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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Maguindanao Norte vice gov facing contempt charge with SC

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered Maguindanao del Norte Vice Governor Bai Fatima Ainee Sinsuat to explain 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 province.

The SC issued the order last Monday and gave Sinsuat 10 days from notice to submit her explanation.

Sinsuat won as Maguindanao vice governor in the 2022 national and local elections.

Prior to her election, Republic Act 1550, or the Charter of the Provinces of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, was signed into law on May 27, 2021.

On September 17, 2022, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) conducted the plebiscite which resulted in the overwhelming ratification of the law.

Sinsuat later assumed the gubernatorial post of the newly created province of Maguindanao del Norte. She then wrote a letter to the respondent Bureau of Local Government Finance-Regional Office No. XII (BLGF Region XII) requesting that Badorie M. Alonzo be designated as provincial treasurer.

Sinsuat was informed by the BLGF Region XII of its intention to seek guidance from BLGF Central and the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in MuslimMindanao (BARMM).

However, Sinsuat filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and mandamus, seeking to compel the BLGF to process the designation of Alonzo or any qualified person designated by her as provincial treasurer.

In a resolution issued last June 26, the SC granted Sinsuat’s petition and ordered respondents to process Alonzo’s designation as provincial treasurer.

In granting the petition, the High Court affirmed the clear legal right of Maguindanao del Norte, represented by Sinsuat as acting governor, to recommend the appointment of its provincial treasurer.

In response to the SC’s order, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing the BLGF Region XII and BLGF Central, the MILG, filed a motion praying that the case be set for oral arguments and that the June 26, 2023 Decision of the Court be reversed.

In its motion, the OSG, 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 officers when she accepted and took her oath of office as Vice Governor of the province on April 28, 2023.

The Court’s Second Division through Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, agreed with the OSG.

The Court held that that Sinsuat was 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.

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 her authority to represent the province of Maguindanao del Norte had ceased, warranting the dismissal of the case.

Nevertheless, the SC deemed it proper to order Sinsuat to show cause why she should not be cited in contempt.

It pointed out 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 High Tribunal said Sinsuat’s “silence and omissions appear to constitute intentional concealment which tends to disrespect the Court’s authority as final dispense of justice.”

“Her actions tend to cripple the Court’s authority to render an informed and just resolution of the case,” the SC stressed.

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