Richard T. Martel, Allan C. Putong, Abel A. Guiñares, Victoria G. Mier, and Edgar C. Gan  vs. People of the Philippines.

G.R. Nos. 224765-68

FACTS: 

The Sandiganbayan found the petitioners  guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019. In 2003, it was alleged that the petitioners procured five motor vehicles for the use of the Governor and Vice Governor of Davao del Sur  in a manner violative of procurement laws.   The procurement of the subject vehicles was not subjected to competitive public bidding as it was effected through direct purchase. By preselecting the vehicle models to be procured, petitioners are alleged to have acted with manifest partiality in favor of their preferred suppliers and accorded them unwarranted benefit and advantage, causing undue injury to the government. 

Petitioners filed their separate appeals before the Court. 

The People of the Philippines contend that the petitions must be denied because the grounds relied upon involve questions of fact.  Moreover, the petitions amount to a collateral attack on the judgment of conviction by raising doubt as to whether the acts of petitioners were sufficient to establish criminal liability, thereby assailing the Sandiganbayan’s appreciation of evidence.

claim that petitioners are asking the Court to revisit evidentiary matters, which is beyond the pale of an appeal by certiorari

ISSUES: 

1. Whether the petition must be denied

2. Whether the Sandiganbayan erred in finding petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019.

HELD: 

1. NO. While it is the general rule that only questions of law may be raised in petitions filed under Rule 45, there are recognized exceptions, namely:

(1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;(S) when the findings of facts are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (11) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.

The petitions invoke the first, second, third, fourth, eighth, tenth, and eleventh exceptions above. While the findings of fact of the Sandiganbayan as a trial court are accorded weight and respect, the Court will not hesitate to reverse the conclusions reached by the trial court when there appears to be a misappreciation of facts

2. NO. the Court cannot uphold the conviction of the accused. A thorough review of the facts and evidence presented shows that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the second element for a violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019.

In order to convict the accused for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, the following elements must be proven beyond reasonable doubt: (1) the accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial, or official functions; (2) he must have acted with manifest partiality, or evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence; and (3) his action caused undue injury to any party, including the Government, or gave any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference in the discharge of his functions. 

In the instant case, petitioners justify the eschewing of competitive bidding in procuring the subject vehicles on the reasoning that these were goods of foreign origin that may only be procured directly from the exclusive Philippine distributors or agents.

It is evident that there were irregularities in the procurement of the subject vehicles, in violation of the applicable procurement laws. Be that as it may, it should be emphasized that petitioners were charged and convicted for violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019. In order to successfully prosecute the accused under Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 based on a violation of procurement laws, the prosecution cannot solely rely on the fact that a violation of procurement laws has been committed. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that: (1) the violation of procurement laws caused undue injury to any party, including the government, or gave any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference, and (2) the accused acted with evident bad faith, manifest partiality, or gross inexcusable negligence. This the prosecution failed to do. Specifically, the prosecution miserably failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that petitioners acted with evident bad faith, manifest partiality, or gross inexcusable negligence in relation to the subject procurements.

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