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Fabian v. Desierto, G.R. No. 129742, 16 September 1998

En Banc

[REGALADO, J.]

FACTS: Petitioner Teresita G. Fabian was the major stockholder and president of PROMAT Construction Development Corporation (PROMAT) which participated in the bidding for government construction projects including those under the First Manila Engineering District (FMED), and private respondent Nestor V. Agustin, incumbent District Engineer, reportedly taking advantage of his official position, inveigled petitioner into an amorous relationship. After misunderstandings and unpleasant incidents, Fabian eventually filed the aforementioned administrative case against Agustin in a letter-complaint. The  Graft Investigator of the Ombudsman issued a resolution finding private respondent guilty of grave misconduct and ordering his dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all benefits under the law. On a motion for reconsideration, Agustin was exonerated of the administrative charges.

In the present appeal, petitioner argues 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 (Emphasis supplied)

 

ISSUE#1: Can the Court resolve the constitutionality of Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 not raised in the trial?

HELD#1: YES.

Constitutional questions, not raised in the regular and orderly procedure in the trial are ordinarily rejected unless the jurisdiction of the court below or that of the appellate court is involved in which case it may be raised at any time or on the court’s own motion.  The Court ex mero motu may take cognizance of lack of jurisdiction at any point in the case where that fact is developed. The court has a clearly recognized right to determine its own jurisdiction in any proceeding.

ISSUE#2: Is Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 unconstitutional?

HELD#2: YES.

Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 cannot validly authorize an appeal to this Court 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 this Court. No countervailing argument has been cogently presented to justify such disregard of the constitutional prohibition which, as correctly explained in First Lepanto Ceramics, Inc. vs. The Court of Appeals, et al.  was intended to give this Court 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 Court.

As a consequence of our ratiocination that Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 should be struck down as unconstitutional, and in line with the regulatory philosophy adopted in appeals from quasi-judicial agencies in the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, appeals from decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases should be taken to the Court of Appeals under the provisions of Rule 43.

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