Case Brief: Tabuena vs. Sandiganbayan

G.R. Nos. 103501-03 February 17, 1997

LUIS A. TABUENA, petitioner,
vs.
HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN, and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

G.R. No. 103507 February 17, 1997

ADOLFO M. PERALTA, petitioner,
vs.
HON. SANDIGANBAYAN (First Division), and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, respondents.

 

Facts:

Then President Marcos instructed Luis Tabuena over the phone to pay directly to the president’s office and in cash what the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) owes the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC), pursuant to the 7 January 1985 memorandum of then Minister Trade and Industry Roberto Ongpin. Tabuena agreed. About a week later, Tabuena received from Mrs. Fe Roa-Gimenez, then private secretary of Marcos, a Presidential Memorandum dated 8 January 1986 reiterating in black and white such verbal instruction. In obedience to President Marcos’ verbal instruction and memorandum, Tabuena, with the help of Gerardo G. Dabao and Adolfo Peralta, caused the release of P55 Million of MIAA funds by means of three (3) withdrawals. On 10 January 1986, the first withdrawal was made for P25 Million, following a letter of even date signed by Tabuena and Dabao requesting the PNB extension office at the MIAA the depository branch of MIAA funds, to issue a manager’s check for said amount payable to Tabuena. The check was encashed, however, at the PNB Villamor Branch. Dabao and the cashier of the PNB Villamor branch counted the money after which, Tabuena took delivery thereof. The P25 Million in cash was delivered on the same day to the office of Mrs. Gimenez. Mrs. Gimenez did not issue any receipt for the money received. Similar circumstances surrounded the second withdrawal/encashment and delivery of another P25 Million, made on 16 January 1986. The third and last withdrawal was made on 31 January 1986 for P5 Million. Peralta was Tabuena’s co-signatory to the letter- request for a manager’s check for this amount. Peralta accompanied Tabuena to the PNB Villamor branch as Tabuena requested him to do the counting of the P5 Million. After the counting, the money was loaded in the trunk of Tabuena’s car. Peralta did not go with Tabuena to deliver the money to Mrs. Gimenez’ office. It was only upon delivery of the P5 Million that Mrs. Gimenez issued a receipt for all the amounts she received from Tabuena. The receipt was dated January 30,1986. Tabuena and Peralta were charged for malversation of funds, while Dabao remained at large. One of the justices of the Sandiganbayan actively took part in the questioning of a defense witness and of the accused themselves; the volume of the questions asked were more the combined questions of the counsels. On 12 October 1990, they were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Tabuena and Peralta filed separate petitions for review, appealing the Sandiganbayan decision dated 12 October 19990 and the Resolution of 20 December 1991.

 

Issue:

Whether or not petitioners are guilty of the crime of malversation.

 

Held:

Luis Tabuena and Adolfo Peralta are acquitted of the crime of malversation. Tabuena acted in strict compliance with the MARCOS Memorandum. The order emanated from the Office of the President and bears the signature of the President himself, the highest official of the land. It carries with it the presumption that it was regularly issued. And on its face, the memorandum is patently lawful for no law makes the payment of an obligation illegal. This fact, coupled with the urgent tenor for its execution constrains one to act swiftly without question. Records show that the Sandiganbayan actively took part in the questioning of a defense witness and of the accused themselves. The questions of the court were in the nature of cross examinations characteristic of confrontation, probing and insinuation. Tabuena and Peralta may not have raised the issue as an error, there is nevertheless no impediment for the court to consider such matter as additional basis for a reversal since the settled doctrine is that an appeal throws the whole case open to review, and it becomes the duty of the appellate court to correct such errors as may be found in the judgment appealed from whether they are made the subject of assignments of error or not.

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