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TITLE : 019 Valera vs.

Office of the Ombudsman, 547 SCRA 43

FACTS : Valera, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs, was charged with criminal offenses
involving violation of various provisions of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019, the Tariff and Customs Code of
the Philippines (TCCP), Executive Order No. 38, Executive Order No. 298 and R.A. No. 6713 as well as
administrative offenses of Grave Misconduct and Serious Irregularity in the Performance of Duty. Similar
allegations as those in the other complaint in that Valera, without being duly authorized by the
Commissioner of Customs, entered into a compromise agreement with Steel Asia Manufacturing Corp.
in Civil Case No. 01-102504 in that the said company was allowed to redeem the spurious tax credit
certificates with a 30-month staggered payment when sufficient properties of the said company had
already been attached to satisfy not only the P37 million principal amount of taxes owed by the said
company but the penalty charges and damages as well. He further unjustifiably exonerated the said
companys officers of any criminal wrongdoing when they are conclusively liable for the procurement of
these spurious tax credit certificates to the prejudice of the government. An order placed Valera under
preventive suspension for six months without pay for entering compromise agreement with Steel Asia
Manufacturing Corp. in Civil Case No. 01-102504 without being duly authorized to do so by the
Commissioner of Customs and without the approval of the Secretary of Finance in violation of Section
2316 of the TCCP. Said order was deemed immediately effective and executory.

ISSUE : WON Special Prosecutor Villa-Ignacio has the authority to place respondent Valera under
preventive suspension
HELD : The Court holds that the Special Prosecutor has no such authority. It is noted that petitioner
Special Prosecutor Villa-Ignacio anchors his authority to conduct the administrative investigation in
OMB-C-A-03-0379-J on the Memorandum dated November 12, 2003 issued by Ombudsman inhibiting
himself therefrom and directing petitioner Special Prosecutor Villa-Ignacio to act in his stead.
Significantly, Ombudsman did not state in the said memorandum the reason for his inhibition. Similar to
judges, Ombudsman has no unfettered discretion to inhibit himself. The inhibition must be for just and
valid causes.

Moreover, Special Prosecutor may recommend to the Ombudsman to place the said public officer or
employee under preventive suspension. With respect to the conduct of administrative investigation, the
Special Prosecutor’s authority, insofar as preventive suspension is concerned, is akin to that of the PIAB-
A, i.e., recommendatory in nature. It bears stressing that the power to place a public officer or employee
under preventive suspension pending an investigation is lodged only with the Ombudsman or the
Deputy Ombudsmen.

Alan A Gultia