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Supreme Court upholds mayor’s authority to order disciplinary action vs council employee

THE Supreme Court (SC) said it overturned a Court of Appeals ruling that had nullified the suspension of a Valenzuela City council employee charged with sexual harassment.

The SC decision came in the form of a granted appeal which had been filed by former Valenzuela City mayor and now Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian.

In a 13-page decision dated March 16 and made public on July 6, the court’s Second Division ruled that as mayor, Mr. Gatchalian had the authority to discipline Romeo V. Urrutia, the former chairman of the employee cooperative of the city council.

“In fine, the Court of Appeals (CA) committed reversible error in dismissing Gatchalian’s petition on the basis that the city mayor had no power to discipline Urrutia and that only the vice-mayor has the sole jurisdiction to discipline Urrutia,” according to the ruling issued by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando.

The CA affirmed a ruling of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) which said that Mr. Gatchalian had no power to issue the formal charge and preventive suspension order against the city council employee.

Under the Local Government Code of 1991, mayors may impose penalties they deem appropriate on subordinates and employees under their jurisdiction.

The case stemmed from a sexual harassment complaint filed by a female intern who was working in the Valenzuela City government in 2012.

On Feb. 15, 2012, Mr. Gatchalian issued an executive order creating a committee to investigate sexual harassment cases within the city government.

Based on the committee’s findings on the incident, he issued a formal charge of sexual harassment and ordered a 60-day preventive suspension on the employee.

Mr. Urrutia then appealed to the CSC, which ruled in his favor.

“The law is clear and explicit,” the High Court said. “There is legal basis for not reinstating Urrutia to his former position since Gatchalian, through the committee on sexual harassment cases, had jurisdiction and authority to try the sexual harassment case against Urrutia.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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