SC Orders Maguindanao del Norte Vice Governor to Show Cause Why She Should Not Be Cited in Contempt
November 15, 2023
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered Bai Fatima Ainee L. Sinsuat (Sinsuat), Vice Governor of the Province of Maguindanao del Norte, to show cause within 10 days from notice why she should not be cited in contempt for her failure to promptly inform the Court of her appointment, oath taking, and assumption as Vice Governor of the said province.
In 2022, Sinsuat, the elected Vice Governor of the Province of Maguindanao pursuant to the 2022 National and Local Elections, assumed office as Governor of the newly created province of Maguindanao del Norte. She wrote a letter to respondent Bureau of Local Government Finance – Regional Office No. XII (BLGF Region XII) requesting that Badorie M. Alonzo (Alonzo) be designated as provincial treasurer. When informed by the BLGF Region XII that it intended to seek guidance on the matter from respondents Bureau of Local Government Finance – Central Office (BLGF Central) and the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the province of Maguindanao del Norte, represented by Sinsuat, filed a petition for mandamus with prayer for the issuance of a preliminary mandatory injunction against respondents to compel the latter to process the designation of Alonzo or any qualified person designated by Sinsuat as provincial treasurer.
On April 19, 2023, the Court granted Sinsuat’s prayer for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction and ordered the respondents to process Alonzo’s or any qualified person’s designation as provincial treasurer of Maguindanao del Norte.
On June 26, 2023, the Court issued a Decision granting the petition for mandamus and made the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction permanent, ordering the BLGF Region XII to process the appointment of Alonzo or any qualified person designated by Sinsuat as treasurer of the province of Maguindanao del Norte.
In determining whether mandamus may issue, the Court affirmed the clear legal right of Maguindanao del Norte, represented by Sinsuat as Acting Governor, to recommend the appointment of its provincial treasurer.
Thereafter, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing the BLGF Region XII and BLGF Central, the MILG, and petitioner Province of Maguindanao, through Sinsuat, filed their respective motions before the Court.
The OSG filed an Omnibus Motion praying that the case be set for oral arguments and that the June 26, 2023 Decision of the Court be reversed. The OSG also informed the Court that on April 26, 2023, the President had appointed several officers for the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, among which was Sinsuat as Vice Governor. The OSG alleged that Sinsuat effectively abandoned her claim as Acting Governor of Maguindanao del Norte and relinquished the authority to appoint its provincial officer when she accepted and took her oath of office as Vice Governor of the province on April 28, 2023.
The MILG prayed for remedies identical to those prayed for by the OSG, averring that the issue of who shall assume as Governor and Vice Governor of Maguindanao del Norte has become moot because of the supervening events which transpired during the pendency of the case, particularly the appointment and assumption to office of Abdulraof Raul Macacua (Macacua) and Sinsuat as Governor and Vice Governor, respectively.
Petitioner, on the other hand, filed a motion praying that the MILG, among others, be cited for indirect contempt for their purported disobedience to the Court’s June 26, 2023 Decision and for their improper conduct.
The Court’s Second Division, through Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, partly granted the omnibus motion of the OSG and the motion for reconsideration of the MILG by reversing its Decision dated June 26, 2023 and dismissing for being moot Sinsuat’s petition for mandamus.
The Court also denied the OSG’s prayer to refer the case to the Supreme Court En Banc and to set the case for oral argument as well as the Province of Maguindanao del Norte’s motion for indirect contempt.
Emphasizing that the factual circumstances under which the Court issued its assailed June 26, 2023 Decision are drastically different from the present state of things as revealed by the parties, the Court ruled that Sinsuat is deemed to have abandoned her claim to the position of Governor of Maguindanao del Norte when she accepted her appointment, took her oath, and assumed office as Vice Governor of Maguindanao del Norte.
To warrant a finding of abandonment, two essential elements must be present: first, the intention to abandon, and second, an overt of “external” act which the intention is carried into effect.
The Court took note of Sinsuat’s acts which indicated her intention to abandon. It found that Sinsuat never expressed any objection when the President appointed Macacua as OIC Governor of Maguindanao del Norte on April 4, 2023, or when he assumed office as such and that she ceased to discharge the functions of Governor of the province from the time Macacua assumed office until the time of the promulgation of the assailed Decision.
The Court also pointed out the positive acts of Sinsuat which effected her intent to abandon the post of Governor. First, Sinsuat accepted her appointment as Vice Governor knowing full well that by doing so, she could not simultaneously serve as Governor. Second, she took her oath of office as Vice Governor on April 28, 2023 before no less than the President. Lastly, she assumed the office and discharged the duties and functions of Vice Governor of Maguindanao del Norte.
Since Sinsuat abandoned her claim to the position of Governor of Maguindanao del Norte, the Court ruled that the issues raised in the petition have been rendered moot, and Sinsuat’s authority to represent the Province of Maguindanao del Norte had ceased, warranting the dismissal of the case.
In denying the common prayer of the OSG and the MILG that the case be referred to the Court En Banc and that oral arguments on the same be held, the Court said that there was no exigent constitutional issue left for resolution in the present case which would necessitate its referral to the Court En Banc. It stated that the apparent clash between Macacua’s title to the position of Governor and Sinsuat’s claim against would be the proper subject of a quo warranto, since Macacua was not even a party to the present case.
The Court, however, deemed it proper to order Sinsuat to show cause why she should not be cited in contempt. It lamented that while the Court takes judicial notice of the official acts of the President in appointing Sinsuat, the parties should have at least informed the Court of the supervening events which significantly altered the possible outcome of the case.
The Court remarked that Sinsuat’s silence and omissions appear to constitute intentional concealment which tends to disrespect the Court’s authority as final dispenser of justice. It said that not only did Sinsuat failed to apprise the Court that she already accepted her appointment as Vice Governor of Maguindanao del Norte, she also conveniently omitted to mention this important fact in her Motion for Indirect Contempt. Her actions tend to cripple the Court’s authority to render and informed and just resolution of the case.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office will upload a copy of the ruling once it receives the same from the Second Division Clerk of Court.
(G.R. No. 265373, Province of Maguindanao del Norte v. Bureau of Local Government Finance, Regional Office No. XII, Bureau of Local Government Finance, Central Office, and Ministry of Interior and Local Government, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)