Constitutional Law

Ong vs Sandiganbayan G.R. No. 126858 Sept. 16, 2005 Presumption of Innocence, Forfeiture Proceedings


Congressman Bonifacio H. Gillego executed a Complaint-Affidavit, claiming that petitioner Jose U. Ong, then Commissioner of the BIR, has amassed properties worth disproportionately more than his lawful income.

Ong submitted an explanation and analysis of fund sourcing, reporting his net worth covering the calendar years 1989 to 1991 and showing his sources and uses of funds, the sources of the increase in his net worth and his net worth as of December 13, 1991.

Ong filed a Counter-Affidavit, submitting his Statement of Assets and Liabilities for the years 1988-1990, income tax return for 1988, bank certificate showing that he obtained a loan from Allied Bank, certificate from SGV & Co. showing that he received retirement benefits from the latter, a document entitled Acknowledgement of Trust showing that he acquired one of the questioned assets for his brother-in-law, and other documents explaining the sources of funds with which he acquired the questioned assets.



Does the presumption of innocence apply to forfeiture proceedings?



No. The presumption of innocence clause of the Constitution refers to criminal prosecutions and not to forfeiture proceedings which are civil actions in rem. The Constitution is likewise not violated by RA 1379 because statutes which declare that as a matter of law a particular inference follows from the proof of a particular fact, one fact becoming prima facie evidence of another, are not necessarily invalid, the effect of the presumption being merely to shift the burden of proof upon the adverse party.

The presumption of innocence clause is not violated by Sec. 2 of RA 1379 which states that property acquired by a public officer or employee during his incumbency in an amount which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and to his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired.  As elaborated by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, under the principle of presumption of innocence, it is merely required of the State to establish a prima facie case, after which the burden of proof shifts to the accused.



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