Ombudsman v. Cordova (G.R. No. 188650; October 6, 2010)


CASE DIGEST: OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN,Petitioner,v. PRISCILLA S. CORDOVA, Deputy Collector for Assessment, Bureau of Customs,Respondent.

FACTS: The Department of Finance-Revenue Integrity Protection Service (DOF-RIPS) charged Priscilla S. Cordova (respondent), Deputy Collector for Assessment of the Bureau of Customs, Port of Subic, together with Atty. Baltazar Morales (Morales), Chief of the Assessment Division, for violating, inter alia, Section 3(a) and (e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the pertinent provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code, as amended, Republic Act No. 6713, and the pertinent provisions of the Revised Penal Code in connection with their alleged participation in the alleged smuggling of sixteen (16) high-end luxury vehicles consigned to Hidemitsu Trading Corporation (Hidemitsu Trading), 14of which were taken out of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) without paying the required taxes and duties therefor.

After preliminary investigation, the OMB, finding probable cause to hold respondent liable which may warrant her dismissal from the service, placed respondent under preventive suspension without pay during the pendency of the administrative case, but not to exceed a total period of six (6) months.

With respect to Morales, the OMB dismissed the complaint against him after noting that all that was proffered to substantiate the accusation against him was his being the right-hand man and trusted lieutenant of respondent.

Respondent challenged the order of OMB via petition for certiorari filed before the CA. The Court of Appeals set aside the OMB Order for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE:

Did the CA err in reversing the OMB order?
HELD: The Ombudsman or his deputy may preventively suspend any officer or employee under his authority pending an investigation if in his judgment the evidence of guilt is strong, and (a) the charge against such officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression, grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; (b) the charges would warrant removal from the service; or (c) the respondents continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.

A comparison of the engine and chassis numbers of the vehicles listed in the Complaint-Affidavit with those listed in the Certificates of Payment and Certifications shows that the serial numbers of at least three of the 14 vehicles subject of the Complaint-Affidavit match the serial numbers of those subject of the Certificates of Payment.

To the Court, this fact suffices to justify petitioners preventive suspension of respondent under the provision of Section 24 of R.A. 6770, which provides: SECTION 24. Preventive Suspension. The Ombudsman or his deputy may preventively suspend any officer or employee under his authority pending an investigation if in his judgment the evidence of guilt is strong, and (a) the charge against such officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression, grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; (b) the charges would warrant removal from the service; or (c) the respondents continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.

Whether the Certificates of Payment and Certifications issued by respondent were proffered by Hidemitsu Trading as evidence of payment of taxes/customs duties or by the BOC for its purposes is thus immaterial.

GRANTED

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