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Espiritu vs. Melgar February 13, 1991 Petitioner: Governor Benjamin Espiritu Respondents: Nelson Melgar and Hon.

Judge 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 balisong 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 tothe 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 official. 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, Under Section 63 LGC, the provincial governor of Oriental Mindoro is authorized by law to preventively suspend the municipal mayor of Naujan 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. WON the RTC has jurisdiction to stop the provincial governor from placing a municipal mayor under preventive suspension pending the investigation of administrative charges against the latter HELD: NO. The RTC had no jurisdiction over Special Civil Action 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.