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Estrada v Sandiganbayan/ G.R. No.

148560/ November 19, 2001

Bellosillo J.

Facts: Petitioner calls for the Court to subject RA 7080(An Act defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder) to the crucible of constitutionality for reasons that the act: Issue: Is the Plunder Law unconstitutional for being vague? is vague dispenses with the "reasonable doubt" standard in criminal prosecutions abolishes the element of mens rea in crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code

Does the Plunder law require less evidence proving the predicate crimes of plunder thus violates the rights of the accused to due process (specifically Section 4 proposing that "it shall not be necessary to prove each and every criminal act done by the accused to establish beyond reasonable doubt a pattern of over or criminal acts inidcative of the overall lawful scheme or conspiracy)?

Whether Plunder as defined in RA 7080 is a malum prohibitum(therefore does not require that the mind of the offender be guilty to be penalized) and if so, whether it is within the power of Congress to so classify it

Ruling: Petitioner has miserably failed to show that the Plunder Law is unconstitutional due to its vagueness.

"...the Plunder Law contains ascertainable standards and well-defined parameters which would enable the accused to determine the nature of his violation. Section 2 is sufficiently explicit in its description of the acts, conduct and conditions required or forbidden, and prescribes the elements of the crime with reasonable certainty and particularity."

"...the doctrines of strict scrutiny, overbreadth, and vagueness are analytical tools developed for testing "on their faces" statutes in free speech cases or, as they are called in American law, First Amendment cases. Criminal statutes on the other hand cannot be a party to such a rule. "One to whom application of a statute is constitutional will not be heard to attack the statute on the ground that impliedly it might also be taken as applying to other persons or other situations in which its application might be unconstitutional"

Petitioner's stand that the statute(specifically Sec.4) evades the mandatory element of the prosecution in criminal law to prove beyond reasonable doubt the acts constituting plunder is turned down by the court.

SEC. 4. Rule of Evidence. - For purposes of establishing the crime of plunder, it shall not be necessary to prove each and every criminal act done by the accused in furtherance of the scheme or conspiracy to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth, it being sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt a pattern of overt or criminal acts indicative of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy.

What needs proof is only the "number of acts sufficient to form a combination or series which should constitute a patter and involving an amount of at least P50, 000,000". Proof to each and every other act is not needed.

"...we do not subscribe to petitioner's stand. Primarily, all the essential elements of plunder can be culled and understood from its definition in Sec. 2, in relation to Sec. 1, par. (d), and "pattern" is not one of them."

"...because Section 4 is two pronged, it contains a rule of evidence and it contains a substantive element of the crime of plunder. So, there is no way by which we can avoid Section 4."

Also there is a separability clause in the act holding that if any provision in the act is held invalid, the remaining provisions of the act shall not be affected. "All the provisions thereof should be accordingly be treated independently of each other, especially if by doing so, the objects of the statute can be best achieved."

Court believes that plunder is mala in se.

"...it is noteworthy that the amended information alleges that the crime of plunder was committed "willfully, unlawfully and criminally." It thus alleges guilty knowledge on the part of petitioner."

The punishment for plunder, which is by reclusion perpetua to death, may be deemed as a resolution to any doubts whether the crime of plunder is mala in se.

Acts that are inherently immoral or inherently wrong are mala in se , and does not matter that such acts are punished by special laws.

Court declares that RA 7659 as constitutionally valid. Petition denied for lack of merit.

Facial Challenge

A facial challenge is typically described as a head-on attack on the legislative judgment, an assertion that the challenged statute violates the Constitution in all, or virtually all, of its applications" and, as a result, is invalid in its entirety.