G.R. No. 211703, December 10, 2014
EDELBERT C. UYBOCO, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
VELASCO JR., J.:
A petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court should cover only questions of law. Questions of fact are not reviewable. A question of law exists when the doubt centers on what the law is on a certain set of facts. A question of fact exists when the doubt centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.Findings of fact made by a trial court are accorded the highest degree of respect by an appellate tribunal and, absent a clear disregard of the evidence before it that can otherwise affect the results of the case, those findings should not be ignored.5 Absent any clear showing of abuse, arbitrariness or capriciousness committed by the lower court, its findings of facts, especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are binding and conclusive upon this Court.6
Section 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. - 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:For accused to be found liable under Section 3(e) of RA 3019, the following elements must concur:
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 in excusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions.
1) The accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions;Based on the records of the case, the elements of the crime charged exist in the present case.
2) He must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence; and
3) That his action caused undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions.8
At the outset, it bears to reiterate the settled rule that private persons, when acting in conspiracy with public officers, may be indicted and, if found guilty, held liable for the pertinent offenses under Section 3 of R.A. 3019, in consonance with the avowed policy of the anti-graft law to repress certain acts of public officers and private persons alike constituting graft or corrupt practices act or which may lead thereto. This is the controlling doctrine as enunciated by this Court in previous cases, among which is a case involving herein private respondent.The Sandiganbayan found that petitioner and accused Valencia acted in conspiracy to commit the crime charged, to wit:
The records show that conspiracy existed by and between accused Rodolfo Valencia and Edelbert Uyboco, president of Gaikoku, considering that the procurement of the subject dump trucks for an overpriced amount of PhP6,994,286.00 could not have been possible without each other’s participation and cooperation, as evidenced by their execution and approval of the purchase order No. 4979 dated March 1993, and Gaikoku’s proforma invoice.10Petitioner failed to dispute any of the documentary evidence presented by the prosecution and relied upon by the Sandiganbayan. Thus, there appears to be no reason for this Court to review such finding.
As correctly observed by the Sandiganbayan, certain established rules, regulations and policies of the Commission on Audit and those mandated under the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160) were knowingly sidestepped and ignored by the petitioner which enabled CKL Enterprises/Dela Cruz to successfully get full payment for the school desks and armchairs, despite non-delivery – an act or omission evidencing bad faith and manifest partiality.Finally, the third element of the crime is also present since it had been proven that an overpayment was made for the dump trucks, since these were directly imported by the Provincial Government from the distributor in Japan. With this direct importation, the Provincial Government should have only paid the tax-free amount of P4,594,119.85. Instead, accused Valencia had already authorized and caused the disbursement of P6,994,286, or an excess of P2,400,166.15, in favor of petitioner’s company, Gaikoku. This has clearly caused undue injury to the government.
It must be borne to mind that any procurement or “acquisition of supplies or property by local government units shall be through competitive public bidding”. This was reiterated in the Local Government Code of 1991 on procurement of supplies which provides:Sec. 356. General Rule in Procurement or Disposal. – Except as otherwise provided herein, acquisition of supplies by local government units shall be through competitive public bidding. x x xThe petitioner admitted in his testimony that he is aware of such requirement, however, he proceeded just the same due to the alleged advice of the unnamed DECS representative that there was already a negotiated contract – a representation or misrepresentation he willfully believed in, without any verification. As a Governor, he must know that negotiated contract can only be resorted to in case of failure of a public bidding. As it is, there is no public bidding to speak of that has been conducted. Intentionally or not, it is his duty to act in a circumspect manner to protect government funds. To do otherwise is gross inexcusable negligence, at the very least, especially so, that petitioner acted on his own initiative and without authorization from the Provincial School Board. This can be proved by his failure to present even a single witness from the members of the Board whom he consulted as he claimed.12
The general rule is that a client is bound by the acts, even mistakes, of his counsel in the realm of procedural technique. The basis is the tenet that an act performed by counsel within the scope of a “general or implied authority” is regarded as an act of the client. While the application of this general rule certainly depends upon the surrounding circumstances of a given case, there are exceptions recognized by this Court: “(1) where reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the client of due process of law; (2) when its application will result in outright deprivation of the client’s liberty or property; or (3) where the interests of justice so require.”In the present case, the Sandiganbayan correctly denied petitioner’s motion to re-open the proceedings on the ground of violation of his due process, to wit:
The present case does not fall under the said exceptions. In Amil v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that “to fall within the exceptional circumstance relied upon x x x, it must be shown that the negligence of counsel must be so gross that the client is deprived of his day in court. Thus, where a party was given the opportunity to defend its interests in due course, it cannot be said to have been denied due process of law, for this opportunity to be heard is the very essence of due process.” To properly claim gross negligence on the part of the counsel, the petitioner must show that the counsel was guilty of nothing short of a clear abandonment of the client’s cause.17
In the same vein, accused-movant Uyboco’s clear admission that “he had been given the opportunity to present his evidence” and despite said opportunity, he and his counsel decided/opted not to present any evidence for his defense, as shown by their written Manifestation dated November 20, 2012, that “after earnest assessment and evaluation, the accused EDELBERT C. UYBOCO has deemed it unnecessary to present further evidence in his defense, thus he is waiving his right to present further testimonial and documentary evidence,” militates against his claim of miscarriage of justice, and hence, his motion to reopen proceedings must likewise fail. Accused-movant Uyboco cannot attribute any serious misjudgment or fault or gross incompetence on his counsel alone as the decision not to present further evidence in his defense bears his conformity as shown by his signature in the said manifestation.18The Office of the Special Prosecutor correctly pointed out that petitioner was given an opportunity to be heard during trial. This opportunity to be heard is the essence of due process. While petitioner claims that he was incorrectly advised by his former counsel that the presentation of evidence is no longer necessary, this unfortunate mistake cannot qualify as gross negligence or incompetence that would necessitate a reopening of the proceedings. In fact, not once did petitioner refute, or at the very least, address the Sandiganbayan’s finding that he had expressly consented to the waiver of the presentation of evidence by affixing his signature as conformity to the manifestation submitted by his former counsel.
* Acting member per Special Order No. 1896 dated November 28, 2014.
1Rollo, pp. 34-60. Penned by Associate Justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada and concurred in by Associate Justices Efren N. De La Cruz and Associate Justice Rafael R. Lagos.
2 Id. at 61-68.
3 G.R. No. 173390, June 27, 2012, 675 SCRA 176.
4 481 Phil. 550, 561 (2004).
5Navallo v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 97214, July 18, 1994, 234 SCRA 175, 185-186.
6Plameras v. People, G.R. No. 187268, September 4, 2013.
7Pareño v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 107110-20, April 17, 1996, 256 SCRA 242, 265.
8Uriarte v. People, G.R. No. 169251, December 20, 2006, 511 SCRA 471.
9 G.R. No. 168539, March 25, 2014.
10Rollo, p. 100.
11 Supra note 6.
12 Citations omitted.
13Saint Louis University v. Cordero, G.R. No. 144118, July 21, 2004, 434 SCRA 575, 584.
14Gomez v. Montalban, G.R. No. 174414, March 14, 2008, 548 SCRA 693, 708.
15Sarraga, Sr. v. Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, G.R. No. 143783, December 9, 2002, 393 SCRA 566.
16 G.R. No. 176834, November 21, 2012, 686 SCRA 102.
17 Citations omitted.
18Rollo, pp. 108-109.