CASE DIGEST: LACSON VS. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

 301 SCRA 298; G.R. NO. 12809620 JAN 1999

LACSON VS. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY


Facts: 

Eleven persons believed to be members of the Kuratong Baleleng gang, an organized crime syndicate involved in bank robberies, were slain by elements of the Anti-Bank Robbery andIntelligence Task Group (ABRITG). Among those included in the ABRITG were petitioners and petitioner-intervenors.

Acting on a media expose of SPO2 Eduardo delos Reyes, a member of the Criminal Investigation Command, that what actually transpired was a summary execution and not a shoot-out between the Kuratong Baleleng gang members and the ABRITG, Ombudsman Aniano Desiertoformed a panel of investigators to investigate the said incident. Said panel found the incident as a legitimate police operation. However, a review board modified the panel’s finding and recommended the indictment for multiple murder against twenty-six respondents including herein petitioner, charged as principal, and herein petitioner-intervenors, charged as accessories. After a reinvestigation, the Ombudsman filed amended informations before the Sandiganbayan, where petitioner was charged only as an accessory.

The accused filed separate motions questioning the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, asserting that under the amended informations, the cases fall within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court pursuant to Section 2 of R.A. 7975. They contend that the said law limited the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan to cases where one or ore of the “principal accused” are government officals with Salary Grade 27 or higher, or PNP officials with rank of Chief Superintendent or higher. Thus, they did not qualify under said requisites. However, pending resolution of their motions, R.A. 8249 was approved amending the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan by deleting the word “principal” from the phrase “principal accused” in Section 2 of R.A. 7975.

Petitioner questions the constitutionality of Section 4 of R.A. 8249, including Section 7 which provides that the said law shall apply to all cases pending in any court over which trial has not begun as of the approval hereof.

Issues: 

(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.

(2) Whether or not said statute may be considered as an ex-post facto statute.

(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.

RULING:

1.) RIGHTS NOT VIOLATED.

Petitioner and intervenors’ contention 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.”

2.) NOT EX POST FACTO LAW.

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 apenal 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.

3.) RTC HAS JURISDICTION.

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 informations 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.


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