- Fabian v. Agustin
- G.R. No. 143092
- SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J :
- Decision Date
G.R. No. 143092. February 14, 2003.
TERESITA G. FABIAN, petitioner, vs. NESTOR V. AGUSTIN, respondent.
Estelito P. Mendoza and Virgilio C. Manguera for petitioner.
Benjamin C. Santos & Ofelia Calcetas Santos Law Offices and Amador C. Casino for respondent.
The instant controversy arose from the verified letter complaint filed by petitioner charging herein respondent with grave misconduct, disgraceful and immoral acts and oppression. Petitioner alleged therein that she was the major stockholder and president of PROMAT, a company engaged in construction business, while the respondent was the district engineer of First Metro Manila Engineering District (FMED) of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Petitioner claimed that because of the work they were engaged in, respondent was able to have an illicit relationship with her initially through force. Her attempts to extricate herself proved futile because he constantly warned her that PROMAT could no longer do business with FMED if their relationship would be severed. The respondent denied petitioner's allegations. He, however, admitted that through his assistance, PROMAT was awarded various public works projects valued at millions of pesos. But, when he failed to give his assurance that she could get a multimillion peso project from his office, she got angry and threatened to have him removed from his job, thus she filed the instant case against him. The graft investigation officer found him guilty of the charges and recommended his dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all benefits under the law. The Ombudsman, however, reduced the penalty to suspension without pay for one year. Both parties moved for reconsideration. Hence, in a joint order, the deputy ombudsman dismissed the case against respondent. Petitioner filed a petition for review and the Supreme Court forwarded the petition to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals originally modified the decision to a suspension, but upon a motion for reconsideration, the CA again dismissed the complaint for insufficiency of evidence. Hence, this petition for review before the Supreme Court. HIEASa
The Supreme Court observed that the conflict in the factual findings existed not only at the Ombudsman level but even at the Appellate Court. Hence, the Court was compelled to deviate from the general rule and review the evidence obtaining in the case. After carefully reviewing all the evidence obtaining in the case, the Court found the positive declarations of petitioner and her witnesses in their sworn statements more credible than those of respondent. The Court ruled that only substantial evidence was required to hold respondent liable for the administrative charges against him. By his actuations, respondent proved himself unworthy of the trust reposed in him by virtue of his office. He made a mockery of his government position and seriously compromised its integrity when he used his influence, being the District Engineer of FMED, DPWH, in assisting petitioner obtain various public works projects worth millions of pesos and enabling her to reap "windfall profits" from his office. The petition was granted. Respondent was found guilty of the charges against him and was ordered dismissed from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits.
1. POLITICAL LAW; ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS; QUANTUM OF PROOF REQUIRED, SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE; PRESENT IN CASE AT BAR. In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to hold respondent liable for the charges against him. Here, we are convinced that petitioner's charges are supported by substantial evidence jurisprudentially defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
2. ID.; LAW ON PUBLIC OFFICERS; SERIOUS MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE; DEFINED; PENALTY. Serious misconduct in office is such misconduct which affects the performance of his duties as a public officer and not only his character as a private individual. It is settled that misconduct, warranting removal from office of an officer, must have a direct relation to and be connected with the performance of official duties. . . . Under the
3. ID.; ID.; PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST WHICH DEMANDS THOSE IN ITS SERVICE THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF MORALITY; VIOLATION THEREOF IN CASE AT BAR. A public office is a public trust, which demands of those in its service the highest degree of morality. Having an affair with someone who is financially interested in the transactions being acted upon by his office, of which he is the head, is not only outrageous to the standards of decency and morality, but unmistakably prejudicial to the public service. Moreover, his uncouth and atrocious conduct at the Lasap Restaurant, witnessed by its workers, is manifestly disgraceful which should be condemned and accordingly sanctioned. Likewise, the charge of oppression has been sufficiently established by petitioner. There is truth in her allegation that respondent, on several occasions, forcibly entered her house and caused disturbances in her village. It bears emphasis that respondent admitted that because of his position, petitioner was awarded various government projects worth millions and that he had illicit relationship with her. His negative assertion relative to the Lasap Restaurant incident is weak in light of the positive declaration of petitioner and those of the employees who witnessed the same.
4. ID.; ID.; PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY; CONSTRUED. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. Public servants must bear in mind this constitutional mandate at all times to guide them in their actions during their entire tenure in the government service. In , this Court emphasized: "The good of the service and the degree of morality which every official and employee in the public service must observe, if respect and confidence are to be maintained by the Government in the enforcement of the law, demand that no untoward conduct on his part, affecting morality, integrity and efficiency while holding office should be left without proper and commensurate sanction, all attendant circumstances taken into account." SETaHC
D E C I S I O N
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J p:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari assailing the Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals dated May 8, 2000 in CA G.R. SP No. 49182, "Teresita G. Fabian vs. Hon. Aniano Desierto, et al."
The instant controversy arose from the verified letter-complaint dated July 24, 1995 filed by Teresita Fabian, petitioner, with the Office of the Ombudsman, charging Nestor Agustin, herein respondent, with grave misconduct, disgraceful and immoral acts, and oppression.
Petitioner alleged therein that she was the major stockholder and president of PROMAT Construction and Development Corporation (PROMAT) engaged in construction business. In 1986, PROMAT participated in the various biddings for the construction of government projects within the First Metro Manila Engineering District (FMED) of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Respondent is the incumbent District Engineer of the FMED. caTESD
Petitioner further averred that "respondent became a persistent suitor" and refused to deal with PROMAT's liaison officer, insisting that she personally attend to her company's projects with FMED, otherwise, her papers "would get stuck in his office." Respondent relentlessly pursued her and one time invited her to a snack at the Philippine Plaza Hotel. After finishing her drink, she felt dizzy. Taking advantage of her "semi-conscious state," he brought her to a motel and raped her. That was the beginning of a hateful relationship. Her attempts to extricate herself proved futile since he constantly warned her that PROMAT would no longer do business with FMED unless the relationship continues. Whenever she tried to avoid him, he would go to her house in the middle of the night and create a scene by blowing the horn of his car, pounding at the gate, shouting on top of his voice and pelting her windows with stones. As a result of these disturbances, she suffered nervous breakdown and was eventually operated for breast cancer on October 1994.
On May 22, 1995, one Winnie Gutierrez and respondent's elder brother, Honorato Agustin, persuaded petitioner to meet respondent as he would apologize to her for his misdeeds. She agreed and met respondent at Lasap Restaurant, Tomas Morato Street, in Quezon City. After sometime, his two companions went out of the restaurant. Not wanting to be alone with respondent, she attempted to leave. But respondent suddenly embraced her and fondled her breast area, saying, "Tingnan nga kung talagang tinanggal na ang suso mo." Out of extreme outrage and embarrassment, she lost consciousness and had to be brought to the nearest hospital.
In his counter-affidavit, treated as his comment on the complaint, respondent vehemently denied petitioner's allegations, claiming that he accepted her various invitations in order to discuss the projects of PROMAT. Through his assistance as Chief of Office of FMED, PROMAT was awarded various public work projects valued at millions of pesos. Whenever PROMAT committed violations of its contracts with FMED, petitioner would persuade him to mediate so that her company's interest would not be prejudiced and he was able to settle its problems. On account of his cordial, warm and intimate relationship with petitioner, she reaped "windfall profits from her transactions with respondent's office." He never had an "affair" with her since he is a happily married man. On the Lasap Restaurant incident, he explained that he accepted her invitation out of pity knowing that she was undergoing chemotherapy. When she expressed her desire to get a multi-million peso project from his office, he could not give a favorable assurance. Thus, she got angry, raised her voice and threatened to have him removed from his job. He surmised that she filed the instant case to harass and intimidate him to submit to her unlawful demands.
On January 31, 1996, Graft Investigation Officer Eduardo Benitez issued a Resolution finding respondent guilty of grave misconduct and irregular or immoral acts and ordering his dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all benefits under the law, thus:
"WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, this office finds substantial evidence and so finds respondent guilty of grave misconduct under Section 36 of PD 807 and for acts which are contrary to law or regulations or otherwise irregular or immoral under Section 19,
In holding that respondent is guilty of such administrative offenses, Graft Investigation Officer Benitez made the following findings:
"As District Engineer, respondent exercised functional and administrative supervision over the district office (Sec. 23, Administrative Code of 1987). The District Office undertakes the planning, design, construction and work supervision function of the Department for infrastructures in the district.
"Respondent did not deny complainant's statement that practically all matters that have a bearing on the project from inception to completion required his approval; although he pointed out that he was not the sole signatory to documents relevant to the projects. cHTCaI
"During the tenure of respondent as District Engineer of FMED, Promat was awarded by that office several public works projects listed in Annex "A" of complainant's Supplemental Affidavit. According to respondent, the listing was incomplete. In his words, 'This list, is however, incomplete, because there are still other contracts involving millions of pesos which complainant obtained from the DPWH with the assistance of respondent.' (Memorandum for Respondent, p. 8)
"Respondent admitted that he is a married man. Complainant was married but her marriage was annulled in 1992.
"While respondent denied courting complainant and said that it was the latter who initiated their meetings through her personal invitations, one of his letters to the complainant reads in part to prove the contrary:
'It was in July, 1986 your beauty was stunning. Your looks excelled among all contractors and noncontractors in the FMED.
'My relationship then with my wife was not any better. You captured my heart. I courted you. (Annex "A", Complainant's Reply Affidavit dated Oct. 2, 1995).'
"In another letter to the complainant, the respondent described his relationship with complainant as 'emotional, spiritual and sexual." In the same letter he admitted that they 'lived and shared the nights together.'
"Respondent admitted authorship of these two letters when the xerox copies of which were compared with the originals in the possession of the complainant, and in fact made use of them to deny that he threatened or otherwise harassed the complainant.
"Relevant to that relationship between complainant and respondent, the latter said that as Chief of Office, he assisted complainant in getting multi-million peso contract from his office and that on the occasions where Promat committed violations of the public works contract, he mediated so that the interest of complainant's company would not be prejudiced. Respondent also said that on account of his relationship with complainant, she was able to reap 'windfall profits from her transactions with respondent's office.' (Memorandum For Respondent, p. 17)
"ANALYSIS OF RESPONDENT'S COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT
"In his Counter-Affidavit, respondent states thus:
"1. That I vehemently DENY the allegations of Ms. Fabian in her sworn statement against me."
"xxx xxx xxx
"2. In due time I got acquainted with the complainant and through my assistance she was able to secure various projects from our office valued at millions of pesos;
"3. While I assisted the complainant in getting the multimillion pesos public works contracts from our office, as chief of office I always see to it that complainant's transactions met the required standards imposed on these projects bearing in mind the protection of the government and public interest above anything else; neither have I compromised these strict standards of my office to place the complainant at a great advantage over her rival private contractors;
"xxx xxx xxx
"4. On certain occasions, however, complainant's construction company committed violations in their awarded projects, hence, our office called memorandum, copies of two (2) of these memoranda are hereto attached as ANNEXES "1" AND "1-a";
"5. Complainant would then see me personally about these matters and persuade me to mediate so that her company's interest will not be prejudiced; I tried to help the best of my ability and somehow I was able to settle these problems to her satisfaction and that of my office;
"Relevantly, in his Memorandum, respondent flaunts the benefits that complainant supposedly gained, thus:
"Complainant frequently sought Respondent's assistance to secure business transactions with his office. She succeeded; Respondent had unselfishly lent the necessary assistance to enable Complainant secure contracts from the FMED which covered millions of pesos. Complainant enumerated some of said projects in her Supplemental Affidavit. She continued to court the favor of Respondent to further her business interests when he was designated District Engineer of the Rizal Engineering District, Kapitolyo, Pasig. (at pp. 3-4)
"The letter (by respondent to complainant) clearly shows the cordial warm and intimate relationship between Respondent and Complainant . . . that it was on account of said pleasant relationship that she was able to profit from multi-million-peso public works contracts from DPWH office as shown in the list of projects she submitted to this Honorable Office. This list, however, is incomplete because there still are other contracts involving millions of pesos which Complainant obtained from the DPWH with the assistance of Respondent. (at p. 8)
"Respondent further speaks of complainant "reaping a windfall profits" and "financial gains" she had been showered on account of her multi-million pesos transactions which she obtained with the help of Respondent. (at p. 17)
"On complainant's supposed motive for filing this case, respondent theorized in his Memorandum that she wanted to "continue" to reap significant financial benefits out of public works projects under respondent's office; and that she was angered when he ensured that she "follow" the requisite standards and procedure. (at p. 18) Respondent thus implies that in the previous contracts awarded to complainant's company the "requisite standards and procedures" were not ensured and applied and thereby she "reaped windfall profits." ICTcDA
On February 27, 1996, then Ombudsman Aniano Desierto approved with modification the said Resolution (reviewed by Assistant Ombudsman Abelardo Aportadera) in the sense that respondent was found guilty only of misconduct and that the penalty was reduced from dismissal from office to suspension without pay for one (1) year.
Both parties filed their respective motions for reconsideration. In his Order dated June 19, 1996, Graft Investigation Officer Benitez denied respondent's motion and reiterated his assailed Order. Graft Investigation Officer Rafaelito H. Imperial and Legal Officer Andrew F. Ammuyutan likewise recommended that respondent be found guilty of grave misconduct and imposed upon him the penalty of dismissal from the service.
Before the parties' motions for reconsideration were resolved, Atty. Amador Casino, a "classmate and close associate" of Ombudsman Desierto, entered his appearance as counsel for the respondent. Forthwith, Ombudsman Desierto inhibited himself and designated then Deputy Ombudsman Jesus Guerrero to resolve the motions.
On June 18, 1997, Deputy Ombudsman Guerrero issued a Joint Order, dismissing the administrative complaint, thus:
"WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the subject Motion for Reconsideration of the respondent is hereby GRANTED and the subject Motion for Modification (Reconsideration) of the complainant is hereby DENIED; and accordingly, the instant administrative case against the respondent is hereby DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence.
In dismissing the case, Deputy Ombudsman Guerrero held:
1. That respondent raped and harassed complainant is "highly doubtful" because she reported the incident to the NBI only on December 15, 1993, or after more than seven (7) years;
2. On the Lasap Restaurant incident, complainant stated in her sworn statement taken before the PNP Criminal Investigation Service Command that respondent embraced her and fondled her chest area. However, in her sworn statement dated June 23, 1995, she claimed that he held her at different delicate parts of her body and kissed her. Moreover, the eyewitnesses did not identify respondent as the person who molested her;
3. As to respondent's improper behavior in complainant's residence, it appears that she failed to report the disturbances to the security personnel of the village;
4. Although it is improper for a married man to court another woman, "this Office is by no means prepared to hold that such act by itself constitutes the administrative offense of immorality."
Aggrieved, petitioner filed with this Court a petition for review pursuant to Section 27 of docketed as G.R. No. 129742. In its Decision dated September 16, 1998, this Court declared invalid Section 27 of insofar as they provide for appeals in administrative disciplinary cases from the Office of the Ombudsman to the Supreme Court. This Court ruled that henceforth, appeals from the decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases should be taken to the Court of Appeals under the provisions of Rule 43 of the Consequently, this Court referred and transferred petitioner's petition for review to the Court of Appeals for final disposition, with said petition to be considered pro hac vice as a petition for review under Rule 43.
On June 14, 1999, the Court of Appeals, rendered a Decision, the dispositive portion of which states:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Joint Order of respondent Deputy Ombudsman Jesus F. Guerrero dated June 18, 1997 granting private respondent Nestor V. Agustin's Motion for Reconsideration and denying petitioner Teresita Fabian's Motion for Modification (Reconsideration) is REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the order of respondent Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto dated February 26, 1996 suspending private respondent Agustin from the service for one (1) year is REINSTATED.
Petitioner and respondent filed their respective motions for reconsideration. On May 8, 2000, the Court of Appeals rendered an Amended Decision reinstating the Joint Order of Deputy Ombudsman Guerrero dismissing the complaint against respondent for insufficiency of evidence.
The Court of Appeals ratiocinated as follows:
"We find merit in the private respondent's motion for reconsideration, for the following reasons:
"FIRST, it is obvious from a reading of the Supreme Court's landmark decision dated September 16, 1998 in G.R. No. 129742 that the Hon. Supreme Court did not declare the entire nullity of Section 27 of aSEDHC
"SECOND, the fifth paragraph of Section 27,
'Findings of fact by the Office of the Ombudsman when supported by substantial evidence are conclusive. Any order, directive or decision imposing the penalty of public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month's salary shall be final and unappealable.'
"The foregoing provision is reiterated in Section 7 of
'Sec. 7. Finality of decision. Where the respondent is absolved of the charge, and in case of conviction where the penalty imposed is public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month, or a fine equivalent to one month salary, the decision shall be final and unappealable. In all other cases, the decision shall become final after the expiration of ten (10) days from receipt thereof by the respondent, unless a motion for reconsideration or petition for certiorari shall have been filed by him as prescribed in Section 27 of
"THIRD, Rule 43 of the pro hac vice provides in Section 10 thereof that the findings of fact of the court or agency concerned, when supported by substantial evidence, shall be binding on this Court.
"In the instant case, a close scrutiny of the evidence of the parties indicates that the factual findings of Deputy Ombudsman Guerrero is supported by substantial evidence. As found by Deputy Ombudsman Guerrero, the allegation of rape does not deserve any credence, considering that the petitioner made a report thereon more than seven (7) years after the alleged incident. In the meantime, she continued to have personal and business dealings with private respondent.
"Anent the alleged molestation at the Lasap Restaurant, the affidavits submitted by the petitioner to support her alleged molestation do not even name or identify the private respondent. No other evidence was submitted to support such charge, considering that the parties agreed not to submit testimonial evidence, and relied only on their respective documentary evidence. It is a basic rule of evidence that a party has the burden of proof to establish his claim or defense. Unfortunately, the petitioner failed to effectively discharge such burden." (Italics ours)
Simply stated, the Court of Appeals, in its assailed Amended Decision, held that since petitioner failed to prove her charges by substantial evidence, her complaint must be dismissed. Pursuant to Section 27 of
From the above Amended Decision, petitioner now appeals to this Court, contending that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the Guerrero Joint Order. She contends that she was able to prove her charges by substantial evidence. For his part, respondent maintains that the petition raises only questions of fact which are not proper for review by this Court.
While we agree with respondent that only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari, however, there are recognized exceptions to this rule, among which, is when there is a conflict between the factual findings of the trial court and that of the appellate court. In such case, this Court is bound to analyze and weigh all over again the evidence already considered in the proceedings below.
Here, it is undisputed that the discord in the factual findings existed not only at the Ombudsman level, but even at the Appellate Court. First, it must be recalled that: (1) In his Resolution of January 31, 1996, Graft Investigation Officer Eduardo Benitez found respondent guilty of grave misconduct as well as irregular or immoral acts and recommended his dismissal from the service, with forfeiture of all benefits under the law; (2) Graft Investigator and Legal Officer Andrew Ammuyutan made similar finding and recommendation; (3) Then Ombudsman Desierto, approved the said finding and recommendation with modification in the sense that the offense is only misconduct and that the penalty is suspension from office for one (1) year without pay; (4) Eventually, Deputy Ombudsman Guerrero dismissed the complaint for insufficiency of evidence. Second, the Court of Appeals, in its original Decision, reinstated Ombudsman Desierto's Order dated February 26, 1996 finding respondent guilty of misconduct and imposing upon him the penalty of suspension from the service for one (1) year without pay. Later, the Court of Appeals rendered an Amended Decision, this time, affirming the Guerrero Joint Order dismissing the administrative complaint for insufficiency of evidence.
Such conflict in the factual findings compels this Court to deviate from the general rule and review the evidence obtaining in this case.
On the charge of grave misconduct, respondent himself, in his counter-affidavit admitted that through his assistance, petitioner was awarded numerous public work projects valued at millions of pesos and that she reaped "windfall profits from her transactions with respondent's office." He also admitted that he mediated whenever petitioner violated her company's contracts with his office.
With respect to the charge of disgraceful and immoral conduct, petitioner submitted two letters given to her by respondent. One letter partly reads:
"It was in July, 1986, your beauty was stunning. Your looks excelled among all contractors and non-contractors in the FMED."
"My relationship then with my wife was not any better. You captured my heart. I courted you."
In the other letter, respondent depicted his relationship with petitioner as "emotional, spiritual and sexual." Moreover, he admitted that they "lived and shared the nights together."
On her version of what transpired at the Lasap Restaurant, petitioner submitted the affidavits of its employees, namely: Renante Tapis, Benny Cabural and Jaime Coquia. They stated that while petitioner was having dinner with respondent and two other male companions, one of the men (referring to respondent as confirmed by petitioner in her sworn statement), suddenly embraced her and tried to kiss her and touch her private parts. She lost consciousness while going out of the restaurant.
To prove the charge of oppression, petitioner presented to the Investigator the affidavit of Arsenia Lima, the liaison officer of PROMAT, stating that respondent required petitioner to personally attend to PROMAT's papers pending in his office. Petitioner also submitted the affidavits of Maribel Pulin, a "mayordoma" at her residence, and Antonio Almacen, a security guard at La Vista where she resides. Both confirmed that on several occasions, respondent would cause disturbance in petitioner's neighborhood and forcibly enter her house. In his affidavit, Abelardo Pamintuan, petitioner's former husband, affirmed that he was intimidated by respondent's men from visiting her house. Lastly, Jomel Simbulan, petitioner's hairdresser, stated in his affidavit that while she was confined in the hospital for breast cancer operation, respondent arrived and threatened her with a gun. CScTDE
As mentioned earlier, respondent, in his counter-affidavit, merely denied petitioner's charges, except the one concerning the Lasap Restaurant incident. To substantiate his version of the same incident, he submitted the affidavits of his brother Honorato Agustin who was with him at the restaurant and those of Rolando Martinez and Arthur Diaz, Agents of the Criminal Investigation Command, who were supposedly present in the restaurant at that time.
After carefully reviewing all the evidence obtaining in this case, we find the positive declarations of petitioner and her witnesses in their sworn statements more credible than those of respondent. In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to hold respondent liable for the charges against him. Here, we are convinced that petitioner's charges are supported by substantial evidence jurisprudentially defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. We quote with approval the following findings and observations of Graft Investigation Officer Benitez, sustained by the Court of Appeals in its original Decision, thus:
"The complainant's evidence and respondent's admissions stand for the requisite substantial evidence which in an unprejudiced mind reasonably supports a conclusion that indeed the administrative offenses, subject of the complaint had been committed. The uncontroverted facts show that respondent courted complainant and established intimate relationship with her. On account of that affair, or at least in the course thereof, her firm was awarded a number of contracts by the office of which respondent was the head. From these contracts even the respondent averted that she derived 'windfall profits.' Times were, through complainant's persuasion, respondent interceded for complainant's firm whenever it was involved in contract violations. This alone constitutes grave misconduct in office.
"Respondent's flaunted generosity was at the expense of the public. He compromised, if not sacrificed public interest, in those periods of indiscretion.
"Here we have the inglorious spectacle of a married public works official carrying an illicit affair with a lady contractor and in the course thereof, showering her with 'windfall profits' out of public works projects.
"This kind of misconduct in office amounts to a betrayal of public trust and we have to be true to the purpose of administrative disciplinary proceedings which is to weed out the undesirables and secure the faithful and efficient performance of official functions."
By his actuations, respondent has proved himself unworthy of the trust reposed in him by virtue of his office. He made a mockery of his government position and seriously compromised its integrity when he used his influence, being the District Engineer of FMED, in assisting petitioner obtain various public work projects worth millions of pesos and enabling her to reap "windfall profits" from his office.
Serious misconduct in office is such misconduct which affects the performance of his duties as a public officer and not only his character as a private individual. It is settled that misconduct, warranting removal from office of an officer, must have a direct relation to and be connected with the performance of official duties.
Equally, if not more damning and despicable, is the fact that respondent, being a married man and handling a highly responsible position in the government service, is engaged in an illicit affair with petitioner. He described in one of his letters to her that their relationship is "emotional, spiritual and sexual" and that they "lived and shared the nights together." Such moral depravity cannot be countenanced and should not remain unpunished. A public office is a public trust, which demands of those in its service the highest degree of morality. Having an affair with someone who is financially interested in the transactions being acted upon by his office, of which he is the head, is not only outrageous to the standards of decency and morality, but unmistakably prejudicial to the public service. Moreover, his uncouth and atrocious conduct at the Lasap Restaurant, witnessed by its workers, is manifestly disgraceful which should be condemned and accordingly sanctioned. Likewise, the charge of oppression has been sufficiently established by petitioner. There is truth in her allegation that respondent, on several occasions, forcibly entered her house and caused disturbances in her village.
It bears emphasis that respondent admitted that because of his position, petitioner was awarded various government projects worth millions and that he had illicit relationship with her. His negative assertion relative to the Lasap Restaurant incident is weak in light of the positive declaration of petitioner and those of the employees who witnessed the same.
We thus find respondent guilty of grave misconduct, disgraceful and immoral acts and oppression. Indeed, by his conduct, respondent violated the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in the public service. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. Public servants must bear in mind this constitutional mandate at all times to guide them in their actions during their entire tenure in the government service. In Rios vs. Sandiganbayan, this Court emphasized:
"The good of the service and the degree of morality which every official and employee in the public service must observe, if respect and confidence are to be maintained by the Government in the enforcement of the law, demand that no untoward conduct on his part, affecting morality, integrity and efficiency while holding office should be left without proper and commensurate sanction, all attendant circumstances taken into account."
Under the Disgraceful and immoral acts as well as oppression, are also grave offenses, both punishable by suspension for 6 months and 1 day to 1 year. Under the same if the respondent is found guilty of two or more charges, the penalty to be imposed should be that corresponding to the most serious charge and the rest shall be considered aggravating circumstances. The penalty of dismissal shall carry with it forfeiture of retirement benefits and the perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals dated May 8, 2000 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondent Nestor V. Agustin, District Engineer of the FMED, DPWH is found guilty of grave misconduct, disgraceful and immoral acts and oppression and is ordered DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits and with prejudice to his re-employment in any branch of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations. DaHSIT
Puno, Panganiban, Corona and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
1. Annex "C", Petition, Rollo, at 147-156.
2. Annex "D", Petition, Rollo, at 157 169.
3. Annex "E", Petition, id., at 170.
4. Annex "H", Petition, id., at 207 212.
5. Under Rule 45 of the
6. Otherwise known as
"In all administrative disciplinary cases, orders, directives or decisions of the Office of the ombudsman may be appealed to the Supreme Court by filing a petition for certiorari within ten (10) days from receipt of the written notice of the order, directive or decision or denial of the motion for reconsideration in accordance with Rule 45 of the
7. Penned by Presiding Justice Jesus M. Elbinias and concurred in by Associate Justices Delilah Vidallon-Magtolis and Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.
8. Penned by Associate Justice Delilah Vidallon-Magtolis (the original ponente. Then Presiding Justice Jesus Elbinias, retired) and concurred in by Associate Justices Salvador J. Valdez, Jr. and Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.
9. , 349 SCRA 363, 371 (2001); , 318 SCRA 589, 596 (1999); , 269 SCRA 344, 353 (1997); , 266 SCRA 627 (1997); , 265 SCRA 299, 307 (1996); , 258 SCRA 334, 341 (1996).
10. , G.R. No. 132916, November 16, 2001; , 351 SCRA 210, 217 (2001); , 329 SCRA 132, 145 (2000); , 321 SCRA 290, 302 (1999); , 271 SCRA 316, 324 (1997).
11. , A.M. No. MTJ-99-1207, November 21, 2001; , 358 SCRA 121, 129 (2001); , 307 SCRA 657, 662 (1999); , 268 SCRA 47, 59 (1997).
12. , 359 SCRA 525, 542 (2001); , 305 SCRA 469, 473 (1999); .
13. , 272 SCRA 324, 332 (1997).
14. Section 1, Article XI of the
15. 279 SCRA 581, 587 (1997), citing , 205 SCRA 21 (1992) and , 133 SCRA 215 (1994).
16. Section 52 (A-3), Rule IV.
17. Section 52 (A-14 and A-15), Id.
18. Section 55 (A-14), Id.
19. Section 58 (a), Id.