Ombudsman's determination of probable cause; discretion


FIRST DIVISION: [G.R. No. 235590, January 11, 2018] JOSELITO R. ALEGA AND CESAR V. ROCAS V. OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN AND NOEL R. CASTILLEJO.

After a review of the records, the Court resolves to DISMISS the petition and AFFIRM the Ombudsman Resolution dated August 18, 2017 and Order dated September 26, 2017 in OMB-L-C-16-0204 for failure to sufficiently show that the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause against petitioners for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The function of the Ombudsman in the determination of probable cause is executive and factual in nature. As a general rule, therefore, the Court does not interfere with the Office of the Ombudsman's exercise of its mandate. This rule on non-interference is based not only on the respect for the investigatory and prosecutory powers granted to the Office of the Ombudsman, but also for practical considerations.[1]

Thus, the Court has consistently held that the Ombudsman has discretion to determine whether a criminal case, given its facts and circumstances, should be filed or not. It is basically his call. He may dismiss the complaint forthwith should he find it to be insufficient in form and substance, or should he find it otherwise, to continue with the inquiry; or he may proceed with the investigation if, in his view, the complaint is in due and proper form and substance.[2] The Court will only interfere if there is a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Ombudsman.However, disagreement with the Ombudsman's findings is not enough to constitute grave abuse of discretion. The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty, or to a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner because of passion or personal hostility.[3] This is completely absent in this case.

The rationale of the assailed Resolution and Order of the Ombudsman was based on opinion, reasonable belief, and the evidence on record that the elements of the crime punishable under Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 existed. Petitioners may insist on their innocence and the absence of bad faith, manifest partiality, or gross inexcusable negligence, but the presence or absence of these is a matter of evidence that is best threshed out during trial.[4]

SO ORDERED.

[1] See Dimayuga v. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. No. 129099, July 20, 2006, 495 SCRA 461.

[2] Kalalo v. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. No. 158189, April 23, 2010, 619 SCRA 141, 147-148.

[3] See Reyes v. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. No. 208243, June 5, 2017.

[4] Id.

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