The Court now looks into the issue of whether De Jesus was rightfully dismissed from the government service, and whether Parungao was righfully exonerated by the CA.
Conclusiveness of Judgment
De Jesus contends that under the doctrine of conclusiveness of judgment and/or res judicata, the present case is bound by the decision of this Court in De Jesus v. Sandiganbayan.
The original complaint filed with the Ombudsman by Facura and Tuason spawned two cases, an administrative proceeding docketed as OMB-C-A-0496-J, which is the subject of this present case, and a proceeding for the determination of probable cause for the filing of criminal charges docketed as OMB-C-C-02-0712-J.
As to the criminal charges, probable cause was found to be present by the Ombudsman, and nine (9) informations for falsification of public documents were separately filed against De Jesus and Parungao with the Sandiganbayan docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 27894-27902. After his Motion to Quash was denied, De Jesus filed a petition for certiorari with this Court docketed as G.R. Nos. 164166 & 164173-80, entitled De Jesus v. Sandiganbayan. This petition was resolved on October 17, 2007 in favor of De Jesus with the finding that the evidence could not sustain a prima facie case. His Motion to Quash was granted for lack of probable cause to form a sufficient belief as to the guilt of the accused. The Court stated that there was no reasonable ground to believe that the requisite criminal intent or mens rea was present, finding that nothing in the two sets of appointment papers constituted an absolutely false narration of facts.
As a result, the criminal cases filed with the Sandiganbayan were consequently dismissed on March 14, 2008. Copies of the decisions of this Court and the Sandiganbayan were submitted to the CA through a Manifestation with Most Urgent Ex-Parte Motion onApril 24, 2008.
De Jesus cited the case of Borlongan v. Buenaventura to support his argument that this administrative case should be bound by the decision in De Jesus v. Sandiganbayan. In Borlongan, similar to the situation prevailing in this case, the complaint-affidavit filed with the Ombudsman also spawned two cases – a proceeding for the determination of probable cause for the filing of criminal charges, and an administrative case subject of the petition. In said case, this Court found that its factual findings regarding the proceeding for the determination of probable cause bound the disposition of the factual issues in the administrative case under the principle of conclusiveness of judgment, as both the probable cause proceeding and the administrative case require the same quantum of evidence, that is, substantial evidence.Furthermore, the factual backdrop in the proceeding for the determination of probable cause, which this Court declared as insufficient to hold respondents for trial, was the same set of facts which confronted this Court in the administrative case.
On the other hand, the Ombudsman, Tuason and LWUA raised the jurisprudential principle that the dismissal of a criminal case involving the same set of facts does not automatically result in the dismissal of the administrative charges due to the distinct and independent nature of one proceeding from the other. They further countered that the only issue resolved in De Jesus was the absence of mens rea, which was not a mandatory requirement for a finding of falsification of official documents as an administrative offense; and although it was found that there was no absolutely false narration of facts in the two sets of appointment papers, the issue in this administrative case was not limited solely to falsification of official documents. It was further contended that the evidence and admissions in the administrative case were different from the evidence in the criminal case, thus, the findings in the criminal case could not bind the administrative case. Finally, they argued that the doctrine of res judicata would only apply to judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and not to administrative matters.
The Court agrees with De Jesus insofar as the finding regarding the falsification of official documents is concerned.
The doctrine of res judicata is set forth in Section 47 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, as follows:
Sec. 47. Effect of judgments or final orders. – The effect of a judgment or final order rendered by a court of thePhilippines, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or final order, may be as follows:
x x x
(b)In other cases, the judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same capacity; and
(c)In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors in interest, that only is deemed to have been adjudged in a former judgment or final order which appears upon its face to have been so adjudged, or which actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto.
The principle of res judicata lays down two main rules: (1) the judgment or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits concludes the litigation between the parties and their privies and constitutes a bar to a new action or suit involving the same cause of action either before the same or any other tribunal; and (2) any right, fact, or matter in issue directly adjudicated or necessarily involved in the determination of an action before a competent court in which a judgment or decree is rendered on the merits is conclusively settled by the judgment therein and cannot again be litigated between the parties and their privies whether or not the claims or demands, purposes, or subject matters of the two suits are the same. The first rule which corresponds to paragraph (b) of Section 47 above, is referred to as “bar by former judgment”; while the second rule, which is embodied in paragraph (c), is known as “conclusiveness of judgment.”
As what is involved in this case is a proceeding for the determination of probable cause and an administrative case, necessarily involving different causes of action, the applicable principle is conclusiveness of judgment. The Court in Calalang v. Register of Deeds of Quezon City explained such, to wit:
The second concept – conclusiveness of judgment- states that a fact or question which was in issue in a former suit and was there judicially passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, is conclusively settled by the judgment therein as far as the parties to that action and persons in privity with them are concerned and cannot be again litigated in any future action between such parties or their privies, in the same court or any other court of concurrent jurisdiction on either the same or different cause of action, while the judgment remains unreversed by proper authority. It has been held that in order that a judgment in one action can be conclusive as to a particular matter in another action between the same parties or their privies, it is essential that the issue be identical. If a particular point or question is in issue in the second action, and the judgment will depend on the determination of that particular point or question, a former judgment between the same parties or their privies will be final and conclusive in the second if that same point or question was in issue and adjudicated in the first suit (Nabus v. Court of Appeals, 193 SCRA 732 ). Identity of cause of action is not required but merely identity of issue.
Justice Feliciano, in Smith Bell & Company (Phils.), Inc. v. Court of Appeals (197 SCRA 201, 210 ), reiterated Lopez v. Reyes (76 SCRA 179 ) in regard to the distinction between bar by former judgment which bars the prosecution of a second action upon the same claim, demand, or cause of action, and conclusiveness of judgment which bars the relitigation of particular facts or issues in another litigation between the same parties on a different claim or cause of action.
The general rule precluding the relitigation of material facts or questions which were in issue and adjudicated in former action are commonly applied to all matters essentially connected with the subject matter of the litigation. Thus, it extends to questions necessarily implied in the final judgment, although no specific finding may have been made in reference thereto and although such matters were directly referred to in the pleadings and were not actually or formally presented. Under this rule, if the record of the former trial shows that the judgment could not have been rendered without deciding the particular matter, it will be considered as having settled that matter as to all future actions between the parties and if a judgment necessarily presupposes certain premises, they are as conclusive as the judgment itself.
Under the principle of conclusiveness of judgment, when a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, or when an opportunity for such trial has been given, the judgment of the court, as long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them. Simply put, conclusiveness of judgment bars the relitigation of particular facts or issues in another litigation between the same parties on a different claim or cause of action.
Although involving different causes of action, this administrative case and the proceeding for probable cause are grounded on the same set of facts, involve the same issue of falsification of official documents, and require the same quantum of evidence– substantial evidence, as was similarly found in Borlongan, and correctly relied upon by De Jesus.
It was ruled in De Jesus that there was no reasonable ground to believe that the requisite criminal intent or mens rea was present. Although the presence of mens rea is indeed unnecessary for a finding of guilt in an administrative case for falsification of official documents, it was expressly found by this Court in De Jesus that there was no absolutely false narration of facts in the two sets of appointment papers. The pertinent portion is quoted hereunder as follows:
Criminal intent must be shown in felonies committed by means of dolo, such as falsification. In this case, there is no reasonable ground to believe that the requisite criminal intent or mens rea was present. The Ombudsman assails the first set of documents with dates of appointment earlier than December 12, 2001. Clearly, the first set of CSC Form No. 33 was prepared earlier as shown by the serial numbers. The first set has serial numbers 168207, 168210, 168213, 168214, 168215, 168216, 168217, 168287 and 168288; while the second set has serial numbers 168292, 168293, 168294, 168295, 168297, 168298, 168299, 168301 and 168304. The Ombudsman also admits this fact.Indeed, petitioner admits having signed two sets of appointment papers but nothing in said documents constitutes an absolutely false narration of facts. The first set was prepared and signed on the basis of the inter-office memoranda issued by the members of the Board appointing their respective confidential staff conformably with the DBM approval. There was no untruthful statement made on said appointment papers as the concerned personnel were in fact appointed earlier than December 12, 2001. In fact, the DBM also clarified that the authority to hire confidential personnel may be implemented retroactive to the date of actual service of the employee concerned.In any case, Jamora authorized the issuance of the second set of appointment papers.Following the CSC Rules, the second set of appointment papers should mean that the first set was ineffective and that the appointing authority, in this case, the members of the Board, shall be liable for the salaries of the appointee whose appointment became ineffective.There was nothing willful or felonious in petitioner’s act warranting his prosecution for falsification. The evidence is insufficient to sustain a prima facie case and it is evident that no probable cause exists to form a sufficient belief as to the petitioner’s guilt. [Emphasis supplied]
Hence, the finding that nothing in the two sets of appointment papers constitutes an absolutely false narration of facts is binding on this case, but only insofar as the issue of falsification of public documents is concerned, and not on the other issues involved herein, namely, the other acts of De Jesus and Parungao which may amount to dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, being notoriously undesirable, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, as charged in the complaint.
Contrary to Tuason and LWUA’s contentions, the factual finding of this Court in De Jesus as to the absence of falsification is based on the same evidence as in this administrative case. There are, however, other evidence and admissions present in this case as cited by Tuason and LWUA which pertain to other issues and not to the issue of falsification.
Meanwhile the doctrine in Montemayor v. Bundalian that res judicata applies only to judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, and not to the exercise of administrative powers, has been abandoned in subsequent cases which have since applied the principle of res judicata to administrative cases. Hence, res judicata can likewise be made applicable to the case at bench. Thus, given all the foregoing, the factual finding in De Jesus that there was no false statement of facts in both sets of appointment papers, is binding in this case.
Even granting that the principle of conclusiveness of judgment is inapplicable to the case at bench, this Court finds no cogent reason to deviate from the factual findings in De Jesus based on a careful review of the evidence on record. The existence of malice or criminal intent is not a mandatory requirement for a finding of falsification of official documents as an administrative offense. What is simply required is a showing that De Jesus and Parungao prepared and signed the appointment papers knowing fully well that they were false.
The Court, however, believes that in this case, at the time each set of appointment papers were made, De Jesus and Parungao believed they were making true statements. They prepared and signed the first set on the basis of the inter-office memoranda issued by the Board members appointing their respective confidential staff conformably with DBM approval. The second set was prepared to correct the retroactive appointments to conform to the CSC reportorial requirements, and the same was also approved by Administrator Jamora. There was no reason for De Jesus and Parungao to believe such to be false. Irregular it is perhaps, not being in conformity with the CSC rules on accreditation, but not false. Therefore, this Court finds that no falsification of official documents occured.