Gallardo v. People, GR 142030, 21 April 2005
Petitioners Mayor Gallardo and other public officers of the municipality of Bansalan, Davao Del Sur were accused of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 for their alleged refusal to appropriate in the municipal budget the amount representing payment of the mandatory statutory obligations of the Municipality of Bansalan accruing to the complaining PHWs in the nature of unpaid salary differential and magna carta benefits. Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 for their alleged refusal to appropriate in the municipal budget the amount representing payment of the mandatory statutory obligations of the Municipality of Bansalan accruing to the complaining PHWs in the nature of unpaid salary differential and magna carta benefits. On 08 January 1999, herein public respondent Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto approved the Resolution dated 26 November 1998 of Graft Investigation Officer II Jovito A. Coresis, Jr., of the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, finding probable cause to indict petitioners of the crime alleged. On 24 February 1999, petitioners filed a Motion for Reinvestigation, in which the Sandiganbayan granted the motion in a resolution dated 27 April 1999 and ordered the prosecution to conduct a reinvestigation. In a resolution dated 26 July 1999, Special Prosecutor II Jose O. Montero, Jr., recommended the dismissal of the case, which recommendation was approved by Prosecution Bureau Director Victorio U. Tabanguil, Deputy Special Prosecutor Robert E. Kallos and concurred in by Special Prosecutor Leonardo P. Tamayo. This recommendation, however, was disapproved by Ombudsman Desierto who stated in his own handwriting "[l]et the court determine if indeed the evidence cannot stand the judicial scrutiny." On 15 November 1999, petitioners filed a motion to quash the information anchored on the following grounds: 1) the facts charged do not constitute an offense; 2) the accused are denied due process; and 3) the accused are not accorded the equal protection of laws. On 06 January 2000, the Sandiganbayan denied petitioners’ motion. It ruled that the averments in the Information sufficiently charged the offense, and that the mere fact that cases similar to this case were dismissed by the Ombudsman does not mean due process or equal protection of the law clause was denied the petitioners.
Whether the Ombudsman violated the Equal Protections Clause of the Constitution for not dismissing the petitioners’ case.
No. The contention that petitioners’ right to equal protection of the law has been transgressed is equally untenable. The equal protection clause requires that the law operates uniformly on all persons under similar circumstances or that all persons are treated in the same manner, the conditions not being different, both in privileges conferred and the liabilities imposed. It allows reasonable classification. If the classification is characterized by real and substantial differences, one class may be treated differently from another. Simply because the respondent Ombudsman dismissed some cases allegedly similar to the case at bar is not sufficient to impute arbitrariness or caprice on his part, absent a clear showing that he gravely abused his discretion in pursuing the instant case. The Ombudsman dismissed those cases because he believed there were no sufficient grounds for the accused therein to undergo trial. On the other hand, he recommended the filing of appropriate information against petitioners because there are ample grounds to hold them for trial. He was only exercising his power and discharging his duty based upon the constitutional mandate of his office. Stated otherwise, the circumstances obtaining in the numerous cases previously dismissed by the Ombudsman are entirely divergent from those here existing.