Don v. Lacsa (G.R. No. 170810. August 07, 2007)

CASE DIGEST: AZUCENA B. DON, JOSEPH DETERA, NENITA B. GRESOLA, LETICIA L. ESPENILLA, EDITH G. DETOITO, JULNA D. JAYCO, ROGER ARIARTE, CALVIN DEL VALLE, AND ERLYN RAMIREZ, PETITIONERS, VS. RAMON H. LACSA AS ERSTWHILE PUNONG BARANGAY OF BACOLOD, JUBAN, SORSOGON, RESPONDENT. [G.R. No. 170810, August 07, 2007. 556 Phil. 170].

FACTS: Petitioners-public school teachers charged before the Sangguniang Bayan of Juban, Sorsogon respondent Ramon H. Lacsa (respondent), then Punong Barangay of Bacolod, Juban, Sorsogon, with grave threats, oppression, grave misconduct, and abuse of authority.

On the directive of the then vice mayor of the Municipality of Juban in his capacity as presiding officer of the Sangguniang Bayan, respondent filed his Answer.[1]

A Special Investigating Committee (SIC) created by the Sangguniang Bayan to investigate the case found sufficient evidence for the preventive suspension of respondent. The Sangguniang Bayan thus passed a resolution recommending his preventive suspension. The mayor acted and gave him two-month suspension.

The SIC and the Sangguniang Bayan later found respondent guilty of oppression, grave misconduct, and abuse of authority.[3][4] . By the same resolution, respondent was removed from office.[5]

Respondent filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Sorsogon a Petition for Certiorari (With Application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction)[9]. The RTC of Sorsogon granted respondent's petition and accordingly nullified the mayor's executive order.
The trial court having denied[12] petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration,[13] the petitioners filed the present Petition for Review on Certiorari, manifesting early on that they are raising only questions of law. They fault the trial court[14]
  1. . . . in holding that the Sangguniang Bayan of Juban, Sorsogon, furnished respondent with a copy of its Resolution No. 12-2005, not to afford him his remedy of appeal, but to execute the said resolution hastily in violation of Section 66 of R.A. 7160.
  2. . . . in holding that the respondent Municipal Mayor issued Executive Order No. 8 in "utmost" disregard of respondent's right to due process, as pursuant to Section 67 of R.A. 7160, he has thirty days from receipt of the aforesaid resolution to file an appeal.
  3. . . . in holding that the municipal mayor, in promptly executing Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. 12-2005, committed "grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction."
  4. The court a quo erred even more when it restored to respondent, through a writ of execution, the right of administrative appeal which he had abandoned and lost.[15]
HELD: The petition is impressed WITH MERIT. The petition is GRANTED

The pertinent provision of R.A. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, reads:
Sec. 61(c) - A complaint against any elective barangay official shall be filed before the sangguniang panlungsod or Sangguniang Bayan concerned whose decision shall be final and executory.
The "final and executory" phrase used in the immediately-quoted provision was construed in Mendoza v. Laxina, Sr.[16] to be "immediately executory," albeit the respondent may appeal the adverse decision to the proper office. Sections 61 and 67 of the Local Government Code, provide:
Section 61. Form and Filing of Administrative Complaints. A verified complaint against any erring local elective official shall be prepared as follows: x x x x (c) A complaint against any elective barangay official shall be filed before the sangguniang panlungsod or sangguniang bayan concerned whose decision shall be final and executory.Sec. 67. Administrative Appeals. - Decisions in administrative cases may, within thirty (30) days from receipt thereof, be appealed to the following: x x x x (b) the Office of the President, in the case of decisions of the sangguniang panlalawigan and the sangguniang panlungsod of highly urbanized cities and independent component cities.

Decisions of the Office of the President shall be final and executory.
In interpreting the foregoing provisions, the trial court did not consider Section 68 of the same Code which provides:
An appeal shall not prevent a decision from being final and executory. The respondent shall be considered as having been placed under preventive suspension during the pendency of an appeal in the event that he wins such appeal. In the event that the appeal results in exoneration, he shall be paid his salary and other such emoluments during the pendency of the appeal.
Obviously, the Code does not preclude the taking of an appeal. On the contrary, it specifically allows a party to appeal to the Office of the President. The [phrase] "final and executory" x x x in Sections 67 and 68, respectively, of the Local Government Code, are not, as erroneously ruled by the trial court, indicative of the appropriate mode of relief from the decision of the Sanggunian concerned. These phrases simply mean that the administrative appeals will not prevent the enforcement of the decisions. The decision is immediately executory but the respondent may nevertheless appeal the adverse decision to the Office of the President or to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, as the case may be.[17]

Resort to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court as he did file one before the RTC was NOT the proper remedy.

[1] RTC records, pp. 19-20.
[2] Rollo, p. 47.
[3] Id. at 46-54.
[4] Id. at 44-45.
[5] Id. at 44.
[6] Id. at 55-57.
[7] Id. at 56-57.
[8] RTC records, p. 4.
[9] Id. at 1-7.
[10] Id. at 64-65.
[11] Id. at 66.
[12] Id. at 80.
[13] Id. at 67-75.
[14] Rollo, pp. 3-26.
[15] Id. at 8-9.
[16] 453 Phil. 1013 (2003).
[17] Id. at 1024-1025 (Citations omitted).

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