CASE DIGEST: Barcelona v. Lim

G.R. No. 189171 : June 3, 2014




On 14 August 2000, respondent businessman Dan Joel Lim (Lim), the owner of Top Gun Billiards, filed a Sinumpaang Salaysay (sworn statement) with the Criminal Intelligence Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Lim claimed as follows: (1) his employees, Arnel E.Ditan and Pilipino Ubante, were influenced by petitioner to file a labor complaint against Lim; and (2) petitioner, then an NLRC officer, demanded 20,000 for the settlement of the labor case filed against Lim. On the strength of this sworn statement, the NBI organized an entrapment operation against petitioner.

On 16 August 2000, Lim informed the NBI that petitioner would drop by Top Gun Billiards around seven oclock in the evening, expecting to receive the 20,000 petitioner was demanding from him; otherwise, petitioner would order that Top Gun Billiards be closed. After Lim handed him the marked bills, petitioner began counting them. The latter was arrested by the NBI right when he was about to put the money in his bag.

After being duly informed of his constitutional rights, petitioner was brought to the NBI office where he was booked, photographed, and fingerprinted. Thereafter, he underwent ultraviolet light examination. The Certification of the NBI-Forensic Chemistry Division stated that his hands "showed the presence of Yellow Fluorescent Specks and Smudges," and that "similar examinations made on the money bills showed the presence of yellow fluorescent specks and smudges.

NBI Director Federico M. Opinion, Jr. recommended the prosecution of petitioner for robbery under Article 293 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and violation of Republic Act No. (R.A.) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The NBI filed the Complaint. Finding probable cause, the City Prosecutor filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila an Information against petitioner for the crime of robbery.

Finding a prima facie case against petitioner, Chairperson Seres issued Administrative Order No. 9-02, formally charging him with dishonesty and grave misconduct.

The Board resolved the administrative case ex parte. It found that petitioner had been caught red-handed in the entrapment operation. His guilt having been substantially established, the Board found him guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct. Upon approval of this recommendation by NLRC Chairperson Seres, petitioner was dismissed from service.

Petitioner appealed to the CSC.

Petitioner further claims that even before Chairperson Seres formally charged him with dishonesty and grave misconduct, the former had already filed an urgent request for an emergency leave of absence because of the alarming threats being made against him and the members of his family.

Petitioner asked the CSC to nullify the Order of Chairperson Seres. The Order barred petitioner from entering the NLRC premises a month before the hearing conducted by the Board. He then questioned its impartiality. Six years after petitioner had filed his Appeal Memorandum, the CSC dismissed it.

Petitioner filed a Petition for Review, but it was dismissed by the CA.

Hence, this Petition praying for the reversal of the Decision and Resolution of the appellate court and the dismissal of the administrative Complaint filed against petitioner.

ISSUES: Whether the factual findings of the CSC are supported by evidence;

Whether the right of petitioner to the speedy disposition of his case has been violated by the CSC;

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is sustained.

POLITICAL LAW: due process of law

Contrary to the assertions of petitioner, Chairperson Seres did not act as the formers accuser, judge and executioner. To be clear, the accusers of petitioner were Lim and Tan, while his judge was an independent Board formed to investigate his case. This Court is aware that the Board only had the power to recommend, and that that latters recommendation was still subject to the approval of the Chairperson. Still, petitioner cannot claim that he was denied due process on this basis alone, because the remedy to appeal to the proper administrative bodythe CSC in this casewas still made available to him.

This Court finds that both Chairperson Seres and the Board essentially complied with the procedure laid down in the Civil Service Rules. Where due process is present, the administrative decision is generally sustained. Mangubat v. De Castro, 246 Phil. 620 (1988).

The claim of petitioner that he was denied due process is negated by the circumstances of the case at bar.

The Report/Recommendation of the Board shows that both complainant and respondent were given the opportunity to be heard by the Board and to adduce their respective sets of evidence, which were duly considered and taken into account in its Decision.

POLITICAL LAW: Civil Service Rules

Petitioner further claims that Chairperson Seres violated Section 12 of the Civil Service Rules when the latter dispensed with the requirement of conducting a preliminary investigation. It is important to note that this preliminary investigation required by Section 12 of the Civil Service Rules is not the same as that required in criminal cases. Section 12 defines a preliminary investigation of administrative cases in the Civil Service as an "ex parte examination of records and documents submitted by the complainant and the person complained of, as well as documents readily available from other government offices." Petitioner presents no evidence to prove that either Chairperson Seres or the Board failed to examine these records. In fact, the records show that, on 28 September 2000, Lim and Tan appeared in the preliminary investigation conducted by the Board to confirm their sworn statements and the criminal cases they had filed against petitioner. That he submitted no documents for consideration in the preliminary investigation was his choice.

According to petitioner, no formal charge was ever filed against him as mandated by Section 16 of the Civil Service Rules. He now claims that Chairperson Seres had no right to place him under preventive suspension, because Section 19 of the Civil Service Rules requires that a formal charge be served on petitioner before an order of preventive suspension may be issued. The provision reads:
SECTION 19. Preventive Suspension. Upon petition of the complainant or motu proprio, the proper disciplining authority may issue an order of preventive suspension upon service of the Formal Charge, or immediately thereafter to any subordinate officer or employee under his authority pending an investigation, if the charge involves: 
a. dishonesty;
b. oppression;
c. grave misconduct;
d. neglect in the performance of duty; or
e. If there are reasons to believe that the respondent is guilty of charges which would warrant his removal from the service.
An order of preventive suspension may be issued to temporarily remove the respondent from the scene of his misfeasance or malfeasance and to preclude the possibility of exerting undue influence or pressure on the witnesses against him or tampering of documentary evidence on file with his Office.

In lieu of preventive suspension, for the same purpose, the proper disciplining authority or head of office, may reassign respondent to other units of the agency during the formal hearings.

In this case, the Order was the formal charge. It was served on petitioner, but he refused to receive it. He claims that on 27 September 2000, or a month before the hearing conducted by the Board, Chairperson Seres barred him from entering the NLRC premises. Petitioner was thereby denied access to evidence and witnesses that could support his case. But, as revealed by Section 19, Chairperson Seres had the right to issue an Order of preventive suspension pending investigation by the Board, because petitioner was being charged with dishonesty and grave misconduct.

Moreover, the Order of Chairperson Seres preventing petitioner from entering the latters office was also valid under Section 19. This Order was meant to preclude petitioner from possibly exerting undue influence or pressure on the witnesses against him or to prevent him from tampering with documentary evidence on file with his office. This preventive measure is sanctioned by law.

Lastly, the CSC has the power and the authority to amend the Civil Service Rules whenever it deems the amendment necessary. The insinuation of petitioner that this change was made for the sole purpose of hurting his appeal is a mere product of his imagination. The CSC is under no obligation to review all the cases before it and, on the basis thereof, decide whether or not to amend its internal rules.

We note, though, that the authority of the CSC to amend the rules does not give it the authority to apply the new provision retroactively. The consequence of an illegal retroactive application of a provision is discussed below.

POLITICAL LAW: speedy disposition of cases

Section 16, Rule III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, reads:

Sec. 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.

The right to a speedy disposition of cases is guaranteed by the Constitution. The concept of speedy disposition is flexible. The fact that it took the CSC six years to resolve the appeal of petitioner does not, by itself, automatically prove that he was denied his right to the speedy disposition of his case. After all, a mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved is not sufficient, as the facts and circumstances peculiar to the case must also be considered. Binay v. Sandiganbayan, 374 Phil. 413

The right to a speedy trial, as well as other rights conferred by the Constitution or statute, may be waived except when otherwise expressly provided by law. Ones right to the speedy disposition of his case must therefore be asserted. Due to the failure of petitioner to assert this right, he is considered to have waived it.

The instant Petition is DENIED.