As early as 1995, this Court ruled in Lastimosa v. Vasquez and Hagad v. Gozo-Dadole, that neither prior notice nor a hearing is required for the issuance of a preventive suspension order. The well-settled doctrine is solidly anchored on the explicit text of the governing law which is Section 24 of R.A. No. 6770. The provision defines the authority of the Ombudsman to preventively suspend government officials and employees. It reads:
SEC. 24. Preventive Suspension.—The Ombudsman or his Deputy may preventively suspend any officer or employee under his authority pending an investigation, if in his judgment the evidence of guilt is strong, and (a) the charge against such officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; (b) the charges would warrant removal from the service; or (c) the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.
The preventive suspension shall continue until the case is terminated by the Office of the Ombudsman but not more than six months, without pay, except when the delay in the disposition of the case by the Office of the Ombudsman is due to the fault, negligence or petition of the respondent, in which case the period of such delay shall not be counted in computing the period of suspension herein provided.
Clearly, the plain language of the above-quoted provision debunks the appellate court’s position that the order meting out preventive suspension may not be issued without prior notice and hearing and before the issues are joined. Under Section 24, two requisites must concur to render the preventive suspension order valid. The first requisite is unique and can be satisfied in only one way. It is that in the judgment of the Ombudsman or the Deputy Ombudsman, the evidence of guilt is strong. The second requisite, however, may be met in three (3) different ways, to wit: (1) that the offense charged involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; (2) the charge would warrant removal from the service; or (3) the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.