March 30, 2015

CA Gives Suspended Iligan City Mayor Relief

ILIGAN CITY – Mayor Celso Regencia got a 60-day reprieve against the suspension that Malacañang slapped on him last month for alleged abuse of authority.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals 23rd division in Cagayan de Oro City granted Regencia’s petition for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) after posting a bond of P100,000.

In the two-page TRO, the CA said it granted Regencia’s petition “in the interest of justice, so as not to render nugatory and ineffectual the resolution of this court of the issues herein…”

Mayor Celso Regencia
On March 2, Malacañang – through an order signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa – suspended Regencia for 60 days after finding him guilty of abuse of authority for stripping Vice Mayor Ruderic Marzo of his authority to appoint job order employees at the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) in 2014.

Regencia – through a memorandum order issued in January 2014 – told the city’s human resource development officer, the budget officer, the city treasurer and the city accountant that no job orders at the SP should be processed for payments without his approval.

He said he was acting on allegations of ghost employees and the unusual number of casual workers at the SP, who were hired under non-existing legislative enhancement projects.

In the Malacañang order, which quoted an investigation by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on the matter, Ochoa said Regencia’s explanation that he was only trying to curb the influx of ghost employees at the SP was unacceptable.

The mayor allegedly failed to provide enough evidence that ghost employees indeed existed at the SP and had caused “abrupt interruption and suspension of transportation services, public and committee hearings, sessions and liaison, janitorial and messengerial services” at the SP and the office of the vice mayor.

Ochoa, in his order, added that Regencia has no authority to restrict and/or prohibit Marzo from exercising his authority to appoint employees – whether casual or regular – for the office of the vice mayor and the SP.

The executive secretary also said that while the mayor has the authority to appoint officials and employees, that power did not extend to the SP because it is under the authority and power of the vice mayor.

The DILG in Northern Mindanao served the order on March 27 and installed Marzo as acting mayor.

But Regencia, who viewed his suspension as politically-motivated, declined to acknowledge Malacañang’s order.

He instead sought the CA’s intervention.

In the TRO, the CA directed “all parties to maintain the status quo ante” or the prevailing condition at the city government before the implementation of the Malacañang order.

The CA also resolved that Regencia’s suspension was “inimical to the interest of the electorate who voted for him.”

Regencia ran and won in the 2013 elections under the National Unity Party against Liberal Party candidate Henry Dy. He and Iligan City Representative Vicente Belmonte Jr., an ally of President Benigno III, are known political enemies.

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