CASE DIGEST: Abbott Laboratories Phil. et.al. v. Pearlie Ann F. Alcaraz [G.R. No. 192571, July 23, 2013]

Subject: Labor Law – Probationary employees – Standards to qualify as a regular employee

Decision (Perlas-Bernarbe, J.)

Dissent (Brion, J.)

FACTS:

On June 27, 2004, Abbott Laboratories, Philippines (Abbott) caused the publication in a major broadsheet newspaper of its need for a Medical and Regulatory Affairs Manager who would: (a) be responsible for drug safety surveillance operations, staffing, and budget; (b) lead the development and implementation of standard operating procedures/policies for drug safety surveillance and vigilance; and (c) act as the primary interface with internal and external customers regarding safety operations and queries.

Alcaraz – who was then a Regulatory Affairs and Information Manager at Aventis Pasteur Philippines, Incorporated (another pharmaceutical company like Abbott) – showed interest and submitted her application on October 4, 2004.

On December 7, 2004, Abbott formally offered Alcaraz the above-mentioned position which was an item under the company’s Hospira Affiliate Local Surveillance Unit (ALSU) department.

In Abbott’s offer sheet, it was stated that Alcaraz was to be employed on a probationary basis.

Later that day, she accepted the said offer and received an electronic mail (e-mail) from Abbott’s Recruitment Officer, Teresita C. Bernardo (Bernardo), confirming the same. Attached to Bernardo’s e-mail were Abbott’s organizational chart and a job description of Alcaraz’s work.

On February 12, 2005, Alcaraz signed an employment contract which stated that she was to be placed on probation for a period of six (6) months beginning February 15, 2005 to August 14, 2005.

During Alcaraz’s pre-employment orientation, Allan G. Almazar, Hospira’s Country Transition Manager, briefed her on her duties and responsibilities as Regulatory Affairs Manager:

(a) she will handle the staff of Hospira ALSU and will directly report to Almazar on matters regarding Hopira’s local operations, operational budget, and performance evaluation of the Hospira ALSU Staff who are on probationary status;

(b) she must implement Abbott’s Code of Good Corporate Conduct (Code of Conduct), office policies on human resources and finance, and ensure that Abbott will hire people who are fit in the organizational discipline;

(c) Kelly Walsh, Manager of the Literature Drug Surveillance Drug Safety of Hospira, will be her immediate supervisor;

(d) she should always coordinate with Abbott’s human resource officers in the management and discipline of the staff;

(e) Hospira ALSU will spin off from Abbott in early 2006 and will be officially incorporated and known as Hospira, Philippines; and

(f) the processing of information and/or raw material data subject of Hospira ALSU operations will be strictly confined and controlled under the computer system and network being maintained and operated from the United States. For this purpose, all those involved in Hospira ALSU are required to use two identification cards: one, to identify them as Abbott’s employees and another, to identify them as Hospira employees.

On March 3, 2005, Maria Olivia T. Yabut-Misa, Abbott’s Human Resources (HR) Director, sent Alcaraz an e-mail which contained an explanation of the procedure for evaluating the performance of probationary employees and further indicated that Abbott had only one evaluation system for all of its employees. Alcaraz was also given copies of Abbott’s Code of Conduct and Probationary Performance Standards and Evaluation (PPSE) and Performance Excellence Orientation Modules (Performance Modules) which she had to apply in line with her task of evaluating the Hospira ALSU staff.

Abbott’s PPSE procedure mandates that the job performance of a probationary employee should be formally reviewed and discussed with the employee at least twice: first on the third month and second on the fifth month from the date of employment. The necessary Performance Improvement Plan should also be made during the third-month review in case of a gap between the employee’s performance and the standards set. These performance standards should be discussed in detail with the employee within the first two (2) weeks on the job. It was equally required that a signed copy of the PPSE form must be submitted to Abbott’s Human Resources Department (HRD) and shall serve as documentation of the employee’s performance during his/her probationary period. This shall form the basis for recommending the confirmation or termination of the probationary employment.

On April 20, 2005, Alcaraz had a meeting with Cecille Terrible, Abbott’s former HR Director, to discuss certain issues regarding staff performance standards. In the course thereof, Alcaraz accidentally saw a printed copy of an e-mail sent by Walsh to some staff members which essentially contained queries regarding the former’s job performance. Alcaraz asked if Walsh’s action was the normal process of evaluation. Terrible said that it was not.

On May 16, 2005, Alcaraz was called to a meeting with Walsh and Terrible where she was informed that she failed to meet the regularization standards for the position of Regulatory Affairs Manager. Thereafter, Walsh and Terrible requested Alcaraz to tender her resignation, else they be forced to terminate her services. She was also told that, regardless of her choice, she should no longer report for work and was asked to surrender her office identification cards. She requested to be given one week to decide on the same, but to no avail.

On May 17, 2005, Alcaraz told her administrative assistant, Claude Gonzales (Gonzales), that she would be on leave for that day. However, Gonzales told her that Walsh and Terrible already announced to the whole Hospira ALSU staff that Alcaraz already resigned due to health reasons.

On May 23, 2005, Walsh, Almazar, and Bernardo personally handed to Alcaraz a letter stating that her services had been terminated effective May 19, 2005. The letter detailed the reasons for Alcaraz’s termination – particularly, that Alcaraz:

(a) did not manage her time effectively;

(b) failed to gain the trust of her staff and to build an effective rapport with them;

(c) failed to train her staff effectively; and

(d) was not able to obtain the knowledge and ability to make sound judgments on case processing and article review which were necessary for the proper performance of her duties.

Alcaraz felt that she was unjustly terminated from her employment and thus, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and damages against Abbott and its officers, namely, Misa, Bernardo, Almazar, Walsh, Terrible, and Feist. She claimed that she should have already been considered as a regular and not a probationary employee given Abbott’s failure to inform her of the reasonable standards for her regularization upon her engagement as required under Article 295 of the Labor Code. In this relation, she contended that while her employment contract stated that she was to be engaged on a probationary status, the same did not indicate the standards on which her regularization would be based. She further averred that the individual petitioners maliciously connived to illegally dismiss her when:

(a) they threatened her with termination;

(b) she was ordered not to enter company premises even if she was still an employee thereof; and

(c) they publicly announced that she already resigned in order to humiliate her.

Abbott maintained that Alcaraz was validly terminated from her probationary employment given her failure to satisfy the prescribed standards for her regularization which were made known to her at the time of her engagement.

The Labor Arbiter ruled in Abbott’s favor. The NLRC reversed, upholding Alcaraz’s allegations. The CA affirmed the NLRC decision.

ISSUES:

1) WON Alcaraz was sufficiently informed of the reasonable standards to qualify her as a regular employee

MAJORITY: YES. Abbott clearly conveyed to Alcaraz her duties and responsibilities as Regulatory Affairs Manager prior to, during the time of her engagement, and the incipient stages of her employment. On this score, the Court finds it apt to detail not only the incidents which point out to the efforts made by Abbott but also those circumstances which would show that Alcaraz was well-apprised of her employer’s expectations that would, in turn, determine her regularization:

(a) On June 27, 2004, Abbott caused the publication in a major broadsheet newspaper of its need for a Regulatory Affairs Manager, indicating therein the job description for as well as the duties and responsibilities attendant to the aforesaid position; this prompted Alcaraz to submit her application to Abbott on October 4, 2004;

(b) In Abbott’s December 7, 2004 offer sheet, it was stated that Alcaraz was to be employed on a probationary status;

(c) On February 12, 2005, Alcaraz signed an employment contract which specifically stated, inter alia, that she was to be placed on probation for a period of six (6) months beginning February 15, 2005 to August 14, 2005;

(d) On the day Alcaraz accepted Abbott’s employment offer, Bernardo sent her (d) On the day Alcaraz accepted Abbott’s employment offer, Bernardo sent her copies of Abbott’s organizational structure and her job description through e-mail;

(e) Alcaraz was made to undergo a pre-employment orientation where Almazar informed her that she had to implement Abbott’s Code of Conduct and office policies on human resources and finance and that she would be reporting directly to Walsh;

(f) Alcaraz was also required to undergo a training program as part of her orientation;

(g) Alcaraz received copies of Abbott’s Code of Conduct and Performance Modules from Misa who explained to her the procedure for evaluating the performance of probationary employees; she was further notified that Abbott had only one evaluation system for all of its employees; and

(h) Moreover, Alcaraz had previously worked for another pharmaceutical company and had admitted to have an “extensive training and background” to acquire the necessary skills for her job.

Considering the totality of the above-stated circumstances, Alcaraz was well-aware that her regularization would depend on her ability and capacity to fulfill the requirements of her position as Regulatory Affairs Manager and that her failure to perform such would give Abbott a valid cause to terminate her probationary employment. Verily, basic knowledge and common sense dictate that the adequate performance of one’s duties is, by and of itself, an inherent and implied standard for a probationary employee to be regularized; such is a regularization standard which need not be literally spelled out or mapped into technical indicators in every case. 

DISSENT (Brion, J.): NO. The Offer Sheet was designed to inform Alcaraz of the compensation and benefits package offered to her by Abbott and can in no way be read as a statement of the applicable probationary employment standard. It was communicated even prior to engagement when the parties were negotiating, not at the point of engagement as the law requires.

The pre-employment orientation on Alcaraz’s duty to implement Abbott’s Code of Conduct, office policies and training program likewise cannot be characterized as performance standards; they simply related to activities aimed at acquainting and training Alcaraz on her duties and not for the purpose of informing her of the performance standards applicable to her. What stands out is that they do not pertain specifically to Alcaraz and the required performance standard applicable for her qualification for regular employment; they related to the staff Alcaraz managed and supervised. Additionally, these were all relayed prior to or after Alcaraz was engaged by Abbott.

An important distinction to remember at this point is that Alcaraz’s knowledge of the duties that her work entailed, and her knowledge of the employer’s performance standard, are two distinct matters separately requiring the presentation of independent proof.

MAJORITY: Keeping with [the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code], an employer is deemed to have made known the standards that would qualify a probationary employee to be a regular employee when it has exerted reasonable efforts to apprise the employee of what he is expected to do to accomplish during the trial of probation. This goes without saying that the employee is sufficiently made aware of his probationary status as well as the length of time of the probation.

The exception to the foregoing is when the job is self-descriptive in nature, for instance, in the case of maids, cooks, drivers, or messengers. Also in Aberdeen Court, Inc v. Agustin, it has been held that the rule on notifying a probationary employee of the standards of regularization should not be used to exculpate an employee in a manner contrary to basic knowledge and common sense in regard to which there is no need to spell out a policy or standard to be met. In the same light, an employee’s failure to perform the duties and responsibilities which have been clearly made known to him constitutes a justifiable basis for a probationary employee’s non-regularization.

DISSENT (Brion, J.): Based on these premises, the ponencia then deftly argues that because the duties and responsibilities of the position have been explained to Alcaraz, an experienced human resource specialist, she should have known what was expected for her to attain regular status. The ponencia’s reasoning, however, is badly flawed.

1st. The ponencia impliedly admits that no performance standards were expressly given but argues that because Alcaraz had been informed of her duties and responsibilities (a fact that was and is not disputed), she should be deemed to know what was expected of her for purposes of regularization. This is a major flaw that the ponencia satisfies only via an assumption. The ponencia apparently forgets that knowledge of duties and responsibilities is different from the measure of how these duties and responsibilities should be delivered. They are separate elements and the latter element is missing in the present case.

2nd. The ponencia glosses over the communication aspect. Not only must there be express performance standards; there must be effective communication. If no standards were provided, what would be communicated?

3rd. The ponencia badly contradicts itself in claiming that actual communication of specific standards might not be necessary “when the job is self-descriptive in nature, for instance, in the case of maids, cooks, drivers, or messengers.” Alcaraz, in the first place, was never a maid, cook, driver or a messenger and cannot be placed under this classification; she was hired and employed as a human resources manager, in short, a managerial employee. Plain and common sense reasoning by one who ever had been in an employment situation dictates that the job of a manager cannot be self-explanatory, in the way the ponencia implied; the complexity of a managerial job must necessarily require that the level of performance to be delivered must be specified and cannot simply be assumed based on the communication of the manager’s duties and responsibilities.

4th. The ponencia also forgets that what these “performance standards” or measures cannot simply be assumed because they are critically important in this case, or for that matter, in any case involving jobs whose duties and responsibilities are not simple or self-descriptive. If Alcaraz had been evaluated or assessed in the manner that the company’s internal rules require, these standards would have been the basis for her performance or lack of it. Last but not the least, Alcaraz’s services were terminated on the basis of the performance standards that, by law, the employer set or prescribed at the time of the employee’s engagement. If none had been prescribed in the first place, under what basis could the employee then be assessed for purposes of termination or regularization?

2) WON Alcaraz was validly terminated from her employment

MAJORITY: NO. Abbott failed to follow the above-stated procedure in evaluating Alcaraz. For one, there lies a hiatus of evidence that a signed copy of Alcaraz’s PPSE form was submitted to the HRD. It was not even shown that a PPSE form was completed to formally assess her performance. Neither was the performance evaluation discussed with her during the third and fifth months of her employment. Nor did Abbott come up with the necessary Performance Improvement Plan to properly gauge Alcaraz’s performance with the set company standards.

The Court modified Agabon v. NLRC in the case of Jaka Food Processing Corporation v. Pacot where it created a distinction between procedurally defective dismissals due to a just cause, on one hand, and those due to an authorized cause, on the other.

If the dismissal is based on a just cause under Article 296 of the Labor Code but the employer failed to comply with the notice requirement, the sanction to be imposed upon him should be tempered because the dismissal process was, in effect, initiated by an act imputable to the employee

If the dismissal is based on an authorized cause under Article 297 but the employer failed to comply with the notice requirement, the sanction should be stiffer because the dismissal process was initiated by the employer’s exercise of his management prerogative.

Alcaraz’s dismissal proceeded from her failure to comply with the standards required for her regularization. As such, it is undeniable that the dismissal process was, in effect, initiated by an act imputable to the employee, akin to dismissals due to just causes under Article 296 of the Labor Code. Therefore, the Court deems it appropriate to fix the amount of nominal damages at the amount of P30,000.00, consistent with its rulings in both Agabon and Jaka.

DISSENT (Brion, J.): YES. Alcaraz was dismissed as she “failed to qualify as regular employee in accordance with the prescribed standards set by the Company.” Even granting for the sake of argument that Abbott had apprised Alcaraz of an applicable performance standard, the evidence failed to show that Alcaraz did not meet this standard in a manner and to the extent equivalent to the “just cause” that the law requires.

In defense of Abbott’s failure to observe the two-notice requirement, the ponencia argues that a different procedure applies when terminating a probationary employee; the usual two-notice requirement does not govern, citing for this purpose Section 2, Rule I, Book VI of the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code. The ponencia, however, forgets that the single notice rule applies only if the employee is validly on probationary basis; it does not apply where the employee is deemed a regular employee for the company’s failure to provide and to communicate a prescribed performance standard applicable to the probationary employee.

3) WON the individual petitioners herein are liable

MAJORITY: NO. Other than her unfounded assertions on the matter, there is no evidence to support the fact that the individual petitioners herein, in their capacity as Abbott’s officers and employees, acted in bad faith or were motivated by ill will in terminating Alcaraz’s services. The fact that Alcaraz was made to resign and not allowed to enter the workplace does not necessarily indicate bad faith on Abbott’s part since a sufficient ground existed for the latter to actually proceed with her termination. On the alleged loss of her personal belongings, records are bereft of any showing that the same could be attributed to Abbott or any of its officers.

DISSENT (Brion, J.)YES. The NLRC exhaustively discussed Abbott’s bad faith, as demonstrated by the actions of the individual petitioners:

First, Alcaraz was pressured to resign:

(1) she was threatened with termination, which will surely damage her reputation in the pharmaceutical industry;

(2) she was asked to evacuate her Commission and ordered not to enter the Company’s premises even if she was still an Abbott employee; and

(3) Terrible and Walsh made a public announcement to the staff that Alcaraz already resigned even if in reality she did not.

The CA also described in detail the abrupt and oppressive manner in which Alcaraz’s employment was dismissed by Abbott:

On May 23, 2005, Alcaraz still reported for work since Abbott had not yet handed the termination notice to her. However, the security guard did not allow her to enter the Hospira ALSU office pursuant to  Walsh[’s] instruction. She requested Walsh that she be allowed to enter the company premises to retrieve her last remaining things in her office which are mostly her personal belongings. She was allowed to enter. However, she was surprised to see her drawers already unlocked and, when she opened the same, she discovered that her small brown envelope x x x, white pouch containing the duplicate keys, and the staff’s final evaluation sheets were missing.Alcaraz informed Bernardo about the incident. The latter responded by saying she was no longer an employee of the company since May 19, 2005.

Alcaraz reported the matter to the Pasig Police Station and asked for help regarding the theft of her properties. The Pasig Police incident report stated as follows:

x x x x When confronted by the suspect, in the presence of one SOCO officer and staff, named Christian Perez, Kelly Walsh allegedly admitted that she was the one who opened the drawer and got the green folders containing the staff evaluations. The Reportee was told by Kelly Walsh that her Rolex wristwatch will be returned to her provided that she will immediately vacate her office.

On the same date, Alcaraz’s termination letter dated May 19, 2005 was handed to her by Walsh, Almazar and Bernardo.

RESULT: CA reversed. In favor of Abbott.

CASE DIGEST: Macapagal-Arroyo v. People of the Philippines [G.R. No. 220598, July 19, 2016]

QUICK LINKS:

Full text of the Decision (Bersamin, J.)

Dissenting opinions:

Sereno, C.J.

Leonen, J.

Concurring and dissenting: Perlas-Bernabe, J.

Plunder Law (Republic Act No. 7080, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659)

FACTS:

Petitioners in this case are former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Budget and Accounts Officer Benigno Aguas.

The Ombudsman charged in the Sandiganbayan with plunder as defined by, and penalized under Section 2 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7080, as amended by R.A. No. 7659 the following: (1) GMA, (2) Aguas, (3) former PCSO General Manager and Vice Chairman Rosario C. Uriarte, (4) former PCSO Chairman of the Board of Directors Sergio O. Valencia, (5) former members of the PCSO Board of Directors, and (6) two former officials of the Commission on Audit (COA).

The information read:

…[the] accused…all public officers committing the offense in relation to their respective offices and taking undue advantage of their respective official positions, authority, relationships, connections or influence, conniving, conspiring and confederating with one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally amass, accumulate and/or acquire. Directly or indirectly, ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE MILLION NINE HUNDRED NINETY SEVEN THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FIFTEEN PESOS (PHP365,997,915.00), more or less, through any or a combination or a series of overt or criminal acts, or similar schemes or means, described as follows:

(a) diverting in several instances, funds from the operating budget of PCSO to its Confidential/Intelligence Fund that could be accessed and withdrawn at any time with minimal restrictions, · and converting, misusing, and/or illegally conveying or transferring the proceeds drawn from said fund in the aforementioned sum, also in several instances, to themselves, in the guise of fictitious expenditures, for their personal gain and benefit;

(b) raiding the public treasury by withdrawing and receiving, in several instances, the above-mentioned amount from the Confidential/Intelligence Fund from PCSO’s accounts, and or unlawfully transferring or conveying the same into their possession and control through irregularly issued disbursement vouchers and fictitious expenditures; and

(c) taking advantage of their respective official positions, authority, relationships, connections or influence, in several instances, to unjustly enrich themselves in the aforementioned sum, at the expense of, and the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.

CONTRARY TO LAW

The Sandiganbayan eventually acquired jurisidiction over most of the accused, including petitioners. All filed petitions for bail, which the Sandiganbayan granted except those of the petitioners. Their motions for reconsideration were denied. GMA assailed the denial of her petition for bail before the Supreme Court. However, this remains unresolved.

After the Prosecution rested its case, the accused separately filed their demurrers to evidence asserting that the Prosecution did not establish a case for plunder against them.

The Sandiganbayan granted the demurrers and dismissed the case against the accused within its jurisdiction, except for petitioners and Valencia. It held that there was sufficient evidence showing that they had conspired to commit plunder.

Petitioners filed this case before the Supreme Court on certiorari before the Supreme Court to assail the denial of their demurrers to evidence, on the ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

ISSUES:

1.) Procedural Issue: WON the special civil action for certiorari is proper to assail the denial of the demurrers to evidence – YES.

PROSECUTION: The petition for certiorari of GMA was improper to challenge the denial of her demurrer to evidence.

HELD: Certiorari is proper since the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in denying GMA’s demurrer to evidence.

General rule: The special civil action for certiorari is generally not proper to assail such an interlocutory order issued by the trial court because of the availability of another remedy in the ordinary course of law. Moreover, Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court expressly provides, “the order denying the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence or the demurrer itself shall not be reviewable by appeal or by certiorari before judgment.”

Exception: “In the exercise of our superintending control over other courts, we are to be guided by all the circumstances of each particular case ‘as the ends of justice may require.’ So it is that the writ will be granted where necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do substantial” (citing Ong v. People [G.R. No. 140904, October 9, 2000]).

2.) Substantive Issue: WoN the Prosecution sufficiently established the existence of conspiracy among GMA, Aguas, and Uriarte – NO.

A. As regards petitioner GMA

HELD: The Supreme Court rejected the Sandiganbayan’s declaration in denying GMA’s demurrer that GMA, Aguas, and Uriate had conspired and committed plunder. The Prosecution did not sufficiently allege the existence of a conspiracy among GMA, Aguas and Uriarte.

A perusal of the information (quoted above) suggests that what the Prosecution sought to show was an implied conspiracy to commit plunder among all of the accused on the basis of their collective actions prior to, during and after the implied agreement. It is notable that the Prosecution did not allege that the conspiracy among all of the accused was by express agreement, or was a wheel conspiracy or a chain conspiracy. This was another fatal flaw of the Prosecution.

Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7080 (Plunder Law) requires in the criminal charge for plunder against several individuals that there must be a main plunderer and her co-conspirators, who may be members of her family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons. In other words, the allegation of the wheel conspiracy or express conspiracy in the information was appropriate because the main plunderer would then be identified in either manner. Citing Estrada v. Sandiganbayan, “The gravamen of the conspiracy charge…is that each of them, by their individual acts, agreed to participate, directly or indirectly, in the amassing, accumulation and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth of and/or for former President Estrada.”

Such identification of the main plunderer was not only necessary because the law required such identification, but also because it was essential in safeguarding the rights of all of the accused to be properly informed of the charges they were being made answerable for.

In fine, the Prosecution’s failure to properly allege the main plunderer should be fatal to the cause against the petitioners for violating the rights of each accused to be informed of the charges against each of them.

PROSECUTION: GMA, Uriarte and Aguas committed acts showing the existence of an implied conspiracy among themselves, thereby making all of them the main plunderers. The sole overt act of GMA to become a part of the conspiracy was her approval via the marginal note of “OK” of all the requests made by Uriarte for the use of additional intelligence fund. By approving Uriaiie’s requests in that manner, GMA violated the following:

a. Letter of Instruction 1282, which required requests for additional confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) to be accompanied with detailed, specific project proposals and specifications; and

b. COA Circular No. 92-385, which allowed the President to approve the release of additional CIFs only if there was an existing budget to cover the request.

HELD: GMA’s approval of Uriarte’s requests for additional CIFs did not make her part of any design to raid the public treasury as the means to amass, accumulate and acquire illgotten wealth. Absent the specific allegation in the information to that effect, and competent proof thereon, GMA’s approval of Uriarte’s requests, even if unqualified, could not make her part of any criminal conspiracy to commit plunder or any other crime considering that her approval was not by any means irregular or illegal.

a. An examination of Uriarte’s several requests indicates their compliance with LOI No. 1282. The requests, similarly worded, furnished:

(1) the full details of the specific purposes for which the funds would be spent;

(2) the explanations of the circumstances giving rise to the necessity of the expenditure; and

(3) the particular aims to be accomplished.

The additional CIFs requested were to be used to protect PCSO’s image and the integrity of its operations. According to its terms, LOI No. 1282 did not detail any qualification as to how specific the requests should be made.

b. The funds of the PCSO were comingled into one account as early as 2007. Consequently, although only 15% of PCSO’s revenues was appropriated to an operation fund from which the CIF could be sourced, the remaining 85% of PCSO’s revenues, already co-mingled with the operating fund, could still sustain the additional requests. In short, there was available budget from which to draw the additional requests for CIFs.

PROSECUTION: GMA had known that Uriarte would raid the public treasury, and would misuse the amounts disbursed. This knowledge was imputed to GMA by virtue of her power of control over PCSO.

HELD: The Prosecution seems to be relying on the doctrine of command responsibility to impute the actions of subordinate officers to GMA as the superior officer. The reliance is misplaced, for incriminating GMA under those terms was legally unacceptable and incomprehensible.

The application of the doctrine of command responsibility is limited, and cannot be true for all litigations. This case involves neither a probe of GMA’s actions as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, nor of a human rights issue (compare to Rodriguez v. Macapagal-Arroyo [G.R. No. 191805, November 15, 2011]).

B. As regards Aguas

HELD: Aguas’ certifications and signatures on the disbursement vouchers were insufficient bases to conclude that he was into any conspiracy to commit plunder or any other crime. Without GMA’s participation, he could not release any money because there was then no budget available for the additional CIFs. Whatever irregularities he might have committed did not amount to plunder, or to any implied conspiracy to commit plunder.

3.) Substantive Issue: WoN the Prosecution sufficiently established all the elements of the crime of plunder – NO.

A. WoN there was evidence of amassing, accumulating or acquiring ill-gotten wealth in the total amount of not less than P50 million – NO.

HELD: The Prosecution adduced no evidence showing that either GMA or Aguas or even Uriarte, for that matter, had amassed, accumulated or acquired illgotten wealth of any amount. There was also no evidence, testimonial or otherwise, presented by the Prosecution showing even the remotest possibility that the CIFs of the PCSO had been diverted to either GMA or Aguas, or Uriarte.

B. WoN the predicate act of raiding the public treasury alleged in the information was proved by the Prosecution – NO.

SANDIGANBAYAN: In order to prove the predicate act of raids of the public treasury, the Prosecution need not establish that the public officer had benefited from such act; and that what was necessary was proving that the public officer had raided the public coffers.

HELD:  The common thread that binds all the four terms in Section 1(d) of Republic Act No. 7080 together (misappropriation, conversion, misuse or malversation of public funds) is that the public officer used the property taken. Pursuant to the maxim of noscitur a sociis, raids on the public treasury requires the raider to use the property taken impliedly for his personal benefit.