We commend the graft investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman in their efforts to cleanse our bureaucracy of scalawags. Sometimes, however, in their zeal and haste to pin down the culprits they tend to circumvent some procedures. In this case, Graft Investigation Officer Soquilon forgot that there are always two (2) sides to an issue and that each party must be given every opportunity to air his grievance or explain his side as the case may be. This is the essence of due process.
It must be borne in mind that this Court is not merely a Court of law but of equity as well. Justice dictates that the DAR Secretary must determine with deliberate dispatch whether indeed no notice of coverage was furnished to respondents and payment of just compensation was unduly withheld from them despite the fact that the assailed CLOAs were already registered, on the premise that respondents were unaware of the CARP coverage of their properties; hence, their right to protest the same under the law was defeated. Respondents’ right to due process must be equally respected. Apropos is our ruling in Heir of Nicolas Jugalbot v. Court of Appeals:
[I]t may not be amiss to stress that laws which have for their object the preservation and maintenance of social justice are not only meant to favor the poor and underprivileged. They apply with equal force to those who, notwithstanding their more comfortable position in life, are equally deserving of protection from the courts. Social justice is not a license to trample on the rights of the rich in the guise of defending the poor, where no act of injustice or abuse is being committed against them.
As the court of last resort, our bounden duty to protect the less privileged should not be carried out to such an extent as to deny justice to landowners whenever truth and justice happen to be on their side. For in the eyes of the Constitution and the statutes, EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW remains the bedrock principle by which our Republic abides.