Case Digest: Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon v. Francisco

G.R. No. 172553 : December 14, 2011

OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY OMBUDSMAN FOR LUZON, HONORABLE VICTOR C. FERNANDEZ, in his capacity as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, and THE GENERAL INVESTIGATION BUREAU-A, Represented by MARIA OLIVIA ELENA A. ROXAS,Petitioners, v. JESUS D. FRANCISCO, SR.,Respondent.

LEONARDO DE CASTRO,J.:


FACTS:

Sometime in November 1998, Ligorio Naval filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, accusing Jessie Castillo, the mayor of the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, among others, of violating Section[s] 3(e), (g) and (j) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, in relation to the award of the construction of the municipal building of Bacoor, Cavite, worth more than 9 Million Pesos, to St. Marthas Trading and General Contractors. The complaint was docketed as OMB-1-98-2365. The Ombudsman dismissed the complaint.In a series of communications with Deputy Ombudsman Margarito P. Gervacio, Jr., Naval insinuated that his evidence was not considered and the complaint was dismissed in exchange for millions of pesos.Thereafter, the Fact-Finding and Intelligence Bureau of the Ombudsman executed a complaint-affidavit for gross negligence and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service, against 5 municipal officers, including Jesus Francisco, which was docketed asOMB-C-A-05-0032-A. The respondents specifically named in Administrative Case No. OMB-C-A-05-0032-Awere Saturnino F. Enriquez, Salome O. Esagunde, Federico Aquino, Eleuterio Ulatan and herein respondent Jesus D. Francisco, Sr.,all of whom were members of the Prequalification, Bids and Awards Committee (PBAC) of the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite.Francisco was then the Municipal Planning and Development Officer of the Municipality of Bacoor,Cavite. On May 30, 2005, Director Joaquin F. Salazar of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon issued an Order preventively suspending the above PBAC members.Consequently, respondent filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari with Application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction.He argued that the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it ordered his preventive suspension since the transactions questioned in the case had already been passed upon in OMB-1-98-2365 entitled,Naval v. Castillo, which was dismissed for lack of merit. The CA ruled in favor of Francisco. The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman filed the instant petition, praying for the reversal of the adverse rulings of the Court of Appeals. Upon elevation of the records to this Court, it became apparent that the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman dismissed Administrative Case No. OMB-C-A-05-0032-A for lack of probable cause.

ISSUE: Whether or not the instant petition has been rendered moot.

HELD: The instant petition is dismissed for mootness.

POLITICAL LAW: moot and academic


The Court finds that the petition at bar, which seeks the reinstatement of the Order of preventive suspension dated May 30, 2005 of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, has been rendered moot.In view of this supervening event that occurred after the filing of the instant petition, the same has ceased to present a justiciable controversy.

Preventive suspension is merely a preventive measure, a preliminary step in an administrative investigation; the purpose thereof is to prevent the accused from using his position and the powers and prerogatives of his office to influence potential witnesses or tamper with records which may be vital in the prosecution of the case against him.

The fact that Administrative Case No.OMB-C-A-05-0032-A was already terminated by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon when it dismissed the case in a Joint Resolution, approved by the Acting Ombudsman on February 28, 2008.Consequently, the Order of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon placing Francisco and his co-respondents under preventive suspension in Administrative Case No.OMB-C-A-05-0032-A has already lost its significance.

Time and again, courts have refrained from even expressing an opinion in a case where the issues have become moot and academic, there being no more justiciable controversy to speak of, so that a determination thereof would be of no practical use or value. While the Court is mindful of the principle that the moot and academic principle is not a magical formula that can automatically dissuade the courts in resolving a case.Courts will decide cases, otherwise moot and academic, if:first, there is a grave violation of the Constitution;second,the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest is involved;third, when the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar and the public; and fourth,the case is capable of repetition yet evading review,the above exceptions do not find application in the instant case.

The petition for review on certiorari is DENIED for mootness.

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