(File photo)

City mayor Lucilo Bayron was finally exonerated by the Supreme Court from an administrative case that had hounded him throughout his previous term, at one point even getting him suspended when the case was going through the Court of Appeals.

In a 21-page ruling promulgated in November 2020 but released only late in February, the high court dismissed the charge of abuse of authority on Mayor Bayron in connection with his appointment of his son Karl as the project manager of Bantay Puerto-VIP Security Task Force from July 1 to December.

In its ruling, the tribunal applied an otherwise previously discarded “doctrine of condonation”, which provides that elected public official cannot be removed for administrative misconduct committed during a previous term if he is re-elected to office by the same electorate.

The doctrine was already considered “abandoned” by the SC in its April 12, 2016 ruling under a different jurisprudence, was applied in Bayron’s case, whom they considered to “have a vested right” after surviving a recall election on May 8, 2015.

“Any re-elections of public officials on said date and onwards no longer have the effect of condoning their previous misconduct,” the decision, penned by Associate Justice Edgardo delos Santos, stated.

The SC clarified that the defense would only be “no longer available if the public official’s reelection happens on or after April 12, 2016.”

Leonen dissents

Associate justice Marvic Leonen, in his 11-page dissenting opinion, disagreed with the majority of the SC justices, pointing out that that the erring public officials must “face the consequences of their transgressions” and should be dealt with accordingly, and “not to be simply disregarded on account of a doctrine that lacks any basis”.

“Lucilo’s reinstatement as mayor in the 2015 recall elections is outside the confines of the now abandoned condonation doctrine. This doctrine cannot operate to condone his administrative liabilities made in 2013,” wrote Leonen.

The case involved Bayron’s son, Karl, whose contract declared that “is not related within the fourth degree of consanguinity/affinity with the Hiring Authority.”

Madreo filed administrative and criminal complaints against Bayron for grave misconduct serious dishonesty; conduct unbecoming of public officer and conduct prejudicial to the beat interest of service; nepotism, perjury, and falsification of public documents.

During the pendency of the cases, Bayron moved to dismiss the cases for condonation after he was re-elected during the May 2016 local elections.

The Office of the Ombudsman, in a November 18, 2016 decision, found Bayron and his son guilty of serious dishonesty and grave misconduct, and dismissed them from service and perpetually disqualified them from public office.

However, on March 20, 2017, it downgraded the Bayron’s offense to simple dishonesty and instead imposed a penalty of three months suspension from service.

After his motion for reconsideration, on July 6, 2017, the Ombudsman reinstated the mayor’s dismissal but it sustained his son’s suspension.

On August 8, 2017, the Court of Appeals (CA) granted Bayron’s petition and ordered the dismissal of his administrative case, applying the condonation doctrine.

The latest SC ruling upheld CA’s decision, citing that the “rationale” of the doctrine spoke of “reelection to public office, without specifying the type of elections conducted”.

“The paramount importance of the electorate’s right to elect and of their willpower to forgive one’s misconduct in the application of the doctrine of condonation is only fitting that the term ‘re-election,’ as referred to and contemplated in the aforesaid doctrine, should not be interpreted in its restrictive sense,” the decision read.