Tumbocon v. People (G.R. Nos. 235412. November 2018)


CASE DIGEST: ELDRED PALADA TUMBOCON, PETITIONER, VS. HON. SANDIGANBAYAN SIXTH DIVISION AND THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENTS. [G.R. Nos. 235412-15, November 05, 2018].

FACTS: Sometime in the year 2007, an anonymous complaint was filed against the petitioner with the Office of the Ombudsman docketed for fact-finding investigation.

Four (4) informations for Perjury were filed only on January 23, 2017 before the Sandiganbayan.

Petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss seeking to dismiss the criminal cases for Perjury on the ground of inordinate delay.

On August 10, 2017, the Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution denying the motion to dismiss and held that there is no inordinate delay. The Sandiganbayan found that the following periods should be excluded:
[a] The time spent by the FIO in issuing the subpoena duces tecum to several government agencies/offices, and the receipt of the certifications and letters by the FIO from November 13, 2007 to March 3, 2009, or one (1) year, three (3) months and eighteen (18) days;
[b] The period from April 6, 2010 to May 23, 2012, or two (2) years, one (1) month and seventeen (17) days, should likewise be excluded since it was attributable to the petitioner and his wife for failing to submit their counter-affidavit and their option to adopt the counter-affidavit they filed in the administrative case;
[c] The period from May 23, 2012 to December 22, 2014, or two (2) years, six (6) months and twenty-nine (29) days is excusable as they were used by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman to thoroughly study the case;
[d] The period from December 22, 2014 to February 26, 2015, or two (2) months and four (4) days, is attributable to the petitioner for seeking reconsideration of the resolution finding probable cause to indict him; and,
[e] The period of one (1) year, seven (7) months and nineteen (19) days is justified because the resolution of the motion for reconsideration was thoroughly reviewed by the Ombudsman.
The Sandiganbayan found that the delay of five (5) years, six (6) months, and twenty-nine (29) days can hardly be considered as inordinate, capricious, oppressive and vexatious. Motion for reconsideration denied.

Petitioner claimed that the delay of 10 years from the time an anonymous complaint was filed against him until the filing of four (4) informations against him before the Sandiganbayan constitutes inordinate delay which violated his constitutional right to a speedy disposition of cases. Petitioner further asserted that the cases against him only involved his alleged untruthful statements in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth involving a real property registered in 1995, a motor vehicle purchased in 2000 and a business interest registered in 2000. The issues in the formal complaint were not complex and is within the expertise of the Office of the Ombudsman, hence a delay of 10 years cannot be considered as justified.

On the other hand, the People of the Philippines, through the Office of the Special Prosecutor, argued that there is no inordinate delay in which it amounted to a violation of petitioner's constitutional right to a speedy disposition of his case. Petitioner has merely shown a mere mathematical reckoning of the period that lapsed during the fact-finding and preliminary investigation of his cases before the Office of the Ombudsman. Further, the People claimed that petitioner failed to assert his right to speedy disposition of his case before the Office of the Ombudsman.

ISSUE: Whether or not there is inordinate delay that violated petitioner's constitutional right to a speedy disposition of a case?

HELD: The petition is meritorious. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated August 10, 2017 and November 10, 2017 of the Sandiganbayan in SB-17-CRM-0059-0062 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The criminal complaint filed against Eldred Palada Tumbocon, docketed as OMB-L-C-10-0161-B is hereby DISMISSED.

A total period of 6 years, 11 months and 13 days cannot be said, in any standard, as reasonable, for resolving a simple case of perjury that does not involve millions of pesos and numerous accused.

The Constitution provides that:
Section 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 a case, is deemed violated when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured, or when without justifiable cause, a long period of time is allowed to lapse without the party having his case tried. Inordinate delay in the resolution and termination of a preliminary investigation will result in the dismissal of the case against the accused. Delay, however, is not determined through mere mathematical computation but through the examination of the facts and circumstances peculiar in each case.

In resolving cases involving inordinate delay this Court has been adopting the "balancing test" to determine whether the defendant's right to speedy disposition of cases has been violated. The four-fold factors are: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the defendant's assertion or non-assertion of his right; and (4) the prejudice to defendant resulting from the delay.[25] However, none of these factors is either necessary or sufficient condition, they must be considered together with other relevant circumstances.[26] The totality of the particular facts peculiar to a case must be determined and weighed.

In this case, sometime in 2007, an anonymous complaint was filed against herein petitioner. TWO YEARS LATER, the fact-finding investigation of the FIO was concluded by the filing of a formal complaint against the petitioner. It took the FIO around 2 years to conclude its fact-finding investigation. As held in the recent case of Cesar Matas Cagang v. Sandiganbayan the fact-finding investigation conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman should be separate and distinct from the preliminary investigation for purposes of determining whether there was inordinate delay.

Thus, the 2 years spent for the fact-finding investigation prior to the filing of the formal complaint should be EXCLUDED from determining whether inordinate delay was incurred.

On August 28, 2009, a formal complaint was filed against the petitioner. On April 6, 2010, the preliminary investigation was conducted. On March 11, 2013 or MORE THAN FIVE YEARS LATER, probable cause was found against the petitioner for 8 counts of Perjury. AROUND HALF A YEAR LATER, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the resolution.

It took 5 YEARS, 3 MONTHS AND 24 DAYS to conclude the preliminary investigation and for the Ombudsman to approve the resolution of GIPO II Bautista. The said period for determining probable cause for a case of perjury is beyond the REASONABLE PERIOD of NINETY (90) DAYS to determine probable cause. The purpose of a preliminary investigation is only to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that petitioner should be held for trial or not. It bears stressing that this case involves only the petitioner and his SALNs regarding an alleged undeclared real property, motor vehicle, and a business interest. Certainly, this does not involve a complicated and complex issue that would require the painstaking scrutiny and perusal of the Ombudsman. Thus, the period of 5 years, 3 months and 24 days to resolve a simple case of perjury is clearly an inordinate delay, blatantly intolerable, and grossly prejudicial to the constitutional right of speedy disposition of cases.

Moreover, the motion for reconsideration of the petitioner seeking the reversal of GIPO II Bautista's resolution was finally denied by the Office of the Ombudsman on June 4, 2015. However, it took the Ombudsman a period of 1 year, 7 months and 19 days just to file the Informations for perjury.As held in the case of Casiano A. Angchangco, Jr., v. The Hon. Ombudsman, a violation of petitioner's right to speedy disposition of cases warrants the dismissal of criminal cases against him.

[5] AN ACT DECLARING FORFEITURE IN FAVOR OF THE STATE ANY PROPERTY FOUND TO HAVE BEEN UNLAWFULLY ACQUIRED BY ANY PUBLIC OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AND PROVIDING FOR THE PROCEEDINGS THEREFOR. xxxx
Section 2. Filing of petition. Whenever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired. The Solicitor General, upon complaint by any taxpayer to the city or provincial fiscal who shall conduct a previous inquiry similar to preliminary investigations in criminal cases and shall certify to the Solicitor General that there is reasonable ground to believe that there has been committed a violation of this Act and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, shall file, in the name and on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, in the Court of First Instance of the city or province where said public officer or employee resides or holds office, a petition for a writ commanding said officer or employee to show cause why the property aforesaid, or any part thereof, should not be declared property of the State: Provided, That no such petition shall be filed within one year before any general election or within three months before any special election.
[6] ANTI-GRAFT AND CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT. xxxx
Section 8. Dismissal due to unexplained wealth. If in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act Numbered One thousand three hundred seventy-nine, a public official has been found to have acquired during his incumbency, whether in his name or in the name of other persons, an amount of property and/or money manifestly out of proportion to his salary and to his other lawful income, that fact shall be a ground for dismissal or removal. Properties in the name of the spouse and unmarried children of such public official may be taken.into consideration, when their acquisition through legitimate means cannot be satisfactorily shown. Bank deposits shall be taken into consideration in the enforcement of this section, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary. 
[7] Article 172 – Falsification by private individual and use of falsified documents.
Article 171 – Falsification by public officer, employee of notary or ecclesiastic minister.
xxxx

(4) Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;
xxxx
[23] Juanito Victor C. Remulla v. Sandiganbayan, et. al., G.R. No. 218040, April 17, 2017.

[24] Cesar Matas Cagang v. Sandiganbayan, et. al., G.R. No. 206438 & 206458, July 31, 2018.

[25] People v. Sandiganbayan, et. al., 791 Phil. 37, 53 (2016).

[26] Remulla v. Sandiganbayan, supra note 23.

[27] 484 Phil. 899 (2004).

[29] AN ACT DECLARING FORFEITURE IN FAVOR OF THE STATE ANY PROPERTY FOUND TO HAVE BEEN UNLAWFULLY ACQUIRED BY ANY PUBLIC OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AND PROVIDING FOR THE PROCEEDINGS THEREFOR.
xxxx
Section 2. Filing of petition. Whenever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired. The Solicitor General, upon complaint by any taxpayer to the city or provincial fiscal who shall conduct a previous inquiry similar to preliminary investigations in criminal cases and shall certify to the Solicitor General that there is reasonable ground to believe that there has been committed a violation of this Act and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, shall file, in the name and on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, in the Court of First Instance of the city or province where said public officer or employee resides or holds office, a petition for a writ commanding said officer or employee to show cause why the property aforesaid, or any part thereof, should not be declared property of the State: Provided, That no such petition shall be filed within one year before any general election or within three months before any special election.
[30] ANTI-GRAFT AND CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT.
xxxx
Section 8. Dismissal due to unexplained wealth. If in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act Numbered One thousand three hundred seventy-nine, a public official has been found to have acquired during his incumbency, whether in his name or in the name of other persons, an amount of property and/or money manifestly out of proportion to his salary and to his other lawful income, that fact shall be a ground for dismissal or removal. Properties in the name of the spouse and unmarried children of such public official may be taken into consideration, when their acquisition through legitimate means cannot be satisfactorily shown. Bank deposits shall be taken into consideration in the enforcement of this section, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary. xxxx
[31] Article 172 – Falsification by private individual and use of falsified documents.
Article 171 – Falsification by public officer, employee of notary or ecclesiastic minister. xxxx

(4) Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts; xxxx

[36] People v. Sandiganbayan, et. al., 723 Phil. 444 (2013).

[37] 335 Phil. 766 (1997).

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