Monday, October 15, 2012

reyes v. sandiganbayan (1997)


G.R. No. 121215 November 13, 1997

The significance of the minutes taken during the session of a local legislative assembly is the determinant issue in this present petition.
Petitioner, along with two others, was charged with the crime of falsification of a public document, specifically Resolution No. 57-S-92 dated July 27, 1992 of the Municipal Council of Mariveles, Bataan. The complaint 1 alleged that the resolution, appropriating the amount of P8,500.00 for the payment of the terminal leave of two municipal employees, was anomalous for not having been approved by the said Council, as the minutes of the proceedings therein made no reference to the supposed approval thereof. It contended that its seeming passage was carried out by petitioner in connivance with Sangguniang Bayan (SB) Member Jesse Concepcion and SB Secretary Antonio Zurita.
After preliminary investigation, the deputized prosecutor of Balanga, Bataan recommended the filing of an information 2 for Falsification of Public Document against petitioner and Concepcion, excluding Zurita who died during the pendency hereof.
On September 21, 1994, the information filed before the Sandiganbayan reads as follows:
That on or about July 27, 1992 or sometimes (sic) prior or subsequent thereto, in Mariveles, Bataan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, OSCAR DELOS REYES and JESSE CONCEPCION, both public officers, being Municipal Mayor of Mariveles, Bataan and Member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Mariveles, Bataan, passed and approved the said resolution appropriating the amount of P8,500.00 for payment of the terminal leave of two (2) employees of the municipality, when in truth and in fact as both accused knew well the same is false and incorrect as the said resolution was not approved by the aforesaid Sangguniang Bayan for which both accused has the obligation to disclose the truth.
On October 14, 1994, prior to his arraignment, petitioner filed a Motion for Reinvestigation arguing, among other things, "that the Ombudsman previously dismissed a similar complaint against him involving the same factual setting." 4 Likewise adduced in the motion is the joint affidavit of the other members of the Sangguniang Bayan of Mariveles attesting to the actual passage and approval of Resolution No. 57-S-92.
In a resolution dated December 29, 1994, respondent Sandiganbayan denied the Motion for Reinvestigation, the pertinent portion of which reads:
Acting on accused Mayor Oscar delos Reyes' Motion for Reinvestigation and accused Jesse Concepcion's Manifestation, the same are hereby DENIED, being without merit and the prosecution having vigorously opposed the Motion. The allegations of fact and the arguments of counsel are best taken up in the trial on the merits. As found by the prosecution, a prima facie case exists.
Consequently, let the arraignment of the above entitled case be set on March 03, 1995, at 8:30 A.M. 5
After the motion for reconsideration was denied on May 24, 1995, petitioner filed this instant petition for certiorari. On September 18, 1995, the Court resolved to issue the temporary restraining order prayed for by petitioner.
The order of respondent Sandiganbayan must be sustained.
In an effort to exonerate himself from the charge, petitioner argues that the deliberations undertaken and the consequent passage of Resolution No. 57-S-92 are legislative in nature. He adds that as local chief executive, he has neither the official custody of nor the duty to prepare said resolution; hence, he could not have taken advantage of his official position in committing the crime of falsification as defined and punished under Article 171 6 of the Revised Penal Code.
Petitioner would like to impress upon this Court that the final step in the approval of an ordinance or resolution, where the local chief executive affixes his signature, is purely a ministerial act. This view is erroneous. Article 109(b) of the Local Government Code outlines the veto power of the Local Chief Executive which provides:
Art. 109 (b). The local chief executive, except the punong barangay shall have the power to veto any particular item or items of an appropriations ordinance, an ordinance or resolution adopting a local development plan and public investment program or an ordinance directing the payment of money or creating liability. . . . . (Emphasis supplied)
Contrary to petitioner's belief, the grant of the veto power confers authority beyond the simple mechanical act of signing an ordinance or resolution, as a requisite to its enforceability. Such power accords the local chief executive the discretion to sustain a resolution or ordinance in the first instance or to veto it and return it with his objections to the Sanggunian, which may proceed to reconsider the same. The Sanggunian concerned, however, may override the veto by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of all its members thereby making the ordinance or resolution effective for all legal intents and purposes. It is clear, therefore, that the concurrence of a local chief executive in the enactment of an ordinance or resolution requires, not only a flourish of the pen, but the application of judgment after meticulous analysis and intelligence as well.
Petitioner's other contention that the Ombudsman should have dismissed the present case in view of a previous dismissal of a similar complaint involving the same factual context is likewise misplaced.
As explained by Deputy Special Prosecutor Leonardo P. Tamayo in his comment, the other case relied upon by petitioner has no relation whatsoever with the one in question. Notably, the former case was subject of a separate complaint and preliminary investigation, hence, the findings and records therein could not be "made part of the case under consideration." 7
It must be stressed that the Ombudsman correctly relied on the minutes taken during the session of the Sangguniang Bayan held last July 27, 1992, which petitioner regards as inconclusive evidence of what actually transpired therein. In a long line of cases, the Court, in resolving conflicting assertions of the protagonists in a case, has placed reliance on the minutes or the transcribed stenographic notes to ascertain the truth of the proceedings therein.
The following cases illustrate the importance of the minutes:
It was held that "contrary to petitioner's claim, what the minutes only show is that on August 12, 1994 the Sanggunian took a vote on the administrative case of respondent Mayor and not that it then rendered a decision as required by Section 66(a) of the Local Government Code." 8
With the same factual context as in the case at bar, petitioners herein were "accused of having falsified or caused the falsification of the excerpts of the minutes of the regular sessions of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quirino province on August 15, 1988 and September 19, 1988. . . . ." 9
In his resolution, Secretary Drilon declared that there were no written notices of public hearings on the proposed Manila Revenue Code that were sent to interested parties as required by Article 276(b) of the Implementing Rules of the Local Government Code nor were copies of the proposed ordinance published in three successive issues of newspaper of general circulation pursuant to Article 275(a). No minutes were submitted to show that the obligatory public hearings had been held. 10
It appears from the minutes of the board meeting of February 28, 1958 that the names of the members present as well those who were absent have been recorded, and that all those present took active part in the debates and deliberations. At the end of the session, when the presiding officer asked the members if there were any objections to the approval of the proposed budget, only one councilor raised an objection. The minutes therefore, could readily show who of the members present in the deliberations voted pro and who voted con. 11
The certification of the election registrar relied upon by the petitioner is correct as far as it goes. Only 80 votes appear to have voted according to the precinct book in the sense that only 80 voters affixed their signatures thereon after voting. But this does not necessarily mean that no other voters cast their ballots in the questioned precinct: there were 279 in all, according to the minutes of voting, although only 80 of them signed the precinct book. 12
As found by the trial court, the said minutes of the meeting of the Sangguniang Bayan do not mention the execution of any deed to perfect the agreement. An engineer was appointed to survey the old abandoned road, but this act does not in any manner convey title over the abandoned road to the Pansacola spouses nor extinguishes their ownership over the land traversed by the new provincial highway. 13
In the case at bar, the minutes of the session reveal that petitioner attended the session of the Sangguniang Bayan on July 27, 1992. It is evident, therefore, that petitioner approved the subject resolution knowing fully well that "the subject matter treated therein was neither taken up and discussed nor passed upon by the Sangguniang Bayan during the legislative session." 14
Thus, the Court accords full recognition to the minutes as the official repository of what actually transpires in every proceeding. It has happened that the minutes may be corrected to reflect the true account of a proceeding, thus giving the Court more reason to accord them great weight for such subsequent corrections, if any, are made precisely to preserve the accuracy of the records. In light of the conflicting claims of the parties in the case at bar, the Court, without resorting to the minutes, will encounter difficulty in resolving the dispute at hand.
With regard to the joint affidavit of some members of the Sangguniang Bayan attesting to the actual passage and approval of Resolution No. 57-S-92, the Court finds the same to have been belatedly submitted as a last minute attempt to bolster petitioner's position, and, therefore, could not in any way aid the latter's cause.
Indeed, the arguments raised by petitioner's counsel are best taken up in the trial on the merits.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is DISMISSED. The assailed resolutions of the Sandiganbayan dated December 29, 1994, and May 24, 1995, are hereby AFFIRMED. The temporary restraining order issued by this Court on September 18, 1995, is hereby LIFTED.
The Sandiganbayan is DIRECTED to set Criminal Case No. 21073 for arraignment and trial.
Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., concur.
Narvasa, C.J., is on leave.
Footnotes 1 Filed by Sangguniang Bayan Members Jose Villapando, Sr. and Angel Peliglorio, Jr.
2 Concurred in by Ombudsman Investigator Samuel R. Recto and Special Prosecution Officer Cornelio L. Somido.
3 Rollo, pp. 51-52.
4 Ibid., p. 52.
5 Id., p. 53.
6 Art. 171. Falsification by public officer, employee or notary or ecclesiastic minister. — The penalty of prision mayor and a fine not to exceed 5,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any public officer, employee, or notary who, taking advantage of his official position, shall falsify a document by committing any of the following acts:
1. Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature or rubric;
2. Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate;
3. Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them;
4. Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;
5. Altering true dates;
6. Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;
7. Issuing in an authenticated from a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such a copy of a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original; or
8. Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book.
The same penalty shall be imposed upon any ecclesiastical minister who shall commit any of the offenses enumerated in the preceding paragraphs of this article, with respect to any record or document of such character that its falsification may affect the civil status of persons.
7 Rollo, p. 57.
8 Malinao v. Reyes, 255 SCRA 616 (1996).
9 Pimentel v. Garchitorena, 208 SCRA 122 (1992).
10 Drilon, v. Lin, 235 SCRA 135 (1994).
11 Subido v. City of Manila, et al., 108 Phil. 462 (1960).
12 Dizon v. Tizon, 22 SCRA 1317(1968).
13 Velarma v. Court of Appeals, 252 SCRA 406 (1996).
14 Rollo, p. 58.

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