Jose Villena vs Secretary of the Interior

G.R. No. L-46570 – 67 Phil. 451 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Department – Powers of the President – Control Power – Supervision – Suspension of a Local Government Official – Power to suspend comes with the power to remove

Jose Villena was the then mayor of Makati in the 1930s. After investigation, the Secretary of Interior recommended to the Office of the President the suspension of Villena. The recommendation was approved. The Secretary then suspended Villena. Villena averred claiming that the Secretary has no jurisdiction over the matter. The power or jurisdiction is lodged in the local government [the governor] pursuant to Sec. 2188 of the Administrative Code. Further, even if the Secretary of the Interior has power of supervision over local governments, that power, according to the constitution, must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of law and the provisions of law governing trials of charges against elective municipal officials are those contained in Sec. 2188 of the Administrative Code as amended. In other words, the Secretary of the Interior must exercise his supervision over local governments, if he has that power under existing law, in accordance with Sec. 2188 of the Administrative Code, as amended, as the latter provisions govern the procedure to be followed in suspending and punishing elective local officials while sec 79 (C) of the Administrative Code is the genera law which must yield to the special law.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Secretary of Interior can suspend an LGU official under investigation.

HELD: Yes.

There is no clear and express grant of power to the secretary to suspend a mayor of a municipality who is under investigation. On the contrary, the power appears lodged in the provincial governor by sec. 2188 of the Administrative Code which provides that “The provincial governor shall receive and investigate complaints made under oath against municipal officers for neglect of duty, oppression, corruption or other form of maladministration of office, and conviction by final judgment of any crime involving moral turpitude“.

The fact, however, that the power of suspension is expressly granted by sec. 2188 of the Administrative Code to the provincial governor does not mean that the grant is necessarily exclusive and precludes the Secretary of the Interior from exercising a similar power. For instance, Villena admitted in the oral argument that the President of the Philippines may himself suspend the petitioner from office in virtue of his greater power of removal (sec. 2191, as amended, Administrative Code) to be exercised conformably to law. Indeed, if the President could, in the manner prescribed by law, remove a municipal official; it would be a legal incongruity if he were to be devoid of the lesser power of suspension. And the incongruity would be more patent if, possessed of the power both to suspend and to remove a provincial official (sec. 2078, Administrative Code), the President were to be without the power to suspend a municipal official. The power to suspend a municipal official is not exclusive. Preventive suspension may be issued to give way for an impartial investigation.

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