Zoleta vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 185224 – Case Digest

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The case stemmed from an anonymous complaint filed against Constantino-Zoleta, Gadian, and Tangan before the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao for participating in the scheme of questionable grants and donations to fictitious entities using provincial funds. COA conducted special audit and thereafter, the Ombudsman, charged the petitioner, Vice-Governor Felipe Constantino, Violeta Bahilidad, Mari Camanay, and Teodorico Diaz with malversation of public funds by falsification of public documents defined and penalized under Article 217.

The Sandiganbayan found the petitioner and Bahilidad guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. It explained that the petitioner, who was Vice-Governor Constantino’s own daughter and who held the position of Executive Assistant III in his office, committed the following acts: (a) ordered Mary Ann Gadian, a computer operator at the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Sarangani, to make a letter-request for financial assistance using a nonexistent cooperative; (b) directed Jane Tangan, the Local Legislative Staff Officer of the Office of the Vice-Governor, to falsify the signature of WIP’s secretary, Melanie Remulta, on the request-letter; and (c) certified and approved the disbursement voucher; and then presented it to Diaz, Camanay, and Vice-Governor Constantino for their respective signatures.


Whether or not Constantino-Zoleta is guilty of Malversation.


YES. The court ruled that the petitioner is guilty. Malversation may be committed by appropriating public funds or property; by taking or misappropriating the same; by consenting, or through abandonment or negligence, by permitting any other person to take such public funds or property; or by being otherwise guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property. SC enumerated elements common to all acts of malversation under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, are the following: (a) that the offender be a public officer; (b) that he had custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office; (c) that those funds or property were public funds or property for which he was accountable; and (d) that he appropriated, took, misappropriated or consented, or through abandonment or negligence, permitted another person to take them. All the elements of the crime were clearly and sufficiently proved by the prosecution.

SC emphasized that malversation is committed either intentionally or by negligence. The dolo or the culpa present in the offense is only a modality in the perpetration of the felony. Even if the mode charged differs from the mode proved, the same offense of malversation is involved and conviction thereof is proper. All that is necessary for conviction is sufficient proof that the accountable officer had received public funds, that he did not have them in his possession when demand therefor was made, and that he could not satisfactorily explain his failure to do so. Direct evidence of personal misappropriation by the accused is hardly necessary as long as the accused cannot explain satisfactorily the shortage in his accounts. Therefore, the petition was denied and the decision of the Sandiganbayan was affirmed.