Case Brief: Tetangco vs. Ombudsman

G.R. No. 156427             January 20, 2006

AMANDO TETANGCO, Petitioner
vs.
THE HON. OMBUDSMAN and MAYOR JOSE L. ATIENZA, JR., Respondents.

 

FACTS:

Sometime on March 8, 2002, Amadeo Tetangco filed his Complaint before the Ombudsman alleging that on January 26, 2001, private respondent Mayor Atienza gave P3,000 cash financial assistance to the chairman and P1,000 to each tanod of Barangay 105, Zone 8, District I. Allegedly, on March 5, 2001, Mayor Atienza refunded P20,000 or the total amount of the financial assistance from the City of Manila when such disbursement was not justified as a lawful expense. In his Counter-Affidavit, Mayor Atienza denied the allegations and sought the dismissal of the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction and for forum-shopping. He asserted that it was the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), not the Ombudsman that has jurisdiction over the case and the same case had previously been filed before the COMELEC. Furthermore, the Complaint had no verification and certificate of non-forum shopping. The mayor maintained that the expenses were legal and justified, the same being supported by disbursement vouchers, and these had passed prior audit and accounting. The Investigating Officer recommended the dismissal of the Complaint for lack of evidence and merit. The Ombudsman adopted his recommendation. The Office of the Ombudsman, through its Over-all Deputy Ombudsman, likewise denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. Hence, a petition before the Supreme Court.

 

ISSUE: 

Whether or not the Ombudsman commits grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the Complaint?

 

HELD: 

The Ombudsman found no evidence to prove probable cause. Probable cause signifies a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man’s belief that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged.

The Complaint charges Mayor Atienza with illegal use of public funds. On this matter, Art. 220 of the Revised Penal Code provides: “Art. 220. Illegal use of public funds or property. – Any public officer who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than that for which such fund or property were appropriated by law or ordinance shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from one-half to the total of the sum misapplied, if by reason of such misapplication, any damages or embarrassment shall have resulted to the public service. In either case, the offender shall also suffer the penalty of temporary special disqualification.

“The elements of the offense, also known as technical malversation, are: (1) the offender is an accountable public officer; (2) he applies public funds or property under his administration to some public use; and (3) the public use for which the public funds or property were applied is different from the purpose for which they were originally appropriated by law or ordinance.” It is clear that for technical malversation to exist, it is necessary that public funds or properties had been diverted to any public use other than that provided for by law or ordinance. To constitute the crime, there must be a diversion of the funds from the purpose for which they had been originally appropriated by law or ordinance. Patently, the third element is not present in this case.

In this case, the action taken by the Ombudsman cannot be characterized as arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or despotic.  Here, the Complaint merely alleged that the disbursement for financial assistance was neither authorized by law nor justified as a lawful expense. Complainant did not cite any law or ordinance that provided for an original appropriation of the amount used for the financial assistance cited and that it was diverted from the appropriation it was intended for.

Advertisements

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.

Case Brief: Agullo vs. Sandiganbayan

G.R. No. 132926       July 20, 2001

ELVIRA AGULLO, petitioner,
vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

 

FACTS:

On September 30,1988 Elvira was Charge of malversation germinated from an audit conducted on 14 July 1986 by Ignacio Gerez, Auditing Examiner III, as a result of which a P26,404.26 cash shortage was discovered on petitioner’s accountability. In the course of the pre-trial, petitioner Agullo conceded the fact of audit and admitted the findings in the Report of Cash Examination and the facts set forth in the Letter of Demand. In effect, she admitted the fact of shortage in the amount stated in the Information. Notwithstanding, petitioner  Agullo, at all stages of the criminal indictment, persistently professed her innocence of the charge and categorically denied having malversed or converted the public funds in question for her own personal use or benefit. With petitioner’s admission of the fact of cash shortage, the prosecution then rested its case For its part, the defense, in its bid to overturn the presumption of malversation and shatter the prima facie evidenceof conversion, offered the testimony of the following witnesses: petitioner Elvira Agullo; Rene Briones Austero, Cashier III of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Region VIII; and Engracia Camposano-Camaoy, Barangay Captain of Hinabuyan, Dagame, Leyte. Striking down the defense as “incredible and without basis,” the Sandiganbayan rendered its assailed decision, convicting petitioner  Agullo of the crime of malversation of public funds, ratiocinating principally that “no evidence has been presented linking the loss of the government funds with the alleged sudden heart attack of the accused (herein petitioner).”

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the Sandiganbayan disregarded or overlooked certain evidence of substance for the crime of malversation.

 

HELD:

The Supreme Court ruled that the Sandiganbayan undoubtedly disregarded or overlooked certain evidence of substance which, to a large extent, bear considerable weight in the adjudication of petitioner’s guilt or the affirmation of her constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Upon thorough scrutiny of the evidence adduced by both prosecution and defense, we hold that petitioner Agullo has satisfactorily overcome and rebutted by competent proof, the prima facie evidence of conversion so as to exonerate her from the charge of malversation. To this end, petitioner presented evidence that satisfactorily prove that not a single centavo of the missing funds was used for her own personal benefit or gain. Notably, the Sandiganbayan, in convicting petitioner, obviously relied more on the flaws and deficiencies in the evidence presented by the defense, not on the strength and merit of the prosecution’s evidence This course of action is impermissible for the evidence of the prosecution clearly cannot sustain a conviction “in an unprejudiced mind. “The constitutional presumption of innocence is not an empty platitude meant only to embellish the Bill of Rights. Its purpose is to balance the scales in what would otherwise be an uneven contest between the lone individual pitted against the People of the Philippines and all the resources at their command. Its inexorable mandate is that, for all the authority and influence of the prosecution, the accused must be acquitted and set free if his guilt cannot be proved beyond the whisper of doubt.”

Case Brief: Cañal vs. People

G.R. No. 163181     October 19, 2005

BONIFACIO L. CAÑAL, SR., Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

FACTS:

Emelinda, Daylinda’s witness, declared that while she was outside the courthouse she saw Bonifacio and clearly overheard him say in Filipino: “Why should you be afraid of Daylinda’s witnesses, they are all  nincompoops. Daylinda is a thief!  She has been long eking out a living as a thief.” A number of persons outside the courthouse also heard the utterances of Bonifacio.

The MCTC found the accused guilty of the crime grave oral defamation.

On appeal, the RTC rendered judgment affirming the decision of the MCTC.

The case was elevated to the CA via petition for review, and the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC’s decision. Hence, this petition to the SC.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the CA gravely erred in sustaining his conviction of the crime of grave oral defamation.

 

HELD:

The petition is denied for lack of merit. However, the Court finds that the penalty imposed on the petitioner is erroneous.  The penalty imposed by Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, for grave oral defamation is arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period which has a duration of from four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months.

It must be remembered that every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown.  And malice may be inferred from the style and tone of publication subject to certain exceptions which are not present. Indeed, calling Daylinda a thief is defamation against her character and reputation sufficient to cause her embarrassment and social humiliation. Daylinda testified to the feelings of shame and humiliation she suffered as a result of the incident complained of.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the CA is AFFIRMED WITH the MODIFICATION on his SENTENCE terms.

Case Brief: Tanchoco vs. Aquino

G.R. No. L-30670 September 15, 1987

PASTOR TANCHOCO, MACARIO TANCHOCO, AGRIPINA TANCHOCO, INOCENCIA TANCHOCO, LIBERATA TANCHOCO and TRINIDAD TANCHOCO, petitioners,
vs.
HON. FLORENDO P. AQUINO, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch I, VICENTA TECSON VDA. DE LAJOM, JOSE T. LAJOM, RAFAEL VIOLA and THE PROVINCIAL SHERIFF OF NUEVA ECIJA, respondents.

 

Facts:

The petitioners purchased a property subject to an existing notice of lis pendens. Respondents allege that the transfer of title should still be rendered null on the grounds of the pending case where the property is the subject matter. Petitioners on the otherhand alleged that they should still be considered as buyers in good faith and that the sale executed by them should be made valid.

 

Issue:

Whether or not respondents Aquino were buyers on good faith even if they bought a property which was a subject of pending litigation.

 

Held:

One who buys land where there is a pending notice of lis pendens cannot invoke the right of a purchaser in good faith; neither can he have acquired better rights than those of his predecessor in interest.

The said portions of land were respectively declared for taxation purposes in the names of the petitioners, and they have been paying the realty taxes due thereon to the government. The possession of the said property was delivered to the petitioners and they have exercised all the rights of ownership over the same. As such registered owners of the respective portions of lot sold to them, the petitioners have acquired real rights over the said property, and they cannot now be deprived of the said property or their rights therein without due notice to them and without affording them the opportunity to be heard in a proper action or suit brought for the purpose. To deprive them of their said property or their rights therein without the required notice and without affording them the opportunity to be heard as what happened in this case, is a clear violation of the Constitutional guaranty that no person shall be deprived of his property without due process of law.

 

 

Case Brief: Duran vs. IAC

G.R. No. L-64159 September 10, 1985

CIRCE S. DURAN and ANTERO S. GASPAR, petitioners,
vs.
INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, ERLINDA B. MARCELO TIANGCO and RESTITUTO TIANGCO, respondents.

 

Facts:

Duran owned parcels of land which she had purchased. When she left the country, a deed of sale over the two lots was made in favor of her mother, who mortgaged the same to Tiangco. When Duran found out, she notified the Register of Deeds.

She did not get any answer however, prompting her to return to the Philippines. Her mother failed to redeem the mortgaged properties, which were foreclosed and sold in an auction in favor of respondent Tiangco. She alleged that the sale made by her mother is invalid.

 

Issues:

Whether or not respondent Tiangco is a buyer in good faith even without Duran’s consent.

 

Held:

Yes. Tiangco is a buyer in good faith. Good faith requires a well-founded belief that the person from whom title was received was himself the owner of the land, with the right to convey it. In the case at bar, private respondents, in good faith relied on the certificate of title in the name of Duran’s mother. A fraudulent or forged document of sale may become the root of a valid title if the certificate of title has already been transferred from the name of the true owner to the name of the forger or the name indicated by the forger.

An innocent purchaser for value relying on a Torrens title issued is protected. A mortgagee has the right to rely on what appears in the certificate of title and, in the absence of anything to excite suspicion, he is under no obligation to look beyond the certificate and investigate.

Case Brief: RP-BFD vs. IAC

G.R. No. 69138 May 19, 1992

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (Bureau of Forest Development), petitioner,
vs.
INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT (First Civil Cases Division) and HILARIO P. RAMA, respondents.

Facts:

Logronio, as OIC of Bohol Reforestation Project of Bureau of Forest Development (BFD) bulldozed portions of land which he believed to be forest lands, occupied the same, and planted trees. Thereafter, Rama filed a complaint for recovery of possession and ownership, alleging that he is the owner and possessor of lands occupied by Logronio, who then claimed that the forest lands were part of his lawful performance of his duties as OIC. Logronio also alleged that the lands were never released by government as alienable and disposable. He filed for the nullification of any titles concerning the land.

 

Issue:

Whether or not Rama’s title over the land is valid

 

Held:

No, it is not valid. Considering that the subject parcel of land is forest land, the patent and original certificate of title covering the subject parcel issued to Rama did not confer any validity to his possession or claim of ownership.  The titles are void ab initio.  The appellate court’s ruling as regards the unregistered parcel of land which is to the effect that Rama is also entitled to necessary expenses with right of retention until reimbursed of the necessary expenses must be reversed. His title over the forest land is null and void for the same reasons.