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GOVERNOR BENJAMIN I. ESPIRITU v. NELSON B. loudly and intermittently.

Garing was momentarily placed


MELGAR and HON. JUDGE MARCIANO T. VIROLA in custody as he was drunk and a balisong was taken from
(1992) him. Melgar however denied that he hurt Garing.)

[Griño- Aquino, J] An identical letter-complaint was filed by Garing with the


TOPIC Disciplinary Actions- Administrative Provincial Governor of Oriental Mindoro, petitioner Gov.
Order No. 23 (1992) as amended by Espiritu, and with the Office of the President, Presidential
Administrative Order No. 159 (1994) Action Center (PAC). PAC forwarded the complaint to
and Administrative Order No. 66 Gov. Espiritu for immediate action.
(1999)
DOCTRINE A. The provincial governor of Oriental After evaluating the complaint and its supporting
Mindoro is authorized by law to documents, as well as the Mayor's answer and the
preventively suspend the municipal affidavits of his witnesses, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan
mayor of Naujan at anytime after the of Oriental Mindoro passed Resolution No. 55 on May 9,
issues had been joined and any of the 1991, recommending to the Provincial Governor that
following grounds were shown to exist: respondent Mayor be preventively suspended for 45 days
1. when there is reasonable ground to pending the investigation of the administrative complaint.
believe that the respondent has
committed the act or acts complained of; On June 3, 1991, Mayor Melgar received the Order of
2. When the evidence of culpability is Suspension. Melgar filed a petition for certiorari with
strong; preliminary injunction with prayer for restraining order
3. When the gravity of the offense so alleging that "the order of suspension was an arrogant,
warrants; or despotic and arbitrary abuse of power" by the Governor.
4. When the continuance in office of the
respondent could influence the RTC issued a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining
witnesses or pose a threat to the safety Governor Espiritu from implementing the Order of
and integrity of the records and other suspension against Mayor Melgar. Espiritu now submits
evidence. that RTC Judge Virola acted without jurisdiction in issuing
the injunction, invoking Section 61 of the Local
B. When one believes that his Government Code, which states that the Sangguniang
preventive suspension is unjustified, he Panlalawigan has jurisdiction over complaints against any
must seek relief first from the Sec. of elective municipal official; on the other hand, Section 19
Interior and Local Gov’t before going to (c) of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 withdraws
the court. Direct recourse to the courts from regional trial courts jurisdiction over cases within the
without exhausting administrative exclusive jurisdiction of any person, tribunal or body
remedies makes the action premature. exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions.

I. FACT II. ISSUE

On April 11, 1991, Ramir Garing of Naujan, Oriental WON Melgar’s resort to the court was proper- NO
Mindoro, filed a sworn letter-complaint with Secretary
Luis Santos of the DILG charging Mayor Nelson Melgar of III. RATIONALE
Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, with grave misconduct,
oppression, abuse of authority, culpable violation of the The provincial governor of Oriental Mindoro is authorized
Constitution and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of by law to preventively suspend the municipal mayor of
the public service for allegedly attacking Garing through Naujan at anytime after the issues had been joined and
boxing and kicking thereby inflicting personal injuries any of the following grounds were shown to exist:
upon the latter. (Background story: Mayor Melgar was 1. when there is reasonable ground to believe that the
delivering a speech at the graduation ceremonies of Jose respondent has committed the act or acts complained of;
Basa Memorial School when Garing, who was allegedly 2. When the evidence of culpability is strong;
drunk, suddenly erupted from the audience and clapped 3. When the gravity of the offense so warrants; or
4. When the continuance in office of the respondent could
influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and
integrity of the records and other evidence. (Sec 63, LGC)

Since Melgar believed that his preventive suspension was


unjustified and politically motivated, he should have
sought relief first from the Secretary of Interior and Local
Government, not from the courts. Mayor Melgar's direct
recourse to the courts without exhausting administrative
remedies was premature. The regional trial court had no
jurisdiction and gravely abused its discretion in refusing to
dismiss the case.

There may exist honest differences of opinion with regard


to the seriousness of the charges, or as to whether they
warrant disciplinary action. However, as a general rule,
the office or body that is invested with the power of
removal or suspension should be the sole judge of the
necessity and sufficiency of the cause so, unless a
flagrant abuse of the exercise of that power is shown,
public policy and a becoming regard for the principle of
separation of powers demand that the action of said
officer or body should be left undisturbed.

IV. DISPOSITIVE

Petition granted.