Gross misconduct and dishonesty are serious charges which warrant the removal or dismissal from service of the erring public officer or employee, together with the accessory penalties, such as cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in government service. Hence, a finding that a public officer or employee is administratively liable for such charges must be supported by substantial evidence.
The quantum of evidence required in administrative cases is substantial evidence. The landmark case Ang Tibay v. Court of Industrial Relations laid down the guidelines for quasi-judicial administrative proceedings, including the following:
(4) Not only must there be some evidence to support a finding or conclusion (City of Manila vs. Agustin, G. R. No. 45844, promulgated November 29, 1937, XXXVI 0.G. 1335), but the evidence must be “substantial.” (Washington, Virginia& Maryland Coach Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 301 U. S.142, 147, 57 S. Ct.648, 650, 81 Law. ed. 965.) “Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” (Appalachian Electric Power v. National Labor Relations Board, 4 Cir., 93 F. 2d 985, 989; National Labor Relations Board v. Thompson Products, 6 Cir., 97 F. 2d 13, 15; Ballston-Stillwater Knitting Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 2 Cir., 98 F. 2d 758, 760.) * * * The statute provides that ‘the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law and equity shall not be controlling.’ The obvious purpose of this and similar provisions is to free administrative boards from the compulsion of technical rules so that the mere admission of matter which would be deemed incompetent in judicial proceedings would not invalidate the administrative order. (Interstate Commerce Commission v. Baird, 194 U. S. 25, 44, 24 S. Ct. 563, 568, 48 Law. ed. 860; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 227 U. S. 88, 93, 33 S. Ct. 185, 187, 57 Law. ed. 431; United States v. Abilene & Southern Ry. Co., 265 U. S. 274, 288, 44 S. Ct. 565, 569, 68 Law. ed. 1016; Tagg Bros. & Moorhead v. United States, 280 U. S. 420, 442, 50 S. Ct. 220, 225, 74 Law. ed. 624.) But this assurance of a desirable flexibility in administrative procedure does not go so far as to justify orders without a basis in evidence having rational probative force. Mere uncorroborated hearsay or rumor does not constitute substantial evidence. (Consolidated Edison Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 59 S. Ct. 206, 83 Law. ed. No. 4, Adv. Op., p. 131.) “
(5) The decision must be rendered on the evidence presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties affected. (Interstate Commence Commission vs. L. & N. R. Co., 227U. S. 88, 33S. Ct. 185, 57 Law. ed. 431.) Only by confining the administrative tribunal to the evidence disclosed to the parties, can the latter be protected in their right to know and meet the case against them. It should not, however, detract from their duty actively to see that the law is enforced, and for that purpose, to use the authorized legal methods of securing evidence and informing itself of facts material and relevant to the controversy. Boards of inquiry may be appointed for the purpose of investigating and determining the facts in any given case, but their report and decision are only advisory. (Section 9, Commonwealth Act No. 103.) x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)
In the Petition at bar, great, if not absolute, reliance was made by the Office of the Ombudsman on the Complaint of the PNP-CIDG and the attached Joint Affidavit of its investigating officers. Although certain pieces of documentary evidence were also attached to the said Complaint, such as TCTs and tax declarations of the real properties in the names of petitioner, his wife, and his children, and the travel information provided by the BID, these mostly prove facts which were not denied by petitioner, but for which he had credible explanation or qualification. These pieces of evidence may have been sufficient to give rise to a prima facie presumption of unlawfully acquired wealth against petitioner; however, such a presumption is disputable or rebuttable. When petitioner presented evidence in support of his defense, the Office of the Ombudsman proceeded to question and challenge and, ultimately, disregard in totality petitioner’s evidence, despite the fact that the PNP-CIDG no longer presented any evidence to controvert the same.
Each party in an administrative case must prove his affirmative allegation with substantial evidence – the complainant has to prove the affirmative allegations in his complaint, and the respondent has to prove the affirmative allegations in his affirmative defenses and counterclaims. In this case, contrary to the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Court of Appeals, this Court pronounces that substantial evidence sways in favor of the petitioner and against complainant PNP-CIDG.
While this Court commends the efforts of the PNP-CIDG and the Office of the Ombudsman to hold accountable public officers and employees with unexplained wealth and unlawfully acquired properties, it cannot countenance unsubstantiated charges against a hapless public official just to send a message that the government is serious in its campaign against graft and corruption. No matter how noble the intentions of the PNP-CIDG and the Office of the Ombudsman are in pursuing this administrative case against petitioner, it will do them well to remember that good intentions do not win cases; evidence does.