Barrera v. People : 145233-52 : May 28, 2004 : J. Carpio-Morales : Third
Division : Decision
[G.R. NOS. 145233-52 : May
HENRY EDQUIBAN BARRERA, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES (JOSEPHINE ELAMPARO, JOSELYN EDUCALANE, EDNA BAGASINA, MILA
SABERON, MICHELLE PALMA, CORAZON CANSAS, OSCAR LOPEZ, LUZ ECLARINO, NORA ELAMPARO,
LERMA ESPINOSA, EDUARDO SISON, ERMELINDA ABELLA, LOURDES JACQUIAS, JOHN
ESPINOSA, JEAN BASA and LINA HEBRON),
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Henry Barrera (petitioner),
the Mayor of the Municipality
of Candelaria, Zambales for the
period from June 1998 to 2001, was re-elected1 to the same office for the period from June 2001-2004.
On January 4, 2000,2 he was indicted before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A.
3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) under twenty (20) informations
which, except as to the name of the complainant, uniformly read as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
That on or about 30 June 1998, or sometime prior or subsequent
thereto, in Candelaria, province of Zambales Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused HENRY E. BARRERA, SANTOS EDQUIBAN
and RUFINA E. ESCALA, all public officers, then being the Municipal Mayor,
Market Collector and District Supervisor, respectively, all of Candelaria,
Province of Zambales, committing the penal offenses herein charged against them
while in the performance of, in relation to, and taking advantage of their
official functions and duties as such, thru manifest partiality and/or evident
bad faith, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally, in
conspiracy with one another, prevent ERMILINDA ABELLA, a legitimate
lessee-stallholder from exercising his/her contractual and/or
proprietary rights to transfer to, occupy and/or operate his/her
assigned stall at the public market of Candelaria, Province of Zambales, under
the subsisting lease contract dated 25 June 1998, without any valid or
justifiable reason whatsoever, by means of the issuance and implementation of
patently unlawful Memorandum No. 1 dated 30 June 1998; thereby causing undue
injury to ERMILINDA ABELLA.3 cralawred
On recommendation4 of the Ombudsman Prosecutor, which was approved by the Ombudsman, petitioners
co-accused Rufina E. Escala and Santos Edquipan were dropped from the
informations, by Order5 dated August 8, 2000,
leaving petitioner as the only accused.
Aside from the criminal cases, an administrative case was also
filed against petitioner before the Office of the Ombudsman which, by Decision6 of February 28, 2000,recommended
that he be faulted for abuse of authority and penalized with suspension from
office without pay for six (6) months. From the decision, petitioner filed a
motion for reconsideration which was later to be denied by Order7 of August 22, 2000.
Petitioner thus filed a Petition for Review of the Ombudsman
decision in the administrative case with the Court of Appeals which denied the
same by Decision8 of February 7, 2002, a
motion for reconsideration9 which does not appear to have been resolved.
With respect to the criminal cases, the Sandiganbayan, by
Resolution10 promulgated on June 28, 2000,
ordered petitioners preventive suspension for ninety (90) days.
Petitioner moved to reconsider the
resolution which was denied, however, by Resolution11 of September 11, 2000.
Petitioner received on October
3, 2000, a copy of the Resolution12 of the Sandiganbayan denying his motion for reconsideration of the order for
his preventive suspension in the criminal cases.And he received on October
30, 2000 a memorandum13 from then Secretary Alfredo S. Lim of the Department of Interior and Local
Government implementing the suspension order.
Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari, the
sole issue of which is whether the Sandiganbayan erred in placing petitioner
under preventive suspension for a period not exceeding ninety (90) days.
Petitioner admits in his memorandum filed before this Court that
upon his receipt of the resolution directing his preventive suspension, he started
serving the same.14 The issue has thus been rendered moot and academic.15 Besides, the Sandiganbayan, by Decision16 of May 6, 2002, dismissed Criminal Case Nos. 25035-37, 25039-41,
25043;25045-47, 25049-50 and 25053-54 on the ground that the elements of the
offense under Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 were not established beyond reasonable
doubt, as it did Criminal Case Nos. 25038, 25042, 2504425048, 25052 and 25052
by Order17 of August 14, 2001.
At this juncture then, a determination of whether the preventive
suspension under Section 13 of Rule 3019 is mandatory and automatic would not
have any practical effect on the existing controversy.
En passant, if the administrative case filed against
petitioner has been terminated also in his favor, he may invoke Section 13 of
R.A. No. 3019 which provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Suspension and loss of benefits. Any
incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid
information under this Act or under Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code
or for any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property
whether as a simple or as a complex offense and in whatever stage of execution
and mode of participation, is pending in court shall be suspended from
Should he be convicted by final
judgment, he shall lose all retirement or gratuity benefits under any law, but if
he is acquitted, he shall be entitled to reinstatement and to the salaries and
benefits which he failed to receive during suspension, unless in the
meantime administrative proceedings have been filed against him.
In the event that such convicted officer, who may have already been
separated from the service, has already received such benefits he shall be
liable to restitute the same to the government.(Emphasis and underscoring
Mootness of the suspension order aside, the petition just the
same would have failed.
It is petitioners contention that Section 13, R.A. 3019 should
not be taken in isolation but should be viewed in light of the rationale behind
the suspension, the purpose being to prevent the officer or employee from using
his position and the powers and prerogatives of his office to influence
potential witnesses or tamper with the records which may be vital in the
prosecution of the case against him. And, so petitioner maintains, since the
prosecution failed to prove, if not substantially allege that he is abusing the
prerogatives of the office, intimidating possible witnesses and/or tampering
with documentary evidence during the pendency of the cases against him, the
suspension order should not have been issued.
It has been long settled, however, and it bears reiteration that
Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019, as amended, unequivocally provides that the
accused public official shall be suspended from office while the
criminal prosecution is pending in court.18 The rule on the matter is specific and categorical, leaving no room for
interpretation.19 There are no ifs and buts about it.20 The court has neither the discretion nor duty to determine whether preventive
suspension is required to prevent the accused from using his office to
intimidate witnesses or frustrate his prosecution or continue committing
malfeasance in office. Bolastig v. Sandiganbayan21 so teaches.
WHEREFORE, the instant
petition is hereby DENIED.
Vitug, (Chairman & Acting C.J.) Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
1 Records of
the Sandiganbayan, Vol. III at 113.
2 Records of
the Sandiganbayan, Vol. I at
4 Records of
the Sandiganbayan, Vol. I at 127-135.
5 Records of
the Sandiganbayan, Vol. II at 97.
8 Records of
the Sandiganbayan, Vol. III at 81-89.
15 Ganzon v.
Court of Appeals, 203 SCRA 399, 410 (1991).
16 Records of
the Sandiganbayan, Vol. III at 160-172.
17 Records of
the Sandiganbayan, Vol. II at 274.
18 Bunye v.
Escareal, 226 SCRA 332 (1993) at 336.
21 235 SCRA
103, 108 (1994).
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