FACTS

Private complainant Georgito Posesano was an Instructor II with Salary Grade 13 while private complainant Magdalena Divinagracia was an Education Program Specialist II with Salary Grade 16, both at the Surigao del Norte School of Arts and Trades (SNSAT). The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Caraga Administrative Region, appointed and promoted private complainants as Vocational Instruction Supervisor III with Salary Grade 18 at SNSAT. These promotional appointments were duly approved and attested as permanent by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).  Being then the Officer-in-Charge of SNSAT, the approved appointments were formally transmitted to the petitioner copy furnished the concerned appointees. Despite receipt of the appointment letter, the private complainants were not able to assume their new position since petitioner made known that he strongly opposed their appointments and that he would not implement them despite written orders from CHED and the CSC. Thus, private complainants lodged a formal complaint against petitioner for grave abuse of authority and disrespect of lawful orders before the Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao.  For his defense, petitioner admitted that he did not implement the promotional appointments of the private complainants because of some procedural lapses or infirmities attending the preparation of the appointment papers. According to him, the appointment papers were prepared by SNSAT Administrative Officer, Crispin Noguera, using blank forms bearing the letterhead of SNSAT and not of the CHED Regional Office who made the appointments. He also averred that the appointment papers cited the entire plantilla instead of only the particular page on which the vacant item occurs. He likewise claimed that he received only the duplicate copies of the appointments contrary to the usual procedure where the original appointment papers and other supporting documents are returned to his office. Finally, he asserted that the transmittal letter from the CHED did not specify the date of effectivity of the appointments. Petitioner alleged that his refusal to implement the appointments of the private complainants was not motivated by bad faith but he just wanted to protect the interest of the government by following strict compliance in the preparation of appointment papers. The RTC rendered its Decision holding that the act of the petitioner in defying the orders of the CHED and the CSC to implement the subject promotional appointments despite the rejection of his opposition, demonstrates his palpable and patent fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do moral obliquity or conscious wrongdoing for some perverse motive or ill will.  On appeal, petitioner’s conviction was affirmed in toto by the Sandiganbayan. The appellate court ruled that the Decision of the trial court, being supported by evidence and firmly anchored in law and jurisprudence, is correct. It held that petitioner failed to show that the trial court committed any reversible error in judgment.

Invoking the constitutional provision on due process,  petitioner argues that the Decision rendered by the trial court is flawed and is grossly violative of his right to be heard and to present evidence. He contends that he was not able to controvert the findings of the trial court since he was not able to present the Court of Appeals’ (CA’s) Decision which denied the administrative case filed against him and declared that his intention in refusing to implement the promotions of the private complainants falls short of malice or wrongful intent.

ISSUE

Whether the petitioner’s constitutional rights  to due process and equal protection of the law  were violated when he was denied the opportunity to present in evidence the Court of Appeals’ Decision dated April 18, 2001

HELD

The petition lacks of merit. Petitioner was not deprived of his right to due process. Petitioner can hardly claim denial of his fundamental right to due process. Records show that petitioner was able to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him, argue his case vigorously, and explain the merits of his defense. To reiterate, as long as a party was given the opportunity to defend his interests in due course, he cannot be said to have been denied due process of law for the opportunity to be heard is the better accepted norm of procedural due process.  There is also no denial of due process when the trial court did not allow petitioner to introduce as evidence the CA Decision. It is well within the court’s discretion to reject the presentation of evidence which it judiciously believes irrelevant and impertinent to the proceeding on hand. This is specially true when the evidence sought to be presented in a criminal proceeding as in this case, concerns an administrative matter. The findings in administrative cases are not binding upon the court trying a criminal case, even if the criminal proceedings are based on the same facts and incidents which gave rise to the administrative matter. The dismissal of a criminal case does not foreclose administrative action or necessarily gives the accused a clean bill of health in all respects. In the same way, the dismissal of an administrative case does not operate to terminate a criminal proceeding with the same subject matter.

At any rate, even assuming that the trial court erroneously rejected the introduction as evidence of the CA Decision, petitioner is not left without legal recourse. Petitioner could have availed of the remedy provided in Section 40, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court (cite the codal provision).

As observed by the appellate court, if the petitioner is keen on having the RTC admit the CA’s Decision for whatever it may be worth, he could have included the same in his offer of exhibits. If an exhibit sought to be presented in evidence is rejected, the party producing it should ask the court’s permission to have the exhibit attached to the record.

Rule 133 Weight and Sufficiency of Evidence

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