‘Disregard, ignore’ rulings that violate due process — SC

Published July 20, 2021, 1:22 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court (SC)

Rulings by the courts or quasi-judicial bodies that disregard the fundamental right to due process are null and void for lack of jurisdiction.

“Any judgment or decision rendered notwithstanding such violation may be regarded as a lawless thing, which can be treated as an outlaw and slain at sight, or ignored wherever it exhibits its ugly head…” the Supreme Court (SC) reiterated in a decision made public last July 9.

The SC’s unanimous full court decision, written by Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro Javier, nullified the 2020 decision of the Commission on Audit (COA) which held Victor M. Barroso, former president of the Bukidnon State University (BSU), solidarily liable with two other university officials for the loss of P574.215.27 in payroll money in 2005.

Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro Javier

A check with Google showed that Barroso retired in 2015.

The dispositive portion of the decision:

“ACCORDINGLY, the petition is GRANTED. Decision Nos. 2015-157 and 2020-232 dated April 6, 2015 and January 29, 2020, respectively, of the Commission on Audit – Commission Proper are NULLIFIED insofar as they hold petitioner Victor M. Barroso solidarily liable with Evelyn S. Mag-abo and Wilma L. Gregory to return the amount of P574,215.27. SO ORDERED.”

On March 17, 2005, Administrative Officer Mag-abo was granted a cash advance of P574,215.27 for the payment of the salaries of the BSU employees for March 16-31, 2005. She went to the bank to encash the check.

Since there were several customers at the bank, she went back to BSU. At 11 a.m., she, together with four other university employees, went back to the bank to get the cash.

However, on their way back to BSU, Mag-abo’s bag was snatched by an unidentified man who boarded a motorcycle and escaped towards Cagayan de Oro City.

The incident was reported to BSU’s Chief Administrative Officer Gregory and to the Malaybalay City police.

On April 1, 2005, the COA’s audit team demanded from Mag-abo her cash shortage of P574,215.27. The case underwent several processes until it reached COA Proper where Barroso, for the first time, was included in the ruling.

On April 6, 2015, the COA Proper denied Mag-abo’s motion and held her, petitioner (Barroso), and Gregory solidarily liable for the stolen amount, owing to their supposed negligence when the loss occurred.

COA Proper faulted them for the loss of the payroll money in 2005 for their negligence in providing security escort and service vehicle during the time of the loss.

Surprised since he was never a party to the case, Barroso filed a motion to reconsider COA Proper’s ruling. He invoked his right to due process and questioned the basis of his liability.

On Jan. 29, 2020, COA Proper denied Barroso’s motion as it ruled that he was not denied due process with the filing of his plea for reconsideration.

Although the SC said there were flaws in the filing of Barroso’s petition with the High Court, it decided to tackle the issue on the its merits “in the higher interest of substantial justice.”

The SC said:

“The mere filing of a motion for reconsideration does not cure due process defects, especially if the said motion was filed precisely to raise the issue of violation of the right to due process and the lack of opportunity to be heard on the merits.

“Here, petitioner (Barroso) was found liable though he was never charged. The proceedings prior to the COA Proper’ s reconsideration all pointed to Mag-abo as sole negligent party responsible for the loss of the P57 4,215.27 representing the salaries of BSU personnel.

“Petitioner only got involved in the proceedings when the COA Proper denied Mag-abo’s motion for reconsideration and ordered him to pay the unliquidated amount.

“Worse, he was deprived of the opportunity to examine the evidence against him, for he was never served a copy of Mag-abo’s submissions which formed the very basis of the adverse ruling of the COA Proper.

“Though petitioner raised this due process violation issue before the COA Proper, the latter never addressed his concern. It simply ruled that the very pleading which raised due process violation was the very pleading which afforded him due process.

“But this cannot be the case. For a perusal of petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration before the COA Proper reveals that he never had the opportunity to thoroughly argue the merits of his case precisely because he was not properly informed of what he was supposed to argue against (i.e. the accusations and statements against him in Mag-abo’s submissions).

“Thus, petitioner was constrained to limit the discussion in his motion for reconsideration to the issue of due process. Surely, this cannot be considered the opportunity to be heard within the concept of administrative due process.

“Where the denial of the fundamental right of due process is apparent, a decision rendered in disregard of such right is void for lack of jurisdiction.”