Secretary of Health v. CA, Sibbaluca Digest


An administrative complaint was filed against private respondent Fe Sibbaluca, the Administrative Officer III of the Provincial Health Office of Cagayan, for grave misconduct, dishonesty; etc. As a consequence of the administrative case, private respondent was placed under preventive suspension for ninety [90] days by herein petitioner Secretary of Health.
Private respondent sought the lifting of her suspension. Pending resolution of her said motion, private respondent instituted an action for prohibition,mandamus, and injunction with a prayer for a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tuguegarao (Branch 1). Her action is anchored on her contention that when the New Local Government Code took effect on January 1, 1992, the Secretary of Health had lost his disciplinary power and authority over her, considering that such power to discipline the personnel of the Provincial Health Office is now vested in the Provincial Governor.
RTC found merit to the ancillary remedy sought by private respondent so it issued a temporary restraining order.

WON the Secretary of Health has jurisdiction over the respondent

The pertinent provision of the Local Government Code of 1991 provides:

Sec. 536. Effectivity Clause. — This code shall take effect on January first, nineteen hundred ninety-two, unless otherwise, provided herein, after its complete publication in at least one (1) newspaper of general circulation.
It is explicit in the abovestated law that the local Government Code of 1991 shall take effect on January 1, 1992. It is an elementary principle of statutory construction that where the words and phrases of a statute are not obscure and ambiguous, the meaning and intention of the legislature should be determined from the language employed, and where there is no ambiguity in the words, there is no room for construction.

Furthermore, it is well-settled that jurisdiction is determined by the statute in force at the time of the commencement of the action (Philippine Singapore Ports Corporation v. NLRC, 218 SCRA 77 [1993]).
In the case at bar, respondent Fe Sibbaluca was administratively charged before petitioner department in 1991. The case was docketed as Administrative Case No. 000023 S. 1991 and the suspension order was issued by petitioner Secretary of Health on December 17, 1991. At the time of the commencement of the administrative action, the operative laws are the Administrative Code of 1987 and Executive Order No. 119. Under the said laws, the Secretary of Health exercises control, direction and supervision over his subordinates, which include private respondent. Consequently, since jurisdiction has been acquired by the Secretary of Health over the person of private respondent before the effectivity of the Local Government Code on January 1, 1992, it continues until the final disposition of the administrative case.
This Court already ruled in a number of cases that jurisdiction once acquired by a court over a case remains with it until the full termination of the case, unless a law provides the contrary.

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