Friday, October 28, 2011

The power to investigate and to prosecute granted by law to the Ombudsman is plenary and unqualified.

Indeed, this Court has reconsidered the said ruling and held that the Ombudsman has powers to prosecute not only graft cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan but also those cognizable by the regular courts. It held:
The power to investigate and to prosecute granted by law to the Ombudsman is plenary and unqualified. It pertains to any act or omission of any public officer or employee when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient. The law does not make a distinction between cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and those cognizable by regular courts. It has been held that the clause “any illegal act or omission of any public official” is broad enough to embrace any crime committed by a public officer or employee.
The reference made by RA 6770 to cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, particularly in Section 15(1) giving the Ombudsman primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, and Section 11(4) granting the Special Prosecutor the power to conduct preliminary investigation and prosecute criminal cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, should not be construed as confining the scope of the investigatory and prosecutory power of the Ombudsman to such cases.
Section 15 of RA 6770 gives the Ombudsman primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan. The law defines such primary jurisdiction as authorizing the Ombudsman “to take over, at any stage, from any investigatory agency of the government, the investigation of such cases.” The grant of this authority does not necessarily imply the exclusion from its jurisdiction of cases involving public officers and employees cognizable by other courts. The exercise by the Ombudsman of his primary jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan is not incompatible with the discharge of his duty to investigate and prosecute other offenses committed by public officers and employees. Indeed, it must be stressed that the powers granted by the legislature to the Ombudsman are very broad and encompass all kinds of malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance committed by public officers and employees during their tenure of office.
Moreover, the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman should not be equated with the limited authority of the Special Prosecutor under Section 11 of RA 6770. The Office of the Special Prosecutor is merely a component of the Office of the Ombudsman and may only act under the supervision and control and upon authority of the Ombudsman. Its power to conduct preliminary investigation and to prosecute is limited to criminal cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. Certainly, the lawmakers did not intend to confine the investigatory and prosecutory power of the Ombudsman to these types of cases. The Ombudsman is mandated by law to act on all complaints against officers and employees of the government and to enforce their administrative, civil and criminal liability in every case where the evidence warrants. To carry out this duty, the law allows him to utilize the personnel of his office and/or designate any fiscal, state prosecutor or lawyer in the government service to act as special investigator or prosecutor to assist in the investigation and prosecution of certain cases. Those designated or deputized to assist him work under his supervision and control. The law likewise allows him to direct the Special prosecutor to prosecute cases outside the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction in accordance with Section 11(4c) of RA 6770.

SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. Nos. 145957-68. January 25, 2002]
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, petitioner, vs. RUBEN ENOC, SUSANA B. ABAWAG, DOMINADOR D. DALA, CARLOS L. DENIA, ELVIRA I. LIM, TEODORO YOS, DIOMEDES E. MIRAFUENTES, JOSEFINA L. TUNGAL, EMMA L. BERNALES, LETICIA LAGUNSAY, and EVANGELINE GALLITO, respondents.

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