Cebu News

PJ questions suspension of Alegria town councilors

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Former congressman Pablo John Garcia has questioned why the Cebu Provincial Board entertained the complaint against five Alegria municipal councilors when it has “no jurisdiction” to do so.

Garcia, One Cebu Party candidate for congressman of the seventh district where Alegria is part of, yesterday said the PB decision to suspend his allies was proof of either its members’ ignorance of the law or grave abuse of authority.    

“But since the committee on complaints and investigation has a lawyer, namely PB Member Peter John Calderon, I cannot believe that it was ignorant of the law. So the only…conclusion is that, it (PB) is guilty of grave abuse of authority,” he said.

He also likened what he called “the (administration) Liberal Party’s suspension spree at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan” to the “laglag-bala” modus operandi at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

“The Liberal Party plants cases, like bullets, against members of One Cebu, they try to extort loyalty from them, and if they don’t switch sides to the Liberal Party, they suspend them,” Garcia said.

On the other hand, he said, “cases or threats of cases against those who switch sides suddenly and mysteriously disappear.”

Garcia pointed at Calderon as “the mastermind in this laglag-bala type of operation”.

“He is the de facto chairman since he is the only lawyer in that committee, who presides over all meetings, prepares all orders and decisions for others to sign,” Garcia said.

“Is it any wonder why, so far, of the six elective local officials who have been suspended, all have been from One Cebu party, and all have been from municipalities in the newly-created seventh congressional district, where he is running for congressman?” Garcia asked.

Garcia and Calderon are running against each other for congressman of the newly-created seventh district.

The town councilors, who include Letecia Donayre, One Cebu’s candidate for mayor, and former mayor Emelita Guisadio, were meted a three-month suspension for alleged unauthorized absences in 2013.

 Donayre is One Cebu’s candidate for mayor while Emelita is the wife of Donayre’s runningmate, former mayor Raul Guisadio.

Garcia said that under the Local Government Code of 1991, the PB does not have the power to impose disciplinary action against, much less punish, municipal councilors for absences. This, he said, is a specific exception from the PB’s administrative authority.

He said that Section 60 of the Code, which defines the disciplinary jurisdiction of every PB, clearly states that the legislative body has the authority to investigate local elective officials’ unauthorized absences “except in the case of members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod, sangguniang bayan, and sangguniang barangay.”

This is because under Section 50 of the same law, Garcia said, the power to punish unauthorized absences of an SB member rests on the same sanggunian to which he belongs, as provided for in their internal rules of procedure.

Section 50 also states that internal rules of procedure of the SB should “discipline…members for . . . absences without justifiable cause for four (4) consecutive sessions, for which they may be censured, reprimanded, or excluded from the session, suspended for not more than sixty (60) days, or expelled….”

The PB, therefore, does not have jurisdiction to entertain complaints for absences of municipal councilors and to impose sanctions since this authority is lodged exclusively in the SB to which the supposedly erring councilor belongs, Garcia argued.

He said that because of this, the PB members are either ignorant of the law or committed grave abuse of its authority.

The PB had earlier suspended Garcia’s brother, Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia, for six months for designating a temporary SB secretary, which allegedly is not within Nelson’s authority. Nelson is set to return to office today.

Garcia commended the Alegria councilors for holding their ground and refusing to succumb to the pressures.

“Malinawon man ‘ming mga taga-south, wa mi maanad anang mga pinuwersa nga paagi nga naandan sa ubang lugar,” he said. — (FREEMAN)

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