Case Digest: Ombudsman v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 172224. January 26, 2011

OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and DINAH C. BARRIGA, respondents.

FACTS:

Pua, a Municipal Councilor of Carmen, Cebu, filed a complaint with the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas, alleging thatVillamor, Municipal Mayor; Bebelia C. Bontia (Bontia), Municipal Treasurer; and respondent Dinah C. Barriga (Barriga), Municipal Accountant, all public officials of Carmen, Cebu, entered into several irregular and anomalous transactions in their official capacity. These transactions pertained to the handling of the trust fund of the Municipality of Carmen, Cebu in the Central Visayas Water and Sanitation Project. Villamor and Barriga denied Pua's allegations.

Subsequently, the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas found Barriga guilty of misconduct and she was suspended from service for 6 months. The case had become moot and academic with respect to Villamor and Bontia because Villamor was no longer the incumbent mayor of Carmen, Cebu and Bontia had already been dismissed from government service.

Upon review, petitioner Office of the Ombudsman modified the decision and found Barriga guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and imposed on her the penalty of suspension for one year. The motion for reconsideration was denied and the petition for review with the Court of Appeals was denied for lack of merit.

The Office of the Ombudsman then directed the municipal mayor of Carmen, Cebu to implement the decision. Barriga filed a petition for review with the CA but it was denied. The case went up to the Supreme Court which denied the petition. The motion for reconsideration and a second motion for reconsideration were also denied.

The Office of the Ombudsman advised the mayor again to implement the decision. Barriga then requested that the implementation of the penalty of one-year suspension be held in abeyance pending the issuance of the entry of judgment. This was denied. WhileBarriga's petition for review was with the CA, the Supreme Court already issued the entry of judgment and Barriga's suspension from service was implemented by the mayor. Meanwhile, Barriga's earlier appeal to the CA was dismissed but upon motion for reconsideration, the orders of the Office of the Ombudsman were declared null and void. The CA explained that the acts of petitioner went beyond mere recommendation but rather imposed upon the mayor to implement the order of suspension which runcounter to its authority. The appellate court said that the immediate implementation of the Office of the Ombdusmans order was premature pending resolution of the appeal. Since Republic Act No. 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989 gives parties the right to appeal then such right also generally carries with it the right to stay these decisions pending appeal. Thus, the CA concluded that the acts of petitioner cannot be permitted nor tolerated.

ISSUE: Whether the Court of Appeals gravely abused its discretion in nullifying the orders of the Office of the Ombudsman to the municipal mayor of Carmen, Cebu for the immediate implementation of the penalty of suspension from service of respondent Barriga even though the case was pending on appeal.

HELD: The petition is meritorious.

POLITICAL LAW Administrative Law; Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman submits that it is possessed with jurisdiction to entertain an administrative complaint against a public official and if found guilty, has the authority to impose a penalty and implement the decision. It explains that the implementation of administrative sanctions over erring public officials is not merely advisory in nature but is actually mandatory within the bounds of law. It is absurd for the Ombudsman to only recommend a penalty to a head of office, in this case, a municipal mayor, since political independence is the element that provides integrity to its quasi-judicial findings. Petitioner adds that a municipal mayor has no authority to adopt or reject petitioners decision, as if in review, where no such recourse is provided by law.

Also, according to Section 7, Rule III of Administrative Order No. 7 as amended by Administrative Order No. 17, when a public official has been found guilty of an administrative charge by the Office of the Ombudsman and the penalty imposed is suspension for more than a month, just like in the present case, an appeal may be made to the CA. However, such appeal shall not stop the decision from being executory and the implementation of the decision follows as a matter of course.

Barriga appealed to the CA the decision to suspend her for one year and it then reached the Supreme Court, which denied the appeal. The decision became final on October 28, 2004. But in order to delay the implementation Barriga once again elevated the case to the CA, which then ruled in her favor by nullifying the Ombudsman's order for implementation.

The CA is incorrect. The provision in the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman is clear that an appeal by a public official from a decision meted out by the Ombudsman shall not stop the decision from being executory. In Office of the Ombudsman v. Court of Appeals and Macabulos, we held that decisions of the Ombudsman are immediately executory even pending appeal in the CA.

GRANTED.

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