Wednesday, March 7, 2012


By Siesta-friendly

We will try to help enlighten the reader regarding the proper way to disclose and file a public official’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) something that the Senate President has likened to a personal balance sheet.  Below are digests of cases decided by the Supreme Court relating public officials found guilty of failure to disclose assets / business interests in their SALN, making false statements in their SALN, and failure to file their SALN.

Being digests, the facts below – at times slightly paraphrased - are basically lifted from the decisions themselves.

Failure to Disclose Assets / Business Interests

Narita Rabe vs. Delsa M. Flores (May 14, 1997)[1]

Delsa M. Flores, Interpreter III at the Regional Trial Court, Branch IV, Panabo, Davao was charged administratively for "Conduct Unbecoming a Government Employee, Acts Prejudicial to the Interest of the Service and Abuse of Authority" for taking "advantage of her position as a court employee by claiming a stall at the extension of the Public (sic) Market when she is (sic) not a member of our client's association and … [taking] the law into her hands when she destroyed the stall of our client and brought the materials to the police station...”

While the RTC absolved her from the charge, the RTC issued a Resolution asking her to explain, inter alia, “why she did not report [her] business interest in her sworn statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections, and Identification of Relatives in the Government Service for the years 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994”.

In her explanation, Flores admitted “she had received from the municipality a [P1,000.00] salary for the period May 16 1991 — May 31, 1991, notwithstanding her transfer to the judiciary on May 16, 1991”

In ordering Flores’ dismissal “with FORFEITURE of all retirement benefits and accrued leave credits and with PREJUDICE to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations,” the SC said:

“By her own admission, [Flores] had collected her salary from the Municipality of Panabo for the period of May 16-31, 1991, when she was already working at the RTC. She knew that she was no longer entitled to a salary from the municipal government, but she took it just the same. She returned the amount only upon receipt of the Court Resolution dated January 17, 1996, or more than five (5) years later. We cannot countenance the same. [Flores’] conduct is plain dishonesty.

Her explanation, as observed earlier, is unsatisfactory. Her overriding need for money from the municipal government, aggravated by the alleged delay in the processing of her initial salary from the Court, does not justify receipt of a salary not due her. We sympathize with [her] sad plight of being the sole breadwinner of her family, with her husband and parents to feed and children to send to school. This, however, is not an acceptable excuse for her misconduct. If poverty and pressing financial need could justify stealing, the government would have been bankrupt long ago. A public servant should never expect to become wealthy in government.


Aside from dishonesty, however, [Flores] is also guilty of failure to perform her legal obligation to disclose her business interests. [She] herself admitted that she "had a stall in the market." The Office of the Court Administrator also found that she had been receiving rental payments from one Rodolfo Luay for the use of the market stall. That [she] had a stall in the market was undoubtedly a business interest which should have been reported in her Sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities. Her failure to do so exposes her to administrative sanction.

Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6713 provides that it is the "obligation" of an employee to submit a sworn statement, as the "public has a right to know" the employee's assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interest. Section 11 of the same law prescribes the criminal and administrative penalty for violation of any provision thereof. Paragraph (b) of Section 11 provides that "(b) Any violation hereof proven in a proper administrative proceeding shall sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of a public official or employee, even if no criminal prosecution is instituted against him.””

Concerned Taxpayer vs. Norberto V. Doblada, Jr. (June 8, 2005)[2]

A letter-complaint was filed by a "concerned taxpayer" with the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), charging Norberto V. Doblada, Jr., Sheriff IV of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig, Branch 155, of having acquired properties during his incumbency as sheriff, the values of which "are manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public employee and to his other lawful income or incomes from legitimately acquired property."

The complaint was referred by the OMB to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of this Court.  Upon report and recommendation of the OCA, the SC Court issued a Resolution requiring Doblada to comment and ordering the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a discreet investigation.

The NBI found, inter alia, that Doblada failed to submit his sworn statement of assets and liabilities for the years 1975 to 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1997. And that he acquired fishpens at P2,500,000.00 in 1993 and Civic Honda at P435,000.00 in 1995 where his legitimate income as Court Sheriff is at P44,652 per annum and P65,496.00 per annum respectively. His earnings as jeepney operator with one unit as reported in 1982 are insufficient to acquire residential lots in 1982-1988 ranging from P8,670 to P125,000.00.  And loans from creditors were not be sufficient to cover acquisition of real and personal properties in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998.

The SC found Doblada guilty of violating Section 7 of R.A. No. 3019 and Section 8 of R.A. No. 6713 and ordered his “dismissal with forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave credits, if any, with prejudice to his reemployment in any branch or service of the government including government-owned and controlled corporations” “for his failure to declare a true and detailed statement of his assets and liabilities for the years 1974, 1976, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1998”.

Hon. Waldo Q. Flores, et al.  vs. Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor (August 25, 2010)[3]

The Office of the President received a letter from "a concerned citizen" relating to Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor’s – then Regional Director II of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Region IV, in San Fernando, Pampanga - ostentatious lifestyle which is apparently disproportionate to his income as a public official. The Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) immediately conducted a fact-finding inquiry and issued subpoenas duces tecum to the BIR and LTO. The BIR submitted a copy of Montemayor’s appointment papers along with his Sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SSAL) for the year 2002.  The LTO submitted a record of vehicles registered to Montemayor, to wit: a 2001 Ford Expedition, a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser, and a 1983 Mitsubishi Galant.

During the investigation, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, a media organization which had previously published an article on the unexplained wealth of certain BIR officials, also submitted to the PAGC copies of Montemayor’s SSAL for the years 1999, 2000 and 2001. In Montemayor’s 1999 and 2000 SSAL, the PAGC noted that Montemayor declared his ownership over several motor vehicles, but failed to do the same in his 2001 SSAL.

On the basis of the said documents, the PAGC issued a Formal Charge against Montemayor on May 19, 2003 for violation of Section 7 of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 in relation to Section 8 (A) of RA No. 6713 due to his failure to declare the 2001 Ford Expedition with a value ranging from 1.7 million to 1.9 million pesos, and the 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser with an estimated value of 1 million to 1.2 million pesos in his 2001 and 2002 SSAL.  

The PAGC issued a Resolution finding Montemayor administratively liable as charged and recommended his dismissal.  The Office of the President adopted PAGC’s recommendation.  Montemayor (of course) filed a petition before the CA.  The CA (of course) ruled in his favor.

In deciding in favor of Montemayor’s dismissal, the SC held:

“Montemayor’s argument that he did not deliberately omit to declare the 2001 Ford Expedition in his 2001 SSAL and the 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser in his 2001 and 2002 SSAL fails to persuade us. Even if a motor vehicle was acquired through chattel mortgage, it is a government employee’s ethical and legal obligation to declare and include the same in his SSAL. Montemayor cannot wiggle his way out of the mess he has himself created since he knows for a fact that every asset acquired by a civil servant must be declared in the SSAL. The law requires that the SSAL be accomplished truthfully and in detail without distinction as to how the property was acquired. Montemayor, therefore, cannot escape liability by arguing that the ownership of the 2001 Ford Expedition has not yet passed to him on the basis of a lame excuse that the said vehicle was acquired only on installment basis sometime on July 3, 2001.

Montemayor also argues that even if ownership of the said vehicle had been transferred to him upon acquisition, the vehicle was sold to another person on December 15, 2002; hence, there is no need to declare it in his 2001 SSAL. [His] reasoning is anemic and convoluted. It is evasive of the fact that the said vehicle was not reported in his 2001 SSAL. Notably, the acquisition value of the 2001 Ford Expedition was P1,599,000.00 is significantly greater than the amount declared by Montemayor under "machinery/equipment," worth P1,321,212.50, acquired by him as of December 31, 2001, and to the P1,251,675.00 worth of "machinery/ equipment" acquired by him as of December 31, 2002. This belies Montemayor’s claim that the said vehicle has been included among the "machinery/equipment" assets he declared in his 2001 and 2002 SSAL. Neither did Montemayor satisfactorily reflect the P1,000,000.00 that has come to his hands as payment for the alleged sale of his 2001 Ford Expedition in his 2002 SSAL.

[Montemayor] apparently fails to understand that the SSAL is not a mere scrap of paper. The law requires that the SSAL must be accomplished as truthfully, as detailed and as accurately as possible. The filing thereof not later than the first fifteen (15) days of April at the close of every calendar year must not be treated as a simple and trivial routine, but as an obligation that is part and parcel of every civil servant’s duty to the people. It serves as the basis of the government and the people in monitoring the income and lifestyle of officials and employees in the government in compliance with the Constitutional policy to eradicate corruption, promote transparency in government, and ensure that all government employees and officials lead just and modest lives. It is for this reason that the SSAL must be sworn to and is made accessible to the public, subject to reasonable administrative regulations.”

We note that Mr. Montemayor filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the SC’s decision above which prompted a decision from the SC’s Special Third Division[4].  The facts remain the same but the SC added:

“… we maintain that the penalty of dismissal from the service is justified as no acceptable explanation was given for the non-declaration of the two expensive cars in his 2001 and 2002 SSAL.

Pursuant to Section 11, paragraph (b) of R.A. No. 6713, any violation of the law "proven in a proper administrative proceeding shall be sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of a public official or employee, even if no criminal prosecution is instituted against him." [Montemayor]’s deliberate attempt to evade the mandatory disclosure of all assets acquired during the period covered was evident when he first claimed that the vehicles were lumped under the entry "Machineries/Equipment" or still mortgaged, and later averred that these were already sold by the end of the year covered and the proceeds already spent.

Under this scheme, [Montemayor] would have acquired as many assets never to be declared at anytime. Such act erodes the function of requiring accuracy of entries in the SSAL which must be a true and detailed statement. It undermines the SSAL as "the means to achieve the policy of accountability of all public officers and employees in the government" through which "the public are able to monitor movement in the fortune of a public official; [as] a valid check and balance mechanism to verify undisclosed properties and wealth."

Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC), et al. vs. Salvador A. Pleyto (March 23, 2011)[5]

An anonymous letter-complaint from alleged employees of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was filed with the PAGC accusing DPWH Undersecretary Salvador A. Pleyto of extortion, illicit affairs, and manipulation of DPWH projects.

In the course of the PAGC’s investigation, Pleyto submitted his 1999, 2000, and 2001 SALNs.  In all 3 SALNs, while he said that his wife was a businesswoman, Pleyto did not disclose her business interests and financial connections.  Pleyto attributed the mistake to the fact that his SALNs were merely prepared by his wife’s bookkeeper. 

PAGC found Pleyto guilty as charged and recommended his dismissal with forfeiture of all government financial benefits and disqualification to re-enter government service. The OP approved the recommendation. Pleyto raised the matter to the Court of Appeals which his petition and permanently enjoined the PAGC and the OP from implementing their decisions. This prompted the latter offices to come to this Court on a petition for review.

As this was the 2nd case before the SC regarding Pleyto’s SALNs, and both cases involved the same failure of Pleyto to disclose his wife’s business interests and financial connections in his 2001 ad 2002 SALNs, the SC deemed their judgment in the 1st case was “conclusive” in the 2nd.  The 1st case was Pleyto v. Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).[6]

In the 1st case, the SC found that Pleyto’s failure to disclose his wife’s business interests and financial connections constituted simple negligence, not gross misconduct or dishonesty because -

‘…  On the front page of petitioner’s 2002 SALN, it is already clearly stated that his wife is a businesswoman, and it can be logically deduced that she had business interests. Such a statement of his wife’s occupation would be inconsistent with the intention to conceal his and his wife’s business interests. That petitioner and/or his wife had business interests is thus readily apparent on the face of the SALN; it is just that the missing particulars may be subject of an inquiry or investigation.

An act done in good faith, which constitutes only an error of judgment and for no ulterior motives and/or purposes, does not qualify as gross misconduct, and is merely simple negligence. Thus, at most, petitioner is guilty of negligence for having failed to ascertain that his SALN was accomplished properly, accurately, and in more detail.

Negligence is the omission of the diligence which is required by the nature of the obligation and corresponds with the circumstances of the persons, of the time and of the place. In the case of public officials, there is negligence when there is a breach of duty or failure to perform the obligation, and there is gross negligence when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable. Both Section 7 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 8 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees require the accomplishment and submission of a true, detailed and sworn statement of assets and liabilities. Petitioner was negligent for failing to comply with his duty to provide a detailed list of his assets and business interests in his SALN. He was also negligent in relying on the family bookkeeper/accountant to fill out his SALN and in signing the same without checking or verifying the entries therein. Petitioner’s negligence, though, is only simple and not gross, in the absence of bad faith or the intent to mislead or deceive on his part, and in consideration of the fact that his SALNs actually disclose the full extent of his assets and the fact that he and his wife had other business interests.

Gross misconduct and dishonesty are serious charges which warrant the removal or dismissal from service of the erring public officer or employee, together with the accessory penalties, such as cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in government service. Hence, a finding that a public officer or employee is administratively liable for such charges must be supported by substantial evidence.”

The SC held that, “as in G.R. 169982, Pleyto’s failure to declare his wife’s business interest and financial connections does not constitute dishonesty and grave misconduct but only simple negligence, warranting a penalty of forfeiture of the equivalent of six months of his salary from his retirement benefits.”

Making False Statements

Galeos vs. People Of The Philippines[7] and Paulino S. Ong vs. People Of The Philippines (February 9, 2011)[8]

Ong was appointed Officer-in-Charge (OIC)-Mayor of the Municipality of Naga, Cebu and was elected Mayor of the same municipality and served for about 10 years.

As mayor, Ong extended permanent appointments to Rosalio S. Galeos and Federico T. Rivera for the positions of Construction and Maintenance Man and Plumber I, respectively, in the Office of the Municipal Engineer. Prior to their permanent appointment, Galeos and Rivera were casual employees of the municipal government.

In their individual SALN for the year 1993, Galeos answered "No" to the question: "To the best of your knowledge, are you related within the fourth degree of consanguinity or of affinity to anyone working in the government?" while Rivera indicated "n/a" on the space for the list of the names of relatives referred to in the said query. The boxes for "Yes" and "No" to the said query were left in blank by Galeos in his 1994 and 1995 SALN.  Rivera in his 1995 SALN answered "No" to the question on relatives in government.  In their 1996 SALN, both Galeos and Rivera also did not fill up the boxes indicating their answers to the same query.  Ong’s signature appears in all the foregoing documents as the person who administered the oath when Galeos and Rivera executed the foregoing documents.

Galeos and Ong were convicted on separate counts by the Sandiganbayan with falsification of public documents under Article 171, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code. Rivera died before the promulgation of the decision.

The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction stating, inter alia,:

“Since petitioner Galeos answered "No" to the question in his 1993 SALN if he has relatives in the government service within the fourth degree of consanguinity, he made an untruthful statement therein as in fact he was related to Ong, who was then the municipal mayor, within the fourth degree of consanguinity, he and Ong being first cousins (their mothers are sisters). As to his 1994, 1995 and 1996 SALN, Galeos left in blank the boxes for the answer to the similar query. In Dela Cruz v. Mudlong, it was held that one is guilty of falsification in the accomplishment of his information and personal data sheet if he withholds material facts which would have affected the approval of his appointment and/or promotion to a government position. By withholding information on his relative/s in the government service as required in the SALN, Galeos was guilty of falsification considering that the disclosure of such relationship with then Municipal Mayor Ong would have resulted in the disapproval of his permanent appointment pursuant to Article 168 (j) (Appointments), Rule XXII of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160), which provides:

No person shall be appointed in the local government career service if he is related within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to the appointing power or recommending authority.”

Failure to file

Office Of The Court Administrator vs. Judge Uyag P. Usman (October 19, 2011)[9]

The facts below are lifted from the case -

A letter-complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Mindanao, requesting for a lifestyle check on Judge Uyag P. Usman, Presiding Judge, Shari’a Circuit Court, Pagadian City, in connection with his acquisition of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) amounting to P 1,526,000.00.  The complaint was forwarded to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA).  During its investigation, the OCA found the initial complaint was not fully substantiated but instead found that Judge Usman failed to file his SALN for the years 2004-2008.  Judge Usman gave no explanation either why he failed to file his SALN for 5 consecutive years.

The OCA held Judge Usman liable for violation of Section 8 of R.A. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) and of Section 7 of R.A. No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), for failing to file his SALN for the years 2004-2008, and recommended that he be fined in the amount of P 10,000.00.

The SC, in finding Judge Usman guilty of violating Section 7, R.A. No. 3019 and Section 8, R.A. No. 6713, stated that:

“… it is imperative that every public official or government employee must make and submit a complete disclosure of his assets, liabilities and net worth in order to suppress any questionable accumulation of wealth.  This serves as the basis of the government and the people in monitoring the income and lifestyle of public officials and employees in compliance with the constitutional policy to eradicate corruption, to promote transparency in government, and to ensure that all government employees and officials lead just and modest lives, with the end in view of curtailing and minimizing the opportunities for official corruption and maintaining a standard of honesty in the public service.

In the present case, [Usman] clearly violated the above-quoted laws when he failed to file his SALN for the years 2004-2008. He gave no explanation either why he failed to file his SALN for five (5) consecutive years. While every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the Judiciary. Hence, judges are strictly mandated to abide with the law, the Code of Judicial Conduct and with existing administrative policies in order to maintain the faith of our people in the administration of justice.” [Emphasis supplied]

The SC considered that it was Judge Usman’s 1st offense ordered a fine of “Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.”

The foregoing cases underscore the importance of making accurate entries in the SALN which is not supposed to be an empty exercise. A criminal suspect is given a Miranda warning that anything he says can and will be used against him in a court of law.  Civil servants are to be forewarned that the same thing can happen as regards their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, if they fail to file a correct one.

[1]   A.M. No. P-97-1247 (Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I.  No. 95-71-P)

[2]  A.M. No. P-99-1342              

[3]  G.R. No. 170146

[4]  Hon. Waldo Q. Flores, et al.  vs. Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor (June 8, 2011)

[5] G.R. No. 176058.

[6]  G.R. 169982, November 23, 2007

[7]  G.R. Nos. 174730-37, February 9, 2011.

[8]  G.R. Nos. 174845-52, ibid.

[9]  A.M. No. SCC-08-12.  (Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 08-29-SCC)


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