Republic of the
PUNO, J., Chairperson,
- versus - SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
PEOPLE OF THE
and the SANDIGANBAYAN,
March 23, 2006
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D E C I S I O N
In this petition for review on certiorari,
petitioner Ariel C. Santos assails and seeks the reversal of the
In an Information
filed with the Sandiganbayan, thereat docketed as Criminal Case No. 21770 and
raffled to its Third Division, herein petitioner Ariel Santos y Cadiente, then
the Labor Arbiter of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Regional
Arbitration Branch No. III,
on March 11, 1993 and June 15, 1993 respectively, in San Fernando, Pampanga, …,
the above-named accused, …, being then the Labor Arbiter of the [NLRC],
Regional Arbitration Branch No. III,
CONTRARY TO LAW. [Words in bracket added.]
In the ensuing pre-trial conference, petitioner
made the following admissions of fact duly embodied in the court’s second
1. That at the time material to the case as
alleged in the information, accused Ariel Santos was the Labor Arbiter of the
2. That the accused issued an Order dated
3. That Conrado L. Tiu …, addressed to the accused, a motion for reconsideration … of said Order directing the issuance of Writ of Execution;
4. That likewise, Conrado L. Tiu filed an opposition to Abraham Mose's motion for issuance of Writ of Execution in the above-entitled case;
That without resolving the Motion for
Reconsideration …, and despite the pendency of the same accused issued a Writ
of Execution dated
During trial, the prosecution adduced in evidence the testimony of its sole witness in the person of private complainant Conrado L. Tiu, owner of Plaza Hotel/Apartments, and the documents he identified and marked in the course of the proceedings.
For its part, the defense, following the denial of its Demurrer to Evidence, called to the witness box petitioner himself and one Norma G. Reyes.
As summarized in the decision under review, the parties’ respective versions of the relevant incidents follow:
Facts as established by the prosecution
Pursuant to the above Labor
Decision, NLRC Corporate Auditing Examiner Maria Lourdes L. Flores issued a
Report of Examiner rendering the computation of Abraham Mose’s backwages and
benefits for a period of three (3) years from July 1979 …for a total amount of
While the appeal was still pending
before the … Court, another Report of Examiner … was rendered by … Examiner
Philip A. Manansala increasing the award from
P16,360.50 to P63,537.76
which now covered backwages and benefits from July 1979 to May 1987.
This sudden increase of judgment award prompted Plaza Hotel/ Apartments to file an objection to the Report of Examiner Philip Manansala, citing among others: a) Supreme Court rulings that the maximum backwages to be paid should only cover three (3) years from dismissal; ….
On March 13, 1990, the NLRC Region 3
through … Norma G. Reyes, made a recomputation of the judgment award in favor
of Abraham Mose in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling covering a period
of only three (3) years from the date of dismissal. This recomputed award amounted to
After the above incidents, [the] accused
took over the above Labor Case RO3-AB-Case No. 198-79, …. On October 21, 1992, [he] …issued an Order of
even date, which increased the judgment award … from
P19,908.46 to a skyrocketing P178,462.56 adopting and citing therein
as basis a Report of Fiscal Examiner dated September 24, 1991, which was not
even furnished to Plaza Hotel/Restaurants, Conrado L. Tiu or his counsel. This computation was contrary to the prevailing
jurisprudence in Lepanto Consolidated
Mining Co. vs. Encarnacion, where the monetary awards for illegally
dismissed employees should only cover a three (3) year-period from the time of
dismissal. The October 21, 1992 Order of
[the] accused included the order for the issuance of Writ of Execution.
Plaza Hotel/Apartments filed a
Motion for Reconsideration dated
During the pendency of the Plaza
Hotel’s Motion for Reconsideration, Abraham Mose through counsel filed an Ex-Parte Motion for Execution of the Order dated
Without however acting on the Plaza
Hotel/Apartments’ Motion for Reconsideration dated November 5, 1992 and the
Opposition to Motion for Execution dated February 6, 1993, [the] accused issued
a Writ of Execution dated March 11, 1993 to implement his Order of October 21,
1992 to collect the amount of
P178,462.56 …. Reacting to this action of [the] accused …,
Plaza Hotel/Apartments filed on
Conrado L. Tiu, … was then compelled to file a Petition for Injunction before the Department of Labor and Employment with a prayer for [a] Temporary Restraining Order [TRO].
The NLRC in its Resolution of
[which Tiu complied] as shown by his payment of
premium amounting to P11,885.50.
Despite the [TRO], [the] accused
issued an “Alias Writ of Execution” dated
Facts as established by the defense
Accused Ariel Santos admitted that
he had issued a Writ of Execution on the Decision dated
P19,908.46 to P178,462.56
…. The said writ of execution was issued
Prior to the issuance of the above–said decision, a [TRO]was issued by the DOLE–NLRC for the enjoinment of the implementation of the writ of execution dated March 11, 1993, however, [the] accused issued an alias writ of execution. The Sheriff assigned did not implement the said writs.
Norma Reyes initially made a
computation for the back wages of Abraham Mose in the amount
P19,908.46 …. However,
she made a recomputation … based on the Order of [the accused] … dated P19,908.46 back wages to P178,462.56 …. She was not informed by [the] accused that it
is physically impossible for Mose to be reinstated ….
(Words in bracket added)
In the same decision, the Sandiganbayan (Third Division) adjudged petitioner guilty as charged and, accordingly, sentenced him, thus:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds accused ARIEL SANTOS y CADIENTE GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as "The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act", and sentences said accused to EIGHT (8) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY, as minimum, to TEN (10) YEARS, as maximum, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Ariel Santos is also ordered to pay Plaza Hotel/Apartments, through Conrado L. Tiu, the following sums as his civil liability:
P68,000 for the attorney's fees paid
by Conrado L. Tiu because of filing of this case; and
P11,800 for the supersedeas bond paid
by Conrado L. Tiu in connection with the
restraining order issued by the DOLE-NLRC.
His motion for reconsideration having
been denied by the same court in its equally assailed Resolution of
I. IN HOLDING THAT PETITIONER WAS GUILTY OF MANIFEST PARTIALITY IN ISSUING THE WRITS OF EXECUTION SUBJECT OF THE INFORMATION.
ll. IN HOLDING THAT THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT SUFFERED UNDUE INJURY SINCE, AS SHOWN ABOVE, THE JUDGMENT FOR WHICH HE WAS HELD LIABLE TO PAY BACKWAGES, WHETHER FOR THAT LIMITED PERIOD OF THREE (3) YEARS OR CONTINUING BACKWAGES UNTIL ACTUAL REINSTATEMENT HAS NEVER BEEN SATISFIED.
The petition is not impressed with merit.
Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended, under which petitioner was indicted and convicted, reads:
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:
xxx xxx xxx
(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions.
In Jacinto vs. Sandiganbayan, the Court en banc enumerated the essential elements of the crime punishable under the aforequoted statutory provision, to wit:
1. The accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions;
2. He must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or inexcusable negligence; and
3. That his action caused any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions.
As may be noted, what contextually is punishable is the act of causing any undue injury to any party, or the giving to any private party of unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of the public officer’s functions. In Uy vs. Sandiganbayan, and again in Santiago vs. Garchitorena, the Court has made it abundantly clear that the use of the disjunctive word “or” connotes that either act of (a) “causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government”; and (b) “giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference,” qualifies as a violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended. This is not to say, however, that each mode constitutes a distinct offense but that an accused may be proceeded against under either or both modes.
Anent the first error, petitioner submits
that the Sandiganbayan overlooked the fact that, when he issued, on
The Court is not persuaded.
Petitioner’s posture of not having known
at some material point in time the issuance of the TRO in question strikes the
Court as mere afterthought. If it were
really true that he had no knowledge of the TRO issuance before he issued the
In any case, the Court agrees with the findings and disquisitions of the Sandiganbayan that petitioner exhibited manifest partiality towards Abraham Mose in issuing the two Writs of Execution:
a Labor Arbiter, and a lawyer at that, it is incumbent upon him to exercise
prudence and probity in the exercise of his functions. He knew that there was a pending Motion for
Reconsideration filed by Plaza Hotel/Apartments contesting his order dated
October 21, 1992 ordering, in haste, the issuance of the writ of execution and
regarding the hulking increase of the amount of backwages to be paid to Abraham
P19,908.46 to P178,462.56, and despite the pendency of
the said Motion, he issued the corresponding writ of execution. His reason that there is no longer a
necessity to resolve the motion for reconsideration because the Decision of
Labor Arbiter Palumbarit has become final and executory is untenable and a very
negligible statement. The issue raised
in the motion for reconsideration is not the Decision of Labor Arbiter Palumbarit,
but accused's Order dated
Petitioner also maintains that Plaza Hotel did not suffer damage or injury consequent to his having issued the two writs of execution, arguing that neither was ever enforced. Pressing the point, he also states that what Plaza Hotel paid by way of attorney's fees and premium for the supersedeas bond it posted to enjoin the enforcement of the alias writ of execution is not the damage or injury contemplated under Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019.
The contention is untenable.
The term “undue injury” in the context of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act punishing the act of "causing undue injury to any party," has a meaning akin to that civil law concept of “actual damage.” The Court said so in Llorente vs. Sandiganbayan, thus:
In jurisprudence, “undue injury” is consistently interpreted as “actual damage.” Undue has been defined as “more than necessary, not proper, [or] illegal;” and injury as “any wrong or damage done to another, either in his person, rights, reputation or property [; that is, the] invasion of any legally protected interest of another.” Actual damage, in the context of these definitions, is akin to that in civil law.
In turn, actual or compensatory damages is defined by Article 2199 of the Civil Code as follows:
“Art. 2199. Except as provided by law or by stipulation, one is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. Such compensation is referred to as actual or compensatory damages.”
Fundamental in the law on damages is that one injured by a breach of a contract, or by a wrongful or negligent act or omission shall have a fair and just compensation commensurate to the loss sustained as a consequence of the defendant’s act. Actual pecuniary compensation is awarded as a general rule, …. Actual damages are primarily intended to simply make good or replace the loss caused by the wrong.
Petitioner admitted issuing the two writs
of execution without first resolving Plaza Hotel's motion for reconsideration
Petitioner is obviously trying to
mislead. As may be recalled, petitioner took over Labor Case RO3-AB Case No.
198-79 after this Court, in G.R. No. 77105, dismissed with finality Plaza Hotel/Apartments’
appeal from the decision of Labor Arbiter Andres Palumbarit which, to stress, decreed payment to Mose of backwages from the date
of his illegal dismissal to his reinstatement, without, however, indicating a
specific amount. In the span between the issuance of the Palumbarit
decision and this Court’s final dismissal action aforementioned, two NLRC
auditing examiners came out with (2) different computations of the judgment
award. Thereafter, but before accused issued, on October 21, 1992, an order fixing the judgment award at
and directing the issuance of the covering writ of execution, examiner Norma Reyes,
following jurisprudence, made a recomputation and came up with the figure P19,908.46
to cover the threshold three years backwages.
increase of the award for Mose from
P19,908.46 to P178,462.56 appeared contrary to prevailing jurisprudence that such award should cover only a 3-year period from the
time of the employee's dismissal. The
perceived illegality of the said Order of October 21, 1992 is what impelled
Plaza Hotel to move for a reconsideration, raising inter
alia the following issues for
petitioner to consider in assessing the former's liability: (a) the ruling in Lepanto Consolidated Mining vs. Encarnacion on the amount recoverable in illegal
dismissal cases is still the
prevailing doctrine; (b) as early as
July 1990, the employer already expressed willingness to pay Mose the sum of P19,908.46; and (c) Plaza Hotel was
not furnished of the new computation assessing it the amount of P178,462.56.
From the foregoing narration of events,
it is fairly clear that Plaza Hotel’s motion for reconsideration immediately
referred to above was directed against petitioner’s order of
As it were, petitioner failed to resolve
said motion for reconsideration and instead issued on
P68,500.00 - and, to apply for
injunctive relief and then pay P11,800.00 for the supersedeas
bond to stay the implementation of the writ
of execution in question. In net effect, Plaza Hotel incurred damages rendered
necessary by the illegal or improper acts of petitioner.
All told, the Court rules and so holds, as did the respondent Sandiganbayan, that the elements of the offense charged had been duly established beyond reasonable doubt. Petitioner, being a labor arbiter of the NLRC, discharges quasi-judicial functions. His act of issuing the two writs of execution without first resolving the pending motion for reconsideration of his October 21, 1992 Order, and despite the existence of a TRO was clearly tainted with or attended by evident partiality causing undue injury to private complainant Conrado L. Tiu.
The penalty for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 is imprisonment for not less than six years and one month nor more than fifteen years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and other accessory penalties. Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law, if the offense is punished by special law, as here, the court shall impose on the accused an indeterminate penalty the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by said law and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum prescribed by the same. Hence, the respondent court correctly imposed on petitioner an indeterminate prison term of eight (8) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to ten (10) years, as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from public office.
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error on the decision under review, the same is hereby AFFIRMED in toto and this petition is DENIED for lack of merit.
Costs against petitioner.
CANCIO C. GARCIA
REYNATO S. PUNO
RENATO C. CORONA
ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
Chairperson, Second Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
 Penned by Associate Justice Godofredo L. Legaspi and concurred in by Associate Justices Edilberto G. Sandoval and Norberto Y. Geraldez; Rollo, pp. 30-47.
 Records, pp. 1-2.
 Records, pp. 461-478.
 Rollo, pp. 33-38.
 Supra, note #2.
 G.R. No. 84571,
 G.R. No. 100334,
 G.R. No. 109266,
Bank vs. CA, G.R. No.134068,
 Rollo, p. 44.
 350 Phil. 820 (1998).
vs. NLRC, 350 Phil. 486 (1998). The applicable rule is: where the illegal
dismissal happened before the effectivity of R.A. No. 6715, or before
 G.R. Nos. L-67002-03,