By Hanah Tabios
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año ordered suspended Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua on Friday to vacate his post immediately after he reinstated himself in government service without an official order from the agency.
“I will issue a memo for Gov. Cua to vacate immediately. Only the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) is authorized to reinstall a suspended local government official,” Año told the Manila Bulletin in a text message.
Año said the suspension of Cua is still in effect until April 2020. Vice Gov. Shirley Abundo heads the province as acting governor.
The issue stemmed from a six-month suspension imposed on Cua by the Office of the Ombudsman, pending an investigation against him for alleged abuse of authority, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service, dishonesty, and grave misconduct.
The investigation was made in the wake of an administrative complaint filed by Rey Mendez of Virac town before the Office of the Ombudsman against Cua and Mayor Eulogio Rodriguez of Bato, Catanduanes.
“Vice Governor Shirley Abundo is still acting governor. He [Cua] cannot install himself and that’s unauthorized, tantamount to usurpation of authority which can be another case against him if he insists,” Año said.
While Cua was serving his six-month suspension, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon released the decision on his cases and imposed a penalty of a one-year suspension that will end on April 30 this year.
Año also said Cua cannot use Section 66 of the Local Government Code to argue for his reinstatement because his suspension due to a graft case was based on the power and authority of the Ombudsman pursuant to Republic Act No. 6770 or The Ombudsman Act of 1989.
Sec. 66 of the Local Government Code provides that “the penalty of suspension shall not exceed the unexpired term of the respondent or a period of six months for every administrative offense.”
Plight of capitol workers
In a document obtained by the Manila Bulletin, the suspended governor released a memorandum on Wednesday (Jan. 15), informing all heads of offices at the provincial capitol that he is back to assume office.
But reports said Abundo refused to forego gubernatorial duties and responsibilities without an official order from DILG.
Local reports also revealed that government transactions at the provincial capitol were paralyzed amid the political fiasco. “[‘Yung] payroll ng mga empleyado ng mga empleyado, nakabinbin sa mga bangko,” a post said.
The two sitting governors allegedly refused to sign any government-related document because of the situation.
An informant also told the Manila Bulletin that Cua has been occupying the second floor of the provincial capitol since Wednesday as governor while Abundo is on the third floor performing the same duties.
Upon Año’s order, which was first shared with the Manila Bulletin (MB), acting governor Abundo told MB that she was thankful the issue was finally resolved.
Apparently, Cua and Abundo were political allies before the issue erupted.
“Any decision of the DILG I will respect. Be it to go back as vice governor or continue as acting governor. The important thing is that it had been resolved and we could have the normal flow of transactions in the provincial government. The major concern really was the salaries of our employees that could not be processed but as of this afternoon, it was already credited to their accounts,” she said in a text message.