Layno v Sandiganbayan; G.R. No. L-65848; 24 May 1985; 136 SCRA 536

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Petitioner Hernando C. Layno, Sr., the duly elected Municipal Mayor of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, was accused “of grave abuse of authority and evident bad faith in the exercise of his official and/or administrative duties” for “knowing fully well that he has no authority,” he suspended and prohibited Vice-Mayor Bernardita Resus and three Sangguniang Bayan members from participating and exercising their official functions” as such thus causing them injury “consisting of the salaries due to said officials not [being] received by them.” Respondent Sandiganbayan suspended him on October 26, 1983, notwithstanding petitioner’s opposition to the same.

Whether or not petitioner’s suspension pendente lite violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.

YES. Suspension “does not impair petitioner’s foregoing constitutional right since the same is not a penalty or a criminal punishment, because it was not imposed by the court in a judgment of conviction or as a result of judicial proceeding.” Further: “The suspension is merely a precautionary or preventive measure issued even before the case is tried on its merits, purposely to ensure the fair and just trial of the case.”

Its continuance, however, for an unreasonable length of time raises a due process question. For even if thereafter he were acquitted, in the meanwhile his right to hold office had been nullified. Clearly, there would be in such a case an injustice suffered by him. Nor is he the only victim. There is injustice inflicted likewise on the people of Lianga.

“In all cases, preventive suspension shall not extend beyond sixty days after the start of said suspension.”

Petition is GRANTED and the preventive suspension imposed on petitioner is SET ASIDE.

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