The Inquirer’s Dec. 27 editorial, “Agony in Cebu,” raised issues that are at best peripheral to the core issues in the standoff at the Cebu provincial capitol.
The differences between the suspension of Vice President Jejomar Binay and the suspension of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia are a given. That is beside the point. The reference to courting the Cebu votes is plain “editorializing.”
At the core of the Binay and Garcia suspensions are the manifest violations of the rule of law and the right to due process, which both Binay and Garcia were denied.
Due process and timing. Governor Garcia raises a plausible argument that the case was decided beyond the periods set by law. The provisions of the Local Government Code and the Administrative Code are quite specific, and a reading of the codes validates this argument. Indeed, the editorial asks, but does not answer, the question: “What took the OP and the DILG so long?”
Due process and penalty. The 6-month suspension period appears to be the penalty for abuse of authority. As penalties go, six months is the maximum. The 6-month penalty is too severe considering the allegations made in the original complaint which, it may be argued, stems from a misreading of the power of the local chief executive to set the budget and hire personnel. By law, it is the local legislature that approves the budget—including the budget of the Office of the Vice Governor—and it is the executive that implements the same. The law also vests in the local chief executive the power to hire employees for executive offices, which include the Office of the Vice Governor.
Due process and courtesy. The judiciary now has jurisdiction over the Garcia case. As a matter of courtesy, it is incumbent upon the executive to allow a coequal branch time to decide before taking any action. That the court has not issued a temporary restraining order this Christmas season also harks back to the issue of timing.
Finally, due process, equal protection, fairness. Allowing a coequal branch, the judiciary, to decide without the executive not taking any action would not be an exception. In fact, it would not be the first time under this administration where the executive has allowed a petitioner the opportunity to remain in office while waiting for a court decision. In the case of Caloocan Mayor and LP member Recom Echiverri, the executive allowed him to stay in office while waiting for a decision from the Court of Appeals. This shows that the executive can show fairness to a local official and courtesy to a coequal branch. If the administration is to be consistent with its pledge of moral governance, then such fairness should apply to all local officials, regardless of party affiliation.
What is happening in Cebu is not novel. It happened before, in Makati, during the time of then mayor, now Vice President Binay. During that standoff, politicians did go to Makati to see then Mayor Binay. One of these Makati visitors was former President Corazon Aquino.
—YORAC ARROYO CHUA CAEDO & CORONEL LAW FIRM, [email protected]