Garcia v. Mojica
G.R. No. 139043
September 10, 1999
On May 7, 1998, petitioner, in his capacity as Cebu City mayor, signed a contract with F.E. Zuellig for the supply of asphalt to the city. The contract covers the period 1998-2001, which was to commence on September 1998 upon F.E. Zuellig’s first delivery. Sometime in March 1999, news reports came out regarding the alleged anomalous purchase of asphalt by Cebu City, through the contract signed by petitioner. This prompted the Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) to conduct an inquiry into the matter.
Respondent Jesus Rodrigo T. Tagaan, special prosecution officer of the Office of the Ombudsman, was assigned to conduct the inquiry, docketed as INQ-VIS-99-0132. After investigation, he recommended that the said inquiry be upgraded to criminal and administrative cases against petitioner and the other city officials involved. Respondent Arturo C. Mojica, Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, approved this recommendation
1. Whether Garcia may be held administratively liable.
2. Whether the Ombudsman was stripped of its powers by virtue of the Local Government Code.
1. No. As previously held, “…a reelected local official may not be held administratively accountable for misconduct committed during his prior term of office.” The rationale is that when the electorate put him back into office, it is presumed that it did so with full knowledge of his life and character, including his past misconduct. If, armed with such knowledge, it still reelects him, then such is considered a condonation of his past misdeeds.
However, in the present case, respondents point out that the contract entered into by petitioner with F.E. Zuellig was signed just 4 days before the date of the elections. It was not made an issue during the election, and so the electorate could not be said to have voted for petitioner with knowledge of this particular aspect of his life and character.
Petitioner can no longer be held administratively liable for an act done during his previous term. The agreement between petitioner and F.E. Zuellig was perfected on the date the contract was signed, during petitioner’s prior term. At that moment, petitioner already acceded to the terms of the contract, including stipulations now alleged to be prejudicial to the city government. Thus, any culpability petitioner may have in signing the contract already became extant on the day the contract was signed. It hardly matters that the deliveries under the contract are supposed to have been made months later.
While petitioner can no longer be held administratively liable for signing the contract with F. E. Zuellig, this should not prejudice the filing of any case, other than administrative, against petitioner. The ruling does not mean the total exoneration of petitioner’s wrongdoing, if any, that might have been committed in signing the subject contract. The ruling is now limited to the question of his administrative liability therefore, and it is our considered view that he may not.
2. No. There is nothing in the LGC to indicate that it has repealed, whether expressly or impliedly, the pertinent provisions of the Ombudsman Act. The two statutes on the specific matter in question are not so inconsistent, let alone irreconcilable, as to compel us to only uphold one and strike down the other. The decision of the Ombudsman (6 month suspension) will prevail over the LGC (60day suspension) if the evidence of guilt is strong. The power to preventively suspend is available not only to the Ombudsman but also to the Deputy Ombudsman.