BAGUIO CITY (Apr. 24) — The preventive suspension of BIR Large Taxpayers’ Document Processing and Quality Assurance Division Chief Beatriz Peliño got a thumbs up from the high Tribunal, here Thursday.
The Supreme Court summer session Thursday reversed and set aside the Court of Appeals (CA) permanent injunction stopping the Ombudsman and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) from suspending the BIR executive over dishonesty, grave misconduct, perjury, and unexplained wealth charges.
The Supreme Court En Banc ruled that it is within the Ombudsman’s power to order the preventive suspension of Peliño, given her high rank and delicate office and the gravity of the charges against her in the 24-page unanimous decision was penned by Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago.
Docketed as OMB-C-A-05-237-F, the decision enumerated the violations by Peliño which include illegally acquiring and accumulating property and investments amounting to Php10,891,009.11; incurring expenses and liabilities grossly disproportionate to her income and earning capacity as a government employee; failure to disclose material information in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN); and false declaration of information in her Personal Data Sheet (PDS).
However, considering that OMB-C-A-05-237 has already been submitted for decision, the Court held that “respondent Peliño may no longer be placed under preventive suspension, as the necessity therefore no longer exists.”
The Court found that the order of preventive suspension was issued only after Peliño had filed a sworn explanation detailing her defenses to the charges made against her and after an assessment of her defenses had been made.
“There was no abuse of the exercise of the Ombudsman’s discretion,” the high Tribunal said.
The Court stressed that preventive suspension is “merely a preventive measure, a preliminary step in an administrative investigation; the purpose is to prevent the accused from using his position and the powers and prerogatives of his office to influence potential witnesses or tamper with records which may be vital in the prosecution of the case against her”
In 2005, the Field Investigation Office (FIO) of the Office of the Ombudsman, as nominal complainant through its Graft Investigation Officer Maria Olivia Elena A. Roxas, lodged a complaint against Peliño charging her with 18 counts of perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code and RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees for filing a false SALN; dishonesty and grave misconduct under EO 292 or the Administrative Code; and unexplained wealth under RA 1379, declaring forfeiture in favor of the State any property found to have been unlawfully acquired by any public officer or employee.
After Peliño’s filing of a Sworn Explanation in her defense, the Ombudsman issued the preventive suspension order for a period of six (6) months and directing her to file her counter-affidavit.
Before the Ombudsman’s ruling, Peliño sought the CA via a petition for certiorari with application for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction against the Ombudsman and the CIR.
After granting Peliño’s application for TRO and a writ of preliminary injunction, the CA later made permanent the writ of injunction enjoining the Ombudsman and the CIR from enforcing the preventive suspension order.
Peliño was charged together with Joseph Albert Peliño Cuaki who is allegedly his son as appearing on the latter’s birth certificate, but is denied by the former in her PDS. # Ace Alegre for NORDIS