Ombudsman v. Racho (G.R. No. 185685; January 31, 2011)


FACTS: DYHP Balita Action Team reported to Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas a concerned citizen's complaint regarding the unexplained wealth of Racho, then Chief of the Special Investigation Division of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, BPI Cebu and PCI Bank. The Ombudsman conducted an investigation and found that Racho did not declare his bank deposits in his SALN so the Ombudsman filed a Complaint for Falsification of Public Document and Dishonesty against Racho. Subsequently, the Graft Prosecution Officer did not give weight to the bank documents because they were mere photocopies so he dismissed the complaint for dishonesty due to insufficiency of evidence. on review, Director Virginia Palanca decreed that Racho's act of not declaring said bank deposits in his SALN constituted falsification and dishonesty. She found Racho guilty of the administrative charges against him and imposed the penalty of dismissal from service with forfeiture of all benefits and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.

The case was brought up to the CA where Racho explained that he was not the sole owner of the bank deposits. To support his position he presented the Joint Affidavit of his brothers and nephew which stated that they intended to put up a business. Also, through a Special Power of Attorney, they designated Racho as the trustee of their investments in the business venture they were intending to put up and thaty they authorized him to deposit their money in the herein questioned bank accounts. The CA ordered a reinvestigation. However, after its investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman found no reason to deviate from its decision to declare Racho guilty. Racho filed a petition for review with the CA.

The CA opined that in charges of dishonesty, intention is an important element in its commission. In this case, it found that Rachonever denied the existence of the bank accounts and even attempted to explain the situation. Thus, there was lack of intent to conceal information.ISSUE: Did the CA err in holding that there was lack of intent on the part of respondent Racho to conceal information?

HELD: The Supreme Court is of the view that Racho's non-disclosure of the bank deposits in his SALN constitutes dishonesty.

By mandate of law, every public official or government employee is required to make a complete disclosure of his assets, liabilities and net worth in order to suppress any questionable accumulation of wealth because the latter usually results from non-disclosure of such matters. Hence, a public official or employee who has acquired money or property manifestly disproportionate to his salary or his other lawful income shall be prima facie presumed to have illegally acquired it.

In this case, Racho not only failed to disclose his bank accounts containing substantial deposits but he also failed to satisfactorily explain the accumulation of his wealth or even identify the sources of such accumulated wealth. The documents that Rachopresented, like those purportedly showing that his brothers and nephew were financially capable of sending or contributing large amounts of money for their business, do not prove that they did contribute or remit money for their supposed joint business venture.

he Joint Affidavits allegedly executed by Rachos siblings and nephew to corroborate his story were later disowned and denied by his nephew, Henry, and brother, Vieto, as shown by their Counter-Affidavits.

Thus, the SPA and Joint Affidavits which should explain the sources of Rachos wealth are dubious and merit no consideration.

Also, the Supreme Court holds that the CA erred in finding him guilty of simple neglect of duty only. As defined, simple neglect of duty is the failure to give proper attention to a task expected from an employee resulting from either carelessness or indifference. In this case, the discrepancies in the statement of Rachos assets are not the results of mere carelessness. On the contrary, there is substantial evidence pointing to a conclusion that Racho is guilty of dishonesty because of his unmistakable intent to cover up the true source of his questioned bank deposits.

It should be emphasized, however, that mere misdeclaration of the SALN does not automatically amount to dishonesty. Only when the accumulated wealth becomes manifestly disproportionate to the employees income or other sources of income and the public officer/employee fails to properly account or explain his other sources of income, does he become susceptible to dishonesty because when a public officer takes an oath or office, he or she binds himself or herself to faithfully perform the duties of the office and use reasonable skill and diligence, and to act primarily for the benefit of the public. Thus, in the discharge of duties, a public officer is to use that prudence, caution and attention which careful persons use in the management of their affairs. GRANTED.

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