The petitioner was the duly elected mayor of Botolan, Zambales in the local elections of November 1971. While he occupied the position of mayor, a certain Juan Villanueva filed a letter complaint with the Tanodbayan accusing Deloso of having committed acts in violation of the Anti-Graft Law (Republic Act 3019) in relation to the award of licenses to operate fish corrals in the municipal waters of Botolan, Zambales during the period 1976 to 1978 and the issuance of five (5) tractors of the municipality to certain individuals allegedly without any agreement as to the payment of rentals. Petitioner was then suspended pendente lite pursuant to Section 13 of Republic Act No. 3019.
Whether or not the petitioner’s suspension is unreasonable and violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.
YES. The order of suspension does not have a definite period so that the petitioner may be suspended for the rest of his term of office unless his case is terminated sooner. An extended suspension is a distinct possibility considering that the Sandiganbayan denied the petitioner’s plea for earlier dates of trial of his cases on the ground that there are other cases set earlier which have a right to expect priority. Under these circumstances the preventive suspension which initially may be justified becomes unreasonable thus raising a due process question.
Petition is GRANTED. The preventive suspension imposed on petitioner is limited to only ninety (90) days without prejudice to the continuation of the trial of the pending cases against him in the Sandiganbayan.