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G.R. NO. 176944 - Ret. Lt. Gen. Jacinto C. Ligot, et al. v. Republic of the Philippines represented by the Anti-Money Laundering Council

G.R. NO. 176944 - Ret. Lt. Gen. Jacinto C. Ligot, et al. v. Republic of the Philippines represented by the Anti-Money Laundering Council

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. NO. 176944 : March 6, 2013

RET. LT. GEN. JACINTO C. LIGOT, ERLINDA Y. LIGOT, PAULO Y. LIGOT, RIZA Y. LIGOT, and MIGUEL Y. LIGOT, Petitioners, v.REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING COUNCIL, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

BRION, J.:

In this petition for certiorari,1 retired Lieutenant General (Lt. Gen.) Jacinto C. Ligot, Erlinda Y. Ligot (Mrs. Ligot), Paulo Y. Ligot, Riza Y. Ligot, and Miguel Y. Ligot (petitioners) claim that the Court of Appeals (CA) acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it issued its January 12, 2007 resolution2 in CA G.R. SP No. 90238. This assailed resolution affirmed in toto the CA's earlier January 4, 2006 resolution3 extending the freeze order issued against the Ligot's properties for an indefinite period of time.

BACKGROUND FACTS

On June 27, 2005, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), represented by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), filed an Urgent Ex-Parte Application for the issuance of a freeze order with the CA against certain monetary instruments and properties of the petitioners, pursuant to Section 104 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9160, as amended (otherwise known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001). This application was based on the February 1, 2005 letter of the Office of the Ombudsman to the AMLC, recommending that the latter conduct an investigation on Lt. Gen. Ligot and his family for possible violation of RA No. 9160.5chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In support of this recommendation, the Ombudsman attached the Complaint6 it filed against the Ligots for perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code, and for violations of Section 87 of RA No. 67138 and RA No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).

The Ombudsman's Complaint

a. Lt. Gen. Ligot and immediate family

The Ombudsman's complaint alleges that Lt. Gen. Ligot served in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for 33 years and 2 months, from April 1, 1966 as a cadet until his retirement on August 17, 2004.9 He and Mrs. Ligot have four children, namely: Paulo Y. Ligot, Riza Y. Ligot,

George Y. Ligot and Miguel Y. Ligot, who have all reached the age of majority at the time of the filing of the complaint.10chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Lt. Gen. Ligot declared in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) that as of December 31, 2003, he had assets in the total amount of Three Million Eight Hundred Forty-Eight Thousand and Three Pesos (P3,848,003.00).11 In contrast, his declared assets in his 1982 SALN amounted to only One Hundred Five Thousand Pesos (P105,000.00).12chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Aside from these declared assets, the Ombudsman's investigation revealed that Lt. Gen. Ligot and his family had other properties and bank accounts, not declared in his SALN, amounting to at least Fifty Four Million One Thousand Two Hundred Seventeen Pesos (P54,001,217.00). These undeclared assets consisted of the following:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Undeclared AssetsAmount
Jacinto Ligot's undeclared assetsP 41,185,583.5313
Jacinto Ligot's children's assets1,744,035.6014
Tuition fees and travel expensesP 2,308,047.8715
Edgardo Yambao's assets relative to the real propertiesP 8,763,550.0016
TotalP 54,001,217.00

Bearing in mind that Lt. Gen. Ligot's main source of income was his salary as an officer of the AFP,17 and given his wife and children's lack of any other substantial sources of income,18 the Ombudsman declared the assets registered in Lt. Gen. Ligot's name, as well as those in his wife's and children's names, to be illegally obtained and unexplained wealth, pursuant to the provisions of RA No. 1379 (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).

b. Edgardo Tecson Yambao

The Ombudsman's investigation also looked into Mrs. Ligot's younger brother, Edgardo Tecson Yambao. The records of the Social Security System (SSS) revealed that Yambao had been employed in the private sector from 1977 to 1994. Based on his contributions to the SSS, Yambao did not have a substantial salary during his employment. While Yambao had an investment with Mabelline Foods, Inc., the Ombudsman noted that this company only had a net income of P5,062.96 in 2002 and P693.67 in 2003.19 Moreover, the certification from the Bureau of Internal Revenue stated that Yambao had no record of any annual Individual Income

Tax Return filed for the calendar year 1999 up to the date of the investigation.

Despite Yambao's lack of substantial income, the records show that he has real properties and vehicles registered in his name, amounting to Eight Million Seven Hundred Sixty Three Thousand Five Hundred Fifty Pesos (P8,763,550.00), which he acquired from 1993 onwards. The Office of the Ombudsman further observed that in the documents it examined, Yambao declared three of the Ligots' addresses as his own.

From these circumstances, the Ombudsman concluded that Yambao acted as a dummy and/or nominee of the Ligot spouses, and all the properties registered in Yambao's name actually belong to the Ligot family.

Urgent Ex-Parte Freeze Order Application

As a result of the Ombudsman's complaint, the Compliance and Investigation staff (CIS) of the AMLC conducted a financial investigation, which revealed the existence of the Ligots' various bank accounts with several financial institutions.20 On April 5, 2005, the Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Officers issued a resolution holding that probable cause exists that Lt. Gen. Ligot violated Section 8, in relation to Section 11, of RA No. 6713, as well as Article 18321 of the Revised Penal Code.

On May 25, 2005, the AMLC issued Resolution No. 52, Series of 2005, directing the Executive Director of the AMLC Secretariat to file an application for a freeze order against the properties of Lt. Gen. Ligot and the members of his family with the CA.22 Subsequently, on June 27, 2005, the Republic filed an Urgent Ex-Parte Application with the appellate court for the issuance of a Freeze Order against the properties of the Ligots and Yambao.

The appellate court granted the application in its July 5, 2005 resolution, ruling that probable cause existed that an unlawful activity and/or money laundering offense had been committed by Lt. Gen. Ligot and his family, including Yambao, and that the properties sought to be frozen are related to the unlawful activity or money laundering offense. Accordingly, the CA issued a freeze order against the Ligots' and Yambao's various bank accounts, web accounts and vehicles, valid for a period of 20 days from the date of issuance.

On July 26, 2005, the Republic filed an Urgent Motion for Extension of Effectivity of Freeze Order, arguing that if the bank accounts, web accounts and vehicles were not continuously frozen, they could be placed beyond the reach of law enforcement authorities and the government's efforts to recover the proceeds of the Ligots' unlawful activities would be frustrated. In support of its motion, it informed the CA that the Ombudsman was presently investigating the following cases involving the Ligots:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Case NumberComplainant(s)Nature
OMB-P-C-05- 0523Wilfredo GarridoPlunder
OMB-P-C-05- 0003AGIO Gina Villamor, et al.Perjury
OMB-P-C-05- 0184Field Investigation OfficeViolation of RA No. 3019, Section 3(b); Perjury under Article 183, Revised Penal Code in relation to Section 11 of RA No. 6713; Forfeiture Proceedings in Relation to RA No. 1379
OMB-P-C-05-0352David OdilaoMalicious Mischief; Violation of Section 20, RA No. 7856

Finding merit in the Republic's arguments, the CA granted the motion in its September 20, 2005 resolution, extending the freeze order until after all the appropriate proceedings and/or investigations have been terminated.

On September 28, 2005, the Ligots filed a motion to lift the extended freeze order, principally arguing that there was no evidence to support the extension of the freeze order. They further argued that the extension not only deprived them of their property without due process; it also punished them before their guilt could be proven. The appellate court subsequently denied this motion in its January 4, 2006 resolution.

Meanwhile, on November 15, 2005, the "Rule of Procedure in Cases of Civil Forfeiture, Asset Preservation, and Freezing of Monetary Instrument, Property, or Proceeds Representing, Involving, or Relating to an Unlawful Activity or Money Laundering Offense under Republic Act No. 9160, as Amended"23 (Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases) took effect. Under this rule, a freeze order could be extended for a maximum period of six months.

On January 31, 2006, the Ligots filed a motion for reconsideration of the CA's January 4, 2006 resolution, insisting that the freeze order should be lifted considering: (a) no predicate crime has been proven to support the freeze order's issuance; (b) the freeze order expired six months after it was issued on July 5, 2005; and (c) the freeze order is provisional in character and not intended to supplant a case for money laundering. When the CA denied this motion in its resolution dated January 12, 2007, the Ligots filed the present petition.

THE PETITIONERS' ARGUMENTS

Lt. Gen. Ligot argues that the appellate court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it extended the freeze order issued against him and his family even though no predicate crime had been duly proven or established to support the allegation of money laundering. He also maintains that the freeze order issued against them ceased to be effective in view of the 6-month extension limit of freeze orders provided under the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases. The CA, in extending the freeze order, not only unduly deprived him and his family of their property, in violation of due process, but also penalized them before they had been convicted of the crimes they stand accused of.

THE REPUBLIC'S ARGUMENTS

In opposition, the Republic claims that the CA can issue a freeze order upon a determination that probable cause exists, showing that the monetary instruments or properties subject of the freeze order are related to the unlawful activity enumerated in RA No. 9160. Contrary to the petitioners' claims, it is not necessary that a formal criminal charge must have been previously filed against them before the freeze order can be issued.

The Republic further claims that the CA's September 20, 2005 resolution, granting the Republic's motion to extend the effectivity of the freeze order, had already become final and executory, and could no longer be challenged. The Republic notes that the Ligots erred when they filed what is effectively a second motion for reconsideration in response to the CA's January 4, 2006 resolution, instead of filing a petition for review on certiorari via Rule 45 with this Court. Under these circumstances, the assailed January 4, 2006 resolution granting the freeze order had already attained finality when the Ligots filed the present petition before this Court.

THE COURT'S RULING

We find merit in the petition.

I. Procedural aspect

a. Certiorari not proper remedy to assail freeze order; exception

Section 57 of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases explicitly provides the remedy available in cases involving freeze orders issued by the CA:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Section 57. Appeal. - Any party aggrieved by the decision or ruling of the court may appeal to the Supreme Court by petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The appeal shall not stay the enforcement of the subject decision or final order unless the Supreme Court directs otherwise. [italics supplied]

From this provision, it is apparent that the petitioners should have filed a petition for review on certiorari, and not a petition for certiorari, to assail the CA resolution which extended the effectivity period of the freeze order over their properties.

Even assuming that a petition for certiorari is available to the petitioners, a review of their petition shows that the issues they raise (i.e., existence of probable cause to support the freeze order; the applicability of the 6-month limit to the extension of freeze orders embodied in the Rule of Procedure in Cases of Civil Forfeiture) pertain to errors of judgment allegedly committed by the CA, which fall outside the Court's limited jurisdiction when resolving certiorari petitions. As held in People v. Court of Appeals:24chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In a petition for certiorari, the jurisdiction of the court is narrow in scope. It is limited to resolving only errors of jurisdiction. It is not to stray at will and resolve questions or issues beyond its competence such as errors of judgment. Errors of judgment of the trial court are to be resolved by the appellate court in the appeal by and of error or via a petition for review on certiorari in this Court under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Certiorari will issue only to correct errors of jurisdiction. It is not a remedy to correct errors of judgment. An error of judgment is one in which the court may commit in the exercise of its jurisdiction, and which error is reversible only by an appeal. Error of jurisdiction is one where the act complained of was issued by the court without or in excess of jurisdiction and which error is correctible only by the extraordinary writ of certiorari. Certiorari will not be issued to cure errors by the trial court in its appreciation of the evidence of the parties, and its conclusions anchored on the said findings and its conclusions of law. As long as the court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors committed in the exercise of its discretion will amount to nothing more than mere errors of judgment, correctible by an appeal or a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.25 (citations omitted; italics supplied)

Clearly, the Ligots should have filed a petition for review on certiorari, and not what is effectively a second motion for reconsideration (nor an original action of certiorari after this second motion was denied), within fifteen days from receipt of the CA's January 4, 2006 resolution. To recall, this resolution denied the petitioners' motion to lift the extended freeze order which is effectively a motion for reconsideration of the CA ruling extending the freeze order indefinitely.26chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

However, considering the issue of due process squarely brought before us in the face of an apparent conflict between Section 10 of RA No. 9160, as amended, and Section 53(b) of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases, this Court finds it imperative to relax the application of the rules of procedure and resolve this case on the merits in the interest of justice.27chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

b. Applicability of 6-month extension period under the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases

Without challenging the validity of the fixed 6-month extension period, the Republic nonetheless asserts that the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases does not apply to the present case because the CA had already resolved the issues regarding the extension of the freeze order before the

Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases came into effect.

This reasoning fails to convince us.

Notably, the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases came into effect on December 15, 2005. Section 59 provides that it shall "apply to all pending civil forfeiture cases or petitions for freeze order" at the time of its effectivity.

A review of the record reveals that after the CA issued its September 20, 2005 resolution extending the freeze order, the Ligots filed a motion to lift the extended freeze order on September 28, 2005. Significantly, the CA only acted upon this motion on January 4, 2006, when it issued a resolution denying it.

While denominated as a Motion to Lift Extended Freeze Order, this motion was actually a motion for reconsideration, as it sought the reversal of the assailed CA resolution. Since the Ligots' motion for reconsideration was still pending resolution at the time the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases came into effect on December 15, 2005, the Rule unquestionably applies to the present case.

c. Subsequent events

During the pendency of this case, the Republic manifested that on September 26, 2011, it filed a Petition for Civil Forfeiture with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila. On September 28, 2011, the RTC, Branch 22, Manila, issued a Provisional Asset Preservation Order and on October 5, 2011, after due hearing, it issued an Asset Preservation Order.

On the other hand, the petitioners manifested that as of October 29, 2012, the only case filed in connection with the frozen bank accounts is Civil Case No. 0197, for forfeiture of unlawfully acquired properties under RA No. 1379 (entitled "Republic of the Philippines v. Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot, et. al."), pending before the Sandiganbayan.

These subsequent developments and their dates are significant in our consideration of the present case, particularly the procedural aspect. Under Section 56 of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases which provides that after the post-issuance hearing on whether to modify, lift or extend the freeze order, the CA shall remand the case and transmit the records to the RTC for consolidation with the pending civil forfeiture proceeding. This provision gives the impression that the filing of the appropriate cases in courts in 2011 and 2012 rendered this case moot and academic.

A case is considered moot and academic when it "ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. Generally, courts decline jurisdiction over such case or dismiss it on ground of mootness."28 However, the moot and academic principle is not an iron-clad rule and is subject to four settled exceptions,29 two of which are present in this case, namely: when the constitutional issue raised requires the formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public, and when the case is capable of repetition, yet evading review.

The apparent conflict presented by the limiting provision of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases, on one hand, and the very broad judicial discretion under RA No. 9160, as amended, on the other hand, and the uncertainty it casts on an individual's guaranteed right to due process indubitably call for the Court's exercise of its discretion to decide the case, otherwise moot and academic, under those two exceptions, for the future guidance of those affected and involved in the implementation of RA No. 9160, as amended.

Additionally, we would be giving premium to the government's failure to file an appropriate case until only after six years (despite the clear provision of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases) were we to dismiss the petition because of the filing of the forfeiture case during the pendency of the case before the Court. The sheer length of time and the constitutional violation involved, as will be discussed below, strongly dissuade us from dismissing the petition on the basis of the "moot and academic" principle. The Court should not allow the seeds of future violations to sprout by hiding under this principle even when directly confronted with the glaring issue of the respondent's violation of the petitioners' due process right30 - an issue that the respondent itself chooses to ignore.

We shall discuss the substantive relevance of the subsequent developments and their dates at length below.

II. Substantive aspect

a. Probable cause exists to support the issuance of a freeze order

The legal basis for the issuance of a freeze order is Section 10 of RA No. 9160, as amended by RA No. 9194, which states:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Section 10. Freezing of Monetary Instrument or Property. The Court of Appeals, upon application ex parte by the AMLC and after determination that probable cause exists that any monetary instrument or property is in any way related to an unlawful activity as defined in Section

3(i) hereof, may issue a freeze order which shall be effective immediately. The freeze order shall be for a period of twenty (20) days unless extended by the court. [italics supplied]

The Ligots claim that the CA erred in extending the effectivity period of the freeze order against them, given that they have not yet been convicted of committing any of the offenses enumerated under RA No. 9160 that would support the AMLC's accusation of money-laundering activity.

We do not see any merit in this claim. The Ligots' argument is founded on a flawed understanding of probable cause in the context of a civil forfeiture proceeding31 or freeze order application.32chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Based on Section 10 quoted above, there are only two requisites for the issuance of a freeze order: (1) the application ex parte by the AMLC and (2) the determination of probable cause by the CA.33 The probable cause required for the issuance of a freeze order differs from the probable cause required for the institution of a criminal action, and the latter was not an issue before the CA nor is it an issue before us in this case.

As defined in the law, the probable cause required for the issuance of a freeze order refers to "such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet, prudent or cautious man to believe that an unlawful activity and/or a money laundering offense is about to be, is being or has been committed and that the account or any monetary instrument or property subject thereof sought to be frozen is in any way related to said unlawful activity and/or money laundering offense."34chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In other words, in resolving the issue of whether probable cause exists, the CA's statutorily-guided determination's focus is not on the probable commission of an unlawful activity (or money laundering) that the Office of the Ombudsman has already determined to exist, but on whether the bank accounts, assets, or other monetary instruments sought to be frozen are in any way related to any of the illegal activities enumerated under RA No. 9160, as amended.35 Otherwise stated, probable cause refers to the sufficiency of the relation between an unlawful activity and the property or monetary instrument which is the focal point of Section 10 of RA No. 9160, as amended. To differentiate this from any criminal case that may thereafter be instituted against the same respondent, the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases expressly provides

SEC. 28. Precedence of proceedings. - Any criminal case relating to an unlawful activity shall be given precedence over the prosecution of any offense or violation under Republic Act No. 9160, as amended, without prejudice to the filing of a separate petition for civil forfeiture or the issuance of an asset preservation order or a freeze order. Such civil action shall proceed independently of the criminal prosecution. [italics supplied; emphases ours]

Section 10 of RA No. 9160 (allowing the extension of the freeze order) and Section 28 (allowing a separate petition for the issuance of a freeze order to proceed independently) of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases are only consistent with the very purpose of the freeze order, which specifically is to give the government the necessary time to prepare its case and to file the appropriate charges without having to worry about the possible dissipation of the assets that are in any way related to the suspected illegal activity. Thus, contrary to the Ligots' claim, a freeze order is not dependent on a separate criminal charge, much less does it depend on a conviction.

That a freeze order can be issued upon the AMLC's ex parte application further emphasizes the law's consideration of how critical time is in these proceedings. As we previously noted in Republic v. Eugenio, Jr.,36 "to make such freeze order anteceded by a judicial proceeding with notice to the account holder would allow for or lead to the dissipation of such funds even before the order could be issued."

It should be noted that the existence of an unlawful activity that would justify the issuance and the extension of the freeze order has likewise been established in this case.

From the ex parte application and the Ombudsman's complaint, we glean that Lt. Gen. Ligot himself admitted that his income came from his salary as an officer of the AFP. Yet, the Ombudsman's investigation revealed that the bank accounts, investments and properties in the name of Lt. Gen. Ligot and his family amount to more than Fifty-Four Million Pesos (P54,000,000.00). Since these assets are grossly disproportionate to Lt. Gen. Ligot's income, as well as the lack of any evidence that the Ligots have other sources of income, the CA properly found that probable cause exists that these funds have been illegally acquired. On the other hand, the AMLC's verified allegations in its ex parte application, based on the complaint filed by the Ombudsman against Ligot and his family for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, clearly sustain the CA's finding that probable cause exists that the monetary instruments subject of the freeze order are related to, or are the product of, an unlawful activity.

b. A freeze order, however, cannot be issued for an indefinite period

Assuming that the freeze order is substantively in legal order, the Ligots now assert that its effectiveness ceased after January 25, 2006 (or six months after July 25, 2005 when the original freeze order first expired), pursuant to Section 53(b) of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases (A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC). This section states:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Section 53. Freeze order.

x x x

(b) Extension. On motion of the petitioner filed before the expiration of twenty days from issuance of a freeze order, the court may for good cause extend its effectivity for a period not exceeding six months. [italics supplied; emphasis ours]

We find merit in this claim.

A freeze order is an extraordinary and interim relief37 issued by the CA to prevent the dissipation, removal, or disposal of properties that are suspected to be the proceeds of, or related to, unlawful activities as defined in Section 3(i) of RA No. 9160, as amended.38 The primary objective of a freeze order is to temporarily preserve monetary instruments or property that are in any way related to an unlawful activity or money laundering, by preventing the owner from utilizing them during the duration of the freeze order.39 The relief is pre-emptive in character, meant to prevent the owner from disposing his property and thwarting the State's effort in building its case and eventually filing civil forfeiture proceedings and/or prosecuting the owner.

Our examination of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended, from the point of view of the freeze order that it authorizes, shows that the law is silent on the maximum period of time that the freeze order can be extended by the CA. The final sentence of Section 10 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 provides, "the freeze order shall be for a period of twenty (20) days unless extended by the court." In contrast, Section 55 of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases qualifies the grant of extension "for a period not exceeding six months" "for good cause" shown.

We observe on this point that nothing in the law grants the owner of the "frozen" property any substantive right to demand that the freeze order be lifted, except by implication, i.e., if he can show that no probable cause exists or if the 20-day period has already lapsed without any extension being requested from and granted by the CA. Notably, the Senate deliberations on RA No. 9160 even suggest the intent on the part of our legislators to make the freeze order effective until the termination of the case, when necessary.40chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The silence of the law, however, does not in any way affect the Court's own power under the Constitution to "promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights xxx and procedure in all courts."41 Pursuant to this power, the Court issued A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC, limiting the effectivity of an extended freeze order to six months to otherwise leave the grant of the extension to the sole discretion of the CA, which may extend a freeze order indefinitely or to an unreasonable amount of time carries serious implications on an individual's substantive right to due process.42 This right demands that no person be denied his right to property or be subjected to any governmental action that amounts to a denial.43 The right to due process, under these terms, requires a limitation or at least an inquiry on whether sufficient justification for the governmental action.44chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In this case, the law has left to the CA the authority to resolve the issue of extending the freeze order it issued. Without doubt, the CA followed the law to the letter, but it did so by avoiding the fundamental law's command under its Section 1, Article III. This command, the Court under its constitutional rule-making power sought to implement through Section 53(b) of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases which the CA erroneously assumed does not apply.

The Ligots' case perfectly illustrates the inequity that would result from giving the CA the power to extend freeze orders without limitations. As narrated above, the CA, via its September 20, 2005 resolution, extended the freeze order over the Ligots' various bank accounts and personal properties "until after all the appropriate proceedings and/or investigations being conducted are terminated."45 By its very terms, the CA resolution effectively bars the Ligots from using any of the property covered by the freeze order until after an eventual civil forfeiture proceeding is concluded in their favor and after they shall have been adjudged not guilty of the crimes they are suspected of committing. These periods of extension are way beyond the intent and purposes of a freeze order which is intended solely as an interim relief; the civil and criminal trial courts can very well handle the disposition of properties related to a forfeiture case or to a crime charged and need not rely on the interim relief that the appellate court issued as a guarantee against loss of property while the government is preparing its full case. The term of the CA's extension, too, borders on inflicting a punishment to the Ligots, in violation of their constitutionally protected right to be presumed innocent, because the unreasonable denial of their property comes before final conviction.

In more concrete terms, the freeze order over the Ligots' properties has been in effect since 2005, while the civil forfeiture case per the Republic's manifestation was filed only in 2011 and the forfeiture case under RA No. 1379 per the petitioners' manifestation was filed only in 2012. This means that the Ligots have not been able to access the properties subject of the freeze order for six years or so simply on the basis of the existence of probable cause to issue a freeze order, which was intended mainly as an interim preemptive remedy.

As correctly noted by the petitioners, a freeze order is meant to have a temporary effect; it was never intended to supplant or replace the actual forfeiture cases where the provisional remedy - which means, the remedy is an adjunct of or an incident to the main action of asking for the issuance of an asset preservation order from the court where the petition is filed is precisely available. For emphasis, a freeze order is both a preservatory and preemptive remedy.

To stress, the evils caused by the law's silence on the freeze order's period of effectivity46 compelled this Court to issue the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases. Specifically, the Court fixed the maximum allowable extension on the freeze order's effectivity at six months. In doing so, the Court sought to balance the State's interest in going after suspected money launderers with an individual's constitutionally-protected right not to be deprived of his property without due process of law, as well as to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

To our mind, the six-month extension period is ordinarily sufficient for the government to act against the suspected money launderer and to file the appropriate forfeiture case against him, and is a reasonable period as well that recognizes the property owner's right to due process. In this case, the period of inaction of six years, under the circumstances, already far exceeded what is reasonable.

We are not unmindful that the State itself is entitled to due process. As a due process concern, we do not say that the six-month period is an inflexible rule that would result in the automatic lifting of the freeze order upon its expiration in all instances. An inflexible rule may lend itself to abuse - to the prejudice of the State's legitimate interests - where the property owner would simply file numerous suits, questioning the freeze order during the six-month extension period, to prevent the timely filing of a money laundering or civil forfeiture case within this period. With the limited resources that our government prosecutors and investigators have at their disposal, the end-result of an inflexible rule is not difficult to see.

We observe, too, that the factual complexities and intricacies of the case and other matters that may be beyond the government's prosecutory agencies' control may contribute to their inability to file the corresponding civil forfeiture case before the lapse of six months. Given these considerations, it is only proper to strike a balance between the individual's right to due process and the government's interest in curbing criminality, particularly money laundering and the predicate crimes underlying it.

Thus, as a rule, the effectivity of a freeze order may be extended by the CA for a period not exceeding six months. Before or upon the lapse of this period, ideally, the Republic should have already filed a case for civil forfeiture against the property owner with the proper courts and accordingly secure an asset preservation order or it should have filed the necessary information.47 Otherwise, the property owner should already be able to fully enjoy his property without any legal process affecting it. However, should it become completely necessary for the Republic to further extend the duration of the freeze order, it should file the necessary motion before the expiration of the six-month period and explain the reason or reasons for its failure to file an appropriate case and justify the period of extension sought. The freeze order should remain effective prior to the resolution by the CA, which is hereby directed to resolve this kind of motion for extension with reasonable dispatch.

In the present case, we note that the Republic has not offered any explanation why it took six years (from the time it secured a freeze order) before a civil forfeiture case was filed in court, despite the clear tenor of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases allowing the extension of a freeze order for only a period of six months. All the Republic could proffer is its temporal argument on the inapplicability of the Rule in Civil Forfeiture Cases; in effect, it glossed over the squarely-raised issue of due process. Under these circumstances, we cannot but conclude that the continued extension of the freeze order beyond the six-month period violated the Ligot's right to due process; thus, the CA decision should be reversed.

We clarify that our conclusion applies only to the CA ruling and does not affect the proceedings and whatever order or resolution the RTC may have issued in the presently pending civil cases for forfeiture. We make this clarification to ensure that we can now fully conclude and terminate this CA aspect of the case.

As our last point, we commend the fervor of the CA in assisting the State's efforts to prosecute corrupt public officials. We remind the appellate court though that the government's anti-corruption drive cannot be done at the expense of cherished fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution. So long as we continue to be guided by the Constitution and the rule of law, the Court cannot allow the justification of governmental action on the basis of the noblest objectives alone. As so oft-repeated, the end does not justify the means. Of primordial importance is that the means employed must be in keeping with the Constitution. Mere expediency will certainly not excuse constitutional shortcuts.48chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we GRANT the petition and LIFT the freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. SP No. 90238. This lifting is without prejudice to, and shall not affect, the preservation orders that the lower courts have ordered on the same properties in the cases pending before them. Pursuant to Section 56 of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC, the Court of Appeals is hereby ordered to remand the case and to transmit the records to the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 22, where the civil forfeiture proceeding is pending, for consolidation therewith as may be appropriate.

SO ORDERED.


Endnotes:


1 Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, rollo, pp. 3-22.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

2 Penned by Associate Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., and Rebecca de Guia-Salvador. Id. at 28-30.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

3 Id. at 32-41.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

4 Section 10. Freezing of Monetary Instrument or Property. - The Court of Appeals, upon application exparte by the AMLC and after determination that probable cause exists that any monetary instrumentor property is in any way related to an unlawful activity as defined in Section 3(i) hereof, may issue afreeze order which shall be effective immediately. The freeze order shall be for a period of twenty(20) days unless extended by the court. [italics supplied]ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

5 Rollo, p. 70.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

6 Id. at 71-86.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

7 Section 8. Statements and Disclosure. Public officials and employees have an obligation toaccomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets,liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and ofunmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households. [italics supplied]ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

8 Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

9 Based on the Ombudsman's complaint, Lt. Gen. Ligot held various positions/designations as perrecords of the last five years of his stay with the AFP, to wit:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

● Commander of the Central Command, AFP from April 13, 2002 date of retirement;cralawlibrary

● Officer-in-Charge of the Southern Luzon Command, AFP from December 5-20, 2001 and October 2-16, 2001;cralawlibrary

● Commanding General of the 2nd Infantry Division, PA from March 28, 2001 to April 13, 2002;cralawlibrary

● Deputy Chief of Staff for Comptrollership, J6, of OJ6, GHQ, AFP from November 6, 1999 to March 28, 2001;cralawlibrary

● Brigade Commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, 41D, PA from June 10, 1966 to October 1, 1999. (Rollo, pp. 71-72).

10 Id. at 72.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

11 Lt. Gen. Ligot's assets as of December 31, 2003 consist of the following:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

AssetsYear of AcquisitionAmount in Pesos
Cash-on-hand P 550,000.00
Investments/Bus and Stocks 700,000.00
Appliances 251,003.00
Jewelries and Books 430,000.00
House and lot (TARLAC)198010,000.00
House and lot (MUNTINLUPA)1983337,000.00
Lot (MARIKINA)1986110,000.00
Agri lands (NUEVA ECIJA)199560,000.00
Agri lands (SAN JOSE BATS.)1999200,000.00
Motor vehicle1994600,000.00
 2000600,000.00
TOTAL P 3,848,003.00

(Id. at 75).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

12 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

13 Based on the Ombudsman's estimation, the Ligot spouses have the following undeclared assets:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

AssetsYear of AcquisitionAcquisition CostRegistered Owner
Raw land in Masalat, Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal (72,738 sqm.)2002
(June 28, 2002)
P 2,000,000.00Jacinto Ligot
Proceeds of sale of 19A, Essensa East Forbes Condominium, Lawton Tower, Taguig2003
(August 19, 2003)
P 25,000,000.00Erlinda Ligot
Poultry building2002P 6,715,783.02Jacinto Ligot
AFPSLAI (highest accumulated balance of the four accounts of the spouses)2002P 7,469,800.51Spouses Jacinto and Erlinda Ligot
TOTAL P 41,185,583.53 

(Ombudsman's complaint, id. at 80.)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

14 The following properties are registered in the names of the Ligot children:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Year of AcquisitionRegistered owner/Age at time of acquisitionDescriptionAcquisition Cost
2001Paulo (22)Agricultural land in Bgy. Imbayao, Malaybalay City P 195,000.00
2001Paulo (22)Toyota Hi-luxP1,078,000.00
2002Riza (22)Isuzu Mini-dumpP305,000.00
2003Riza (23)Bgy. Kalatugonan, Patpat, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon (4 hectares)Market value P72,000.00
2003Miguel (18)Bgy. Kalasungay, Malaybalay City (5,2242 has.)Market Value P94,035.60
Total  P1,744,035.60

(Ombudsman's complaint, id. at 81.)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

15 Based on the Ombudsman's complaint, the Ligot family had, from 1986 to 2004, substantial funds used to cover the tuition fees of the children and their travel expenses. While Lt. Gen. Ligot declared in his SALN family expenses, the amounts declared were considered to only cover necessary and basic expenses, being considered too small to cover the expensive tuition fees of the children and their frequent travels abroad.

YearNature of ExpensesAmountEstimated Total Travel and Tuition Fee ExpensesDeclared Family Expenses (SALN)
1986Travel Tuition feeNo data P8,480.70P 8,480.70P 60,000.00
1987Travel Tuition feeNo data P9,815.40P 9,815.40P 60,000.00
1988Travel Tuition feeNo data P12,477.76P 12,477.76P 103,000.00
1989Travel Tuition feeNo data P13,732.00P 13,732.00P 96,000.00
1990Travel Tuition feeNo data P16,153.10P 16,153.10P 78,462.00
1991No SALNNo SALNNo SALNNo SALN
1992Travel Tuition feeNo data P41,085.46P 41,085.46P 102,000.00
1993Travel Tuition feeP56,700.00 Data unavailableP 56,700.00P 140,000.00
1994Travel Tuition feeP 36,400.00 P 59,408.00P 95,808.00P 150,000.00
1995Travel Tuition feeP 25,000.00 P 64,318.00P 89,318.00P 170,000.00
1996Travel Tuition feeP 62,400.00 P 84,743.30P 147,143.30P 143,873.00
1997Travel Tuition feeP 39,150.00 P 114,086.65P 156,236.65P 136,535.50
1998Travel Tuition feeP 34,000.00 P 132,987.00P 166,987.00P 140,000.00
1999Travel Tuition feeP 115,050.00 P 111,639.00P 226,689.00P 160,500.00
2000Travel Tuition feeP 371,800.00 P 100,259.50P 472,059.50P 216,520.00
2001Travel Tuition feeP 50,000.00 P 50,214.00P 100,214.00P 239,908.00
2002Travel Tuition feeP 86,700.00 P 54,547.00P 141,247.00P 309,000.00
2003Travel Tuition feeP 185,500.00 P 38,954.00P 224,454.00P 335,258.00
2004Travel Tuition feeP 304,750.00 P 27,697.00P 332,447.00No SALN
Total Expenses from 1986 to 2004P 2,308,047.87P 2,641,056.50
Total Expenses (Declared Family Expenses plus estimated travel and tuition fee expenses)P 4,949,104.37

(Id. at 82.)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

16 According to the Ombudsman's complaint, Yambao acted as the Ligot spouses' dummy. Mrs. Ligottransferred her condominium unit in Essensa in favor of her brother, allegedly for the amount ofP25,000,000.00. This amount, however, was never declared in Lt. Gen. Ligot's SALN, nor was anyincrease in his cash asset registered. Moreover, Yambao has not filed any Individual Tax Returns since1999, thereby discounting his probable financial capacity to acquire the Essensa property and any ofhis other assets. The Ombudsman also took into account the fact that Yambao used three addressesused by the Ligots as his address. From these circumstances, the Ombudsman concluded that the assetsregistered in Yambao's name are actually assets belonging to the Ligots. These assets include:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Year of
Acquisition
DescriptionAcquisition Cost
1993Residential lot/Susana Heights Subdivision Village VI, Muntinlupa City (904 sqm.)P1,050,000.00
1994Mabelline Foods, Inc.P 156,250.00
Amount paid as incorporator
19961996 Honda Accord 4 Drive Sedan (brand new)P 878,000.00
1999Condominium Unit/ Burgundy Plaza, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Diliman Quezon City (54.05 sqm.)P1,405,300.00
20012001 Toyota HilanderP 2,800,000.00
2002Subaru ForesterP 1,174,000.00
2003Subaru ForesterP 1,300,000.00
Total P 8,763,550.00

(Id. at 83-84.)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

17 Id. at 76.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

18 Id. at 72.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

19 Based on the corporation's income statements with the SEC.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

20 The CIS discovered that the Ligots had the following bank accounts in their names:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Lank Bank of the Philippines

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Col. Jacinto C. LigotPeso SA-ATM0962-0055-35
Jacinto C. LigotPeso Demand Deposit0057-0575-72

Equitable PCIBank (EPCIB)

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Jacinto C. LigotPeso Demand Deposit0057-575-02
Erlinda Y. LigotUS Dollar Account4466000391
Erlinda Y. LigotUS Dollar Account4466000405
Erlinda Y. LigotUS Dollar Account04008E00043CTF-K
Erlinda Y. LigotUS Dollar Account03009B00069CTF-K
Erlinda Y. LigotPeso Account3763-00267-4
Erlinda Y. LigotPeso Account3763-00267-3
Erlinda Y. LigotPeso Account3763-00282-8

Equitable Savings Bank

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Emelda T. YambaoSavings Deposit Private (Special),

90-day ESB Speedsaver Peso

3763-00318-2
Emelda T. YambaoSavings Deposit Private (Special),

90-day ESB Speedsaver Peso

3763-00356-5
Emelda T. YambaoSavings Deposit Private (Special),

90-day ESB Speedsaver Peso

3763-00357-3
Emelda T. YambaoSavings Deposit Private (Special),

90-day ESB Speedsaver Peso

3763-00287-9

Citibank

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Jacinto C. LigotUS Dollar Account8143020917
Jacinto C. LigotPeso Account8132063827

Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loan Association, Inc. (AFPSLAI)

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Jacinto C. Ligot 013093075
Jacinto C. Ligot 8132063827
Erlinda Y. Ligot 013624151
Erlinda Y. LigotCCA630-001-0524885-7
Erlinda Y. LigotSA630-002-0009922-2
Erlinda Y. LigotCCA630-001-0524885-7
Riza Y. Ligot 014606319
Paulo Yambao Ligot 01460327

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Erlinda Y. LigotPeso Account1215319969
Erlinda Y. LigotUSD Common Trust Fund contribution/placement/investment2150000014*
Erlinda Y. LigotUSD Common Trust Fund contribution/placement/investment2150000016*

Philippine Savings Bank

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Erlinda Y. LigotPeso Account01000762

Bank of the Philippine Islands

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Parmil Farms, Inc.Peso Account0200120600002061013388
Parmil Farms, Inc.Current Account 
Elpidio V. YambaoPeso Account00583037225

Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank)

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Edgardo T. YambaoUS Dollar Common Trust/Fund contribution/placement/investment Peso account00012407

United Overseas Bank Phils.

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Edgardo T. Yambao ITF Frances Isabelle Yambao 021072002773
Edgardo T. Yambao 002072001829

Keppel Bank Phils.

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Edgardo T. Yambao 3035000914

Citicorp Financial Services & Insurance Brokerage Phils., Inc.

Account NameType of AccountAccount Number
Erlinda LigotUSD Account002369932
Erlinda Ligot/ Riza LigotUSD Account007906196
Paulo Ligot/Riza LigotUSD Account007906165
Emelda YambaoUSD Account007064904
Edgardo T. YambaoUSD Account000117966
Edgardo T. YambaoUSD Account006911804

Philippine Axa Life Insurance Corporation

InsuredPolicy OwnerKind of InsurancePolicy Number
Miguel Y. LigotErlinda Y. LigotSure Dollar in the amount of USD25,000.00 with maturity of ten (10) years501-1093597

This Policy was cancelled upon the request of Erlinda Y. Ligot on December 8, 2004. On January 7, 2005, a certain Janah G. Evangelista received the check in the amount of P1,004,016.87

(USD17,876.52 @ P56.164) in behalf of Erlinda Ligot upon her authority. (Rollo, p. 59.)

21 Article 183. False testimony in other cases and perjury in solemn affirmation. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person, who knowingly makes untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the next preceding articles, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.

Any person who, in case of a solemn affirmation made in lieu of an oath, shall commit any of the falsehoods mentioned in this and the three preceding articles of this section, shall suffer the respective penalties provided therein. [italics supplied]

22 Rollo, pp. 88-95.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

23 A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

24 G.R. NO. 144332, June 10, 2004, 431 SCRA 610.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

25 Id. at 617.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

26 Section 2, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

27 See De Guzman v. Sandiganbayan, 326 Phil. 182, 188-189 (1996); Neypes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. NO. 141524, September 14, 2005, 469 SCRA 633, 643; and Cuevas v. Bais Steel Corporation, 439 Phil. 793, 805-806 (2002).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

28 Deutsche Bank AG v. Court of Appeals, G.R. NO. 193065, February 27, 2012, 667 SCRA 82, 91.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

29 Prof. David v. Pres. Macapagal- Arroyo, 522 Phil. 705, 754 (2006).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

30 See SANLAKAS v. Executive Secretary Reyes, 466 Phil. 482, 505-506 (2004).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

31 Section 11 of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

32 Section 51, paragraph 2 of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

33 Major General Carlos Garcia v. Court of Appeals, G.R. NO. 165800, November 27, 2007.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

34 Rule 10.2 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations, RA No. 9160, as amended by RA No. 9194.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

35 Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations, RA No. 9160, as amended by RA No. 9194.

Rule 10.1. When the AMLC may apply for the freezing of any monetary instrument or property.

(a) After an investigation conducted by the AMLC and upon determination that probable cause exists that a monetary instrument or property is in any way related to any unlawful activity as defined under Section 3(i), the AMLC may file an ex-parte application before the Court of Appeals for the issuance of a freeze order on any monetary instrument or property subject thereof prior to the institution or in the course of, the criminal proceedings involving the unlawful activity to which said monetary instrument or property is any way related.

36 G.R. NO. 174629, February 14, 2008, 545 SCRA 384.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

37 Ibid.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

38 Section 3(i) provides:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

(i) "Unlawful activity" refers to any act or omission or series or combination thereof involving or having relation to the following:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

(1) Kidnapping for ransom under Article 267 of Act No. 3815, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code, as amended;cralawlibrary

(2) Sections 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 of Article Two of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972;cralawlibrary

(3) Section 3, paragraphs B, C, E, G, H and I of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;cralawlibrary

(4) Plunder under Republic Act No. 7080, as amended;cralawlibrary

(5) Robbery and extortion under Articles 294, 295, 296, 299, 300, 301 and 302 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended;cralawlibrary

(6) Jueteng and Masiao punished as illegal gambling under Presidential Decree No. 1602;cralawlibrary

(7) Piracy on the high seas under the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and Presidential Decree No. 532;cralawlibrary

(8) Qualified theft under Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended;cralawlibrary

(9) Swindling under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended;cralawlibrary

(10) Smuggling under Republic Act Nos. 455 and 1937;cralawlibrary

(11) Violations under Republic Act No. 8792, otherwise known as the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000;cralawlibrary

(12) Hijacking and other violations under Republic Act No. 6235; destructive arson and murder, as defined under the Revised Penal Code, as amended, including those perpetrated by terrorists against non-combatant persons and similar targets;cralawlibrary

(13) Fraudulent practices and other violations under Republic Act No. 8799, otherwise known as the Securities Regulation Code of 2000;cralawlibrary

(14) Felonies or offenses of a similar nature that are punishable under the penal laws of other countries.

39 Republic v. Eugenio, Jr., supra note 33.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

40 See Transcripts of Session Proceedings, 12th Congress, September 27, 2001, pp18-19.

Senator Osmeña (S). Why would it be necessary to remove Provisional Remedies Pending Criminal Proceedings? We have a 20-day freeze. One may go to court for an ex parte motion to investigate the account, inquire into the account. What happens after that if we remove this provision, Mr. President?

Senator Cayetano. Mr. President, the moment the court orders the freezing of the account that will remain until the case is terminated. That is the reason. And when an order to freeze exists, the defendant cannot move any property already frozen. The availment of provisional remedy is to ensure that the property being sought will not be removed. But since it is already frozen, there is no way by which the property can be removed or concealed. That is the reason why I proposed the deletion of this. (Emphasis ours.)

41 CONSTITUTION, Article VIII, Section 5(5).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

42 This implication was made express by Section 53 of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC. The failure of the petitioners to move for the modification or the lifting of the freeze order within the twenty-day period, as provided in Section 53(a), cannot prejudice them. To begin with, A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC itself only took effect on November 15, 2005 while the freeze order was issued a few months earlier, or on July 5, 2005; neither can we reasonably expect the petitioners to comply with the provisions of R.A. No. 10167 (granting the property owner the remedy of filing a motion to lift the freeze order within the original 20-day period) since this law only took effect sometime in 2012. In short, even from this simple temporal point of view, coupled with their lone procedural error in resorting to certiorari, and the due process consideration involved, the Court is justified in proceeding with the petition's merits.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

43 Hon. Corona v. United Harbor Pilots Asso. of the Phil., 347 Phil. 333, 340, 342 (1997).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

44 City of Manila v. Hon. Laguio, Jr., 495 Phil. 289, 311 (2005).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

45 Rollo, p. 154.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

46 Vitug, Pardo & Herrera, A Summary of Notes and Views on the Rule of Procedure in Cases of Civil Forfeiture, Asset Preservation and Freezing of Monetary Instrument, Property, or Proceeds Representing, Involving, or Relating to an Unlawful Activity or Money Laundering Offense Under Republic Act No. 9160, as Amended, 2006, p. 90.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

47 Note that for instance, if the unlawful activity involved is plunder, Section 2 of RA No. 7080 requires that upon conviction, the court shall declare any and all ill gotten wealth and their interests and other incomes and assets including the properties and shares of stock derived from the deposit or investment thereof forfeited in favor of the state; likewise if the unlawful activity involved is violation of RA 3019, the law orders the confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of any prohibited interest and unexplained wealth manifestly out of proportion to the convicted accused salary and other lawful income. In these cases, the state may avail of the provisional remedy under Rule 127 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure to secure the preservation of these unexplained wealth and income should no petition for civil forfeiture or freeze order be filed.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

48 256 Phil. 777, 809 (1989).

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