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Miranda v.

Sandiganbayan
G.R. No. 154098| July 27, 2005| J. PUNO| Jonas Manao

FACTS:
The Ombudsman placed Mayor Jose Miranda (then-mayor of Santiago City, Isabela) under preventive
suspension from July 25, 1997 to January 25, 1998 for alleged violations of Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of
Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees).
Subsequently, then-Vice Mayor Amelita Navarro filed a complaint with the Ombudsman, alleging that Mayor
Miranda committed the felony of usurpation of authority or official functions.
Argument: Despite the continuing effectivity of the Ombudsman's preventive suspension order, Mayor
Miranda:
(a) issued a memorandum addressed to Vice Mayor Navarro advising her that he was assuming his position as
City Mayor;
(b) gave directives to the heads of offices and other employees;
(c) issued an office order authorizing certain persons to start work; and
(d) insisted on performing the functions and duties of Mayor, despite Vice Mayor Navarro's requests to desist
from doing so without a valid court order and in spite of the order of Department of Interior and Local
Government (DILG) Undersecretary Manuel Sanchez directing him to cease from reassuming the position.
Defenses of Mayor Miranda:
1. Mayor Miranda reassumed office on the advice of his lawyer and in good faith.
2. Under Section 63(b) of the Local Government Code, local elective officials could not be preventively
suspended for a period beyond 60 days.
3. On the day he reassumed office, he received a memorandum from DILG Undersecretary Manuel Sanchez
instructing him to vacate his office and he immediately complied with the same.
4. Mayor Miranda left the mayoralty post after "coercion" by the Philippine National Police.
The Ombudsman filed with the Sandiganbayan (SB) an information against Mayor Miranda for usurpation of
authority.
SB: Ordered a reinvestigation of the case.
Upon reinvestigation, Special Prosecution Officer Rodrigo Coquia recommended the dismissal of the case.
The Ombudsman's Chief Legal Counsel, however, disagreed and recommended the filing of the case.
The prosecution filed an amended Information with the SB.
The prosecution also filed a motion to suspend Mayor Miranda pendente lite, based on Sec. 13 of RA 3019
(Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).
Defense: The offense of usurpation of authority or official functions is not embraced by Sec. 13, which only
contemplates: (1) offenses under RA 3019; (2) offenses under Title VII, Book II of the RPC; or (3) offenses
which involve "fraud upon government or public funds or property" (meaning, to fraudulent acts involving
public funds or property).
SB: In favor of the Ombudsman; preventively suspended Mayor Miranda from office for 90 days.
Basis: Mayor Miranda's act fell within the catch-all provision ". . . or for any offense involving fraud upon
government." (They interpreted "fraud upon government or public funds or property" as two separate types
of other offenses: (1) those which involve fraud upon government; and (2) those involving public
funds/property)

ISSUES:

1. WON Sec. 13 of RA 3019 applies only to fraudulent acts involving public funds or property?
2. WON the crime of usurpation of authority or official functions involves "fraud upon government or public funds
or property" found in Sec. 13 of RA 3019?

HELD:
1. NO, Sec. 31 applies to offenses involving fraud upon government AND to offenses involving public funds or
property.

To limit the use of "government" as an adjective that qualifies "funds" is baseless. The word "public" precedes "funds"
and distinguishes the same from private funds. To qualify further "public funds" as "government" funds, as petitioner
claims is the law's intent, is plainly superfluous.

2. YES, Mayor Mirandas act constitutes fraud upon government.

"Fraud upon government" means "any instance or act of trickery or deceit against the government." In this case, "fraud
upon government" was committed when the Mayor Miranda allegedly assumed the duties and performed acts pertaining
to the mayor under pretense of official position. His acts therefore in assuming the functions of the mayor despite his
suspension resulted to a clear disruption of office and a chaotic situation in the affairs of the government, as the
employees and the public suffered confusion as to who is the mayor. This actuation constitutes fraud.

Notes:

1. The argument of Mayor Miranda that he reassumed office under an honest belief that he was no longer under
preventive suspension cannot stand scrutiny. In his own affidavit, he states that he refused to leave his
position despite the memorandum of Undersecretary Sanchez and left only a few days after receipt thereof due
to the coercion of the Philippine National Police. This contradicts his assertion that he immediately complied with
the memorandum. Mayor Miranda thus cannot escape from his own admission.

2. The argument that he merely followed the advice of his lawyer is flimsy. He and his counsel should have assailed
the validity of the order of suspension in court instead of taking the law into their own hands.

3. As to the argument that the Ombudsman's authority to preventively suspend local elective officials is limited
by Section 63(b) of the Local Government Code (which allows suspension for a maximum period of only 60 days),
administrative complaints commenced under the Ombudsman Law are distinct from those initiated under the
Local Government Code.
Local Government Code Ombudsman Law
The shorter period of suspension is intended to limit the The Ombudsman can impose a longer period of preventive
period of suspension that may be imposed by a mayor, a suspension because it is not likely to be motivated by
governor, or the President, who may be motivated by partisan political considerations, being a constitutional
partisan political considerations body

DISPOSITIVE: Petition DISMISSED.