Due process; dismissal of administrative case has no bearing on pending criminal case, or vice versa- G.R. No. 175991

G.R. No. 175991
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Petitioner was not deprived of his right to due process.

“Due process simply demands an opportunity to be heard.”[24] “Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy.”[25] “Where an opportunity to be heard either through oral arguments or through pleadings is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due process.”[26]

Guided by these established jurisprudential pronouncements, petitioner can hardly claim denial of his fundamental right to due process. Records show that petitioner was able to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him, argue his case vigorously, and explain the merits of his defense. To reiterate, as long as a party was given the opportunity to defend his interests in due course, he cannot be said to have been denied due process of law for the opportunity to be heard is the better accepted norm of procedural due process.

There is also no denial of due process when the trial court did not allow petitioner to introduce as evidence the CA Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 51795. It is well within the court’s discretion to reject the presentation of evidence which it judiciously believes irrelevant and impertinent to the proceeding on hand. This is specially true when the evidence sought to be presented in a criminal proceeding as in this case, concerns an administrative matter. As the Sandiganbayan aptly remarked:

The RTC committed no error in judgment when it did not allow the Accused-appellant to present the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 51795 (Jose R. Catacutan vs. Office of the Ombudsman). The findings in administrative cases are not binding upon the court trying a criminal case, even if the criminal proceedings are based on the same facts and incidents which gave rise to the administrative matter. The dismissal of a criminal case does not foreclose administrative action or necessarily gives the accused a clean bill of health in all respects. In the same way, the dismissal of an administrative case does not operate to terminate a criminal proceeding with the same subject matter. x x x[27]

This action undertaken by the trial court and sustained by the appellate court was not without legal precedent. In Paredes v. Court of Appeals,[28] this Court ruled:

It is indeed a fundamental principle of administrative law that administrative cases are independent from criminal actions for the same act or omission. Thus, an absolution from a criminal charge is not a bar to an administrative prosecution, or vice versa. One thing is administrative liability; quite another thing is the criminal liability for the same act.

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Thus, considering the difference in the quantum of evidence, as well as the procedure followed and the sanctions imposed in criminal and administrative proceedings, the findings and conclusions in one should not necessarily be binding on the other. Notably, the evidence presented in the administrative case may not necessarily be the same evidence to be presented in the criminal cases. x x x

In Nicolas v. Sandiganbayan,[29] the Court reiterated:

This Court is not unmindful of its rulings that the dismissal of an administrative case does not bar the filing of a criminal prosecution for the same or similar acts subject of the administrative complaint and that the disposition in one case does not inevitably govern the resolution of the other case/s and vice versa. x x x

On the basis of the afore-mentioned precedents, the Court has no option but to declare that the courts below correctly disallowed the introduction in evidence of the CA Decision. “Due process of law is not denied by the exclusion of irrelevant, immaterial, or incompetent evidence, or testimony of an incompetent witness. It is not an error to refuse evidence which although admissible for certain purposes, is not admissible for the purpose which counsel states as the ground for offering it.”[30]

At any rate, even assuming that the trial court erroneously rejected the introduction as evidence of the CA Decision, petitioner is not left without legal recourse. Petitioner could have availed of the remedy provided in Section 40, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court which provides:

Section 40. Tender of excluded evidence. – If documents or things offered in evidence are excluded by the court, the offeror may have the same attached to or made part of the record. If the evidence excluded is oral, the offeror may state for the record the name and other personal circumstances of the witness and the substance of the proposed testimony.

As observed by the appellate court, if the petitioner is keen on having the RTC admit the CA’s Decision for whatever it may be worth, he could have included the same in his offer of exhibits. If an exhibit sought to be presented in evidence is rejected, the party producing it should ask the court’s permission to have the exhibit attached to the record.

As things stand, the CA Decision does not form part of the records of the case, thus it has no probative weight. Any evidence that a party desires to submit for the consideration of the court must be formally offered by him otherwise it is excluded and rejected and cannot even be taken cognizance of on appeal. The rules of procedure and jurisprudence do not sanction the grant of evidentiary value to evidence which was not formally offered.

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