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The Cua Conundrum: Will suspended governor assume office on June 30?
posted 12-Jun-2019  ·  
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This query will have to be answered soon by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), with the June 30, 2019 assumption of office of all recently elected officials looming large on the horizon.

The Tribune has learned that Governor Joseph C. Cua, who was suspended for a year by the Ombudsman just before the May 13, 2019 national and local elections where he won his second straight term, has sent a query on this issue and another equally important matter to the DILG provincial office.

It may be recalled that last April 30, pursuant to the Ombudsman decision on an administrative case, the DILG regional director directed Cua to continue to cease and desist from performing the functions and responsibilities of his office until the suspension for one year without pay is fully served.

According to an official source, the provincial chief executive said he intends to travel abroad during his suspension and that he needs a clarification from the DILG on whether he needs to file an application for Travel Authority with the DILG Secretary for the purpose.

Last May 29, 2019, the department issued Memorandum Circular No. 2019-83 on the Amended Guidelines on the Foreign Travel of Local Government Officials and Employees pursuant to the directive from the Office of the President.

Under said circular, the DILG Secretary shall approve requests for foreign travel of all local officials and employees from provincial governors, regardless of the nature, purpose and duration of such travel. The same requirements extends to mayors, council members, department heads and employees, including barangay appointive officials and employees intending to travel abroad whether on official time only, or on official business, or while on leave of absence or during a period of emergency or crisis.

On the second matter of inquiry, Cua asked the DILG provincial office if he should assume office on June 30, 2019 once he takes his oath as provincial governor as mandated under the Local Government Code.

It is claimed that a Manila-based election lawyer has advised the reelectionist governor to assume office as mandated by the Code.

While Sec. 66(b) of the LGC states that “the penalty of suspension shall not exceed the unexpired term of the respondent or a period of six (6) months for every administrative offense…,” the Ombudsman Law reportedly provides that the penalty shall continue beyond the current term of office of the local official if he wins reelection.

This is not the only inconsistency between the two laws, the DILG official pointed out, as the LGC provides only a maximum penalty of suspension of six months while the Ombudsman Law has a longer period of one year.

In its 2015 ruling that did away with the Aguinaldo condonation doctrine, the Supreme Court pointed out thatnothing in Section 66 (b) states that the elective local official's administrative liability is extinguished by the fact of re-election.”

Assuming that Cua will have to serve the year-long suspension during the next term of office, he may seek further relief from the Ombudsman’s statement in the decision stating that in the event that the penalty of suspension can no longer be enforced due to separation from the service “such as but not limited to retirement, resignation, or expiration of the term of office,” it shall be converted into a fine in the amount equivalent to the respondent’s salary for the remaining period of suspension.

The fine shall be payable to the Office of the Ombudsman and may be deductible from the respondent’s retirement benefits, accrued leave credits or any receivable from his office, the Ombudsman stated.

The source stressed that the governor may cite the case of Atty. Oliver Rodulfo, legal officer of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office.

In November 2017, the Ombudsman slapped a penalty of six months suspension without pay on Rodulfo after finding him guilty in an administrative complaint filed by DPWH regional director Reynaldo Tagudando.

Instead of filing a motion for reconsideration, the lawyer voluntarily began serving the suspension instead of waiting for the official order from the department.

He likewise convinced the Ombudsman to grant his appeal that the remaining period of his suspension be converted into a fine, for which he reportedly paid over P300,000.

For his part, Cua can invoke the Ombudsman’s action allowing the conversion of Rodulfo’s suspension without pay into a fine, the DILG official remarked, if the law is to be implemented fairly.

The governor’s query has been forwarded to the legal division of the DILG central office for appropriate action.

On the other hand, it is not yet known whether Cua would have to secure the travel permission from the Ombudsman itself or even seek conversion of the penalty into a fine.


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12-Jun-2019
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