Garcia insists on right to speedy resolution of cases-A A +A
Thursday, January 10, 2013
MANILA -- The camp of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia argued before a division of the Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday that the Malacañang directive suspending her for six months for abuse of authority did not observe the required period of investigation and resolution of an administrative complaint.
The Office of the President issued the suspension order on December 17, 2012, acting on the complaint filed on November 2010 by the late Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez.
Lawyer Tranquil Salvador III, lawyer of Garcia, said the Palace action ran counter to Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution that guarantees every person the right to speedy disposition of cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Salvador said the complaint for grave abuse of authority filed by Sanchez allegedly took 474 days to be resolved despite the 120-day limit provided under the Local Government Code and Administrative Order 23 of the Office of the President.
“She (Garcia) could be disciplined but only under the boundaries of law and due process,” Salvador told the three-man division.
A representative from the Office of the Solicitor General, however, used the Supreme Court ruling in Marcelino vs Cruz, which rendered the decision of a criminal case as valid even if it went beyond the allowable period for promulgation.
Present during the oral arguments were Associate Justice Vicente Veloso, chair of the 12th division, and Associate Justices Aurora Jane Lantion and Eduardo Peralta.
During the interpellation, Veloso asked Salvador if what would be the irreparable injury to Garcia if she continues to be under suspension. Salvador replied that even if the CA can only freeze the suspension order for three months, that period will be used to serve her constituents.
Garcia is on her third and last term as the first woman governor of Cebu. Her term ends on June 30, 2013 or roughly two weeks after the end of the suspension period.
“Time lost can never be recovered unlike in a labor case that an aggrieved employee can go back to work and receive compensation,” Salvador said.
The OSG earlier explained that Malacañang and the Department of Interior and Local Government found that Garcia hired contractual employees of the vice governor’s office in 2010 and charged their salaries to the vice governor’s office.
After Sanchez was replaced by now Acting Governor Agnes Magpale because of his death, Garcia then restored the budget for contractual employees. For the OSG, the action constituted “malice and bad faith.”
But Salvador maintained that Garcia is empowered to make those appointments under the law. He added she was even authorized by the Provincial Board through its passage of the appropriations ordinance enacting the annual budget.
President Benigno Aquino III had denied that politics was a factor in penalizing Garcia but her camp believed otherwise.
Salvador said if they lost in the CA, there is no stopping them from going to the Supreme Court and seek reprieve.
“We still have a legal remedy,” he said in a text message.
The hearing is ongoing as of this posting. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)