OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN,
E S O L U
T I O N
THE PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, THE DEPARTMENT
OF INTERIOR AND
LOCAL GOVERNMENT, and THE
This is a petition
for certiorari to set aside the resolution of the Sandiganbayan, dated
March 24, 1997, granting the motion of the Office of the Special
(OSP) to suspend petitioner Dindo C. Rios pendente lite, and its
resolution dated June 25, 1997 denying his Motion for Reconsideration.
On March 6, 1996, an
information was filed against petitioner who is the incumbent Mayor of
the Municipality of San Fernando, Romblon for alleged unauthorized
of confiscated lumber, in violation of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise
known as Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The information alleged:
That on or about May
16, 1994, in San Fernando, Romblon, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above named accused, a public officer, while in
performance and taking advantage of his official functions, and with
bad faith, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally
the disposition of confiscated, assorted and sawn tanguile lumber
of 1,319 pieces without proper authority therefor, thus, causing undue
injury to the Government.
Before his arraignment,
petitioner filed a "Motion to Quash Information and Recall Warrant of
dated August 4, 1996, on the ground that the information was invalid as
there was no probable cause to hold him liable for violation of Section
3(e), R.A. No. 3019.
On September 16, 1996,
the OSP filed a "Motion to Suspend Accused [herein petitioner] Pendente
Lite," to which petitioner filed an "Opposition," reiterating the
ground stated in his motion to quash.cralaw
The Sandiganbayan overruled
the argument in its resolution of October 14, 1996. Thereupon,
filed a verified petition with this Court which was docketed as G. R.
126771. Among the issues raised was the alleged invalidity of the
The Court resolved to deny this petition on December 4, 1996 on the
that the Sandiganbayan committed to grave abuse of discretion in
the questioned judgment.cralaw
When the petitioner
was arraigned on January 20, 1997, he entered a plea of "not guilty" no
longer questioning the validity of the information against him.cralaw
On March 24, 1997, the
Sandiganbayan granted the OSP's motion to suspend petitioner in an
which provides in part:
Dindo C. Rios is ordered suspended from his position as Mayor of the
of San Fernando, Romblon and from any other public position he may be
for a period of ninety (90) days counted from receipt of this
The Honorable Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local
Quezon City, and the Provincial Governor of Romblon, Romblon are
furnished with copies of this Resolution so that they may implement the
same and report on their actions thereon.
Petitioner filed a motion
for reconsideration which was subsequently denied in a resolution dated
June 25, 1997. Hence, this petition.
In support of his petition,
petitioner posits the following arguments:
I.chanrobles virtual law library
A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT RULED THAT THE FACTS CHARGED IN THE
INFORMATION CONSTITUTE A VIOLATION OF REPUBLIC ACT 3019.
II.chanrobles virtual law library
A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT PROVIDED FOR SUSPENSION OF NINETY
DAYS IN CLEAR DISREGARD OF THE PROVISION OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE.chanrobles virtual law library
The first argument propounded
by petitioner has already been passed upon by this Court when it held
the act of disposing of confiscated lumber without prior authority from
DENR and the Sangguniang Bayan constituted a violation of Sec. 3(e) of
R. A. 3019.
Therefore, there is probable cause to hold petitioner liable for such
for which the information was validly filed. Although any further
of this issue would be unnecessary, the Sandiganbayan's ruling is
reiterated as a reminder to public officials of their crucial role in
and the trust lodged upon them by the people.
The act complained of
in this case is "the disposition (by petitioner) of confiscated,
and sawn lumber consisting of 1,319 pieces without proper authority
thus causing undue injury to the Government."
that the mere fact that he acted beyond the scope of his authority by
the confiscated lumber without the prior approval of the DENR through
Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices and without a
from the Sangguniang Bayan, does not constitute a violation of Section
3(e) of R. A. No. 3019. What renders the disposition of lumber contrary
to law is any resulting "undue injury" which, however, is absent in
case because the proceeds of the dispositions went to the coffers of
The Sandiganbayan, however,
First, any act or
that is not in consonance with the prescribed norms of conduct inflicts
injury to the Government, for the reason that it is a disturbance of
and order. This is more so when, as in this case, the alleged offender
is the highest officer in the Municipal Government, because he sets a
example to his constituents.
Second, the assertion
that no undue injury was caused because the proceeds of the disposition
of confiscated lumber went to the Municipal Government gratuitously
that the price at which the lumber was disposed of was the reasonable
value thereof and that all the proceeds were paid to the local
The assertion is further based on the wrong assumption that the lumber
belonged to the municipality of which the accused was mayor. It was the
National Government, as distinguished to (sic) local governments, the
it, (Sec. 2(a), RA 3019) there being no evidence that the National
had disposed of the lumber in any manner.
We cannot agree more with
the Sandiganbayan. This Court would like to stress adherence to the
that public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees
at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost
integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and
lead modest lives. Public servants must bear in mind this
mandate at all times to guide them in their actions during their entire
tenure in the government service.
"The good of the service and the degree of morality which every
and employee in the public service must observe, if respect and
are to be maintained by the Government in the enforcement of the law,
that no untoward conduct on his part, affecting morality, integrity and
efficiency while holding office should be left without proper and
sanction, all attendant circumstances taken into account."
The suspension pendente
lite meted out by the Sandiganbayan is, without doubt, a proper and
commensurate sanction against petitioner. Having ruled that the
filed against petitioner is valid, there can be no impediment to the
of Section 13 of R. A. No. 3019 which states, inter alia:
Sec. 13. Suspension
and loss of benefits.- Any incumbent public officer against
any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this Act of
Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code or for any offenses
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 office.
It is settled jurisprudence
that the aforequoted provision makes it mandatory for the Sandiganbayan
to suspend any public officer who has been validly charged with a
of R. A. No. 3019, Book II, Title 7 of the Revised Penal Code, or any
involving fraud upon government or public funds or property.
"The court trying a
case has neither discretion nor duty to determine whether preventive
is required to prevent the accused from using his office to intimidate
witnesses or frustrate in prosecution or continue committing
This is based on the presumption that unless the public officer is
he may frustrated his prosecution or commit further acts of malfeasance
On the other hand, we
find merit in petitioner's second assigned error. The Sandiganbayan
in imposing a 90 day suspension upon petitioner for the single case
against him. Under Section 63 (b) of the Local Government Code, "any
preventive suspension of local elective officials shall not extend
sixty (60) days."
WHEREFORE, the appealed
decision of the Sandiganbayan is AFFIRMED subject to the MODIFICATION
the suspension be reduced to sixty  days.cralaw
Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., concur.cralaw
Sec. 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. In addition to acts
or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the
following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and
are hereby declared to be unlawful:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or
any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in
the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions
manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or
corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other
Resolution of December 4, 1996 of the First Division of the Supreme
in G.R. No. 126771 (Dindo Rios v. Sandiganbayan and People of the
Rollo, p. 27.
Lim-Arce v. Arce, 205 SCRA 21 (1992); City Mayor of Zamboanga v. CA,
al., 182 SCRA 785 (1990).
Lim-Arce, supra; Soriano v. Quintos, 133 SCRA 215 (1984).
Bunye v. Escareal, 226 SCRA 332 (1993); Gonzaga v. Sandiganbayan, 201
417 (191); People v. Albano, 163 SCRA 511 (1988); Bolastig v.
235 SCRA 103 (1994).
"Sec. 63 (b). Preventive suspension may be imposed at any time after
issues are joined, when the evidence of guilt is strong, and given the
gravity of the offense, there is great probability that the continuance
in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a
to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence;
That, any single preventive suspension of local elective officials
not extend beyond sixty (60) days: Provided, further, That in the event
that several administrative cases are filed against an elective
he cannot be preventively suspended for more than ninety (90) days
a single year on the same ground or grounds existing and known at the
of the first suspension."