Buenaseda vs Flavier
G.R No. 106719
This is a petition seeking to nullify the Order of the Ombudsman directing the preventive suspension of petitioners. The questioned order was issued in connection with the administrative complaint filed with the Ombudsman by the private respondents (NCMH Nurses Association) against the petitioners (Dra. Brigida Buenaseda et. al.) for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. On September 22, 1992, the Supreme Court required the respondent (Secretary Juan Flavier of DOH) to maintain in the meantime, the status quo order. The Solicitor General, in his comment, stated that (a) “The authority of the Ombudsman is only to recommend suspension and he has no direct power to suspend;” and (b) “Assuming the Ombudsman has the power to directly suspend a government official or employee, there are conditions required by law for the exercise of such powers; and said conditions have not been met in the instant case”. In upholding the power of the Ombudsman to preventively suspend petitioners, respondents invoke Section 24 of R.A. No. 6770, which provides:
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 charge 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 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. Respondents argue that the power of preventive suspension given the Ombudsman under Section 24 of R.A. No. 6770 was contemplated by Section 13 (8) of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that the Ombudsman shall exercise such other power or perform such functions or duties as may be provided by law."
Whether the Ombudsman has the power to suspend government officials and employees working in offices other than the Office of the Ombudsman, pending the investigation of the administrative complaints filed against said officials and employees.
Yes. When the constitution vested on the Ombudsman the power "to recommend the suspension" of a public official or employees (Sec. 13 ), it referred to "suspension," as a punitive measure. All the words associated with the word "suspension" in said provision referred to penalties in administrative cases, e.g. removal, demotion, fine, censure. Under the rule of Noscitor a sociis, the word "suspension" should be given the same sense as the other words with which it is associated. Where a particular word is equally susceptible of various meanings, its correct construction may be made specific by considering the company of terms in which it is found or with which it is associated. Section 24 of R.A. No. 6770, which grants the Ombudsman the power to preventively suspend public officials and employees facing administrative charges before him, is a procedural, not a penal statute. The preventive suspension is imposed after compliance with the requisites therein set forth, as an aid in the investigation of the administrative charges.