Atty. Rodolfo Pactolin vs Fourth Division of the Sandiganbayan
Criminal Law – Falsification By Public Officer – Sandiganbayan Jurisdiction
In 1996, a certain Elmer Abastillas sent a letter to Ozamis City Mayor Benjamin Fuentes acting the latter to donate fund to the local volleyball team. Fuentes approved the letter and forwarded the same to the City Treaurer. In the same year, Abastillas received a P10k check on behalf of the volleyball team. Later, Mayor Fuentes had to be out of town so he designated Councilor Mario Ferraren as OIC-Mayor.
While Ferraren was acting as OIC-Mayor, another councilor, Atty. Rodolfo Pactolin, went to the Treasurer’s office and requested for the letter sent by Abastillas. Since he is a councilor, the City Treasurer gave said letter. Pactolin then photocopied said letter and returned it to the said Office.
Subsequently, Pactolin filed a case with the Ombudsman against OIC-Mayor Ferraren. He accused Ferraren of illegally disbursing fund to Abastillas. He presented a letter purportedly signed by Ferraren.
Apparently, Pactolin falsified said letter. Ferraren then filed a criminal case for violation of Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) against Pactolin with the Sandiganbayan. Pactolin was later found guilty of Falsification under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code. Article 171 speaks of falsification by a public officer. The Sandiganbayan however sentenced him under Article 172 (Falsification by a public individual) because apparently, the only thing proven during trial was that he falsified Abastillas’ letter but that he did not commit the crime by virtue of his office and that said document was not officially under his custody.
Pactolin assailed said decision as he averred that the Sandiganabayan acted without jurisdiction; that he was charged as a public officer (under Art. 171, RPC) and not as a private individual (under Art. 172, RPC); that the crime falsification of a public document is not cognizable by the Sandiganbayan.
ISSUE: Whether or not Pactolin is correct.
HELD: No. Although in the information filed against him, there was no statutory designation as to what crime he committed; said crime can be inferred from the body which sufficiently describes that he violated Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code. He cannot also claim that he was deprived of due process when he was originally accused as a public officer and then sentenced as a private individual because the averments in the information are unmistakable. He had the chance to defend himself.
The said case is also within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. R.A. 1379 states that violations of Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the Revised Penal Code (which Art. 171 and 172 are part of) committed by members of the Sanggunian are within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.
The Supreme Court also referred this case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for appropriate actions against Pactolin who is a lawyer. As a lawyer, he is bound by the profession’s strict code of ethics. His conviction means he has not met the high ethical standard demanded by his profession. He must be dealt with accordingly.
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