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Apr 18, 2008

G.R. No. 133954, Aug. 3, 2000


During petitioner's capacity as the DECS Regional Director of Region VIII, he and some officials of the Lalawigan National High School in Eastern Samar entered into a contract with Fairchild Marketing and Construction in the total amount of P80,000.

Upon filing of complaint by the Teachers and Employees Union, COA investigated the transaction and found that there was malversation of public funds. Instead of a competitive public bidding, the purchase of certain supplies and equipment was done through a negotiated contract, which resulted in an overprice of P35,100.

Petitioner's main allegation is that the Requisition and Issue Voucher (RIV) and check were previously reviewed by his subordinates before he approved and signed them. Said act, therefore, only constitutes a ministerial act on his part.

But the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas rejected petitioner's defense because had he carefully scrutinized the documents he would have discovered that the purchases were made without competitive public bidding. Moreover, the magnitude of the amount involved would prevent a reasonable mind from accepting the claim that petitioner was merely careless or negligent in the performance of his functions.

Accordingly, it was recommended that petitioner and co-petitioners be indicted for violation of Sec. 3 (g) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended for entering into a contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the Government. An information was subsequently filed with the Sandiganbayan, charging the petitioner and two others with the aforementioned offense.

Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Ombudsman's ruling but the Motion was dismissed, prompting petitioner to file the instant petition, seeking reversal of the Ombudsman's assailed Resolution and Order.

Petitioner alleged that (1) his participation was limited to signing of the RIV and the check as a matter of routine; (2) that the RIV did not involve the determination of the price of the supplies and equipment; (3) that the signing of the check was authority vested in him as the DECS Regional Director; and (4) that the presumption of regularity in the performance of public functions by public officers should apply in his favor.

Petitioner cited the cases of Arias v. Sandiganbayan and Magsuci v. Sandiganbayan where the Court held that heads of office may rely to a reasonable extent on their subordinates and on the good faith of those who prepare bids, purchase supplies, or enter into negotiations.

In his comment, the Solicitor General contends that there was a conspiracy of silence and inaction and because of that petitioner was guilty of negligence. He further asserverates that it is beyond the ambit of the Court's authority to review the power of the Ombudsman in prosecuting and dismissing a complaint filed before it.

In his Reply, petitioner states that the petition does not involve a review of the factual finding of the Ombudsman but rather its conclusion based on undisputed facts.


(1) Whether or not the issue is a question of law, and may therefore, be reviewed by the Supreme Court
(2) Whether or not the defense of good faith and regularity of performance of duty may be raised by the accused
(3) Whether or not there is conspiracy as would warrant conviction of the accused


From the pleadings, it is clear that the questions raised by the petitioner are questions of fact rather than of law. What petitioner wants to happen is for the Supreme Court to review the evidence and determine whether in fact he acted in good faith and that no conspiracy existed among the accused.

The rulings in Arias and Magasuci are inapplicable to petitioner because the petitioners in the said cases were indicted and submitted themselves to trial before the Sandiganbayan, which convicted them for the offense charged. In Arias, the Court set aside the judgment against the petitioner becasue there was no evidence that the Government suffered undue injury. And in Magsuci, the reversal by the Court of the judgment of conviction was based on a finding that Magsuci acted in good faith and that there has been no intimation at all that he had foreknowledge of any irregularity committed by either or both Engr. Enriquez and Acia.

In both Arias and Magsuci, there was paucity of evidence on conspiracy, while in this case, there is only the claim of peitioner that he acted in good faith and that there was no conspiracy. The Ombudsman believes otherwise and the Court does not ordinarily interfere with the discretion of the said Office.

Moreover, this case is an appeal under Sec. 27 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989 in relation to Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which has been declared unconstitutional in Fabian v. Desierto for increasing appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court without its advice and consent. Also, there is no right of appeal available since the Section mentions only appeals from all administrative disciplinary cases, orders, directives or decisions of the Ombudsman.

The Supreme Court also found that the petition was in fact a modified form of forum shopping as shown in the other case filed.

"WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari in this case is hereby DENIED, and the Resolution of 20 March 1997 and Order of 5 March 1998 of the Office of the Ombudsman in OMB-Visayas-Crim-94-0836 are AFFIRMED."


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