G.R. No. 128096 : January 20 1999
Topic: Jurisdiction of Sandiganbayan
- Eleven people alleged to be part of the Kuratong Baleleng gang, an organized crime group known for bank robberies, were killed by anti-bank robbery and intelligence task force personnel (ABRITG). Petitioners and petitioner-intervenors were among those included in the ABRITG.
- In response to a media report by SPO2 Eduardo delos Reyes of the Criminal Investigation Command that the incident was a summary execution rather than a shoot-out between Kuratong Baleleng gang members and the ABRITG, Ombudsman Aniano Desierto convened a panel of investigators to look into the matter. The incident was determined to be a lawful police operation by the panel. However, a review board overturned the panel’s decision and suggested that twenty-six respondents be prosecuted with multiple murder, including the petitioner, who was charged as the principal, and the petitioner-intervenors, who were charged as accessories.
- The Ombudsman filed amended information before the Sandiganbayan after a re-investigation, in which petitioner was only charged as an accessory.
- The defendants filed separate motions challenging the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction, claiming that under the modified informations, the cases fall under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court under Section 2 of R.A. 7975.
- They argue that the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction is limited to instances involving one or more “primary accused” who are government officials with Salary Grade 27 or higher, or PNP officials with the rank of Chief Superintendent or higher. As a result, they did not meet the requirements. However, until their motions are resolved, R.A. 8249, which modifies the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction by removing the word “principal” from the phrase “primary accused” in Section 2 of R.A. 7975.
- The petitioner calls into doubt the legality of Section 4 of R.A. 8249, includes Section 7, which states that the legislation would apply to all matters pending in any court that have not commenced trial as of the date of approval.
(1) Whether or not Sections 4 and 7 of R.A. 8249 violate the petitioners’ right to due process and the equal protection clause of the Constitution as the provisions seemed to have been introduced for the Sandiganbayan to continue to acquire jurisdiction over the Kuratong Baleleng case. NO. Lacking proof.
(2) Whether or not said statute may be considered as an ex-post facto statute. NO. Applied to all pending cases.
(3) Whether or not the multiple murder of the alleged members of the Kuratong Baleleng was committed in relation to the office of the accused PNP officers which is essential to the determination whether the case falls within the Sandiganbayan’s or Regional Trial Court’s jurisdiction. NO. Not in the exercise of duty.
Petitioner and intervenors’ posture that Sections 4 and 7 of R.A. 8249 violate their right to equal protection of the law is too shallow to deserve merit. No concrete evidence and convincing argument were presented to warrant such a declaration. Every classification made by the law is presumed reasonable and the party who challenges the law must present proof of arbitrariness. The classification is reasonable and not arbitrary when the following concur: (1) it must rest on substantial distinction; (2) it must be germane to the purpose of the law; (3) must not be limited to existing conditions only, and (4) must apply equally to all members of the same class; all of which are present in this case.
Paragraph a of Section 4 provides that it shall apply “to all cases involving” certain public officials and under the transitory provision in Section 7, to “all cases pending in any court.” Contrary to petitioner and intervenors’ argument, the law is not particularly directed only to the Kuratong Baleleng cases. The transitory provision does not only cover cases which are in the Sandiganbayan but also in “any court.”
There is nothing ex post facto in R.A. 8249. Ex post facto law, generally, provides retroactive effect of penal laws. R.A. 8249 is not a penal law. It is a substantive law on jurisdiction which is not penal in character. Penal laws are those acts of the Legislature which prohibit certain acts and establish penalties for their violations or those that define crimes and provide for their punishment. R.A. 7975, as regards the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction, its mode of appeal and other procedural matters, has been declared by the Court as not a penal law, but clearly a procedural statute, one which prescribes rules of procedure by which courts applying laws of all kinds can properly administer justice. Not being a penal law, the retroactive application of R.A. 8249 cannot be challenged as unconstitutional.
In People vs. Montejo, it was held that an offense is said to have been committed in relation to the office if it is intimately connected with the office of the offender and perpetrated while he was in the performance of his official functions. Such intimate relation must be alleged in the information which is essential in determining the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. However, upon examination of the amended information, there was no specific allegation of facts that the shooting of the victim by the said principal accused was intimately related to the discharge of their official duties as police officers. Likewise, the amended information does not indicate that the said accused arrested and investigated the victim and then killed the latter while in their custody. The stringent requirement that the charge set forth with such particularity as will reasonably indicate the exact offense which the accused is alleged to have committed in relation to his office was not established.
Consequently, for failure to show in the amended information that the charge of murder was intimately connected with the discharge of official functions of the accused PNP officers, the offense charged in the subject criminal cases is plain murder and, therefore, within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court and not the Sandiganbayan.