CASE DIGEST: Abdul v. Sandiganbayan

G.R. NO. 184496 : December 2, 2013




Petitioner was first elected as municipal mayor of Mulondo, Lanao del Sur in the May 1998 election and re-elected for a second term in the May 2001 election. It was while serving his second term as municipal mayor when the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao filed an Information charging petitioner, along with Tan Alem Abdul, Human Resource Management Officer, and Candidato C. Domado, Budget Officer, with falsification of public documents.

That sometime on April 22, 1999, or prior or subsequent thereto in the Municipality of Mulondo, Lanao del Sur, a case was filed, all public officers, taking advantage of their official positions and committing the offense in relation to their office, make it appear that Engr. Zubair F. Murad as Municipal Engineer prepared and signed the Local Budget Preparation Form Nos. 152, 153 and 154 known as the Program Appropriation and Obligation by Object, Personnel Schedule and Functional Statement and General Objective, respectively, when in truth and in fact, as the accused well knew that said Zubair F. Murad was never employed as Municipal Engineer of the said Municipality.

During the arraignment, petitioner and his co-accused pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. Before the commencement of the trial, the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) moved for the suspension pendente lite of the petitioner and his co-accused benefits as mandated under Section 13 of Republic Act No. 3019 (RA 3019) or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Petitioner asserted that he cannot be suspended pendente lite because the crime for which he was charged is not among those enumerated under Section 13 of RA 3019. Neither does fraud upon government or public funds or property cover falsification of public document nor fraud per se, an ingredient of the offense of falsification of public document.

Respondent granted OSPs motion and accordingly ordered the suspension pendente lite of the petitioner and his co-accused from their respective positions and from any other public office.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration,but the same was denied. Thus, he filed with this Court a Petition for Certiorari with Prayer for TRO alleging that the suspension order was issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

The suspension order, however, was no longer implemented because it was superseded by the expiration of petitioners second term as municipal mayor and his unsuccessful bid for re-election during the May 2004 election. During the May 2007 election, petitioner emerged as the winner in the mayoralty race and again sat as Mayor of Mulondo, Lanao del Sur.

The OSP once again moved for his and his co-accuseds suspension pendente lite to implement respondents final and executory suspension order and that petitioners defeat in the May 2004 election has effectively rendered his suspension moot and academic. Nonetheless, respondent ordered anew the suspension of petitioner from his present position for a period of 90 days. Petitioner moved for reconsideration, but the same was denied.

While the present Petition was pending before the Court, respondent Sandiganbayan promulgated its Decision acquitting petitioner and his co-accused of the offense charged.


Whether the Sandiganbayan acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in suspending him pendente lite from his position as mayor of Mulondo, Lanao del Sur.

Whether falsification of public documents is considered as fraud upon government or public funds or property.

HELD: The petition is dismissed.

POLITICAL LAW justiciable controversy

In Mattel, Inc. v. Francisco, 582 Phil. 492, (2008), we have ruled that where the issue has become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, and an adjudication thereof would be of no practical use or value as courts do not sit to adjudicate mere academic questions to satisfy scholarly interest however intellectually challenging.

In the present case, the acquittal of herein petitioner operates as a supervening event that mooted the present Petition. Any resolution on the validity or invalidity of the issuance of the order of suspension could no longer affect his rights as a ranking public officer, for legally speaking he did not commit the offense charged.

Notwithstanding the mootness of the present Petition, petitioner nevertheless implores us to make a clear and categorical resolution on whether the offense of falsification of public documents to warrant the suspension of a public officer.

Admittedly, petitioner in this case was not charged under RA 3019. Neither was he charged under for the crime of falsification of public documents.

Close but not exactly similar with the factual backdrop of this case is Bustillo v. Sandiganbayan, 521 Phil. 43 (2006). Petitioner therein was charged with falsifying municipal vouchers which, as used in government, are official documents.He asserted the said offense does not involve "fraud or property;" hence, his suspension finds no basis in Section 13 of RA 3019. In construing the term "fraud" as used in Section 13 of RA 3019, the Court held in said case that the same is understood in its general sense, that is, referring to "an instance or an act of trickery or deceit especially when involving misrepresentation."

And since vouchers are official documents signifying a cash outflow from government coffers, falsification thereof invariably involves fraud upon public funds. As a consequence of this act, several projects, their costs and extent, were authorized without the careful assessment of the legitimate municipal engineer. This alone is sufficient to justify the Courts conclusion that, indeed, the alleged act of accused constitutes fraud upon the government.

In fine, the issue on the validity or invalidity of petitioners suspension had mooted considering his acquittal by theSandiganbayan. As such, there is no justiciable controversy for this Court to adjucate.

The Petition is dismissed for being moot and academic.