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MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court (SC) en banc has unanimously dismissed the petition of Prospero Pichay, Jr., former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), questioning the constitutionality of Executive Order 13.
President Benigno S. Aquino III issued Executive Order 13 abolishing the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) and transferring its investigative, adjudicatory and recommendatory functions to the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs (ODESLA), which is under Office of the President (OP).
Pichay was investigated for grave misconduct in the performance of his duties by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. by virtue of EO 13.
In the 22-page ruling written by Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, the SC said that Pichay failed to discharge the burden of proving the illegality of EO 13.
The SC ruled that the abolition of PAGC and the transfer of functions to Investigative and Adjudicatory Division (IAD)-ODESLA is within the prerogative of the President as Section 31 of the Administrative Code of 1987 (EO 292) expressly "vests in the President the authority to reorganize the offices under him in order to achieve simplicity, economy and efficiency."
The SC said that the reorganization was a mere alteration of the administrative structure of the existing structure of ODESLA through the establishment of a Third Division -- Investigative and Adjudicatory Division (IAD) through which ODESLA could take on the additional functions it has been tasked to discharge under EO 13.
It added that the reorganization was done in good faith, for purposes of economy and efficiency.
Executive Order 13 also does not usurp the legislative power to appropriate funds even if it does not allocate a specific amount for the IAD-ODESLA in the annual budget of the OP since the 1987 Constitution provides that "the President may augment any item in the General Appropriations Law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations."
The SC further explained that the President is merely allocating the existing funds previously appropriated by Congress for his office.
The SC also ruled that IAD-ODESLA is a fact-finding and recommendatory body not vested with quasi-judicial powers since it did not have the power to settle controversies nor adjudicate cases.
Neither does EO 13 encroach upon the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) as the Ombudsman's jurisdiction is to investigate and prosecute criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan while IAD-ODESLA only deals with administrative cases.
The SC stressed that the authority of the Ombudsman to investigate elective and appointive officials in the government is not exclusive.
It noted that EO 13 did not violate Pichay's right to due process and equal protection.
"In administrative proceedings, the filing of charges and giving reasonable opportunity for the person so charged to answer the accusations against him constitute the minimum requirements of due process," the SC said.
Citing Farinas vs. Executive Secretary, it said that "the equal protection clause is not infringed by legislation which applies alike to all persons within such class."
The SC also noted that along with the President's power to remove and/or discipline presidential appointees comes the authority to investigate such public officials.