SC Upholds Mayor’s Power to Preventively Suspend City Council Employee

The Supreme Court has upheld the authority of a city mayor, as local chief executive, to discipline erring officials and employees under his or her jurisdiction.

In a 13-page Decision penned by Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, the Supreme Court granted the petition for review on certiorari of then City Government of Valenzuela Mayor and now Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian assailing the rulings of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Court of Appeals (CA) that voided a formal charge for Sexual Harassment and order of preventive suspension against the mayor’s subordinate in the city government who allegedly sexually harassed a female on-the-job (OJT) trainee/student.

The Court reversed the assailed CSC and CA rulings and upheld the formal charge and preventive suspension order, issued in 2012 by Gatchalian as then city mayor, against respondent Romeo V. Urrutia, Records Officer IV in the Council Secretariat, Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Valenzuela City and Chair of the Board of Directors of the City Government of Valenzuela City Employees Cooperative.

The Court held that as the city mayor, Gathcalian had the express power to discipline Urrutia, the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Employees Cooperative, when he committed Sexual Harassment acts against his victim, in accordance with the Local Government Code (LGC) and the Charter of Valenzuela City.

Furthermore, Section 87 of the LGC of 1991 empowers the local chief executive to impose the appropriate penalty on erring subordinate officials and employees under his or her jurisdiction.

The Court said that the LGC of 1991 generally applies to the case at bar, but added that the more specific law that applies to the Sexual Harassment violation committed by a government employee like Urrutia is CSC Resolution No. 01-0940 or the Rules on Sexual Harassment Cases.

Section 7, Rule VI of the said Rules specifically provides that a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) must be constituted in all national or local agencies of the government, state colleges and universities, including government-owned or controlled corporations with the original charter. In the CODI’s absence, the head office or agency shall immediately cause the creation of the CODI in accordance with law and rules.

In the case at bar, the head office or agency responsible for creating a CODI is the office of the city mayor.

“In fine, the CA committed reversible error in dismissing Gatchalian’s petition on the basis that the city mayor had no power to discipline Urrutia and that only the vice-mayor has the sole jurisdiction to discipline Urrutia,” the Court said.

In 2012, a female OJT trainee/student working in the City Government of Valenzuela Employees Cooperative lodged a complaint against Urrutia for Sexual Harassment Committed on December 22, 2011.

The complaint was filed before the Women’s Desk of the Human Resources and Management Office (HRMO) of the City Government of Valenzuela. HRMO indorsed the same to the Personnel Complaints and Ethics Board (PCEB), which ordered Urrutia to submit his counter- affidavit under oath. Urrutia, however, instead filed a motion to dismiss questioning the power and authority of the PCEB as the Committee on Decorum and Investigation. The PCEB denied his motion to dismiss and subsequent motion for reconsideration.

On February 15, 2012, Gatchalian issued Executive Order No. 2012- 006 creating the CODI on Sexual Harassment Cases of the City Government of Valenzuela to implement the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.

Following the subsequent report and recommendation of the CODI, Gatchalian, on March 23, 2012, issued a formal charge for Sexual Harassment (grave offense) and order of preventive suspension of 60 days.

Urrutia filed with the CODI an urgent omnibus motion assailing the formal charge and his suspension, and questioning the creation of the new CODI. The CODI denied the same.

A formal investigation ensued. On May 17, 2012, while the administrative case was pending with the CODI, Urrutia filed a memorandum of appeal with the CSC from the order of preventive suspension, questioning creation and jurisdiction of the CODI.

The CODI later found Urrutia liable. When the CODI denied his motion for reconsideration, Urrutia filed an appeal before the CSC.

On July 26, 2012, the CSC promulgated a Decision granting Urrutia’s appeal and ruled that the power of the city mayor to impose administrative disciplinary action is limited to officials and employees appointed by him or her. On November 26, 2012, the CSC denied Gatchalian’s motion for reconsideration and affirmed its July 26, 2012 Decision.

Gatchalian raised the matter before the CA, which ruled in Urrutia’s favor. It held that CSC did not err when it voided Gatchalian’s formal charge and preventive suspension order as he had no power to do so. When the CA denied Gatchalian’s motion for reconsideration, he elevated the case to the High Court which eventually ruled in his favor. [Supreme Court of the Philippines. July 07, 2022. Retrieved on July 07, 2022 at 4:53 PM. SC Upholds Mayor’s Power to Preventively Suspend City Council Employee | Supreme Court of the Philippines (]