Aguinaldo doctrine not applicable: DILG can’t resolve admin raps vs Rama before polls

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/RHM (The Freeman) - February 4, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Department of Interior and Local Government lacks time to finish hearing the administrative complaint faced by suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama over the demolition of a road median structure in Barangay Labangon.

“Hindi na maka-wrap up. Start of the election ban is on February 9 and February 8 is a holiday,” DILG hearing officer Isidro Barrios III told reporters after the hearing yesterday.

He said that even if hearing would continue on February 9, he cannot wrap up the investigation, which he said would resume only after the May 9 elections, when Rama could be reelected into office already.

Barrios, however, said Rama can no longer invoke the Aguinaldo Doctrine because the Supreme Court has already abrogated it in the case of Binay vs. Morales.

Under the doctrine, an elective official with a possible administrative violation is considered cleared of the charge after being re-elected by the people.

Sought for comment, lawyer Jerone Castillo, Rama’s lead counsel, said the mayor can still invoke the doctrine.

“I think it would apply because that is an administrative case man. Sa ako lang opinion ha. (For) criminal (offenses, the doctrine) does not apply,” he said.

Rama has been placed under a 60-day preventive suspension because of the complaint filed by Labangon Barangay Captain Victor Buendia over the demolition of the median structure of Katipunan Street.

The suspension ends Monday, so Rama would be back in office Tuesday next week, if no other suspension order would be issued against him.

Yesterday, Barrios said lawyer Benjamin Militar, Buendia’s counsel, has already concluded the direct examination of the barangay captain’s first witness in the case.

“Tapos na ang (median structure) contractor sa direct examination.  He will (now) be subject for the cross examination. But, we still have to check if on February 9 we will still be allowed to conduct the investigation considering that there is a 90-day election ban,” Barrios said.

He said he will check before the Commission on Elections en banc if investigation into the administrative complaint would be entertained within the 90-day period.

He said he will issue an order today if there will be another investigation on February 9, wherein Rama’s lawyers will cross-examine Gil Hamoy of Falco Construction.

Also yesterday, lawyers of Rama filed a motion to suspend the hearing due to the 90-day election ban.

“They have to treat that motion for complete deferment or suspension of proceedings on the basis of the 90-day ban. He will issue an order tomorrow (February 5). That 90-day ban is provided for by law. If you violate it, we call it an election offense,” Castillo said.

Castillo cited Section 62, paragraph (c) of the Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code) which states that “No investigation shall be held within ninety (90) days immediately prior to any local election, and no preventive suspension shall be imposed within the said period. If preventive suspension has been imposed prior to the 90-day period immediately preceding local election, it shall be deemed automatically lifted upon the start of aforesaid period.”

Militar, for its part, said Buendia’s camp will comply with all laws and rules, including the 90-day election ban.

“We never expected it to be finished. Atty. Barrios was so confident that he can finish this. Even if there is a continuous hearing for five days, morning and afternoon, the hearing will never be finished. So we just went along with it. In fact, wa man gyud nadayon gani nang morning and afternoon, so we decided that we will just present the witness we have,” Militar said.

He said they are agreeable that investigation will resume after the elections. Earlier, Castillo expressed confidence there would be no suspension order that would be served against Rama.

He cited Section 1 of Comelec Resolution No. 10030 dated December 22, 2015 which bans any implementation of suspension except when it is a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

 “From January 10, 2016 to June 8, 2016, the provisions of law to the contrary notwithstanding, no public official shall, except upon prior written approval of the Commission, suspend any elective provincial, city, municipal or barangay officer,” read the Comelec resolution.

Castillo also cited Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states that there will be no suspension of any local elective official without prior authority from the Comelec, except when such suspension is for the purpose of applying the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Further, Section 62 (c) of the Local Government Code of 1991 also prohibits the imposition of preventive suspension within 90 days immediately prior to any election.  (FREEMAN)


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