Political Law

Teresita Fabian vs Aniano Desierto

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G.R. No. 129742 – 295 SCRA 470 – Political Law – The Judiciary – Powers of the Judiciary – Appellate Power of the Supreme Court may not be expanded by Congress

Remedial Law – Civil Procedure – Rule 43 – Appeal from Decisions of Quasi-Judicial Bodies; Appeal from decisions of the Ombudsman

Teresita Fabian was the major stockholder and president of PROMAT Construction Development Corporation (PROMAT) which was engaged in the construction business with a certain Nestor Agustin. Agustin was the incumbent District Engineer of the First Metro Manila Engineering District (FMED).

Misunderstanding and unpleasant incidents developed between Fabian and Agustin. Fabian tried to terminate their relationship, but Agustin refused and resisted her attempts to do so to the extent of employing acts of harassment, intimidation and threats. She eventually filed an administrative case against Agustin which eventually led to an appeal to the Ombudsman but the Ombudsman, Aniano Desierto, inhibited himself. But the case was later referred to the deputy Ombudsman, Jesus Guerrero.

The deputy ruled in favor of Agustin and he said the decision is final and executory. Fabian appealed the case to the Supreme Court. She averred that Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989) pertinently provides that:

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 Rules of Court.

ISSUE: Whether or not Section 27 of the Ombudsman Act is valid.

HELD: No. It is invalid for it illegally expanded the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Section 27 of RA 6770 cannot validly authorize an appeal to the SC from decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases. It consequently violates the proscription in Section 30, Article VI of the Constitution against a law which increases the Appellate jurisdiction of the SC. No countervailing argument has been cogently presented to justify such disregard of the constitutional prohibition. That constitutional provision was intended to give the SC a measure of control over cases placed under its appellate jurisdiction. Otherwise, the indiscriminate enactment of legislation enlarging its appellate jurisdiction would unnecessarily burden the SC.

Section 30, Article VI of the Constitution is clear when it states that the appellate jurisdiction of the SC contemplated therein is to be exercised over “final judgments and orders of lower courts,” that is, the courts composing the integrated judicial system. It does not include the quasi-judicial bodies or agencies.

But what is the proper remedy?

Appeals from judgments and final orders of quasi-judicial agencies are now required to be brought to the Court of Appeals on a verified petition for review, under the requirements and conditions in Rule 43 of the Rules of Court which was precisely formulated and adopted to provide for a uniform rule of appellate procedure for quasi-judicial agencies.

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