Saber vs CA (G.R. No. 132981 August 31, 2004)

Saber vs Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 132981 August 31, 2004

Facts: On April 8, 1974 then President Ferdinand E. Marcos appointed Dr. Mamitua Saber, then Dean of Research at the Mindanao State University and Acting Director, National Science Museum, as Executive Vice-President of the Philippine Amanah Bank (PAB). He was also designated as the Officer-in-Charge of the bank pending the election of its president by the Board of Directors. Saber was surprised because he did not apply for appointment to the position. He inquired from Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor why he was appointed thereto, considering that he had no experience whatsoever in the field of business and banking. He was told that he was chosen by the President from among forty applicants because of his proven personal integrity. Saber took a year-long leave of absence from the university and assumed office at the PAB. From the serenity of the academe, he plunged head-on into the turbulent and intricate world of business. One of the members of the Board of Directors of the bank was Asgari Aradji who was also the Acting Chairman of the Screening Committee for Personnel. Martin Saludo, then Senior Vice-President of the Philippine National Bank (PNB), was a management consultant of the PAB. Saber was sent to Malaysia to study how its Malaysian government prepared and managed the annual Muslim pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, and thus, avoid the fiascos that plagued previous such pilgrimages of Filipino Muslims in the past. After his stint in Malaysia, Saber resumed his duties at the PAB. Saber decided to charter the M/V Sweet Homes, owned by the Sweet Lines, Inc., for the trip. In behalf of the PAB, as charter, Saber executed a Uniform Time-Charter on October 15, 1974 under which the PAB chartered the M/V Sweet Homes to transport the pilgrims to Mecca and back to the Philippines for P 5,300,000 cash, the amount budgeted by the PAB. The parties executed a Rider to Charter Party in which the PAB was allowed to load cargoes in the cargo hold of the vessel up to 500 metric tons free of freight. The vessel was scheduled to leave on November 28, 1974. There was no time to lose; the PAB conducted a massive information drive to inform the Muslims of the arrangements, including the accommodations on board the vessel and urged them to join the Hajj through the bank. Prospective pilgrims, including PAB depositors, made reservations for the voyage and made partial payments for their tickets thereon. In a parallel development, Atty. Mangawan Toro, the Legal Counsel of the PAB, prepared a Freight Contract which the PAB, through Saber, and the AGEAC, through Basman, its General Manager, executed without the approval of the PAB Board of Directors. Under the contract, AGEAC was allowed to load on the M/V Sweet Homes chartered by the PAB, exportable/importable goods and other cargoes on its trip to Saudi Arabia and return, in consideration of P paid by AGEAC via a postdated check. During the meeting of the PAB Board of Directors, Saber was present. The Board, after exhaustive deliberations, approved Resolution No. 67, Series of 1975, without any objection, declaring Saber liable for the receivables on the ground that the Board did not authorize him to sell tickets on credit payable via postdated checks, and to execute the Freight Contract with AGEAC. The Board directed Saber to collect the receivables himself, because of its perception that if the PAB endeavored to collect the receivables, it would, thereby, be ratifying the unauthorized acts of Saber.

Issue: Whether or not a separate committee should be formed to investigate on the allegations against petitioner, Saber.

Held: Yes. We agree with the petitioners that a person other than respondent Aradji should have been designated as Chairperson of the Investigating Committee to investigate the pilgrimage fiasco. This is so because in his Memorandum to the Board of Directors of the PAB on February 21, 1975, respondent Aradji had declared that the 1974 Mecca pilgrimage under the supervision of Saber was mishandled and there were indications then that there was an apparent lack of exercise of effective leadership which was so vital and essential to make the bank truly responsive to the needs of the Filipino Muslims. Respondent Aradji then proposed that Saludo exercise the powers of the president of the respondent bank in place of Saber. In fine, respondent Aradji attributed the problems attendant to the pilgrimage fiasco to Saber. But then Saber did not oppose the designation by the Board of Directors for respondent Aradji to be the Chairman of the Investigating Committee, or even asked for the latters inhibition. Saber must have believed that he could still prove that he acted in good faith, and was not guilty of any wrongdoing regardless of any misconception of respondent Aradji. Besides, respondent Aradji was only the chairman of the committee, and there were four (4) other members who could rule in Sabers favor. As it was, Saber even appeared before the committee and adduced testimonial and documentary evidence in his behalf.

The respondent PAB cannot be faulted, nor can it be ordered to pay damages and attorneys fees for issuing a conditional clearance to Saber after his resignation from respondent PAB. Saber had not yet liquidated his accountability of P 1,012,000 when his leave of absence from the university had expired. The Investigating Committee had yet to commence and terminate its investigation of Sabers accountability, administrative or civil, for the pilgrimage fiasco. The respondent PAB had no discretion to issue a clearance to Saber. It bears stressing that a public officer, in the discharge of his duties has to use prudence, caution and attention in the management of his affairs. In fact, the respondent PAB was duty bound to withhold such clearance to Saber pending final determination of his monetary accountabilities. Even assuming that Saber and/or the petitioners sustained economic difficulties on account of the conditional clearance issued by the respondent PAB, the petitioners are not entitled to moral and exemplary damages. The act of the respondent PAB was not wrongful. It is a case of damnum absque injuria and not of damnum et injuria.

To constitute malicious prosecution, there must be proof that the prosecutor was prompted by a sinister or devious design to vex and humiliate a person, and that it was initiated deliberately, knowing that the charges are false and groundless. Malice with probable cause must both be clearly established to justify an award of damages based on malicious prosecution. Lack of probable cause is an element separate and distinct from that of malice. One cannot be held liable for damages for malicious prosecution where he acted with probable cause. We also held that a determination that there is no probable cause cannot be made to rest solely on the fact that the trial court after trial decided to acquit the accused. Neither can lack of probable cause be made to rest on the fact that the finding of probable cause of the Special Counsel was reversed by the Secretary of Justice or the Ombudsman as the case may be. The mere act of submitting the case to the authorities for prosecution does not make one liable for malicious prosecution. Moreover, the adverse result of an action does not per se make the action wrongful and subject the action to damages, for the law could not have meant to impose a penalty on the right to litigate. If damages result from a persons exercise of a right, it is damnum absque injuria.

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