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SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. Nos. 191611-14, July 29, 2019 ]

LIBRADO M. CABRERA AND FE M. CABRERA, PETITIONERS, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

DECISION

REYES, J. JR., J.:

Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari is the Decision[1] dated November 19, 2009 of the Sandiganbayan (4th Division) which found petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and its Resolution[2] dated March 10, 2010, which denied petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration, in the consolidated Criminal Cases Nos. 27555, 27556, 27557 and 27558.

Petitioners Librado M. Cabrera (Librado) and Fe M. Cabrera (Fe) together with accused Luther H. Leonor (Leonor), as public officers, were charged in four separate Informations[3] with violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, as follows:

In Criminal Case No. 27555, Librado and Leonor, in their capacity as then Municipal Mayor and Municipal Councilor, respectively, of Taal, Batangas, through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence, made several direct purchases of medicines from Diamond Laboratories, Inc. (DLI), a corporation owned by the relatives by consanguinity of Librado. The purchases were made without the benefit of public bidding or canvass giving DLI unwanted benefit and depriving the Municipality of Taal the opportunity to avail of a better price of the same quality of supplies. The total costs of the purchases amounted to P503,920.35. Leonor, despite being the Municipal Councilor, acted as the authorized representative of DLI as he was the one who received all payments due and signed all pertinent documents of the transactions.

In Criminal Case No. 27556, Librado, then Mayor of the Municipality of Taal, Batangas, taking advantage of his official position, through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence, caused undue injury. to the Municipality of Taal, to the government as a whole and to public interest at the same time, gave unwarranted benefit to himself by reimbursing, collecting and appropriating the total amount of P27,651.83 representing the expenses he incurred during his unauthorized and illegal travels to Manila.

In Criminal Case No. 27557, Fe and Leonor, in their capacity as then Municipal Mayor and Municipal Councilor, respectively, of Taal, Batangas through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence, made several direct purchases of medicines from DLI, a corporation owned by the relatives by consanguinity of Fe's husband, Librado. The purchases were made without the benefit of public bidding or canvass giving DLI unwanted benefit and depriving the Municipality of Taal the opportunity to avail of a better price of the same quality of supplies. The total costs of the purchases amounted to P1,042,902.46. Leonor, despite being the Municipal Councilor, acted as the authorized representative of DLI as he was the one who received all payments due and signed all pertinent documents of the transactions.

In Criminal Case No. 27558, Fe, then Mayor of the Municipality of Taal, Batangas, taking advantage of her official position? through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence, caused undue injury to the Municipality of Taal, to the government as a whole and to public interest, at the same time, gave unwarranted benefit to herself by reimbursing, collecting and appropriating the total amount of P170,987.66 representing the expenses she incurred during her unauthorized and illegal travels to Manila.

Librado and Fe claimed that the purchases of medicines in question were covered by the exceptions allowing certain purchases without public bidding. These purchases conform with the exceptions pertaining to emergency purchases that were made directly from manufacturers or exclusive distributor of Philippine-manufactured drugs. Leonor, on the other hand, explained that his participation in these transactions was only by virtue of the request of DLI, his former employer, with respect to the collection of payments. Leonor clarified that he had no financial or material interest in these transactions and neither was his office charged with the grant of licenses or permits or concessions.

As to the charge of illegal reimbursements of travel expenses, Librado and Fe claimed that these were not questionable considering that they were supported with bills and receipts and certifications attesting that their travels were absolutely necessary. Moreover, they claimed that they secured the verbal permission of the governor before every travel and although late, they were able to secure a written permission from the governor after the travels.

On November 19, 2009, the Sandiganbayan (4th Division) rendered its Decision finding Librado and Fe guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019. Leonor was acquitted for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The dispositive portion thereof reads:

ACCORDINGLY, accused Librado Cabrera and Fe Cabrera are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having violated Republic Act 3019, Section 3(e) and are sentenced to suffer in prison the penalty of 6 years 1 month to 10 years for each charge as follows:

1)
Accused Librado Cabrera for the charges in Criminal Case Nos. 27555 and 27556


2)
Accused Fe Cabrera for the charges in Criminal Case Nos. 27557and 27558


with the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office. Accused Librado Cabrera and accused Fe Cabrera are directed to reimburse the Municipality of Taal, Batangas the amounts of [Php]27,651.83 and [Php] 170,987.66 respectively[,] representing the disbursed amounts for their unauthorized travels.

For failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of accused Luther H. Leonor beyond reasonable doubt, he is ACQUITTED.

Costs against accused Librado Cabrera and Fe Cabrera.

SO ORDERED.[4]


In Criminal Cases Nos. 27555 and 27557 involving the purchase of medicines without competitive public bidding, the Sandiganbayan ruled that since both Librado and Fe were public officers discharging administrative and official functions, they ought to abide by the fundamental rules in the procurement of supplies. The Sandiganbayan did not give merit to petitioners' defense that the purchases they made fell within the exceptions allowed by law, such as, they were emergency purchases and were directly bought from the manufacturer or exclusive distributor of Philippine-manufactured drugs. The Sandiganbayan ruled that in order to avail of the exceptions, there were requirements to be complied with which petitioners failed to comply.

In Criminal Cases Nos. 27556 and 27558, involving reimbursements of travel expenses, the Sandiganbayan ruled that petitioners did not comply with the proper procedure. The Sandiganbayan did not subscribe to petitioners' defense that their travels, albeit belatedly obtained, were with the official permission of the governor. As it ruled, the permission referred to by petitioners was not the permission required for purposes of accounting and reimbursement. The Local Government Code (LGC) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) provide for mandatory documents bearing the required permission/travel order that must be submitted.

Petitioners moved for reconsideration. Their motion was, however, denied in a Resolution[5]  dated March 10, 2010.

Petitioners appealed to this Court seeking reversal of the Sandiganbayan's Decision on the following assignment of errors, to wit:

  1. THE SANDIGANBAYAN (4th DIVISION) COMMITTED A MANIFEST ERROR OF LAW IN EQUATING LACK OF PUBLIC BIDDING TO GIVING UNWARRANTED BENEFIT TO DIAMOND LABORATORIES, INC. (DLI).[6]

  2. THE SANDIGANBAYAN (4th DIVISION) COMMITTED A MANIFEST ERROR OF LAW IN RULING THAT THE PERMISSION REQUIRED UNDER SECTION 96(B) OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE MUST BE IN WRITING NOTWITHSTANDING   THE EN BANC DECISION OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IN "CABRERA ET[.] AL[.] VS[.] MARCELO"[7]

  3. THE SANDIGANBAYAN (4th DIVISION) COMMITTED A MANIFEST ERROR OF LAW IN RULING THAT THE REIMBURSEMENT OF PETITIONERS' TRAVEL EXPENSES RESULTED IN UNDUE INJURY ON THE GOVERNMENT DESPITE THE PERMISSION GRANTED THEREFOR BY FORMER GOVERNOR MANDANAS.[8]


Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 provides:

SEC. 3 Corrupt practices of public officers. — In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

x x x x

(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions.


In Cabrera v. Sandiganbayan,[9] the Court laid down the essential elements of the crime, viz.:

1. The accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions;

2. He must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or [gross] inexcusable negligence; and

3. That his action caused any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions.[10]


The first element need not be explained. In this case, there is no doubt that petitioners are public officers of Taal, Batangas, during the material time and date of the commission of the alleged violation. Librado was the mayor from January 30, 1998 to June 30, 1998 and his wife, Fe, was the incumbent Mayor from July 28, 1998 to July 6, 1999.

The second element provides the modalities by which a violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 may be committed. It must be stressed that these three modes, namely "manifest partiality," "evident bad faith," or "gross inexcusable negligence" are not separate offenses, and proof of the existence of any of these three in connection with the prohibited acts committed, is sufficient to convict.[11]  As explained by this Court:

x x x. There is "manifest partiality" when there is clear, notorious, or plain inclination or predilection to favor one side or person rather than another. "Evident bad faith" connotes not only bad judgment but also palpably and patently fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do moral obliquity or conscious wrongdoing for some perverse motive or ill will. "Evident bad faith" contemplates a state of mind affirmatively operating with furtive design or with some motive of self-interest or ill will or for ulterior purposes. "Gross inexcusable negligence" refers to negligence characterized by the want of even the slightest care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but wilfully and intentionally, with conscious indifference to consequences insofar as other persons may be affected.[12]  (Citations omitted)


The third element refers to two (2) separate acts that qualify as a violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019. An accused may be charged with the commission of either or both. The use of the disjunctive term "or" connotes that either act qualifies as a violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019.[13]

The first punishable act is that the accused is said to have caused undue injury to the government or any party when the latter sustains actual loss or damage, which must exist as a fact and cannot be based on speculations or conjectures. The loss or damage need not be proven with actual certainty. However, there must be "some reasonable basis by which the court, can measure it." Aside from this, the loss or damage must be substantial. It must be "more than necessary, excessive, improper or illegal"[14]

The second punishable act is that the accused is said to have given unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference to a private party. Proof of the extent or quantum of damage is not thus essential.[15]  It is sufficient that the accused has given "unjustified favor or benefit to another."[16]

In the instant case, Librado's and Fe's violation of the aforesaid Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 basically hinges on two delictual acts, namely: (1) the awarding of procurement contract (for the purchase of medicines) to a private person (DLI) without the benefit of competitive public bidding as provided under the LGC, as referred to in Criminal Cases Nos. 27555 and 27557, and (2) by making illegal reimbursements of amounts representing the expenses for their unauthorized travels to Manila, as referred to in Criminal Cases Nos. 27556 and 27558.

Criminal Cases Nos. 27555 and 27557

Petitioners first act constituting violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 is the alleged procurement of supplies without the benefit of public bidding.

As a matter of policy, procurement or "acquisition of supplies or property by local government units shall be made through competitive public bidding." Thus, Section 356 of the LGC of 1991 on procurement of supplies, provides:

SEC. 356. General Rule in Procurement or Disposal. — Except as otherwise provided herein, acquisition of supplies by local government units shall be through competitive public bidding. x x x.


Whereas, Section 366 of the LGC, by way of exception, provides:

SEC. 366. Procurement Without Public Bidding. – Procurement of supplies may be made without the benefit of public bidding under any of the following modes:

(a)
Personal canvass of responsible merchants;


(b)
Emergency purchase;


(c)
Negotiated purchase;


(d)
Direct purchase from manufacturers or exclusive distributors; and


(e)
Purchase from other government entities.


The rationale behind the requirement of a public bidding, as a mode of awarding government contracts, is to ensure that the people get maximum benefits and quality services from the contracts.[17] It promotes transparency in government transactions and accountability of public officers as it minimizes occasions for corruption and temptations to abuse of discretion on the part of government authorities in awarding contracts.[18] For these reasons, important public policy considerations demand the strict observance of procedural rules relating to the bidding process.[19]

Petitioners admit that they have dispensed with the requirement of public bidding. They justify non-compliance with the bidding process by claiming that the purchases were emergency purchases as certified to by the Head of the Municipal Health Office, and that the purchases were all directly from the manufacturer or exclusive distributor of Philippine-manufactured drugs. They averred that DLI was considered as such in the case of Casanova v Cabrera[20] decided by Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon.

We agree with the Sandiganbayan that these justifications are not sufficient to forego the conduct of public bidding. Indeed, it is incumbent upon a party who invokes coverage under the exception, to a general rule to prove fulfillment of the requisites thereof.[21] In this case, petitioners fail to adduce evidence that their purchases of the medicines fall under the exceptions.

As ruled by the Sandiganbayan, certain legal requirements as provided in the IRR of the LGC of 1991,[22]  must be observed in order for a purchase/procurement of supplies to be categorized as (a) emergency purchase; and (b) direct purchase from duly licensed manufacturer. Article 437 of the IRR of the LGC of 1991, reads:

ART. 437. Procurement Without Public Bidding. – The procurement of supplies may be made without the benefit of public bidding under any of the following modes:

x x x x

(b) Emergency Purchase

(1) In cases of emergency where the need for the supplies is exceptionally urgent or absolutely indispensable and only to prevent imminent danger to, or loss of, life or property, LGUs may, through the local chief executive concerned, make emergency purchases or place repair orders, regardless of amount, without public bidding. Delivery of purchase orders or utilization of repair orders pursuant to this Article shall be made within ten (10) days after placement thereof. Immediately after the emergency purchase or repair order is made, the head of office or department making the emergency purchase or repair order shall draw a regular requisition to cover the same which shall contain the following:
(i)
Complete description of the supplies acquired or work done or to be performed;


(ii)
By whom furnished or executed;


(iii)
Date of placing the order and date and time of delivery or execution;


(iv)
Unit price and total contract price;


(v)
Brief and concise explanation of the circumstances why procurement was of such urgency that the same could not be done through regular course without involving danger to, or loss of, life or property;


(vi)
Certification of the provincial general services officer, city general services officer, municipal treasurer, or barangay treasurer, as the case may be, to the effect that the price paid or contracted for was the lowest at the time of procurement; and


(vii)
Certification of the local budget officer as to the existence of appropriations for the purpose, of the local accountant as to the obligation of the amount involved, and of the local treasurer as to availability of funds.

(2) The goods or services procured in case of emergency must be utilized or availed of within fifteen (15) days from the date of delivery or availability.

(3) Without prejudice to criminal prosecution under applicable laws,  the local   chief executive or the head of office making the procurement shall be administratively liable for any violation of the provisions on emergency purchase and shall be a ground for suspension or dismissal from service.

x x x x

(d) Procurement from Duly Licensed Manufacturers — Procurement of supplies or property may be made directly from duly licensed manufacturers in cases of supplies of Philippine manufacture or origin. The manufacturer must be able to present proof showing that it is a duly licensed manufacturer of the desired product.

In case there are two (2) or more known manufacturers of the required supplies or property, canvass of prices of the known manufacturers shall be conducted to obtain the lowest price for the same quality of said supplies or property.

The award for the procurement of supplies or property from duly licensed manufacturers shall be made by the committee on awards.


None of the above-mentioned prescribed procedures are complied with by petitioners. Going into the details, the Court observes the following:

  1. As to petitioners' claim that the purchases were emergency purchases. - While Fe was able to show the Purchase Request[23] dated August 25, 1998, issued by the Head of the Municipal Health Office, Dr. Adolfo Magistrado, the request was incomplete in details. There was likewise no Certification that at the time of the procurement, the price contracted for, was the lowest and that there was availability of funds as required by the IRR. No such purchase request was presented by Librado.

  2. As to petitioners' claim that they made direct purchase from DLI as it is a duly licensed manufacturer of medicines in the Philippines, such barren allegation is not sufficient. We cannot accept hook, line and sinker, the ruling of the Ombudsman that DLI is a duly licensed manufacturer of medicines. Courts, generally, do not take judicial notice of the evidence presented in other proceedings.[24] There must be proof establishing that DLI is indeed a duly licensed manufacturer of medicines in the Philippines.

    Neither did petitioners show that they conducted a canvass of prices in order to obtain the lowest of prices of the known manufacturers for the same quality of medicines needed. Petitioners conveniently skipped the requirement of canvass before making the purchases. Section 370 of the LGC imposes a duty that a canvass of the known manufacturers first be conducted before the purchase is made, so as to ensure that the local government would spend the lowest possible price for such purchase.[25]  Since petitioners are claiming exemption to the requirement of public bidding, the burden of proof lies upon them to show that there is no qualified manufacturer but DLI which could offer the best possible price for the government.


For failure to comply with the procedure, petitioners' case does not qualify under the exceptions provided by law. Thus, petitioners should have conducted a competitive public bidding on the procurement of the medicines for the municipality in order to avoid suspicions of irregularity. Petitioners, as mayors, should have acted in a circumspect manner to observe the law in order to promote transparency in the handling of government funds. As things stand, there was no public bidding that was conducted.

The rationale behind the requirement of a public bidding, as a mode of procuring supplies, is to ensure that the people get maximum benefits and quality services from the contracts.[26]  "A competitive public bidding aims to protect public interest by giving it the best possible advantages thru open competition."[27]  It promotes transparency in government transactions and accountability of public officers as it minimizes occasions for corruption and temptations to abuse of discretion on the part of government authorities in awarding contracts.[28]  For these reasons, important public policy considerations demand the strict observance of procedural rules relating to the bidding process.[29]

As can be read from the Information, petitioners are charged of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 under the second punishable act which is giving unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference to a private party, through manifest partiality, bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence. Indeed, the choice of DLI as the grantee of the medicines, in the absence of public bidding, shows that petitioners gave unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference in favor of DLI. The words "unwarranted," "advantage" and "preference" were defined by the court in this wise:

"[Unwarranted" means lacking adequate or official support; unjustified; unauthorized or without justification or adequate reason. "Advantage" means a more favorable or improved position or condition; benefit, profit or gain of any kind; benefit from some course of action. "Preference" signifies priority or higher evaluation or desirability; choice or estimation above another.[30] (Citations omitted)


In the instant case, there is no sufficient justification or adequate reasons why DLI was favorably chosen. DLI was awarded the procurement contract without the benefit of a fair system in determining the best possible price for the government. And the only way to ascertain the best possible price advantageous to the government is through competitive public bidding. Indeed, public bidding is the accepted method for arriving at a fair and reasonable price and it ensures that overpricing and favoritism, and other anomalous practices are eliminated or minimized.[31]  To circumvent this requirement outside the valid exceptions, is evidence of bad faith. As held by this Court:

The further discovery that the procurements were made by the petitioners from DLI without them first ensuring that the local government would be acquiring the medicines at the lowest possible price is sufficient to negate any presumption of good faith, especially since such failure prima facie constitutes a contravention of the Local Government Code.[32]


It was established in this case and admitted by petitioners, that DLI is a corporation whose stockholders, directors and officers are the relatives of Librado. Petitioners' refusal to conduct public bidding and to award the contract to the winning bidder, smack of favoritism and bias in favor of DLI. Indeed, nothing demonstrates manifest partiality more than the awarding of procurement contract to second degree relatives, either by consanguinity or affinity, without the benefit of competitive public bidding.

By choosing DLI without public bidding, petitioners evidently give unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference in favor of private persons, through manifest partiality.

Criminal Cases Nos. 27556 and 27558

Petitioners' second act constituting violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 is the alleged illegal reimbursements made by petitioners of the amount representing their expenses for their alleged unauthorized travels.

Two acts are involved here: the unauthorized travels and the illegal reimbursements.

Petitioners claim that their travels to Manila in 1998-1999 were authorized by the Governor. To prove this fact, petitioners adduce as evidence the testimony of then incumbent Governor Mandanas who testified that he signed petitioners' permit to travel on December 14, 2000. He also admitted that it is his policy to allow all travels and sign any documents when presented to him – whether before or after the travel dates.

Pertinent provision of the LGC of 1991[33]  provides:

SEC. 96. Permission to Leave Station. — (a) Provincial, city, municipal, and barangay appointive officials going on official travel shall apply and secure written permission from their respective local chief executives before departure. The application shall specify the reasons for such travel, and the permission shall be given or withheld based on considerations of public interest, financial capability of the local government unit concerned and urgency of the travel. Should the local chief executive concerned fail to act upon such application within four (4) working days from receipt thereof, it shall be deemed approved.

(b)  Mayors of component cities and municipalities shall secure the permission of the governor concerned for any travel outside the province.

(c) Local government officials traveling abroad shall notify their respective sanggunian: Provided, That when the period of travel extends to more than three (3) months, during periods of emergency or crisis or when the travel involves the use of public funds, permission from the Office of the President shall be secured.

(d) Field officers of national agencies or offices assigned in provinces, cities, and municipalities shall not leave their official stations without giving prior written notice to the local chief executive concerned. Such notice shall state the duration of travel and the name of the officer whom he shall designate to act for and in his behalf during his absence. (Underscoring supplied).


Paragraph (a) speaks of the term "permission" as one that is "written" and secured "before departure." While the words "written" and "before departure" are not repeated in paragraph (b) of the aforesaid provision, we take into consideration the general rule of statutory construction that a word used in a statute in a given sense is presumed to be used in the same sense throughout the law.[34] While this rule is not, by some authorities, regarded as so rigid and peremptory as some other of the rules of construction, nevertheless it is particularly applicable in the case at bar, where in the statute the words appear so near to each other physically, and particularly where the word has a technical meaning and that meaning has been defined in the statute.[35]

As the Sandiganbayan observed, the term permission was defined in terms of form, time and content in paragraph (a). Following the above-mentioned rule of statutory construction, the Sandiganbayan was therefore correct when it concluded that the word "permission" in paragraph (b) should carry the same meaning attached to the word permission in paragraph (a) as one that was written and issued before the departure/travel. Strictly speaking, when the permission is not written and is not obtained before departure, the travel is unauthorized.

Petitioners raised the defense that the unauthorized travels were subsequently ratified. They claimed that they were able to subsequently obtain the permission/approval of the Governor such that, the unauthorized travels become authorized. True enough, the Governor issued a Certification to the effect that he gave his subsequent approval to petitioners' previous travel. The Governor even confirmed, in no uncertain terms, that he indeed gave his permission to petitioners for the travels which they made. However, the subsequent approval given by the governor did not save the day for the petitioners. As the anti-graft court observed:

The permissions were not secured before the travels were made, not even right after the travels. They were not also secured at the time the reimbursements of expenses were sought; permissions were not secured even at the time accused approved the disbursement vouchers for the claimed reimbursements.x x x. Subsequently, when a special audit was conducted in December 1999, these reimbursements were put in question. It was only on 14 December 2000 that a purported confirmation/consent was secured. At that point, the permission sought was already for the purpose of avoiding the liability from the violation that was already consummated.[36]


We cannot fault the Sandiganbayan for brushing aside the Governor's permissions which were not timely obtained. True, things got complicated when petitioners sought reimbursements of the travel expenses which they advanced from their personal funds. It is worthy to note that petitioners, as claimants seeking reimbursements, are also the ones approving the disbursement vouchers, in their capacity as the Chief Executives of the Municipality of Taal during their respective terms. This is the mandate of Article 454 (k) of the IRR[37] of the LGC of 1991, that approval of the disbursement vouchers shall be made by the local chief executive himself, thus:

(k) Certification on, and Approval of, Vouchers — No money shall be disbursed unless the local budget officer certifies to the existence of appropriation that has been legally made for the purpose, the local accountant has obligated said appropriation, and the local treasurer certifies to the availability of funds for the purpose. Vouchers and payrolls shall be certified to and approved by the head of the office or department who has administrative control of the fund concerned, as to validity, propriety, and legality of the claim involved. Except in cases of disbursements involving regularly recurring administrative expenses such as payrolls for regular or permanent employees, expenses for light, water, telephone and telegraph services, remittances to government creditor agencies such as the GSIS, SSS, LBP, DBP, National Printing Office, Procurement Service of the DBM and others, approval of the disbursement voucher by the local chief executive himself shall be required whenever local funds are disbursed. (Underscoring supplied)


The foregoing provision also laid down the requirements needed to disburse local funds,[38]  to wit: (a) certification from local budget officer as to the existence of appropriation that has been legally made for the purpose; (b) that the local accountant has obligated said appropriation; (c) certification from the local treasurer as to the availability of funds for the purpose; (d) that the vouchers and payrolls shall be certified to and approved by the head of the office or department who has administrative control of the fund concerned, as to validity, propriety, and legality of the claim involved; and lastly, (e) the approval of the local chief executive of the disbursement voucher.

As established, at the time the disbursement voucher was approved by petitioners, there was yet no sufficient basis that would justify the reimbursement of travel expenses. The validity, propriety and legality of the claimed travel expense can be justified if the travel itself is with the written permission/approval of the Governor as mandated by the LGC of 1991. At that moment when petitioners were claiming reimbursements, the required permissions of the Governor for petitioners' travels to Manila were yet to be obtained and despite that, petitioners still proceeded to approve the disbursement vouchers. This was the reason why a special audit was conducted in December 1999, as the reimbursements made were questionable.[39] Even the local accountant noted beside her signature as to the absence of the required travel order.[40] Evidently, there was circumvention of the rules and the procedure in claiming reimbursements. Given that the travels made by petitioners were unauthorized at the time of reimbursements, then there was no legal obligation on the part of the municipality to disburse the said claimed travel expenses to the benefit of petitioners.

It bears to stress that mere unauthorized travel does not automatically equate to violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019. There must be proof that the said unauthorized travel caused undue injury to the government or that it amounts to giving unwarranted benefit or advantage to a private person or to oneself for that matter. The act of petitioners in approving the disbursement vouchers without compliance with the disbursement procedures (i.e., necessary supporting documents, written permission of the government authorizing their travel) constitute bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence in observing the law, causing undue injury to the Municipality of Taal. The Municipality of Taal was effectively deprived of the amounts of P27,651.83 and P170,987.66 which petitioners Librado and Fe respectively reimbursed for themselves. Indeed, there is no greater proof of undue injury to the government when public funds are used for an unjustified expense.

All told, we are convinced that the guilt of the petitioners were beyond reasonable doubt and that the Sandiganbayan did not err in its findings and conclusion. The totality of the facts and circumstances demonstrate that they committed the crime of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 by causing undue injury to the government and giving unwarranted benefits to DLI through manifest partiality; and to themselves through evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence.

As to the penalty imposed, we find them in order. Any person guilty of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 is punishable with imprisonment for not less than six years and one month nor more than fifteen years and perpetual disqualification from public office.[41]  Thus, the penalty imposed by the Sandiganbayan which is an imprisonment term ranging from six years and one month as minimum to ten years as maximum for each count of the offense and the perpetual disqualification from holding public office, is in accordance with law. The order to return in favor of the government the amounts of P27,651.83 and P170,987.66 representing the disbursed amounts for their unauthorized travels is just and proper.

The rules on public bidding and on public funds disbursement are imbued with public interest.[42] Laws regarding these matters were formulated to ensure minimization of expenditures of the public fund. Petitioners, as public officials have the bounden duty to work for, and protect the interest of the government. Thus, greater degree of responsibility is imposed upon them to ensure that the laws are faithfully complied with.[43]  Any act which tends to violate the law or provides excuse to circumvent the law shall not be countenanced. Indeed, it is the policy of the Philippine Government, in line with the principle that a public office is a public trust, to repress certain acts of public officers and private persons alike which constitute graft or corrupt practices or which may lead thereto.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The November 19, 2009 Decision and March 10, 2010 Resolution of the Sandiganbayan (4th Division), in Criminal Case No. 27555, Criminal Case No. 27556, Criminal Case No. 27557 and Criminal Case No. 27558, are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Perlas-Bernabe, Caguioa, and Lazaro-Javier, JJ., concur.



[1] Penned by Associate Justice Jose R. Hernandez, with Associate Justices Gregory S. Ong and Roland B. Jurado, concurring; rollo, pp. 32-60 .

[2] Id. at 61-68.

[3] Id. at 70-72, 73-75, 76-78 and 79-81.

[4] Id. at 58-59.

[5] Id. at 67.

[6] Id. at 12.

[7] Id. at 21.

[8] Id.

[9] 484 Phil. 350 (2004), citing [Ingco] v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 112584, May 23, 1977, 272 SCRA 563, 574.

[10] Id. at 360.

[11] Abubakar v. People, G.R. Nos. 202408, 202409 & 202412, June 27, 2018.

[12] Plameras v. People, 717 Phil. 303, 321 (2013).

[13] Cabrera v. Sandiganbayan, supra note 9, at 360.

[14] Abubakar v. People, supra note 11.

[15] Fonacier v. Sandiganbayan, 308 Phil. 660, 694 (1994)

[16] Supra note 11.

[17] Manila International Airport Authority v. Olongapo Maintenance Services, Inc., 567 Phil. 255, 259 (2008).

[18] Id.

[19] Abubakar v. People, supra note 11.

[20] Rollo, pp. 115-118.

[21] Cabrera v. Hon. Marcelo, 487 Phil. 427, 444 (2004).

[22] ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 270 – PRESCRIBING THE IMPLEMENTING RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991. Approved February 21, 1992.

[23] Rollo, p. 119.

[24] Bongato v. Spouses Malvar, 436 Phil. 109, 117 (2002).

[25] Cabrera v. Hon. Marcelo, supra note 21, at 443.

[26] Manila International Airport Authority v. Olongapo Maintenance Services, Inc., supra note 17, at 259.

[27] Rivera v. People, 749 Phil. 124, 145 (2014).

[28] Manila International Airport Authority v. Olongapo Maintenance Services, Inc., supra note 17.

[29] Abubakar v. People, supra note 11.

[30] Sison v. People, 628 Phil. 573, 585 (2010).

[31] Manila International Airport Authority v. Mabunay, 379 Phil. 833, 844 (2000).

[32] Cabrera v. Hon. Marcelo, supra note 21, at 445.

[33] Republic Act No. 7160, October 10, 1991.

[34] Froelich & Kuttner v. Collector of Customs, 18 Phil. 461, 480 (1911), citing Sutherland on Statutory Construction, Chap. 255.

[35] Id.

[36] Rollo, pp. 51-52.

[37] Supra note 22.

[39] Rollo,p.51.

[40] Id. at 56.

[38] See also: Field Investigation Unit-Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon v. De Castro, G.R. No. 232666, June 20, 2018.

[39] Rollo, p. 51.

[40] Id. at 56.

[41] Sison v. People, supra note 30, at 586.

[42] Abubakar v. People, supra note 11.

[43] Id.

[43] Republic Act No. 3019, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Section 1, August 17, 1960.

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