Governor Gwen denies ordinance stems from Capitol spat with BAI

DEPARTMENT of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has written an opinion against Cebu Provincial Ordinance 2023-02 that penalizes officers of national government and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) implementing projects and programs within Cebu Province’s jurisdiction without prior consultation and approval from the Cebu Provincial Government.

Remulla said Cebu Province was mistaken to believe that it is necessary for any national government agency to seek its approval before implementing any programs and projects within its territorial jurisdiction.

He argued that the approval of ordinance 2023-02 stemmed from the Cebu Provincial Government’s tension with the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) over the implementation of policies after the detection of the African swine fever (ASF) in Carcar City on March 1.

However, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the Capitol’s conflict with the BAI did not cause the drafting and passing of ordinance 2023-02 last April 4, 2023.

“It is an opinion written, with all due respect, by the Honorable Secretary Remulla way back April 24th, when there was little or inaccurate information that reached the DOJ,” Garcia said in a statement on Saturday, May 13, 2023.

“In fact, it starts from the wrong premise. That the ordinance was caused by our conflict with the BAI and also, that we filed criminal and administrative charges against the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Animal Industry,” she said.

Garcia said she will call for a press briefing on Monday, May 15, to answer Remulla’s opinion.

According to Remulla, BAI’s action against ASF was “likewise presumed to be the act of the President himself,” unless it was disapproved or reprobated by the chief executive.

Section 2(c) of the Local Government Code (LGC) does not apply to all projects and programs of the national government, he said, citing the interpretation of the Supreme Court (SC) that it only applies to “national government projects affecting the environmental or ecological balance of the particular community implementing the project.”

Meanwhile, projects and programs mentioned in Section 27 should be interpreted to mean projects and programs whose effects are among those enumerated in Sections 26 and 27, namely: (1) may cause pollution; (2) may bring about climatic change; (3) may cause the depletion of non-renewable resources; (4) may result in loss of crop land, rangeland, or forest cover; (5) may eradicate certain animal or plant species from the face of the planet; and (6) other projects or programs that may call for the eviction of a particular group of people residing in the locality where these will be implemented.

Remulla based these merits on the ruling of the SC over Lina, Jr. v. Paño and Republic vs. Lazo cases.

“Ours is still a unitary form of government, not a federal state. Being so, any form of autonomy granted to local governments will necessarily be limited and confined within the extent allowed by the central authority,” Remulla said.

Otherwise, the penal clause stipulated in the local ordinance was without legal basis, he said, adding that the 2017 Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service already provides disciplinary action against national government officers and employees who fail to comply with Sections 26 and 27 of the LGC.

The justice secretary said Cebu Province can still have a recourse against non-compliant officers of the national government and the GOCC by filing a complaint against them before the anti-graft office.