Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 117618 March 29, 1996

VIRGINIA MALINAO, petitioner,
vs.
HON. LUISITO REYES, in his capacity as Governor of the Province of Marinduque, SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF MARINDUQUE and WILFREDO RED, in his capacity as Mayor of Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, respondents.

 

MENDOZA, J.:p

This is a petition for certiorari and mandamus to annul the decision dated October 21, 1994 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque, dismissing the administrative case filed by petitioner against respondent Mayor Wilfredo Red of Sta. Cruz, Marinduque. The ground for the present petition is that the same body already found respondent Mayor guilty of abuse of authority in removing petitioner from her post as Human Resource Manager without due process in another decision which is now final and executory.

The facts are as follows:

Petitioner Virginia Malinao is Human Resource Manager III of Sta. Cruz, Marinduque. Respondent Mayor filed a case against her in the Office of the Ombudsman for gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence. While the case was pending, he appointed a replacement for petitioner.

On February 24, 1994 petitioner filed an administrative case, docketed as Administrative Case No, 93-03, against respondent Mayor in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque, charging him with abuse of authority and denial of due process.

On August 12, 1994, the case was taken up in executive session of the Sanggunian. The transcript of stenographic notes of the session 1 shows that the Sanggunian, by the vote of 5 to 3 of its members, found respondent Mayor guilty of the charge and imposed on him the penalty of one-month suspension.

The result of the voting was subsequently embodied in a "Decision" dated September 5, 1994, 2 signed by only one member of the Sanggunian, Rodrigo V. Sotto, who did so as "Presiding Chairman, Blue Ribbon Committee, Sangguniang Panlalawigan." Copies of the "Decision" were served on respondent Mayor Red as well as on respondent Governor Luisito Reyes On September 12, 1994.

On September 14, 1994, respondent Mayor filed a manifestation 3 before the Sanggunian, questioning the "Decision" on the ground that it was signed by Sotto alone, "apparently acting in his capacity and designated as "Presiding Chairman, Blue Ribbon Committee, Sangguniang Panlalawigan." He contended that because of this the decision could only be considered as a recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Committee and he was not bound thereby.

On September 13, 1994, respondent Mayor sought the opinion of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government regarding the validity of the "Decision."

In his letter dated September 14, 1994, 4 DILG Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III opined that the " 'decision' alluded to does not appear to be in accordance with Section 66 of the Local Government Code of 1991 and settled jurisprudence" since

in the instant case, the purported decision of the Blue Ribbon Committee should have been submitted to, approved and/or adopted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as a collegial body inasmuch as the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has the administrative jurisdiction to take cognizance thereof in conformity with Section 61 and Section 66 of the Code. It is not for the said committee to decide on the merits thereof, more so to impose the suspension, as its duty and function is purely recommendatory. If it were at all the intention of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to adopt entirely the recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Committee, it should have so stated and the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, who may have affirmatively voted thereon or participated in its deliberations, should have affixed their respective signatures on whatever decision that could have been arrived at. . . .

On the other hand petitioner sent a letter 5 on October 14, 1994 to respondent Governor Reyes, demanding that the "Decision" suspending respondent Mayor from office be implemented without further delay.

In his letter dated October 20, 1994, 6 respondent Governor informed the Sanggunian that he agreed with the opinion of the DILG for which reason he could not implement the "Decision" in question.

On October 21, 1994, 7 the Sanggunian, voting 7 to 2, acquitted respondent Mayor of the charges against him. The vote was embodied in a Decision of the same date, which was signed by all members who had thus voted. 8

Hence this petition.

I. Petitioner's basic contention is that inasmuch as the "Decision" of September 5, 1994 had become final and executory, for failure of respondent Mayor to appeal, it was beyond the power of the Sanggunian to render another decision on October 21, 1994 which in effect reversed the first decision.

These contentions are without merit. What petitioner claims to be the September 5, 1994 "Decision" of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan bore the signature of only one member (Rodrigo V. Sotto) who signed the "Decision" as "Presiding Chairman, Blue Ribbon Committee, Sangguniang Panlalawigan." Petitioner claims that at its session on August 12, 1994, the Sanggunian by the vote of five members against three found respondent Mayor guilty of having removed petitioner as Human Resources Officer III without due process and that this fact is shown in the minutes of the session of the Sanggunian. The minutes referred to read in pertinent part as follows:

KGD. SOTTO 末 No if he [respondent Mayor] is acquitted, then let's acquit it. Whatever is the decision everybody goes to the majority.

(There was nominal voting from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan member. For NOT GUILTY OR GUILTY)

KGD. ZOLETA 末 I vote not guilty.

KGD. MUHI 末 Guilty.

KGD. LIM 末 Not guilty.

KGD. RAZA 末 First I would like to say that I will decide on the merit of the case. The fact that the Civil Service ordered the reinstatement wherein Virginia Malinao is included, only means that the Supreme Court duly constituted has found the merit of the decision of the Civil Service.

I vote that the Mayor is guilty.

KGD. PINAROC 末 Guilty.

KGD. DE LUNA 末 Guilty, there is no due process and to protect the integrity of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

KGD. LAGRAN 末 Guilty.

KGD. ZOLETA 末 My reason for voting "not guilty" is that the mayor acted in good faith, he just followed the order of the reorganization recommended by the Placement Committee.

KGD. REJANO 末 The order of the reorganization was given by the Civil Service Commission and based on the contention made by Kgd. Palamos that since there should be reorganization to be conducted by the Civil Service Commission the mayor was supposed to go on with that reorganization and based on the reorganization there should be a screening committee to check whether the employees are really working efficiently. Based on the case that has been given to Mrs. Malinao, based on the witnesses, Ligeralde, Monterozo and Pastrana and then decided that Mayor Red has done in good faith.

So I vote Not Guilty.

Five (5) voted GUILTY:

Kgd. Muhi

Kgd. Raza

Kgd. Pinaroc

Kgd. Lagran

Kgd. De Luna

Three (3) voted NOT GUILTY:

Kgd. Rejano

Kgd. Zoleta

Kgd. Lim

KGD. SOTTO 末 Punishment . . .

Censure? Reprimand? Suspension?.

KGD. LAGRAN 末 I suggest that only those who voted "guilty" should vote as to what punishment should be given.

KGD. LIM 末 All the members should be given the right to vote.

(THE VOTING PROCEEDED.)

Kgd. Muhi 末 Suspension

Kgd. Raza 末 Suspension

Kgd. Pinaroc 末 Suspension

Kgd. Lagran 末 Suspension

Kgd. de Luna 末 Suspension

KGD. ZOLETA 末 Since we voted "not guilty" therefore "no punishment."

KGD. REJANO 末 "No punishment"

KGD. LIM 末 "No punishment"

KGD. SOTTO 末 How many months?

KGD. MUHI 末 One month.

KGD. RAZA 末 One month.

KGD. PINAROC 末 One month.

KGD. LAGRAN 末 One month.

KGD. DE LUNA 末 One month.

KGD SOTTO 末 Be it on record that on August 12, 1994 during the Executive Session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan en banc the respondent is hereby found "guilty."

Effective upon receipt of the Decision, copy furnished: the counsel for Respondent, the Counsel for Complainant, the Municipal Treasurer, Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, the Provincial Auditor, the Civil Service Commission, Boac, Marinduque, the DILG, Boac, Marinduque, the Provincial Governor.

Contrary to petitioner's claim, what the minutes only show is that on August 12, 1994 the Sanggunian took a vote on the administrative case of respondent Mayor and not that it then rendered a decision as required by ァ66 (a) of the Local Government Code (R.A. No. 7160) which provides as follows:

ァ66. Form and Notice of Decision. 末 (a) The investigation of the case shall be terminated within ninety (90) days from the start thereof. Within thirty (30) days after the end of the investigation, the Office of the President or the sanggunian concerned shall render a decision in writing stating clearly and distinctly the facts and the reasons for such decision. Copies of said decision shall immediately be furnished the respondent and all interested parties.

In order to render a decision in administrative cases involving elective local officials, the decision of the Sanggunian must thus be "in writing stating clearly and distinctly the facts and the reasons for such decision." What the Sanggunian, therefore, did on August 12, 1994 was not to render a decision.

Neither may the so-called "Decision" prepared by Sanggunian Member Rodrigo V. Sotto on September 5, 1994 be regarded as the decision of the Sanggunian for lack of the signatures of the requisite majority. Like the procedure in the Supreme Court, the voting following the deliberation of the members of the Sanggunian did not necessarily constitute their decision unless this was embodied in an opinion prepared by one of them and concurred in by the others, in the same way that the voting following the deliberation on a case in the Supreme Court becomes its decision only after the opinion prepared by a Justice is concurred in by others composing the majority. Until they have signed the opinion and the decision is promulgated, the Justices are free to change their votes. 9

Indeed, in his comment 10 in this case, Member Sotto admits that the draft decision he prepared had only his signature "due to the reluctance of some Kagawads to affix their signatures." Consequently the draft never became a decision. It is noteworthy that the draft was signed by Member Sotto in his capacity as "Presiding Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan" and that it did not provide spaces for the signatures of other members of the Sanggunian had it been intended that it be signed by them. This fact led the DILG to conclude that the draft was simply the report and recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Committee to the Sanggunian.

Now, as already stated, the Sanggunian, at its session on October 21, 1994, took another vote and, 7 to 2, decided to dismiss the case against respondent Mayor. This time its decision was made in writing, stating the facts and the law on which it was based, and it was signed by the members taking part in the decision. This, and not the so-called decision of September 5, 1994, is the decision of the Sanggunian.

Petitioner complains that no notice of the session by the Sanggunian on October 21, 1994 was given to her. None was really required to be given to her. The deliberation of the Sanggunian was an internal matter.

II. Petitioner brought this case by way of petition for certiorari and mandamus. A prime specification of the writ of certiorari, however, is that there is no appeal nor any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law available to petitioner. But, in the case at bar, petitioner could have appealed the decision of the Sanggunian to the Office of the President as provided in ァ67(b) of the Local Government Code.

III. At all events, this case is now moot and academic as a result of the expiration of respondent's term during which the act complained of was allegedly committed, and further proceedings against respondent Mayor are barred by his reelection on May 8, 1995.

Pursuant to ァ66(b) of the Code, the penalty of suspension cannot exceed the unexpired term of the respondent or a period of six (6) months for every administrative offense. On the other hand, any administrative disciplinary proceeding against respondent is abated if in the meantime he is reelected, because his reelection results in a condonation of whatever misconduct he might have committed during his previous term. 11

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

Torres, Jr., J., is on leave.

Footnotes

1 Petition, Annex B, Rollo, pp. 21-29. Vice Governor Rosa E. Lecaroz, as presiding officer of the Sanggunian, inhibited herself on the ground that her husband was petitioner's counsel. Accordingly, Rodrigo V. Sotto, as the most senior member of the Sanggunian, presided. Five members of the Sanggunian, namely, Romeo M. Muhi, Eleuterio R. Raze, Jr., Florentino B. Pinaroc, Baron L. Lagran, and Bonifacio R. de Luna, voted to find the Mayor "Guilty," while three members, namely Teodorito J. Rejano, Cesaria G. Zoleta, and Augusto M. Lim, Sr., voted "Not Guilty."

2 Petition, Annex A, Rollo, pp. 17-20.

3 Petition, Annex G-1, Rollo, pp. 39-41.

4 Petition, Annex G, Rollo, pp. 35-38.

5 Petition, Annex C, Rollo, pp. 30-31.

6 Petition, Annex G-2, Rollo, p. 42.

7 Petition, Annex I, Rollo, pp. 48-55.

8 Comment of Governor Reyes, Annex 1, Rollo, pp. 156-159, Comment of Sanggunian member Sotto, Annex 2, Rollo, pp. 227-230. Sanggunian members Teodorito J. Rejano, Cesaria G. Zoleta, Norma J. Ricohermoso, Juan Maximo Lim, Florentino B. Pinaroc, Eleuterio R. Raza, Jr., and Baron L. Lagran voted to dismiss the case, while members Romeo M. Muhi and Bonifacio R. de Luna dissented. Member Rodrigo V. Sotto, who signed the decision of September 5, 1994, did not vote. Sanggunian member Pinaroc, Raza, Jr. and Lagran changed their earlier vote of "Guilty" to "Not Guilty."

9 See, e.g., Misolas v. Panga, 181 SCRA 648, 663 (1990) (Sarmiento, J.'s dissent).

10 Rollo, pp. 220-222.

11 Aguinaldo v. COMELEC, res., G.R. Nos. 105128-30, June 9, 1992; Aguinaldo v. Santos, 212 SCRA 768 (1992). Cf. Reyes v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 120905 and Garcia v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 120940, March 7, 1996.


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