COTABATO CITY – The Supreme Court recently ruled that former Vice Governor Bai Ainee Sinsuat forfeited her right to the Maguindanao del Norte governor’s seat under the law ordering the division of Maguindanao province after she took the oath of office before President Marcos as the second deputy of the new province’s top official.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office (SCPIO) said Wednesday that the court’s Second Department reversed its June 26 ruling, stating: “Sinsuat, as acting governor, has the express authority to recommend the appointment of the provincial treasurer of Maguindanao del Norte.”
The June ruling concerns a mandamus petition filed in February by Sinsuat to compel the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) to take action on its request to appoint a treasurer of Maguindanao del Norte to enable the processing of disbursements of funds.
BLGF recommends to the Secretary of the Department of Finance a candidate for the position of treasurer of local government units.
The BLGF and the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) had previously maintained that Sinsuat had no personality to seek nomination as acting governor of Maguindanao del Norte last October surrounded by legal issues.
BLGF and MILG asked the court to reconsider its June decision.
In reversing its earlier ruling, the SCPIO said the Second Division found that “the factual circumstances in which the Court issued the contested decision of 26 June 2023 differ drastically from the current state of affairs disclosed by the parties.”
“…The Court ruled that Sinsuat was deemed to have waived her claim to the position of Governor of Maguindanao del Norte when she accepted the nomination, took the oath and assumed office as Lieutenant Governor of Maguindanao del Norte,” the SCPIO added.
Sinsuat, who won as lieutenant governor of Maguindanao in last year’s general election, took over as acting governor of Maguindanao del Norte last October after the September 11 elections. A plebiscite was held on September 17, 2022, in favor of dividing Maguindanao into two provinces.
Such action was not recognized by the MILG, which stated that Republic Act No. 11550 did not provide for such a transitional mechanism.
On April 4 of that year, President Marcos appointed Abdulraof Macacua, military chief of the former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel group, as acting governor and Sinsuat as acting vice-governor. They took the oath before the President on April 28.
The Supreme Court also dismissed the mandamus petition filed by Sinsuat, declaring it without merit, the SCPIO further stated.
The recent ruling was issued by Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier, who also authored the June decision.
“We hope that this decision will put an end to the (leadership) problems in Maguindanao del Norte and that citizens will be able to enjoy the unfettered services of the provincial government,” BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.
In addition to losing the case, Sinsuat was also asked by the high court to explain why she should not be cited in contempt for failing to promptly inform the Supreme Court of her nomination, taking the oath and assuming office as lieutenant governor of Maguindanao del Norte in April.
Show order of causes
According to the SCPIO, the SC issued an order to present Sinsuat’s case on Monday.
He lamented that while the high court takes into account the official actions of the President in appointing Sinsuat, the parties should have at least informed the court of the following events that significantly changed the possible outcome of the case.
“Sinsuat’s silence and omissions appear to constitute a deliberate concealment of the matter, which shows a lack of respect for the Court’s authority as the ultimate dispenser of justice,” the SC said, adding that “her actions tend to paralyze the Court’s power to render an informed and fair determination of the case. “
— WITH REPORTING BY TINA G. SANTOS