CASE DIGEST: Roquero v. Chancellor of UP (G.R. No.181851; March 9, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: CAPT. WILFREDO G. ROQUERO, Petitioner, v. THE CHANCELLOR OF UP-MANILA; THE ADMINISTRATIVE DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL (ADT) OF UP-MANILA; ATTY. ZALDY B. DOCENA; EDEN PERDIDO; ISABELLA LARA, IN THEIR CAPACITIES AS CHAIRMAN and MEMBERS OF THE ADT; and IMELDA O. ABUTAL, Respondents. G.R. No.181851; March 9, 2010.

FACTS: Petitioner is an employee of UP-Manila assigned at the PGH Security Division as Special Police Captain.Private respondent Imelda O. Abutal is a Lady Guard of Ex-Bataan Security Agency who was applying for a position in the security force assigned at UP-PGH.

Private respondent Abutal filed a complaint with then Chancellor of UP-Manila Perla D. Santos-Ocampo for Grave Misconduct against petitioner Capt. Roquero.

The Administrative Disciplinary Tribunal (ADT) composed of Atty. Zaldy B. Docena, Eden Perdido and Isabella Lara, was organized to hear the instant case.The Prosecution presented its only witness, private respondent Abutal. After the completion of the cross-examination on the prosecutions only witness, the prosecution agreed to submit its Formal Offer of Evidence on or before16 July 1999.

The prosecution, however, failed to submit its formal offer of evidence within the period agreed upon. Thereafter, when the case was called, only petitioner and his counsel appeared. The prosecution repeatedly failed to appear.

Later, petitioner filed a Motion through counsel praying that complainant (private respondent herein) be declared to have waived her rights to formally offer her exhibits since complainant was not able to file her Formal Offer within the given period of fifteen (15) days.

The ADT was not able to act on the said Motion for almost five (5) years. Due to the unreasonable delay, petitioner filed another Motion asking for the dismissal of the administrative case against him based on the following reasons: that the prosecution had not formally offered its evidence; that the ADT had failed to act on the motion filed; that the unfounded charges in the administrative complaint were filed just to harass him; and that he is entitled to a just and speedy disposition of the case.

Later, the prosecution alleged that a Formal Offer of Documentary Exhibits had been filed of which a copy was received by Atty. Lee, petitioners counsel per registry return receipt. However, petitioner has not filed his comment to the said Formal Offer.

In its petition for certiorari, the CA denied the petition with prayer for TRO of Roquero reasoning that the ADT did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed orders. Roquero moved for reconsideration of the Decision, but the same was likewise denied by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution promulgated.

ISSUE: Whether or not the failure of the ADT to resolve Roquero's Motion which he seasonably filed and order of the ADT dated 8 June 2004 admitting the Formal Offer of Exhibit of complainant Imelda Abutal despite having filed after almost five years violated the constitutional right of the petitioner to a speedy disposition of cases?
HELD: The Supreme Court granted the petition.

Indeed, while Section 27 of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in Civil Service states that the failure to submit the formal offer of evidence within the given period shall be considered as waiver thereof, the ADT in fact allowed the prosecution to present its formal offer almost five (5) years later or on 24 January 2004. Starting on that date, petitioner was presented with the choice to either present his evidence or to, as he did, file a motion to dismiss owing to the extraordinary length of time that ADT failed to rule on his motion.

While it is true that administrative investigations should not be bound by strict adherence to the technical rules of procedure and evidence applicable to judicial proceedings, the same however should not violate the constitutional right of respondents to a speedy disposition of cases.

Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that all person shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.The constitutional right to a speedy disposition of cases is not limited to the accused in criminal proceedings but extends to all parties in all cases, including civil and administrative cases, and in all proceedings, including judicial and quasi-judicial hearings. Hence, under the Constitution, any party to a case may demand expeditious action by all officials who are tasked with the administration of justice.

The right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to a speedy trial, is deemed violated only when the proceedings are attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured; or even without cause or justifiable motive, a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried. Equally applicable is the balancing test used to determine whether a defendant has been denied his right to a speedy trial, or a speedy disposition of a case for that matter, in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant is weighed, and such factors as the length of the delay, the reasons for such delay, the assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused, and the prejudice caused by the delay. The concept of a speedy disposition is a relative term and must necessarily be a flexible concept.

Hence, the doctrinal rule is that in the determination of whether that right has been violated, the factors that may be considered and balanced are as follows:

[1] the length of delay;
[2] the reasons for the delay;
[3] the assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused; and
[4] the prejudice caused by the delay.

Applying the doctrinal rulings in the case at bar, the violation of the right to a speedy disposition of the case against petitioner is clear for the following reasons: (1) the delay of almost five (5) years on the part of ADT in resolving the motion of petitioner, which resolution petitioner reasonably found necessary before he could present his defense; (2) the unreasonableness of the delay; and (3) the timely assertions by petitioner of the right to an early disposition which he did through a motion to dismiss. Over and above this, the delay was prejudicial to petitioners cause as he was under preventive suspension for ninety (90) days, and during the interregnum of almost five years, the trial of the accusation against him remained stagnant at the prosecution stage.

The Constitutional guarantee against unreasonable delay in the disposition of cases was intended to stem the tide of disenchantment among the people in the administration of justice by our judicial and quasi-judicial tribunals.The adjudication of cases must not only be done in an orderly manner that is in accord with the established rules of procedure but must also be promptly decided to better serve the ends of justice.Excessive delay in the disposition of cases renders the rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution and by various legislations inutile. CA DECISION IS REVERSED.
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