SC allows Ombudsman to inquire into bank deposits of ex-Pres. Estrada, others

Published June 30, 2022, 5:25 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court (SC)

The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed a Court of Appeals (CA) 2006 decision that, in effect, allowed the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) to inquire into the bank accounts of former President Joseph E. Estrada, his alleged mistresses, and other persons with the then Allied Banking Corporation (Allied Bank), now the Philippine National Bank (PNB).

In a resolution promulgated last March 29 and made public last June 28, the SC ruled that the OMB has the authority to inquire into bank deposits of public officials and employees under investigation.

The resolution dismissed the petition filed by Allied Bank which challenged the OMB’s ruling that ordered the bank to produce the records of the savings, current, time deposit, trust, and foreign currency deposits in the names of the former President, Jose Velarde, Laarni Enriquez, Guia Gomez, Joy Melendrez, Peachy Osorio, Rowena Lopez, and Kevin or Kelvin Garcia.

The OMB said the inquiry of the bank records was prompted by several complaints filed against former Estrada after he stepped down from his post in 2001.

The CA ruled that its jurisdiction over OMB’s orders or decisions extends only to those rendered in administrative disciplinary cases.

When the CA denied Allied Bank motion for reconsideration, it elevated the issue before the SC on a petition for review.

Allied Bank, now PNB, told the SC that the CA erred in ruling that it has no jurisdiction over petitions seeking to question orders of the Ombudsman issued in the ordinary course of its investigatory powers.

In its resolution dismissing Allied Bank’s petition, the SC noted that Estrada had been found guilty of plunder and was imprisoned due to his conviction.

Although he received clemency and his civil and political rights had been restored, the SC disclosed that the investigation against him, his mistresses and several others are still ongoing with the Ombudsman.

“Notwithstanding, per records of this case, it was certified by the 0MB that ‘it appears that relative to G.R. No. 174755 entitled ‘Allied Banking Corporation vs. Office of the Ombudsman,’ CPL No. 01-0247 docketed as OMB-C-C-02-0614-I, is still active in the CCMS (Complaint and Case Monitoring System) database. It would seem that the investigation against Estrada, et. al. is still active. Hence, the need to resolve the instant case,” the SC said.

It pointed out: “Established is the rule that the CA has jurisdiction over orders, directives, and decisions of the 0MB in administrative disciplinary cases only. It cannot, therefore, review the orders, directives or decisions of the 0MB in criminal or non-administrative cases.”

It also said that “… at the time of the issuance of subpoena duces tecum addressed to petitioner (Allied Bank), the prevailing doctrine is that the 0MB may examine and access bank accounts and records in aid of their investigation, even without a pending litigation.”

“Without a doubt, the 0MB had the authority to issue the assailed subpoena duces tecum addressed to petitioner requiring it to produce the subject bank accounts of Estrada, et. al.,” it said.

The SC ruled:

“All told, We find no reason to overturn the rulings of the CA and the Office of the Ombudsman.

“WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, the instant petition is DISMISSED. The June 16, 2006 Decision and Sept. 20, 2006 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 63 731, are AFFIRMED in toto. SO ORDERED.”