Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enriquez Sr. vs. Gimenez [G.R. No. L-12817, April 29, 1960]

Facts: R.A. No. 1383 was passed creating the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) as a public corporation and vesting in it the ownership and control over all existing government-owned waterworks systems. However, Bauan Batangas passed Res. No. 152 stating that it does not desire to submit their local waterworks to the provisions of said R.A. No. 1383. 

Provincial Fiscal rendered an opinion holding that R.A. No. 1383 is valid and constitutional and declined to represent the municipality of Bauan in an action to be brought against the NAWASA to test the validity and constitutionality of the Act. Given this, the municipality engaged the services of a special counsel to commence an action challenging the constitutionality of R.A. No. 1383. 

The Petitioners are the special counsel seeking reimbursement for initial attorney’s fees, which the Auditor General disallowed citing that the Municipality of Bauan had no authority to engage the services of a special counsel 

Issue: Whether municipality of Bauan had authority to engage the services of a special counsel

Held: No. The Provincial Fiscal is the legal adviser of the mayor and counsel of the various municipalities of a province and it is his duty to represent the municipality in any court except when he is disqualified by law, which in this case he is not. A fiscal cannot refuse the performance of his functions on grounds not provided for by law without violating his oath of office. Instead of engaging the services of a special attorney, the municipal council should have requested the Secretary of Justice to appoint an acting provincial fiscal in place of the provincial fiscal who had declined to handle and prosecute its case in court. 

The services of the petitioner having been engaged by the municipal council and mayor without authority of law, the Auditor General was correct in disallowing in audit the petitioner's claim for payment of attorney's fees.

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