Sie sind auf Seite 1von 30

I. mischievous 1. 2. 3. A.M No.

P-04-1925 December 16, 2004

COURT PERSONNEL OF THE OFFICE OF THE CLERK OF COURT OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT-San Carlos City, complainants, vs. OSCAR LLAMAS, respondent. PANGANIBAN, J.: Public service requires integrity and discipline. For this reason, public servants must exhibit at all times the highest sense of honesty and dedication to duty. By the very nature of their duties and responsibilities, government employees must faithfully adhere to, hold sacred and render inviolate the constitutional principle that a public office is a public trust; that all public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency.1 The Case This case originated from a Complaint lodged by the court employees of the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Carlos City, Pangasinan, against Oscar T. Llamas, cash clerk II of the same Office, charging respondent with discourteous, disrespectful and unbecoming conduct. The Complaint had initially been referred for investigation, report and recommendation to Dagupan City RTC Judge Luis M. Fontanilla, who prayed for and was granted inhibition from hearing the case2 on the ground that two of the signatories of the Complaint were close to him. The case was thereafter referred to Vice-Executive Judge Silverio Q. Castillo of the same RTC,3 who likewise prayed for and was granted, on justifiable grounds, inhibition therefrom. 4 The case was finally referred to Judge Crispin C. Laron of the Dagupan RTC, Branch 43.5 The Facts In a letter addressed to Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. dated January 25, 2000, herein complainants, 6 all of whom are employed in the Office of the Clerk of Court of the RTC of San Carlos City, Pangasinan, labeled respondent as a "troublesome and arrogant court employee." Respondent Oscar Llamas is a brother of Judge Victor T. Llamas, who used to preside over Branch 56 of the San Carlos RTC. Animosity between Judge Llamas and the OCC personnel started when the latter, headed by Atty. Omega L. Moises, testified in an immorality case filed against the former. Respondent sympathized with his brother and showed hostility towards his co-employees. During the hearing of the instant administrative Complaint, Gemma F. Adriano -- one of the complainants -- testified that while inside the office, respondent showed signs of belligerence towards the other employees by slamming his drawer, the window jalousies, as well as the stapler and the puncher. There were occasions when he would look at them with a hostile expression that would cause anxiety to three female employees who happened to be in the office at the time. According to Adriano, respondent also became disrespectful to Atty. Moises by acting belligerently even in the latters presence. He would also frequently leave the office without permission, only to be seen drinking wine with his brother-judge during office hours. With the rising tension in the office, complainants finally decided to file a Complaint against respondent. From then on, he refused to talk to them. Myrna de la Cruz, a utility worker, testified that sometime in May of 1998, she had looked for Oscar Llamas within the court premises, because a person was asking for him in connection with some cadastral cases. While going down the stairs of the Hall of Justice, Cruz sprained her foot. She finally found him drinking liquor at Annies Canteen, where he allegedly had the habit of drinking with other court personnel and with litigants. She thus felt relieved when he was transferred to the Dagupan RTC. Manuel de Guzman corroborated the testimony of his-co-complainants. He said that on January 15, 2000 (a Saturday), while on duty, respondent challenged the brother of Atty. Moises to a fistfight. On the same occasion, respondent called her (Atty. Moises) a traitor for causing the withholding of his Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) allowance for the last quarter of 1999. Apparently, she had indicated his frequent absences in his Daily Time Report (DTR), thereby preventing him from receiving the allowance. Atty. Moises added that respondent had been the cash clerk of the Office of the Clerk of Court from 1997 to 2001 until his transfer to the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (Branch 1) of Dagupan in May 2001. She corroborated the testimony of the other complainants by saying that his attitude was probably due to the fact that some of her friends at the RTC (Branch 57) had filed charges against his brother, Judge Victor T. Llamas, for immorality and grave misconduct. Atty. Moises repeatedly warned respondent about his unprofessional attitude in no less than three Memoranda. The first Memorandum called his attention to his drinking sessions during office hours and his highly hostile attitude. She would always request a member of her staff to call him whenever he was drinking outside the Justice Hall. The second Memorandum, dated December 2000, called the attention of respondent to his tardiness and frequent absences. Atty. Moises introduced in evidence several documents showing that due to his absences and tardiness, he did not receive his productivity bonus for two years, from 1997 to 1999; his JDF allowance for the last quarter of 1999; and his salary for February 2000. He was also required to refund the sum of P5,000 for the month of March 2000. The payroll showed that, for the separate periods July 1 to 15 and November 1 to 15, the sums of P3,845.92 and P801.03, respectively, were deducted from his salary. Atty. Moises testified further that on November 22, 1999, respondent altered his leave form by making it appear that he had applied for a leave from November 22 to December 2, 1999; actually, his application was only for November 23 and 24, 1999. Upon discovering the alteration, she issued forthwith the third Memorandum dated December 8, 1999. Respondent did not appear during the hearing, but submitted his Counter-Affidavit with Position Paper,7 basically denying the allegations leveled against him. He asserted that he was a quiet, humble, hardworking and cooperative employee, who performed any task assigned to him. He explained his absences by saying that he had to drive his brother, Judge Llamas, to Manila where the hearing of the immorality case was being conducted.

Respondent denied ever drinking alcohol during office hours, alleging that the charges against him were bereft of evidence and had no basis whatsoever. He also attached an Affidavit executed by Jose P. Cabugao, one of the complainants. Cabugao said therein that he had been deceived into signing the Letter-Complaint against respondent. Allegedly, complainants had been convincing other court employees to join them in their effort to destroy the reputation of Judge Llamas. Respondent also attached his letter to Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. dated November 18, 1999, requesting that the former be detailed to Dagupan City because of the hostile acts of some of herein complainants -- Atty. Moises, Emmanuel Lacandola, Manuel Marquez and Angelito Dispo. Such acts allegedly included repeatedly spitting on the desk of respondent, placing his chair on top of his desk upside down, carrying firearms inside the office, making threatening remarks against him, staring provocatively, and slamming doors or desk drawers when he was around. Respondent pointed out that the prayer for his detail or transfer had become moot in view of his transfer to the Metropolitan Trial Court of Dagupan City and his subsequent resignation from the judiciary. He added, "Granting, without necessarily admitting that [he] is guilty of misconduct, the maximum penalty imposable would be dismissal from service [which] would not be possible for the reason that respondent had already resigned from his position."8 Evaluation and Recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) found the acts attributed to respondent supported by substantial evidence. It opined that "[a] cash clerk, being a judicial employee, is expected to act with prudence, restraint, courtesy and dignity. Deviation from these salutary norms undeniably constitutes misconduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service."9 The OCA asked the Court to adopt the recommendation of Investigating Judge Crispin C. Laron that respondent be dismissed from service. The Courts Ruling We agree with the findings of the OCA, but modify the penalty. Administrative Liability The acts described in the Complaint, the testimony of complainants, and the OCAs findings of fact can be lumped into the following categories: 1) discourtesy and disrespect to superiors and co-employees, 2) alcohol drinking, during office hours, 3) tardiness, 4) absenteeism and 5) falsification of the leave form. The Court notes that respondent never successfully disputed any of the foregoing charges against him. His Answer contained mere blanket denials and countercharges against complainants. While he dismissed the Complaint by alleging that it was only a malicious plot to discredit him, the Court cannot turn a blind eye to the strong evidence they have piled up against him. In her December 2, 1999 Memorandum addressed to respondent, Atty. Moises called his attention to the number of absences he had incurred since January 1999, totaling 48 as well as to 20 instances of his tardiness. 10 In another Memorandum dated May 26, 1998, she reminded him that drinking liquor during office hours was considered an offense under the Civil Service Law; thus, she directed him to observe working hours and official time.11 As regards the charge of drunkenness during official time, its veracity is difficult to determine under the circumstances. Respondent attached to his Answer the Affidavits of denial executed by the canteen-owners12 in whose stores he allegedly had his drinking sprees. Nonetheless, he could not explain away the deductions in his salary or his failure to receive his JDF and productivity pay, which had allegedly been caused by his frequent absences and tardiness. As a result of these and of his loitering around the premises of the Hall of Justice even during office hours, his co-workers had to take over and perform his designated tasks. His explanation that he incurred his absences while driving for his brother-judge deserves short shrift. As a public servant, the former owes his loyalty, not to his brother or to any other family member; but, rather, to the institution of which respondent is a part and, ultimately, to the public he is sworn to serve. In the third Memorandum dated December 9, 1999, Atty. Moises further called the attention of respondent to the unauthorized alterations or erasures in his leave form.13 He was never able to refute the foregoing charges. However, his allegation that he applied for a leave during the dates specified, when in truth and in fact he did not, does not amount to serious dishonesty. He made the alterations to reflect the number of absences he had actually incurred, albeit without the approval of his immediate supervisor. Nevertheless, such act constitutes misconduct. 14 Public service requires integrity and discipline. For this reason, public servants must exhibit at all times the highest sense of honesty and dedication to duty. By the very nature of their duties and responsibilities, they must faithfully adhere to, hold sacred and render inviolate the constitutional principle that a public office is a public trust; that all public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency.15 Neither did respondent deny his brash behavior bordering on discourtesy and disrespect for Atty. Moises. By banging doors and windows, slamming office supplies, and staring at everyone with belligerence, he displayed conduct unbecoming a court employee; it degraded the dignity of the judiciary and undermined the peoples faith and confidence in it. At all times, employees of the judiciary are expected to accord respect to the person and the rights of another, even a co-employee. Their every act and word should be characterized by prudence, restraint, courtesy and dignity. Government service is people-oriented; high-strung and belligerent behavior has no place therein.16 Rude and hostile behavior often translates a personal conflict into a potent pollutant of an otherwise peaceful work environment; ultimately, it affects the quality of service that the office renders to the public. Letting personal hatred affect public performance is a violation of the principle enshrined in the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, a principle that demands that public interest be upheld over personal ones.17 Improper behavior especially during office hours exhibits not only a paucity of professionalism at the workplace, but also great disrespect for the court itself. Such demeanor is a failure of circumspection demanded of every public official and employee. 18 Thus, the Court looks "with great disfavor upon any display of animosity by any court employee"19 and exhorts every court personnel to act with strict propriety and proper decorum to earn public trust for the judiciary. Colleagues in the judiciary, including those occupying the lowliest position, are entitled to basic courtesy and respect.20

In discharging its constitutional duty of supervising lower courts and their personnel, this Court cannot ignore the fact that the judiciary is composed essentially of human beings who have differing personalities, outlooks and attitudes; and who are naturally vulnerable to human weaknesses. 21 Nevertheless, the Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that court personnel must not only be, but also be perceived to be, free from any impropriety -- with respect not only to their duties in the judicial branch, but also to their behavior anywhere else.22 Sufficiently proven were the following charges: 1) frequent unauthorized absences, loafing or frequent unauthorized absences from duty during regular office hours and 2) gross discourtesy in the course of official duties. Under Civil Service Rules and Regulations, the first carries with it, upon its first commission, the minimum penalty of suspension for six months and one day; the second, the minimum penalty of suspension for one month and one day.23 That respondent considers himself resigned from the service is of no consequence to the charges against him. The jurisdiction of the Court was acquired at the time of the filing of the Complaint; it was not lost by the resignation of respondent from his office during the pendency of the case.24 In our Resolution dated July 14, 2003, we held thus: "Considering the Court Administrators Memorandum dated June 18, 2003, on the letter of respondent stating that he had already resigned as Cash Clerk II in the Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, San Carlos City, Pangasinan (detailed in Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Dagupan City, Branch I) effective September 30, 2002 and inquiring among others, whether the instant administrative case should still be investigated, reporting as follows: "Section 1, Rule XII of the Omnibus Rules on Appointments and other Personnel Actions (CSC M.C. No. 40, s. 1998) provides: "An officer or employee under investigation may be allowed to resign pending decision of his case without prejudice to the continuation of the proceedings until finally terminated. "Finally, while indeed respondent tendered his resignation on September 30, 2002, verification from the Administrative Service, Office of the Court Administrator, indicates that the resignation of Mr. Llamas has not been accepted or acted upon." Since respondent has not been reporting for work and considers himself resigned from the service, the penalty of suspension is no longer viable. Thus, in lieu of suspension, the penalty of fine equivalent to his salary for a period of six months may be imposed.25 This ruling is in line with Section 19 of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292, which provides: "The penalty of transfer, or demotion, or fine may be imposed instead of suspension from one month and one day to one year except in case of fine which shall not exceed six months." WHEREFORE, Oscar T. Llamas is found GUILTY of frequent unauthorized absences, loafing or frequent unauthorized absences from duty during regular office hours, and gross discourtesy in the performance of official duties, for which he is hereby ORDERED to PAY a fine equivalent to his salary for six (6) months. This sum may be taken from whatever sums may be due him as retirement, leaves or other benefits. SO ORDERED. 4. THIRD DIVISION [G.R. No. 154155, August 06, 2008] THE OMBUDSMAN, PETITIONER, VS. BEN C. JURADO, RESPONDENT. REYES, R.T., J.: NO less than Our Constitution guarantees the right not just to a speedy trial but to the speedy disposition of cases.[1] However, it needs to be underscored that speedy disposition is a relative and flexible concept. A mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved is not sufficient. Particular regard must be taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.[2] This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision[3] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 58925. The CA reversed and set aside the decision and resolution of the Ombudsman finding respondent Bureau of Customs Division Chief administratively liable for neglect of duty, penalizing him with suspension for six months without pay. The Facts Sometime in 1992, Maglei Enterprises Co., (Maglei), a partnership owned by Rose Cuyos and John Elvin C. Medina, filed an application before the Bureau of Customs for the operation of a Customs Bonded Warehouse (CBW)-Manufacturing Warehouse. As part of the evaluation of Maglei's application, CBW Supervisor Juanito A. Baliwag conducted an inspection of Maglei's compliance with structural requirements. Baliwag submitted a report[4] recommending approval of the application. On March 16, 1992, respondent Jurado, who was then the Chief of the Warehouse Inspection Division, adopted the recommendation of Baliwag. Then he indorsed the papers of Maglei to the Chief of the Miscellaneous Manufacturing Bonded Warehouse Division (MMBWD). The indorsement letter, in full, reads: 1st Indorsement 16 March 1992 Respectfully forwarded to the Chief, MMBWD, This Port, the within papers relative to the request of MAGLEI ENTERPRISES CO., to establish and operate a Customs Manufacturing Bonded Warehouse, pursuant to CMO 39-91, to be located at 129 Jose Bautista St., Caloocan City, together with the attached report submitted by CBW Supervisor J. A. Baliwag of this Office, inviting attention to the recommendation stated therein to which the undersigned concurs.

(Sgd.) Atty. Ben C. Jurado Chief Warehousing Inspection Division[5] Maglei's application was submitted to Rolando A. Mendoza, Chief of the MMBWD for his comment and recommendation. In a Memorandum (for the District Collector of Customs) dated March 20, 1992, Mendoza reported that Maglei has substantially complied with the physical and documentary requirements relative to their application for the operation of a Customs Bonded Warehouse. Mendoza further recommended that Maglei's application be approved. Following the indorsements of the different divisions of the Bureau of Customs - Emma M. Rosqueta (District Collector of Customs); Titus B. Villanueva (Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations); and Atty. Alex Gaticales (Executive Director of the Customs - SGS Import Valuation and Classification Committee) - Maglei's application was recommended for approval. On June 25, 1992, Maglei was finally granted the authority to establish and operate CBW No. M-1467 located at 129 J. Bautista, Caloocan City. By virtue of such authority, Maglei imported various textile materials which were then transferred to the said warehouse. The textiles were to be manufactured into car covers for exportation. Subsequently, on July 8 and 22, 1992, MMBWD Senior Storekeeper Account Officer George O. Dizon was tasked by MMBWD Chief Mendoza to check and verify the status of Maglei's CBW. Dizon reported that the subject CBW was existing and operating. However, upon further verification by the Bureau of Customs, it was discovered that the purported CBW of Maglei did not exist at the alleged site in Caloocan City. Rather, what was reported located at the site was a School of the Divine Mercy. Only a small signboard bearing the name "Maglei Enterprises Company" was posted inconspicuously in the corner of the lot. Further investigation revealed that Maglei's shipment of textile materials disappeared, without proof of the materials being exported or the corresponding taxes being paid. Ombudsman Disposition On August 11, 1992, the Bureau of Customs initiated a complaint against George P. Dizon, Rose Cuyos and John Elvin C. Medina for prosecution under the Tariff and Customs Code. After receiving a copy of the resolution, the Ombudsman conducted the investigation on the complaint. On February 13, 1996, the Evaluation and Preliminary Investigation Bureau (EPIB) of the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) recommended that the Resolution of the Bureau of Customs be reversed. The EPIB further recommended that the complaint against George P. Dizon be dismissed and another one be filed against Emma Rosqueta and Atty. Rolando Mendoza, subject to further fact-finding investigation by the Fact Finding Bureau (FFB) of the OMB. With regard to the case against Rose Cuyos and John Medina, the EPIB recommended that the charges be taken up together with those of Rosqueta and Atty. Mendoza. The case was then forwarded to the FFB. On September 29, 1997, the FFB submitted its report with the following recommendations: WHEREFORE, premises considered; the undersigned investigators respectfully recommend the following: 1. That criminal charges for violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 and Section 3081 of the Tariff and Customs Code be filed against the following officials namely: a. Emma M. Rosqueta Director Collector, Port of Manila Rolando A. Mendoza Chief, Miscellaneous Manufacturing Bonded Warehouse Division Alex Gaticales Executive Staff, Deputy Commissioner

b.

c.

d. Ben C. Jurado
Chief, Warehouse Inspection Division CBW Supervisor e. Juanito A. Baliwag CBW Supervisor George P. Dizon Senior Storekeeper All of the Bureau of Customs, and

f.

g.

Rose Cuyos and John Elvin C. Medina Owner, Maglei Enterprises Private Respondents

2.

That records of this case be forwarded to the EPIB, this Office for the conduct of the required preliminary investigation

3. That administrative charges for dishonesty and gross misconduct be likewise filed against the above-named BOC officials before the
AAB, this Office.[6] On October 17, 1997, the OMB approved the above recommendation. On August 2, 1999, the OMB dismissed the criminal complaint for falsification of public documents and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019 and Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code filed against respondent. The complaint was dismissed on the ground of lack of prima facie evidence to charge respondent of the crime. On the other hand, on August 16, 1999, the Administrative Adjudication Bureau (AAB) of the OMB rendered judgment finding respondent administratively liable, penalizing him with suspension for six (6) months without pay. Respondent's motion for reconsideration of his suspension was likewise denied by the Ombudsman. Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the CA. In his appeal, respondent argued, among others, that his right to a speedy disposition of his case had been violated; that the administrative case against him should have been dismissed following the dismissal of the criminal charges against him; and that there is no substantial evidence on record to make him administratively liable. CA Disposition In a Decision dated July 3, 2002, the CA reversed and set aside the questioned decision and resolution of the OMB. The dispositive part of the CA decision runs in this wise: Foregoing premises considered, the Petition is GIVEN DUE COURSE.Resultantly, the challenged Decision/Resolution of the Ombudsman is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No costs. SO ORDERED. [7] In ruling in favor of respondent, the appellate court ratiocinated: Indeed, we are in accord with Petitioner's arguments that his right to speedy disposition of cases had been violated. To be sure, Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides thus: "All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies." xxxx In the case at bench, the incident which gave rise to the complaint against Petitioner happened on March 16, 1992. And yet it was only on November 20, 1997 or a lapse of more than five (5) years that the case relative to the said incident was filed against him. Records disclose that on August 11, 1992, the complaint only charged George O. Dizon and 2 others. Then on February 13, 1996 or after almost 4 years, the Evaluation and Preliminary Investigation Bureau of the OMB made another recommendation which ultimately included Petitioner as among those to be charged. From February 13, 1996 to November 20, 1997 or a period of more than one (1) year, what took them so long to decide that Petitioner be included in the charges? From the foregoing unfolding of events, it is quite clear that it took the Ombudsman almost six (6) years to decide that a case be filed against Petitioner. Under such circumstances, We cannot fault Petitioner for invoking violation of his right to speedy disposition of his case. More importantly, We do not agree that Petitioner, under attendant facts and circumstances can be held liable for negligence. First of all, Petitioner as, Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operation, did not have the duty to make inspection on the alleged warehouse. Such duty belongs to other personnel/officers. Secondly, in Petitioner's 1stIndorsement dated March 22, 1992, he merely stated thus: "Respectfully forwarded to the Chief, MMBWD, This Port, the within papers relative to the request of MAGLEI ENTERPRISES CO., to establish and operate a Customs Manufacturing Bonded Warehouse, pursuant to CMO 39-91, to be located at 129 Jose Bautista St., Caloocan City, together with the attached report submitted by CBW Supervisor J.A. Baliwag of this Office, inviting attention to the recommendation stated therein to which the undersigned concurs." (p. 185, Rollo) A careful reading of said 1st Indorsement undoubtedly shows that Petitioner invited attention to the inspector's (Supervisor Baliwag) qualified recommendation, to wit: "Approval respectfully recommended, subject to re-inspection, before transfer of imported goods." (Underscoring for emphasis.) After Petitioner made the indorsement, he no longer had any participation nor was he under obligation or duty to make a re-inspection. If afterwards damage was suffered, Petitioner cannot be faulted but rather only those who had the duty to make re-inspection. It is precisely because of such fact that the criminal complaint filed against Petitioner did not prosper. Where there is no duty or responsibility, one should not be held liable for neglect, as what has been done to Petitioner.[8]

Issues Petitioner Ombudsman now comes to this Court, raising twin issues: I. WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT'S RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL WAS VIOLATED; II. WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT WAS NEGLIGENT IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTY, AS THE CHIEF OF THE WAREHOUSING INSPECTION DIVISION, DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE DID NOT ENSURE THAT THE SUPPOSED WAREHOUSE WAS NOT IN EXISTENCE. [9] Our Ruling No violation of respondent's right to speedy disposition of cases. We shall first tackle the issue on speedy disposition of cases. Article III, Section 16 of the Constitution provides that, all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies. The constitutional right to a "speedy disposition of cases" is not limited to the accused in criminal proceedings but extends to all parties in all cases, including civil and administrative cases, and in all proceedings, including judicial and quasijudicial hearings. Hence, under the Constitution, any party to a case may demand expeditious action from all officials who are tasked with the administration of justice.[10] It bears stressing that although the Constitution guarantees the right to the speedy disposition of cases, it is a flexible concept. Due regard must be given to the facts and circumstances surrounding each case. The right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated only when the proceedings are attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays, or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured, or when without cause or justifiable motive, a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried.[11]Just like the constitutional guarantee of "speedy trial," "speedy disposition of cases" is a flexible concept. It is consistent with delays and depends upon the circumstances. What the Constitution prohibits are unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive delays which render rights nugatory. [12] In determining whether or not the right to the speedy disposition of cases has been violated, this Court has laid down the following guidelines: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reasons for such delay; (3) the assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused; and (4) the prejudice caused by the delay.[13] Gleaned from the foregoing, We find that respondent's right to the speedy disposition of cases has not been violated. First. It is undisputed that the FFB of the OMB recommended that respondent together with other officials of the Bureau of Customs be criminally charged for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 and Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code. The same bureau also recommended that respondent be administratively charged. Prior to the fact-finding report of the FFB of the OMB, respondent was never the subject of any complaint or investigation relating to the incident surrounding Maglei's non-existent customs bonded warehouse. In fact, in the original complaint filed by the Bureau of Customs, respondent was not included as one of the parties charged with violation of the Tariff and Customs Code. With respect to respondent, there were no vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays because he was not made to undergo any investigative proceeding prior to the report and findings of the FFB. Simply put, prior to the report and recommendation by the FFB that respondent be criminally and administratively charged, respondent was neither investigated nor charged. That respondent was charged only in 1997 while the subject incident occurred in 1992, is not necessarily a violation of his right to the speedy disposition of his case. The record is clear that prior to 1997, respondent had no case to speak of - he was not made the subject of any complaint or made to undergo any investigation. As held in Dimayacyac v. Court of Appeals:[14] In the Tatad case, there was a hiatus in the proceedings between the termination of the proceedings before the investigating fiscal on October 25, 1982 and its resolution on April 17, 1985. The Court found that "political motivations played a vital role in activating and propelling the prosecutorial process" against then Secretary Francisco S. Tatad. In theAngchangco case, the criminal complaints remained pending in the Office of the Ombudsman for more than six years despite the respondent's numerous motions for early resolution and the respondent, who had been retired, was being unreasonably deprived of the fruits of his retirement because of the still unresolved criminal complaints against him. In both cases, we ruled that the period of time that elapsed for the resolution of the cases against the petitioners therein was deemed a violation of the accused's right to a speedy disposition of cases against them. In the present case, no proof was presented to show any persecution of the accused, political or otherwise, unlike in the Tatad case. There is no showing that petitioner was made to endure any vexatious process during the two-year period before the filing of the proper informations, unlike in the Angchangco case where petitioner therein was deprived of his retirement benefits for an unreasonably long

time. Thus, the circumstances present in theTatad and Angchangco cases justifying the "radical relief" granted by us in said cases are not existent in the present case."[15] (Emphasis supplied) Second. Even if We were to reckon the period from when respondent was administratively charged to the point when the Ombudsman found respondent administratively liable, We still find no violation of the right to speedy disposition of cases. In making a determination of what constitutes a violation of the right to the speedy disposition of cases, this Court has time and again employed the balancing test. The balancing test first adopted by the United States Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo[16] was crucial in the Court's resolution of the recent case of Perez v. People:[17] The Court went on to adopt a middle ground: the "balancing test," in which "the conduct of both the prosecution and defendant are weighed." Mr. Justice Powell, ponente, explained the concept, thus: A balancing test necessarily compels courts to approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis. We can do little more than identify some of the factors which courts should assess in determining whether a particular defendant has been deprived of his right. Though some might express them in different ways, we identify four such factors: Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant. The length of the delay is to some extent a triggering mechanism. Until there is some delay which is presumptively prejudicial, there is no necessity for inquiry into the other factors that go into the balance. Nevertheless, because of the imprecision of the right to speedy trial, the length of delay that will provoke such an inquiry is necessarily dependent upon the peculiar circumstances of the case. To take but one example, the delay that can be tolerated for an ordinary street crime is considerably less than for a serious, complex conspiracy charge. Closely related to length of delay is the reason the government assigns to justify the delay. Here, too, different weights should be assigned to different reasons. A deliberate attempt to delay the trial in order to hamper the defense should be weighted heavily against the government. A more neutral reason such as negligence or overcrowded courts should be weighted less heavily but nevertheless should be considered since the ultimate responsibility for such circumstances must rest with the government rather than with the defendant. Finally, a valid reason, such as a missing witness, should serve to justify appropriate delay. We have already discussed the third factor, the defendant's responsibility to assert his right. Whether and how a defendant asserts his right is closely related to the other factors we have mentioned. The strength of his efforts will be affected by the length of the delay, to some extent by the reason for the delay, and most particularly by the personal prejudice, which is not always readily identifiable, that he experiences. The more serious the deprivation, the more likely a defendant is to complain. The defendant's assertion of his speedy trial right, then, is entitled to strong evidentiary weight in determining whether the defendant is being deprived of the right. We emphasize that failure to assert the right will make it difficult for a defendant to prove that he was denied a speedy trial. A fourth factor is prejudice to the defendant. Prejudice, of course, should be assessed in the light of the interests of defendants which the speedy trial right was designed to protect. This Court has identified three such interests: (i) to prevent oppressive pretrial incarceration; (ii) to minimize anxiety and concern of the accused; and (iii) to limit the possibility that the defense will be impaired. Of these, the most serious is the last, because the inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system. If witnesses die or disappear during a delay, the prejudice is obvious. There is also prejudice if defense witnesses are unable to recall accurately events of the distant past. Loss of memory, however, is not always reflected in the record because what has been forgotten can rarely be shown.[18](Underscoring supplied) The Court likewise held in Dela Pea v. Sandiganbayan:[19] The concept of speedy disposition is relative or flexible. A mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved is not sufficient. Particular regard must be taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case. Hence, the doctrinal rule is that in the determination of whether that right has been violated, the factors that may be considered and balanced are as follows: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) the assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused; and (4) the prejudice caused by the delay.[20] To reiterate, there is a violation of the right to speedy disposition of cases when the proceedings are attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured, or when without cause or justifiable motive a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried.[21] In Tatad v. Sandiganbayan,[22] this Court found the delay of almost three (3) years in the conduct of the preliminary investigation violative of the rights of the accused to due process and speedy disposition of cases. Said the Court: We find the long delay in the termination of the preliminary investigation by the Tanodbayan in the instant case to be violative of the constitutional right of the accused to due process. Substantial adherence to the requirements of the law governing the conduct of preliminary investigation, including substantial compliance with the time limitation prescribed by the law for the resolution of the case by the prosecutor, is part of the procedural due process constitutionally guaranteed by the fundamental law. Not only under the broad umbrella of the due process clause, but under the constitutional guarantee of "speedy disposition" of cases as embodied in Section 16 of the Bill of Rights (both in the 1973 and 1987 Constitution), the inordinate delay is violative of the petitioner's constitutional rights. A delay of close to three (3) years can not be deemed reasonable or justifiable in the light of the circumstances obtaining in the case at bar. We are not impressed by the attempt of the Sandiganbayan to sanitize the long delay by indulging in the speculative assumption that "the delay may be due to a painstaking and gruelling scrutiny by the Tanodbayan as to whether the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation merited prosecution of a former highranking government official." In the first place, such a statement suggests a double standard of treatment, which must be emphatically rejected. Secondly, three out of the five charges against the petitioner were for his alleged failure to file his sworn statement of assets and liabilities required by Republic Act No. 3019, which certainly did not involve complicated legal and factual issues necessitating such "painstaking and grueling scrutiny" as would justify a delay of almost three years in terminating the preliminary investigation. The other two charges relating to alleged bribery and alleged giving of unwarranted benefits to a relative, while presenting more substantial legal and factual issues, certainly do not warrant or justify the period of three years, which it took the Tanodbayan to resolve the case.

It has been suggested that the long delay in terminating the preliminary investigation should not be deemed fatal, for even the complete absence of a preliminary investigation does not warrant dismissal of the information. True - but the absence of a preliminary investigation can be corrected by giving the accused such investigation. But an undue delay in the conduct of the preliminary investigation can not be corrected, for until now, man has not yet invented a device for setting back time.[23] Too, in Angchangco v. Ombudsman,[24] this Court ruled that the delay of almost six (6) years in resolving the criminal charges constitutes a violation of the right of the accused to due process and speedy disposition of the cases against them. Here, the circumstance attendant in Tatad and Angchangco are clearly absent. Records reveal that on September 29, 1997, the FFB of the OMB recommended that respondent be criminally and administratively charged. Subsequently, the OMB approved the recommendation on October 17, 1997. Respondent submitted his counter-affidavit on February 2, 1998 and motion to dismiss on October 8, 1998 before the Administrative Adjudication Bureau of the OMB. On August 16, 1999, the AAB rendered a decision finding petitioner administratively liable for neglect of duty. More or less, a period of two (2) years lapsed from the fact-finding report and recommendation of the FFB until the time that the AAB rendered its assailed decision. To our mind, the time it took the Ombudsman to complete the investigation can hardly be considered an unreasonable and arbitrary delay as to deprive respondent of his constitutional right to the speedy disposition of his case. Further, there is nothing in the records to show that said period was characterized by delay which was vexatious, capricious or oppressive. There was no inordinate delay amounting to a violation of respondent's constitutional rights. The assertion of respondent that there was a violation of his right to the speedy disposition of cases against him must necessarily fail. Respondent administratively liable for neglect of duty. It is elementary that the dismissal of criminal charges will not necessarily result in the dismissal of the administrative complaint based on the same set of facts.[25] The quantum of evidence in order to sustain a conviction for a criminal case is different from the proof needed to find one administratively liable. Rule 133, Section 2 of the Rules of Court provides that for criminal cases, conviction is warranted only when the guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is defined as moral certainty, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.[26] On the other hand, the quantum of evidence necessary to find an individual administratively liable is substantial evidence. Rule 133, Section 5 of the Rules of Court states: Sec. 5. Substantial evidence. - In cases filed before administrative or quasi-judicial bodies, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. (Underscoring supplied) Substantial evidence does not necessarily mean preponderant proof as required in ordinary civil cases, but such kind of relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion or evidence commonly accepted by reasonably prudent men in the conduct of their affairs. [27] In Office of the Court Administrator v. Enriquez,[28] the Court ruled: x x x Be that as it may, its dismissal of the criminal case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence was never meant, as respondent doggedly believed and arrogantly asserted, to foreclose administrative action against him or to give him a clean bill of health in all respects. The Sandiganbayan, in dismissing the same, was simply saying that the prosecution was unable to prove the guilt of the respondent beyond reasonable doubt, a condition sine qua non for conviction because of the presumption of innocence which the Constitution guarantees an accused. Lack or absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean an absence of any evidence whatsoever for there is another class of evidence which, thought insufficient to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt, is adequate in civil cases; this is preponderance of evidence. Then too, there is the "substantial evidence" rule in administrative proceedings which merely requires in these cases such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.[29] Verily, respondent can still be held administratively liable despite the dismissal of the criminal charges against him. We now discuss the administrative liability of respondent for neglect of duty. We opt to reexamine the records considering the divergent findings of the Ombudsman and the CA. It is undisputed that respondent was the Chief of the Warehousing Inspection Division (WID) of the Bureau of Customs. The WID is the inspection and audit arm of the District Collector of Customs. On March 16, 1992, CBW Inspector Baliwag submitted a report to respondent showing the result of the ocular inspection of the proposed warehouse of applicant Maglei. The report stated: "approval respectfully recommended subject to re-inspection before transfer of imported goods is allowed."[30] On March 16, 1992, respondent, as Chief of the WID, issued a 1st Indorsement [31]concurring with the recommendation of CBW Inspector Baliwag that the application of Maglei be approved. Respondent's indorsement was then submitted to the Chief of the MMBWD for comment and recommendation. The Chief of the MMBWD eventually recommended that Maglei's application be approved since it has complied with all the necessary physical and documentary requirements. Following the indorsements of the different divisions of the Bureau of Customs, Maglei was eventually granted the authority to operate a CBW despite the fact that the records disclose that there was no actual warehouse to speak of.

Respondent posits that since he was not the approving officer for application for CBWs nor was it his duty or obligation to conduct reinspection of the subject warehouse premises, he cannot be held liable for neglect of duty. The CA, in its decision, declared that respondent cannot be held liable for negligence for the simple reason that it was not respondent's duty to make the inspection and verification of Maglei's application. We cannot agree. The finding of the Ombudsman in OMB-ADM-0-97-0656 is more in accord with the evidence on record: Evidence on record shows that on 16 March 1992, respondent Juanito Baliwag (Customs Bonded Warehouse Supervisor) submitted an Inspection Report of the same date showing the result of an ocular inspection of the proposed warehouse of applicant Maglei Enterprises with the recommendation: "approval respectfully recommended subject to re-inspection before the transfer of imported goods is allowed" and with the observation that construction is going on for compartments for raw materials, finished products and wastages by products. On the same date, 16 March 1992, respondent Ben Jurado (Chief, Warehousing Inspection Division) issued 1st Indorsement concurring with the recommendation of CBW Inspector and co-respondent Juanito Baliwag for the approval of the application. xxxx On 08 July 1992, respondent Rolando Mendoza directed George Dizon (Documents Processor) to verify the existence and operation of several bonded warehouses including the warehouse of applicant Maglei Enterprises. On 23 July 1992, the same George Dizon was again directed by respondent Rolando Mendoza to verify the transfer of shipment covered Boat No. 13853454 in a container van with No. GSTV 824227 to the warehouse of Maglei Enterprises (CBW No. M-1467). In those two occasions, respondent George Dizon reported the existence of the applicant's Warehouse located at No. 129 Jose Bautista Avenue, Caloocan City. xxxx Evidence on records likewise revealed that No. 129 Jose Bautista Avenue, Caloocan City which was given as the location address of CBW No. M-1467 is actually the address of a school, that of the School of Divine Mercy. xxxx While respondent Dizon was authorized to verify the existence of Maglei Enterprises Warehouse, it is admitted that he did not even look and see the premises of the alleged warehouse. Likewise, CBW Supervisor and co-respondent Baliwag made a report on the existence of the bonded warehouse earlier on 16 March 1992 in his Compliance with Structural Requirements For Customs Bonded Warehouse Inspection Report. Both Dizon and Baliwag reported the existence of the Warehouse in their respective and separate reports. On the basis of the foregoing undisputed facts, it is apparent that the immediate cause of the injury complained of was occasioned not only by the failure of the CBW Inspectors to conduct an ocular inspection of the premises in a manner and in accordance with the existing Customs rules and regulations as well as the failure of their immediate supervisors to verify the accuracy of the reports, but also by subverting the reports by making misrepresentation as to the existence of the warehouse. xxxx Respondent, Ben Jurado, the Chief of the WID, cannot likewise escape liability for Neglect of Duty since his Office is the inspection arm of the District Collector of Customs. [32] As adverted to earlier, the Warehousing Inspection Division is the inspection and audit arm of the Bureau of Customs. Respondent Jurado, as chief of the said division, was duty-bound to verify the accuracy of the reports furnished by his subordinates. We agree with the Ombudsman that respondent failed to validate the report of Baliwag and initiate, institute or recommend the conduct of appropriate investigation immediately upon discovery of the irregularity. As a supervisor, respondent was clearly negligent in the performance of his duties. In Philippine Gamefowl Commission v. Intermediate Appellate Court,[33] defined the power of supervision as "overseeing or the power or authority of an officer to see that their subordinate officials perform their duties."[34] The Court added that in case the subordinate fails or neglects to fulfill his or her duties, it is the supervisor's responsibility to take such action or steps as prescribed by law to make them perform their duties.[35] The doctrine was reiterated in Deang v. Intermediate Appellate Court[36] and Municipality of Malolos v. Libangang Malolos, Inc.
[37]

It bears stressing that public office is a public trust.[38] When a public officer takes his oath of office, he binds himself to perform the duties of his office faithfully and to use reasonable skill and diligence, and to act primarily for the benefit of the public. Thus, in the discharge of his duties, he is to use that prudence, caution and attention which careful men use in the management of their affairs.[39] Public officials and employees are therefore expected to act with utmost diligence and care in discharging the duties and functions of their office. Unfortunately, respondent failed to measure up to this standard. Clearly, respondent should be held administratively liable for neglect of duty. Neglect of duty is the failure of an employee to give proper attention to a task expected of him, signifying "disregard of a duty resulting from carelessness or indifference."[40] By merely acquiescing to the report and recommendation of his subordinate without verifying its accuracy, respondent was negligent in overseeing that the duties and responsibilities of the WID were performed with utmost responsibility. Respondent

was likewise negligent when he failed, as supervisor, to initiate, institute, or recommend investigation and disciplinary proceedings against his subordinate Baliwag after the anomaly was discovered. Clearly, respondent failed to exercise the degree of care, skill, and diligence which the circumstances warrant. We are of course not unaware that as a general rule, superior officers cannot be held liable for the acts of their subordinates. However, there are exceptions, viz.: (1) where, being charged with the duty of employing or retaining his subordinates, he negligently or willfully employs or retains unfit or improper persons; or (2) where, being charged with the duty to see that they are appointed and qualified in a proper manner, he negligently or willfully fails to require of them the due conformity to the prescribed regulations; or (3) where he so carelessly or negligently oversees, conducts or carries on the business of his office as to furnish the opportunity for the default; or (4) and a fortiori where he has directed, authorized or cooperated in the wrong.[41] In Advincula v. Dicen,[42] the Court found a provincial agriculturist liable for misconduct despite his protestations anchored on reliance to a subordinate. In finding him liable, the Court scored the said official for failing to scrutinize each and every document proffered to him by subordinates. In Amane v. Mendoza-Arce,[43]respondent clerk of court was held liable for neglect of duty for failing to discipline her subordinates and make sure that they regularly and promptly performed their duties. In the case under review, respondent was careless or negligent in overseeing, conducting, or carrying on the business of his office as to furnish the opportunity for the default of a subordinate. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED and the appealed Decision REVERSED ANDSET ASIDE. The Decision of the Ombudsman in OMB-ADM-0-97-0656 finding respondent guilty of neglect of duty is REINSTATED. SO ORDERED. 5. G.R. No. 145368 July 1, 2002

SALVADOR H. LAUREL, petitioner, vs.HON. ANIANO A. DESIERTO, in his capacity as Ombudsman, respondent. KAPUNAN, J.: Petitioner Salvador H. Laurel moves for a reconsideration of this Court's decision declaring him, as Chair of the National Centennial Commission (NCC), a public officer. Petitioner also prays that the case be referred to the Court En Banc. First, petitioner points out that the decision has "serious constitutional repercussions" 1 because the composition of the NCC included members of the Cabinet, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court,2who are prohibited by the Constitution from holding any other office during their term or tenure.3 In connection, the Court, in its decision, allegedly disregarded the pronouncement in Manila Electric Co. vs. Panay Transportation Co.4 that the "Supreme Court and its members should not and cannot be required to exercise any power or to perform any trust or to assume any duty not pertaining to or connected with the administering of judicial functions." 5 These arguments are irrelevant. The issue in this case is whether petitioner, as Chair of the NCC, is a public officer under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Assuming, as petitioner proposes, that the designation of other members to the NCC runs counter to the Constitution, it does not make petitioner, as NCC Chair, less a public officer. Such "serious constitutional repercussions" do not reduce the force of the rationale behind this Court's decision. Second, petitioner invokes estoppel. He claims that the official acts of the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court, in designating Cabinet members, Senators, Congressmen and Justices to the NCC, led him to believe that the NCC is not a public office.6 The contention has no merit. In estoppel, the party representing material facts must have the intention that the other party would act upon the representation. 7 It is preposterous to suppose that the President, the Senate President, the Speaker and the Supreme Court, by the designation of such officials to the NCC, intended to mislead petitioner just so he would accept the position of NCC Chair. Estoppel must be unequivocal and intentional.8 Moreover, petitioner himself admits that the principle of estoppel does not operate against the Government in the exercise of its sovereign powers. 9 Third, as ground for the referral of the case to the Court En Banc, petitioner submits that our decision in this case modified or reversed doctrines rendered by this Court, which can only be done by the Court En Banc. It is argued that by designating three of its then incumbent members to the NCC, the Court took the position that the NCC was not a public office.10 The argument is a bit of a stretch. Section 4 (3), Article VIII of the Constitution provides that "no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the court in a decision rendered en banc or in division may be modified or reversed except by the court sitting en banc." In designating three of its incumbent members to the NCC, the Court did not render a "decision," in the context of said constitutional provision, which contemplates an actual case. Much less did the Court, by such designation, articulate any "doctrine or principle of law." Invoking the same provision, petitioner asserts11 that the decision in this case reversed or modified Macalino vs. Sandiganbayan,12 holding that the Assistant Manager of the Treasury Division and the Head of the Loans Administration & Insurance Section of the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) is not a public officer under Republic Act No. 3019. This contention also has no merit. The rationale for the ruling in Macalino is that "the PNCC has no original charter as it was incorporated under the general law on corporations." However, as we pointed out in our decision, a conclusion that EXPOCORP is a government-owned or controlled corporation would not alter the outcome of this case because petitioner's position and functions as Chief Executive Officer of EXPOCORP are by virtue of his being Chairman of the NCC. The other issues raised by petitioner are mere reiterations of his earlier arguments. The Court, however, remains unswayed thereby. ACCORDINGLY, the motion for reconsideration and referral to the Court En Banc is DENIED. This denial is final. 6. G.R. No. 145368 April 12, 2002

SALVADOR H. LAUREL, petitioner, vs.HON. ANIANO A. DESIERTO, in his capacity as Ombudsman, respondent. KAPUNAN, J.: On June 13, 1991, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Administrative Order No. 223 "constituting a Committee for the preparation of the National Centennial Celebration in 1998." The Committee was mandated "to take charge of the nationwide preparations for the National Celebration of the Philippine Centennial of the Declaration of Philippine Independence and the Inauguration of the Malolos Congress."1 Subsequently, President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive Order No. 128, "reconstituting the Committee for the preparation of the National Centennial Celebrations in 1988." It renamed the Committee as the "National Centennial Commission." Appointed to chair the reconstituted Commission was Vice-President Salvador H. Laurel. Presidents Diosdado M. Macapagal and Corazon C. Aquino were named Honorary Chairpersons. 2 Characterized as an "i body," the existence of the Commission "shall terminate upon the completion of all activities related to the Centennial Celebrations." 3 Like its predecessor Committee, the Commission was tasked to "take charge of the nationwide preparations for the National Celebration of the Philippine Centennial of the Declaration of Philippine Independence and the Inauguration of the Malolos Congress." Per Section 6 of the Executive Order, the Commission was also charged with the responsibility to "prepare, for approval of the President, a Comprehensive Plan for the Centennial Celebrations within six (6) months from the effectivity of" the Executive Order. E.O. No. 128 also contained provisions for staff support and funding: Sec. 3. The Commission shall be provided with technical and administrative staff support by a Secretariat to be composed of, among others, detailed personnel from the Presidential Management Staff, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the National Historical Institute. Said Secretariat shall be headed by a full time Executive Director who shall be designated by the President. Sec. 4. The Commission shall be funded with an initial budget to be drawn from the Department of Tourism and the presidents Contingent Fund, in an amount to be recommended by the Commission, and approved by the President. Appropriations for succeeding years shall be incorporated in the budget of the Office of the President. Subsequently, a corporation named the Philippine Centennial Expo 98 Corporation (Expocorp) was created.4Petitioner was among the nine (9) Expocorp incorporators, who were also its first nine (9) directors. Petitioner was elected Expocorp Chief Executive Officer. On August 5, 1998, Senator Ana Dominique Coseteng delivered a privilege speech in the Senate denouncing alleged anomalies in the construction and operation of the Centennial Exposition Project at the Clark Special Economic Zone. Upon motion of Senator Franklin Drilon, Senator Cosetengs privilege speech was referred to the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (The Blue Ribbon Committee) and several other Senate Committees for investigation. On February 24, 1999, President Joseph Estrada issued Administrative Order No. 35, creating an ad hoc and independent citizens committee to investigate all the facts and circumstances surrounding the Philippine centennial projects, including its component activities. Former Senator Rene A.V. Saguisag was appointed to chair the Committee. On March 23, 1999, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee filed with the Secretary of the Senate its Committee Final Report No. 30 dated February 26, 1999. Among the Committees recommendations was "the prosecution by the Ombudsman/DOJ of Dr. Salvador Laurel, chair of NCC and of EXPOCORP for violating the rules on public bidding, relative to the award of centennial contracts to AK (Asia Construction & Development Corp.); for exhibiting manifest bias in the issuance of the NTP (Notice to Proceed) to AK to construct the FR (Freedom Ring) even in the absence of a valid contract that has caused material injury to government and for participating in the scheme to preclude audit by COA of the funds infused by the government for the implementation of the said contracts all in violation of the anti-graft law."5 Later, on November 5, 1999, the Saguisag Committee issued its own report. It recommended "the further investigation by the Ombudsman, and indictment, in proper cases of," among others, NCC Chair Salvador H. Laurel for violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, Section 4(a) in relation to Section 11 of R.A. No. 6713, and Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code. The Reports of the Senate Blue Ribbon and the Saguisag Committee were apparently referred to the Fact-finding and Intelligence Bureau of the Office of the Ombudsman. On January 27, 2000, the Bureau issued its Evaluation Report, recommending: 1. that a formal complaint be filed and preliminary investigation be conducted before the Evaluation and Preliminary Investigation Bureau (EPIB), Office of the Ombudsman against former NCC and EXPOCORP chair Salvador H. Laurel, former EXPOCORP President Teodoro Q. Pea and AK President Edgardo H. Angeles for violation of Sec. 3(e) and (g) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended in relation to PD 1594 and COA Rules and Regulations; 2. That the Fact Finding and Intelligence Bureau of this Office, act as the nominal complainant. 6 In an Order dated April 10, 2000, Pelagio S. Apostol, OIC-Director of the Evaluation and Preliminary Investigation Bureau, directed petitioner to submit his counter-affidavit and those of his witnesses. On April 24, 2000, petitioner filed with the Office of the Ombudsman a Motion to Dismiss questioning the jurisdiction of said office. In an Order dated June 13, 2000, the Ombudsman denied petitioners motion to dismiss. On July 3, 2000, petitioner moved for a reconsideration of the June 13, 2000 Order but the motion was denied in an Order dated October 5, 2000. On October 25, 2000, petitioner filed the present petition for certiorari. On November 14, 2000, the Evaluation and Preliminary Investigation Bureau issued a resolution finding "probable cause to indict respondents SALVADOR H. LAUREL and TEODORO Q. PEA before the Sandiganbayan for conspiring to violate Section 3(e) of Republic Act No.

3019, in relation to Republic Act No. 1594." The resolution also directed that an information for violation of the said law be filed against Laurel and Pea. Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto approved the resolution with respect to Laurel but dismissed the charge against Pea. In a Resolution dated September 24, 2001, the Court issued a temporary restraining order, commanding respondents to desist from filing any information before the Sandiganbayan or any court against petitioner for alleged violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. On November 14, 2001, the Court, upon motion of petitioner, heard the parties in oral argument. Petitioner assails the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman on the ground that he is not a public officer because: A. EXPOCORP, THE CORPORATION CHAIRED BY PETITIONER LAUREL WHICH UNDERTOOK THE FREEDOM RING PROJECT IN CONNECTION WITH WHICH VIOLATIONS OF THE ANTI-GRAFT AND CORRUPT PRACTICES WERE ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED, WAS A PRIVATE CORPORATION, NOT A GOVERNMENT-OWNED OR CONTROLLED CORPORATION. B. THE NATIONAL CENTENNIAL COMMISSION (NCC) WAS NOT A PUBLIC OFFICE. C. PETITIONER, BOTH AS CHAIRMAN OF THE NCC AND OF EXPOCORP WAS NOT A "PUBLIC OFFICER" AS DEFINED UNDER THE ANTI-GRAFT & CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT. 7 In addition, petitioner in his reply8 invokes this Courts decision in Uy vs. Sandiganbayan,9 where it was held that the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman was limited to cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, i.e., over public officers of Grade 27 and higher. As petitioners position was purportedly not classified as Grade 27 or higher, the Sandiganbayan and, consequently, the Ombudsman, would have no jurisdiction over him. This last contention is easily dismissed. In the Courts decision in Uy, we held that "it is the prosecutor, not the Ombudsman, who has the authority to file the corresponding information/s against petitioner in the regional trial court. The Ombudsman exercises prosecutorial powers only in cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan." In its Resolution of February 22, 2000, the Court expounded: The clear import of such pronouncement is to recognize the authority of the State and regular provincial and city prosecutors under the Department of Justice to have control over prosecution of cases falling within the jurisdiction of the regular courts. The investigation and prosecutorial powers of the Ombudsman relate to cases rightfully falling within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan under Section 15 (1) of R.A. 6770 ("An Act Providing for the Functional and Structural Organization of the Office of the Ombudsman, and for other purposes") which vests upon the Ombudsman "primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan" And this is further buttressed by Section 11 (4a) of R.A. 6770 which emphasizes that the Office of the Special Prosecutor shall have the power to "conduct preliminary investigation and prosecute criminal cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan." Thus, repeated references to the Sandiganbayans jurisdiction clearly serve to limit the Ombudsmans and Special Prosecutors authority to cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan. [Emphasis in the original.] The foregoing ruling in Uy, however, was short-lived. Upon motion for clarification by the Ombudsman in the same case, the Court set aside the foregoing pronouncement in its Resolution dated March 20, 2001. The Court explained the rationale for this reversal: The power to investigate and to prosecute granted by law to the Ombudsman is plenary and unqualified. It pertains to any act or omission of any public officer or employee when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient. The law does not make a distinction between cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and those cognizable by regular courts. It has been held that the clause "any illegal act or omission of any public official" is broad enough to embrace any crime committed by a public officer or employee. The reference made by RA 6770 to cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, particularly in Section 15(1) giving the Ombudsman primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, and Section 11(4) granting the Special Prosecutor the power to conduct preliminary investigation and prosecute criminal cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, should not be construed as confining the scope of the investigatory and prosecutory power of the Ombudsman to such cases. Section 15 of RA 6770 gives the Ombudsman primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan. The law defines such primary jurisdiction as authorizing the Ombudsman "to take over, at any stage, from any investigatory agency of the government, the investigation of such cases." The grant of this authority does not necessarily imply the exclusion from its jurisdiction of cases involving public officers and employees by other courts. The exercise by the Ombudsman of his primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan is not incompatible with the discharge of his duty to investigate and prosecute other offenses committed by public officers and employees. Indeed, it must be stressed that the powers granted by the legislature to the Ombudsman are very broad and encompass all kinds of malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance committed by public officers and employees during their tenure of office. Moreover, the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman should not be equated with the limited authority of the Special Prosecutor under Section 11 of RA 6770. The Office of the Special Prosecutor is merely a component of the Office of the Ombudsman and may only act under the supervision and control and upon authority of the Ombudsman. Its power to conduct preliminary investigation and to prosecute is limited tocriminal cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. Certainly, the lawmakers did not intend to confine the investigatory and prosecutory power of the Ombudsman to these types of cases. The Ombudsman is mandated by law to act on all complaints against officers and employees of the government and to enforce their administrative, civil and criminal liability in every case where the evidence warrants. To carry out this duty, the law allows him to utilize the personnel of his office and/or designate any fiscal, state prosecutor or lawyer in the government service to act as special investigator or prosecutor to assist in the investigation and prosecution of certain cases. Those designated or deputized to assist him work under his supervision and control. The law likewise

allows him to direct the Special Prosecutor to prosecute cases outside the Sandiganbayans jurisdiction in accordance with Section 11 (4c) of RA 6770. The prosecution of offenses committed by public officers and employees is one of the most important functions of the Ombudsman. In passing RA 6770, the Congress deliberately endowed the Ombudsman with such power to make him a more active and effective agent of the people in ensuring accountability in public office. A review of the development of our Ombudsman law reveals this intent. [Emphasis in the original.] Having disposed of this contention, we proceed to the principal grounds upon which petitioner relies. We first address the argument that petitioner, as Chair of the NCC, was not a public officer. The Constitution10 describes the Ombudsman and his Deputies as "protectors of the people," who "shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the government, or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations." Among the awesome powers, functions, and duties vested by the Constitution 11 upon the Office of the Ombudsman is to "[i]nvestigate any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient." The foregoing constitutional provisions are substantially reproduced in R.A. No. 6770, otherwise known as the "Ombudsman Act of 1989." Sections 13 and 15(1) of said law respectively provide: SEC. 13. Mandate. The Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people shall act promptly on complaints file in any form or manner against officers or employees of the Government, or of any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and enforce their administrative, civil and criminal liability in every case where the evidence warrants in order to promote efficient service by the Government to the people. SEC. 15. Powers, Functions and Duties. The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the following powers, functions and duties: (1) Investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal unjust, improper or inefficient. It has primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and, in the exercise of this primary jurisdiction, it may take over, at any stage, from any investigatory agency of Government, the investigation of such cases; x x x. The coverage of the law appears to be limited only by Section 16, in relation to Section 13, supra: SEC 16. Applicability. The provisions of this Act shall apply to all kinds of malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance that have been committed by any officer or employee as mentioned in Section 13 hereof, during his tenure of office. In sum, the Ombudsman has the power to investigate any malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance by a public officer or employee of the government, or of any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations. 12 Neither the Constitution nor the Ombudsman Act of 1989, however, defines who public officers are. A definition of public officers cited in jurisprudence 13 is that provided by Mechem, a recognized authority on the subject: A public office is the right, authority and duty, created and conferred by law, by which, for a given period, either fixed by law or enduring at the pleasure of the creating power, an individual is invested with some portion of the sovereign functions of the government, to be exercised by him for the benefit of the public. The individual so invested is a public officer.14 The characteristics of a public office, according to Mechem, include the delegation of sovereign functions, its creation by law and not by contract, an oath, salary, continuance of the position, scope of duties, and the designation of the position as an office.15 Petitioner submits that some of these characteristics are not present in the position of NCC Chair, namely: (1) the delegation of sovereign functions; (2) salary, since he purportedly did not receive any compensation; and (3) continuance, the tenure of the NCC being temporary. Mechem describes the delegation to the individual of some of the sovereign functions of government as "[t]he most important characteristic" in determining whether a position is a public office or not. The most important characteristic which distinguishes an office from an employment or contract is that the creation and conferring of an office involves a delegation to the individual of some of the sovereign functions of government, to be exercised by him for the benefit of the public; that some portion of the sovereignty of the country, either legislative, executive or judicial, attaches, for the time being, to be exercised for the public benefit. Unless the powers conferred are of this nature, the individual is not a public officer. 16 Did E.O. 128 delegate the NCC with some of the sovereign functions of government? Certainly, the law did not delegate upon the NCC functions that can be described as legislative or judicial. May the functions of the NCC then be described as executive? We hold that the NCC performs executive functions. The executive power "is generally defined as the power to enforce and administer the laws. It is the power of carrying the laws into practical operation and enforcing their due observance."17 The executive function, therefore, concerns the implementation of the policies as set forth by law. The Constitution provides in Article XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture, and Sports) thereof: Sec. 15. Arts and letters shall enjoy the patronage of the State. The State shall conserve, promote, and popularize the nations historical and cultural heritage and resources, as well as artistic creations. In its preamble, A.O. No. 223 states the purposes for the creation of the Committee for the National Centennial Celebrations in 1998: Whereas, the birth of the Republic of the Philippines is to be celebrated in 1998, and the centennial presents an important vehicle for fostering nationhood and a strong sense of Filipino identity;

Whereas, the centennial can effectively showcase Filipino heritage and thereby strengthen Filipino values; Whereas, the success of the Centennial Celebrations may be insured only through long-range planning and continuous developmental programming; Whereas, the active participation of the private sector in all areas of special expertise and capability, particularly in communication and information dissemination, is necessary for long-range planning and continuous developmental programming; Whereas, there is a need to create a body which shall initiate and undertake the primary task of harnessing the multisectoral components from the business, cultural, and business sectors to serve as effective instruments from the launching and overseeing of this long-term project; x x x. E.O. No. 128, reconstituting the Committee for the National Centennial Celebrations in 1998, cited the "need to strengthen the said Committee to ensure a more coordinated and synchronized celebrations of the Philippine Centennial and wider participation from the government and nongovernment or private organizations." It also referred to the "need to rationalize the relevance of historical links with other countries." The NCC was precisely created to execute the foregoing policies and objectives, to carry them into effect. Thus, the Commission was vested with the following functions: (a) To undertake the overall study, conceptualization, formulation and implementation of programs and projects on the utilization of culture, arts, literature and media as vehicles for history, economic endeavors, and reinvigorating the spirit of national unity and sense of accomplishment in every Filipino in the context of the Centennial Celebrations. In this regard, it shall include a Philippine National Exposition 98 within Metro Manila, the original eight provinces, and Clark Air Base as its major venues; (b) To act as principal coordinator for all the activities related to awareness and celebration of the Centennial; (c) To serve as the clearing house for the preparation and dissemination of all information about the plans and events for the Centennial Celebrations; (d) To constitute working groups which shall undertake the implementation of the programs and projects; (e) To prioritize the refurbishment of historical sites and structures nationwide. In this regard, the Commission shall formulate schemes (e.g. lease-maintained-and-transfer, build-operate-transfer, and similar arrangements) to ensure the preservation and maintenance of the historical sites and structures; (f) To call upon any government agency or instrumentality and corporation, and to invite private individuals and organizations to assist it in the performance of its tasks; and, (g) Submit regular reports to the President on the plans, programs, projects, activities as well as the status of the preparations for the Celebration. 18 It bears noting the President, upon whom the executive power is vested,19 created the NCC by executive order. Book III (Office of the President), Chapter 2 (Ordinance Power), Section 2 describes the nature of executive orders: SEC. 2. Executive Orders. Acts of the President providing for rules of a general or permanent character inimplementation or execution of constitutional or statutory powers shall be promulgated in executive orders. [Underscoring ours.] Furthermore, the NCC was not without a role in the countrys economic development, especially in Central Luzon. Petitioner himself admitted as much in the oral arguments before this Court: MR. JUSTICE REYNATO S. PUNO: And in addition to that expounded by Former President Ramos, dont you agree that the task of the centennial commission was also to focus on the long term over all socio economic development of the zone and Central Luzon by attracting investors in the area because of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. FORMER VICE PRESIDENT SALVADOR H. LAUREL: I am glad Your Honor touched on that because that is something I wanted to touch on by lack of material time I could not but that is a very important point. When I was made Chairman I wanted the Expo to be in Batangas because I am a Batangeo but President Ramos said Mr. Vice President the Central Luzon is suffering, suffering because of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo let us try to catalize [sic] economic recovery in that area by putting this Expo in Clark Field and so it was done I agreed and Your Honor if I may also mention we wanted to generate employment aside from attracting business investments and employment. And the Estrada administration decided to junk this project there 48, 40 thousand people who lost job, they were employed in Expo. And our target was to provide 75 thousand jobs. It would have really calibrated, accelerated the development of Central Luzon. Now, I think they are going back to that because they had the airport and there are plan to revive the Expo site into key park which was the original plan. There can hardly be any dispute that the promotion of industrialization and full employment is a fundamental state policy.20 Petitioner invokes the ruling of this Court in Torio vs. Fontanilla21 that the holding by a municipality of a town fiestais a proprietary rather than a governmental function. Petitioner argues that the "holding of a nationwide celebration which marked the nations 100th birthday may be likened to a national fiesta which involved only the exercise of the national governments proprietary function."22 In Torio, we held: [Section 2282 of the Chapter on Municipal Law of the Revised Administrative Code] simply gives authority to the municipality to [celebrate] a yearly fiesta but it does not impose upon it a duty to observe one. Holding a fiesta even if the purpose is to commemorate a religious or historical event of the town is in essence an act for the special benefit of the community and not for the general

welfare of the public performed in pursuance of a policy of the state. The mere fact that the celebration, as claimed, was not to secure profit or gain but merely to provide entertainment to the town inhabitants is not a conclusive test. For instance, the maintenance of parks is not a source of income for the town, nonetheless it is [a] private undertaking as distinguished from the maintenance of public schools, jails, and the like which are for public service. As stated earlier, there can be no hard and fast rule for purposes of determining the true nature of an undertaking or function of a municipality; the surrounding circumstances of a particular case are to be considered and will be decisive. The basic element, however beneficial to the public the undertaking may be, is that it is government in essence, otherwise, the function becomes private or propriety in character. Easily, no governmental or public policy of the state is involved in the celebration of a town fiesta. Torio, however, did not intend to lay down an all-encompassing doctrine. Note that the Court cautioned that "there can be no hard and fast rule for purposes of determining the true nature of an undertaking or function of a municipality; the surrounding circumstances of a particular case are to be considered and will be decisive." Thus, in footnote 15 of Torio, the Court, citing an American case, illustrated how the "surrounding circumstances plus the political, social, and cultural backgrounds" could produce a conclusion different from that in Torio: We came across an interesting case which shows that surrounding circumstances plus the political, social, and cultural backgrounds may have a decisive bearing on this question. The case of Pope v. City of New Haven, et al. was an action to recover damages for personal injuries caused during a Fourth of July fireworks display resulting in the death of a bystander alleged to have been caused by defendants negligence. The defendants demurred to the complaint invoking the defense that the city was engaged in the performance of a public governmental duty from which it received no pecuniary benefit and for negligence in the performance of which no statutory liability is imposed. This demurrer was sustained by the Superior Court of New Haven Country. Plaintiff sought to amend his complaint to allege that the celebration was for the corporate advantage of the city. This was denied. In affirming the order, the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut held inter alia: Municipal corporations are exempt from liability for the negligent performance of purely public governmental duties, unless made liable by statute. A municipality corporation, which under permissive authority of its charter or of statute, conducted a public Fourth of July celebration, including a display of fireworks, and sent up a bomb intended to explode in the air, but which failed to explode until it reached the ground, and then killed a spectator, was engaged in the performance of a governmental duty. (99 A.R. 51) This decision was concurred in by three Judges while two dissented. At any rate the rationale of the Majority Opinion is evident from [this] excerpt: "July 4th, when that date falls upon Sunday, July 5th, is made a public holiday, called Independence Day, by our statutes. All or nearly all of the other states have similar statutes. While there is no United States statute making a similar provision, the different departments of the government recognize, and have recognized since the government was established, July 4th as a national holiday. Throughout the country it has been recognized and celebrated as such. These celebrations, calculated to entertain and instruct the people generally and to arouse and stimulate patriotic sentiments and love of country, frequently take the form of literary exercises consisting of patriotic speeches and the reading of the Constitution, accompanied by a musical program including patriotic air sometimes preceded by the firing of cannon and followed by fireworks. That such celebrations are of advantage to the general public and their promotion a proper subject of legislation can hardly be questioned. x x x" Surely, a town fiesta cannot compare to the National Centennial Celebrations. The Centennial Celebrations was meant to commemorate the birth of our nation after centuries of struggle against our former colonial master, to memorialize the liberation of our people from oppression by a foreign power. 1998 marked 100 years of independence and sovereignty as one united nation. The Celebrations was an occasion to reflect upon our history and reinvigorate our patriotism. As A.O. 223 put it, it was a "vehicle for fostering nationhood and a strong sense of Filipino identity," an opportunity to "showcase Filipino heritage and thereby strengthen Filipino values." The significance of the Celebrations could not have been lost on petitioner, who remarked during the hearing: Oh, yes, certainly the State is interested in the unity of the people, we wanted to rekindle the love for freedom, love for country, that is the over-all goal that has to make everybody feel proud that he is a Filipino, proud of our history, proud of what our forefather did in their time. x x x. Clearly, the NCC performs sovereign functions. It is, therefore, a public office, and petitioner, as its Chair, is a public officer. That petitioner allegedly did not receive any compensation during his tenure is of little consequence. A salary is a usual but not a necessary criterion for determining the nature of the position. It is not conclusive. The salary is a mere incident and forms no part of the office. Where a salary or fees is annexed, the office is provided for it is a naked or honorary office, and is supposed to be accepted merely for the public good.23 Hence, the office of petitioner as NCC Chair may be characterized as an honorary office, as opposed to a lucrative office or an office of profit, i.e., one to which salary, compensation or fees are attached.24 But it is a public office, nonetheless. Neither is the fact that the NCC was characterized by E.O. No. 128 as an "ad-hoc body" make said commission less of a public office. The term office, it is said, embraces the idea of tenure and duration, and certainly a position which is merely temporary and local cannot ordinarily be considered an office. "But," says Chief Justice Marshall, "if a duty be a continuing one, which is defined by rules prescribed by the government and not by contract, which an individual is appointed by government to perform, who enters on the duties pertaining to his station without any contract defining them, if those duties continue though the person be changed, -- it seems very difficult to distinguish such a charge or employment from an office of the person who performs the duties from an officer." At the same time, however, this element of continuance can not be considered as indispensable, for, if the other elements are present "it can make no difference," says Pearson, C.J., "whether there be but one act or a series of acts to be done, -- whether the office expires as soon as the one act is done, or is to be held for years or during good behavior."25 Our conclusion that petitioner is a public officer finds support in In Re Corliss.26 There the Supreme Court of Rhode Island ruled that the office of Commissioner of the United States Centennial Commission is an "office of trust" as to disqualify its holder as elector of the United States President and Vice-President. (Under Article II of the United States Constitution, a person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States is disqualified from being appointed an elector.)

x x x. We think a Commissioner of the United States Centennial Commission holds an office of trust under the United States, and that he is therefore disqualified for the office of elector of President and Vice-President of the United States. The commission was created under a statute of the United States approved March 3, 1871. That statute provides for the holding of an exhibition of American and foreign arts, products, and manufactures, "under the auspices of the government of the United States," and for the constitution of a commission, to consist of more than one delegate from each State and from each Territory of the United States, "whose functions shall continue until close of the exhibition," and "whose duty it shall be to prepare and superintend the execution of the plan for holding the exhibition." Under the statute the commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States, on the nomination of the governor of the States and Territories respectively. Various duties were imposed upon the commission, and under the statute provision was to be made for it to have exclusive control of the exhibit before the President should announce, by proclamation, the date and place of opening and holding the exhibition. By an act of Congress approved June 1st, 1872, the duties and functions of the commission were further increased and defined. That act created a corporation, called "The Centennial Board of Finance," to cooperate with the commission and to raise and disburse the funds. It was to be organized under the direction of the commission. The seventh section of the act provides "that the grounds for exhibition shall be prepared and the buildings erected by the corporation, in accordance with plans which shall have been adopted by the United States Centennial Commission; and the rules and regulations of said corporation, governing rates for entrance and admission fees, or otherwise affecting the rights, privileges, or interests of the exhibitors, or of the public, shall be fixed and established by the United States Centennial Commission; and no grant conferring rights or privileges of any description connected with said grounds or buildings, or relating to said exhibition or celebration, shall be made without the consent of the United States Centennial Commission, and said commission shall have power to control, change, or revoke all such grants, and shall appoint all judges and examiners and award all premiums." The tenth section of the act provides that "it shall be the duty of the United States Centennial Commission to supervise the closing up of the affairs of said corporation, to audit its accounts, and submit in a report to the President of the United States the financial results of the centennial exhibition." It is apparent from this statement, which is but partial, that the duties and functions of the commission were various, delicate, and important; that they could be successfully performed only by men of large experience and knowledge of affairs; and that they were not merely subordinate and provisional, but in the highest degree authoritative, discretionary, and final in their character. We think that persons performing such duties and exercising such functions, in pursuance of statutory direction and authority, are not to be regarded as mere employees, agents, or committee men, but that they are, properly speaking, officers, and that the places which they hold are offices. It appears, moreover, that they were originally regarded as officers by Congress; for the act under which they were appointed declares, section 7, that "no compensation for services shall be paid to the commissioners or other officers, provided for in this act, from the treasury of the United States." The only other officers provided for were the "alternates" appointed to serve as commissioners when the commissioners were unable to attend. Having arrived at the conclusion that the NCC performs executive functions and is, therefore, a public office, we need no longer delve at length on the issue of whether Expocorp is a private or a public corporation. Even assuming that Expocorp is a private corporation, petitioners position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Expocorp arose from his Chairmanship of the NCC. Consequently, his acts or omissions as CEO of Expocorp must be viewed in the light of his powers and functions as NCC Chair.27 Finally, it is contended that since petitioner supposedly did not receive any compensation for his services as NCC or Expocorp Chair, he is not a public officer as defined in Republic Act No. 3019 (The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and is, therefore, beyond the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Respondent seeks to charge petitioner with violation of Section 3 (e) of said law, which reads: SEC. 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful: xxx (e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions. A "public officer," under R.A. No. 3019, is defined by Section 2 of said law as follows: SEC. 2. Definition of terms. As used in this Act, the term xxx (b) "Public officer" includes elective and appointive officials and employees, permanent or temporary, whether in the classified or unclassified or exemption service receiving compensation, even nominal, from the government as defined in the preceding paragraph. [Emphasis supplied.] It is clear from Section 2 (b), above, that the definition of a "public officer" is expressly limited to the application of R.A. No. 3019. Said definition does not apply for purposes of determining the Ombudsmans jurisdiction, as defined by the Constitution and the Ombudsman Act of 1989. Moreover, the question of whether petitioner is a public officer under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act involves the appreciation of evidence and interpretation of law, matters that are best resolved at trial. To illustrate, the use of the term "includes" in Section 2 (b) indicates that the definition is not restrictive.28 The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act is just one of several laws that define "public officers." Article 203 of the Revised Penal Code, for example, provides that a public officer is: x x x any person who, by direct provision of law, popular election or appointment by competent authority, takes part in the performance of public functions in the Government of Philippines, or performs in said Government or in any of its branches public duties as an employee, agent or subordinate official, of any rank or class.

Section 2 (14) of the Introductory Provisions of the Administrative Code of 1987,29 on the other hand, states: Officer as distinguished from "clerk" or "employee", refers to a person whose duties not being of a clerical or manual nature, involves the exercise of discretion in the performance of the functions of the government. When used with reference to a person having authority to do a particular act or perform a particular person in the exercise of governmental power, "officer" includes any government employee, agent or body having authority to do the act or exercise that function. It bears noting that under Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. 6713 (The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), one may be considered a "public official" whether or not one receives compensation, thus: "Public Officials" include elective and appointive officials and employees, permanent or temporary, whether in the career or noncareer service including military and police personnel, whether or not they receive compensation, regardless of amount. Which of these definitions should apply, if at all? Assuming that the definition of public officer in R.A. No. 3019 is exclusive, the term "compensation," which is not defined by said law, has many meanings. Under particular circumstances, "compensation" has been held to include allowance for personal expenses, commissions, expenses, fees, an honorarium, mileage or traveling expenses, payments for services, restitution or a balancing of accounts, salary, and wages.30 How then is "compensation," as the term is used in Section 2 (b) of R.A. No. 3019, to be interpreted? Did petitioner receive any compensation at all as NCC Chair? Granting that petitioner did not receive any salary, the records do not reveal if he received any allowance, fee, honorarium, or some other form of compensation. Notably, under the by-laws of Expocorp, the CEO is entitled to per diems and compensation. 31 Would such fact bear any significance? Obviously, this proceeding is not the proper forum to settle these issues lest we preempt the trial court from resolving them. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The preliminary injunction issued in the Courts Resolution dated September 24, 2001 is hereby LIFTED. SO ORDERED. 6. [G.R. No. 142801-802, July 10, 2001] BUKLOD NG KAWANING EIIB, CESAR POSADA, REMEDIOS G. PRINCESA, BENJAMIN KHO, BENIGNO MANGA, LULU MENDOZA, PETITIONERS, VS. HON. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY RONALDO B. ZAMORA, HON. SECRETARY JOSE PARDO, DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE, HON. SECRETARY BENJAMIN DIOKNO, DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT, HON. SECRETARY ARTEMIO TUQUERO, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, RESPONDENTS. SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.: In this petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, petitioners Buklod Ng Kawaning EIIB, Cesar Posada, Remedios Princesa, Benjamin Kho, Benigno Manga and Lulu Mendoza, for themselves and in behalf of others with whom they share a common or general interest, seek the nullification of Executive Order No. 191[1]and Executive Order No. 223[2] on the ground that they were issued by the Office of the President with grave abuse of discretion and in violation of their constitutional right to security of tenure. The facts are undisputed: On June 30, 1987, former President Corazon C. Aquino, issued Executive Order No. 127[3] establishing the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (EIIB) as part of the structural organization of the Ministry of Finance. [4] The EIIB was designated to perform the following functions: "(a) Receive, gather and evaluate intelligence reports and information and evidence on the nature, modes and extent of illegal activities affecting the national economy, such as, but not limited to, economic sabotage, smuggling, tax evasion, and dollar-salting, investigate the same and aid in the prosecution of cases; (b) Coordinate with external agencies in monitoring the financial and economic activities of persons or entities, whether domestic or foreign, which may adversely affect national financial interest with the goal of regulating, controlling or preventing said activities; (c) Provide all intelligence units of operating Bureaus or Offices under the Ministry with the general framework and guidelines in the conduct of intelligence and investigating works; (d) Supervise, monitor and coordinate all the intelligence and investigation operations of the operating Bureaus and Offices under the Ministry; (e) Investigate, hear and file, upon clearance by the Minister, anti-graft and corruption cases against personnel of the Ministry and its constituents units; (f) Perform such other appropriate functions as may be assigned by the Minister or his deputies."[5] In a desire to achieve harmony of efforts and to prevent possible conflicts among agencies in the course of their anti-smuggling operations, President Aquino issued Memorandum Order No. 225 on March 17, 1989, providing, among others, that the EIIB "shall be the agency of primary responsibility for anti-smuggling operations in all land areas and inland waters and waterways outside the areas of sole jurisdiction of the Bureau of Customs."[6]

Eleven years after, or on January 7, 2000, President Joseph Estrada issued Executive Order No. 191 entitled "Deactivation of the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau."[7] Motivated by the fact that "the designated functions of the EIIB are also being performed by the other existing agencies of the government" and that "there is a need to constantly monitor the overlapping of functions" among these agencies, former President Estrada ordered the deactivation of EIIB and the transfer of its functions to the Bureau of Customs and the National Bureau of Investigation. Meanwhile, President Estrada issued Executive Order No. 196[8] creating the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Task Force "Aduana."[9] Then the day feared by the EIIB employees came. On March 29, 2000, President Estrada issued Executive Order No. 223[10] providing that all EIIB personnel occupying positions specified therein shall be deemed separated from the service effective April 30, 2000, pursuant to a bona fide reorganization resulting to abolition, redundancy, merger, division, or consolidation of positions. [11] Agonizing over the loss of their employment, petitioners now come before this Court invoking our power of judicial review of Executive Order Nos. 191 and 223. They anchor their petition on the following arguments: "A Executive Order Nos. 191 and 223 should be annulled as they are unconstitutional for being violative of Section 2(3), Article IX-B of the Philippine Constitution and/or for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. B. The abolition of the EIIB is a hoax. Similarly, if Executive Order Nos. 191 and 223 are considered to effect a reorganization of the EIIB, such reorganization was made in bad faith. C. The President has no authority to abolish the EIIB." Petitioners contend that the issuance of the afore-mentioned executive orders is: (a)a violation of their right to security of tenure; (b) tainted with bad faith as they were not actually intended to make the bureaucracy more efficient but to give way to Task Force "Aduana," the functions of which are essentially and substantially the same as that of EIIB; and (c) a usurpation of the power of Congress to decide whether or not to abolish the EIIB. Arguing in behalf of respondents, the Solicitor General maintains that: (a) the President enjoys the totality of the executive power provided under Sections 1 and 7, Article VII of the Constitution, thus, he has the authority to issue Executive Order Nos. 191 and 223; (b) the said executive orders were issued in the interest of national economy, to avoid duplicity of work and to streamline the functions of the bureaucracy; and (c) the EIIB was not "abolished," it was only "deactivated." The petition is bereft of merit. Despite the presence of some procedural flaws in the instant petition, such as, petitioners' disregard of the hierarchy of courts and the nonexhaustion of administrative remedies, we deem it necessary to address the issues. It is in the interest of the State that questions relating to the status and existence of a public office be settled without delay. We are not without precedent. In Dario v. Mison,[12]we liberally decreed: "The Court disregards the questions raised as to procedure, failure to exhaust administrative remedies, the standing of certain parties to sue, for two reasons, `[b]ecause of the demands of public interest, including the need for stability in the public service,' and because of the serious implications of these cases on the administration of the Philippine civil service and the rights of public servants." At first glance, it seems that the resolution of this case hinges on the question - Does the "deactivation" of EIIB constitute "abolition" of an office? However, after coming to terms with the prevailing law and jurisprudence, we are certain that the ultimate queries should be - a) Does the President have the authority to reorganize the executive department? and, b) How should the reorganization be carried out? Surely, there exists a distinction between the words "deactivate" and "abolish." To "deactivate" means to render inactive or ineffective or to break up by discharging or reassigning personnel,[13] while to "abolish" means to do away with, to annul, abrogate or destroy completely.[14] In essence, abolition denotes an intention to do away with the office wholly and permanently.[15] Thus, while in abolition, the office ceases to exist, the same is not true in deactivation where the office continues to exist, albeit remaining dormant or inoperative. Be that as it may, deactivation and abolition are both reorganization measures. The Solicitor General only invokes the above distinctions on the mistaken assumption that the President has no power to abolish an office. The general rule has always been that the power to abolish a public office is lodged with the legislature. [16] This proceeds from the legal precept that the power to create includes the power to destroy. A public office is either created by the Constitution, by statute, or by authority of law. [17] Thus, except where the office was created by the Constitution itself, it may be abolished by the same legislature that brought it into existence.[18] The exception, however, is that as far as bureaus, agencies or offices in the executive department are concerned, the President's power of control may justify him to inactivate the functions of a particular office,[19] or certain laws may grant him the broad authority to carry out

reorganization measures.[20] The case in point is Larin v. Executive Secretary.[21] In this case, it was argued that there is no law which empowers the President to reorganize the BIR. In decreeing otherwise, this Court sustained the following legal basis, thus: "Initially, it is argued that there is no law yet which empowers the President to issue E.O. No. 132 or to reorganize the BIR. We do not agree. xxx Section 48 of R.A. 7645 provides that: `Sec. 48. Scaling Down and Phase Out of Activities of Agencies Within the Executive Branch. - The heads of departments, bureaus and offices and agencies are hereby directed to identify their respective activities which are no longer essential in the delivery of public services and which may be scaled down, phased out or abolished, subject to civil service rules and regulations. X x x. Actual scaling down, phasing out or abolition of the activities shall be effected pursuant to Circulars or Orders issued for the purpose by the Office of the President.' Said provision clearly mentions the acts of "scaling down, phasing out and abolition" of offices only and does not cover the creation of offices or transfer of functions. Nevertheless, the act of creating and decentralizing is included in the subsequent provision of Section 62 which provides that: `Sec. 62. Unauthorized organizational charges.- Unless otherwise created by law or directed by the President of the Philippines, no organizational unit or changes in key positions in any department or agency shall be authorized in their respective organization structures and be funded from appropriations by this Act.' (italics ours) The foregoing provision evidently shows that the President is authorized to effect organizational changes including the creation of offices in the department or agency concerned. xxx xxx xxx

Another legal basis of E.O. No. 132 is Section 20, Book III of E.O. No. 292 which states: `Sec. 20. Residual Powers. - Unless Congress provides otherwise, the President shall exercise such other powers and functions vested in the President which are provided for under the laws and which are not specifically enumerated above or which are not delegated by the President in accordance with law.' (italic ours) This provision speaks of such other powers vested in the President under the law. What law then gives him the power to reorganize? It is Presidential Decree No. 1772 which amended Presidential Decree No. 1416. These decrees expressly grant the President of the Philippines the continuing authority to reorganize the national government, which includes the power to group, consolidate bureaus and agencies, to abolish offices, to transfer functions, to create and classify functions, services and activities and to standardize salaries and materials. The validity of these two decrees are unquestionable. The 1987 Constitution clearly provides that "all laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, letters of instructions and other executive issuances not inconsistent with this Constitution shall remain operative until amended, repealed or revoked. So far, there is yet no law amending or repealing said decrees." (Emphasis supplied) Now, let us take a look at the assailed executive order. In the whereas clause of E.O. No. 191, former President Estrada anchored his authority to deactivate EIIB on Section 77 of Republic Act 8745 (FY 1999 General Appropriations Act), a provision similar to Section 62 of R.A. 7645 quoted in Larin, thus; "Sec. 77. Organized Changes. Unless otherwise provided by law ordirected by the President of the Philippines, no changes in key positions or organizational units in any department or agency shall be authorized in their respective organizational structures and funded from appropriations provided by this Act." We adhere to the precedent or ruling in Larin that this provision recognizes the authority of the President to effect organizational changes in the department or agency under the executive structure. Such a ruling further finds support in Section 78 of Republic Act No. 8760.[22] Under this law, the heads of departments, bureaus, offices and agencies and other entities in the Executive Branch are directed (a) to conduct a comprehensive review of their respective mandates, missions, objectives, functions, programs, projects, activities and systems and procedures; (b) identify activities which are no longer essential in the delivery of public services and which may be scaled down, phased-out or abolished; and (c) adopt measures that will result in the streamlined organization and improved overall performance of their respective agencies.[23] Section 78 ends up with the mandate that the actual streamlining and productivity improvement in agency organization and operation shall be effected pursuant to Circulars or Orders issued for the purpose by the Office of the President.[24] The law has spoken clearly. We are left only with the duty to sustain. But of course, the list of legal basis authorizing the President to reorganize any department or agency in the executive branch does not have to end here. We must not lose sight of the very source of the power - that which constitutes an express grant of power. Under Section 31, Book III of Executive Order No. 292 (otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987), "the President, subject to the policy in the Executive Office and in order to achieve simplicity, economy andefficiency, shall have the continuing authority to reorganize the administrative structure of the Office of the President." For this purpose, he may transfer the functions of other Departments or Agencies to the Office of the President. In Canonizado v. Aguirre,[25] we ruled that reorganization "involves the reduction of personnel, consolidation of offices, or abolition thereof by reason of economy or redundancy of functions." It takes place when there is an alteration of the existing structure of government

offices or units therein, including the lines of control, authority and responsibility between them. The EIIB is a bureau attached to the Department of Finance.[26] It falls under the Office of the President. Hence, it is subject to the President's continuing authority to reorganize. It having been duly established that the President has the authority to carry out reorganization in any branch or agency of the executive department, what is then left for us to resolve is whether or not the reorganization is valid. In this jurisdiction, reorganizations have been regarded as valid provided they are pursued in good faith. Reorganization is carried out in `good faith' if it is for the purpose of economy or to make bureaucracy more efficient.[27] Pertinently, Republic Act No. 6656[28] provides for the circumstances which may be considered as evidence of bad faith in the removal of civil service employees made as a result of reorganization, to wit: (a)where there is a significant increase in the number of positions in the new staffing pattern of the department or agency concerned; (b) where an office is abolished and another performing substantially the same functions is created; (c) where incumbents are replaced by those less qualified in terms of status of appointment, performance and merit; (d) where there is a classification of offices in the department or agency concerned and the reclassified offices perform substantially the same functions as the original offices, and (e) where the removal violates the order of separation. [29] Petitioners claim that the deactivation of EIIB was done in bad faith because four days after its deactivation, President Estrada created the Task Force Aduana. We are not convinced. An examination of the pertinent Executive Orders[30] shows that the deactivation of EIIB and the creation of Task Force Aduana were done in good faith. It was not for the purpose of removing the EIIB employees, but to achieve the ultimate purpose of E.O. No. 191, which is economy. While Task Force Aduana was created to take the place of EIIB, its creation does not entail expense to the government. Firstly, there is no employment of new personnel to man the Task Force. E.O. No. 196 provides that the technical, administrative and special staffs of EIIB are to be composed of people who are already in the public service, they being employees of other existing agencies. Their tenure with the Task Force would only be temporary, i.e., only when the agency where they belong is called upon to assist the Task Force. Since their employment with the Task force is only by way of detail or assignment, they retain their employment with the existing agencies. And should the need for them cease, they would be sent back to the agency concerned. Secondly, the thrust of E.O. No. 196 is to have a small group of military men under the direct control and supervision of the President as base of the government's anti-smuggling campaign. Such a smaller base has the necessary powers 1) to enlist the assistance of any department, bureau, or office and to use their respective personnel, facilities and resources; and 2) "to select and recruit personnel from within the PSG and ISAFP for assignment to the Task Force." Obviously, the idea is to encourage the utilization of personnel, facilities and resources of the already existing departments, agencies, bureaus, etc., instead of maintaining an independent office with a whole set of personnel and facilities. The EIIB had proven itself burdensome for the government because it maintained separate offices in every region in the Philippines. And thirdly, it is evident from the yearly budget appropriation of the government that the creation of the Task Force Aduana was especially intended to lessen EIIB's expenses. Tracing from the yearly General Appropriations Act, it appears that the allotted amount for the EIIB's general administration, support, and operations for the year 1995, was P128,031,000;[31] for 1996, P182,156,000;[32] for 1998,P219,889,000; [33] and, for 1999, P238,743,000.[34] These amounts were far above the P50,000,000[35] allocation to the Task Force Aduana for the year 2000. While basically, the functions of the EIIB have devolved upon the Task Force Aduana, we find the latter to have additional new powers. The Task Force Aduana, being composed of elements from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP),[36] has the essential power to effect searches, seizures and arrests. The EIIB did not have this power. The Task Force Aduana has the power to enlist the assistance of any department, bureau, office, or instrumentality of the government, including governmentowned or controlled corporations; and to use their personnel, facilities and resources. Again, the EIIB did not have this power. And, the Task Force Aduana has the additional authority to conduct investigation of cases involving ill-gotten wealth. This was not expressly granted to the EIIB. Consequently, it cannot be said that there is a feigned reorganization. In Blaquera v. Civil Sevice Commission, [37] we ruled that a reorganization in good faith is one designed to trim the fat off the bureaucracy and institute economy and greater efficiency in its operation. Lastly, we hold that petitioners' right to security of tenure is not violated. Nothing is better settled in our law than that the abolition of an office within the competence of a legitimate body if done in good faith suffers from no infirmity. Valid abolition of offices is neither removal nor separation of the incumbents.[38] In the instructive words laid down by this Court in Dario v. Mison,[39] through Justice Abraham F. Sarmiento: Reorganizations in this jurisdiction have been regarded as valid provided they are pursued in good faith. As a general rule, a reorganization is carried out in "good faith" if it is for the purpose of economy or to make bureaucracy more efficient. In that event, no dismissal (in case of dismissal) or separation actually occurs because the position itself ceases to exist. And in that case, security of tenure would not be a Chinese wall. Be that as it may, if the `abolition,' which is nothing else but a separation or removal, is done for political reasons or purposely to defeat security of tenure, otherwise not in good faith, no valid `abolition' takes and whatever `abolition' is done, is void ab initio. There is an invalid `abolition' as where there is merely a change of nomenclature of positions, or where claims of economy are belied by the existence of ample funds. Indeed, there is no such thing as an absolute right to hold office. Except constitutional offices which provide for special immunity as regards salary and tenure, no one can be said to have any vested right in an office or its salary.[40]

While we cast a commiserating look upon the plight of all the EIIB employees whose lives perhaps are now torn with uncertainties, we cannot ignore the unfortunate reality that our government is also battling the impact of a plummeting economy. Unless the government is given the chance to recuperate by instituting economy and efficiency in its system, the EIIB will not be the last agency to suffer the impact. We cannot frustrate valid measures which are designed to rebuild the executive department. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. No costs. SO ORDERED. 7. 8. G.R. No. 154652 August 14, 2009

PRUDENCIO M. REYES, JR., Petitioner, vs. SIMPLICIO C. BELISARIO and EMMANUEL S. MALICDEM, Respondents. BRION, J.: This petition for review on certiorari1 challenges the Court of Appeals (CA) decision of November 27, 20012 and resolution of August 1, 20023 that commonly reversed the Office of the Ombudsman Decision of July 19, 2000.4The petitioner imputes error on the CA for entertaining the respondents appeal of the Ombudsmans decision, and for the reversal that followed. He maintains that the Ombudsmans decision was final and unappealable under Section 7, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman (the Ombudsman Rules)5 and the CA should not have entertained it on appeal. THE FACTS The factual antecedents, based on the records before us, are summarized below. On March 3, 2000, respondents Deputy Administrators Simplicio Belisario, Jr. and Emmanuel B. Malicdem6(respondents), along with Daniel Landingin and Rodolfo S. De Jesus, all officers of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), filed before the Office of the Ombudsman a criminal complaint against LWUA Administrator Prudencio M. Reyes, Jr. (petitioner) for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. On March 16, 2000, or only 13 days after the filing of the graft charge, the petitioner issued Office Order No. 69 reassigning respondents together with De Jesus from the offices they then held to the Office of the Administrator. Supposedly, the reassigned officers were to act as a core group of a LWUA Task Force and their specific assignments were to be given by petitioner; Officers-in-Charge (OICs) were designated for the offices they vacated. The following day, March 17, 2000 a Friday, the OIC for Administration issued a directive to the Magilas Security Agency to bar the respondents from using the rooms and facilities they occupied prior to their reassignments. On Monday, March 20, 2000, the petitioner, through Office Order No. 82, further directed the respondents to "vacate [their] offices and remove [their] personal belongings and transfer the same to the former PROFUND Office which has been designated as the Office of the Special Task Force." On March 24, 2000, Atty. Arnaldo M. Espinas, LWUA corporate legal counsel, sought the opinion of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) regarding the regularity of the reassignments of respondents and of De Jesus. On March 30, 2000, the petitioner, via Office Order No. 99, directed the respondents to "desist in performing and exercising the functions and activities pertaining to [their] previous positions" and relieved them of their designations or assignments as 6th Member and interim Directors of the Water Districts under their responsibility. To implement this latest Office Order, and in the respondents absence, entry was effected into their respective rooms with the help of police officers; their room locks were replaced with new ones; and their cabinet drawers were sealed with tapes.7 The CSC responded on April 3, 2000 through a legal opinion (CSC legal opinion) issued by Assistant Commissioner Adelina B. Sarmiento. It categorically ruled that the reassignments were not in order, were tainted with bad faith, and constituted constructive dismissal. 8 The legal opinion stated: Worthy of note is the provision of Section 6a of CSC MC No. 40, s. 1998 which provides that: a. Reassignment movement of an employee from one organizational unit to another in the same department or agency which does not involve a reduction in rank, status or salary. If reassignment is without the consent of the employee being reassigned it shall be allowed only for a maximum period of one year. Reassignment is presumed to be regular and made in the interest of public service unless proven otherwise or if it constitutes constructive dismissal. On the basis thereof, although the reassignment is presumed regular and made in the interest of public service, there is an iota of bad faith attendant to the herein case evidenced by the fact that the reassignment was issued barely ten days after the reassigned officials filed a criminal complaint against the Administrator for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Moreover, while the reassigned officials used to head their specific departments, being Deputy Administrators at that, their reassignment resulted to a diminution of their respective ranks. To apply the ruling of the Court of Appeals in the Fernandez case to the herein case, it is clear that there was such a diminution in rank because the reassignment order "did not state any justifiable reason for the reassignment, has no specificity as to the time, functions, duties and responsibilities, making it a floating assignment, and removes from their supervision employees who are part of their staff and subordinates." And more importantly, the recent development wherein the reassigned officials were directed to desist from performing and exercising the functions of their respective positions constituted constructive dismissal x x x. x x x (Emphasis supplied.)

On April 13, 2000, the respondents filed before the Office of the Ombudsman an administrative complaint9 for Oppression and Harassment against the petitioner and the OICs. The petitioner duly filed a counter-affidavit raising as defense his authority to terminate the respondents employment and forum shopping. The petitioner denied as well that force and intimidation were used in taking over the respondents' offices. The Office of the Ombudsman resolved the administrative case through a decision dated July 19, 2000.10 The Ombudsman desisted from ruling on the validity of the respondents reassignments, acknowledging the primary jurisdiction of the CSC over the issue: The CSC is the central personnel agency of the government and as such it is the Office tasked with the duty of rendering opinions and rulings on all personnel and other civil service matters which shall be binding on all heads of departments, offices and agencies. x x x. Hence, this Office can hardly arrogate unto itself the task of resolving the said issue. As stated by the Supreme Court, the doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not warrant a court to arrogate unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence. x x x (Emphasis supplied.) but at the same time denied weight to the CSC legal opinion, contending that it was "not a final and categorical ruling" on the validity of the reassignments. On this premise, the Ombudsman declared that the reassignments enjoyed the presumption of regularity and were thus considered valid. For this reason and for lack of evidence of force or intimidation on the part of the petitioner and co-defendant OICs in the implementation of the reassignments, the Ombudsman exonerated the petitioner and his co-defendants and dismissed the administrative case against them. Meanwhile, the CSC en banc rendered Resolution No. 00172911 dated July 26, 2000 fully affirming the CSC opinion earlier given by Asst. Commissioner Sarmiento. By this action, the CSC en banc declared the reassignments invalid, tainted with bad faith, and constitutive of the respondents constructive dismissal. The CSCen banc emphasized that the LWUA Administrator has no authority under the law to issue the questioned reassignment order, and ordered the respondents reinstatement. The petitioner responded by filing a motion for reconsideration of CSC Resolution No. 001729 and thus avoided the implementation of the respondents reinstatement. In the administrative case before the Ombudsman, the respondents moved for the reconsideration of the Ombudsman's 28 July 2000 decision, attaching to their motion a copy of CSC Resolution No. 001729. Nevertheless, the Ombudsman denied the requested reconsideration, 12 stressing that CSC Resolution No. 001729 was not yet final in view of the petitioners pending motion for reconsideration. The pertinent part of the Ombudsman resolution of denial reads: While it is true that the CSC en banc thru the aforecited resolution appears to have affirmed the earlier opinion of Assistant Commissioner ADELINA B. SARMIENTO that the reassignment of the complainants by respondent REYES is not in order, the same is not yet final considering the timely filing before the said Commission of a Motion for Reconsideration by respondent REYES on August 29, 2000 x x x. Certainly, this is not the final and categorical ruling which this Office had in mind when it issued the questioned DECISION. (Emphasis supplied.) The same order expressed that under Section 7, Rule III of the Ombudsman Rules, the Ombudsmans July 28, 2000 decision thus affirmed should now be final and unappealable. The CSC en banc denied the petitioner's motion for reconsideration of Resolution No. 001729 through CSC Resolution No. 00234813 dated October 17, 2000, and thus affirmed the illegality of the reassignments and the reassignment order. On October 31, 2000, the respondents challenged the Ombudsman's rulings through a petition for review14 filed with the CA, citing among others the Ombudsmans grave abuse of discretion in issuing its rulings. The CA ruled in the respondents favor in its decision of November 27, 2001 and thus reversed the assailed Ombudsmans July 28, 2000 decision. 15 The appellate court observed that the "Ombudsman did not decide the [respondents'] complaint for Harassment and Oppression on its merits, but relied on the non-finality of the Resolution of the Civil Service Commission."16 It also found the Ombudsmans decision incongruous, as the Ombudsman recognized the CSCs jurisdiction to determine the legality of the reassignments, but did not pursue this recognition to its logical end; he simply "ignored the legal premises" when he applied the presumption of regularity to the petitioner's reassignment orders and, on this basis, absolved the petitioner and his co-defendants of the administrative charge. To quote the CA rulings on this regard: [The Ombudsman] was right the first time when it ruled in the assailed Decision that it can "hardly arrogate unto itself the task of resolving the issue" of whether the personnel actions ordered by [the petitioner] against [the respondents] were within the scope of the former's authority. It correctly ruled that the CSC is tasked with the "duty of rendering opinions and rulings on all personnel and other civil service matters." It then ruled that "unless there is a final and categorical ruling of the CSC that the reassignment of the complainants by [petitioner] Administrator Reyes is not valid, the said Order of Reassignment enjoys the presumption of regularity." Unfortunately, however, without pursuing its initial ruling to its logical conclusion, the Ombudsman ultimately ignored the legal premises presented before it and acted to absolve the [petitioner and his co-defendants], thereby sustaining the illegal reassignments of the [complainants], which only the LWUA Board of Trustees as the proper appointing power was authorized to do pursuant to Section 3.1 of Executive Order No. 286, s. 1995. (Emphasis supplied.) The CA likewise declared that the Ombudsmans exoneration of the petitioner could not have become final and unappealable pursuant to Section 7, Rule III of the Ombudsman Rules because it is void for lack of substantial evidentiary basis. Again, to quote the appellate court: [W]e cannot consider the Decision of the Ombudsman as valid. Section 27 of Republic Act 6770 otherwise known as "An Act Providing for the Functional and Structural Organization of the Office of the Ombudsman" provides that findings of fact by the Office of the Ombudsman when supported by substantial evidence are conclusive. However, per our examination of the evidence on hand, the findings of fact and conclusion by the Office of the Ombudsman in the questioned Decision are not supported by substantial evidence, and in fact, havedeviated from the correct ruling it earlier made as to the proper body to determine the validity of the reassignments of petitioners, which is the Civil Service Commission. Consequently such findings are not binding and the decision it rendered has not attained finality. (Emphasis supplied.)

The appellate court denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration in its Resolution 17 of August 1, 2002. The petitioner lodged before this Court the present petition for review on certiorari18 on the sole ground that the Ombudsman's July 28, 2000 decision exonerating him of the administrative charge is final and unappealable under the express terms of Section 7, Rule III of the Ombudsman Rules. The petitioner thus argues that the CA erred in taking cognizance of the appeal and in reversing the Ombudsmans decision. The Court's Ruling The Propriety of the Recourse Taken Before the CA The threshold issue in this petition is the procedural question of whether a complainant in an administrative case before the Office of the Ombudsman has the right to appeal a judgment exonerating the respondent from liability. By statute and regulation, a decision of the Ombudsman absolving the respondent of the administrative charge is final and unappealable. Section 7, Rule III of the Ombudsman Rules provides: SECTION 7. Finality of decision. Where the respondent is absolved of the charge, and in case of conviction where the penalty imposed is public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month, or a fine equivalent to one month salary, the decision shall be final and unappealable. In all other cases, the decision shall become final after the expiration of ten (10) days from receipt thereof by the respondent, unless a motion for reconsideration or petition for certiorari shall have been filed by him (referring to the respondent) as prescribed in Section 27 of RA 6770. (Emphasis and insertion supplied.) This rule is based on Section 27 of Republic Act No. 677019 (RA No. 6770) or the Ombudsman Act, that in turn states: SECTION 27. Effectivity and Finality of Decisions. (1) All provisionary orders of the Office of the Ombudsman are immediately effective and executory. xxx Findings of fact by the Office of the Ombudsman when supported by substantial evidence are conclusive. Any order, directive or decision imposing the penalty of public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month's salary shall be final and unappealable.20 (emphasis supplied). Notably, exoneration is not mentioned in Section 27 as final and unappealable. However, its inclusion is implicit for, as we held in Barata v. Abalos,21 if a sentence of censure, reprimand and a one-month suspension is considered final and unappealable, so should exoneration. 22 The clear import of Section 7, Rule III of the Ombudsman Rules is to deny the complainant in an administrative complaint the right to appeal where the Ombudsman has exonerated the respondent of the administrative charge, as in this case. The complainant, therefore, is not entitled to any corrective recourse, whether by motion for reconsideration in the Office of the Ombudsman, or by appeal to the courts, to effect a reversal of the exoneration. Only the respondent is granted the right to appeal but only in case he is found liable and the penalty imposed is higher than public censure, reprimand, one-month suspension or fine a equivalent to one month salary. The absence of any statutory right to appeal the exoneration of the respondent in an administrative case does not mean, however, that the complainant is left with absolutely no remedy. Over and above our statutes is the Constitution whose Section 1, Article VIII empowers the courts of justice to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. This is an overriding authority that cuts across all branches and instrumentalities of government and is implemented through the petition for certiorari that Rule 65 of the Rules of Court provides. A petition for certiorari is appropriate when a tribunal, clothed with judicial or quasi-judicial authority, acted without jurisdiction (i.e., without the appropriate legal power to resolve a case), or in excess of jurisdiction (i.e., although clothed with the appropriate power to resolve a case, it oversteps its authority as determined by law, or that it committed grave abuse of its discretion by acting either outside the contemplation of the law or in a capricious, whimsical, arbitrary or despotic manner equivalent to lack of jurisdiction). 23 The Rules of Court and its provisions and jurisprudence on writs of certiorari fully apply to the Office of the Ombudsman as these Rules are suppletory to the Ombudsmans Rules.24 The Rules of Court are also the applicable rules in procedural matters on recourses to the courts and hence, are the rules the parties have to contend with in going to the CA. In the present case, the respondents did not file a Rule 65 petition for certiorari, and instead filed a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court. A Rule 43 petition for review is effectively an appeal to the CA that RA 6770 and the Ombudsman Rules do not allow in an exoneration situation as above discussed. The respondents petition for review, however, addressed the grave abuse of discretion that the Ombudsman committed in exonerating the present petitioner. This appeal to our overriding constitutional duty and the results of our own examination of the petition compel us to exercise our liberality in applying the Rules of Court and to recognize that the recourse made to the CA had the effect of a Rule 65 petition. We consider, therefore, the respondents petition before the CA as properly filed. The Grave Abuse of Discretion a. Effect of Grave Abuse of Discretion We fully support the finding of the CA that grave abuse of discretion attended the Ombudsmans decision. As discussed above, grave abuse of discretion is a circumstance beyond the legal error committed by a decision-making agency or entity in the exercise of its jurisdiction; this circumstance affects even the authority to render judgment. Grave abuse of discretion shares this effect with such grounds as the lack of substantial supporting evidence,25 and the failure to act in contemplation of law,26 among others. In the absence of any authority to take cognizance of a case and to render a decision, any resulting decision is necessarily null and void. In turn, a null decision, by its very nature, cannot become final and can be impugned at any time.27 In the context of the Ombudsman operations, a void decision cannot trigger the application of Section 7, Rule III of the Ombudsman Rules. This is the step-by-step flow that arises from a finding of grave abuse of discretion, in relation with the finality and uappealability of an Ombudsman decision involving the penalties o exoneration, censure, reprimand, and suspension for not more than one month.

b. The Grave Abuse of Discretion in the Context of the Case The factual starting point in the consideration of this case is the propriety of the reassignments that the petitioner, as the LWUA Administrator, ordered; this event triggered the dispute that is now before us. The reassignments, alleged to be without legal basis and arbitrary, led to the highhanded implementation that the respondents also complained about, and eventually to the CSC rulings that the respondents were constructively dismissed. They led also to the charge of harassment and oppression filed against the petitioner, which charge the Ombudsman dismissed. This dismissal, found by the CA to be attended by grave abuse of discretion, is the primary factual and legal issue we have to resolve in passing upon the propriety of the actions of the Ombudsman and the CA in the case. As the CSC and Ombudsman cases developed, the validity of the reassignments was the issue presented before CSC; the latter had the authority to declare the reassignments invalid but had no authority to penalize the petitioner for his acts. The character of the petitioners actions, alleged to be harassments and to be oppressive, were brought to the Ombudsman for administrative sanctions against the petitioner; it was the Ombudsman who had the authority to penalize the petitioner for his actions against the respondents. Under this clear demarcation, neither the CSC nor the Ombudsman intruded into each others jurisdictional domain and no forum shopping issue could have succeeded because of simultaneous recourses to these agencies. While both entities had to examine and to rule on the same set of facts, they did so for different purposes and for different resulting actions. The CSC took the graft charges the respondents brought against the petitioner into account, but this was for purposes of looking at the motive behind the reassignments and of viewing the petitioners acts in their totality. The same is true in viewing the manner of the implementation of the reassignments. Largely, however, the CSC based its ruling on a legal point that the LWUA Board, not the LWUA Administrator, can order reassignments. Thus, the CSC ruled that the reassignments constituted constructive dismissal. On the other hand, the Ombudsman, also relying on the events that transpired, should have judged the petitioners actions mainly on the basis of whether they constituted acts of harassment and oppression. In making this determination, the Ombudsman could not have escaped considering the validity of the reassignments made a determination that is primarily and authoritatively for the CSC to make. The charge of harassment and oppression would have no basis if the reassignments were in fact valid as they were alleged to be the main acts of harassment and oppression that drove the commission of the petitioners other similarly-motivated acts. In this sense, the validity of the reassignments must necessarily have to be determined first as a prior question before the full consideration of the existence of harassment or oppression could take place. Stated otherwise, any finding of harassment and oppression, or their absence, rendered without any definitive ruling on the validity of the reassignments would necessarily be premature. The finding would also suffer from the lack of factual and legal bases. We note that the Office of the Ombudsman duly noted in its decision that the CSC has primary jurisdiction over the issue of the reassignments validity, declaring that it "can hardly arrogate unto itself the task of resolving the said issue." This is a correct reading of the law as the CSC is the central personnel agency of the government whose powers extend to all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters. 28 Constitutionally, the CSC has the power and authority to administer and enforce the constitutional and statutory provisions on the merit system; promulgate policies, standards, and guidelines for the civil service; subject to certain exceptions, approve all appointments, whether original or promotional, to positions in the civil service; hear and decide administrative disciplinary cases instituted directly with it; and perform such other functions that properly belong to a central personnel agency.29Pursuant to these powers, the CSC has the authority to determine the validity of the appointments and movements of civil service personnel. Along the way, however, the Ombudsmans decision diverged from its basic legal premise when it refused to apply the rule it had acknowledged that the CSC is the "administrative body of special competence" to decide on the validity of the reassignments; it refused to accord due respect to the CSC opinion and, later, to the CSC Resolution No. 001729 on the flimsy ground that these were not yet final and conclusive. On the strength of this "non-finality" argument, the Ombudsman proceeded to declare the reassignments presumptively regular and, finding insufficient evidence of force and intimidation in the implementation of the reassignments by the petitioner and the OICs, sustained the invalid reassignments and their complementary acts. The effect, of course, was the exoneration of the petitioner and his co-defendants of the administrative charge of oppression and harassment. To the respondents and to the CA as well, the exoneration was attended by grave abuse of discretion. c. Prematurity and Arbitrariness After due consideration reflected in the discussions below, we find the Ombudsmans decision fatally flawed for prematurity and arbitrariness, particularly for its lack of legal and factual bases. As discussed above, a CSC determination of the validity of the reassignments is a ruling that the Ombudsman must consider in reaching its own conclusion on whether the reassignments and their implementation were attended by harassment or oppression. With the CSC rulings duly pleaded, the Ombudsman should have accorded these rulings due respect and recognition. If these rulings had not attained finality because of a properly filed motion for reconsideration, the Ombudsman should have at least waited so that its own ruling on the allegations of harassment and oppression would be grounded on the findings of the governmental agency with the primary authority to resolve the validity of the reassignments. An alternative course of action for the Ombudsman to ensure that his decision would have legal and factual bases and would not be tainted with arbitrariness or abuse of discretion, would have been to undertake its own examination of these reassignments from the perspective of harassment and oppression, and to make its own findings on the validity of the petitioners actions. It should have explained in clear terms and on the basis of substantial evidence on record why no harassment or oppression attended the reassigments and their implementation. Given the duly-pleaded CSC rulings, the Office of the Ombudsman should have explained why it did not need the CSCs pronouncements in making its determination, or if needed, why they should not be followed, stating clearly what exactly was wrong with the CSC's reasoning and why, contrary to the CSCs pronouncement, the reassignments were in fact valid and regular. Unfortunately, no such determination was ever made. Instead, the Office of the Ombudsman simply relied on the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty that it claimed the petitioner enjoyed, and from this premise, ruled that no harassment or oppression transpired in the absence of force or intimidation that attended the implementation of the reassignments. As a general rule, "official acts" enjoy the presumption of regularity, and the presumption may be overthrown only by evidence to the contrary. 30 When an act is official, a presumption of regularity exists because of the assumption that the law tells the official what his duties are and that he discharged these duties accordingly. But not all acts of public officers are "official acts," i.e., acts specified by law as an official duty or as a function attached to a public position, and the presumption does not apply when an officials acts are not within the duties specified by law,31 particularly when his acts properly pertain or belong to another entity, agency, or public official.

In the present case, the CSC had spoken by way of an en banc resolution, no less, that the petitioner LWUA Administrators reassignment orders were illegal because, by law, the authority to reassign officers and employees of the LWUA lies with the LWUA Board; the LWUA Administrators authority is merely to recommend a reassignment to the Board. For reason of its own, the Office of the Ombudsman disregarded this clear statement of the legal allocation of authority on the matter of reassignments.1avvphi1 This omission cannot but have fatal consequences for the Ombudsmans decision, anchored as it is on the presumption that the petitioner regularly performed his duty. For, shorn of any basis in law, the petitioner could not have acted with official authority and no presumption of regularity could have been applied in his behalf. Without a valid presumption of regularity, the major linchpin in the Ombudsmans decision is totally removed and the decision is left with nothing to support itself. An administrative decision, in order to be valid, should have, among others, "something to support itself."32 It must supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence adequate and acceptable enough for a reasonable mind to justify a conclusion or support a decision,33 even if other minds equally reasonable might conceivably opine otherwise.34 We note in this regard that the Office of the Ombudsman, other than through its "non-finality" argument, completely failed to explain why the reassignment orders were valid and regular and not oppressive as the respondents alleged. Effectively, it failed to rebut the CSCs declaration that a constructive dismissal took place. This omission is critical because the constructive dismissal conclusion relates back to the filing of graft charges against the petitioner as motive; explains why the respondents were transferred to ad hoc positions with no clear duties; and relates forward to the manner the respondents were ejected from their respective offices. If the Ombudsman made any factual finding at all, the finding was solely on the lack of violence or intimidation in the respondents ejectment from their offices. Violence or intimidation, however, are not the only indicators of harassment and oppression as jurisprudence shows.35 They are not the sole indicators in the context of the Ombudsmans decision because the findings in this regard solely relate to the implementation aspect of the reassignments ordered. We take judicial notice that harassments and oppression do not necessarily come in single isolated acts; they may come in a series of acts that torment, pester, annoy, irritate and disturb another and prejudice him; in the context of this case, the prejudice relates to the respondents work. Thus, a holistic view must be taken to determine if one is being harassed or oppressed by another. In this sense, and given the facts found by the CA, the Ombudsman ruling dwelling solely with the absence of violence and intimidation is a fatally incomplete ruling; it is not a ruling negating harassment and oppression that we can accept under the circumstances of this case. Effectively, it was an arbitrary ruling for lack of substantial support in evidence. The other end of the spectrum in viewing the reassignments and its related events, is the position the CSC and the CA have taken. The appellate court stated in its own decision: We likewise agree with the Civil Service Commission that respondent Administrator acted in bad faith in reassigning the petitioners barely ten (10) days after the latter filed their complaint against him for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. No reassignment shall be undertaken if done whimsically because the law is not intended as a convenient shield for the appointing/disciplining authority to harass or suppress a subordinate on the pretext of advancing and promoting public interest (Section 6, Rule III of Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 40. S. 1998). Additionally, the reassignments involved a reduction in rank as petitioners were consigned to a "floating assignment with no specificity as to functions, duties, and responsibilities" resulting in the removal from their supervision over their regular staff, subordinates, and even offices. Finally, the subsequent Order of respondent Administrator directing petitioners to desist from performing and exercising the functions of their respective positions constituted constructive dismissal. We hold that, based on the evidence presented, respondent Administrator is guilty of harassment and oppression as charged, penalized as grave offense under Executive Order No. 292 (Civil Service Law), section 22 (n) with suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year." We fully agree that the reassignments the petitioner ordered were done in bad faith amounting to constructive dismissal and abuse of authority. We affirm as well the CAs ruling finding that petitioner should be liable for oppression against the respondents. d. The Appropriate Penalty Oppression is characterized as a grave offense under Sec. 52(A)(14)36 of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service37 and Sec. 22(n)38 of the Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292 and Other Pertinent Civil Service Laws,39 penalized with suspension of 6 months and 1 day to 1 year on the first offense.1avvphi1 Considering that the oppression found was not a simple one, but was in response to the respondents filing of an anti-graft complaint against the petitioner, the penalty we should impose should reflect the graft-related origin of this case and should be in the maximum degree. Consequently, we modify the CA decision by increasing the penalty to suspension for one (1) year, in lieu of the six (6) months and one (1) day that the appellate court imposed. If the petitioner is no longer in the service, then the suspension should automatically take the form of a fine equivalent to the petitioners one-year salary at the time of his separation from the service. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. We AFFIRM the Court of Appeals Decision and Resolution dated November 27, 2001 and August 1, 2002, respectively, with the MODIFICATION that the penalty imposed is suspension of one (1) year, or, alternatively, a fine equivalent to oneyear salary if the petitioner has been separated from the service at the time of the finality of this Decision. Costs against the petitioner. SO ORDERED. II 1. G.R. No. L-21897 October 22, 1963

RAMON A. GONZALES, petitioner, vs. RUFINO G. HECHANOVA, as Executive Secretary, MACARIO PERALTA, JR., as Secretary of Defense, PEDRO GIMENEZ, as Auditor General, CORNELIO BALMACEDA, as Secretary of Commerce and Industry, and SALVADOR MARINO, Secretary of Justice, respondents. Ramon A. Gonzales in his own behalf as petitioner. Office of the Solicitor General and Estanislao Fernandez for respondents. CONCEPCION, J.:

This is an original action for prohibition with preliminary injunction. It is not disputed that on September 22, 1963, respondent Executive Secretary authorized the importation of 67,000 tons of foreign rice to be purchased from private sources, and created a rice procurement committee composed of the other respondents herein1 for the implementation of said proposed importation. Thereupon, or September 25, 1963, herein petitioner, Ramon A. Gonzales a rice planter, and president of the Iloilo Palay and Corn Planters Association, whose members are, likewise, engaged in the production of rice and corn filed the petition herein, averring that, in making or attempting to make said importation of foreign rice, the aforementioned respondents "are acting without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction", because Republic Act No. 3452 which allegedly repeals or amends Republic Act No. 220 explicitly prohibits the importation of rice and corn "the Rice and Corn Administration or any other government agency;" that petitioner has no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law; and that a preliminary injunction is necessary for the preservation of the rights of the parties during the pendency this case and to prevent the judgment therein from coming ineffectual. Petitioner prayed, therefore, that said petition be given due course; that a writ of preliminary injunction be forthwith issued restraining respondent their agents or representatives from implementing the decision of the Executive Secretary to import the aforementioned foreign rice; and that, after due hearing, judgment be rendered making said injunction permanent. Forthwith, respondents were required to file their answer to the petition which they did, and petitioner's pray for a writ of preliminary injunction was set for hearing at which both parties appeared and argued orally. Moreover, a memorandum was filed, shortly thereafter, by the respondents. Considering, later on, that the resolution said incident may require some pronouncements that would be more appropriate in a decision on the merits of the case, the same was set for hearing on the merits thereafter. The parties, however, waived the right to argue orally, although counsel for respondents filed their memoranda. I. Sufficiency of petitioner's interest. Respondents maintain that the status of petitioner as a rice planter does not give him sufficient interest to file the petition herein and secure the relief therein prayed for. We find no merit in this pretense. Apart from prohibiting the importation of rice and corn "by the Rice and Corn Administration or any other government agency". Republic Act No. 3452 declares, in Section 1 thereof, that "the policy of the Government" is to "engage in the purchase of these basic foods directly from those tenants, farmers, growers, producers and landowners in the Philippines who wish to dispose of their products at a price that will afford them a fair and just return for their labor and capital investment. ... ." Pursuant to this provision, petitioner, as a planter with a rice land of substantial proportion, 2 is entitled to a chance to sell to the Government the rice it now seeks to buy abroad. Moreover, since the purchase of said commodity will have to be effected with public funds mainly raised by taxation, and as a rice producer and landowner petitioner must necessarily be a taxpayer, it follows that he has sufficient personality and interest to seek judicial assistance with a view to restraining what he believes to be an attempt to unlawfully disburse said funds. II. Exhaustion of administrative remedies. Respondents assail petitioner's right to the reliefs prayed for because he "has not exhausted all administrative remedies available to him before coming to court". We have already held, however, that the principle requiring the previous exhaustion of administrative remedies is not applicable where the question in dispute is purely a legal one",3 or where the controverted act is "patently illegal" or was performed without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction, 4 or where the respondent is a department secretary, whose acts as an alter-ego of the President bear the implied or assumed approval of the latter,5 unless actually disapproved by him,6 or where there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention. 7 The case at bar fails under each one of the foregoing exceptions to the general rule. Respondents' contention is, therefore, untenable. III. Merits of petitioner's cause of action. Respondents question the sufficiency of petitioner's cause of action upon the theory that the proposed importation in question is not governed by Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452, but was authorized by the President as Commander-in-Chief "for military stock pile purposes" in the exercise of his alleged authority under Section 2 of Commonwealth Act No. 1;8 that in cases of necessity, the President "or his subordinates may take such preventive measure for the restoration of good order and maintenance of peace"; and that, as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, "the President ... is duty-bound to prepare for the challenge of threats of war or emergency withoutwaiting for any special authority". Regardless of whether Republic Act No. 3452 repeals Republic Act No. 2207, as contended by petitioner herein - on which our view need not be expressed we are unanimously of the opinion - assuming that said Republic Act No. 2207 is still in force that the two Acts are applicable to the proposed importation in question because the language of said laws is such as to include within the purview thereof all importations of rice and corn into the Philippines". Pursuant to Republic Act No. 2207, "it shall be unlawful for any person, association, corporation orgovernment agency to import rice and corn into any point in the Philippines", although, by way of exception, it adds, that "the President of the Philippines may authorize the importation of these commodities through any government agency that he may designate", is the conditions prescribed in Section 2 of said Act are present. Similarly, Republic Act No. 3452 explicitly enjoins "the Rice and Corn Administration or any government agency" from importing rice and corn. Respondents allege, however, that said provisions of Republic Act Nos. 2207 and 3452, prohibiting the importation of rice and corn by any "government agency", do not apply to importations "made by the Government itself", because the latter is not a "government agency". This theory is devoid of merit. The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as respondents herein, and each and every officer and employee of our Government, our government agencies and/or agents. The applicability of said laws even to importations by the Government as such, becomes more apparent when we consider that: 1. The importation permitted in Republic Act No. 2207 is to be authorized by the "President of the Philippines" and, hence, by or on behalf of the Government of the Philippines; 2. Immediately after enjoining the Rice and Corn administration and any other government agency from importing rice and corn, Section 10 of Republic Act No. 3452 adds "that the importation of rice and corn is left to private parties upon payment of the corresponding taxes", thus indicating that only "private parties" may import rice under its provisions; and 3. Aside from prescribing a fine not exceeding P10,000.00 and imprisonment of not more than five (5) years for those who shall violate any provision of Republic Act No. 3452 or any rule and regulation promulgated pursuant thereto, Section 15 of said Act provides that "if the offender is a public official and/or employees", he shall be subject to the additional penalty specified therein. A public official is an officer of the Government itself, as distinguished from officers or employees of instrumentalities of the Government. Hence, the duly authorized acts of the former are those of the Government, unlike those of a government instrumentality which may have a personality of its own, distinct and separate from that of the Government, as such. The provisions of Republic Act No. 2207 are, in this respect, even more explicit. Section 3 thereof provides a similar additional penalty for any "officer or employee of the Government" who "violates, abets or tolerates the violation of any provision" of said Act. Hence, the intent to apply the same to transactions made by the very government is patent.

Indeed, the restrictions imposed in said Republic Acts are merely additional to those prescribed in Commonwealth Act No. 138, entitled "An Act to give native products and domestic entities the preference in the purchase of articles for the Government." Pursuant to Section 1 thereof: The Purchase and Equipment Division of the Government of the Philippines and other officers and employees of the municipal and provincial governments and the Government of the Philippines and of chartered cities, boards, commissions, bureaus, departments, offices, agencies, branches, and bodies of any description, including government-owned companies, authorized to requisition, purchase, or contract or make disbursements for articles, materials, and supplies for public use, public buildings, or public works shall give preference to materials ... produced ... in the Philippines or in the United States, and to domestic entities, subject to the conditions hereinbelow specified. (Emphasis supplied.) Under this provision, in all purchases by the Government, including those made by and/or for the armed forces,preference shall be given to materials produced in the Philippines. The importation involved in the case at bar violates this general policy of our Government, aside from the provisions of Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452. The attempt to justify the proposed importation by invoking reasons of national security predicated upon the "worsening situation in Laos and Vietnam", and "the recent tension created by the Malaysia problem" - and the alleged powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces in the Philippines, under Section 2 of the National Defense Act (Commonwealth Act No. 1), overlooks the fact that the protection of local planters of rice and corn in a manner that would foster and accelerate self-sufficiency in the local production of said commodities constitutes a factor that is vital to our ability to meet possible national emergency. Even if the intent in importing goods in anticipation of such emergency were to bolster up that ability, the latter would, instead, be impaired if the importation were so made as to discourage our farmers from engaging in the production of rice. Besides, the stockpiling of rice and corn for purpose of national security and/or national emergency is within the purview of Republic Act No. 3452. Section 3 thereof expressly authorizes the Rice and Corn Administration "to accumulate stocks as a national reserve in such quantities as it may deem proper and necessary to meet any contingencies". Moreover, it ordains that "the buffer stocks held as a national reserve ... be deposited by the administration throughout the country under the proper dispersal plans ... and may be released only upon the occurrence of calamities or emergencies ...". (Emphasis applied.) Again, the provisions of Section 2 of Commonwealth Act No. 1, upon which respondents rely so much, are not self-executory. They merely outline the general objectives of said legislation. The means for the attainment of those objectives are subject to congressional legislation. Thus, the conditions under which the services of citizens, as indicated in said Section 2, may be availed of, are provided for in Sections 3, 4 and 51 to 88 of said Commonwealth Act No. 1. Similarly, Section 5 thereof specifies the manner in which resources necessary for our national defense may be secured by the Government of the Philippines, but only "during a national mobilization",9which does not exist. Inferentially, therefore, in the absence of a national mobilization, said resources shall be produced in such manner as Congress may by other laws provide from time to time. Insofar as rice and corn are concerned, Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452, and Commonwealth Act No. 138 are such laws. Respondents cite Corwin in support of their pretense, but in vain. An examination of the work cited10 shows that Corwin referred to the powers of the President during "war time"11 or when he has placed the country or a part thereof under "martial law".12 Since neither condition obtains in the case at bar, said work merely proves that respondents' theory, if accepted, would, in effect, place the Philippines under martial law, without a declaration of the Executive to that effect. What is worse, it would keep us perpetually under martial law. It has been suggested that even if the proposed importation violated Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452, it should, nevertheless, be permitted because "it redounds to the benefit of the people". Salus populi est suprema lex, it is said. If there were a local shortage of rice, the argument might have some value. But the respondents, as officials of this Government, have expressly affirmed again and again that there is no rice shortage. And the importation is avowedly for stockpile of the Army not the civilian population. But let us follow the respondents' trend of thought. It has a more serious implication that appears on the surface. It implies that if an executive officer believes that compliance with a certain statute will not benefit the people, he is at liberty to disregard it. That idea must be rejected - we still live under a rule of law. And then, "the people" are either producers or consumers. Now as respondents explicitly admit Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452 were approved by the Legislature for the benefit of producers and consumers, i.e., the people, it must follow that the welfare of the people lies precisely in the compliance with said Acts. It is not for respondent executive officers now to set their own opinions against that of the Legislature, and adopt means or ways to set those Acts at naught. Anyway, those laws permit importation but under certain conditions, which have not been, and should be complied with. IV. The contracts with Vietnam and Burma It is lastly contended that the Government of the Philippines has already entered into two (2) contracts for the Purchase of rice, one with the Republic of Vietnam, and another with the Government of Burma; that these contracts constitute valid executive agreements under international law; that such agreements became binding effective upon the signing thereof by representatives the parties thereto; that in case of conflict between Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452 on the one hand, and aforementioned contracts, on the other, the latter should prevail, because, if a treaty and a statute are inconsistent with each other, the conflict must be resolved under the American jurisprudence in favor of the one which is latest in point of time; that petitioner herein assails the validity of acts of the Executive relative to foreign relations in the conduct of which the Supreme Court cannot interfere; and the aforementioned contracts have already been consummated, the Government of the Philippines having already paid the price of the rice involved therein through irrevocable letters of credit in favor of the sell of the said commodity. We find no merit in this pretense. The Court is not satisfied that the status of said tracts as alleged executive agreements has been sufficiently established. The parties to said contracts do not pear to have regarded the same as executive agreements. But, even assuming that said contracts may properly considered as executive agreements, the same are unlawful, as well as null and void, from a constitutional viewpoint, said agreements being inconsistent with the provisions of Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452. Although the President may, under the American constitutional system enter into executive agreements without previous legislative authority, he may not, by executive agreement, enter into a transaction which is prohibited by statutes enacted prior thereto. Under the Constitution, the main function of the Executive is to enforce laws enacted by Congress. The former may not interfere in the performance of the legislative powers of the latter, except in the exercise of his veto power. He may not defeat legislative enactments that have acquired the status of law, by indirectly repealing the same through an executive agreement providing for the performance of the very act prohibited by said laws.

The American theory to the effect that, in the event of conflict between a treaty and a statute, the one which is latest in point of time shall prevail, is not applicable to the case at bar, for respondents not only admit, but, alsoinsist that the contracts adverted to are not treaties. Said theory may be justified upon the ground that treaties to which the United States is signatory require the advice and consent of its Senate, and, hence, of a branch of the legislative department. No such justification can be given as regards executive agreements not authorized by previous legislation, without completely upsetting the principle of separation of powers and the system of checks and balances which are fundamental in our constitutional set up and that of the United States. As regards the question whether an international agreement may be invalidated by our courts, suffice it to say that the Constitution of the Philippines has clearly settled it in the affirmative, by providing, in Section 2 of Article VIII thereof, that the Supreme Court may not be deprived "of its jurisdiction to review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal, certiorari, or writ of error as the law or the rules of court may provide, final judgments and decrees of inferior courts in (1) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, law, ordinance, or executive order or regulation is in question". In other words, our Constitution authorizes the nullification of a treaty, not only when it conflicts with the fundamental law, but, also, when it runs counter to an act of Congress. The alleged consummation of the aforementioned contracts with Vietnam and Burma does not render this case academic, Republic Act No. 2207 enjoins our Government not from entering into contracts for the purchase of rice, but from importing rice, except under the conditions Prescribed in said Act. Upon the other hand, Republic Act No. 3452 has two (2) main features, namely: (a) it requires the Government to purchase rice and corn directly from our local planters, growers or landowners; and (b) it prohibits importations of rice by the Government, and leaves such importations to private parties. The pivotal issue in this case is whether the proposed importation which has not been consummated as yet is legally feasible. Lastly, a judicial declaration of illegality of the proposed importation would not compel our Government to default in the performance of such obligations as it may have contracted with the sellers of the rice in question, because, aside from the fact that said obligations may be complied with without importing the commodity into the Philippines, the proposed importation may still be legalized by complying with the provisions of the aforementioned laws. V. The writ of preliminary injunction. The members of the Court have divergent opinions on the question whether or not respondents herein should be enjoined from implementing the aforementioned proposed importation. However, the majority favors the negative view, for which reason the injunction prayed for cannot be granted. WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring that respondent Executive Secretary had and has no power to authorize the importation in question; that he exceeded his jurisdiction in granting said authority; said importation is not sanctioned by law and is contrary to its provisions; and that, for lack of the requisite majority, the injunction prayed for must be and is, accordingly denied. It is so ordered. 2. G.R. No. 157972 October 30, 2006

HRS. OF SPS. LUCIANO and CONSOLACION VENTURILLO, Represented by ROWENA B. VENTURILLOSUCALDITO, petitioners, vs. HON. JESUS V. QUITAIN, Presiding Judge, RTC-Br. 15, 11th Judicial Region, Davao City and ENG'R. MEINRADO R. METRAN, City Engineer and Building Official of The City of Davao, respondents. TINGA, J.: The Heirs of Spouses Luciano and Consolacion Venturillo (Heirs of Venturillo), represented by Rowena B. Venturillo-Sucaldito, assail for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion the Order1 dated April 22, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 15, which dismissed their petition for mandamus and denied their prayer for injunctive relief. The following statement of facts is taken from the Court's Resolution2 dated May 15, 2003: Sometime in 1942, the Spouses Luciano and Consolacion Venturillo occupied a 678-square meter lot in Poblacion, Davao City, said lot being public land. The Venturillo couple erected a house on the said property and begot 11 children, the petitioners herein, during their lifetime. In 1974, the Davao City Assessor's Office directed the Venturillos to file a Tax Declaration. They complied with the said directive and paid the required taxes. The petitioners then continued the renewal of the tax declarations and paying of taxes. Sometime in 2000, Rowena Venturillo-Sucaldito filed a sales application with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the DENR wrote the City Government for its comments regarding her application. In response, respondent City Engineer sent an inspection team to check out the property. On June 8, 2000, the inspectors submitted a report recommending the approval of Sucaldito's application. No immediate action, however, was taken by respondent City Engineer on the report. On October 4, 2001, respondent City Engineer asked the petitioners to secure a building permit for the house erected on the lot, after it was shown that said structure had no building permit. The petitioners then hired an engineer who prepared the necessary plans and other documents, which were submitted to the respondent City Engineer. On October 27, 2002, the Sanggunian Barangay of Barangay 4-A, Poblacion, Davao City passed a resolution requesting the Sanggunian Panglungsud of Davao City to declare the portion of the proposed extension of Mayon St., as "suppressed road." On January 8, 2003, respondent City Engineer sent petitioners a Notice of Order of Removal. On February 13, 2003, the Zoning Administrator wrote petitioners that the area they were occupying is a road right-of-way.

On March 20, 2003, the petitioners herein filed a petition for mandamus with urgent prayer for temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction against respondent City Engineer with the RTC of Davao City, docketed as SP Civil Case No. 29597-2003. The trial court granted the temporary restraining order prayed for. On March 25, 2003, the trial court ordered the parties in a hearing set for March 27, 2003 to determine whether the TRO should be extended for 17 days. Said hearing, however, was cancelled at the manifestation of the respondent City Engineer. On March 31, 2003, the hearing for the writ of preliminary injunction was set for April 14-15, 2003. On April 8, 2003, respondent City Engineer moved for an extension of time to file his answer to the petition. On April 15, 2003, the respondent City Engineer manifested in open court that he was not opposing the application for a writ of preliminary injunction. The trial court then ordered the petitioners to submit their formal offer of exhibits to support their application on April 21, 2003 and the City Engineer to comment upon the same within five days from receipt, after which the trial court would rule upon the application for injunction. On April 22, 2003, petitioner moved to have their tardily filed formal exhibits admitted and submitted their formal offer of exhibits. That same day, the trial court denied the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction and dismissed the SP Civil Case No. 295972003. The Heirs of Venturillo allege that the trial court gravely abused its discretion when it dismissed their petition for mandamus and denied their prayer for injunction without: (1) ruling on the admissibility of their admittedly tardy formal offer of exhibits; (2) waiting for respondent City Engineer's comment or objection to said formal offer; and (3) without waiting for the answer of the City Engineer in the mandamus case. In the afore-cited Resolution dated May 15, 2003, the Court, ruling that there is a need to maintain the last, actual, peaceable, and uncontested state of things which preceded the present controversy, directed the parties to maintain the status quo. The Office of the City Legal Officer filed a Comment 3 dated July 31, 2003 on behalf of respondent City Engineer Meinrado R. Metran, contending that the trial court's dismissal of the petition for mandamus and denial of the prayer for injunction do not constitute grave abuse of discretion. According to respondent, the Heirs of Venturillo were not able to establish any legal right to demand the issuance of a building permit because the lot on which their structure was constructed remains to be public land delineated as a road right-of-way. Although the Heirs of Venturillo filed a sales application with the DENR, their application was not processed. Moreover, the Heirs of Venturillo allegedly failed to comply with the indispensable requirement of filing a motion for reconsideration before they sought recourse to this Court via a petition for certiorari. Neither did they file an appeal of the trial court's final Order. The Heirs of Venturillo filed a Reply4 dated December 15, 2003 reiterating their arguments. In the Resolution5 dated May 19, 2004, the parties were required to file their respective memoranda. Thus, respondent filed a Memorandum6 dated July 15, 2004, while the Heirs of Venturillo filed their Memorandum 7 on September 21, 2004. The general rule is that the remedy to obtain reversal or modification of a judgment on the merits is appeal. This is true even if the error ascribed to the court which rendered judgment is its lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, or the exercise of power in excess thereof, or grave abuse of discretion in the findings of fact or of law set out in the decision. 8 In this case, the Heirs of Venturillo received the assailed Order of the trial court on April 25, 2003. They therefore had 15 days from this date, or until May 10, 2003, within which to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals under Rule 41 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules of Court) or a petition for review on certiorari to this Court under Rule 45 of the same rules. However, in the guise of availing of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, the Heirs of Venturillo filed their petition only on May 12, 2003. It is axiomatic that the special civil action of certiorari cannot be used as a substitute for the lost or lapsed remedy of appeal.9 Even assuming that the Heirs of Venturillo have a cause of action ripe for the extraordinary writ of certiorari, they clearly disregarded the hierarchy of courts when they directly filed their petition with this Court without adducing any special and important reason or exceptional or compelling circumstance for such a recourse. Considering that the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is within the concurrent original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, the petition should have been initially filed in the Court of Appeals in strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts.10 Moreover, the Heirs of Venturillo failed to file a motion for reconsideration of the trial court's Order, depriving the latter of the opportunity to correct whatever error it may have committed. Rule 65 of the Rules of Court requires that petitioner be left with "no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law."11 A motion for reconsideration is a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy. The filing thereof is a condition precedent in order that a petition for certiorari may be given due course.12 Although there are certain recognized exceptions to this rule, such as where the order is a patent nullity for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the court which rendered it, or where the questions raised in the certiorari proceeding have been duly raised and passed upon in the lower court,13 we find no such exception in this case which would warrant a departure from the rule. Regional Trial Courts are fully clothed with jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction which may be enforced in any part of their respective regions. Moreover, the question of whether it should have first ruled on the admissibility of the tardy formal offer of exhibits filed by the Heirs of Venturillo, and waited for respondent's comment or objection to said formal offer and answer in the mandamus case, were not raised and passed upon by the trial court precisely because the Heirs of Venturillo failed to file a motion for reconsideration. Had they done so, the trial court would have been given the opportunity to correct any factual or fancied error attributed to it by way of re-examination of the legal and factual aspects of the case. These procedural errors, notwithstanding, and in the interest of finally disposing of this case, we reviewed its merits and found that indeed grave abuse of discretion attended the issuance of the assailed Order of the trial court. The remedy of mandamus lies to compel the performance of a ministerial duty.14 A purely ministerial act or duty, in contradistinction to a discretionary act, is one which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment, upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done. If the law imposes a

duty upon a public officer, and gives him the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed, such duty is discretionary and not ministerial.15 The issuance of a building permit may be considered a ministerial duty only when the application and the plans are in conformity with the requirements of zoning and land use, lines and grades, structural design, sanitary and sewerage, environmental health, electrical and mechanical safety as well as with other rules and regulations promulgated in accordance with the provisions of the National Building Code. 16 In this case, the Heirs of Venturillo complied with all the requirements for the procurement of a building permit enumerated under the National Building Code, such as the description of the work to be covered by the permit applied for; description and ownership of the lot on which the proposed work is to be done; the use or occupancy for which the proposed work is intended; estimated cost of the proposed work; and the plans and specifications prepared, signed and sealed by a duly licensed engineer.17 They also paid the requisite fees for the application. 18 Having done so, it became incumbent upon respondent City Engineer to issue the building permit applied for. His refusal to perform an act which the law enjoins him to do, upon the full compliance by the Heirs of Venturillo of the conditions provided under the law, entitles the latter to the writ of mandamus prayed for. By the same token, the Heirs of Venturillo are entitled to a writ of injunction to prevent the threatened summary demolition of their residence. The requisites for an injunctive writ to issue are that: (1) the petitioner/applicant must have a clear and unmistakable right; (2) there is a material and substantial invasion of such right; and (3) there is an urgent and permanent necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. 19 Respondent City Engineer's refusal to issue the building permit and concomitant order for the Heirs of Venturillo to cause the demolition of their house or else the same shall be summarily demolished20 are premised on the fact that the house which the Heirs of Venturillo intended to refurbish stands in the middle of the proposed extension of Mt. Mayon Street, an area which had been declared as a road right-of-way by the City Government. It should be emphasized, however, that the Heirs of Venturillo, through their parents, have continuously possessed and occupied the land on which the house sought to be refurbished stands since 1942. This possession was with the tacit consent and authorization of the City Government. In fact, the City Assessor's Office directed the Venturillos to file tax declarations and pay real property taxes thereon which they have consistently complied with. In Estate of Gregoria Francisco v. Court of Appeals,21 the municipal mayor of Isabela, Basilan ordered the summary demolition, without judicial authority, of a quonset building which stood on a lot owned by the Philippine Ports Authority. The municipal mayor justified the demolition as an exercise of police power and for reasons of health, safety and general welfare. The Court awarded just compensation the amount of which was for the trial court to determine in favor of the petitioner whose building was demolished by the municipality even before a proper tribunal could decide whether or not the building constituted a nuisance in law. The ruling was premised on the ground that the owner of the building was in lawful possession of the lot and the building by virtue of the permit from the authorized government agency when the demolition was affected. In the same vein, by virtue of the City Government's tacit consent, the Heirs of Venturillo are not squatters on public land but are in lawful possession thereof, including the house subject of the summary demolition order of respondent City Engineer. The Heirs of Venturillo have a clear and unmistakable legal right not to be disturbed in their lawful possession of the property unless the proper judicial tribunal has determined that the same constitutes a nuisance in law. The trial court should have issued an injunctive writ to prevent the imminent threat of summary demolition of the Heirs of Venturillo's residence without judicial proceedings. That it failed to safeguard petitioners' right to due process constitutes grave abuse of discretion. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Order dated April 22, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 15, is ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. The public respondent City Engineer of Davao City is DIRECTED to issue in favor of petitioners the building permit applied for. He is further ORDERED to CEASE and DESIST from enforcing the Order of Removal dated January 8, 2003. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. III 1.