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AGUINALDO vs. SANTOS, G.R. No.

94115, August 21, 1992


Pertinent provision of the Local Government Code: Section 60 Grounds for Disciplinary Actions In this petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary mandatory injunction and/or restraining order, petitioner Rodolfo E. Aguinaldo assails the decision of respondent Secretary of Local Government dated March 19,1990 in Adm. Case No. P-10437-89 dismissing him as Governor of Cagayan.

Facts: Petitioner was the duly elected Governor of the province of Cagayan, having been elected to said position during
the local elections held on January 17, 1988, to serve a term of four (4) years therefrom. On December 7, 1989, a sworn complaint for disloyalty to the Republic and culpable violation of the Constitution was filed by Veronico Agatep, Manuel Mamba and Orlino Agatep, respectively the mayors of the municipalities of Gattaran, Tuao and Lasam, all in Cagayan, against petitioner for acts the latter committed during the coup. Petitioner was required to file a verified answer to the complaint. In his letter, petitioner denied being privy to the planning of the coup or actively participating in its execution, though he admitted that he was sympathetic to the cause of the rebel soldiers. Respondent Secretary considered petitioner's reply letter as his answer to the complaint of Mayor Veronico Agatep and others. On the basis thereof, respondent Secretary suspended petitioner from office for sixty (60) days from notice, pending the outcome of the formal investigation into the charges against him. During the hearing conducted on the charges against petitioner, complainants presented testimonial and documentary evidence to prove the charges. Petitioner neither presented evidence nor even cross-examined the complainant's witnesses, choosing instead to move that respondent Secretary inhibit himself from deciding the case, which motion was denied. Thereafter, respondent Secretary rendered the questioned decision finding petitioner guilty as charged and ordering his removal from office. While this case was pending before this Court, petitioner filed his certificate of candidacy for the position of Governor of Cagayan for the May 11, 1992 elections. As petitioner won by a landslide margin in the elections, the resolution paved the way for his eventual proclamation as Governor of Cagayan. One of the three grounds petitioner relies on for this petition is that: the alleged act of disloyalty committed by petitioner should be proved by proof beyond reasonable doubt, and not be a mere preponderance of evidence, because it is an act punishable as rebellion under the Revised Penal Code.

Issue: Whether or not petitioner should be removed from office on the ground of disloyalty to the Republic. Held: NO. Petitioner's re-election to the position of Governor of Cagayan has rendered the administration case
pending before the Court moot and academic. It appears that after the canvassing of votes, petitioner garnered the most number of votes among the candidates for governor of Cagayan province. The rule is that a public official can not be removed for administrative misconduct committed during a prior term, since his re-election to office operates as a condonation of the officer's previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefor. The foregoing rule, however, finds no application to criminal cases pending against petitioner for acts he may have committed during the failed coup. Equally without merit is petitioner's claim that before he could be suspended or removed from office, proof beyond reasonable doubt is required inasmuch as he is charged with a penal offense of disloyalty to the Republic which is defined and penalized under Article 137 of the Revised Penal Code. Petitioner is not being prosecuted criminally under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, but administratively with the end in view of removing petitioner as the duly elected Governor of Cagayan Province for acts of disloyalty to the Republic where the quantum of proof required is only substantial evidence. WHEREFORE, petitioner is hereby GRANTED and the decision of public respondent Secretary of Local Government dated March 19, 1990 in Adm. Case No. P-10437-89, dismissing petitioner as Governor of Cagayan, is hereby REVERSED.