THIRD DIVISION

 

HON. WALDO Q. FLORES, in his capacity as Senior Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the President, HON. ARTHUR P. AUTEA, in his capacity as Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the President, and the PRESIDENTIAL ANTI-GRAFT COMMISSION (PAGC),

Petitioners,

 

 

- versus -

G.R. No. 170146

 

Present:

 

CARPIO MORALES, J.,

Chairperson,

BRION,

BERSAMIN,

VILLARAMA, JR., and

SERENO, JJ.

 

 

 

ATTY. ANTONIO F. MONTEMAYOR,

Respondent.

 

Promulgated:

 

August 25, 2010

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

 

DECISION

 

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before us is a Rule 45 petition assailing the October 19, 2005 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 84254. The appellate court, in the said decision, had reversed and set aside the March 23, 2004 Decision[2] and May 13, 2004 Resolution[3] of the Office of the President in O.P. Case No. 03-1-581 finding respondent Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor administratively liable as charged and dismissing him from government service.

The facts follow.

Respondent Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor was appointed by the President as Regional Director II of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Region IV, in San Fernando, Pampanga.

On January 30, 2003, the Office of the President received a letter from a concerned citizen dated January 20, 2003 relating Montemayors ostentatious lifestyle which is apparently disproportionate to his income as a public official. The letter was referred to Dario C. Rama, Chairman of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) for appropriate action.[4] The Investigating Office of the PAGC immediately conducted a fact-finding inquiry into the matter and issued subpoenas duces tecum to the responsible personnel of the BIR and the Land Transportation Office (LTO). In compliance with the subpoena, BIR Personnel Division Chief Estelita Datu submitted to the PAGC a copy of Montemayors appointment papers along with a certified true copy of the latters Sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SSAL) for the year 2002. Meanwhile, the LTO, through its Records Section Chief, Ms. Arabelle O. Petilla, furnished the PAGC with a record of vehicles registered to Montemayor, to wit: a 2001 Ford Expedition, a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser, and a 1983 Mitsubishi Galant.[5]

During the pendency of the investigation, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, a media organization which had previously published an article on the unexplained wealth of certain BIR officials, also submitted to the PAGC copies of Montemayors SSAL for the years 1999, 2000 and 2001.[6] In Montemayors 1999 and 2000 SSAL, the PAGC noted that Montemayor declared his ownership over several motor vehicles, but failed to do the same in his 2001 SSAL.[7]

On the basis of the said documents, the PAGC issued a Formal Charge[8] against Montemayor on May 19, 2003 for violation of Section 7 of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019[9] in relation to Section 8 (A) of RA No. 6713[10] due to his failure to declare the 2001 Ford Expedition with a value ranging from 1.7 million to 1.9 million pesos, and the 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser with an estimated value of 1 million to 1.2 million pesos in his 2001[11] and 2002[12] SSAL. The charge was docketed as PAGC-ADM-0149-03. On the same date, the PAGC issued an Order[13] directing Montemayor to file his counter-affidavit or verified answer to the formal charge against him within ten (10) days from the receipt of the Order. Montemayor, however, failed to submit his counter-affidavit or verified answer to the formal charge lodged against him.

On June 4, 2003, during the preliminary conference, Montemayor, through counsel, moved for the deferment of the administrative proceedings explaining that he has filed a petition for certiorari before the CA[14] questioning the PAGCs jurisdiction to conduct the administrative investigation against him. The PAGC denied Montemayors motion for lack of merit, and instead gave him until June 9, 2003 to submit his counter-affidavit or verified answer.[15] Still, no answer was filed.

On June 23, 2003, the CA issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in CA-G.R. SP No. 77285 enjoining the PAGC from proceeding with the investigation for sixty (60) days.[16] On September 12, 2003, shortly after the expiration of the sixty (60)-day TRO, the PAGC issued a Resolution[17] finding Montemayor administratively liable as charged and recommending to the Office of the President Montemayors dismissal from the service.

On March 23, 2004, the Office of the President, through Deputy Executive Secretary Arthur P. Autea, issued a Decision adopting in toto the findings and recommendation of the PAGC. The pertinent portion of the Decision reads:

After a circumspect study of the case, this Office fully agrees with the recommendation of PAGC and the legal premises as well as the factual findings that hold it together. Respondent failed to disclose in his 2001 and 2002 SSAL high-priced vehicles in breach of the prescription of the relevant provisions of RA No. 3019 in relation to RA No. 6713. He was, to be sure, afforded ample opportunity to explain his failure, but he opted to let the opportunity pass by.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent Antonio F. Montemayor is hereby found administratively liable as charged and, as recommended by PAGC, meted the penalty of dismissal from the service, with all accessory penalties.

SO ORDERED.[18]

Montemayor sought reconsideration of the said decision.[19] This time, he argued that he was denied his right to due process when the PAGC proceeded to investigate his case notwithstanding the pendency of his petition for certiorari before the CA, and its subsequent elevation to the Supreme Court.[20] The motion was eventually denied.[21]

Aggrieved, Montemayor brought the matter to the CA via a petition for review[22] under Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended. He made the following assertions: first, that the PAGC exceeded its authority when it recommended that he be dismissed from government service since the power to investigate does not necessarily carry with it the power to impose penalty unless the same was expressly granted; second, that the PAGC grossly violated his right to due process of law when it did not give him the opportunity to present his countervailing evidence to the charges against him; third, that the PAGC cannot validly proceed with the investigation of the charges against him on the basis of an unverified anonymous letter-complaint without any supporting documents attached thereto, contrary to the requirement of Section 4 (c) of Executive Order (EO) No. 12;[23] fourth, that it was an error for the Office of the President to hold him liable for violation of Section 7 of RA No. 3019 and Section 8 (A) of RA No. 6713 since the SSAL should reflect assets and liabilities acquired in the preceding year; and fifth, that the assailed PAGC Resolution was not supported by substantial evidence.

As aforesaid, the CA in its assailed Decision dated October 19, 2005, ruled in favor of Montemayor. The CA concluded that Montemayor was deprived of an opportunity to present controverting evidence amounting to a brazen denial of his right to due process.

Hence, petitioners now appeal the matter before us raising the following issues:

I.                   WHETHER PETITIONER PAGC HAD A CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO ACCORD RESPONDENT A SECOND OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT EVIDENCE IN PAGC-ADM-0149-03 AFTER THE EXPIRATION OF THE TRO ISSUED IN CA-G.R. SP NO. 77285.

II.                WHETHER THE MERE PENDENCY OF CA-G.R. SP NO. 77285 WAS A LEGAL GROUND FOR RESPONDENTS REFUSAL TO PRESENT EVIDENCE IN [PAGC]-ADM-0149-03.

III.             WHETHER THE ALLEGED UNDUE HASTE AND APPARENT PRECIPITATION OF PROCEEDINGS IN [PAGC]-ADM-0149-03 HAD RENDERED THE SAME INFIRM.

IV.             WHETHER RESPONDENT HAD COMMITTED A MAJOR ADMINISTRATIVE INFRACTION WARRANTING DISMISSAL FROM [GOVERNMENT] SERVICE.

V.                WHETHER THE [OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENTS] DETERMINATION THAT RESPONDENT COMMITTED THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFENSE CHARGED IS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.

VI.             WHETHER THE PAGC HAD AUTHORITY TO RECOMMEND TO THE PRESIDENT THE PENALTY OF DISMISSAL, FOLLOWING ITS INVESTIGATION INITIATED BY AN ANONYMOUS COMPLAINT, AND DESPITE THE PENDENCY OF ANOTHER INVESTIGATION FOR THE SAME OFFENSE BEFORE THE [OFFICE OF THE] OMBUDSMAN.[24]

The issues may be summarized as follows:

I.                   WHETHER RESPONDENT WAS DEPRIVED OF HIS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS WHEN IT PROCEEDED TO INVESTIGATE HIM ON THE BASIS OF AN ANONYMOUS COMPLAINT, AND ALLEGEDLY WITHOUT AN OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT EVIDENCE IN HIS DEFENSE;

II.                WHETHER THE PAGC HAS THE AUTHORITY TO RECOMMEND RESPONDENTS DISMISSAL FROM THE SERVICE;

III.             WHETHER THE ASSUMPTION BY THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN OF ITS JURISDICTION TO INVESTIGATE RESPONDENT FOR THE SAME OFFENSE DEPRIVED THE PAGC [WITH ITS JURISDICTION] FROM PROCEEDING WITH ITS INVESTIGATION; AND

IV.             WHETHER THE PAGCS RECOMMENDATION WAS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.

We discuss the first three (3) issues jointly as these involve procedural aspects.

The PAGC was created by virtue of EO No. 12, signed on April 16, 2001 to speedily address the problem on corruption and abuses committed in the government, particularly by officials appointed by the President. Under Section 4 (b) of EO No. 12, the PAGC has the power to investigate and hear administrative complaints provided (1) that the official to be investigated must be a presidential appointee in the government or any of its agencies or instrumentalities, and (2) that the said official must be occupying the position of assistant regional director, or an equivalent rank, or higher.[25]

Respondent contends that he was deprived of his right to due process when the PAGC proceeded to investigate him on the basis of an anonymous complaint in the absence of any documents supporting the complainants assertions.

Section 4 (c) of EO No. 12, however, states that the PAGC has the power to give due course to anonymous complaints against presidential appointees if there appears on the face of the complaint or based on the supporting documents attached to the anonymous complaint a probable cause to engender a belief that the allegations may be true.[26] The use of the conjunctive word or in the said provision is determinative since it empowers the PAGC to exercise discretion in giving due course to anonymous complaints. Because of the said provision, an anonymous complaint may be given due course even if the same is without supporting documents, so long as it appears from the face of the complaint that there is probable cause. The clear implication of the said provision is intent to empower the PAGC in line with the Presidents objective of eradicating corruption among a particular line of government officials, i.e., those directly appointed by her. Absent the conjunctive word or, the PAGCs authority to conduct investigations based on anonymous complaints will be very limited. It will decimate the said administrative body into a toothless anti-corruption agency and will inevitably undermine the Chief Executives disciplinary power.

Respondent also assails the PAGCs decision to proceed with the investigation process without giving him the opportunity to present controverting evidence.

The argument is without merit.

We find nothing irregular with the PAGCs decision to proceed with its investigation notwithstanding the pendency of Montemayors petition for certiorari before the CA. The filing of a petition for certiorari with the CA did not divest the PAGC of its jurisdiction validly acquired over the case before it. Elementary is the rule that the mere pendency of a special civil action for certiorari, commenced in relation to a case pending before a lower court or an administrative body such as the PAGC, does not interrupt the course of the latter where there is no writ of injunction restraining it.[27] For as long as no writ of injunction or restraining order is issued in the special civil action for certiorari, no impediment exists, and nothing prevents the PAGC from exercising its jurisdiction and proceeding with the case pending before its office.[28] And even if such injunctive writ or order is issued, the PAGC continues to retain jurisdiction over the principal action[29] until the question on jurisdiction is finally determined.

In the case at bar, a sixty (60)-day TRO was issued by the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 77285. However, barely a week after the lapse of the TRO, the PAGC issued its resolution finding Montemayor administratively liable and recommending to the Office of the President his dismissal from government service. The CA believes that there has been undue haste and apparent precipitation in the PAGCs investigation proceedings.[30] It notes with disapproval the fact that it was barely eight (8) days after the TRO had lapsed that the PAGC issued the said resolution and explains that respondent should have been given a second chance to present evidence prior to proceeding with the issuance of the said resolution.[31]

We beg to disagree with the appellate courts observation.

First, it must be remembered that the PAGCs act of issuing the assailed resolution enjoys the presumption of regularity particularly since it was done in the performance of its official duties. Mere surmises and conjectures, absent any proof whatsoever, will not tilt the balance against the presumption, if only to provide constancy in the official acts of authorized government personnel and officials. Simply put, the timing of the issuance of the assailed PAGC resolution by itself cannot be used to discredit, much less nullify, what appears on its face to be a regular performance of the PAGCs duties.

Second, Montemayors argument, as well as the CAs observation that respondent was not afforded a second opportunity to present controverting evidence, does not hold water. The essence of due process in administrative proceedings is an opportunity to explain ones side or an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.[32] So long as the party is given the opportunity to explain his side, the requirements of due process are satisfactorily complied with.[33]

Significantly, the records show that the PAGC issued an order informing Montemayor of the formal charge filed against him and gave him ten (10) days within which to present a counter-affidavit or verified answer.[34] When the said period lapsed without respondent asking for an extension, the PAGC gave Montemayor a fresh ten (10)-day period to file his answer,[35] but the latter chose to await the decision of the CA in his petition for certiorari.[36] During the preliminary conference, Montemayor was again informed that he is given a new ten (10)-day period, or until June 19, 2003 within which to file his memorandum/position paper as well as supporting evidence with a warning that if he still fails to do so, the complaint shall be deemed submitted for resolution on the basis of available documentary evidence on record.[37] Again, the deadline lapsed without any evidence being presented by Montemayor in his defense.

We stress that the PAGCs findings and recommendations remain as recommendations until finally acted upon by the Office of the President. Montemayor, therefore, had two (2) choices upon the issuance of the PAGC resolution: to move for a reconsideration thereof, or to ask for another opportunity before the Office of the President to present his side particularly since the assailed resolution is merely recommendatory in nature. Having failed to exercise any of these two (2) options, Montemayor cannot now be allowed to seek recourse before this Court for the consequences of his own shortcomings.

Desperately, Montemayor contends that the authority of the PAGC to investigate him administratively, as well as the power of the Office of the President to act on the PAGCs recommendation, had already ceased following the initiation and filing of the administrative and criminal cases against him by the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman).[38] He points out that the Ombudsman is mandated by Section 15, paragraph (1) of RA No. 6770[39] to take over the investigation and prosecution of the charges filed

against him.[40]

We are still not persuaded.

The cases filed against respondent before the Ombudsman were initiated after the Office of the President decided to dismiss Montemayor.[41] More importantly, the proceedings before the PAGC were already finished even prior to the initiation and filing of cases against him by the Ombudsman. In fact, it was the PAGCs findings and recommendations which served as the basis in the Office of the Presidents decision to dismiss Montemayor from government service. Clearly then, the exercise by the Office of the President of its concurrent investigatory and prosecutorial power over Montemayor had already been terminated even before the Ombudsman could take cognizance over the matter. The Ombudsman, therefore, cannot take over a task that is already a fait accompli.

As to the substantive aspect, i.e., whether the PAGCs recommendation to dismiss Montemayor from government service is supported by substantial evidence, we find in favor of petitioners.

Montemayors argument that he did not deliberately omit to declare the 2001 Ford Expedition in his 2001 SSAL and the 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser in his 2001 and 2002 SSAL fails to persuade us. Even if a motor vehicle was acquired through chattel mortgage, it is a government employees ethical and legal obligation to declare and include the same in his SSAL. Montemayor cannot wiggle his way out of the mess he has himself created since he knows for a fact that every asset acquired by a civil servant must be declared in the SSAL. The law requires that the SSAL be accomplished truthfully and in detail without distinction as to how the property was acquired. Montemayor, therefore, cannot escape liability by arguing that the ownership of the 2001 Ford Expedition has not yet passed to him on the basis of a lame excuse that the said vehicle was acquired only on installment basis sometime on July 3, 2001.[42]

Montemayor also argues that even if ownership of the said vehicle had been transferred to him upon acquisition, the vehicle was sold to another person on December 15, 2002;[43] hence, there is no need to declare it in his 2001 SSAL. Respondents reasoning is anemic and convoluted. It is evasive of the fact that the said vehicle was not reported in his 2001 SSAL. Notably, the acquisition value of the 2001 Ford Expedition was P1,599,000.00[44] is significantly greater than the amount declared by Montemayor under machinery/equipment, worth P1,321,212.50, acquired by him as of December 31, 2001,[45] and to the P1,251,675.00 worth of machinery/ equipment acquired by him as of December 31, 2002.[46] This belies Montemayors claim that the said vehicle has been included among the machinery/equipment assets he declared in his 2001 and 2002 SSAL.[47] Neither did Montemayor satisfactorily reflect the P1,000,000.00 that has come to his hands as payment for the alleged sale of his 2001 Ford Expedition in his 2002 SSAL.[48]

Respondent apparently fails to understand that the SSAL is not a mere scrap of paper. The law requires that the SSAL must be accomplished as truthfully, as detailed and as accurately as possible. The filing thereof not later than the first fifteen (15) days of April at the close of every calendar year must not be treated as a simple and trivial routine, but as an obligation that is part and parcel of every civil servants duty to the people. It serves as the basis of the government and the people in monitoring the income and lifestyle of officials and employees in the government in compliance with the Constitutional policy to eradicate corruption,[49] promote transparency in government,[50] and ensure that all government employees and officials lead just and modest lives.[51] It is for this reason that the SSAL must be sworn to and is made accessible to the public, subject to reasonable administrative regulations.

Montemayors repeated and consistent failure to reflect truthfully and adequately all his assets and liabilities in his SSAL betrays his claim of innocence and good faith. Accordingly, we find that the penalty of dismissal from government service, as sanctioned by Section 11 (a) and (b) of RA No. 6713,[52] meted by the Office of the President against him, is proper.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated October 19, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 84254 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the March 23, 2004 Decision and the May 13, 2004 Resolution of the Office of the President in O.P. Case No. 03-1-581 are REINSTATED and UPHELD.

Respondent Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor is hereby DISMISSED from government service.

SO ORDERED.

 

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice


 


WE CONCUR:

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO

Associate Justice

 

 

A T T E S T A T I O N

 

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

 

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

Chairperson, Third Division

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 



[1] Rollo, pp. 56-67. Penned by Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang, with Associate Justice (now Presiding Justice) Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa concurring.

[2] Id. at 86-91.

[3] Id. at 92-93.

[4] Id. at 69.

[5] CA rollo, pp. 73-74.

[6] Id. at 70-72.

[7] Id.

[8] Rollo, p. 71.

[9] Section 7 of RA No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, provides in full:

SEC. 7. Statement of Assets and Liabilities. Every public officer, within thirty days after assuming office and, thereafter, on or before the fifteenth day of April following the close of every calendar year, as well as upon the expiration of his term of office, or upon his resignation or separation from office, shall prepare and file with the office of the corresponding Department Head, or in the case of a Head of Department or Chief of an independent office, with the Office of the President, a true, detailed and sworn statement of assets and liabilities, including a statement of the amounts and sources of his income, the amounts of his personal and family expenses and the amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year: Provided, That public officers assuming office less than two months before the end of the calendar year, may file their first statement on or before the fifteenth day of April following the close of the said calendar year.

[10] Section 8 (A) of RA No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, as amended, provides in part:

SEC. 8. Statements and Disclosure. Public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, the assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.

(A) Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Financial Disclosure. All public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers, shall file under oath their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and a Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections and those of their spouses and unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.

x x x x

All public officials and employees required under this section to file the aforestated documents shall also execute within thirty (30) days from the date of their assumption of office, the necessary authority in favor of the Ombudsman, to obtain from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents as may show their liabilities, net worth, and also their business interests and financial connections in previous years, including, if possible the year when they first assumed any office in the Government.

[11] CA rollo, p. 72.

[12] Id. at 91-92.

[13] Id. at 50-51.

[14] Docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 77285. See CA rollo, pp. 53-66.

[15] CA rollo, pp. 83-85.

[16] Id. at 87.

[17] In PAGC-ADM-0149-03. See rollo, pp. 72-85.

[18] Rollo, p. 90.

[19] CA rollo, pp. 35-45.

[20] Docketed as G.R. No. 160443. The said petition for review on certiorari was eventually dismissed through a minute Resolution dated January 26, 2004. See rollo, p. 170.

[21] Rollo, pp. 92-93.

[22] CA rollo, pp. 4-26.

[23] Section 4 (c) of EO No. 12, series of 2001, entitled Creating the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission and Providing for its Powers, Duties and Functions and for Other Purposes, provides:

SECTION 4. Jurisdiction, Powers and Functions.

x x x x

(c) Anonymous complaints against a presidential appointee shall not be given due course unless there appears on its face or the supporting documents attached to the anonymous complaint a probable cause to engender a belief that the allegations may be true.

[24] Rollo, pp. 233-234.

[25] Section 4 (b) of EO No. 12, series of 2001, provides in full:

SECTION 4. Jurisdiction, Powers and Functions.

x x x x

(b) The Commission, acting as a collegial body, shall have the authority to investigate or hear administrative cases or complaints against all presidential appointees in the government and any of its agencies or instrumentalities (including members of the governing board of any instrumentality, regulatory agency, chartered institution and directors or officers appointed or nominated by the President to government-owned or controlled corporations or corporations where the government has a minority interest or who otherwise represent the interests of the government), occupying the position of assistant regional director, or an equivalent rank, and higher, otherwise classified as Salary Grade 26 and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758). In the same manner, the Commission shall have jurisdiction to investigate a non-presidential appointee who may have acted in conspiracy or may have been involved with a presidential appointee or ranking officer mentioned in this subsection. The Commission shall have no jurisdiction over members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

[26] Supra note 23.

[27] Santiago v. Vasquez, G.R. Nos. 99289-90, January 27, 1993, 217 SCRA 633, 647.

[28] Id. at 647-648.

[29] Id. at 648.

[30] Rollo, p. 62.

[31] Id. at 62-64.

[32] Arboleda v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 119509, February 11, 1999, 303 SCRA 38, 45.

[33] Calma v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 122787, February 9, 1999, 302 SCRA 682, 689.

[34] Rollo, pp. 132-133.

[35] Id. at 149-150.

[36] Id. at 151-154.

[37] Id. at 155-158.

[38] Docketed as OMB-C-A-04-0096-C and OMB-C-C-04-0084-C.

[39] Paragraph (1) of Section 15 of RA No. 6770, otherwise known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989, provides in part:

SEC. 15. Powers, Functions and Duties. The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the following powers, functions and duties:

(1)     Investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient. It has primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and, in the exercise of this primary jurisdiction, it may take over, at any stage, from any investigatory agency of Government, the investigation of such cases;

x x x x

[40] Rollo, pp. 182-183.

[41] Id. at 204-205.

[42] Id. at 109-110 and 127-129.

[43] Id. at 110 and 130.

[44] Id. at 129.

[45] CA rollo, p. 72 and unnumbered reverse page.

[46] Supra note 12.

[47] Id. at 18.

[48] Rollo, p. 130; CA rollo, pp. 91-92.

[49] Section 27, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution provides in full:

SEC. 27. The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption.

[50] Section 28, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution provides in full:

SEC. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.

[51] Section 1, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution provides in full:

SECTION 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.

[52] Section 11 of RA No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, as amended, provides in full:

SEC. 11. Penalties. (a) Any public official or employee, regardless of whether or not he holds office or employment in a casual, temporary, holdover, permanent or regular capacity committing any violation of this Act, shall be punished with a fine not exceeding the equivalent of six (6) months salary or suspension not exceeding one (1) year, or removal depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by the appropriate body or agency. If the violation is punishable by a heavier penalty under another law, he shall be prosecuted under the latter statute. Violations of Sections 7, 8 or 9 of this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) or both, and in the discretion of the court of competent jurisdiction, disqualification to hold public office.

(b) Any violation hereof proven in a proper administrative proceeding shall be sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of a public official or employee, even if no criminal prosecution is instituted against him.

x x x x