Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2005 > January 2005 Decisions > G.R. No. 153578 - VICENTE C. JIMENEZ, ET AL. v. EULOGIO TOLENTINO, JR., ET AL.:




G.R. No. 153578 - VICENTE C. JIMENEZ, ET AL. v. EULOGIO TOLENTINO, JR., ET AL.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 153578 : January 28, 2005]

VICENTE C. JIMENEZ, EUGENIO BERNARDO, AND VENERANDO R. HABER, Petitioners, v. EULOGIO TOLENTINO, JR., LETICIA TOLENTINO, GRAFT INVESTIGATION OFFICER II THELMA CRUZ, and JOSE O. MONTERO, JR., OMB PROSECUTOR II, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari, petitioners seek the reversal of the Court of Appeals Decision1 promulgated on 18 October 2001 dismissing petitioners' petition for certiorari as well as the same court's Resolution2 of 08 May 2002 denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration. The petition before the Court of Appeals was for the nullification of the Office of the Ombudsman's findings of probable cause for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019.

The generative facts of the case, as summarized by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:3

(1) Dolores Banzon, married to Eulogio Tolentino, Sr., was the registered owner of two (2) parcels of agricultural land covered by Transfer Certificates of Titles No. T-5368 and No. T-5369 with an aggregate area of 187,590 square meters more or less, situated in Brgy. Tuyo, Balanga, Bataan. Dolores Banzon died in March 1979. Ten years later, her husband died leaving two (2) compulsory heirs, private respondents herein Eulogio B. Tolentino, Jr. and Leticia B. Tolentino. Both spouses did not exercise their right of retention under Presidential Decree No. 27;4

(2) On 25-26 September 1989, a subdivision survey was conducted on the parcels of land in question, initiated by petitioner Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) Venerando Haber segregating the portions allocated to each tenants-beneficiaries;

(3) On 02 May 1990, private respondents (complainant landowners) executed a General Power of Attorney in favor of their cousin Emilio Dizon to administer their properties;

(4) On 19 June 1990, Emancipation Patents were issued to the tenants-beneficiaries, including those tenants whose qualifications were not acceptable to private respondents;

(5) On 11 September 1990, Emilio Dizon executed Deeds of Transfer in favor of the tenants-beneficiaries, including those tenants whose qualifications were not acceptable to private respondents. On the same day, petitioner MARO Haber forwarded copies of the Deeds of Transfer to the Register of Deeds at Balanga, Bataan, for registration;

(6) On 26 January 1994, private respondents sent a letter to the Regional Director of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), requesting for the cancellation of the Deeds of Transfer executed by the attorney-in-fact, Emilio Dizon;

(7) On 28 January 1994 and 07 February 1994, private respondents applied for retention of five (5) hectares each pursuant to Section 6 of Republic Act. No. 6657 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law);

(8) On 26 October 1994, petitioner Director Bernardo denied herein private respondents' application for retention, upon the recommendation of petitioner Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Jimenez;

(9) Private respondents then filed a complaint for violation of Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019 against petitioners with the Office of the Ombudsman. After the preliminary investigation, public respondent Thelma Cruz issued a resolution which found probable cause for violation of the anti-graft law and recommended the filing of the corresponding information. Petitioners moved for a reconsideration which was denied;

(10) With the information in the Second Division of the Sandiganbayan, petitioners, prior to their arraignment, prayed for a reinvestigation of the case. It was granted and a reinvestigation ensued. On 15 October 1999, the Ombudsman approved the resolution on the reinvestigation conducted by public respondent Ombudsman Prosecutor II Montero, Jr. denying the motion for reinvestigation.

From the adverse resolution of their motion for reinvestigation, petitioners, on 20 March 2000, went up to the Court of Appeals on Petition for Certiorari essentially questioning the findings of probable cause against them. The Court of Appeals initially denied the petition for being filed out of time but it reinstated the same upon motion of petitioners.5 Subsequently, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition holding that (a) the special action of certiorari is not the proper remedy to annul the findings of probable cause following the ruling in Yap v. Intermediate Appellate Court;6 and (b) the petition was filed out of time. Petitioners' motion for reconsideration suffered the same fate, the Court of Appeals having held that there were no weighty reasons advanced by the petitioners that would merit the reversal of its decision.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Hence, the present petition. Petitioners remonstrate that -

THE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECIDED THE INSTANT CASE IN A WAY THAT IS NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW, THE ESTABLISHED RULES, AND THE APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT. SPECIFICALLY, THE COURT A QUO HAS OPTED TO:

(a) UPHOLD THE FINDING OF PROBABLE CAUSE AGAINST PETITIONERS DESPITE THE FACT THAT PETITIONERS WERE MERELY PERFORMING THEIR SWORN DUTY BY IMPLEMENTING THE PROVISIONS OF LOI 474;

(b) DISMISS THE PETITION ON THE GROUND THAT CERTIORARI IS NOT THE PROPER REMEDY; andcralawlibrary

(c) DISMISS THE PETITION ON THE GROUND OF LATE FILING DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT HAS ALREADY PREVIOUSLY RECONSIDERED AND REVERSED A SIMILAR RULING AND ALLOWED THE FILING OF THE INSTANT PETITION.

Private respondents countered that the Court of Appeals decision is actually null and void as it had been rendered without or in excess of jurisdiction, following Section 14 of Republic Act No. 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989), which provides'

Sec. 14. Restrictions. - . . . .

No court shall hear any appeal or application for remedy against the decision or findings of the Ombudsman, except the Supreme Court, on pure question of law.

Private respondents then contended that as the petition was misfiled with the Court of Appeals, necessarily, it did not toll the running of the period for filing the correct petition before this Court. On the merits of the case, private respondents averred that it can be implied from the Court of Appeals' decision that the Office of the Ombudsman did not commit reversible error in its findings of probable cause against petitioners herein.

Like private respondents, public respondents Ombudsman officers assert that the Court of Appeals was actually devoid of jurisdiction pursuant to Section 14 of Rep. Act. No. 6770 and this Court's ruling in Kuizon v. Desierto .7

In their consolidated reply, petitioners asseverate that the issue of whether or not the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to rule on their petition filed thereat had been rendered moot and academic by the filing of the instant case before the Supreme Court whose jurisdiction respondents have allegedly admitted. Thus, this Court should rule on the merits of their petition, i.e., the resolution of the Ombudsman finding probable cause against them should be invalidated and set aside.

THE COURT'S RULING

It is now beyond cavil that the filing of the special civil action of certiorari to question the resolution of the Ombudsman finding probable cause must be made with this Court and not with the Court of Appeals such that the wrong filing thereof will not toll the running of the period to file the same with this Court.8 In Kuizon v. Desierto,9 we were emphatic:

It follows that the instant petition was filed late. A petition for certiorari should be filed not later that sixty (60) days from notice of the judgment, order or resolution sought to be assailed.10 The present petition was filed with this Court only on November 24, 1999 which is more than sixty (60) days from the time petitioners were notified of the adverse resolutions issued by the Office of the Ombudsman. The erroneous filing of the petition with the Court of Appeals did not toll the running of the period.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

On this score alone, the instant petition already suffers a fatal flaw. The adverse resolution of the Ombudsman was received by petitioners on 08 November 1999.11 The Petition for Certiorari was filed in this Court only on 03 July 2002.12

Moreover, and even if we were to rule on the merits of the case, the instant petition will still have to be dismissed in the light of the well-entrenched principle of non-interference in the exercise of the Ombudsman's constitutionally mandated powers.13 As highlighted in Perez v. Office of the Ombudsman, et al .14'

We have consistently refrained from interfering with the investigatory and prosecutorial powers of the Ombudsman absent any compelling reason. This policy is based on constitutional, statutory and practical considerations. We are mindful that the Constitution and RA 6770 endowed the Office of the Ombudsman with a wide latitude of investigatory and prosecutorial powers, virtually free from legislative, executive or judicial intervention, in order to insulate it from outside pressure and improper influence.

And, in Ocampo v. Ombudsman15 - -

. . . The rule is based not only upon respect for the investigatory and prosecutory powers granted by the Constitution to the Office of the Ombudsman but upon practicality as well. Otherwise, the functions of the courts will be grievously hampered by innumerable petitions assailing the dismissal of investigatory proceedings conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman with regard to complaints filed before it, in much the same way that the courts would be extremely swamped if they could be compelled to review the exercise of discretion on the part of the fiscals or prosecuting attorneys each time they decide to file an information in court or dismiss a complaint by a private complainant.

It is past dispute of course that in every rule, there are always settled exceptions.16 Hence, the principle of non-interference does not apply when there is grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman.17 In Cabahug v. People, 18 we expressed the rationale for the exception in this wise:

While it is the function of the Ombudsman to determine whether or not the petitioner should be subjected to the expense, rigors and embarrassment of trial, he cannot do so arbitrarily. This seemingly exclusive and unilateral authority of the Ombudsman must be tempered by the Court when powers of prosecution are in danger of being used for persecution. Dismissing the case against the accused for palpable want of probable cause not only spares her the expense, rigors and embarrassment of trial, but also prevents needless waste of the court's time and saves the precious resources of the government.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

After a thorough review of the instant case, however, we find that the public respondents acted well within their discretion in finding probable cause against herein petitioners. Public respondents ratiocinated'

Upon evaluation, there appears to be probable cause for the charge against respondents, under Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019. Respondents erred in denying complainants' application for retention in question. The General Power of Attorney executed by complainants, by its terms, did not give explicit authority to the attorney-in-fact Emilio Dizon, to execute deeds of transfer in question, which can only be validly made through a Special Power of Attorney to that effect. The authority thus given refers only to acts of administration of subject property. It is also shown that the property was surveyed, without the consent of the complainants who, being legal heirs of the property in question were not notified by MARO regarding coverage of the property, and were not able to exercise their right of retention thereon, notwithstanding their representations on the matter. Complainants also had pointed out, besides, that some of the farmers beneficiaries, who were parties to the subject transfers, were not bona fide tenants of the landholding in question.

Thus, respondents caused undue injury to complainants by giving tenants/beneficiaries and some unqualified parties, unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference, through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or gross unexcusable negligence.19 (Emphasis supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

Likewise, with respect to petitioners' motions for reinvestigation,20 public respondents acted within the bounds of discretion in ruling that21 - -

The issue in the instant case centers on the right of retention of the landowners, complainants herein. P.D. No. 27 and R.A. 6657 give the landowner the right of retention. If the landowner has failed to exercise this right of retention under P.D. No. 27, the Supreme Court said that: He is "entitled to the retention rights provided for by R.A. No. 6657, which is more liberal than those granted by the decree." (Small Landowners Association vs. Sec. Philip Ella Juico, G.R. No. 78742; Arsenio Acuña, et al. vs. Joker Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 79310; Inocentes Pabico vs. Hon. P.E. Juico, et al., G.R. No. 79777 in a joint decision dated July 14, 1989). The foregoing pronouncement is a consolation to many a landowner who [has] failed to, or did not exercise his right to retain the 7 hectare rice and/or corn land under P.D. No. 27 (The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, R.A. No. 6657 and the Recent Developments Under It by Justice Milagros German, p. 10). Under Sec. 6, par. 2 of R.A. 6657 the landowner even has the right to choose the area to be retained which shall be compact or contiguous.

Respondent Bernardo argues that under Letter of Instruction No. 474 the predecessors of the complainants have no right of retention and the complainants having merely stepped into the shoes of their deceased parents, they both cannot claim a separate retention under R.A. 6657. To say that P.D. No. 27 is impliedly repealed by LOI No. 474 is out of context because the implementing rule can not repeal or restrict the very law allowing its creation.

At the outset, the General Power of Attorney given to Emilio Dizon could not be made as basis for the execution of the Deeds of Transfer because the power given to Dizon was only for administration and not to cede or transfer the property to third persons. In the investigation report for retention prepared and submitted by MARO thru PARO it was stated therein that SPA (Special Power of Attorney) was attached and made as basis for executing the deeds of transfer. But what was actually attached was a General Power of Attorney. In the survey of the landholding in 1989 the landowners were never notified. There was never an investigation conducted on the allegation of the complainants that some of the farmer beneficiaries were not their legitimate tenants. The MARO and the PARO should have arranged for a confrontation between the landowners and the farmer-beneficiaries to verify the allegation of the complainants and if found true the area occupied by said farmer beneficiaries should have been a suitable area to satisfy the retention rights of landowners and the controversy herein should have been averted. They should have given the complainants the opportunity to ventilate their complaint/allegation. Also, they should have looked into the claim of the complainants that they have not been paid of any compensation or rentals by the tenants. If true, the complainants had been deprived of their property without just compensation.

While it is true that the rights of the tenants must be protected, the right of retention of the landowners under the law must also be respected. Is it not paradoxical and ironic that the very laws invoked by the respondents as their bases in denying in a cavalier manner the right of retention of the complainants are the very same laws that give the landowners the said right? Respondents put every roadblock along the way to thwart the landowners in exercising their right of retention. (Emphasis supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

As correctly pointed out by private respondents, petitioners are not being indicted for simply performing their duties as officers of the Department of Agrarian Reform and in committing honest mistakes in the process.22 Rather, they are being made criminally accountable by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly performing such duties in a despotic manner and in gross bad faith which caused considerable damage and injury to private respondents and which gave unwarranted benefits to third persons.23 There being no grave abuse of discretion in the handling of the case by public respondents, we find no cogent reason to interfere in their determination of probable cause. Suffice it to say that our ruling in Gonzales, Jr. v. Alvarez24 - that Pres. Decree No. 27 applies and operates only to bona fide tenants-farmers - finds application to herein disquisition.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Court of Appeals Decision dated 18 October 2001 and the Resolution dated 08 May 2002 are hereby AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, and Tinga, JJ., concur.

Callejo, Sr., J., on official leave.

Endnotes:


1 Penned by Justice Buenaventura J. Guerrero with Justices Eriberto U. Rosario, Jr., and Bienvenido L. Reyes concurring (CA Rollo, pp. 117-122).

2 Penned by Justice Buenaventura J. Guerrero with Justices Eriberto U. Rosario, Jr., and Bienvenido L. Reyes concurring (Ibid., p. 169).

3 See Petition, Rollo, pp. 15-17; Court of Appeals Decision, Rollo, pp. 34-35; Ombudsman Resolution on OMB-1-95-1783, Rollo, pp. 53-54; Court of Appeals Petition, CA Rollo, pp. 5-6; Public Respondents' Comment, Rollo, pp. 111-112.

4 As summarized by public respondent Montero in his COMMENT dated 12 November 2002 (Rollo, p. 111).

5 CA Decision, CA Rollo, pp.124-125.

6 G.R. No. 68464, 22 March 1993, 220 SCRA 245.

7 G.R. NOS. 140619-24, 09 March 2001, 354 SCRA 158.

8 Kuizon v. Desierto, supra., note 8; Mendoza-Arce v. Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas), G.R. No. 149148, 05 April 2002, 380 SCRA 325.

9 Ibid.

10 Section 4, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

11 See Court of Appeals Resolution, CA Rollo, p. 73

12 Rollo, p. 21

13 Nava v. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 136470, 16 October 2001, 367 SCRA 263, 271 citing Alba v. Nitorreda,G.R. No. 120223, 13 March 1996, 254 SCRA 753, 765-766.

14 G.R. No. 131445, 27 May 2004, citing Presidential Commission on Good Government v. Desierto, G.R. No. 140232, 19 January 2001, 349 SCRA 767 and Presidential Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Committee on Behest Loans v. Desierto, G.R. No. 136192, 14 August 2001, 362 SCRA 730.

15 G.R. NOS. 103446-47, 30 August 1993, 225 SCRA 725, 730, as cited in Young v. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. No. 110736, 27 December 1993, 228 SCRA 718, 722-723.

16 The established exceptions are:

(1) When necessary to afford adequate protection to the constitutional rights of the accused;

(2) When necessary for the orderly administration of justice or to avoid oppression or multiplicity of actions;

(3) When there is a prejudicial question which is sub judice;

(4) When the acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority;

(5) Where the prosecution is under an invalid law, ordinance or regulation;

(6) When double jeopardy is clearly apparent;

(7) Where the court has no jurisdiction over the offense;

(8) Where it is a case of persecution rather than prosecution;

(9) Where the charges are manifestly false and motivated by the lust for vengeance;

(10) When there is clearly no prima faciecase against the accused and a motion to quash on that ground has been denied (Mendoza-Arce v. Office of the Ombudsman [Visayas], supra., note 9 at 334-335, citing Posadas v. Ombudsman, G.R. No. 131492, 29 September 2000, 341 SCRA 388; Venus v. Desierto, G.R. No. 130319, 21 October 1998, 289 SCRA 196; Brocka v. Enrile, G.R. NOS. 69863-65, 10 December 1990, 192 SCRA 183).

17 Sistoza v. Desierto, G.R. No. 144784, 03 September 2002, 388 SCRA 307, 323, citing Cabahug v. People, G.R. No. 132816, 05 February 2002, 376 SCRA 113, 123.

18 G.R. No. 132816, 05 February 2002, 376 SCRA 113, 132.

19 Rollo, pp. 44-45.

20 CA Rollo, pp. 46-51.

21 Rollo, pp. 54-55.

22 Rollo, pp. 98-103.

23 Ibid.

24 G.R. No. 77401, 07 February 1990, 182 SCRA 15, 22, citing Elena Vda. De Reyes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-43297, 15 December 1986, 146 SCRA 230; Geronimo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-62063, 28 April 1983, 121 SCRA 859; Jacinto v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-33567, 14 December 1978, 87 SCRA 263.




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