It is a popular notion that Anti-Graft and Practices Act is only violated by an official if the act has something to do with money or property. An public official may be convicted of violating the Act by doing something for the benefit of another if the same is not due in accordance with law or justification. In one case, the act of releasing a detention prisoner from jail and transferring him to a private residence was punished by appropriate penalty in accordance with Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Ambil vs. Sandiganbayan
This is actually a consolidated case. The accused Ambil Jr. was the provincial governor and Apelado Sr. was the provincial warden of Eastern Samar. Francisco Adalim was the Mayor of Taft and was arrested for a case of murder for which he was charged in court. After his imprisonment at the provincial jail, he was brought out from said jail and delivered to the alternate custody of governor Ambil Jr. in his residence. The latter refused to abide by the order from the DILG for him to return Adalim to the provincial jail. For their acts, Ambil Jr. and Apelado Sr. were charged with violation of R.A. 3019 and delivering prisoners from jail under the Revised Penal Code. They were tried before the Sandiganbayan and were convicted and sentenced. At the trial, the accused justified their action by saying that the very poor condition of the jail warranted Adalim’s transfer to Ambil’s residence. The Sandiganbayan did not give weight to this argument since there were available quarters or facility inside the jail where Ambil could have been housed. Both accused appealed their conviction invoking among others the lack of jurisdiction and lack of basis for their conviction. One of the main contentions of the accused is the fact their act did not cause disadvantage to the government or incur financial benefit in their favor.
Financial Gain is Not Always Necessary
The Supreme Court sustained the conviction of both accused. On the contention that the nature of the act is not pecuniary, the Court said that deriving financial benefit from the government is not the only way of incurring liability under R.A. 3019. The SC stated that “giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge by the accused of his official, administrative or judicial functions” (G.R. No. 175457 and G.R. No. 175482, July 6, 2011) is one of the ways of violating the law. In this provision of the law, the accused again argued that they cannot be convicted since it states “private party” and Adalim was an incumbent mayor when he was arrested. To this the Court countered saying: “The term party is a technical word having a precise meaning in legal parlance as distinguished from person which, in general usage, refers to a human being. Thus, a private person simply pertains to one who is not a public officer. While a private party is more comprehensive in scope to mean either a private person or a public officer acting in a private capacity to protect his personal interest. In the present case, when petitioners transferred Mayor Adalim from the provincial jail and detained him at petitioner Ambil, Jr.s residence, they accorded such privilege to Adalim, not in his official capacity as a mayor, but as a detainee charged with murder.” In transferring the detainee to a private residence without a court order, it was undeniable that Adalim enjoyed these benefits which the other detainees did not. The act of both accused clearly violated the provisions of R.A. 3019 even without deriving any financial benefit or advantage from the same.