SC Dismisses Petition of Rep. Rodriguez against NBI, DOJ on PDAF Scam Case

November 3, 2021

The Supreme Court has dismissed the petition for certiorari under  Rule 65 filed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez against the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the investigation for his alleged participation in the misuse and misappropriation of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) involving Janet Lim Napoles.

In a Resolution, the Court’s Second Division held that the NBI did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it investigated in 2015 on Rodriguez’s alleged involvement in the Napoles PDAF Scam. Likewise, the Court held that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NBI and the DOJ in filing before the Ombudsman charges of malversation of public funds, direct bribery, and graft against Rodriguez and other lawmakers.

In its investigation, the NBI found that the lawmakers involved used their PDAF in illegal transactions with Napoles’ non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to enable themselves to profit from the simulated disbursements and utilization of their respective PDAF. The NBI also found that all the NGOs of Napoles were ghost organizations. As to Rodriguez, the NBI found that he allegedly received P2.099M as kickback using the NGO “PSDFI” as a conduit for the scam, and that the scam was facilitated by “TRC” as the implementing agency.

In his petition before the SC, Rodriquez accused the NBI and the DOJ of violating Sections 1 and 14(1), Article III of the 1987 Constitution by denying his constitutional rights to due process of law and equal protection of the laws when they investigated him on the PDAF scam without giving  him the opportunity to be heard. Rodriguez averred that the NBI refused and failed to give him a certified true copy of its letter-complaints and the Executive Summary of the investigation despite his request.

Section 1, Article III of the Constitution states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection on the laws.” On the other hand, Section 14(1) states that “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.”

The Court held that there was no violation of petitioner’s constitutional rights to due process of law and equal protection of the laws in the case.

The Court noted that Section 1 of RA 157, or An Act Creating a Bureau of Investigation, Providing Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes, shows that the main functions of the NBI are merely investigative and information in nature. The NBI’s function are not quasi-judicial in nature and do  not involve the granting of relief to any party.

It further noted that subsequent to RA 157, various executive orders and republic acts have been promulgated concerning the NBI, the latest of which is RA 10867, or the National Bureau of Investigation Reorganization and Modernization Act in 2016. While RA 10867 expanded the powers and functions of the NBI, a perusal of the same shows that its functions remained to be merely investigative and informational.

The Court held that the NBI’s investigation of the Napoles PDAF scam were done in the performance of the NBI’s functions which are merely investigatory and informational in nature. The NBI did not perform a judicial or quasi-judicial function when it recommended to the Ombudsman further fact-finding investigation or the corresponding preliminary investigation for the eventual filing of the appropriate charges before the Sandiganbayan. Instead, the NBI’s findings were merely recommendatory and still subject to the Ombudsman’s actions.

Citing to its similar ruling in Shu v. Dee, et al. in 2014, the Court said “no denial of petitioner’s due process right could have taken place. There is also no violation of petitioner’s right to equal protection of the laws to speak of…there is not even a vested right granted by law to any person under investigation to participate in the proceedings before the NBI.”

Furthermore, the Court found no merit in petitioner’s argument that the NBI and the DOJ violated Section 5(b) and (c) of RA 157 and the DOJ’s Vision, Mission, and Pledge statements by deliberately failing and refusing completely to: (a) issue any subpoena or subpoena duces tecum; and (b) take or require his sworn truthful statements.” The Court stressed that there is nothing in the wording of the said sections which makes the issuance of subpoena or subpoena duces tecum and the taking of sworn truthful statements mandatory on the part of the NBI. As correctly argued by the NBI and the DOJ, while Section 5(b) of RA 157 empowers the NBI to issue subpoena or subpoena duces tecum for the appearance, at Government expense, of any person for investigation, such matter is addressed to the sound discretion of the investigator alone. The same with Section 5(c) where the taking of and requiring sworn truthful statements of any person summoned in relation to a case under investigation is left to the sound discretion of the investigator.

“Consequently, there being no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the NBI in conducting an investigation on the person of petitioner as to his participation in the  Napoles PDAF Scam, the Court finds no ground to nullify the NBI’s investigation. In the same vein, the Court finds no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the NBI and the DOJ in filing the letter-complaints against petitioner, among others, with the Ombudsman,” said the Court in the Resolution signed by Second Division Clerk of Court Teresita A. Tuazon.

(G.R. No. 219781, Rodriguez v. NBI and DOJ, July 28, 2021)

FULL TEXT: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/21899/