Antonio Suba vs Sandiganbayan

G.R. No. 235418, March 03, 2021.

FACTS:

Suba and Navida were charged for violating Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 for acting with evident bad faith, manifest partiality, and/or gross inexcusable negligence for requesting, facilitating and receiving cash advances worth P241,478.68 for their trip to Beijing and proceed thereto “despite fully knowing the existence of a letter/order from the [DOTC] denying their application for a travel authority.”

Suba argues that there was no evidence that he knew of the lack of travel authority at the time he joined Navida in the Beijing conference. There was also no bad faith, ill motive or fraud on his part because when he processed the cash advances, he was merely following the directive of his superior.  He and Navida actually attended the conference in Beijing on aircraft maintenance which was relevant to their posts in PADC. Suba further advances that he already settled the amount of P241,478.68, which negates the element of damage or injury to the government. 

The respondent maintains that all the elements of the crime were established beyond reasonable doubt. Suba has not received or seen any actual written grant of travel authority but still pushed through with the travel and utilization of public funds, he was evidently in bad faith, or at the very least grossly and inexcusably negligent in the utilization of public funds. He was not deprived of his right to due process as the designation of the offense charged, the nature of the accusation and the acts and omissions constituting the offense were properly alleged in the Information. Also, the settlement or restitution does not extinguish criminal liability.

ISSUE: 

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Whether the Sandiganbayan correctly found petitioner guilty of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019

HELD: 

NO, there is no sufficient evidence to hold Suba criminally liable under Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019.

Jurisprudence instructs that bad faith is referred to under Section 3(e) of RA. No. 3019 does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence but of having a palpably and patently fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do some moral obliquity or conscious wrongdoing for some perverse motive, or ill will. In People v. Bacaltos, bad faith per se is not enough for one to be held criminally liable for violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019. Bad faith must be evident and must partake in the nature of fraud. That is, it is a manifest deliberate intent on the part of the accused to do wrong or to cause damage.  In this case, it cannot be said that Suba acted with a palpably and patently fraudulent and dishonest purpose or with some perverse or ill motive, that is tantamount to “evident bad faith” which the Anti-Graft Law seeks to punish. There was a legitimate purpose. There was prior and general approval by the PADC Board. There was a verbal assurance from his superior and travel companion that they have the approval of the DOTC Secretary. Suba also returned the disallowed amount after his appeal was denied, which in some cases was deemed a badge of good faith. The circumstances established do not show beyond reasonable doubt that Suba was spurred by corrupt or ill motive.

It should be stressed that there is no such thing as presumption of bad faith in cases involving violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. On the contrary, the law presumes the accused innocent, until proven guilty. Well entrenched in our jurisprudence is the rule that the conviction of the accused must rest, not on the weakness of the defense, but on the strength of the evidence for the prosecution. The burden is on the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, not on the accused to prove his innocence. The administration of justice is not a matter of guesswork. Since a person’s liberty is at stake here, all measures must be taken to ensure the protection of his fundamental rights

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