MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) denied a petition filed by the National Press Club (NPC) to reverse the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman that dismissed a criminal complaint against officials of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), including its former head Winston Garcia, in connection with their "stubborn" refusal to return to the NPC the land upon which the NPC building in Intramuros stands.
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Elihu Ybanez, the appellate court's 14th Division junked NPS' petition which sought to require the GSIS to enforce a 30-year old law that requires the state pension fund to return the 4,288 square meter lot, with an estimated value of P130 million, to NPC.
NPC filed a case for nonfeasance and grave misconduct against Garcia and 13 others with the Office of the Ombudsman for their "stubborn" refusal to return the lot.
Nonfeasance is a criminal offense arising from the failure or refusal of public officials to perform duties mandated by law. The Ombudsman, by virtue of Republic Act (RA) No. 6770 (The Ombudsman Act of 1989), is empowered to suspend and dismiss public officials found guilty of the above-mentioned offenses.
In 2007, the Ombudsman dismissed the case against Garcia., et al., pointing out that it was "a mere afterthought and leverage" for the cases filed against NPC by GSIS. GSIS resorted to legal proceedings so that NPC will vacate its Intramuros building, after the latter failed to pay its loans and real property taxes. The lot was sold at a public auction with the state pension fund as the winning bidder.
GSIS also charged NPC officers with theft for selling a Vicente Manansala mural painting in its building.
During his incumbency, former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos issued letter of instruction (LOI) no. 500 ordering GSIS to donate the lot to NPC. GSIS, however, transferred the certificate of title of the subject lot to its name.
In its decision, the appellate court ruled that the LOI being invoked by NPC in claiming ownership of the lot is a mere administrative issuance. The court also pointed out that NPC failed to comply with the condition set by Marcos before the property could be considered donated to it, which is to convey to GSIS its rights and privileges under its lease contract with Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), which leased a portion of the NPC Intramuros building.
"Since the NPC failed to perform its concomitant obligation, NPC cannot blamce GSIS for the non-implementation of the LOI," the decision read.
The appellate court also agreed with GSIS in its contention that its acts are merely part of official duty for the protection of the contributions of its members.
And since the NPC waited 30 years after issuance of LOI to take action against GSIS, the appellate court said its claim has turned into a "stale demand."