September 2005 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
A.M. No. P-99-1342 - Concerned Taxpayer v. Norberto V. Doblada, Jr.
[A.M. NO. P-99-1342 : September 20, 2005]
CONCERNED TAXPAYER, Complainant, v. NORBERTO V. DOBLADA, JR., Sheriff, Regional Trial Court, Branch 155, Pasig City, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
This concerns respondent's Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration concerning this Court's Decision dated June 8, 2005, dismissing respondent from the service with forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave credits, if any, and with prejudice to his reemployment to any branch or service of the government including government-owned and controlled corporations, for having failed to declare a true and detailed statement of assets and liabilities for the years 1974, 1976, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1998 in violation of Section 7 of R.A. No. 3019 and Section 8 of R.A. No. 6713. This Court also received a letter dated July 22, 2005, from the wife of respondent, pleading for mercy and compassion and praying that the penalty imposed upon her husband be reduced.
Respondent offers the following explanations for the inaccuracies and inconsistencies appearing in his SALs:
1. As to his property located in Baguio City, respondent contends that contrary to what has been declared in his SAL for 1989 (that the property was acquired through purchase in 1965), the fact is that the property was acquired in September 1984. He presented deed of sale of the alleged property to prove the date of acquisition.
2. As to the residential lot located in the province of Rizal which was declared as acquired through inheritance in 1965, respondent claims that since the title to the property was only issued in September 1994 under his name and that of his siblings, respondent considered himself co-owner of the said property only from said date.
3. As to the house and lot which he declared that he acquired through inheritance in 1967, he now claims that he could not have possibly inherited the said property in 1967 because at that time his father was still alive and was living in said property. Hence, he could not declare the same as his property in his SALs for 1974 and 1976.
4. As to his directorship in the Australian-based company, ELXSHAR, respondent contends that the reason why he declared such directorship as part of his business interests only in 1995 is that the company was still being organized in 1989, when he acquired a share in said company, and that it only became fully operational in 1995. Respondent further claims that his share could hardly be considered as a business interest as its value is only one Australian dollar.
5. As to the fish cage which he constructed through a loan of
P300,000.00, respondent claims that the property was totally destroyed by a typhoon in the same year that it was constructed prompting him not to declare it as part of his assets.
6. As to the other fish pen constructed through a loan of
P2,500,000.00 acquired in 1993, respondent contends that the fish pen was only completed and became operational in 1995 that is why he only declared the same as his asset in 1995.
After a careful review of the above-enumerated explanations respondent has proffered in his Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration as well as in his earlier Motion for Reconsideration, this Court finds that he still failed to discharge the burden of proving that the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in his SALs were the result of mere typographical errors or lapses in memory, or that they were not committed in bad faith or with the intention of hiding anything from the government. This is evidenced by the following:
1. If he could not have really acquired his house and lot located in the province of Rizal prior to 1989, why should he declare in his SALS for 1989 and 1993 that he acquired these properties in 1967 and 1965, respectively; and why should he declare in his SALS for 1991, 1995 and 1998 that he acquired the same properties in 1985?cralawlibrary
2. As to his shares in ELXSHAR, if it is true that the company was still being organized in 1989 and that it only became operational in 1995, this fact does not excuse respondent from declaring his business interests in said company. Moreover, his claim that his interest consists only of a one-dollar share is inconsistent with his statement in his Explanation, dated September 4, 2003 submitted to this Court, that one of the reasons why his assets significantly increased from 1974 to 1995 is because of his appointment as director of said company.
3. With respect to his fish pens, the fact that they were destroyed by a typhoon or that they were not yet completed or operational does not excuse respondent from declaring them as part of his assets during the years that they were constructed, considering that these assets have considerable value.
In sum, the foregoing acts of respondent are tantamount to dishonesty, which under Civil Service rules and regulations is punishable with dismissal even for the first offense.1
Respondent also contends that Section 11 of R. A. No. 3019, which is one of the laws under which he was charged, provides that all offenses punishable under the said law shall prescribe in ten (10) years.2 On this basis, respondent argues that since the instant administrative complaint was filed on December 8, 1993, he can no longer be charged for his failure to disclose some of his properties in his SALs for 1974 and 1976 on the ground of prescription.
We are not convinced.
Herein respondent is charged and found guilty administratively, not criminally, for failure to submit true and detailed SALs not only for the years 1974 and 1976, but also for 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1998.
R.A. No. 3019 is a penal statute. The prescription provided for therein does not apply to administrative cases. Settled is the rule that administrative offenses do not prescribe.3
Moreover, respondent is also charged under Sec. 8, R.A. No. 6713, known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. Nowhere do we find in said law a provision for the prescription of offenses punishable therein.
Nonetheless, equitable and humanitarian considerations, taking into account the following: respondent had spent 34 years of his life in government service and that he is about to retire; this is the first time that he has been found administratively liable as per available record; respondent and his wife are suffering from various illnesses that require constant medication and that they rely on respondent's retirement benefits to augment the finances they have left to meet their medical bills and expenses - persuade us to reconsider the penalty imposed on him.
Thus, in the recent case of Re: Administrative Case for Dishonesty Against Elizabeth Ting, Court Secretary I, and Angelita C. Esmerio, Clerk III, Office of the Division Clerk of Court, Third Division,4 where respondents had been found guilty of dishonesty, the Court, for humanitarian considerations, in addition to various mitigating circumstances in favor of respondents, meted out a penalty of six months suspension instead of imposing the most severe penalty of dismissal from service.
WHEREFORE, the Court's Resolution dated July 19, 2005 denying respondent's motion for reconsideration with finality is SET ASIDE. Respondent's Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration is partly GRANTED. The Decision dated June 8, 2005, is MODIFIED to the effect that the penalty of DISMISSAL imposed on him is reduced to SIX (6) MONTHS SUSPENSION without pay, effective from date of receipt of herein Resolution.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Ynares-Santiago, J., no part.
Tinga, J., no part. close relationship to a party.
1 Section 22(a), Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292, as amended by CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999.
2 Should be fifteen (15) years per Sec. 11, R.A. No. 3019.
3 Floria v. Sunga, A.M. No. CA-01-10-P, November 14, 2001, 368 SCRA 550, 559.
4 A.M. Nos. 2001-7-SC & 2001-8-SC, July 22, 2005.