CASE 2013-0018: BENILDA N. BACASMAS, PETITIONER, -VERSUS-SANDIGANAYAN AND PEOPLE OF THE PIHLIPPINES, RESPONDENTS; ALAN C. GAVIOLA, PETITIONER, -VERSUS- PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.; EUSTAQUIO B. CESA, PETITIONER, -VERSUS- PEOPLE OF TILE PHILIP.PINES, RESPONDENT. (G.R. NO. 189343, G.R. NO. 189369. G.R. NO. 189553, 10 JULY 2013, SERENO, CJ.) SUBJECT/S: WHEN INFORMATION IS SUFFICIENT; MEANING OF ACTING WITH MANIFEST PARTIALITY, EVIDENT BAD FAITH OR GROSS INEXCUSABLE NEGLIGENCE; MEANING OF CONSPIRACY, UNDUE INJURY AND UNWARRANTED BENEFIT, ADVANTAGE OR PREFERENCE; IMPOSING PENALTY UNDER THE INDETERMINATE SENTENCE LAW (BRIEF TITLE: BACASMAS ET AL. VS. PEOPLE).
“WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the 07 May 2009 Decision and 27 August 2009 Resolution of the Sandiganbayan in Crim. Case No. 26914 are AFFIRMED.
WHEN IS AN INFORMATION DEEMED SUFFICIENT?
IF IT CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING:
(A) THE NAME OF ALL THE ACCUSED;
(B) THE DESIGNATION OF THE OFFENSE AS GIVEN IN THE
(C) THE ACTS OR OMISSIONS COMPLAINED OF AS CONSTITUTING THE OFFENSE;
(D) THE NAME OF THE OFFENDED PARTY;
(E) THE APPROXIMATE DATE OF THE
COMMISSION OF THE OFFENSE; AND
(F) THE PLACE WHERE THE OFFENSE WAS
WHAT IS THE CHARGE AGAINST THE ACCUSED?
VIOLATION OF SECTION 3(E) OF R.A. 3019, THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF WHICH ARE AS FOLLOWS:
1. THE ACCUSED MUST BE A PUBLIC OFFICER DISCHARGING ADMINISTRATIVE, JUDICIAL OR OFFICIAL FUNCTIONS;
2. THE ACCUSED MUST HAVE ACTED WITH MANIFEST PARTIALITY, EVIDENT BAD FAITH OR GROSS INEXCUSABLE NEGLIGENCE;
3. THE ACTION OF THE ACCUSED CAUSED UNDUE INJURY TO ANY PARTY, INCLUDING THE GOVERNMENT, OR GAVE ANY PRIVATE PARTY UNWARRANTED BENEFITS, ADVANTAGE OR PREFERENCE IN THE DISCHARGE OF THE FUNCTIONS OF THE ACCUSED.
CESA AND GAVIOLA QUESTION THE INFORMATION ON THE GROUND THAT IT DID NOT SPECIFY A REASONABLE TIME FRAME WITHIN WHICH THEOFFENSE WAS COMMITTED? ARE THEY CORRECT?
IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO STATE THE PRECISE DATE WHEN THE OFFENSE WAS COMMITTED, EXCEPT WHEN IT IS A MATERIAL INGREDIENT THEREOF.
“First, it is not necessary to state the precise date when the offense was committed, except when it is a material ingredient thereof. The offense may be alleged to have been committed on a date as near as possible to the actual date of its commission. Here, the date is not a material ingredient of the crime, not having been committed on one day alone, but rather within a period of time ranging from 20 September 1995 to 5 March 1998. Hence, stating the exact dates of the commission of the crime is not only unnecessary, but impossible as well. That the Information alleged a date and a period during which the crime was committed was sufficient, because it duly informed petitioners that before and until 5 March 1998, over nine million pesos had been taken by Gonzales as a result of petitioners’ acts.
These acts caused undue injury to the government and unwarranted benefits to the said paymaster.”
SECOND THEY QUESTION THE INFORMATION ON THE GROUND THAT NOT ALL OF THE ACCUSED WERE NAMED, AS GONZALES WAS NOT CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION. SPECIFICALLY, CESA CONTENDS THAT GONZALES SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE INFORMATION, BECAUSE THE LATTER INCURRED CASH SHORTAGES AND ALLEGEDLY HAD UNLIQUIDATED CASH ADVANCES. IS THEIR CONTENTION CORRECT?
THE INFORMATION CORRECTLY EXCLUDED HER BECAUSE HER ALLEGED ACTS DID NOT FALL UNDER THE CRIME CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION.
IT WAS THE ACTS OF PETITIONERS WHICH ALLOWED GONZALES TO OBTAIN CASH ADVANCES.
“Cesa contends that Gonzales should have been included in the Information, because the latter incurred cash shortages and allegedly had unliquidated cash advances. Cesa is wrong. The Information seeks to hold petitioners accountable for their actions, which allowed Gonzales to obtain cash advances, and paved the way for her to incur cash shortages, leading to a loss of over nine million pesos. Thus, the Information correctly excluded her because her alleged acts did not fall under the crime charged in the Information.”
THEY ALSO QUESTION THE INFORMATION ON THE GROUND THAT THE INFORMATION DID NOT SPECIFY AN OFFENSE, BECAUSE NEGLIGENCE AND CONSPIRACY CANNOT CO-EXIST IN A CRIME. IS THEIR CONTENTION CORRECT?
THERE WAS NO INCONSISTENCY IN ALLEGING BOTH THE PRESENCE OF CONSPIRACY AND GROSS INEXCUSABLE NEGLIGENCE, BECAUSE THE LATTER WAS NOT SIMPLE NEGLIGENCE. RATHER, THE NEGLIGENCE INVOLVED A WILLFUL, INTENTIONAL, AND CONSCIOUS INDIFFERENCE TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF ONE’S ACTIONS OR OMISSIONS.
“and third, The Sandiganbayan earlier held that the Information was sufficient in that it contained no inherent contradiction and properly charged an offense.
We uphold its ruling for the following reasons: Second, the Information charges petitioners with violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, to wit:
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.
x x x x
(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.”
BACASMAS ADMITTED SIGNING VOUCHERS BECAUSE IT WAS COMMON PRACTICE TO SIGN THEM EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE DEFICIENCIES. CESA ALLEGED HE CANNOT SUPERVISE ALL PERSONNEL SO HE INSTRUCTED BACASMAS TO REVIEW THE DOCUMENTS WELL AND WHEN HE SAW THAT BACASMAS SIGNED THEM HE ALSO SIGNED THEM. GAVIOLA SAID SHE SIGNED THE VOUCHERS BECAUSE BACASMAS AND GAVIOLA ALREADY SIGNED THEM. ARE THEIR DEFENSE CORRECT?
NO. THEY HAVE THE DUTY TO FOLLOW PROPER PROCEDURE FOR THE APPROVAL AND GRANT OF CASH ADVANCES.
“Petitioners being the Cash Division Chief, City Treasurer and City Administrator have to comply with R.A. 7160, P.D. 1445, and COA Circulars 90-331, 92-382, and 97-002 on the proper procedure for the approval and grant of cash advances. These laws and rules and regulations state that cash advances can only be disbursed for a legally authorized specific purpose and cannot be given to officials whose previous cash advances have not been settled or properly accounted for.67 Cash advances should also be equal to the net amount of the payroll for a certain pay period, and they should be supported by the payroll or list of payees and their net payments.”
WHAT IS GROSS AND INEXCUSABLE NEGLIGENCE?
GROSS AND INEXCUSABLE NEGLIGENCE IS CHARACTERIZED BY A WANT OF EVEN THE SLIGHTEST CARE, ACTING OR OMITTING TO ACT IN A SITUATION IN WHICH THERE IS A DUTY TO ACT NOT INADVERTENTLY, BUT WILFULLY AND INTENTIONALLY, WITH CONSCIOUS INDIFFERENCE TO CONSEQUENCES INSOFAR AS OTHER PERSONS ARE AFFECTED.75 BAD FAITH DOES NOT SIMPLY CONNOTE BAD JUDGMENT OR SIMPLE NEGLIGENCE.76 IT IMPORTS A DISHONEST PURPOSE OR SOME MORAL OBLOQUY AND CONSCIOUS DOING OF A WRONG, A BREACH OF A KNOWN DUTY DUE TO SOME MOTIVE OR INTEREST OR ILL WILL THAT PARTAKES OF THE NATURE OF FRAUD.
WHAT IS THE FINDING OF THE COURT ON THE ACTUATIONS OF THE ACCUSED?
PETITIONERS WERE WELL AWARE OF THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES BEFORE THEY AFFIXED THEIR SIGNATURES ON THE CASH ADVANCE VOUCHERS. YET, THEY STILL CHOSE TO DISREGARD THE REQUIREMENTS LAID DOWN BY LAW AND RULES AND REGULATIONS BY APPROVING THE VOUCHERS DESPITE THE INCOMPLETE INFORMATION THEREIN, THE PREVIOUS UNLIQUIDATED CASH ADVANCES, THE ABSENCE OF PAYROLL TO SUPPORT THE CASH REQUESTED, AND THE DISPARITY BETWEEN THE REQUESTED CASH ADVANCES AND THE TOTAL NET PAY.
IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH THE EXISTENCE OF CONSPIRACY WHAT MUST BE PROVEN?
UNITY OF PURPOSE AND UNITY IN THE EXECUTION OF AN UNLAWFUL OBJECTIVE BY THE ACCUSED MUST BE PROVEN.
IS DIRECT PROOF ESSENTIAL?
NO. DIRECT PROOF IS NOT ESSENTIAL TO SHOW CONSPIRACY.80 IT IS ENOUGH THAT THERE BE PROOF THAT TWO OR MORE PERSONS ACTED TOWARDS THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF A COMMON UNLAWFUL OBJECTIVE THROUGH A CHAIN OF CIRCUMSTANCES, EVEN IF THERE WAS NO ACTUAL MEETING AMONG THEM.81
WHAT IS UNDUE INJURY?
UNDUE INJURY MEANS ACTUAL DAMAGE.83 IT MUST BE ESTABLISHED BY EVIDENCE84 AND MUST HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY THE QUESTIONED CONDUCT OF THE OFFENDERS.85
WHAT IS UNWARRANTED BENEFIT, ADVANTAGE OR PREFERENCE?
IT MEANS GIVING A GAIN OF ANY KIND WITHOUT JUSTIFICATION OR ADEQUATE REASONS.
WHAT IS THE CONSTITUTIONAL STANDARD VIOLATED?
NO LESS THAN THE CONSTITUTION DECLARES THAT PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST.89 PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES MUST AT ALL TIMES BE ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PEOPLE AND SERVE THEM WITH UTMOST RESPONSIBILITY, INTEGRITY, LOYALTY, AND EFFICIENCY.
“Petitioners, by intentionally approving deficient cash advance vouchers, have manifestly failed to live up to this constitutional standard.”
THE INDETERMINATE PENALTY IMPOSED WAS 12 YEARS AND ONE MONTH AS MINIMUM AND 15 YEARS AS MAXIMUM. IS THIS CORRECT?
YES. THE PENALTY IMPOSED IS ON THE HIGHEST TIER. SANDIGANBAYAN SHOULD HAVE EXPLAINED WHY THE MAXIMUM PENALTY WAS IMPOSED. OTHERWISE, THE EXERCISE OF THIS DISCRETION WOULD APPEAR TO BE WHIMSICAL.
“However, we are aware that if the range of imposable penalty under the law were to be divided into three tiers based on the length of imprisonment, the penalty imposed in this case would be on the highest tier.
Hence, the Sandiganbayan should have explained the reason behind its imposed penalty, for while Section 9 of R.A. 3019 seems to grant it discretion over the indeterminate penalty to be prescribed for violation of Section 3(e), this Court finds it only proper that the anti-graft court justify the latter’s imposition of the highest possible penalty. Otherwise, the exercise of this discretion would appear to be whimsical – something that this Court will not tolerate. After all, it is our duty to be vigilant in ensuring the correctness and justness of the ultimate adjudication of cases before us.”
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SCD-2013-0018 -JULY 2013 – BACASMAS