Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Essential elements of violation of Sec. 3(e) of RA 3019


“x x x.

3. Anent the issue on the alleged grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction committed by the court a quo when it took cognizance of Criminal Case No. 24182, charging petitioner for "taking advantage of her official position and the discharge of the functions as such," petitioner averred that the charge was erroneous because borrowing of money is not a function of a Municipal Treasurer under the Local Government Code. Petitioner asserts that the last sentence of Sec. 3(e) of RA 3019 cannot cover her.

We find such reasoning misplaced.

The following are the essential elements of violation of Sec. 3(e) of RA 3019:

1. The accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions;

2. He must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or inexcusable negligence; and

3. That his action caused any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions.31

There is no doubt that petitioner, being a municipal treasurer, was a public officer discharging official functions when she misused such position to be able to take out a loan from Moleta, who was misled into the belief that petitioner, as municipal treasurer, was acting on behalf of the municipality.

In Montilla v. Hilario,32 this Court described the "offense committed in relation to the office" as:

[T]he relation between the crime and the office contemplated by the Constitution is, in our opinion, direct and not accidental. To fall into the intent of the Constitution, the relation has to be such that, in the legal sense, the offense cannot exist without the office. In other words, the office must be a constituent element of the crime as defined in the statute, such as, for instance, the crimes defined and punished in Chapter Two to Six, Title Seven, of the Revised Penal Code.

Public office is not of the essence of murder. The taking of human life is either murder or homicide whether done by a private citizen or public servant, and the penalty is the same except when the perpetrator, being a public functionary took advantage of his office, as alleged in this case, in which event the penalty is increased.

But the use or abuse of office does not adhere to the crime as an element; and even as an aggravating circumstance, its materiality arises not from the allegations but on the proof, not from the fact that the criminals are public officials but from the manner of the commission of the crime. (Emphasis supplied)

In this case, it was not only alleged in the Information, but was proved with certainty during trial that the manner by which petitioner perpetrated the crime necessarily relates to her official function as a municipal treasurer. Petitioner’s official function created in her favor an impression of authority to transact business with Moleta involving government financial concerns. There is, therefore, a direct relation between the commission of the crime and petitioner’s office – the latter being the very reason or consideration that led to the unwarranted benefit she gained from Moleta, for which the latter suffered damages in the amount of P320,000.00. It was just fortunate that Rusillon instructed the bank to stop payment of the checks issued by petitioner, lest, the victim could have been the Municipality of General Luna.

X x x.”