SC affirms authority of mayors, governors to discipline personnel in their jurisdictions

Published July 7, 2022, 11:30 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court (SC)

The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the power of municipal and city mayors and provincial governors to discipline erring officials and employees under their jurisdictions.

It said the authority of local government chief executives is derived from Section 87 of the 1991 Local Government Code (LGC), and also – in sexual harassment charges — from Civil Service Commission (CSC) Resolution No. 01-0940 on the Rules on Sexual Harassment Cases.

Section 87 of LGC states that “except as otherwise provided by law, the local chief executive may impose the penalty of removal from service, demotion in rank, suspension for not more than one (1) year without pay, fine in an amount not exceeding six (6) months’ salary, or reprimand and otherwise discipline subordinate officials and employees under his jurisdiction.”

Section 7, Rule VI of CSC Resolution No. 01-0940 states that a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) must be created in all national or local government agencies and if the committee has not been constituted, the head of office or agency should immediately create one.

The SC ruling was contained in the decision written by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando. The SC granted the petition filed by then Valenzuela City Mayor and now Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian who assailed the rulings of the CSC and the Court of Appeals (CA).

The CA affirmed the CSC’s ruling that voided the formal charge for sexual harassment and preventive suspension order against Romeo V. Urrutia, records officer IV in the council secretariat, Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Valenzuela City, and chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Valenzuela City Employees Cooperative.

Urrutia was charged with sexual harassment by a female on-the-job (OJT) trainee/student in 2011.

The trainee filed her complaint in 2012 before Valenzuela City’s Women’s Desk of the Human Resources and Management Office (HRMO) which forwarded to charge to the Personnel Complaints and Ethics Board (PCEB).

PCEB ordered Urrutia to submit his counter-affidavit under oath. Urrutia, however, filed a motion to dismiss and questioned the power and authority of the PCEB as the city’s CODI. PCEB denied Urrutia’s motion.

On Feb. 15, 2012, Gatchalian issued Executive Order No. 2012-006 creating the CODI on sexual harassment cases to implement the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.

Based on CODI’s report and recommendation, Gatchalian, on March 23, 2012, issued a formal charge for sexual harassment (grave offense) and order Urrutia’s preventive suspension for 60 days.

CODI denied Urrutia’s motion against the formal charge against him and his suspension. When CODI found that Urrutia was liable in the sexual harassment complaint, he elevated the case to the CSC.

He claimed that since it was the city’s vice mayor who appointed him, only the vice mayor has the power to discipline him.

On July 26, 2012, the CSC granted Urrutia’s appeal. When the CSC denied Gatchalian’s motion for reconsideration, the then city mayor elevated the case to the CA which affirmed the CSC. The case reached the SC on Gatchalian’s petition.

Granting Gatchalian’s petition, the SC said:

“In this case, Gatchalian, as the city mayor, had the express power to discipline Urrutia, the chairman of the board of directors of the City Employees Cooperative in accordance with LGC and the Charter of Valenzuela City.

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

“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.

“There is legal basis for not reinstating Urrutia to his former position since Gatchalian, through the CODI, had jurisdiction and authority to try the sexual harassment case against Urrutia.

“WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Dec. 11, 2015 decision and March 16, 2016 resolution of the CA, which affirmed the July 26, 2012 decision of the CSC… and the Nov. 26, 2012 resolution… are hereby REVERSED.

“The formal charge for sexual harassment and order of preventive suspension by petitioner Sherwin T. Gatchalian, former city mayor of Valenzuela City, against respondent Romeo V. Urrutia… are VALID. SO ORDERED.”