G.R. No. 187340, August 14, 2013 - ANTONIO B. SANCHEZ, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
G.R. No. 187340, August 14, 2013
ANTONIO B. SANCHEZ, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
That on or about the month of January 1998, and/or sometime subsequent thereto, at Cebu City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, above-named accused, ANTONIO B. SANCHEZ, a public officer, being the Head, City Engineering Office of Cebu City, in the performance of his official functions, with deliberate intent and manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence, did then and there willfuly, unlawfully, and criminally cause the construction of a dike/canal which traversed the lot owned by Lucia Nadela situated at Cogon, Pardo, Cebu City and covered with TCT No. 53444, without the consent of the owner thereof, thereby taking the said property of Lucia Nadela without due process, depriving Lucia Nadela of the use of her property, thereby giving unwarranted benefits to the City of Cebu, to the undue damage, injury and prejudice of Lucia Nadela.The Sandiganbayan held that petitioner, being a public officer by virtue of his position as the City Engineer of Cebu, acted with gross inexcusable negligence in approving the construction of the canal without first ascertaining the ownership of the property where the canal would be constructed or verifying whether the property had been expropriated.14 This alleged negligence supposedly deprived private complainant of the control and use of the middle portion of her land, resulting in a loss of P20,000 every four or five months, which represents income from harvesting and selling nipa leaves. Private complainant also claimed that she suffered injury, because informal land settlers used the canal as their toilet, thereby dirtying and damaging the land.15 The Sandiganbayan found petitioner guilty of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, and sentenced him to imprisonment for 6 years and 1 month minimum, to 8 years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from public office.16
CONTRARY TO LAW.13
None of the foregoing circumstances is present. The findings of fact and conclusion of the Sandiganbayan that petitioner is guilty of violating Section 3(e), R.A. 3019 are sufficiently supported by the records.
(1) The conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmise and conjectures; (2) The inference made is manifestly an error or founded on a mistake; (3) There is grave abuse of discretion; (4) The judgment is based on misapprehension of facts; and (5) The findings of fact are premised on want of evidence and are contradicted by evidence on record.25
In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:The elements of this crime are as follows:
x x x x
(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. x x x.
1. The accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions;Uriarte v. People27 further elaborates thus:
2. He must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence; and
3. His action caused any undue injury to any party, including the government, or gave any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions.26 (Emphasis supplied)
Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 may be committed either by dolo, as when the accused acted with evident bad faith or manifest partiality, or by culpa as when the accused committed gross inexcusable negligence. There is “manifest partiality” when there is a clear, notorious or plain inclination or predilection to favor one side or person rather than another. “Evident bad faith” connotes not only bad judgment but also palpably and patently fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do moral obliquity or conscious wrongdoing for some perverse motive or ill will. It contemplates a state of mind affirmatively operating with furtive design or with some motive or self-interest or ill will or for ulterior purposes. “Gross inexcusable negligence” refers to negligence characterized by the want of even the slightest care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with conscious indifference to consequences insofar as other persons may be affected. (Emphasis supplied)The Sandiganbayan correctly found the concurrence of the three elements.
Petitioner’s functions and duties as City Engineer, are stated in
Q: xxx Do you recall your statement that the basis in saying that the property of the private complainant was a public domain was because it appears swampy and a catch basin (sic), am I correct? A: Yes, sir. Q: So on the basis of the appearance of the lot of the complainant, you presumed that the lot is a public domain, am I correct? x x x x A: Yes, sir. Q: So that is why you did not know that the lot was owned by the private complainant in this case? A: Yes, sir. Q: Because you did not make a verification from the Register of Deeds. A: Yes, sir. x x x x Q: xxx, [Y]ou did not order your survey team to verify from the Regional Trial Court if the City Government of Cebu filed an expropriation proceeding against this lot of the private complainant? A: No, because the lot was planted with nipa and pasture land. Because of the appearance that it is a public domain and the lot was planted with nipa palm. It was a mangrove area. Q: So you based your presumption on the appearance of the lot, is that what you mean? x x x x A: xxx Yes, sir. (Emphasis supplied.)28
The engineer shall take charge of the engineering office and shall:Petitioner cannot hide behind the Arias doctrine, because it is not on all fours with his case. In Arias, six people comprising heads of offices and their subordinates were charged with violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. 3019. The accused therein allegedly conspired with one another in causing, allowing, and/or approving the illegal and irregular disbursement and expenditure of public funds. In acquitting the two heads of offices, the Court ruled that they could not be held liable for the acts of their dishonest or negligent subordinates because they failed to personally examine each detail of a transaction before affixing their signatures in good faith.
x x x x
(2) Advise the governor or mayor, as the case may be on infrastructure, public works, and other engineering matters;
(3) Administer, coordinate, supervise, and control the construction, maintenance, improvement, and repair of roads, bridges, and other engineering and public works projects of the local government unit concerned;
(4) Provide engineering services to the local government unit concerned, including investigation and survey, engineering designs, feasibility studies, and project management; (Emphases supplied)
* Designated acting member of the First Division in lieu of Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro per Special Order No. 1497 dated 31 July 2013.
1Rollo, pp. 3-19.
2 Id. at 22-32, penned by Associate Justice Norberto Y. Geraldez and concurred by Associate Justices Francisco II. Villaruz, Jr. and Efren N. dela Cruz.
3 Id. at 57-59.
4 Republic Act No. (R.A.) 3019.
5 Sandiganbayan, Records, Vol. II, pp. 29-38.
6Rollo, p. 25.
9 Sandiganbayan, Records, Vol. I, p. 60.
10 Id. at 9.
11 Id. at 7.
12Rollo, pp. 20-21.
13 Id. at 20.
14 Id. at 26-28.
15 Id. at 30.
16 Id. at 31.
17 Id. at 8-10.
18 259 Phil. 794 (1989).
19Rollo, pp. 13-14.
20 Id. at 65.
21 Id. at 72-95.
22 Id. at 85-86.
23 Id. at 87-92.
24 Id. at 92.
25Soriquez v. Sandiganbayan (Fifth Division), 510 Phil. 709, 719-720 (2005).
26Albert v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 164015, 26 February 2009, 580 SCRA 279, 289-290.
27 540 Phil. 477, 494-495 (2006).
28Rollo, p. 29, as cited in the Sandiganbayan Decision, p. 8.
29Sistoza v. Desierto, 437 Phil. 117, 121-122 (2002).