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Espiritu vs Melgar

Date: February 13, 1991

Petitioner: Governor Benjamin Espiritu
Respondents: Nelson Melgar and Hon. Judge Marciano

Ponente: Grino Aquino

Facts: Ramir Garing filed a sworn letter-complaint with Secretary Luis Santos of DILG charging Mayor
Nelson Melgar of Naujan. Oriental Mindoro, with grave misconduct, oppression. abuse of authority,
culpable violation of the Constitution and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the public service.
Melgar allegedly assaulted Garing and ordered his arrest and detention in the municipal jail of Naujan
without filing any charges until his released the following day. An identical letter complaint was filed
by Garing with Provincial Governor of Oriental Mindoro Benjamin Espiritu, accusing Melgar of the
same violations.A third complaint filed by Garing with the Presidential Action Center, OP.
Mayor Melgar submitted his answer wherein he said that while he was delivering a speech
during a graduation ceremony, Garing suddenly clapped causing disturbance on the part of the
audience. When the Mayor ended his speech, he instructed a policeman to investigate Garing. It
appeared that Garing was drunk. The mayor also presented medical certificate proving that Garing
was not hurt. A balison was then taken from Garing. The mayor informed Garing to go home (he had
sobered up), but he refused to go and only did so the following morning.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Oriental Mindoro passed Resolution No 55, recommending to
the Provincial Governor that the Mayor be preventively suspended for 45 days pending the
investigation of the administrative complaint. When the mayor received the order of suspension, he
filed a "Petition for Certiorari with Preliminary Injunction with prayer for Restraining Order" in the RTC
of Oriental Mindoro alleging that "the order of suspension was an arrogant, despotic and arbitrary
abuse of power" by the Governor. The RTC judge issued a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining
Governor Espiritu from implementing the Order of suspension against Mayor Melgar
On appeal, petitioner contends that the trial judge erred in granting the preliminary injunction
since the Governor is empowered under Sec 63 LGC to place an elective municipal official under
preventive suspension pending decision of an administrative case against the elective municipal
Also, under Sec 61 LGC, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has jurisdiction over the complaints against
any municipal official, while Section 19(c) of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1930 withdrew from
RTCs jurisdictions over such cases. Also, the mayor has a remedy of appeal under Sec 66 LGC.

Issue: WON the governor has the power to suspend the mayor

Held: Yes

Ratio: Under Section 63 LGC, the provincial governor of Oriental Mindoro is authorized by law to
preventively suspend the municipal mayor of Naujan at anytime after the issues had been joined and
any of the following grounds were shown to exist:
1. When there is reasonable ground to believe that the respondent has committed the act or acts complained of;
2. When the evidence of culpability is strong;
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.
There is nothing improper in suspending an officer before the charges against him are heard
and before he is given an opportunity to prove his innocence. Preventive suspension is allowed so
that the respondent may not hamper the normal course of the investigation through the use of his
influence and authority over possible witnesses.
Since the mayor believed that his preventive suspension was unjustified and politically
motivated, he should have sought relief first from the Secretary of DILG, not from the courts. Mayor
Melgar's direct recourse to the courts without exhausting administrative remedies was premature.
The RTC had no jurisdiction over Special Civil Action No. R-5003 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.
However, in this particular case. since the 60-day preventive suspension of Mayor Melgar was
maintained by the Temporary Restraining Order which we issued on August 6, 1991, and therefore
has already been served, he is deemed reinstated in office without prejudice to the continuation of
the administrative investigation of the charges against him.