WHETHER the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor, whose fiscals get allowances from the City Government, should hear the libel complaint the mayor filed against his rival Jonathan Guardo will go to the justice secretary.

Guardo, through his lawyer, yesterday submitted a petition for review against City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon’s Feb. 19 resolution.

"The Manny Pacquiao Blog". Click here for stories and updates on the Filipino boxing champ.

“The Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor committed manifest errors and showed bias amounting to grave abuse of jurisdiction when it refused to inhibit itself from the

conduct of the preliminary investigation of the above-entitled case despite a clear basis for doing so,” Guardo said in the eight-page pleading.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, with authority from the City Council, charged Guardo because of two news articles that came out in Sun.Star Cebu. These reported Guardo’s complaint that he was prohibited from entering barangays’ gyms and, in one occasion, from distributing relief goods to fire victims.

Guarding against bias

Osmeña impleaded Sun.Star Cebu editor-in-chief Pachico Seares and reporter Rene Martel in the complaint that Guardo immediately assailed, via a motion for inhibition.

There, Guardo pointed out that government prosecutors receive allowances from City Hall.

Sellon granted the inhibition last Feb. 11, 2010, saying this was “in order to dispel any suspicion of bias or partiality in the handling of the case” and out of delicadeza.

But Sellon, according to the petition for review, reversed himself. This, after Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane, who also receives an allowance from the City Government, issued Regional Office Memorandum 10-04 telling Sellon to do otherwise.

But the decision of the City Prosecutor to inhibit, Guardo said in his petition for review, was not subject to the approval of the Regional State Prosecutor.

“Nowhere in Section 57, has Part 3, of the Manual for Prosecutors does it state that the decision to inhibit requires such approval. It is indeed highly irregular, if not administratively questionable, for Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane Jr. to come up with (it),” Guardo said.

“In fact, by this act, he seems to have already taken the side of the complainant and utilized the administrative superiority of his office to pressure the City Prosecutor to recall the latter’s earlier order of inhibition,” he said.

What it can do

In the petition for review, prepared by Atty. Alvin Butch Cañares, Guardo argued that the powers and functions of the Regional State Prosecutor are specific.

The office is supposed to implement plans, programs and policies of the justice department, exercise administrative supervision of city and provincial prosecutors, as well as prosecute cases arising within the region.

Its functions as regards city and provincial prosecutors, Cañares said, are only to hire employees and approve their movements within the jurisdiction of the regional

office. It can also investigate administrative complaints against prosecutors and submit recommendations to the justice secretary.

“The Regional State Prosecutor is clearly vested only with the power of administrative supervision. As administrative supervisor, he has no power to direct the city and provincial prosecutors to inhibit from handling certain cases,” the pleading read.

“At most, he can request for their inhibition. Hence, the said directive of the regional state prosecutor to the city and provincial prosecutors is questionable, to say the least,” Guardo said.