SC affirms suspension of COA official


BAGUIO CITY – The 1st Division of the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed the earlier decision of the Office of the Ombudsman that ordered the suspension of an official of the Cordillera office of the Commission on Audit (COA-CAR) for three months due to her alleged failure to file her sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for three years.

In dismissing the petition for certiorari with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction filed by COA-CAR director Edna T. Tomelden, the SC stated that it has carefully reviewed the allegations, issues, and arguments adduced in the petition and accordingly resolved to dismiss the same for failure of the petitioner to sufficiently show that the Office of the Ombudsman gravely abused its discretion when it ordered her suspension for 3 months for her failure to file her SALN for the years 2004, 2007 and 2009.

The High Court stated the petitioner raised the same issues she advanced in her motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman and she insisted that the Ombudsman failed to consider the SALN for the questioned years which she attached to her position paper and her motion for reconsideration.

Likewise, the high tribunal pointed out the petitioner submitted affidavits of COA-CAR officials and personnel proving that she submitted her SALN for the contested years.

In its joint order dated May 12, 2017 thoroughly discussed the merits of the aforesaid arguments stating that records show that no grave errors of facts or laws or serious irregularities had been committed by the office based on the challenged June 16, 2016 resolution and decision.

More importantly, it was proven that the petitioner was given enough opportunity during the preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication proper to submit before the Ombudsman copies of her questioned SALN and all other relevant evidence that could have established that she indeed filed the contested SALNs within the prescribed period allowed by law.

The SC quoted the Ombudsman stating that doviously, it is only upon the filing of the motions for reconsideration when the petitioner submitted the challenged SALNs even if they could have been easily obtained from her office files at the first instance.

The administrative case records showed that petitioner attached in her position paper copies of her alleged submitted SALNs except the challenged 2004, 2007 and 2009 SALNs and a careful perusal of the contested SALNs showed that there is no date of receipt stamped on them.

It stipulated that it is noteworthy that Section 8 of Republic Act (RA) 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees requires that the documents must be filed on or before April 30 of every year, thus, assuming that the documents were indeed filed, it is important to establish that it is timely filed.

The certifications that petitioner submitted her SALNs or that the said SALNs were in the office files do not necessary show that it was timely filed.

Noticeable as well that the submitted copies of the SALNs were merely certified photo copy and not certified photo copies of the original.

The SC cited also, it appears that the certifications were issued by State Auditor IV Teresita M. Cabiladas in her capacity as OIC service chief and regional director of COA-CAR Joseph B. Anacay. Although the said persons are considered high ranking officials of the COA, they are not necessarily the officers who are tasked to receive and keep the records of the SALN copies.

The SC reiterated a portion of the June 16, 2016 resolution and decision which stated that it is incumbent upon petitioner to submit her SALN to the chief or head of the personnel or administrative division or unit or human resource management office of her agency and thereafter, the human resource management officer will transmit all original copies of the SALN received to the Ombudsman.

The SC reminded the petitioner that a petition for certiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction, not errors of judgement and even if the findings of the Ombudsman are incorrect, as long as it has jurisdiction over the case, such correction is normally beyond the province of certiorari.

“Here, there is no showing that the Ombudsman arrived at its resolution and joint order in a despotic or whimsical manner. Quite the contrary, the Ombudsman thoroughly discussed the issues raised by petitioner in her motion for reconsideration. In any case, petitioner is without recourse as she may still thresh out her issues in the criminal cases that may have been filed by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan,”the SC ruling stated.