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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. Nos.

146368-69 October 23, 2003

MADELEINE MENDOZA-ONG, petitioner, vs. HON. SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. RESOLUTION QUISUMBING, J.: This special civil action for certiorari assails Sandiganbayan Resolution1 dated May 8, 2000, denying petitioners Motion to Quash2 the Information in Criminal Case No. 23848, for violation of Section 3(c) of R.A. No. 3019,3 as amended. Petitioner also impugns said courts Resolution4 dated November 9, 2000, denying her Motion for Reconsideration. The facts of the case, as culled from the records, are as follows: Sometime in February 1993, the Sangguniang Bayan of Laoang, Northern Samar, passed Resolution No. 93-132,5 authorizing the municipality to borrow heavy equipment from the Philippine Armys 53rd Engineering Battalion, to be utilized in the improvement of Laoangs Bus Terminal. Resolution No. 93-132 likewise mandated the municipal government to shoulder the expenses for fuel, oil, and the subsistence allowances of the heavy equipment operators for the duration of the project. Allegedly, however, the borrowed Army equipment was diverted by the petitioner, who was then the town mayor6 of Laoang, to develop some of her private properties in Rawis, Laoang, Northern Samar. A concerned citizen and ex-member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Laoang, Juanito G. Poso, Sr., filed a complaint against petitioner and nine (9) other municipal officers7 with the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), Visayas, for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Acting on the complaint, Graft Investigation Officer Alfonso S. Sarmiento of the OMB ordered herein petitioner and her co-accused to submit their respective counter-affidavits and other controverting evidence. Thereafter, in a Resolution8 dated August 16, 1995, investigator Sarmiento recommended the filing of the appropriate criminal action against petitioner for violation of Sections 3(c) and (e) of R.A. 3019, as amended.9 Despite strenuous opposition and objections by the defense, on August 1, 1997, two informations were filed against her at the Sandiganbayan docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 23847 and 23848, to wit: (1) Criminal Case No. 23847 That on or about 15 February 1993, or sometime thereafter, in the Municipality of Laoang, Northern Samar, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Madeleine MendozaOng, a public officer, being then the Municipal Mayor of Laoang, committing the crime herein charged in relation to, while in the performance and taking advantage of her official functions, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally, through manifest partiality and evident bad faith,

cause undue injury to the Government and give unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to herself and spouses Mr. and Mrs. Chupo Lao when she, in the discharge of her official or administrative functions, caused the improvement or development of her private land in Barangay Rawis through the use of the equipment and resources of the Philippine Army, to the damage and prejudice of the Government. CONTRARY TO LAW.10 This, however, was amended on October 27, 1998, so that Criminal Case No. 23847 would read as follows: That on or about 15 February 1993, or sometime thereafter, in the Municipality of Laoang, Northern Samar, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Madeleine MendozaOng, a public officer, being then the Municipal Mayor of Laoang, committing the crime herein charged in relation to, while in the performance and taking advantage of her official functions, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally, through manifest partiality and evident bad faith, cause undue injury to the Government and give unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to her husband, Hector Ong, herself, and/or her family and to spouses Mr. and Mrs. Chupo Lao when she, in the discharge of her official or administrative functions, caused the improvement or development of a private land owned by her husband, Hector Ong, herself and/or her family in Barangay Rawis through the use of the equipment and resources of the Philippine Army, to the damage and prejudice of the Government. CONTRARY TO LAW.11 (2) Criminal Case No. 23848 That on or about 15 February 1993, or sometime thereafter, in the Municipality of Laoang, Northern Samar, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Madeleine MendozaOng, a public officer, being then the Municipal Mayor of Laoang, committing the crime herein charged in relation to, while in the performance and taking advantage of her official functions, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally, request or receive, directly or indirectly, a gift, present or other pecuniary or material benefit in the form of five (5) drums of diesel fuel, for herself or for another from the spouses Mr. and Mrs. Chupo Lao, persons for whom accused Mendoza-Ong, in any manner or capacity, has secured or obtained, or will secure or obtain, any Municipal Government permit or license anent the operation of the bus company, JB Lines, owned by the aforenamed spouses, in consideration for the help given or to be given by the accused. CONTRARY TO LAW.12 On September 15, 1999, petitioner filed a Motion to Quash with the Sandiganbayan alleging in the main that: (1) the informations especially in Criminal Case No. 23848, failed to allege facts constituting an offense; (2) that the officer who filed the information has no authority to do so; and (3) that the accused was deprived of her right to due process and to the speedy disposition of cases against her. On May 8, 2000, the Sandiganbayan denied petitioners Motion to Quash. Petitioner duly moved for reconsideration but this was likewise denied by the Sandiganbayan in its order dated November 9, 2000.
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Hence, the instant petition with assigned errors faulting respondent court as follows:

I. RESPONDENT COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT FAILED TO DISMISS THE INFORMATIONS FILED AGAINST PETITIONER WHICH CLEARLY DO NOT ALLEGE SUFFICIENT FACTS CONSTITUTING THE OFFENSE HENCE FAILING TO ALLEGE A PRIMA FACIE CASE AGAINST PETITIONER, ACCUSED THEREIN. II. RESPONDENT COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT DENIED PETITIONERS MOTION TO QUASH THE INFORMATIONS FILED BY AN OFFICER WHO HAS NO AUTHORITY TO DO SO AND DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE HEAD OF THE PROSECUTION DIVISION OF RESPONDENT COURT HAD RECOMMENDED THE DISMISSAL OF SAID CASES. III. RESPONDENT COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT REFUSED TO DISMISS THE INFORMATIONS AGAINST ACCUSED WHO HAD BEEN DEPRIVED OF DUE PROCESS AND SPEEDY DETERMINATION OF THE CASE IN CLEAR DISREGARD OF THIS HONORABLE COURTS RULINGS THAT INORDINATE DELAY IN THE CONDUCT OF PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIONS WOULD WARRANT DISMISSAL OF THE CASE.13 Simply put, we find that the sole issue for resolution now is whether the Sandiganbayan gravely erred or gravely abused its discretion in denying the Motion to Quash filed by petitioner, particularly on the ground that the information in Criminal Case No. 23848 does not constitute an offense. The other assigned errors are, in our view, without sufficient merit and deserve no further consideration. Petitioner claims that in a criminal prosecution for violation of Section 3(c) of R.A. 3019 as amended, the law requires that the gift received should be "manifestly excessive" as defined by Section 2(c) of the same Act. She adds that it is imperative to specify the exact value of the five drums of diesel fuel allegedly received by Mayor Ong as public officer to determine whether such is "manifestly excessive" under the circumstances.14 The fundamental test of the viability of a motion to quash on the ground that the facts averred in the information do not amount to an offense is whether the facts alleged would establish the essential elements of the crime as defined by law. In this examination, matters aliunde are not considered.15 Petitioner is charged specifically with violation of Section 3(c) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended. The pertinent portions of said law provide: SEC. 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: (c) Directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present or other pecuniary or material benefit, for himself or for another, from any person for whom the public officer, in any manner or capacity, has secured or obtained, or will secure or obtain, any Government permit or license, in consideration for the help given or to be given, without prejudice to Section thirteen of this Act. Based on the foregoing, the elements of the offense charged in the assailed information are as follows: (1) the offender is a public officer; (2) he has secured or obtained, or would secure or obtain,

for a person any government permit or license; (3) he directly or indirectly requested or received from said person any gift, present or other pecuniary or material benefit for himself or for another; and (4) he requested or received the gift, present or other pecuniary or material benefit in consideration for help given or to be given.16 In the instant case, we find that the information in Crim. Case No. 23848 alleged that: (1) accused Madeleine Mendoza-Ong, a public officer, being then the Municipal Mayor of Laoang, (2) committed the crime charged in relation to, while in the performance and taking advantage of her official functions, (3) did request or receive directly or indirectly, a gift, present or other pecuniary or material benefit in the form of five drums of diesel fuel, for herself or for another, from spouses Mr. and Mrs. Chupo Lao, persons for whom accused Mendoza-Ong, (4) has secured or obtained, or will secure or obtain, a Municipal Government permit or license anent the operation of the bus company, JB Lines, owned by said spouses, in consideration for help given or to be given by the accused. After considering thoroughly this averment as formulated by the prosecution, we are not prepared to say that the impugned information omitted an element needed to adequately charge a violation of Section 3(c) of R.A. 3019. Petitioner pleads that the pertinent statute must be read in its entirety. She argues that a provision of R.A. 3019 such as Section 3(c) must be interpreted in light of all other provisions, particularly the definition of "receiving any gift," under Section 2(a) thereof, which reads as follows: SEC. 2. Definition of terms.- As used in this Act, the term (c) "Receiving any gift" includes the act of accepting directly or indirectly a gift from a person other than a member of the public officers immediate family, in behalf of himself or of any member of his family or relative within the fourth civil degree, either by consanguinity or affinity, even on the occasion of a family celebration or national festivity like Christmas, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive. Petitioner contends that pursuant to her reading of the above provision, the value of the alleged gift must be specified in the information. But note that Section 2(c) abovecited mentions a situation where (1) the value of the gift is manifestly excessive; (2) from a person who is not a member of the public officers immediate family; and (3) even on the occasion of a family celebration or national festivity. In contrast, Section 3 (c) earlier quoted in the present case applies regardless of whether the gifts value is manifestly excessive or not, and regardless of the occasion. What is important here, in our view, is whether the gift is received in consideration for help given or to be given by the public officer. The value of the gift is not mentioned at all as an essential element of the offense charged under Section 3 (c), and there appears no need to require the prosecution to specify such value in order to comply with the requirements of showing a prima faciecase. Evidently the legislature is aware that in implementing R.A. 3019, it will be precedents that will guide the court on the issue of what is or what is not manifestly excessive.17 In sum, we are constrained to rule that respondent court did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, much less did it gravely err, in denying petitioners motion to quash the information filed against her in Criminal Case No. 23848. This ruling, however, is

without prejudice to the actual merits of this criminal case as may be shown during trial before the court a quo. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED. The assailed resolutions of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 23848 are AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Bellosillo, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.