Miguel vs. Sandiganbayan, – G.R. No. 172035, July 4, 2012

Facts:
On May 29, 1996, then Vice Mayor Mercelita M. Lucido and other local officials of Koronadal City, South Cotabato filed a letter-complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao charging the petitioner, among others, with violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019, in connection with the consultancy services for the architectural aspect, the engineering design, and the construction supervision and management of the proposed Koronadal City public market (project).

In a June 27, 1996 order, the Ombudsman directed the petitioner, among others, to submit his counter-affidavit. On October 23, 1996, after moving for an extension, the petitioner filed his counter-affidavit. In its July 29, 1999 resolution, the Ombudsman found probable cause against the petitioner and some private individuals for violation of R.A. No. 3019 and against the petitioner alone for Falsification of Public Document under Article 171, par. 4 of the Revised Penal Code.

On March 1, 2000, the Ombudsman filed the corresponding information with the Sandiganbayan.

On August 6, 2002, after several extensions sought and granted, the petitioner filed a Motion to Quash and/or Reinvestigation for the criminal cases against him. On February 18, 2003, the Sandiganbayan denied the petitioner’s motion because of the pending OSP reinvestigation – this, despite the OSP’s earlier termination of the reinvestigation for the petitioner’s continuous failure to submit his counter-affidavit. The petitioner did not question the denial of his motion.

On November 3, 2004, the petitioner was arraigned; he pleaded not guilty in both criminal cases.

On April 28, 2005, the OSP filed a Motion to Suspend [the petitioner] Pendente Lite. On June 27, 2005, the petitioner filed his “Vigorous Opposition” based on the “obvious and fatal defect of the [i]nformation” in failing to allege that the giving of unwarranted benefits and advantages was done through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

On January 25, 2006, the Sandiganbayan promulgated the assailed resolution suspending the petitioner pendente lite.

On February 2, 2006, the petitioner moved for reconsideration of his suspension order and demanded for a pre-suspension hearing. The Sandiganbayan denied his motion, prompting him to file this certiorari petition to challenge the validity of his suspension order.

Issue:
Whether the information, charging the petitioner with violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, is valid;

Held:
Yes, The test of the information’s sufficiency is whether the crime is described in intelligible terms and with such particularity with reasonable certainty so that the accused is duly informed of the offense charged. In particular, whether an information validly charges an offense depends on whether the material facts alleged in the complaint or information shall establish the essential elements of the offense charged as defined in the law. The raison d’etre of the requirement in the Rules is to enable the accused to suitably prepare his defense.

In arguing against the validity of the information, the petitioner appears to go beyond the standard of a “person of common understanding” in appreciating the import of the phrase “acting with evident bad faith and manifest partiality.” A reading of the information clearly reveals that the phrase “acting with evident bad faith and manifest partiality” was merely a continuation of the prior allegation of the acts of the petitioner, and that he ultimately acted with evident bad faith and manifest partiality in giving unwarranted benefits and advantages to his co-accused private individuals. This is what a plain and non-legalistic reading of the information would yield.

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