Case Digest: Alejandro v. Ombudsman Fact-Finding Bureau

G.R. No. 173121 : April 3, 2013

FRANKLlN ALEJANDRO, Petitioner, v. OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN FACT-FINDING AND INTELLIGENCE BUREAU, represented by Atty. Maria Olivia Elena A. Roxas, Respondent.

FACTS:

The Head of the Non-Revenue Water Reduction Department of the Manila Water Services, Inc. (MWSI) received a report from an Inspectorate and Special Projects team that the Mico Car Wash (MICO), owned by Alfredo Rap Alejandro, has been illegally opening an MWSI fire hydrant and using it to operate its car-wash business in Binondo, Manila. Hence, the MWSI, in coordination with the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), conducted an anti-water pilferage operation against MICO.

During the anti-water pilferage operation, the PNP-CIDG discovered that MICOs car-wash boys indeed had been illegally getting water from an MWSI fire hydrant. The PNP-CIDG arrested the car-wash boys and confiscated the containers used in getting water. At this point, the petitioner, Alfredos father and the Barangay Chairman or punong barangay of Barangay 293, Zone 28, Binondo, Manila, interfered with the PNP-CIDGs operation by ordering several men to unload the confiscated containers. This intervention caused further commotion and created an opportunity for the apprehended car-wash boys to escape.

Thereafter, respondent Office of the Ombudsman Fact-Finding and Intelligence Bureau with the Office of the Overall Deputy Ombudsman an administrative complaint against the petitioner for his blatant refusal to recognize a joint legitimate police activity, and for his unwarranted intervention. The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman found the petitioner guilty of grave misconduct and ordered his dismissal from the service.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied. On appeal, the CA dismissed the petition for premature filing as the petitioner failed to exhaust proper administrative remedies because he did not appeal the Deputy Ombudsmans decision to the Ombudsman. The CA rejected the motion for reconsideration of petitioner, hence, this petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not there is still a need to exhaust administrative remedies

Whether or not petitioner is guilty of grave misconduct


HELD:

Remedial Law- No further need exists to exhaust administrative remedies from the decision of the Deputy Ombudsman because he was acting in behalf of the Ombudsman


Section 7, Rule III of Administrative Order No. 07, dated April 10, 1990, provides that:

Section 7. FINALITY OF DECISION. Where the respondent is absolved of the charge and in case of conviction where the penalty imposed is public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one (1) month, or a fine equivalent to one (1) month salary, the decision shall be final and unappealable. In all other cases, the decision shall become final after the expiration of ten (10) days from receipt thereof by the respondent, unless a motion for reconsideration or petition for certiorari shall have been filed by him as prescribed in Section 27 of RA 6770.

Administrative Order No. 07 did not provide for another appeal from the decision of the Deputy Ombudsman to the Ombudsman. It simply requires that a motion for reconsideration or a petition for certiorari may be filed in all other cases where the penalty imposed is not one involving public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one (1) month, or a fine equivalent to one (1) month salary. This post-judgment remedy is merely an opportunity for the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman, or the Office of the Ombudsman, to correct itself in certain cases. To our mind, the petitioner has fully exhausted all administrative remedies when he filed his motion for reconsideration on the decision of the Deputy Ombudsman. There is no further need to review the case at the administrative level since the Deputy Ombudsman has already acted on the case andhe was acting for and in behalf of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Political Law- a punong barangay must "maintain public order in the barangay and, in pursuance thereof, assist the city or municipal mayor and the sanggunian members in the performance of their duties and functions.

At the time when the police officers were hauling the confiscated equipment, they were creating a commotion. As Barangay Chairman, the petitioner was clearly in the performance of his official duty when he interfered. After the petitioner introduced himself and inquired about the operation, the police officers immediately showed their identifications and explained to him that they were conducting an anti-water pilferage operation. However, instead of assisting the PNP-CIDG, he actually ordered several bystanders to defy the PNP-CIDGs whole operation. The petitioners act stirred further commotion that unfortunately led to the escape of the apprehended car-wash boys.

The petitioner, as Barangay Chairman, is tasked to enforce all laws and ordinances which are applicable within the barangay, in the same manner that the police is bound to maintain peace and order within the community. While the petitioner has general charge of the affairs in the barangay, the maintenance of peace and order is largely a police matter, with police authority being predominant especially when the police has begun to act on an enforcement matter.

Examined side by side, police authority is superior to the punong barangays authority in a situation where the maintenance of peace and order has metamorphosed into crime prevention and the arrest of criminal offenders.

In this case, a criminal act was actually taking place and the situation was already beyond the general maintenance of peace and order. The police was, at that point, under the obligation to prevent the commission of a crime and to effect the arrest, as it actually did, of criminal offenders.

Misconduct is considered grave if accompanied by corruption, a clear intent to violate the law, or a flagrant disregard of established rules, which must all be supported by substantial evidence. If the misconduct does not involve any of the additional elements to qualify the misconduct as grave, the person charged may only be held liable for simple misconduct.

In the present case, sufficient records exist to justify the imposition of a higher penalty against the petitioner. His open interference in a legitimate police activity. and defiance of the police's authority only show his clear intent to violate the law; in fact, he reneged on his first obligation as the grassroot official tasked at the first level with the enforcement of the law.

The photographs, taken together with the investigation report of the Police Superintendent and the testimonies of the witnesses, even lead to conclusions beyond interference and defiance; the petitioner himself could have been involved in corrupt activities, although we cannot make this conclusive finding at this point. We make this observation though as his son owns MICO whose car-wash boys were engaged in water pilferage. What we can conclusively confirm is that the petitioner violated the law by directly interfering with a legitimate police activity where his own son appeared to be involved. This act qualifies the misconduct as grave.

DENIED.

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