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JOHN ALEXANDER S.

BELDEROL

PUBLIC OFFICERS
LAUREL vs. HON. DESIERTO
G.R. No. 145368

April 12, 2002

PRINCIPLES: 1. Definition of Public Office and Public Officer: 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.
2. Test or Criterion to Determine Whether or Not an Office is a Public Office. 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.
FACTS:
On June 13, 1991, President Aquino issued Administrative Order No. 223 constituting a Committee for the
preparation of the National Centennial Celebration in 1998, later renamed by President Ramos as the National Centennial
Commission, to take charge of preparations for the National Celebration of the Philippine Centennial of the Declaration of
Philippine Independence and the Inauguration of the Malolos Congress. Appointed to chair the reconstituted Commission was
Vice-President Salvador H. Laurel. Subsequently, a corporation named the Philippine Centennial Expo 98 Corporation
(Expocorp) was created. Petitioner was elected Expocorp Chief Executive Officer.
On August 5, 1998, Senator 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. Senator Cosetengs speech was referred
to the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (The Blue Ribbon Committee) for investigation. President
Estrada created an independent citizens committee to investigate all the facts and circumstances surrounding the Philippine
centennial projects. 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.
Petitioner assails the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman on the ground that he is not a public officer because:
A. EXPOCORP 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.
ISSUE:
Was petitioner, in his capacity as NCC and Expocorp Chair, a public officer, and therefore may be prosecuted as
such by the Ombudsman?
RULING:
Yes. The characteristics of a public office 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. The
delegation to the individual of some of the sovereign functions of government is the most important characteristic in determining
whether a position is a public office or not.
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. In its preamble, A.O. No.
223 states the purposes for the creation of the Committee for the National Centennial Celebrations in 1998: to effectively
showcase Filipino heritage and thereby strengthen Filipino values. The NCC was precisely created to execute these policies
and objectives, to carry them into effect. It bears noting the President, upon whom the executive power is vested, created the
NCC by executive order. Book III of the Administrative Code (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 in implementation or
execution of constitutional or statutory powers shall be promulgated in executive orders.
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. 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.

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. Such a narrow definition of public officer cannot be countenanced. It is clear 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.
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. Petitioner thus falls into that category of public officers that may be prosecuted by the Ombudsman.
Petition is DISMISSED.