By Benjamin Pulta

(File photo)

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) found Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and his lawyers guilty of indirect contempt after they failed to justify their filing of a petition for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) which was subsequently withdrawn on the same week it was filed.

The high court also meted a PHP30,000 fine on Mamba and his counsels from the Macalintal Law Office. 

In a statement Thursday, the court said while Mamba and his counsel sought for the SC’s immediate action for the issuance of a TRO, they could not show the same urgency in manifesting to the court subsequent developments affecting the proceedings.

Under court rules, abuse or unlawful interference with the processes or proceedings of a court is punishable as indirect contempt.

The rules also consider as indirect contempt any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct or degrade the administration of justice.

“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 Mamba and the Macalintal Law Office should be cited in indirect contempt under Rule 71, Section 3(c) and (d) of the Rules of Court,” the Court concluded.

Aside from the fine penalty, the court sternly warned both Mamba and Macalintal Law Office that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely and noted that Mamba’s petition is now deemed withdrawn, closed, and terminated.

Mamba sought the legal remedy from the SC after the House of Representatives issued two show cause orders requiring him to explain why he should not be cited in contempt after he declined to attend the hearings of the chamber’s two committees –Public Accounts and Suffrage and Electoral Reforms.

The hearings looked into the alleged illegal expenditures of the provincial government during the campaign period for the 2022 national elections from March 25 to May 8, and the alleged inaction of the Commission on Elections into the supposed open distribution of cash to voters in the province during the election ban.

Mamba declined to attend the hearings on the ground that the lawmaker who authored the resolutions is the spouse of a defeated candidate in the 2022 gubernatorial race in Cagayan.

Mamba said the subject matter is also raised as an issue before the SC and that he could not comment on matters sub judice.

On Aug. 19, 2023, 50 police personnel and five police officials led by Cagayan police provincial director Col. Julio Gorospe Jr. served the contempt order and detention order against Mamba in his residence in Naruangan, Tuao, Cagayan.

Mamba said he would travel to Manila to face the committee. He later filed on Aug. 22, 2023 a petition for TRO before the SC, claiming that his liberty had been restrained on account of the “illegally-issued and unconstitutional” orders.

The SC en banc issued the TRO two days later.

However, after the SC had issued the TRO, online news outlets reported that Mamba had voluntarily surrendered to respondents.

On Aug. 29, 2023, Mamba filed before the court a manifestation and motion to withdraw his petition, stating that the assailed orders have already been implemented even before the SC en banc could act on his petition and that the House of Representatives then approved his release from detention upon showing of proof that he had filed a motion to withdraw his petition.

On the same date, the court issued a resolution requiring Mamba and his counsel to show cause why they should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt. (PNA)