Supreme Court of the Philippines

Supreme Court: Cagayan governor, counsel guilty of indirect contempt

Jairo Bolledo

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Supreme Court: Cagayan governor, counsel guilty of indirect contempt

LOCAL EXEC. Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba during Day 2 of the Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness at SM Aura Premier's Samsung Hall in Taguig City on July 8, 2017.

Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and the Macalintal Law Office are both ordered to pay a fine of P30,000

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) said it found Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and his lawyer guilty of indirect contempt and ordered them to pay fine in relation to a petition they filed in 2023.

The High Court ordered Mamba and his legal counsel, Macalintal Law Office, to both pay a P30,000-fine after they were found guilty of indirect contempt.

“After a punctilious review of the records, numerous news reports that the Court takes judicial notice of, and Gov. Mamba and Macalintal Law Office’s assertions in their Compliance…the Court is convinced that Gov. Mamba and Macalintal Law Office should be cited in indirect contempt under Rule 71, Section 3(c) and (d) of the Rules of Court,” the SC said.

Rule 71, section 3(c) of the Rules of Court defines indirect contempt as “any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the processes or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under section 1 of this Rule.” Section 3(d) of the same rules also considers indirect contempt as “any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice.”

The Court also gave a stern warning to Mamba and his counsel “that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely.” The High Court added that Mamba’s petition is now terminated and the previous temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the court is now dissolved.

In 2023, the Cagayan provincial government under Mamba was at the center of a House of Representatives’ inquiry into alleged illegal expenditures during the 2022 campaign period. After he failed to justify the absence of Cagayan provincial hall officials at the House hearing, Mamba was held in contempt by the lower chamber and ordered him arrested.

The governor was released on August 24, 2023 after he secured a TRO from the High Court.

Mamba’s battle: A timeline

Mamba was invited by the House committee on public accounts and committee on suffrage and electoral reforms over the alleged illegal election acts committed in Cagayan during the 2022 campaign period. The governor snubbed the inquiry, noting that Cagayan 3rd District Representative Joseph Lara – the proponent of the resolutions that called for the hearings – is the spouse of a defeated Cagayan gubernatorial candidate.

The governor also raised a concern over the sub judice rule, which “restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to the judicial proceedings in order to avoid prejudging the issue.” Mamba said the alleged vote buying was already raised as in issue before the High Court in a separate case, hence, he cannot comment.

After Mamba was held in contempt, 50 personnel and five officers led by Cagayan police chief Colonel Julio Gorospe Jr. served the contempt and detention against the governor in his residence in Tuao, Cagaya,n on August 19, 2023. Gorospe left the residence, but armed men remained stationed outside the governor’s house.

This prompted Mamba to file a petition for the issuance of a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction, claiming that his liberty was restrained by “illegally-issued and unconstitutional” orders. On August 24, the court issued a TRO that prevented the implementation of the orders. But before proper service of the TRO to the parties, Mamba surrendered to the lower chamber.

Mamba filed a manifestation and motion to withdraw on August 29, and cited the following reasons:

  1. Even before the SC could act on the TRO petition, the contempt and detention orders were already implemented.
  2. The House already approved Mamba’s release after he showed proof that he filed a motion to withdraw his petition before the SC.

In response, the SC issued a show cause order that required Mamba and his counsel to explain why they should not be held in contempt. Mamba’s explanation includes the claim that he did not voluntarily surrender, but rather his liberty was already restrained by the police on August 19, among others.

The SC found Mamba and his counsel’s explanation unsatisfactory. “[I]t can be reasonably deduced that Gov. Mamba’s change of tune in the Compliance is but a flimsy attempt to absolve himself
from a contempt citation,” the High Court said.

The High Court also noted that Mamba and his counsel sought immediate action for the issuance of the TRO, but “could not show the same modicum of urgency by immediately manifesting to the Court any supervening event that would materially affect the proceedings before the Court.”

Letter for Cayagan congressman

The SC also received a letter from Cagayan congressman Lara, who told the Court that Mamba uttered “unfounded accusations or allegations or words tending to besmirch the [J]udiciary [that] were done willfully and for an illegitimate or improper purpose” in multiple instances.

The High Court said the claim was docketed as a separate administrative matter, and directed Mamba to explain within 30 days why he should not be held in indirect contempt.

Mamba allegedly made the remarks in question in the April 29, 2022, May 4, 2022, and May 5, 2022 episodes of radio program Caygandang Cagayan, and during a flag ceremony on August 7, 2023 at the Cagayan provincial capitol grounds. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.