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[G.R. No. 143888. September 6, 2000]

OFC. OF THE OMBUDSMAN vs. VICTORIA-BAÑAS, et al.

THIRD DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated SEPT 6 2000.

G.R. No. 143888 (Office of the Ombudsman vs. Victoria-Bañas, Arbolario, et al.)

At 2 o'clock in the morning of December 13, 1995, the MV "Kimelody Cristy," owned and operated by Moreta Shipping Lines, Inc., caught fire and sank off Fortune Island, Nasugbu, Batangas, resulting in the death of seventeen persons. As a result of this tragedy, an investigation was conducted whereby it was alleged that Moreta Shipping had been operating the vessel pursuant to a Provisional Authority (PA) signed by MARINA Administrator Paciencio M. Balbon, Jr. only on December 13, 1995, or a day after it had set sail. It was further disclosed that herein private respondents Atty. Gloria J. Victoria-Bañas and Ms. Ma. Concepcion C. Arbolario had the date of signing (December 13, 1995) erased and the date November 13, 1995 superimposed thereon. On this score, the two were administratively charged by the Fact Finding and Intelligence Bureau (FFIB) of the Office of the Ombudsman for Grave Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, Falsification, and Violation of Office Rules.

On November 3, 1999, Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto approved the September 1, 1999 decision of Graft Investigation Officer Imperial finding Atty. Gloria J. Victoria-Bañas, Ms. Ma. Concepcion C. Arbolario, and a certain Richard Hora, Jr. guilty of grave misconduct and/or falsification of a public document and ordered them dismissed from the service. Private respondents filed motions for reconsideration which were denied.

Hence, they filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals which, acting favorably on the petition, ordered the September 1, 1999 decision rendered by Graft Investigation Officer Imperial annulled and set aside. Now, the instant recourse to this Court, with the Ombudsman alleging that (i) the Court of Appeals has no jurisdiction over administrative cases decided by the Office of the Ombudsman; and (ii) the Court of Appeals gravely erred in finding private respondents in good faith when they altered the date appearing on the PA.

The petition has no merit.

Petitioner posits that with the invalidation by this Court, in Fabian v. Desierto (295 SCRA 470), of Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 - providing that decisions of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases should be appealed to the Supreme Court - there is no longer any law providing for an appeal of a final decision of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases. Petitioner thus concludes that the Court of Appeals has no jurisdiction over decisions of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases, as in this case. As we emphasized in Governor Manuel M. Lapid v. CA (G.R. No. 142261, June 29, 2000), "[o]ur ruling in the case of Fabian v. Desierto invalidated Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 and Section 7, Rule III of Administrative Order No. 07 and any other provision of law implementing the aforesaid Act only insofar as they provide for appeals in administrative disciplinary cases from the office of the Ombudsman to the Supreme Court. The only provision affected by the Fabian ruling is the designation of the Court of Appeals as the proper forum and of Rule 43 of the Rules of Court as the proper mode of appeal." It is clear from the above that the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over appeals from decision of the Ombudsman in appropriate administrative disciplinary cases.

As to the liability of private respondents, the record discloses that while the Provisional Authority (PA) was signed by MARINA Administrator Balbon, Jr. on December 13, 1995, the same had actually been approved and granted by the MARINA Board of Directors on November 13, 1995, the same to be retroactively effective from November 1, 1995 to February 1, 1996. Even the Ombudsman admitted that the aforementioned Order of the MARINA making the approval's effectivity retroactive to November 1, 1995 is valid. In its Order dated December 28, 1999, the Ombudsman stated that "for all intents and purposes, the operative act that produces legal effects and confers legal rights is the execution of the Order granting the extension of the PA. But where the authority executing such Order, the MARINA Board of Directors through the MARINA Administrator, has clearly willed that the same is to be made retroactive, then the date indicated therein would be the date when the same will produce legal effects and confer legal rights to the franchisee-ship owner." From the above, it is plain that the alteration of the date by private respondents from December 13, 1995 to November 13, 1995 would, therefore, have no legal effect on the date of effectivity of the Provisional Authority (PA). It ineluctably follows, therefore, that the charges against private respondents for falsification cannot stand. Neither can the charges of grave misconduct be sustained, there being no showing that petitioners violated any rule or procedure in altering the date of the Provisional Authority to reflect the actual date when the same was granted.

WHEREFORE, petition is denied due course.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) JULIETA Y. CARREON

Clerk of Court


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