Petitioner Teresita G. Fabian was the major stockholder and president of PROMAT Construction Development Corporation which was engaged in the construction business. Private respondents Nestor V. Agustin was the incumbent District Engineering District when he allegedly committed the offenses for which he was administratively charged in the Office in the office of the Ombudsman.
Herein respondent Ombudsman, in an Order dated February 26, 1996, found private respondent guilty of misconduct and meted out the penalty of suspension without pay for one year.
The case was eventually transferred to respondent Deputy Ombudsman Jesus F. Guerrero who, in the now challenged Joint Order of June 18, 1997, set aside the February 26, 1997 Order of respondent Ombudsman and exonerated private respondents from the administrative charges.
In the present appeal, petitioner argues that Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989) pertinently provides that –
In all administrative disciplinary cases, orders, directives or decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman may be appealed to the Supreme Court by filing a petition for certiorari within ten (10) days from receipt of the written notice of the order, directive or decision or denial of the motion for reconsideration in accordance with Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
Respondents filed their respective comments and rejoined that the Office of the Ombudsman is empowered by the Constitution and the law to promulgate its own rules of procedure. Section 13(8), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides, among others, that the Office of the Ombudsman can “(p)romulgate its rules of procedure and exercise such other powers or perform such functions or duties as may be provided by law.”
The Court notes that neither the petition nor the two comments thereon took into account or discussed the validity of the aforestated Section 27 of R.A. No. 8770 in light of the provisions of Section 30, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution that “(n)o law shall be passed increasing the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as provided in this Constitution without its advise and consent.”
Whether Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 is substantive or procedural and whether the same is valid as such.
In determining whether a rule prescribed by the Supreme Court, for the practice and procedure of the lower courts, abridges, enlarges, or modifies any substantive right, the test is whether the rule really regulates procedure, that is, the judicial process for enforcing rights and duties recognized by substantive law and for justly administering remedy and redress for a disregard or infraction of them.
If the rule takes away a vested right, it is not procedural. If the rule creates a right such as the right to appeal, it may be classified as a substantive matter; but if it operates as a means of implementing an existing right then the rule deals merely with procedure.
In the situation under consideration, a transfer by the Supreme Court, in the exercise of its rule-making power, of pending cases involving a review of decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary actions to the Court of Appeals which shall now be vested with exclusive appellate jurisdiction thereover, relates to procedure only.
This is so because it is not the right to appeal of an aggrieved party which is affected by the law. That right has been preserved. Only the procedure by which the appeal is to be made or decided has been changed. The rationale for this is that litigant has a vested right in a particular remedy, which may be changed by substitution without impairing vested rights, hence he can have none in rules of procedure which relate to the remedy.
Furthermore, it cannot be said that transfer of appellate jurisdiction to the Court of Appeals in this case is an act of creating a new right of appeal because such power of the Supreme Court to transfer appeals to subordinate appellate courts is purely a procedural and not a substantive power. Neither can we consider such transfer as impairing a vested right because the parties have still a remedy and still a competent tribunal to administer that remedy.
WHEREFORE, Section 27 of Republic Act No. 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989), together with Section 7, Rule III of Administrative Order No. 07 (Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman), and any other provision of law or issuance implementing the aforesaid Act and insofar as they provide for appeals in administrative disciplinary cases from the Office of the Ombudsman to the Supreme Court, are hereby declared INVALID and of no further force and effect.