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G.R. No. 191219 July 31, 2013 Castillo III, Chief, Gen.

Materials Office/Technical
Inspector, PNP, while in the performance of their
SPO1 RAMON LIHAYLIHAY1 AND C/INSP. VIRGILIO V.
respective official and administrative functions as
VINLUAN, Petitioners,
such, taking advantage of their positions, committing
vs.
the offense in relation to their office and conspiring,
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
confederating with one another, did then and there
RESOLUTION willfully, unlawfully and criminally, through evident
bad faith, cause undue injury to the government in
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.: the following manner:
Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari2 are Accused Gen. Nazareno in his capacity as Chief, PNP
the Decision3 dated August 8, 2008 and and concurrently Board Chairman of the PNP Service
Resolution4 dated February 12, 2010 of the Store System, surreptitiously channeled PNP funds to
Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 22098 which the PNP SSS through "Funded RIVs" valued at ₱8
found petitioners Virgilio V. Vinluan (Vii1luan) and [M]illion and Director Domondon released ASA No.
Ramon Lihaylihay (Lihaylihay) guilty beyond 000-200-004-92 (SN-1353) without proper authority
reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of Section from the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM)
3(e) of Republic Act No. (RA) 3019, otherwise known and Department of Budget and Management (DBM),
as the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act." and caused it to appear that there were purchases
The Facts and deliveries of combat clothing and individual
equipment (CCIE) to the General Service Command
Acting on the special audit report5 submitted by the (GSC), PNP, by deliberately and maliciously using
Commission on Audit, the Philippine National Police funds for personal services and divided the invoices of
(PNP) conducted an internal investigation6 on the not more than ₱500,000.00 each, pursuant to which
purported "ghost" purchases of combat, clothing, and the following invoices were made and payments were
individual equipment (CCIE) worth ₱133,000,000.00 effected therefor through the corresponding checks,
which were allegedly purchased from the PNP Service to wit:
Store System (SSS) and delivered to the PNP General
Services Command (GSC). As a result of the internal Invoice No. Check No. Amount
investigation, an Information7 was filed before the
Sandiganbayan, charging 10 PNP officers, including, 30368 880932 P 500,000.00
among others, Vinluan and Lihaylihay, for the crime of
violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019, the accusatory
30359 880934 500,000.00
portion of which reads:

That on January 3, 6, 8, 9 and 10, 1992, and for 30324 880935 500,000.00
sometime subsequent thereto, in Quezon City,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this 30325 8080936 500,000.00
Honorable Court, the above-named accused public
officers namely: Gen. Cesar P. Nazareno, being then
30322 8080937 500,000.00
the Director General of the Philippine National Police
(PNP); Gen. Guillermo T. Domondon, Director for
Comptrollership, PNP; Sr. Supt. Bernardo Alejandro, 30356 8080938 500,000.00
Administrator, PNP Service Store System; Sr. Supt.
Arnulfo Obillos, Director, PNP, General Services 30364 8080939 500,000.00
Command (GSC); C/Insp. Virgilio Vinluan, Chairman,
Inspection and Acceptance Committee, PNP, GSC; 30360 8080940 500,000.00
C/Insp. Pablito Magnaye, Member, Inspection and
Acceptance Committee, PNP, GSC; Sr. Insp. Amado 30365 8080941 500,000.00
Guiriba, Jr., Member, Inspection and Acceptance
Committee, PNP, GSC; SPO1 Ramon Lihay-Lihay, 30323 880943 500,000.00
Inspector, Office of the Directorate for
Comptrollership, PNP; Chief Supt. Jose M. Aquino,
Director, Finance Service, PNP; and Sr. Supt. Marcelo
30358 880942 500,000.00 finding Obillos, Vinluan, and Lihaylihay guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime charged.13 It found
that all the essential elements of the crime of
30362 880943 500,000.00
violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 were present in
the case, in particular that: (a) Obillos, Vinluan, and
30366 880943 500,000.00 Lihaylihay are public officers discharging
administrative functions; (b) they have acted with
30357 880946 500,000.00 evident bad faith in the discharge of their respective
functions considering that: (1) seven of the sixteen
30361 880947 500,000.00 Requisition and Invoice Vouchers (RIVs) bore erasures
and/or superimposition to make it appear that the
30363 880948 500,000.00 transactions were entered into in 1992 instead of
1991;14 (2) the details of the supplies purportedly
P 8,000,000.00 received and inspected were not reflected in the
============= Reports of Public Property Purchased, thus, indicating
that no actual inspection of the items were
thereafter, accused members of the Inspection and made;15 and (3) there was a "splitting" of the subject
Acceptance Committee together with respondents transactions into ₱500,000.00 each to avoid the
Marcelo Castillo III and Ramon Lihay-Lihay certified or review of a higher authority as well as to make it fall
caused to be certified that the CCIE items covered by within the signing authority of Obillos; and (c) they
the aforementioned invoices were delivered, properly failed to refute the prosecution’s claim that the
inspected and accepted, and subsequently distributed subject CCIE items were never received by Supply
to the end-users, when in truth and in fact, as accused Accountable Officer of the GSC (GSC SAO), Dante
well knew, no such purchases of CCIE items were Mateo (Mateo), nor delivered to its end-
made and no items were delivered, inspected, users,17 hence, leading to the conclusion that the
accepted and distributed to the respective end-users; subject transactions were indeed "ghost" purchases
that despite the fact that no deliveries were made, which resulted to an ₱8,000,000.00 loss to the
respondent Alejandro claimed payment therefor, and government. In view of their conviction, Obillos,
respondent Obillos approved the disbursement Vinluan, and Lihaylihay were sentenced to suffer
vouchers therefor as well as the checks authorizing imprisonment for a term of six years and one month,
payment which was countersigned by respondent as minimum, to nine years and one day, as maximum,
Aquino; and as a result, the government, having been including the penalty of perpetual disqualification
caused to pay for the inexistent purchases and from public office. They were likewise ordered to
deliveries, suffered undue injury in the amount of jointly and severally indemnify the government the
EIGHT MILLION PESOS (₱8,000,000.00), more or less. amount of ₱8,000,000.00.18 Aggrieved, Obillos,
Vinluan, and Lihaylihay filed their separate motions
CONTRARY TO LAW.8 for reconsideration which were all denied in a
Four of the above-named accused died during the Resolution19 dated February 12, 2010. Hence, the
pendency of the case, while Chief Supt. Jose M. instant petition.
Aquino was dropped from the Information for lack of The Issue Before the Court
probable cause.9 As such, only Director Guillermo
Domondon, Sr. (Domondon), Supt. Arnulfo Obillos The essential issue in this case is whether or not
(Obillos), C/Inspector Vinluan, Sr. Inspector Amado petitioners’ conviction for the crime of violation of
Guiriba, Jr. (Guiriba), and SPO1 Lihaylihay remained as Section 3(e) of RA 3019 was proper.
accused in the subject case. During their arraignment, The Court’s Ruling
Domondon, Obillos, Vinluan, and Lihaylihay all
pleaded not guilty to the crime charged,10 while The petition lacks merit.
Guiriba remained at large.11
At the outset, it bears pointing out that in appeals
The Sandiganbayan Ruling from the Sandiganbayan, as in this case, only
questions of law and not questions of fact may be
On August 8, 2008, the Sandiganbayan rendered the raised. Issues brought to the Court on whether the
assailed Decision,12 exonerating Domondon but prosecution was able to prove the guilt of the accused
beyond reasonable doubt, whether the presumption Lastly, as to the third element, petitioners’
of innocence was sufficiently debunked, whether or participation in facilitating the payment of non-
not conspiracy was satisfactorily established, or existent CCIE items resulted to an ₱8,000,000.00 loss
whether or not good faith was properly appreciated, on the part of the government.1âwphi1
are all, invariably, questions of fact.20 Hence, absent
Thus, considering the presence of all its elements, the
any of the recognized exceptions to the above-
Court sustains the conviction of petitioners for the
mentioned rule,21the Sandiganbayan’s findings on
crime of violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019.
the foregoing matters should be deemed as
conclusive. In this relation, it must be clarified that the ruling in
Arias v. Sandiganbayan29 (Arias) cannot be applied to
Petitioners were charged with the crime of violation
exculpate petitioners in view of the peculiar
of Section 3(e)22 of RA 3019 which has the following
circumstances in this case which should have
essential elements: (a) the accused must be a public
prompted them to exercise a higher degree of
officer discharging administrative, judicial or official
circumspection, and consequently, go beyond what
functions; (b) he must have acted with manifest
their subordinates had prepared. In particular, the
partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable
tampered dates on some of the RIVs, the incomplete
negligence; and (c) his action caused any undue injury
certification by GSC SAO Mateo on the date of receipt
to any party, including the government, or gave any
of the CCIE items, the missing details on the Reports
private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or
of Public Property Purchased and the fact that sixteen
preference in the discharge of his functions.23 As
checks all dated January 15, 1992 were payable to
observed by the Sandiganbayan, all these elements
PNP SSS should have aroused a reasonable sense of
are extant in this case:
suspicion or curiosity on their part if only to
As to the first element, it is undisputed that both determine that they were not approving a fraudulent
petitioners were public officers discharging transaction. In a similar case where the documents in
administrative functions at the time material to this question bore irregularities too evident to ignore, the
case. Court in Cruz v. Sandiganbayan30carved out an
exception to the Arias doctrine and as such, held:
As to the second element, records show that Vinluan,
in his capacity as Chairman of the Inspection and Unlike in Arias, however, there exists in the present
Acceptance Committee, signed the 16 certificates of case an exceptional circumstance which should have
acceptance, inventory, and delivery of articles from prodded petitioner, if he were out to protect the
the PNP SSS despite its incompleteness or lack of interest of the municipality he swore to serve, to be
material dates, while Lihaylihay certified to the curious and go beyond what his subordinates
correctness of the Inspection Report Forms even if no prepared or recommended. In fine, the added reason
such deliveries were made.24 Petitioners’ claim that contemplated in Arias which would have put
the subject CCIE items were received by GSC SAO petitioner on his guard and examine the check/s and
Mateo25 is belied by the absence of any proof as to vouchers with some degree of circumspection before
when the said deliveries were made. Moreover, the signing the same was obtaining in this case.
supposed deliveries to the Narcotics
We refer to the unusual fact that the checks issued as
Command26 were properly rejected by the
payment for construction materials purchased by the
Sandiganbayan considering that the said transactions
municipality were not made payable to the supplier,
pertained to a different set of end-users other than
Kelly Lumber, but to petitioner himself even as the
the PNP GSC. Hence, having affixed their signatures
disbursement vouchers attached thereto were in the
on the disputed documents despite the glaring
name of Kelly Lumber. The discrepancy between the
defects found therein, petitioners were properly
names indicated in the checks, on one hand, and
found to have acted with evident bad faith in
those in the disbursement vouchers, on the other,
approving the "ghost" purchases in the amount of
should have alerted petitioner - if he were
₱8,000,000.00.27 To note, their concerted actions,
conscientious of his duties as he purports to be - that
when taken together, demonstrate a common
something was definitely amiss. The fact that the
design28 which altogether justifies the finding of
checks for the municipality’s purchases were made
conspiracy.1âwphi1
payable upon his order should, without more, have
prompted petitioner to examine the same further
together with the supporting documents attached to 12, 2010 of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No.
them, and not rely heavily on the recommendations 22098 are hereby AFFIRMED.
of his subordinates.31 (Emphasis supplied)
SO ORDERED.
Equally compelling is the nature of petitioners’
responsibilities and their role in the purchasing of the
CCIE items in this case which should have led them to
examine with greater detail the documents which
they were made to approve. As held in the recent
case of Bacasmas v.

Sandiganbayan,32 when there are reasons for the


heads of offices to further examine the documents in
question, they cannot seek refuge by invoking the
Arias doctrine:

Petitioners cannot hide behind our declaration in


Arias v. Sandiganbayan charge just because they did
not personally examine every single detail before
they, as the final approving authorities, affixed their
signatures to certain documents. The Court explained
in that case that conspiracy was not adequately
proven, contrary to the case at bar in which
petitioners’ unity of purpose and unity in the
execution of an unlawful objective were sufficiently
established. Also, unlike in Arias, where there were no
reasons for the heads of offices to further examine
each voucher in detail, petitioners herein, by virtue of
the duty given to them by law as well as by rules and
regulations, had the responsibility to examine each
voucher to ascertain whether it was proper to sign it
in order to approve and disburse the cash
advance.33 (Emphasis supplied)

Finally, on the matter of the admissibility of the


prosecution’s evidence, suffice it to state that, except
as to the checks,34 the parties had already stipulated
on the subject documents’ existence and authenticity
and accordingly, waived any objections thereon.35 In
this respect, petitioners must bear the consequences
of their admission and cannot now be heard to
complain against the admissibility of the evidence
against them by harking on the best evidence rule. In
any event, what is sought to be established is the
mere general appearance of forgery which may be
readily observed through the marked alterations and
superimpositions on the subject documents, even
without conducting a comparison with any original
document as in the case of forged signatures where
the signature on the document in question must
always be compared to the signature on the original
document to ascertain if there was indeed a forgery.

WHEREFORE, the petition is OENIED. The Decision


dated August 8, 2008 and Resolution dated February
G.R. No. 219501 Consequently, on November 19, 2012, the FEO
Courier Services Accreditation Board (Accreditation
POLICE DIRECTOR GENERAL ALAN LA MADRID
Board) was constituted.12 In an undated
PURISIMA, Petitioner
memorandum13 entitled "Policy on Accreditation of
vs.
FEO Courier Service" (Accreditation Policy), then CSG
HON. CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES, in her official
Director Police Director Gil Calaguio Meneses
capacity as the OMBUDSMAN OF THE REPUBLIC OF
(Meneses) laid down the criteria and procedure for
THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent
the accreditation of courier service providers, as
DECISION follows:

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.: 5. QUALIFICATIONS/CRITERIA FOR ACCREDITATION

Before the Court is a petition for review A Courier Service provided may be accredited under
on certiorari1 filed by petitioner former Police the following conditions:
Director General Alan La Madrid Purisima (Purisima),
5.1 Applicant must be a local entity with appropriate
assailing the Decision2 dated July 29, 2015 of the
business permits and is duly registered with the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 138296 and
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)[;]
CA-G.R. SP No. 138722, which affirmed the
Order3 dated December 3, 2014 issued by respondent 5.2 It has completed and submitted all its reportorial
Conchita Carpio Morales, in her capacity as the requirements to the [SEC];
Ombudsman, preventively suspending Purisima
5.3 It has updated permits from [the local government
during the pendency of the consolidated cases against
unit (LGU)] where its main office is located[;]
him before the Office of the Ombudsman.
5.4 It has paid all its income taxes for the year, as duly
The Facts
certified by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR);
In 2011,4 the Philippine National Police (PNP) entered
5.5 It must have secured clearances from Directorate
into a Memorandum of Agreement5 (MOA) with WER
for Intelligence (DI)[;]
FAST6Documentary Agency, Inc. (WER FAST) without
going through any public bidding. Under the MOA, the 5.6 It must have an extensive network all over the
PNP undertook to allow WER FAST to provide courier Philippines; and
services to deliver firearm licenses to gun owners.7 In
turn, WER FAST agreed to donate equipment for an 5. 7 The application shall be made in the name of the
online application system for the renewal of firearm company represented by its President or any of its key
licenses.8 PCSupt. Napoleon R. Estilles (Estilles), then directors as duly authorized in a board resolution for
Chief of the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) that purpose.14 (Emphases supplied)
under the Civil Security Group (CSG), signed the MOA On December 18, 2012, Purisima was appointed as
on behalf of the PNP. Based on the records, the PNP Chief.15 Thereafter, or on February 12, 2013,
incumbent PNP Chief approved the signing of the Meneses issued a Memorandum16 addressed to
MOA on August 24, 2011.9 Purisima (Meneses Memo), stating that the CSG has
Subsequently, the PNP's Legal Service (LS) was accredited WER FAST as the courier service to deliver
instructed to review the signed MOA vis-a-vis a the approved firearms license cards to gun owners,
proposed revised MOA, noting that the signed MOA and more importantly, recommended that the
had not been implemented. In a delivery of license cards via courier be made
Memorandum10 dated August 7, 2012, the LS opined mandatory:
that the FEO should first formulate rules for 7. In compliance [with] the policy guidance of the then
accreditation, by which to evaluate any company TACDS, now the Chief, PNP, to implement the delivery
offering courier services, including WER FAST. It of the approved firearms license cards to the
further suggested that the rules should include the addresses supplied by the applicants, this office has
qualifications of the company to be accredited, the accredited WER FAST Documentation Agency for the
required scope of courier services, the creation of an purpose, after complying with all the documentary
accreditation committee, provisions on strict requirements stipulated in the FEO Policy on
confidentiality, disclaimer, and grounds to terminate Accreditation.
accreditation.11
RECOMMENDATION certifications from various government agencies
attesting that WER FAST failed to meet the
8. Recommend that the delivery of firearms licenses
qualifications for accreditation under the
cards of gun owners to their registered addresses,
Accreditation Policy.31 As regards Purisima, FFIB-
whether newly purchased firearms or renewed
MOLEO prayed that he be administratively charged
firearm licenses be made mandatory, to give force
for gross negligence and/or gross neglect of duty, with
and effect to this new intervention to monitor and
a prayer for preventive suspension. It alleged that
control firearms in the hands of gun owners.
Purisima is administratively liable "for approving the
9. Approval of para 8 above.17 (Emphases supplied) recommendation of Meneses without verifying or
checking the records and capability of [WER FAST]."32
Purisima approved this memorandum on February 17,
2013.18 It was only more than a month after the Purisima requested33 for additional time to file his
Meneses Memo was issued, or on April 1, 2013, that counter-affidavit and was granted an inextendible
the Accreditation Board issued Resolution Number period of ten (10) days from receipt of the
2013- 027,19accrediting WER FAST as a courier Order34 dated December 1, 2014.
services provider to all FEO clients relative to the
On December 3, 2014, without waiting for Purisima's
licensing of firearms (FEO Resolution).
counter-affidavit, the Ombudsman issued the assailed
The Proceedings Before the Ombudsman Order,35which preventively suspended Purisima and
other PNP officers, for six (6) months without pay.36
In 2014, two (2) complaints were filed before the
Office of the Ombudsman against Purisima, WER Purisima and another PNP official37 filed their
FAST, and other PNP officials relative to the PNP's respective petitions for certiorari before the CA,
directive for gun owners to avail of the courier docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 138296 and CA-G.R. SP
delivery of firearm licenses via WER FAST. The first No. 138722,38 which were consolidated in a
complaint20 filed by a private complainant charged Resolution dated January 30, 2015.39While these
Purisima, Estilles, and WER FAST of violating Republic consolidated cases were pending before the CA,
Act (RA) Nos. 6713,21 3019,22 7080,23 and Purisima resigned as PNP Chief40 and the preventive
9184.24 He alleged, among others, that: the MOA was suspension period had lapsed.41
not procured through competitive bidding; it was
The CA Ruling
executed before WER FAST obtained its SEC certificate
of registration; WER FAST is not authorized by the In a Decision42 dated July 29, 2015, the CA dismissed
Department of Transportation and Communication the petitions and affirmed the Ombudsman's assailed
(DOTC) to deliver mails/ parcels to the public; Order.1âwphi1On the procedural aspect, the CA held
Purisima has close personal ties with WER FAST's that the petitions are moot in view of the lapse of the
incorporator and high ranking officer; Purisima made six-month period of preventive suspension. In
mandatory the use of courier service for license particular, the CA noted that Purisima received the
delivery in favor of WER FAST; and WER FAST was Order on December 4, 2014. Counting from this date,
inefficient in delivering the license cards.25 He later his period of preventive suspension lapsed on June 4,
filed a Manifestation and Motion26 with attached 2015. Nevertheless, the CA proceeded to discuss the
Joint-Affidavit27 executed by several PNP officials merits of the case.43
positively identifying Purisima as the one who
On the merits, the CA held that the Ombudsman is
directed FEO-CSG to accommodate WER FAST as the
authorized under Section 24 of RA 677044 to
sole courier delivery service of the firearms license
preventively suspend without pay any public officer or
cards.28 Purisima filed his Counter-Affidavit29 on July
employee during the pendency of an investigation. It
25, 2014.
added that the power to issue preventive suspension
On October 9, 2014, the second complaint30 was filed order is undoubtedly a part of the Ombudsman's
by the Fact-Finding Investigation Bureau (FFIB) - Office investigatory and disciplinary authority.45
of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other
The CA further held that the Ombudsman did not
Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) against several
gravely abuse her discretion in preventively
PNP officers involved in the MOA's execution and
suspending Purisima for irregularly accrediting WER
WER FAST's accreditation as a courier service
FAST as courier service provider, noting that the two
provider. Attached to the complaint were
(2) requisites46 for the validity of a preventive
suspension order were present.47 First, the In Ombudsman v. Capulong51 (Capulong), the Court
Ombudsman made a prior determination that the ruled that a case questioning the validity of a
evidence was strong based on the documents preventive suspension order is not mooted by the
submitted to them and the following supervening lifting of the same:
circumstances: (a) BIR certificate; (b) Director of
In the instant case, the subsequent lifting of the
Intelligence certificate; and (c) Department of Science
preventive suspension order against Capulong does
and Technology (DOST) certificate.48 Particularly,
not render the petition moot and academic. It does
WER FAST was accredited despite non-payment of
not preclude the courts from passing upon the validity
taxes for the years 2011 to 2013 as shown by the BIR
of a preventive suspension order, it being a
certification. The Director of Intelligence likewise
manifestation of its constitutionally mandated power
issued a certification that it has not given clearances
and authority to determine whether or not there has
to WER FAST. Additionally, WER FAST's business
been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
permits for the years 2011 to 2012 indicated
excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
"consultancy" as its business, while its Articles of
instrumentality of the Government. (Emphasis
Incorporation stated that the corporation's primary
supplied)
purpose is to act as a business consultant, engage in
providing assistance in documentation and As held in Capulong, the Court, in the exercise of its
registration. The DOST Postal Regulation Committee expanded judicial power, may not be precluded from
also issued a certification that it has not accredited passing upon the order's validity so as to determine
WER FAST as a courier service provider. Notably, WER whether or not grave abuse of discretion attended the
FAST had no proven track record in courier service. It issuance of the same. The result of a finding of a grave
even engaged the services of LBC Express, Inc. abuse of discretion means that the issuance is null
precisely because the former lacked the capacity to and void from its very inception, and thus, bars the
deliver firearms licenses. Furthermore, it was not same from producing any legal effects. Indeed, "[n]o
compliant with the DOTC's paid-up capital legal rights can emanate from a resolution that is null
requirement of ₱500,000.00 to be accredited to and void."52 As such, a public officer improperly
operate as a courier service in two or more placed under preventive suspension should be
administrative regions in the country. To highlight, restored to his original position, and accordingly,
WER FAST was accredited by PNP nationwide despite should have earned his salaries as if he was not
having a paid-up capital of only preventively suspended for the pertinent period.
₱65,000.00.49 Second, the charge filed against
Purisima was Gross Negligence and/or Gross Neglect "A case or issue is considered moot and academic
of Duty, which if proven true, would constitute a when it ceases to present a justiciable controversy by
ground for his removal from public office.50 Thus, the virtue of supervening events, so that an adjudication
CA concluded that the concurrence of the foregoing of the case or a declaration on the issue would be of
elements rendered the preventive suspension order no practical value or use."53 In Osmeña v. Social
valid. Security System of the Phils.,54 the Court explained
the consequence of a finding of mootness:
Aggrieved, Purisima filed the present petition.
In such instance, there is no actual substantial relief
The Issues Before the Court which a petitioner would be entitled to, and which
would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.
The issues before the Court are: (a) whether or not
Courts generally decline jurisdiction over such case or
the petition has been rendered moot and academic;
dismiss it on the ground of mootness - save when,
and, (b) if in the negative, whether or not the CA
among others, a compelling constitutional issue raised
correctly held that the Ombudsman did not gravely
requires the formulation of controlling principles to
abuse her discretion in preventively suspending
guide the bench, the bar and the public; or when the
Purisima.
case is capable of repetition yet evading judicial
The Court's Ruling review.55

The petition is denied. In this case, since the propriety or impropriety of


Purisima's preventive suspension would essentially
I.
determine his entitlement to back salaries during the
six-month period therefor, the Court holds that
despite the lapse of the period of his preventive left to the determination of the Ombudsman by taking
suspension, there remains some practical value or use into account the evidence before him. In the very
in resolving his petition assailing the Ombudsman's words of Section 24, the Ombudsman may
December 3, 2014 Order. Thus, by the same logic preventively suspend a public official pending
in Capulong, this case cannot be considered as moot investigation if "in his judgment" the evidence
and academic so as to obviate the Court from presented before him tends to show that the official's
resolving its merits. guilt is strong and if the further requisites enumerated
in Section 24 are present. The Court cannot substitute
II.
its own judgment for that of the Ombudsman on this
The Ombudsman is explicitly authorized to issue a matter, absent clear showing of grave abuse of
preventive suspension order under Section 24 of RA discretion.58 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
6770 when two (2) conditions are met. These
The Court's deference to the Ombudsman's judgment
are: (a) the evidence of guilt is strong based on the
regarding this condition not only stems from its policy
Ombudsman's judgment; and (b) any of the three (3)
of non-interference with the Ombudsman's exercise
circumstances are present - (I) the charge against such
of her prosecutorial and investigatory powers;59 it is
officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression
also a conscious recognition of the preliminary nature
or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of
and purpose of a preventive suspension order. It is
duty; (2) the charges would warrant removal from
well-established that:60
service; or (3) the respondent's continued stay in
office may prejudice the case filed against him. Preventive suspension is merely a preventive
Section 24 reads: measure, a preliminary step in an administrative
investigation. The purpose of the suspension order is
Section 24. Preventive Suspension. - The Ombudsman
to prevent the accused from using his position and the
or his Deputy may preventively suspend any officer or
powers and prerogatives of his office to influence
employee under his authority pending an
potential witnesses or tamper with records which may
investigation, if in his judgment the evidence of guilt is
be vital in the prosecution of the case against him. If
strong, and (a) the charge against such officer or
after such investigation, the charge is established and
employee involves dishonesty, oppression or grave
the person investigated is found guilty of acts
misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; (b)
warranting his suspension or removal, then he is
the charges would warrant removal from the service;
suspended, removed or dismissed. (Emphasis and
or (c) the respondent's continued stay in office may
underscoring supplied)
prejudice the case filed against him.
Being a preventive measure essentially meant to
x x x x (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
ensure the proper course of a still ongoing
In this case, the Court need not belabor on the investigation, the Ombudsman should thus be given
presence of the second condition, considering ample discretion to determine the strength of the
that (a) one of the charges against Purisima is gross preliminary evidence presented before her and
neglect of duty; and (b) the criminal and thereafter, decide whether or not to issue such order
administrative charges (i.e., violations of RAs 6713, against a particular respondent.
3019, 7080, and 9184, as well as gross neglect of duty) In Buenaseda v. Flavier,61 this Court explained:
against Purisima, if proven, would indeed warrant his
Under the Constitution, the Ombudsman is expressly
removal from office. Since Section 24 uses the
authorized to recommend to the appropriate official
disjunctive "or",56 then the presence of any of the
the discipline or prosecution of erring public officials
three (3) stated situations would be sufficient to
or employees. In order to make an intelligent
comply with this condition.
determination whether to recommend such actions,
As regards the first condition, case law states that the the Ombudsman has to conduct an investigation. In
strength of the evidence is left to the determination turn, in order for him to conduct such investigation in
of the Ombudsman by taking into account the an expeditious and efficient manner, he may need to
evidence before her; hence, the deliberate use of the suspend the respondent.
words "in his judgment." In Yasay, Jr. v. Desierto:57
The need for the preventive suspension may arise
The rule is that whether the evidence of guilt is from several causes, among them, the danger of
strong, as required in Section 24 of R.A. No. 6770, is tampering or destruction of evidence in the
possession of respondent; the intimidation of not entitled to back salaries during the period of his
witnesses, etc. The Ombudsman should be given the preventive suspension.
discretion to decide when the persons facing
As a final point, the Court clarifies that - contrary to
administrative charges should be preventively
Purisima's stance - the Ombudsman did not violate his
suspended.62 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
right to due process nor did she prejudge the case
However, as in any governmental power, the when she issued the preventive suspension order
Ombudsman's authority to preventively suspend is before he was able to file his counter-affidavit for the
not unlimited. When a complaint is virtually bereft of second complaint.66
any supporting evidence or the evidence so cited is,
Lastimosa v. Ombudsman67 already settles that the
on its face, clearly inadmissible, then no deference
Ombudsman may issue a preventive suspension order
ought to be accorded. Under these instances, the
prior to the filing of an answer or counter-affidavit,
Ombudsman may be said to have gravely abused her
considering that the same is but a preventive
discretion in finding that the first condition was met.
measure:
In the present case, the Ombudsman found that the
Prior notice and hearing is not required, such
evidence of guilt against Purisima was strong enough
suspension not being a penalty but only a preliminary
to place him under preventive suspension. Said
step in an administrative investigation. As held in Nera
finding cannot be said to be tainted with grave abuse
v. Garcia [(106 Phil. 1031, 1034 [1960])]:
of discretion as it was based on supporting
documentary evidence,63 none of which were In connection with the suspension of petitioner
questioned to be inadmissible.1avvphi1 For one, the before he could file his answer to the administrative
Ombudsman considered the PNP officials' Joint complaint, suffice it to say that the suspension was
Affidavit,64 expressing that Purisima exerted pressure not a punishment or penalty for the acts of dishonesty
and coercion over his subordinates to coordinate with and misconduct in office, but only as a preventive
WER FAST in relation to the courier delivery service. measure. Suspension is a preliminary step in an
The Ombudsman also cited several circumstances administrative investigation. If after such
sourced from the documentary evidence that should investigation, the charges are established and the
have prodded Purisima to verify WER FAST' s person investigated is found guilty of acts warranting
credentials and. capability to provide courier services his removal, then he is removed or dismissed. This is
for the delivery of firearms licenses before he insisted the penalty. There is, therefore, nothing improper in
on the implementation of the MOA. These suspending an officer pending his investigation and
circumstances are: (a) the absence of a public bidding before the charges against him are heard and be given
before the MOA was executed; (b) the absence of an opportunity to prove his innocence.
accreditation from the Accreditation Board when
Purisima approved the Meneses Memo; (c) the xxxx
Meneses Memo failed to mention the resolution As held in Buenaseda v. Flavier [(G.R. No. 106719,
supposedly accrediting WER FAST; (d) the September 21, 1993, 226 SCRA 645, 655)], however,
Accreditation Board accredited WER FAST despite the whether the evidence of guilt is strong is left to the
latter's lack of proof of compliance with the determination of the Ombudsman by taking into
Accreditation Policy; (e) WER FAST had no proven account the evidence before him. A preliminary
track record in courier services and lacked the hearing as in bail petitions in cases involving capital
capacity to deliver the firearms licenses; (j) WER FAST offenses is not required. In rejecting a similar
failed to obtain the DOTC's accreditation for authority argument as that made by petitioner in this case, this
to operate courier services; and (g) WER FAST's failure Court said in that case:
to donate the equipment for the online system as
stated in the MOA, among others.65 The import of the Nera decision is that the disciplining
authority is given the discretion to decide when the
Since both conditions for the issuance of a preventive evidence of guilt is strong. This fact is bolstered by
suspension order against Purisima are present in this Section 24 of R.A. No. 6770, which expressly left such
case, the Court therefore holds that the Ombudsman determination of guilt to the "judgment" of the
acted within her powers when she issued the assailed Ombudsman on the basis of the administrative
December 3, 2014 Order. In consequence, Purisima is complaint. x x x68 (Emphases and underscoring
supplied)
Ultimately, it should be borne in mind that the
issuance of a preventive suspension order does not
amount to a prejudgment of the merits of the
case.69 Neither is it a demonstration of a public
official's guilt as such pronouncement can be done
only after trial on the merits.70

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision


dated July 29, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
SP No. 138296 and CA-G.R. SP No. 138722 is
hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.