation,29 and a national
representation law,30 and measures31 designed to realize autonomy at the local level. It is also noteworthy that in
spite of autonomy, the Constitution places the local government under the general supervision of the Executive. It is
noteworthy finally, that the Charter allows Congress to include in the local government code provisions for removal
of local officials, which suggest that Congress may exercise removal powers, and as the existing Local Government
Code has done, delegate its exercise to the President. Thus:

Sec. 3. The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and
accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective
mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum, allocate among the different local government units their
powers, responsibilities and resources, and provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal,
term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the
organization and operation of the local units.32
As hereinabove indicated, the deletion of "as may be provided by law" was meant to stress, sub silencio, the
objective of the framers to strengthen local autonomy by severing congressional control of its affairs, as observed by
the Court of Appeals, like the power of local legislation.33 The Constitution did nothing more, however, and insofar as
existing legislation authorizes the President (through the Secretary of Local Government) to proceed against local
officials administratively, the Constitution contains no prohibition.

The petitioners are under the impression that the Constitution has left the President mere supervisory powers, which
supposedly excludes the power of investigation, and denied her control, which allegedly embraces disciplinary
authority. It is a mistaken impression because legally, "supervision" is not incompatible with disciplinary authority as
this Court has held,34 thus:

xxx xxx xxx

It is true that in the case of Mondano vs. Silvosa, 51 Off. Gaz., No. 6 p. 2884, this Court had occasion to
discuss the scope and extent of the power of supervision by the President over local government officials in
contrast to the power of control given to him over executive officials of our government wherein it was
emphasized that the two terms, control and supervision, are two different things which differ one from the
other in meaning and extent. Thus in that case the Court has made the following digression: "In administration
law supervision means overseeing or the power or authority of an officer to see that subordinate officers
perform their duties. If the latter fail or neglect to fulfill them the former may take such action or step as
prescribed by law to make them perform their duties. Control, on the other hand, means the power of an
officer to alter or modify or nullify of set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his
duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter." But from this pronouncement it
cannot be reasonably inferred that the power of supervision of the President over local government officials
does not include the power of investigation when in his opinion the good of the public service so requires, as
postulated in Section 64(c) of the Revised Administrative Code. ...35

xxx xxx xxx

"Control" has been defined as "the power of an officer to alter or modify or nullify or set aside what a subordinate
officer had done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for test of the latter."36
"Supervision" on the other hand means "overseeing or the power or authority of an officer to see that subordinate
officers perform their duties.37 As we held,38 however, "investigating" is not inconsistent with "overseeing", although it
is a lesser power than "altering". The impression is apparently exacerbated by the Court's pronouncements in at
least three cases, Lacson v. Roque,39 Hebron v. Reyes,40 and Mondano v. Silvosa,41 and possibly, a fourth one,
Pelaez v. Auditor General.42 In Lacson, this Court said that the President enjoyed no control powers but only
supervision "as may be provided by law,"43 a rule we reiterated in Hebron, and Mondano. In Pelaez, we stated that
the President "may not . . . suspend an elective official of a regular municipality or take any disciplinary action
against him, except on appeal from a decision of the corresponding provincial board."44 However, neither Lacson
nor Hebron nor Mondano categorically banned the Chief Executive from exercising acts of disciplinary authority
because she did not exercise control powers, but because no law allowed her to exercise disciplinary authority.
Thus, according to Lacson:

The contention that the President has inherent power to remove or suspend municipal officers is without
doubt not well taken. Removal and suspension of public officers are always controlled by the particular law
applicable and its proper construction subject to constitutional limitations.45

In Hebron we stated:

Accordingly, when the procedure for the suspension of an officer is specified by law, the same must be
deemed mandatory and adhered to strictly, in the absence of express or clear provision to the contrary-which
does not et with respect to municipal officers ...46

In Mondano, the Court held:

... The Congress has expressly and specifically lodged the provincial supervision over municipal officials in
the provincial governor who is authorized to "receive and investigate complaints made under oath against
municipal officers for neglect of duty, oppression, corruption or other form of maladministration of office, and
conviction by final judgment of any crime involving moral turpitude." And if the charges are serious, "he shall
submit written charges touching the matter to the provincial board, furnishing a copy of such charges to the
accused either personally or by registered mail, and he may in such case suspend the officer (not being the
municipal treasurer) pending action by the board, if in his opinion the charge by one affecting the official
integrity of the officer in question." Section 86 of the Revised Administration Code adds nothing to the power
of supervision to be exercised by the Department Head over the administration of ... municipalities ... . If it be
construed that it does and such additional power is the same authority as that vested in the Department Head
by section 79(c) of the Revised Administrative Code, then such additional power must be deemed to have
been abrogated by Section 110(l), Article VII of the Constitution.47

xxx xxx xxx

In Pelaez, we stated that the President can not impose disciplinary measures on local officials except on appeal
from the provincial board pursuant to the Administrative Code.48

Thus, in those case that this Court denied the President the power (to suspend/remove) it was not because we did
not think that the President can not exercise it on account of his limited power, but because the law lodged the
power elsewhere. But in those cases ii which the law gave him the power, the Court, as in Ganzon v. Kayanan,
found little difficulty in sustaining him.49

The Court does not believe that the petitioners can rightfully point to the debates of the Constitutional Commission
to defeat the President's powers. The Court believes that the deliberations are by themselves inconclusive, because
although Commissioner Jose Nolledo would exclude the power of removal from the President,50 Commissioner Blas
Ople would not.51

The Court is consequently reluctant to say that the new Constitution has repealed the Local Government Code,
Batas Blg. 37. As we said, "supervision" and "removal" are not incompatible terms and one may stand with the other
notwithstanding the stronger expression of local autonomy under the new Charter. We have indeed held that in spite
of the approval of the Charter, Batas Blg. 337 is still in force and effect.52

As the Constitution itself declares, local autonomy means "a more responsive and accountable local government
structure instituted through a system of decentralization."53 The Constitution as we observed, does nothing more
than to break up the monopoly of the national government over the affairs of local governments and as put by
political adherents, to "liberate the local governments from the imperialism of Manila." Autonomy, however, is not
meant to end the relation of partnership and inter-dependence between the central administration and local
government units, or otherwise, to user in a regime of federalism. The Charter has not taken such a radical step.
Local governments, under the Constitution, are subject to regulation, however limited, and for no other purpose than
precisely, albeit paradoxically, to enhance self- government.

As we observed in one case,54 decentralization means devolution of national administration but not power to the
local levels. Thus:
Now, autonomy is either decentralization of administration or decentralization of power. There is
decentralization of administration when the central government delegates administrative powers to political
subdivisions in order to broaden the base of government power and in the process to make local
governments "more responsive and accountable," and "ensure their fullest development as self-reliant
communities and make them more effective partners in the pursuit of national development and social
progress." At the same time, it relieves the central government of the burden of managing local affairs and
enables it to concentrate on national concerns. The President exercises "general supervision" over them, but
only to "ensure that local affairs are administered according to law." He has no control over their acts in the
sense that he can substitute their judgments with his own.

Decentralization of power, on the other hand, involves an abdication of political power in the favor of local
governments units declared to be autonomous, In that case, the autonomous government is free to chart its
own destiny and shape its future with minimum intervention from central authorities. According to a
constitutional author, decentralization of power amounts to "self-immolation," since in that event, the
autonomous government becomes accountable not to the central authorities but to its constituency.55

The successive sixty-day suspensions imposed on Mayor Rodolfo Ganzon is albeit another matter. What bothers
the Court, and what indeed looms very large, is the fact that since the Mayor is facing ten administrative charges,
the Mayor is in fact facing the possibility of 600 days of suspension, in the event that all ten cases yield prima facie
findings. The Court is not of course tolerating misfeasance in public office (assuming that Mayor Ganzon is guilty of
misfeasance) but it is certainly another question to make him serve 600 days of suspension, which is effectively, to
suspend him out of office. As we held:56

2. Petitioner is a duly elected municipal mayor of Lianga, Surigao del Sur. His term of office does not expire
until 1986. Were it not for this information and the suspension decreed by the Sandiganbayan according to
the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, he would have been all this while in the full discharge of his
functions as such municipal mayor. He was elected precisely to do so. As of October 26, 1983, he has been
unable to. it is a basic assumption of the electoral process implicit in the right of suffrage that the people are
entitled to the services of elective officials of their choice. For misfeasance or malfeasance, any of them
could, of course, be proceeded against administratively or, as in this instance, criminally. In either case, Ms
culpability must be established. Moreover, if there be a criminal action, he is entitled to the constitutional
presumption of innocence. A preventive suspension may be justified. Its continuance, however, for an
unreasonable length of time raises a due process question. For even if thereafter he were acquitted, in the
meanwhile his right to hold office had been nullified. Clearly, there would be in such a case an injustice
suffered by him. Nor is he the only victim. There is injustice inflicted likewise on the people of Lianga They
were deprived of the services of the man they had elected to serve as mayor. In that sense, to paraphrase
Justice Cardozo, the protracted continuance of this preventive suspension had outrun the bounds of reason
and resulted in sheer oppression. A denial of due process is thus quite manifest. It is to avoid such an
unconstitutional application that the order of suspension should be lifted.57

The plain truth is that this Court has been ill at ease with suspensions, for the above reasons,58 and so also,
because it is out of the ordinary to have a vacancy in local government. The sole objective of a suspension, as we
have held,59 is simply "to prevent the accused from hampering the normal cause of the investigation with his
influence and authority over possible witnesses"60 or to keep him off "the records and other evidence.61

It is a means, and no more, to assist prosecutors in firming up a case, if any, against an erring local official. Under
the Local Government Code, it can not exceed sixty days,62 which is to say that it need not be exactly sixty days
long if a shorter period is otherwise sufficient, and which is also to say that it ought to be lifted if prosecutors have
achieved their purpose in a shorter span.

Suspension is not a penalty and is not unlike preventive imprisonment in which the accused is held to insure his
presence at the trial. In both cases, the accused (the respondent) enjoys a presumption of innocence unless and
until found guilty.

Suspension finally is temporary and as the Local Government Code provides, it may be imposed for no more than
sixty days. As we held,63 a longer suspension is unjust and unreasonable, and we might add, nothing less than
tyranny.

As we observed earlier, imposing 600 days of suspension which is not a remote possibility Mayor Ganzon is to all
intents and purposes, to make him spend the rest of his term in inactivity. It is also to make, to all intents and
purposes, his suspension permanent.

It is also, in fact, to mete out punishment in spite of the fact that the Mayor's guilt has not been proven. Worse, any
absolution will be for naught because needless to say, the length of his suspension would have, by the time he is
reinstated, wiped out his tenure considerably.

The Court is not to be mistaken for obstructing the efforts of the respondent Secretary to see that justice is done in
Iloilo City, yet it is hardly any argument to inflict on Mayor Ganzon successive suspensions when apparently, the
respondent Secretary has had sufficient time to gather the necessary evidence to build a case against the Mayor
without suspending him a day longer. What is intriguing is that the respondent Secretary has been cracking down,
so to speak, on the Mayor piecemeal apparently, to pin him down ten times the pain, when he, the respondent
Secretary, could have pursued a consolidated effort.

We reiterate that we are not precluding the President, through the Secretary of Interior from exercising a legal
power, yet we are of the opinion that the Secretary of Interior is exercising that power oppressively, and needless to
say, with a grave abuse of discretion.

The Court is aware that only the third suspension is under questions, and that any talk of future suspensions is in
fact premature. The fact remains, however, that Mayor Ganzon has been made to serve a total of 120 days of
suspension and the possibility of sixty days more is arguably around the corner (which amounts to a violation of the
Local Government Code which brings to light a pattern of suspensions intended to suspend the Mayor the rest of his
natural tenure. The Court is simply foreclosing what appears to us as a concerted effort of the State to perpetuate
an arbitrary act.

As we said, we can not tolerate such a state of affairs.

We are therefore allowing Mayor Rodolfo Ganzon to suffer the duration of his third suspension and lifting, for the
purpose, the Temporary Restraining Order earlier issued. Insofar as the seven remaining charges are concerned,
we are urging the Department of Local Government, upon the finality of this Decision, to undertake steps to expedite
the same, subject to Mayor Ganzon's usual remedies of appeal, judicial or administrative, or certiorari, if warranted,
and meanwhile, we are precluding the Secretary from meting out further suspensions based on those remaining
complaints, notwithstanding findings of prima facie evidence.

In resume the Court is laying down the following rules:

1. Local autonomy, under the Constitution, involves a mere decentralization of administration, not of power, in which
local officials remain accountable to the central government in the manner the law may provide;

2. The new Constitution does not prescribe federalism;


3. The change in constitutional language (with respect to the supervision clause) was meant but to deny legislative
control over local governments; it did not exempt the latter from legislative regulations provided regulation is
consistent with the fundamental premise of autonomy;

4. Since local governments remain accountable to the national authority, the latter may, by law, and in the manner
set forth therein, impose disciplinary action against local officials;

5. "Supervision" and "investigation" are not inconsistent terms; "investigation" does not signify "control" (which the
President does not have);

6. The petitioner, Mayor Rodolfo Ganzon. may serve the suspension so far ordered, but may no longer be
suspended for the offenses he was charged originally; provided:

a) that delays in the investigation of those charges "due to his fault, neglect or request, (the time of the delay)
shall not be counted in computing the time of suspension. [Supra, sec. 63(3)]

b) that if during, or after the expiration of, his preventive suspension, the petitioner commits another or other
crimes and abuses for which proper charges are filed against him by the aggrieved party or parties, his
previous suspension shall not be a bar to his being preventively suspended again, if warranted under subpar.
(2), Section 63 of the Local Government Code.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petitions are DISMISSED. The Temporary Restraining Order issued is
LIFTED. The suspensions of the petitioners are AFFIRMED, provided that the petitioner, Mayor Rodolfo Ganzon,
1âwphi1

may not be made to serve future suspensions on account of any of the remaining administrative charges pending
against him for acts committed prior to August 11, 1988. The Secretary of Interior is ORDERED to consolidate all
such administrative cases pending against Mayor Ganzon.

The sixty-day suspension against the petitioner, Mary Ann Rivera Artieda, is AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Griño-
Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado and Davide, Jr., JJ concur.

Footnotes
1
Rollo, G.R. No. 93252, 76; 77.
2
Hon. Bonifacio Cacdac, Jr., J.
3
Rollo, Id., 76-77.
4
Id., 77.
5
Id., 77-78.
6
Id., 78. The first suspension was on the Cabaluna and Ortigoza complaints. CA-G.R. No. 16417 was on the
Erbite complaint. CA-G.R. No. 20736 was a challenge on the designation of Vice- Mayor Malabor.

7 Id., 21
8
Id.
9
Id., 27.
10
Id., 28.
11
Id., 30.
12
Id 31-32.
13
Id., 34-35.
14
Id., 36.
15
Id.
16
Id
17
Id., 38.
18
Id .
19
By virtue of the Temporary Restraining Order the Court issued on June 26,1990.
20
CONST., art. X, sec. 4.
21
CONST. (1935), art, X, sec. 10(l). The 1973 Constitution contained no similar provision, but see art. VII,
sec. 18.
22
CONST. (1987), supra.
23
CONST. (1935), supra.
24
Batas Blg. 337, sec. 62.
25
Supra, sec. 63.
26
CRUZ, PHILIPPINE POLITICAL LAW 64 (1987 ed.)
27
CONST., supra, art. X, sec. 3.
28
Supra, secs. 5, 6.
29
Supra, sec. 7.
30
Supra, sec. 9.
31
See supra, sec. 14, providing for regional development councils to be organized by the President.
32
Supra, sec. 3.
33
G.R. No. 95245, Id., 53; see Mendoza, J., Concurring.
34
Ganzon v. Kayanan, 104 Phil. 484 (1985). In this concurrence (Id., 48-61), Justice Mendoza cited this case.
35
Supra, 489-490.
36
Mondano v. Silvosa, 97 Phil. 143,148 (1955).
37
Supra, 147.
38
Ganzon v. Kayanan, supra.
39
92 Phil. 456 (1953).
40
104 Phil. 175 (1958).
41
Supra.
42
No. L-23825, December 24,1965,15 SCRA 569.
43
Lacson v. Roque, supra, 463.
44
Pelaez v. Auditor General, supra, 583.
45
Lacson v. Roque, supra, 462.
46
Hebron v. Reyes, supra, 185.
47
Mondano v. Silvosa, supra, 148.
48
Pelaez v. Auditor General, supra, 583.
49
G.R. No. 95245, Id., 50-51; see Mendoza, J., Concurring.
50
Id., 23.
51
Id., 53.
52
Bagabuyo v. Davide, G.R. No. 87233, September 21,1989.
53
CONST., supra, art. X, see. 3.
54
Limbona v. Mangelin G.R. No. 80391, February 28,1989,170 SCRA 786.
55
Supra, 794-795.
56
Layno, Sr. v. Sandiganbayan, No. 65848, May 24, 1985, 136 SCRA 536,
57
Supra, 541.
58
See supra.
59
Lacson v. Roque, supra.
60
Supra, 469.
61
Batas Blg. 337, sec. 63.
62
Supra.
63
Layno, Sr. v. Sandiganbayan, supra.

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