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181 PONTEJOS v.

DESIERTO
Date: 07 July 2009 GR Number: 148600 Ponente:
Leonardo-De
Castro, J.
Article 3, Section 1 Your name: Hazel Dee
Petitioners: Respondents:
Atty. Emmanuel Pontejos Hon. Aniano A. Desierto and Restituto Aquino
Doctrine:
A formal type of hearing is not always necessary as long as the respondent was given the
opportunity to present his side, which is what happened in the case at bar.
Facts:
In this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, petitioner seeks to set aside the
decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of respondent Aniano Desierto as
Ombudsman, who found petitioner guilty of grave misconduct and ordered his dismissal.
On August 26, 1998, the Housing and Land Regulatory Board (HLURB) received a Notice
of Appeal filed by Rasemco Inc. represented by its president Restituto Aquino, decided by
Arbiter Pontejos, petitioner herein. Aquino asked for the nullification of all the proceedings
conducted before the petitioner for alleged extortion, bribery and graft and corruption, the
petitioner allegedly in conspiracy with Imperial and Atos both of HLURB and Ngo, and officer
of Hammercon. Aquino claims that they demanded and received monetary consideration in
exchange for a favorable decision, issuing a license despite a known impediment. HLURB
created a fact-finding committee to deal with the complaint, and during their investigation
Aquino filed an administrative complaint with the Ombudsman. The accused denied the
allegations, Pontejos adding that it is nothing more than a disgruntled losing party seeking to
gain leverage. Eventually the committee of the HLURB referred their report to the
Ombudsman.
Respondent Aniano Desierto placed Pontejos under preventive suspension for six
months without pay but eventually after finding probable cause to commence trial he was
convicted of estafa and direct bribery while his fellow accused, Imperial and Ngo were
acquitted while Atos was extended immunity as state witness. Petitioner moved to reconsider
with the Ombudsman which was denied. It was then forwarded to the CA which the appellate
court also denied.
Issue/s: Ruling:
1. Whether or not the CA erred in not declaring that the proceedings 1. No
before the Ombudsman were tainted with ill-motives.
2. Whether or not the CA erred in not declaring improper the grant of 2. No
immunity to Atos.
3. No
3. Whether or not the CA erred in not declaring that the petitioner was
denied of his right to due process by the Ombudsman.
Rationale/Analysis/Legal Basis:

1. Petitioner argues that HLURB commissioner Teresita Desierto, the spouse of


Ombudsman Desierto allegedly harbored resentment against him for signing a
Manifesto issue by some lawyers in the HLURB. This led him to conclude that the
Commissioner is the unseen hand behind the filing of the criminal cases, and that the
proceedings before the Ombudsman were tainted with ill-motives. The court rejected
this argument for petitioner based his theories on mere speculations and conjectures.
He presented no evidence that would prove the Commissioner’s interference in the
proceedings, or even that she bore a grudge against the petitioner.

2. It is constitutionally permissible for Congress to vest the prosecutor with the power to
determine who can qualify as a witness and be granted immunity from prosecution as
long as the following requisites are present: There is absolute necessity for the
testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested; There is no other direct
evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the
testimony of said accused; The testimony of said accused can be substantially
corroborated in its material points; Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty;
and said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral
turpitude. The fact that an individual had not been previously charged or included in an
information does not prevent the prosecution from utilizing said person as a witness.
In the case at bar, the unjust favoritism was not proven so the grant of immunity to
Atos is justified.

3. Petitioner alleges that he was not furnished a copy of the Affidavit of Atos, so he was
not afforded the opportunity to challenge the allegations in the affidavit, violating his
right to due process. Contrary to his assertion, the records show that petitioner
eventually received a copy of the Affidavit. He even challenged it in hi motion for
reinvestigation and requested a reconsideration. His right was clearly not violated for
he was given the opportunity to be heard and he availed it. Petitioner also contends
that the fact that he was not able to confront Aquino who failed to appear in two
hearings, also constitutes as a violation of his right to due process. He alleges that the
absence of Aquino can be a ground for the dismissal of the case. He insists that no
substantial evidence existed to hold him liable and the Ombudsman only relied on the
affidavits of Atos and the subordinates of Aquino. The court ruled that in an
administrative context, proceedings followed in the courts of justice are not required.
When the respondent is afforded the opportunity to be heard there is no violation of
the right to due process. A formal type of hearing is not always necessary as long as the
respondent was given the opportunity to present his side, which is what happened in
the case at bar. The petitioner was given ample time to prepare his defense. He was
even able to seek reconsideration through his appeals. He had the opportunity to be
heard, present his case and to submit his evidence. Even the absence of Aquino in some
hearings does not affect the fact that he was accorded due process. Respecting the
findings of the Ombudsman, there is substantial evidence to warrant herein
petitioner’s dismissal.