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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.

SARMIENTO, J.:p

 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. He was said to have locked officials out of their offices and ousted them
from where they temporarily held office.
 Hearings on the complaints followed. The secretary of local govt, finding probable cause, preventively
suspended the mayor.
 Amidst 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.
 Mayor Ganzon commenced CA-G.R. SP No. 20736 of the Court of Appeals, a petition for prohibition,
 On June 26,1990, SC 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.

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).
Issue: Whether or not the Secretary of Local Government, as the President's alter ego, can suspend and/or remove
local officials.

Held: yes, per general supervision, in accordance with law

It is the petitioners' argument that the 1987 Constitution 20 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 phrase 21 “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

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?

No.

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 measures 31 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.

"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".

(2) Has the Constitution repealed Sections 62 and 63 of the Local Government Code?

NO
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.

(3) What is the significance of the change in the constitutional language?

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

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.

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.

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 (national government) 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, 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.