Saturday, January 28, 2012

Domdom vs. Sandiganbayan (February 24, 2010)

Facts: By Affidavit of February 15, 2002, Hilconeda P. Abril, State Auditor V of the Commission on Audit requested the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation on the transactions-bases of the claims of Jaime S. Domdom miscellaneous and extraordinary expenses as a Director of Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), the receipts covering which were alleged to be tampered. After preliminary investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge petitioner with nine counts of estafa through falsification of documents in view of irregularities in nine supporting receipts for his claims for miscellaneous and extraordinary expenses, after verification with the establishments he had transacted with. It thus directed the filing of the appropriate Informations with the Sandiganbayan.

The informations were raffled and lodged among the 5 divisions of the Sandiganbayan. 3 divisions granted petitioners motion for consolidation while 2 others disallowed it. Petitioner thus seeks relief from this Court via the present Petition for Certiorari, with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction, to enjoin the different divisions of the Sandiganbayan from further proceeding with the cases against him during the pendency of this petition. Petitioner argues that, among other things, all the cases against him arose from substantially identical series of transactions involving alleged overstatements of miscellaneous and extraordinary expenses.

Issue: Should the motion for consolidation be granted?

Held: Yes, it should be granted. In Teston v. Development Bank of the Philippines, the Court laid down the requisites for the consolidation of cases to wit:

A court may order several actions pending before it to be tried together where they arise from the same act, event or transaction, involve the same or like issues, and depend largely or substantially on the same evidence, provided that the court has jurisdiction over the cases to be consolidated and that a joint trial will not give one party an undue advantage or prejudice the substantial rights of any of the parties. The rule allowing consolidation is designed to avoid multiplicity of suits, to guard against oppression or abuse, to prevent delays, to clear congested dockets, and to simplify the work of the trial court – in short, the attainment of justice with the least expense and vexation to the parties-litigants.

In the present case, it would be more in keeping with law and equity if all the cases filed against petitioner were consolidated with that having the lowest docket number pending with the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan. The only notable differences in these cases lie in the date of the transaction, the entity transacted with and amount involved. The charge and core element are the same – estafa through falsification of documents based on alleged overstatements of claims for miscellaneous and extraordinary expenses. Notably, the main witness is also the same.

It need not be underscored that consolidation of cases, when proper, results in the simplification of proceedings which saves time, the resources of the parties and the courts, and a possible major abbreviation of trial. It contributes to the swift dispensation of justice, and is in accord with the aim of affording the parties a just, speedy and inexpensive determination of their cases before the courts. Above all, consolidation avoids the possibility of rendering conflicting decisions in two or more cases which would otherwise require a single judgment.

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1 comments: on "Domdom vs. Sandiganbayan (February 24, 2010)"

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