G. R. No. 135119 - October 21, 2004
PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT (Represented by DANILO R.V. DANIEL), Petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE OMBUDSMAN ANIANO A. DESIERTO, ALICIA Ll. REYES, DON M. FERRY, PLACIDO MAPA, MR. AND MRS. PEDRO GARCIA, SR., and SANTIAGO DUMLAO, JR., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This petition for certiorari and mandamus under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, seeks to nullify the Order1 dated June 19, 1998, dismissing the complaint in OMB Case No. 0-97-1740, issued by then Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto (Ombudsman), public respondent.
The facts that gave rise to the instant case are:
Pursuant to its mandate, the Committee investigated the loan transactions between the Selectra Electronics Corporation (SELEC) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
On September 8, 1997, the Committee found that on September 20, 1976, SELEC filed with the DBP an application for a foreign currency loan in the amounts of US$320,110.95 and US$104,062.50 under the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development credit line and a straight peso loan of
SELEC negotiated with the DBP through respondents Mr. and Mrs. Pedro Garcia, Sr., members of its board of directors, and Santiago Dumlao, Jr., its president. They have been impleaded herein as private respondents. The DBP Board of Directors, represented by Alicia Ll. Reyes, Don M. Ferry and Placido Mapa, public respondents, approved the loan application through Resolution No. 1203 dated April 20, 1977.
Subsequently, SELEC applied for and obtained additional foreign currency loan in the sum of US$1,483,688.00.
The Committee concluded that the foregoing loans are behest loans since SELEC has no sufficient capital and collateral. Also, the project for which financing is being sought is non-feasible. Accordingly, on September 15, 1997, the Committee filed with the Office of the Ombudsman a criminal complaint for violation of Section 3(a) and (g) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act)4 against spouses Garcia, Santiago Dumlao, Jr., Alicia Ll. Reyes, Don M. Ferry, and Placido Mapa, docketed as OMB Case No. 0-97-1740.
The Ombudsman dismissed OMB Case No. 0-97-1740 by reason of prescription. Section 11 of Republic Act No. 3019 provides that all offenses punishable under this Act shall prescribe in ten years.5 The Ombudsman held that "the transactions made the bases of the complaint occurred between 1976 to 1980, while the complaint was filed only on September 15, 1997, or after the lapse of more than ten (10) years." Since the entire series of transactions were made through duly recorded public instruments, then following People vs. Dinsay,6 and People vs. Sandiganbayan,7 the period of prescription should commence to run from the time of the commission of the offense.
Hence, the instant petition anchored on the following grounds:
The threshold issue before us is whether the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling that the offense leveled against the said respondents has prescribed.
Petitioner PCGG argues that the applicable rule on prescription in this case is Article 918 of the Revised Penal Code which, pursuant to Article 109 of the same Code, is suppletory to special laws, such as Republic Act No. 3019. Under Article 91, the period of prescription shall commence to run from the day the crime is discovered by the offended party. Petitioner draws our attention to the wording of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 3019 that "All offenses punishable under this Act shall prescribe in fifteen years," without stating when the prescriptive period shall commence to run. Considering the provision of Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code and Section 11 of Republic Act No. 3019, the prescriptive period should commence to run only from the date of discovery of the offense, not from the time of its commission. Since behest loans necessarily implies concealment, only a careful and diligent search and scrutiny of such questionable transactions could lead to their discovery. The Committee discovered the existence of the behest loans on September 8, 1997. Petitioner filed with the Office of the Ombudsman the complaint for violation of Republic Act 3019 against the said respondents on September 15, 1997, hence, well within the reglementary period provided by the same law.
For his part, the Ombudsman contends that Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code does not apply to the instant case. Prescription under special laws is governed by Section 210 of Act No. 3326, entitled "An Act to Establish Periods of Prescription for Violations Penalized By Special Laws and Municipal Ordinances, and to Provide When Prescription Shall Begin to Run." Under this law, prescription shall begin to run from the day of the commission of the violation of the law, not from its commission.
The case before us is not of first impression. On all fours is Presidential Ad Hoc Fact Finding Committee on Behest Loans vs. Hon. Aniano A. Desierto, et al.,11 also involving a complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman for an alleged behest loan obtained by the Philippine Seeds, Inc. during the Marcos administration. We ruled therein that since the law alleged to have been violated is Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019, the applicable rule in the computation of the prescriptive period is Section 2 of Act No. 3326, as amended, cited earlier. Under Section 2 of this Act, there are two (2) rules for determining when the period of prescription shall commence: First, on the day of the commission of the violation, if such commission is known. Second, if the commission of the violation is not known at the time, then, from discovery thereof and institution of judicial proceedings for investigation and punishment.12
In this case, it was obviously impossible for the State, the aggrieved party, to have known when the questioned transactions took place. Clearly, the prescriptive period for the offense charged should be computed from the discovery of the commission thereof and not from the day of such commission.13
It bears emphasis at this point that the Ombudsman summarily dismissed the complaint solely on the ground of prescription, without even requiring private respondents to submit their counter-affidavits.
Inasmuch as the computation of the running of the prescriptive period for the filing of the subject criminal action should commence from the discovery of the offense, not from the day of its commission, the filing with the Office of the Ombudsman by petitioner of the complaint in OMB Case No. 0-97-1740 has not yet prescribed. We, therefore, hold that the Ombudsman acted with grave abuse of discretion in dismissing outright OMB Case No. 0-97-1740.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Order of the Ombudsman dated June 19, 1998 in OMB Case No. 0-97-1740 is SET ASIDE.
The Ombudsman is hereby directed to conduct the preliminary investigation of OMB Case No. 0-97-1740 with dispatch.
Panganiban, Corona, Carpio Morales, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
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