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High court upholds Ombudsman’s ruling vs GenSan deeds execs


By Benjamin B. Pulta

02/28/2010 [ tribune.net.ph ]

The Supreme Court (SC) has issued out a ruling declaring the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao’s order faulting the Gen. Santos City Register of Deeds officer for neglect of duty for allegedly failing to act upon a reported irregularity and imposing a one-month suspension without pay on her is final and executory.

In its decision, the SC First Division granted the petition for review on certiorari filed by the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao faulting Register of Deeds Asteria Cruzabra, and reversed and set aside the Dec. 14, 2007 and June 17, 2008 resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA).

In a six-page decision by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, the SC First Division said: “In the present case, petitioner Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao’s order of May 18, 2004 finding respondent administratively liable for neglect of duty, which ‘implies the failure to give proper attention to a task expected of an employee arising from either carelessness or indifference,’ was adequately established by substantial evidence.”

The decision was concurred in by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, chairman of the SC First Division; and members, Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de-Castro, Lucas Bersamin and Martin Villarama Jr.

Records showed that Anwar Mohamad Abdurasak and Jovina Tama Mohamad Abdurasak, via a petition filed before the Office of the Register of Deeds of Gen. Santos City, sought the inclusion of the name “Ali Mohamad Abdurasak” in Transfer Certificates of Titles Nos. T-89456 and T-89458.

Without authority from the Cruzabra, land registration examiner Bienvenido Managuit acted on the petition by instructing the office clerk to type the name “Ali Mohamad Abdurasak” on the face of the titles.

Due to the unauthorized intercalation, Datu Sarip Andang filed a criminal case before the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao against Cruzabra, as the city’s register of deeds, for falsification of public documents and usurpation of official functions.

In her counter-affidavit, Cruzabra alleged that, “inter alia, the intercalation was made without her authority and it occurred outside her cubicle; that upon learning about it, she did not correct the same for to do so would subject her or the author thereof to a charge of falsification of public documents; and that the proper parties to question the intercalation are those whose interests on the titles were prejudiced thereby.”

Ombudsman Prosecutor Liza Tan found no probable cause to charge Cruzabra with usurpation of official functions and accordingly ordered the withdrawal of the information for falsification of public documents which apparently had been filed earlier.

But on Tan’s recommendation, an administrative case for simple misconduct was filed against Cruzabra.

The Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, through Deputy Ombudsman Antonio Valenzuela’s order dated May 18, 2004, found Cruzabra liable for neglect of duty and accordingly imposed on her the penalty of suspension for one month without pay, pursuant to Section 46, Book 5, Title 1 of Executive Order 292 (the Administrative Code of 1987).

On Cruzabra’s appeal, the CA, however, issued out a ruling on Dec. 14, 2007, finding no basis for the charge of her being negligent and reversed the Ombudsman’s ruling.

The CA, though, admonished her.

After the motion for reconsideration was denied by the appelate court, the Ombudsman-Mindanao filed a petition for review on certiorari.

The SC granted the petition and declared, “At all events, the May 18, 2004 order of petitioner which imposed upon respondent the penalty of suspension for one month without pay for neglect of duty is final, executory and unappealable pursuant to Section 27 of Republic Act 6770.

RA 6770 states that “findings of facts by the Office of the Ombudsman, when supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. Any order, directive or decision imposing the penalty of public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month’s salary shall be final and unappealable.”

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