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Miranda vs Sandiganbayan (2005)

Jose C. Miranda, petitioner vs


Hon. Sandiganbayan, Office of the Ombudsman, Sec. Jose Lina, Jr., in his capacity as Secretary of the
DILG, and Faustino Dy, Jr., in his capacity as Governor of the Province of Isabela, respondents
Nature: Review of Sandiganbayan decision
Summary: Mayor Miranda was placed under preventive suspension but while suspended, he allegedly did
official acts. Ombudsman then filed before the Sandiganbayan an Information charging Mayor Miranda of
Usurpation of Authority which is punishable under the RPC. Sandiganbayan then ordered a 90-day
preventive suspension against Mayor Miranda. Mayor Miranda questioned the length of the preventive
suspension and argued that it is repugnant to the 60-day limit imposed by the LGC. Also, he raised the
defense that he did official acts in good faith believing that he can already reassume his position. The SC
first held that Miranda cannot anymore question the sufficiency of the Information as he is already estopped
due to his act of entering his plea. Also, the allegations in the Information are sufficient enough to raise the
issue of WON he committed fraud against the government. On the issue of the legality of the 90-day period,
the SC upheld its validity as the suspension is based on the Ombudsman Law and not from the LGC. The
differences between the said laws were also explained. As to purpose, the limit in the LGC is motivated by
the prevention of being influenced by political will; the same is not a concern in the Ombudsman Law since It
is a constitutional body. Also, the Ombudsman law provides for more stringent requirements before a public
officer may be preventively suspended; the requirements provided in the LGC are more lenient. Accordingly,
due to these differences, it cannot be said that the other is repugnant to the other law.
Doctrine:

Under Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law, the suspension of a public officer by
the Sandiganbayan is mandatory after a determination has been made of the validity of the
Information. Once the information is found to be sufficient in form and substance, then the Court
must issue the order of suspension as a matter of course. There are no ifs and buts about it.

The Sandiganbayan properly construed Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019 as covering two types of
offenses: (1) any offense involving fraud on the government; and (2) any offense involving public
funds or property. Nothing limits Section 13 only to acts involving fraud on public funds or property.

Also, the difference between suspensions by the Ombudsman and the President, governor and
mayor under the LGC are clear. The latter are political personages and so the possibility of
extraneous factors influencing their decision to impose preventive suspensions is not remote. The
Ombudsman, on the other hand, is given the independence of the office which is protected by the
Constitution.

The two provisions govern differently. In order to justify the preventive suspension by the
Ombudsman, the evidence of guilt should be strong, and (a) the charge against the officer or
employee should involve dishonestly, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the
performance of duty; (b) that the charges should warrant removal from the service; or (c) the
respondent's continued stay in office would prejudice the case filed against him.

On the other hand, the LGC requirements for suspension (at any time after the issues are joined),
are that (a) there is reasonable ground to believe that the respondent has committed the act or acts
complained of, (b) the evidence of culpability is strong, (c) the gravity of the offense so warrants, or
(d) the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the
safety and integrity of the records and other evidence.
Facts:

The Ombudsman placed Mayor Miranda, then mayor of Santiago City, Isabela, under preventive
suspension for 6 months for alleged violations of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical
Standards for Public Officials and Employees)

Subsequently, then Vice Mayor Navarro filed a Complaint with the Ombudsman alleging that
Mayor Miranda committed the felony of usurpation of authority or official functions under
Art. 177 RPC. Vice Mayor Navarro said that Mayor Miranda committed the following acts
despite the continuing effectivity of the Ombudsmans preventive suspension order:
o Issued a memorandum addressed to Navarro advising her that he was assuming his
position as City Mayor
o Gave directives to the heads of offices and other employees
o Issued an office order which authorized certain persons to start work
o And insisted on performing the functions and duties of Mayor despite Navarros requests
to desist from doing so without valid court order and in spite of the order of DILG
Undersecretary Sanchez directing him to cease from reassuming the position

In his counter-affidavit, Mayor Miranda defended himself on the following grounds:

That he reassumed office on the advice of his lawyer and in good faith
That under Sec. 63 LGC, local elective officials could not be preventively suspended
for a period beyond 60 days
o That on the day he reassumed office, he received a memorandum from DILG
Undersecretary Sanchez instructing him to vacate his office and he immediately complied
with the same
o Mayor Miranda also stated that he left the mayoralty post after coercion by the PNP

Ombudsman then filed with the Sandiganbayan an Information against Mayor Miranda for violation
of Art. 177 RPC, penalizing usurpation of authority.

Sandiganbayan ordered a reinvestigation in light of the manifestations made by prosecution and


defense counsel.

After reinvestigation, Special Prosecution Officer Coquia recommended the dismissal of the case
and held that Miranda reassumed his office in good faith and on mistake of fact due to the difficult
questions of law involved.

Ombudsman Desierto referred Coquias resolution to the Ombudsmans Chief Legal Counsel for
review. The Chief Legal Counsel disagreed with Coquia and recommended the filing of the case
against Mayor Miranda based on the following grounds:
o That Mayor Miranda;s invocation of good faith was belied by the fact that he received a
memorandum from the DILG informing him that his view of the preventive suspension
period was untenable and that he should serve out its remaining period
o That Miranda violated the orders of both the Ombudsman and the DILG

Ombudsman Desierto addopted the recommendation of the Chief Legal Counsel and the case was
re-raffled.

Subsequently, the prosectuion filed an amended Information with the Sandiganbayan, to


which the Mayor Miranda interposed a negative plea

The prosecution then filed before the Sandiganbayan a motion to suspend Mayor Miranda
pendente lite based on Sec. 13 RA 3018 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act)
o Mayor Miranda opposed this motion on the ground that the offense of usurpation of
authority or official functions under Art. 177 RPC is not embraced by Sec. 13 RA 3019

Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution suspending Mayor Miranda from office for 90 days
based on the finding that he violated Art. 177 RPC which involves fraud. It was further held that
Mayor Mirandas act fell within the catch-all provision or for any offense involving fraud upon
government

Mayor Mirandas MR was denied, hence this petition


Issue # 1: WON the acts alleged in the complaint falls under the scope of Sec. 131 RA 3019 (Yes)
Ratio # 1:

Sec. 13 RA 3019 cannot be limited only to acts involving fraud on public funds or property.
Sandiganbayan properly construed Sec. 13 RA 3019 as covering two types of offenses:
o Any offense involving fraud on the government; and
o Any offense involving public funds or property

In the case at bar, Mayor Mirandas act fell within the catch-all provision or for any offense
involving fraud upon government
o Fraud upon government was committed when Mayor Miranda allegedly assumed the
duties and performed acts pertaining to the Office of the Mayor under pretense of official
position
o Mayor Mirandas acts in assuming the duties and function of the Office of the Mayor
despite his suspension from said office resulted to a clear disruption of office and
worst, a chaotic situation in the affairs of the government as the employees, as well
as the public, suffered confusion as to who is the head of the Office.

SC held that this actuation constitutes fraud which in the general sense is
deemed to comprise anything calculated to deceive, including all acts, omissions,
and concealment involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust or confidence
o
o

1 Section 13. Suspension and loss of benefits. - Any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid
information under this Act or under Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code or for any offense involving fraud upon government or public
funds or property whether as a simple or as a complex offense and in whatever stage of execution and mode of participation, is pending in
court, shall be suspended from office. Should he be convicted by final judgment, he shall lose all retirement or gratuity benefits under any
law, but if he is acquitted, he shall be entitled to reinstatement and to the salaries and benefits which he failed to receive during suspension,
unless in the meantime administrative proceedings have been filed against him.In the event that such convicted officer, who may have
already been separated from the service, has already received such benefits he shall be liable to restitute the same to the Government.

justly reposed, resulting in damage to another or by which an undue and


unconscious advantage is taken of another

Also, the rule is that under Sec. 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law, the suspension
of a public officer is mandatory after a determination has been made of the validity of the
Information.
o In the case at bar, there is no doubt that the information filed is valid and Mayor
Miranda in fact acquiesced to the validity of the Information when he pleaded not guilty.

Further, the acts alleged in the Information constitute fraud upon government or public funds or
property, as required by law.
o When accused-mayor appointed persons in various positions, he indirectly dealt with the
city's funds as those persons appointed will be given their respective salaries, benefits
and other monetary consideration which will be paid wholly or mainly out of the city's
funds.
o Additionally, when he performed acts pertaining to the Office of the Mayor, i.e.[,] approval
of vouchers, and payment of other expenses which is subject to proof, he likewise
indirectly dealt with the funds of the city.

However, the dissenting opinion presents another view on this issue and holds that there was
actually no fraud.
o The dissent holds that:

it would be fraud of public funds if these public officials just collected their
salarieswithout rendering service to the government.

that "fraud upon government" must be read so as to require that malversation of


funds was committed.
o In answering the dissent, SC said that adopting the dissenting opinion's line of reasoning
would render superfluous the phrase "fraud upon government" as malversation is
subsumed by "any offense involving public funds or property."

Moreover, the SC is not convinced that Mayor Miranda reassumed office under an honest
belief that he was no longer under preventive suspension.
o In Mayor Mirandas affidavit, he admitted that he refused to leave his position despite the
memorandum of Undersecretary Sanchez and left only a few days after recceipt thereof
due to the coercion of the PNP. This contradicts his assrtion that he immediately complied
with the memorandum of Undersecretary Sanchez.
o As the SC said in various cases, if petitioner (and his counsel) had an iota of respect for
the rule of law, they should have assailed the validity of the order of suspension in court
instead of taking the law into their own hands.
Issue # 2: WON the suspension is proper (yes)
Ratio # 2:

It should be stressed that petitioner was suspended by the Sandiganbayan. Under Sec. 13 RA
3019, this suspension is mandatory if the Information is sufficient.

On the other hand, the dissent argues that the Information is insufficient rendering the suspension
invalid.
o The SC pointed out the fact that Mayor Miranda entered his plea and that it is a basic rule
that entering a plea waives any objection the petitioner may have to the validity of the
information unless the case falls under the exceptions.
o Also, in determining the sufficiency of the information, the test is whether the crime is
described in intelligible terms with such particularity as to apprise the accused, with
reasonable certainty, of the offense charged. The Information in the case at bar satisfied
this test especially when it is stated therein the specific acts which constitute usurpation of
official functions.

If the purpose of the preventive suspension was to enable the investigating authority to gather
documents without intervention from petitioner, then, from respondents' submission, we can only
conclude that this purpose was already achieved, during the nearly month-long suspension of
petitioner. Granting that now the evidence against petitioner is already strong, even without
conceding that initially it was weak, it is clear to us that the maximum six-month period is excessive
and definitely longer than necessary for the Ombudsman to make its legitimate case against
petitioner.
Issue # 3: WON suspension issued in this case violated the 60-day limit imposed by the LGC (No)
Ratio # 3:
In the case at bar, the SC expressly stated that its decision was rendered without subscribing to the
petitioners claim that the LGC as been violated. The Court only ruled that the Ombudsman acted

with grave abuse of discretion in imposing a 6-month preventive suspension since it was admitted
that the documents required were already obtained by 19 July 1999 or 24 days after the imposition
of the preventive suspension. Therefore, the purpose for which the suspension was imposed was
already served.

The dissent also cited the Rios case. The SC answered that said case is not applicable in the case
at bar since the powers of the Sandiganbayan were at issue in that case, not those of the
Ombudsman as in this case.
o It is also worth noting that Rios cited Sec. 63 LGC as its legal basis wherein it is clear from
the provision that it is only meant as a cap on the discretionary power of the President,
governor and mayor to impose excessively long preventive suspensions. The
Ombudsman, on the other hand, is not subject to political pressure given the
independence of the office which is protected by no less that the Constitution.

LGC vs Ombudsman Law: Difference in the requirements for suspension to be valid (from Hagad
case)
Ombudsman Law
LGC
Requirements

the evidence of guilt should be


there is reasonable ground to
to
justify
strong, and
believe that the respondent has
preventive
committed the act or acts

the charge against the officer or


suspension of
complained of
employee
should
involve
a public official
the evidence of culpability is strong
dishonestly, oppression or grave
misconduct or neglect in the
the gravity of the offense so
performance of duty;
warrants, or

that the charges should warrant


the continuance in office of the
removal from the service; or
respondent could influence the

the respondent's continued stay


witnesses or pose a threat to the
in office would prejudice the case
safety and integrity of the records
filed against him
and other evidence

The preventive suspension shall continue until the case is terminated by the Office of the
Ombudsman but not more than six months, without pay, except when the delay in the disposition of
the case by the Office of the Ombudsman is due to the fault, negligence or petition of the respondent, in
which case the period of such delay shall not be counted in computing the period of suspension herein
provided.

The six-month period of preventive suspension imposed by the Ombudsman was indubitably
within the limit provided by its enabling law. This enabling law has not been modified by the
legislature.

In answering the dissent that the difference between the two laws violates the equal protection clause,
SC holds that there is substantial distinction to justify it.
o The Constitution has endowed the Ombudsman with unique safeguards to ensure immunity
from political pressure. Among these statutory protections are fiscal autonomy,fixed term of
office and classification as an impeachable officer.
Disposition: Sandiganbayan decision affirmed; Mayor Miranda suspended for 90 days
Dissenting Opinion: J. Carpio

Summary: In sum, the offense of usurpation of authority or official functions under Article 177 of
the Revised Penal Code filed against Miranda in the present case does not involve fraud upon
government or public funds or property under Section 13 of RA 3019. Thus, the Sandiganbayan
committed grave abuse of discretion when it ruled that the charge against Miranda falls within
Section 13 of RA 3019 requiring the mandatory preventive suspension of Miranda by the
Sandiganbayan. In addition, the maximum period of a single preventive suspension of local elective
public officials like Miranda cannot exceed 60 days in accordance with Section 63(b) of the Local
Government Code.

Whether Sec. 13 RA 3019 applies only to fraud involving public funds or property
o The provision clearly shows that the existence of a valid information is not enough. The
crime must be for:

A violation of RA 3019

An offense contained in Title 7, Book II, RPC

Any offense involvin fraud upon government or public funds or property


o The charge of usurpation of authority or official functions is not a violation of RA 3019.
Neither is it a violation of any offense in Title 7, Book II of the RPC. Thus, the
Sandiganbayan can impose the mandatory preventive suspension on Miranda under

Section 13 of RA 3019 only if the charge of usurpation of authority or official functions


against Miranda involves fraud upon government or public funds or property.
o Nothing in RA 3019 evinces any legislative intent to limit Section 13 only to acts involving
fraud on public funds or property. To limit the use of government as an adjective that
qualifies funds is not merely baseless, it is also superfluous. The word public already
precedes funds, hence clearly distinguishing the funds from private funds.
o In distinguishing in Section 13 between any offense involving fraud upon government
and any offense involving xxx public funds or property, the law clearly intends to create
two types of offenses. To limit the applicability of Section 13 of RA 3019 only to offenses
involving public funds or property will exclude other offenses of fraud against the
government not involving public funds or property.
Whether usurpation of authority automatically triggers application of Sec. 13 RA 3019 (No)
o one may be liable for usurpation of authority or of official functions without defrauding the
government

The essence of usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the RPC is false and
malicious representation. The gravamen of the offense of usurpation of authority
is the false representation, maliciously made, that one is an officer, agent or
representative of the Philippine Government or any foreign government. Fraud
on the government is not an essential element of the offense. The mere act of
making a false and malicious representation that one is a government officer is
sufficient to constitute the offense, whether or not the act defrauds the
government.

On the other hand, the gravamen of fraud upon government in Section 13 of RA


3019 is the public officers act of defrauding the government. It is necessary that
the act should defraud the government. Usurpation of authority, while involving
fraudulent means, does not necessarily involve fraud on the government. The
fraud may be committed only against private parties and not against the
government.
o Miranda did not reassume office to defraud the government. Before reassuming office,
Miranda wrote the Ombudsman and all concerned local and national DILG officials
informing them of his stand and the legal basis for his reassumption of office. When the
DILG informed him that he remained suspended, Miranda immediately vacated his office.
Mirandas actions do not show any attempt to defraud the government. Mirandas acts of
reassuming office and performing his official functions reveal an honest intention to
perform his duties as the duly elected Mayor.
o The power of the Sandiganbayan to suspend preventively a public officer rests on the
sufficiency and validity of the information.

Carpio finds the Information insufficient because the acts alleged therein does
not constitute fraud against the government. . Hence, Miranda cannot be
suspended.
o Section 63(b) of the Local Government Code prohibits any single preventive suspension
of a local elective public official to last for more than 60 days.

Carpio says that when Miranda assumed office, he had already served 60 days
of preventive suspension. Hence, there was no longer any legal impediment to
his resumption of office.

the Ombudsman must exercise the power to preventively suspend public officers
in conformity with Section 63(b) of the Local Government Code, a later law.
Section 63(b) of the Local Government Code governs specifically the duration of
a single preventive suspension of local elective public officials. In contrast,
Section 24 of RA 6770, imposing a maximum suspension of six months, governs
all other public officials, whether appointive or elective.

the period of preventive suspension cannot exceed 60 days regardless of who is


imposing the preventive suspension. There is no language in the Local
Government Code exempting the Ombudsman from the 60day preventive
suspension cap. Where the law does not distinguish, we should also not
distinguish.
o The Ombudsmans power to suspend preventively a local elective official for six months is
repugnant to the Local Government Code, which limits the preventive suspension to only
60 days. Under Section 66(b) of the Local Government Code, the maximum suspension of
six months is already a penalty. The power given by RA 6770 to the Ombudsman is limited
to the imposition of a preventive suspension while the Ombudsman investigates the case

of an elective official. A preventive suspension is not a penalty. A person under preventive


suspension, especially in a criminal action, is still entitled to the presumption of innocence.
By upholding the power of the Ombudsman to impose a preventive suspension of six
months on a local elective official, the Ombudsman is in effect already penalizing the local
elective official even before the Ombudsmans investigation has begun.