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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The Supreme Court has issued a show cause order against Maguindanao del Norte Vice Governor Fatima Ainee Sinsuat, asking her to explain why she did not promptly inform the Court about her appointment as vice governor, and that she had taken her oath and assumed the province’s second highest office in April.
The Court said in a press statement on Tuesday, November 15, that it issued the order to Sinsuat on Monday, November 13, and that she had 10 days to explain why she should not be held in contempt.
Sinsuat won as Maguindanao vice governor in the 2022 elections, and later assumed office as governor of the newly-created province of Maguindanao del Norte.
In April, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed Abdulraof Macacua as officer-in-charge of the province and Sinsuat as acting vice governor. Both officials took their oath of office before Marcos that month.
But in August, Sinsuat sent a letter to Macacua, asserting that she should hold the position of provincial chief executive. She based her claim on an SC order in June, interpreting it as validation that she should be the province’s governor.
The SC ruling, however, was based on Sinsuat’s petition – filed prior to her appointment as vice governor – for the government to install her recommended provincial treasurer. When she filed the petition, she assumed the position of Maguindanao del Norte governor.
In response to the June SC order, the Office of the Solicitor General – representing the Bureau of Local Government Finance-Central Office (BLGF Central) and the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – filed a motion before the Court. In that motion, the OSG informed the Court that Sinsuat was among the Maguindanao officers appointed by the President on April 26.
The OSG had informed the Court that by accepting the position as vice governor and taking her oath, Sinsuat abandoned her claim as acting governor of Maguindanao del Norte and also relinquished the authority to appoint the provincial officer.
Citing this, the Court said on November 13 that Sinsuat is deemed to have abandoned her claim to the post of Maguindanao del Norte governor when she accepted her appointment, took her oath, and assumed office as Maguindanao del Norte vice governor.
“The Court’s Second Division, through Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, partly granted the omnibus motion of the OSG and the motion for reconsideration of the MILG by reversing its Decision dated June 26, 2023 and dismissing for being moot Sinsuat’s petition for mandamus,” the SC said in its press statement on Wednesday.
The SC statement said the Court “deemed it proper to order Sinsuat to show cause why she should not be cited in contempt. It lamented that while the Court takes judicial notice of the official acts of the President in appointing Sinsuat, the parties should have at least informed the Court of the supervening events which significantly altered the possible outcome of the case.”
“The Court remarked that Sinsuat’s silence and omissions appear to constitute intentional concealment which tends to disrespect the Court’s authority as final dispenser of justice. It said that not only did Sinsuat failed to apprise the Court that she already accepted her appointment as Vice Governor of Maguindanao del Norte, she also conveniently omitted to mention this important fact in her Motion for Indirect Contempt,” the SC press statement added.
The SC also said that Sinsuat’s actions “tend to cripple the Court’s authority to render an informed and just resolution of the case.”
Sinsuat was the last elected vice governor of the much larger and now-defunct Maguindanao province, which was divided into two political territories – Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte – in late 2022.
Following the split, Sinsuat assumed the role of Maguindanao del Norte governor, an act not acknowledged by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the national government. – Rappler.com