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SC: President’s alter egos are not immune from suit

/ 03:56 PM September 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines–Immunity from suit does not extend to the alter egos of the President, the Supreme Court said in a decision made public Wednesday.

The ruling on immunity is contained in a petition denying the petition for review on certiorari filed by former Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG) Chair Camilo L. Sabio who questioned his conviction by the Sandiganbayan for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

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The graft case against Sabio stemmed from the lease of 11 motor vehicles entered into by the PCGG with the United Coconut Planters Bank Leasing and Finance Corporation in 2007-2009, without the required competitive bidding.

In a 10-page decision, the Court, through Associate  Justice Diosdado M. Peralta said Sabio cannot claim or invoke immunity from suit being an alter ego of the President.

“It was the PCGG, through Sabio and his Commissioners, not the President, who entered into the subject lease agreements without the requisite public bidding. It will be ridiculous to hold that alter egos of the President are, likewise, immune from suit simply because their acts are considered acts of the President if not repudiated,” the Court said.

Citing the jurisprudence in the case of Gloria v. Court of Appeals, the Court said Sabio’s contention “is untenable for the simple reason that the petition is directed against petitioner and not against the President, and that the questioned acts are those of petitioners and not of the President.”

“In fact, the 1987 Constitution is replete with provisions on the constitutional principles of accountability and good governance that should guide a public servant. The rule is that unlawful acts of public officials are not acts of the State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such but stands in the same footing as any other trespasser,” the Court added.

“Petitioner clearly disregarded the law meant to protect public funds from irregular or unlawful utilization,” it added.

At the same time, the Court said at the time of the execution of the lease agreements, Sabio was a member of the Board of Directors of the UCPB, the parent company of UCPB Leasing, adding this in fact bolstered the fact that there was unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference given to UCPB Leasing.

The Court also added that RA No 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act explicitly provides that all government procurement shall be done through competitive bidding.

It added that being a government office or agency, the PCGG is covered by RA No. 9184 which means that before entering the lease of the 11 vehicles, the PCGG should have conducted a competitive bidding first.

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“As correctly ruled by the Sandiganbayan, Sabio’s acts unmistakably reflect ‘a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong; a breach of sworn duty through some motive or intent or ill will,” the Court further said.

Concurring with the ruling are Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Andres Reyes Jr. Ramon Paul Hernando and Henri Jean Paul Inting.  /muf

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TAGS: alter egos, immunity from suit, President, Supreme Court
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