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G.R. No.

209447, August 11, 2015

PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD


GOVERNMENT (PCGG), Petitioner, v. HON.
WINLOVE M. DUMAYAS, PRESIDING JUDGE,
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 59, MAKATI
CITY AND UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK
(UCPB), Respondents.

[G.R. NO. 210901]

PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD


GOVERNMENT (PCGG), Petitioner, v. HON.
WINLOVE M. DUMAYAS, PRESIDING JUDGE,
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 59, MAKATI
CITY AND UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS LIFE
ASSURANCE CORPORATION
(COCOLIFE), Respondents.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

It is an important fundamental principle in our judicial


system that every litigation must come to an end.
Litigation must end and terminate sometime and
somewhere, and it is essential to an effective and
efficient administration of justice that, once a judgment
has become final, the winning party be, not through a
mere subterfuge, deprived of the fruits of the verdict.1
Adherence to the principle impacts upon the lives of
about three million poor farmers who have long waited
to benefit from the outcome of the 27-year battle for
the judicial recovery of assets acquired through illegal
conversion of the coconut levies collected during the
Marcos regime into private funds.

The Case

Before us are the consolidated petitions seeking the


reversal of the following Orders2 issued by respondent
Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Makati City, Branch 59: (a) Order dated April 29,
2013 denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss the
complaint in Civil Case No. 12-1251; (b) Order dated
June 28, 2013 denying the motion for reconsideration
filed by petitioner; (c) Omnibus Order dated May 15,
2013 denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss the
complaint in Civil Case No. 12-1252; and (d) Order
dated December 4, 2013 denying the motion for
reconsideration filed by petitioner.

The Antecedents

The factual background of this case is gathered from


the records and the decisions of this Court involving the
coconut levy funds. We reproduce the pertinent
portions of the January 24, 2012 Decision in COCOFED
v. Republic3:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

In 1971, Republic Act No. (R.A.) 6260 was enacted


creating the Coconut Investment Company (CIC) to
administer the Coconut Investment Fund (CIF),
which, under Section 8 thereof, was to be sourced from
a PhP 0.55 levy on the sale of every 100 kg. of copra.
Of the PhP 0.55 levy of which the copra seller was, or
ought to be, issued COCOFUND receipts, PhP 0.02 was
placed at the disposition of COCOFED, the national
association of coconut producers declared by the
Philippine Coconut Administration (PHILCOA, now PCA)
as having the largest membership.

The declaration of martial law in September 1972 saw


the issuance of several presidential decrees (“P.Ds.”)
purportedly designed to improve the coconut industry
through the collection and use of the coconut levy fund.
While coming generally from impositions on the first
sale of copra, the coconut levy fund came under various
names x x x. Charged with the duty of collecting and
administering the Fund was PCA. Like COCOFED with
which it had a legal linkage, the PCA, by statutory
provisions scattered in different coco levy decrees, had
its share of the coco levy.

The following were some of the issuances on the coco


levy, its collection and utilization, how the proceeds of
the levy will be managed and by whom, and the
purpose it was supposed to serve: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

1. P.D. No. 276 established the Coconut Consumers


Stabilization Fund (CCSF) and declared the proceeds of
the CCSF levy as trust fund, to be utilized to subsidize
the sale of coconut-based products, thus stabilizing the
price of edible oil.

2. P.D. No. 582 created the Coconut Industry


Development Fund (CIDF) to finance the operation of a
hybrid coconut seed farm.

3. Then came P.D. No. 755 providing under its Section


1 the following: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

It is hereby declared that the policy of the State is to


provide readily available credit facilities to the coconut
farmers at a preferential rates; that this policy can be
expeditiously and efficiently realized by the
implementation of the “Agreement for the Acquisition of
a Commercial Bank for the benefit of Coconut Farmers”
executed by the [PCA] x x x; and that the [PCA] is
hereby authorized to distribute, for free, the shares of
stock of the bank it acquired to the coconut farmers x x
x.Towards achieving the policy thus declared, P.D. No.
755, under its Section 2, authorized PCA to utilize the
CCSF and the CIDF collections to acquire a commercial
bank and deposit the CCSF levy collections in said
bank, interest free, the deposit withdrawable only
when the bank has attained a certain level of
sufficiency in its equity capital. The same section also
decreed that all levies PCA is authorized to collect shall
not be considered as special and/or fiduciary funds or
form part of the general funds of the government within
the contemplation of P.D. No. 711.

4. P.D. No. 961 codified the various laws relating to


the development of coconut/palm oil industries.

5. The relevant provisions of P.D. No. 961, as later


amended by P.D. No. 1468 (Revised Coconut Industry
Code), read: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw
ARTICLE III
Levies

Section 1. Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund


Levy. – The [PCA] is hereby empowered to impose and
collect x x x the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund
Levy x x x.

xxxx

Section 5. Exemption. — The [CCSF] and the [CIDF] as


well as all disbursements as herein authorized, shall not
be construed x x x as special and/or fiduciary funds, or
as part of the general funds of the national government
within the contemplation of PD 711; x x x the intention
being that said Fund and the disbursements thereof as
herein authorized for the benefit of the coconut farmers
shall be owned by them in their private capacities: x x
x. (Emphasis supplied.)
6. Letter of Instructions No. (LOI) 926, Series of
1979, made reference to the creation, out of other coco
levy funds, of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund
(CIIF) in P.D. No. 1468 and entrusted a portion of
the CIIF levy to UCPB for investment, on behalf of
coconut farmers, in oil mills and other private
corporations, with the following equity ownership
structure:

Section 2. Organization of the Cooperative Endeavor. –


The [UCPB], in its capacity as the investment arm of
the coconut farmers thru the [CIIF] x x x is hereby
directed to invest, on behalf of the coconut farmers,
such portion of the CIIF x x x in private corporations x
x x under the following guidelines: Lawli bra ryofCRAlaw

a) The coconut farmers shall own or control at least x x


x (50%) of the outstanding voting capital stock of
the private corporation [acquired] thru the CIIF
and/or corporation owned or controlled by the farmers
thru the CIIF x x x. (Words in bracket added.)
Through the years, a part of the coconut levy funds
went directly or indirectly to [finance] various projects
and/or was converted into different assets or
investments. Of particular relevance to this case was
their use to acquire the First United Bank (FUB), later
renamed UCPB, and the acquisition by UCPB, through
the CIIF companies, of a large block of SMC shares.

xxxx

Shortly after the execution of the PCA-Cojuangco, Jr.


Agreement, President Marcos issued, on July 29, 1975,
P.D. No. 755 directing, as earlier narrated, PCA to use
the CCSF and CIDF to acquire a commercial bank to
provide coco farmers with “readily available credit
facilities at preferential rate,” and PCA “to distribute, for
free,” the bank shares to coconut farmers.

Then came the 1986 EDSA event. One of the priorities


of then President Corazon C. Aquino’s revolutionary
government was the recovery of ill-gotten wealth
reportedly amassed by the Marcos family and close
relatives, their nominees and associates. Apropos
thereto, she issued Executive Order Nos. (E.Os.) 1, 2
and 14, as amended by E.O. 14-A, all Series of 1986.
E.O. 1 created the PCGG and provided it with the tools
and processes it may avail of in the recovery efforts;
E.O. No. 2 asserted that the ill-gotten assets and
properties come in the form of shares of stocks, etc.;
while E.O. No. 14 conferred on the Sandiganbayan
exclusive and original jurisdiction over ill-gotten wealth
cases, with the proviso that “technical rules of
procedure and evidence shall not be applied strictly” to
the civil cases filed under the E.O. Pursuant to these
issuances, the PCGG issued numerous orders of
sequestration, among which were those handed
out, as earlier mentioned, against shares of stock
in UCPB purportedly owned by or registered in the
names of (a) more than a million coconut farmers and
(b) the CIIF companies, including the SMC shares
held by the CIIF companies. On July 31, 1987, the
PCGG instituted before the Sandiganbayan a recovery
suit docketed thereat as CC No. 0033.

After the filing and subsequent amendments of the


complaint in CC 0033, Lobregat, COCOFED, et al., and
Ballares, et al., purportedly representing over a million
coconut farmers, sought and were allowed to intervene.
Meanwhile, the following incidents/events transpired: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

1. On the postulate, inter alia, that its coco-farmer


members own at least 51% of the outstanding capital
stock of UCPB, the CIIF companies, etc., COCOFED, et
al., on November 29, 1989, filed Class Action Omnibus
Motion praying for the lifting of the orders of
sequestration referred to above and for a chance to
present evidence to prove the coconut farmers’
ownership of the UCPB and CIIF shares. The plea to
present evidence was denied;

2. Later, the Republic moved for and secured approval


of a motion for separate trial which paved the way for
the subdivision of the causes of action in CC 0033, each
detailing how the assets subject thereof were acquired
and the key roles the principal played;

3. Civil Case 0033, pursuant to an order of the


Sandiganbayan would be subdivided into eight
complaints, docketed as CC 0033-A to CC 0033-H.

xxxx

4. On February 23, 2001, Lobregat, COCOFED,


Ballares, et al., filed a Class Action Omnibus Motion to
enjoin the PCGG from voting the sequestered UCPB
shares and the SMC shares registered in the names of
the CIIF companies. The Sandiganbayan, by Order of
February 28, 2001, granted the motion, sending
the Republic to come to this Court
on certiorari, docketed as G.R. Nos. 147062-64, to
annul said order; and

5. By Decision of December 14, 2001, in G.R. Nos.


147062-64 (Republic v. COCOFED), the Court
declared the coco levy funds as prima facie public
funds. And purchased as the sequestered UCPB
shares were by such funds, beneficial ownership
thereon and the corollary voting rights prima
facie pertain, according to the Court, to the
government.4 (Additional emphasis, italics and
underscoring supplied)
As mentioned in the above-cited case, the amended
complaint in Civil Case No. 0033 revolved around the
provisional take-over by the PCGG of COCOFED,
Cocomark, and Coconut Investment Company and their
assets and the sequestration of shares of stock in UCPB
CIIF corporations (CIIF oil mills and the 14 CIIF holding
companies), or CIIF companies, so-called for having
been either organized, acquired and/or funded as UCPB
subsidiaries with the use of the CIIF levy. The basic
complaint also contained allegations about the alleged
misuse of the coconut levy funds to buy out the
majority of the outstanding shares of stock of San
Miguel Corporation (SMC).5 redarclaw

The proceedings relevant to this case pertain to Civil


Case No. 0033-A entitled, Republic of the Philippines,
Plaintiff, v. Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr., et al.,
Defendants, COCOFED, et al., BALLARES, et al., Class
Action Movants (Re: Anomalous Purchase and Use of
[FUB] now [UCPB]), and Civil Case No. 0033-F entitled,
Republic of the Philippines, Plaintiff, v. Eduardo M.
Cojuangco, Jr., et al., Defendants (Re: Acquisition of
San Miguel Corporation Shares of Stock).

The Sandiganbayan rendered partial summary


judgments in Civil Case No. 0033-A and 0033-F on July
11, 2003 and May 7, 2004, respectively. In our
Decision dated January 24, 2012 in COCOFED v.
Republic,6 we affirmed with modification the said partial
summary judgments and also upheld the
Sandiganbayan’s ruling that the coconut levy funds are
special public funds of the Government. Citing Republic
v. COCOFED7 which resolved the issue of whether the
PCGG has the right to vote the sequestered shares, we
declared that the coconut levy funds are not only
affected with public interest but are, in fact, prima
facie public funds. We also upheld the Sandiganbayan’s
ruling that Sections 1 and 2 of P.D. 755, Section 3,
Article III of P.D. 961, and the implementing
regulations of the PCA, are unconstitutional “for
allowing the use and/or the distribution of properties
acquired through the coconut levy funds to private
individuals for their own direct benefit and absolute
ownership.” As to the ownership of the six CIIF
companies, the 14 holding companies, and the CIIF
block of SMC shares of stock, we held these to be
owned by the Government, having likewise been
acquired using the coconut levy funds. Accordingly,
“the properties subject of the January 24, 2012
Decision were declared owned by and ordered
reconveyed to the Government, to be used only for the
benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development
of the coconut industry.”8redarclaw

Under the Resolution dated September 4, 2012, we


denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed
by the petitioners in G.R. Nos. 177857-58.

The dispositive portion of the September 4, 2012


Resolution in Philippine Coconut Producers Federation,
Inc. (COCOFED) v. Republic of the Philippines9 thus
reads: LawlibraryofCRAlaw

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves


to DENY with FINALITY the instant Motion for
Reconsideration dated February 14, 2012 for lack of
merit.

The Court further resolves to CLARIFY that the


753,848,312 SMC Series 1 preferred shares of the CIIF
companies converted from the CIIF block of SMC
shares, with all the dividend earnings as well as all
increments arising from, but not limited to, the exercise
of preemptive rights subject of the September 17, 2009
Resolution, shall now be the subject matter of the
January 24, 2012 Decision and shall be declared owned
by the Government and be used only for the benefit of
all coconut farmers and for the development of the
coconut industry.

As modified, the fallo of the January 24, 2012 Decision


shall read, as follows: LawlibraryofCR Alaw

WHEREFORE, the petitions in G.R. Nos. 177857-58


and 178793 are hereby DENIED. The Partial Summary
Judgment dated July 11, 2003 in Civil Case No. 0033-A
as reiterated with modification in Resolution dated June
5, 2007, as well as the Partial Summary Judgment
dated May 7, 2004 in Civil Case No. 0033-F, which was
effectively amended in Resolution dated May 11, 2007,
are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, only with
respect to those issues subject of the petitions in G.R.
Nos. 177857-58 and 178193. However, the issues
raised in G.R. No. 180705 in relation to Partial
Summary Judgment dated July 11, 2003 and Resolution
dated June 5, 2007 in Civil Case No. 0033-A, shall be
decided by this Court in a separate decision.

The Partial Summary Judgment in Civil Case No. 0033-


A dated July 11, 2003, is hereby MODIFIED, and shall
read as follows: LawlibraryofCR Alaw

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, We rule as


follows:
Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

SUMMARY OF THE COURT’S RULING.

A. Re: CLASS ACTION MOTION FOR A SEPARATE


SUMMARY JUDGMENT dated April 11, 2001 filed by
Defendant Maria Clara L. Lobregat, COCOFED, et al.,
and Ballares, et al.

The Class Action Motion for Separate Summary


Judgment dated April 11, 2001 filed by defendant Maria
Clara L. Lobregat, COCOFED, et al. and Ballares, et al.,
is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.

B. Re: MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT


(RE: COCOFED, ET AL. AND BALLARES, ET AL.) dated
April 22, 2002 filed by Plaintiff.

1. a. The portion of Section 1 of P.D. No. 755, which


reads: LawlibraryofCR Alaw

x x x and that the Philippine Coconut Authority is


hereby authorized to distribute, for free, the shares
of stock of the bank it acquired to the coconut
farmers under such rules and regulations it may
promulgate.
taken in relation to Section 2 of the same P.D., is
unconstitutional: (i) for having allowed the use of
the CCSF to benefit directly private interest by the
outright and unconditional grant of absolute
ownership of the FUB/UCPB shares paid for by PCA
entirely with the CCSF to the undefined “coconut
farmers”, which negated or circumvented the
national policy or public purpose declared by P.D.
No. 755 to accelerate the growth and development
of the coconut industry and achieve its vertical
integration; and (ii) for having unduly delegated
legislative power to the PCA.

b. The implementing regulations issued by PCA,


namely, Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 1975
and Resolution No. 074-78 are likewise invalid for
their failure to see to it that the distribution of
shares serve exclusively or at least primarily or
directly the aforementioned public purpose or
national policy declared by P.D. No. 755.

2. Section 2 of P.D. No. 755 which mandated that the


coconut levy funds shall not be considered special
and/or fiduciary funds nor part of the general funds
of the national government and similar provisions
of Sec. 5, Art. III, P.D. No. 961 and Sec. 5, Art. III,
P.D. No. 1468 contravene the provisions of the
Constitution, particularly, Art. IX (D), Sec. 2; and
Article VI, Sec. 29 (3).
3. Lobregat, COCOFED, et al. and Ballares, et al. have
not legally and validly obtained title of ownership
over the subject UCPB shares by virtue of P.D. No.
755, the Agreement dated May 25, 1975 between
the PCA and defendant Cojuangco, and PCA
implementing rules, namely, Adm. Order No. 1, s.
1975 and Resolution No. 074-78.

4. The so-called “Farmers’ UCPB shares” covered by


64.98% of the UCPB shares of stock, which formed
part of the 72.2% of the shares of stock of the
former FUB and now of the UCPB, the entire
consideration of which was charged by PCA to the
CCSF, are hereby declared conclusively owned by,
the Plaintiff Republic of the Philippines.

xxxx

SO ORDERED.

The Partial Summary Judgment in Civil Case No. 0033-


F dated May 7, 2004, is hereby MODIFIED, and shall
read as follows:LawlibraryofCR Alaw

WHEREFORE, the MOTION FOR EXECUTION OF


PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (RE: CIIF BLOCK
OF SMC SHARES OF STOCK) dated August 8, 2005 of
the plaintiff is hereby denied for lack of merit. However,
this Court orders the severance of this particular claim
of Plaintiff. The Partial Summary Judgment dated May
7, 2004 is now considered a separate final and
appealable judgment with respect to the said CIIF Block
of SMC shares of stock.

The Partial Summary Judgment rendered on May 7,


2004 is modified by deleting the last paragraph of the
dispositive portion, which will now read, as follows:
LawlibraryofCRAlaw

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, we hold


that:

The Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Re:


Defendants CIIF Companies, 14 Holding Companies and
Cocofed, et al.) filed by Plaintiff is hereby GRANTED.
ACCORDINGLY, THE CIIF COMPANIES, NAMELY:

1. Southern Luzon Coconut Oil Mills (SOLCOM);


2. Cagayan de Oro Oil Co., Inc. (CAGOIL);
3. Iligan Coconut Industries, Inc. (ILICOCO);
4. San Pablo Manufacturing Corp. (SPMC);
5. Granexport Manufacturing Corp. (GRANEX); and
6. Legaspi Oil Co., Inc. (LEGOIL),

AS WELL AS THE 14 HOLDING COMPANIES,


NAMELY:

1. Soriano Shares, Inc.;


2. ACS Investors, Inc.;
3. Roxas Shares, Inc.;
4. Arc Investors; Inc.;
5. Toda Holdings, Inc.;
6. AP Holdings, Inc.;
7. Fernandez Holdings, Inc.;
8. SMC Officers Corps, Inc.;
9. Te Deum Resources, Inc.;
10. Anglo Ventures, Inc.;
11. Randy Allied Ventures, Inc.;
12. Rock Steel Resources, Inc.;
13. Valhalla Properties Ltd., Inc.; and
14. First Meridian Development, Inc.

AND THE CONVERTED SMC SERIES 1 PREFERRED


SHARES TOTALING 753,848,312 SHARES SUBJECT
OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE COURT DATED
SEPTEMBER 17, 2009 TOGETHER WITH ALL
DIVIDENDS DECLARED, PAID OR ISSUED
THEREON AFTER THAT DATE, AS WELL AS
ANY INCREMENTS THERETO ARISING FROM, BUT
NOT LIMITED TO, EXERCISE OF PRE-EMPTIVE
RIGHTS ARE DECLARED OWNED BY THE
GOVERNMENT TO BE USED ONLY FOR THE
BENEFIT OF ALL COCONUT FARMERS AND FOR
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE COCONUT INDUSTRY,
AND ORDERED RECONVEYED TO THE
GOVERNMENT.

THE COURT AFFIRMS THE RESOLUTIONS ISSUED


BY THE SANDIGANBAYAN ON JUNE 5, 2007 IN
CIVIL CASE NO. 0033-A AND ON MAY 11, 2007 IN
CIVIL CASE NO. 0033-F, THAT THERE IS NO MORE
NECESSITY OF FURTHER TRIAL WITH RESPECT TO
THE ISSUE OF OWNERSHIP OF (1) THE
SEQUESTERED UCPB SHARES, (2) THE CIIF FLOCK
OF SMC SHARES, AND (3) THE CIIF COMPANIES,
AS THEY HAVE FINALLY BEEN ADJUDICATED IN
THE AFOREMENTIONED PARTIAL SUMMARY
JUDGMENTS DATED JULY 11, 2003 AND MAY 7,
2004.

SO ORDERED.
Costs against petitioners COCOFED, et al. in G.R. Nos.
177857-58 and Danilo S. Ursua in G.R. No. 178193.

No further pleadings shall be entertained. Let Entry of


Judgment be made in due course.

SO ORDERED.10 (Boldface in the original; additional


underscoring supplied)
On December 28, 2012, a petition for declaratory
relief11 was filed by respondent UCPB in the RTC of
Makati City (Civil Case No. 12-1251) against the six
CIIF oil mills and 14 holding companies (CIIF
companies), PCGG and other corporations “similarly
situated.” A similar petition12 was also filed by
respondent United Coconut Planters Life Assurance
Corporation (COCOLIFE) against the same defendants
(Civil Case No. 12-1252).

Civil Case No. 12-1251

UCPB alleged that the capital or equity used in


establishing the CIIF companies was not exclusively
sourced from the coconut levy funds. It claimed that
while P633 Million was invested by it as Administrator
of the CIIF, as universal bank it also invested around
P112 million in the six oil mill companies or oil mills
group (CIIF OMG). As to the 14 holding companies,
UCPB claimed that while it had the funds in mid-1983
to purchase the 33,133,266 shares in SMC then being
sold by the Soriano Group for the price of P1.656 Billion
to Mr. Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr., it could not, under
banking laws, directly engage in the business of
brewery. To make the equity investment, the 14
holding companies were established by the CIIF OMG to
serve as corporate vehicles for the investment in SMC
shares (CIIF SMC Block of Shares).

With the foregoing supposed equity in the CIIF


companies and contributions to the acquisition of the
SMC shares, UCPB claims 11.03% indirect ownership
valued at P7.84 Billion, based on the P71.04 Billion
present value of the said sequestered shares (P56.5
Billion redemption price of the redeemed shares plus
P14.54 Billion dividends and accrued interests for the
account of the 14 holding companies). UCPB thus
prayed for a judgment

declaring the rights and duties of [UCPB] affirming and


confirming [UCPB’s] proportionate right, title and
interest in the Oil Mills Group Companies, its indirect
equity of the 14 Coconut Industry Investment Funds
(“CIIF”) Holding Companies and the San Miguel
Corporation (“SMC”) Shares, the dividends thereon and
the proceeds of the redemption thereof and that any
disbursement or disposition thereof should x x x respect
and take into account [UCPB’s] right, title and interest
thereto.13
PCGG filed a motion to dismiss citing the following
grounds: (1) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter
of the case; (2) the January 24, 2012 Decision of the
Supreme Court cannot be the proper subject of a
petition for declaratory relief; (3) a petition for
declaratory relief is unavailing since the alleged right or
interest of UCPB over the CIIF companies and the CIIF
Block of SMC Shares had long been breached or
violated upon the issuance of the writ of sequestration
against the said companies and shares of stock by the
PCGG, which thereafter assumed their administration
and voted the shares of stock; (4) UCPB is now
estopped from asserting its alleged right over the
subject companies and shares of stock, having failed to
enforce it for a long time (25 years) from the date of
filing by PCGG of the complaint in the Sandiganbayan in
1987 until the Supreme Court decided with finality the
issue of ownership of the subject sequestered
companies and shares of stock on September 4, 2012;
and (5) the petition is defective, as it failed to implead
an indispensable party, the Republic of the
Philippines.13-a redarcla w

UCPB opposed the motion contending that the subject


of its petition is not the Supreme Court Decision dated
January 24, 2012 but the proper documents
establishing UCPB’s ownership over the subject
companies and shares of stock. It further asserted that
there is no actual breach of right or estoppel that would
bar UCPB’s claim considering that it was not even a
party to any previous legal suit involving the subject
properties.13-b
redarclaw

On April 29, 2013, respondent Judge issued the first


assailed Order denying the motion to dismiss and
directing the PCGG to file its Answer. PCGG’s motion
for reconsideration was likewise denied under the Order
dated June 28, 2013.

Civil Case No. 12-1252

COCOLIFE raised similar claims of ownership in the


subject companies and shares of stock by virtue of its
being a stockholder, owning 146,610,567 UCPB shares
independently of its right as direct shareholder of the
CIIF OMG and the 14 holding companies, as well as the
CIIF SMC Block of Shares. It alleged that on December
18, 1985, it purchased from UCPB shares of stock in
four CIIF oil companies. Using funds coming from
COCOLIFE and UCPB, the CIIF OMG was able to raise
the money for the purchase of the 33,133,266 common
shares in SMC. Consequently, COCOLIFE’s percentage
ownership in the CIIF SMC Block of Shares being held
by the 14 holding companies is 11.01%. According to
COCOLIFE, its investment in the CIIF OMG is evidenced
by certificates of stock issued by San Pablo
Manufacturing Corp., Southern Luzon Coconut Oil Mills,
Granexport Manufacturing Corp. and Legaspi Oil Co.,
Inc.

Like UCPB, COCOLIFE asserted that the CIIF OMG and


14 CIIF holding companies are not wholly owned by the
Government. Since it was not impleaded in the
complaint filed by the PCGG for the recovery of
allegedly ill-gotten properties (CIIF companies and CIIF
SMC Block of Shares), COCOLIFE argued that it should
not be deprived of its proportionate interest (11.01%)
in the said properties sequestered by PCGG. It thus
prayed that judgment be rendered by the RTC declaring
the rights and duties of COCOLIFE affirming and
confirming COCOLIFE’s proportionate interest in the
four CIIF oil companies, its indirect equity in the 14
CIIF holding companies and the CIIF SMC Block of
Shares including the proceeds or their equivalent, and
that any disbursement or disposition thereof should
preserve, respect and take into account COCOLIFE’s
right and interest.

Civil Case No. 12-1252 was consolidated with Civil Case


No. 12-1251. PCGG likewise moved to dismiss the
petition in Civil Case No. 12-1252 on the same grounds
it raised in Civil Case No. 12-1251.

The Omnibus Order dated May 15, 2013 denied the


motion to dismiss and further required PCGG to file its
Answer. PCGG’s motion for reconsideration was
likewise denied by respondent Judge on December 4,
2013.

Petitioner’s Arguments

PCGG contends that respondent judge gravely abused


his discretion in not dismissing the petitions for
declaratory relief, which merely aim to re-litigate the
issue of ownership already passed upon by the
Sandiganbayan under the Partial Summary Judgment
rendered in Civil Case No. 0033-F and the January 24,
2012 Decision of this Court in COCOFED v.
Republic.14 It argues that the RTC has no jurisdiction
over the acts performed by PCGG pursuant to its quasi-
judicial functions, particularly those relating to the
issuance of writs of sequestration, and that all cases
involving ill-gotten wealth assets are under the
unquestionable jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.

Contrary to the asseveration of respondents UCPB and


COCOLIFE, PCGG maintains that their petitions for
declaratory relief actually seek to modify or alter the
Decision of this Court in COCOFED v. Republic, which
has become final and executory. PCGG also contends
that documents like stock certificates cannot be a
proper subject of a petition for declaratory relief
considering that the phrase “other written instruments”
contemplated by the Rules of Court pertains to a
written document constituting a contract upon which
rights and obligations are created, which terms could
be interpreted by the courts so as to avoid any
conflicting interests between the parties. Further, the
alleged ownership or title of UCPB and COCOLIFE have
already been breached or violated by the issuance of
writs of sequestration over the subject properties.

On account of their inaction for more than 25 years that


the issue of ownership over the sequestered CIIF
companies and CIIF SMC Block of Shares were being
litigated, PCGG argues that UCPB and COCOLIFE are
now estopped from asserting any such right in the said
properties. And as to their non-participation in the
cases before the Sandiganbayan, PCGG asserts it has
no legal obligation to implead UCPB and COCOLIFE, as
held in Universal Broadcasting Corporation v.
Sandiganbayan (5th Div.).15 redarclaw

Respondents’ Arguments

Respondents question the authority of Commissioner


Vicente L. Gengos, Jr. in filing the present petitions
before the Court and signing the Verification and
Certification Against Forum Shopping. They point out
that the PCGG is a collegial body created by virtue of
EO 1, and it may function only as such “Commission.”
Consequently, the present action should have been
properly authorized by all members of the Commission.

On the issue of jurisdiction, UCPB and COCOLIFE argue


that since they have properly alleged a case for
declaratory relief, jurisdiction over the subject matter
lies in the regular courts such as the RTC of Makati
City. Having filed a motion to dismiss, PCGG is deemed
to have admitted the material allegations of the
complaint, specifically that UCPB and COCOLIFE had
jointly acquired the six CIIF oil mills by investing direct
equity of P112 Million (UCPB) and P112 Million
(COCOLIFE) for the four CIIF oil mills. Citing San
Miguel Corporation v. Kahn16 where this Court held that
the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction if the subject
matter of the case does not involve or has no relation
to the recovery of ill-gotten wealth, UCPB and
COCOLIFE insist that the subject matter of their
petitions is the declaration of their rights under
corporate documents, which in turn relate to UCPB and
COCOLIFE’s investments not sourced from the coconut
levy funds. It is thus the allegations in the complaint
that determine the cause of action and what court has
jurisdiction over such cause of action, and not the
defenses raised in the motion to dismiss and/or answer.

In the same vein, UCPB and COCOLIFE posit that,


contrary to PCGG’s position, proceeding to hear the
cases below will not pave the way for re-examining the
findings of this Court in its Decision in COCOFED v.
Republic. This is because the subject matter of the
petitions for declaratory relief is not the coconut levy
funds but their own investments in the CIIF OMG and
consequent indirect ownership of the CIIF SMC Block of
Shares. Neither do their petitions seek to lift the
sequestration orders as these pertain only to those
shares in CIIF OMG which were acquired by UCPB as
Administrator, using coconut levy funds. While
respondents adhere to the wisdom of the Decision
in COCOFED v. Republic, it is their position that the
ruling therein does not affect their respective claims to
11% proportional equity stake in the CIIF OMG
companies. Moreover, since they were not impleaded
in Sandiganbayan Civil Case No. 0033-F and in G.R.
Nos. 177857-58 and 178193, respondents maintain
that they are not bound by any adjudication of
ownership rendered therein.

Respondents further contend that the writ of


sequestration issued by the Sandiganbayan cannot be
considered a breach which gives rise to a cause of
action in favor of any of the parties. There was no
“injury” on the part of UCPB and COCOLIFE despite the
sequestration proceedings because they were not
impleaded as a party in the sequestration case. They
point out that their title and interest in the subject
properties remained unaffected by the sequestration by
PCGG considering that the CIIF companies had not
done anything to disown or deny UCPB and COCOLIFE’s
stockholdings, as in fact, in their Answer to the petition
for declaratory relief, these companies expressly
admitted the existence of respondents’ stockholdings in
each respective company. Also, the CIIF OMG were all
in agreement that there is a need for declaratory relief
judgment on respondents’ claims in the sequestered
properties notwithstanding the final decision of this
Court which resolved the issue of ownership in favor of
the Government.

On February 26, 2014 in G.R. No. 210901, we issued a


temporary restraining order (TRO) immediately
enjoining the respondent judge, the RTC of Makati City,
Branch 59, their representatives, agents or other
persons acting on their behalf, from proceeding with
the hearing of the petitions for declaratory relief in Civil
Case Nos. 12-1251 and 12-1252.17 Likewise, a TRO
was issued in G.R. No. 209447 enjoining the
respondent judge from further hearing the said
petitions for declaratory relief.18 redarclaw

Issues

The issues generated by this controversy are the


following:LawlibraryofCR Alaw
1) Non-compliance with the rule on Verification and
Certification of Non-Forum Shopping which was signed
by only one PCGG Commissioner;

2) Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of Civil


Case Nos. 12-1251 and 12-1252;

3) Non-compliance with the requisites of a petition for


declaratory relief complied with; and

4) Application of res judicata and/or laches as bar to


the suits for declaratory relief filed by UCPB and
COCOLIFE.

Our Ruling

The petitions are meritorious.

Alleged Lack of Authority of PCGG


Commissioner Vicente L. Gengos, Jr.
to file the present petition

Under Rule 46, Section 3, paragraph 3 of the 1997


Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, petitions for
certiorari must be verified and accompanied by a sworn
certification of non-forum shopping.19 A pleading is
verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the
pleading and that the allegations therein are true and
correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic
records.20 The party need not sign the verification. A
party’s representative, lawyer or any person who
personally knows the truth of the facts alleged in the
pleading may sign the verification.21redarclaw

On the other hand, a certification of non-forum


shopping is a certification under oath by the plaintiff
or principal party in the complaint or other initiatory
pleading asserting a claim for relief or in a sworn
certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed
therewith, (a) that he has not theretofore commenced
any action or filed any claim involving the same issues
in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to
the best of his knowledge, no such other action or claim
is pending therein; (b) if there is such other pending
action or claim, a complete statement of the present
status thereof; and (c) if he should thereafter learn that
the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is
pending, he shall report that fact within five (5) days
therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint
or initiatory pleading has been filed.22 redarclaw

It is obligatory that the one signing the verification and


certification against forum shopping on behalf of the
principal party or the other petitioners has the authority
to do the same.23 We hold that the signature of only
one Commissioner of petitioner PCGG in the verification
and certification against forum shopping is not a fatal
defect.

It has been consistently held that the verification of a


pleading is only a formal, not a jurisdictional,
requirement. The purpose of requiring a verification is
to secure an assurance that the allegations in the
petition are true and correct, not merely speculative.
This requirement is simply a condition affecting the
form of pleadings, and noncompliance therewith does
not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective.24 redarclaw

As to the certification of non-forum shopping, a rigid


application of the rules should not defeat the PCGG’s
mandate under EO 1, EO 2, EO 14 and EO 14-A to
prosecute cases for the recovery of ill-gotten wealth,
and to conserve sequestered assets and corporations,
which are in custodia legis, under its administration.
Indeed, relaxation of the rules is warranted in this case
involving coconut levy funds previously declared by this
Court as “affected with public interest” and judicially
determined as public funds. Relevantly, after the
promulgation of the decision of this Court in COCOFED
v. Republic, EO 180 was issued on March 18, 2015
reiterating the Government’s policy to ensure that all
coco levy funds and coco levy assets be utilized “solely
and exclusively for the benefit of all the coconut
farmers and for the development of the coconut
industry.” In line with such policy, Section 3 thereof
provides:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

Section 3. Actions to Preserve, Protect and


Recover Coco Levy Assets. The Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG), the Presidential Commission on Good
Government (PCGG), and any other concerned
government agency shall, under the general
supervision of the Secretary of Justice, file the proper
pleadings or institute and maintain the necessary legal
actions to preserve, protect, or recover the
Government’s rights and interests in the Coco
Levy Assets and to prevent any dissipation or
reduction in their value. (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
Apropos PCGG v. Cojuangco, Jr.,25 involving the issue
of who has the right to vote the sequestered SMC
shares, we gave due course to the petition for certiorari
and mandamus despite the lack of signature of the
Solicitor General; but it was signed by two special
counsels and the verification was signed by
Commissioner Herminio Mendoza. We noted the
extraordinary circumstances in the filing of the petition
by the said government officials that justified a liberal
interpretation of the rules.

The RTC has no jurisdiction over


suits involving the sequestered coco
levy assets and coco levy funds.

Jurisdiction is defined as the power and authority of a


court to hear, try, and decide a case.26 Jurisdiction
over the subject matter is conferred by the Constitution
or by law and is determined by the allegations of the
complaint and the relief prayed for, regardless of
whether the plaintiff is entitled to recovery upon all or
some of the claims prayed for therein. Jurisdiction is
not acquired by agreement or consent of the parties,
and neither does it depend upon the defenses raised in
the answer or in a motion to dismiss.27redarclaw

Under Section 4 (C) of P.D. No. 1606, as amended by


R.A. No. 7975 and R.A. No. 8249, the jurisdiction of the
Sandiganbayan included suits for recovery of ill-gotten
wealth and related cases: LawlibraryofCRAlaw

(C) Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in


connection with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-
A, issued in 1986.

xxxx

The Sandiganbayan shall have exclusive original


jurisdiction over petitions for the issuance of the writs
of mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus,
injunctions, and other ancillary writs and processes in
aid of its appellate jurisdiction and over petitions of
similar nature, including quo warranto, arising or that
may arise in cases filed or which may be filed under
Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in
1986: Provided, That the jurisdiction over these
petitions shall not be exclusive of the Supreme Court.
(Italics in the original; emphasis supplied)

In PCGG v. Peña,28 we made the following clarification


on the extent of the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction: Lawlib raryofCRAlaw

x x x Under section 2 of the President’s Executive Order


No. 14 issued on May 7, 1986, all cases of the
Commission regarding “the Funds, Moneys, Assets, and
Properties Illegally Acquired or Misappropriated by
Former President Ferdinand Marcos, Mrs. Imelda
Romualdez Marcos, their Close Relatives, Subordinates,
Business Associates, Dummies, Agents, or Nominees”
whether civil or criminal, are lodged within the
“exclusive and original jurisdiction of the
Sandiganbayan” and all incidents arising from,
incidental to, or related to, such cases necessarily
fall likewise under the Sandiganbayan’s exclusive and
original jurisdiction, subject to review on certiorari
exclusively by the Supreme Court.29 (Emphasis
supplied)

Soriano III v. Yuzon30 reiterated the above ruling,


thus:Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

Now, that exclusive jurisdiction conferred on the


Sandiganbayan would evidently extend not only to
the principal causes of action, i.e., the recovery of
alleged ill-gotten wealth, but also to “all incidents
arising from, incidental to, or related to, such
cases,” such as the dispute over the sale of the
shares, the propriety of the issuance of ancillary writs
or provisional remedies relative thereto, the
sequestration thereof, which may not be made the
subject of separate actions or proceedings in another
forum. As explained by the Court in Peña: LawlibraryofCRAlaw

“The rationale of the exclusivity of such jurisdiction is


readily understood. Given the magnitude of the past
regime’s ‘organized pillage’ and the ingenuity of the
plunderers and pillagers with the assistance of the
experts and best legal minds available in the market, it
is a matter of sheer necessity to restrict access to
the lower courts, which would have tied into
knots and made impossible the commission’s
gigantic task of recovering the plundered wealth
of the nation, whom the past regime in the process
had saddled and laid prostrate with a huge $27 billion
foreign debt that has since ballooned to $28.5 billion.”
(italics and emphasis supplied.) (Additional emphasis
supplied)

Respondents’ petitions for declaratory relief filed in the


RTC asserted their claim of ownership over the
sequestered CIIF companies and indirectly the CIIF
SMC Block of Shares, in the following percentages:
11.03% (UCPB) and 11.01% (COCOLIFE). Undeniably,
these are related to the ill-gotten wealth cases (Civil
Case Nos. 0033-A and 0033-F) involving the issue of
ownership of the aforesaid sequestered companies and
shares of stock, which have been tried and decided by
the Sandiganbayan, and the decision had been
appealed to and finally disposed of by this Court in G.R.
Nos. 177857-5831 (COCOFED and Lobregat, et. al’s
ownership claim over the CIIF companies and CIIF SMC
Block of Shares) and G.R. No. 18070532 (Eduardo M.
Cojuangco, Jr.’s claim over UCPB shares under an
Agreement with PCA).

Contrary to respondents’ contention, the subject matter


of their petitions for declaratory relief, i.e., their
purported contribution to the acquisition of four CIIF
OMG companies and the 14 holding companies, as well
as indirect ownership of a portion of the CIIF SMC Block
of Shares, is inextricably intertwined with the issue of
ownership judicially settled in the aforementioned
appeals from the Partial Summary Judgments rendered
in Civil Case Nos. 0033-A and 0033-F.
The allegation that no coconut levy funds were actually
used to purchase stockholdings in the CIIF companies is
of no moment. Since the CIIF companies and CIIF SMC
Block of Shares have long been sequestered and placed
under the administration of the PCGG, the latter’s
functions may not be interfered with by a co-equal
court. In Republic v. Investa Corporation33 involving
the propriety of dilution of the Government’s
percentage in the stockholdings of a sequestered
corporation (DOMSAT), we held that it is the
Sandiganbayan and not the Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC) which has jurisdiction over the
petition filed by the Republic and DOMSAT. As
conservator of sequestered shares, PCGG has the duty
to ensure that the sequestered properties are not
dissipated under its watch.

Previously, this Court affirmed the jurisdiction of the


RTC in a suit also involving a claim of ownership in the
sequestered corporation, and ruled in this wise:34redarclaw

We disagree with the RTC and the CA on the issue of


jurisdiction. While there can be no dispute that PCOC
was sequestered, the fact of sequestration alone
did not automatically oust the RTC of jurisdiction
to decide upon the question of ownership of the
subject gaming and office equipment. The PCGG
must be a party to the suit in order that the
Sandiganbayan’s exclusive jurisdiction may be
correctly invoked. This is deducible from no less than
E.O. No. 14, the “Peña” and “Nepomuceno” cases relied
upon by both subordinates courts. Note that in Section
2 of E.O. No. 14 which provides: LawlibraryofCRAlaw

“Section 2. The Presidential Commission on Good


Government shall file all such cases, whether civil or
criminal, with the Sandiganbayan, which shall have
exclusive and original jurisdiction thereof.”
it speaks of the PCGG as party-plaintiff. On the other
hand, the PCGG was impleaded as co-defendant in both
the “Peña” and “Nepomuceno” cases. But here, the
PCGG does not appear in either capacity, as the
complaint is solely between PAGCOR and respondents
PCOC and Marcelo. The “Peña” and “Nepomuceno”
cases which recognize the independence of the PCGG
and the Sandiganbayan in sequestration cases,
therefore, cannot be invoked in the instant case so as
to divest the RTC of its jurisdiction, under Section 19 of
B.P. 129, over PAGCOR’s action for recovery of
personal property.35 (Emphasis supplied)

In Cuenca v. PCGG,36 we upheld the exclusive


jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over all incidents
affecting the shares of a sequestered corporation
considering that the action before the RTC is inexorably
entwined with the Government’s case for recovery of ill-
gotten wealth pending with the Sandiganbayan. Thus: LawlibraryofCR Alaw

Petitioners contend that even if UHC was indeed


sequestered, jurisdiction over the subject matter of
petitioners’ Complaint for enforcement or rescission of
contract between petitioners and respondents belonged
to the RTC and not the Sandiganbayan. Petitioners
cited Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v.
Court of Appeals, x x x, this Court held that the fact of
sequestration alone did not automatically oust the RTC
of jurisdiction to decide upon the question of ownership
of the disputed gaming and office equipment as PCGG
must be a party to the suit in order that the
Sandiganbayan’s exclusive jurisdiction may be correctly
invoked, and as Section 2 of EO 14 was duly applied
in PCGG v. Peña and PCGG v. Nepomuceno, which
ineluctably spoke of respondent PCGG as a party-
litigant.

xxxx

Sandiganbayan has exclusive jurisdiction over the


instant case

A rigorous examination of the antecedent facts and


existing records at hand shows that Sandiganbayan has
exclusive jurisdiction over the instant case.

Thus, the petition must fail for the following reasons: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

First, it is a fact that the shares of stock of UHC and


CDCP, the subject matter of Civil Case No. 91-2721
before the Makati City RTC, were also the subject
matter of an ill-gotten wealth case, specifically Civil
Case No. 0016 before the Sandiganbayan. In Civil Case
No. 91-2721 of the Makati City RTC, petitioners prayed
for a judgment either transferring the UHC shares or
restoring and reconveying the PNCC shares to them. In
the event a final judgment is rendered in said Makati
City RTC case in favor of petitioners, then such
adjudication tends to render moot and academic the
judgment to be rendered in Sandiganbayan Civil Case
No. 0016 considering that the legal ownership of either
the UHC or PNCC shares would now be transferred to
petitioners Rodolfo Cuenca and CIC. Such adverse
judgment would run counter to the rights of ownership
of the government over the UHC and PNCC shares in
question. x x x

Moreover, inasmuch as UHC was impleaded in Civil


Case No. 0016 as a defendant and was listed
among the corporations beneficially owned or
controlled by petitioner Cuenca, the issue of the
latter’s right to acquire ownership of UHC shares
is inexorably intertwined with the right of the
Republic of the Philippines, through PCGG, to
retain ownership of said UHC shares.

It must be borne in mind that the Sandiganbayan was


created in 1978 pursuant to Presidential Decree No.
(PD) 1606. Said law has been amended during the
interim period after the Edsa Revolution of 1986 and
before the 1987 Constitution was drafted, passed, and
ratified. Thus, the executive issuances during such
period before the ratification of the 1987 Constitution
had the force and effect of laws. Specifically, then
President Corazon C. Aquino issued the following
Executive Orders which amended PD 1606 in so far as
the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over civil and
criminal cases instituted and prosecuted by the PCGG is
concerned, viz:Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw
xxxx

Bearing on the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over


cases of ill-gotten wealth, EO 14, Secs. 1 and 2
provide:LawlibraryofCR Alaw

SECTION 1. Any provision of the law to the contrary


notwithstanding, the Presidential Commission on
Good Government with the assistance of the Office of
the Solicitor General and other government agencies, is
hereby empowered to file and prosecute all cases
investigated by it under Executive Order No. 1,
dated February 28, 1986 and Executive Order No.
2, dated March 12, 1986, as may be warranted by its
findings.

SECTION 2. The Presidential Commission on Good


Government shall file all such cases, whether civil or
criminal, with the Sandiganbayan, which shall have
exclusive and original jurisdiction thereof. (Emphasis
supplied.)
Notably, these amendments had been duly recognized
and reflected in subsequent amendments to PD 1606,
specifically Republic Act Nos. 7975 and 8249.

In the light of the foregoing provisions, it is clear


that it is the Sandiganbayan and not the Makati
City RTC that has jurisdiction over the disputed
UHC and PNCC shares, being the alleged “ill-
gotten wealth” of former President Ferdinand E.
Marcos and petitioner Cuenca. The fact that the
Makati City RTC civil case involved the performance of
contractual obligations relative to the UHC shares is of
no importance. The benchmark is whether said UHC
shares are alleged to be ill-gotten wealth of the
Marcoses and their perceived cronies. More
importantly, the interests of orderly
administration of justice dictate that all incidents
affecting the UHC shares and PCGG’s right of
supervision or control over the UHC must be
addressed to and resolved by the
Sandiganbayan. Indeed, the law and courts frown
upon split jurisdiction and the resultant multiplicity of
suits, which result in much lost time, wasted effort,
more expenses, and irreparable injury to the public
interest.

Second, the UHC shares in dispute were


sequestered by respondent PCGG. Sequestration is
a provisional remedy or freeze order issued by the
PCGG designed to prevent the disposal and dissipation
of ill-gotten wealth. The power to sequester property
means to
place or cause to be placed under [PCGG’s] possession
or control said property, or any building or office
wherein any such property or any records pertaining
thereto may be found, including business enterprises
and entities, for the purpose of preventing the
destruction of, and otherwise conserving and
preserving the same, until it can be determined,
through appropriate judicial proceedings, whether the
property was in truth ill-gotten. (Silverio v. PCGG, 155
SCRA 60 [1987]).

Considering that the UHC shares were already


sequestered, enabling the PCGG to exercise the
power of supervision, possession, and control
over said shares, then such power would collide
with the legal custody of the Makati City RTC over
the UHC shares subject of Civil Case No. 91-
2721. Whatever the outcome of Civil Case No. 91-
2721, whether from enforcement or rescission of the
contract, would directly militate on PCGG’s control and
management of IRC and UHC, and consequently
hamper or interfere with its mandate to recover ill-
gotten wealth. As aptly pointed out by
respondents, petitioners’ action is inexorably
entwined with the Government’s action for the
recovery of ill-gotten wealth – the subject of the
pending case before the Sandiganbayan. Verily,
the transfer of shares of stock of UHC to petitioners or
the return of the shares of stock of CDCP (now PNCC)
will wreak havoc on the sequestration case as both UHC
and CDCP are subject of sequestration by PCGG.

Third, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation


and Holiday Inn (Phils.), Inc. are not analogous to the
case at bar. The first dealt with ownership of gaming
and office equipment, which is distinct from and will not
impact on the sequestration issue of PCOC. The second
dealt with an ordinary civil case for performance of a
contractual obligation which did not in any way affect
the sequestration proceeding of NRHDCI; thus, the
complaint-in-intervention of Holiday Inn (Phils.), Inc.
was properly denied for lack of jurisdiction over the
subject matter.
In both cases cited by petitioners, there was a
substantial distinction between the sequestration
proceedings and the subject matter of the
actions. This does not prevail in the instant case,
as the ownership of the shares of stock of the
sequestered companies, UHC and CDCP, is the
subject matter of a pending case and thus
addressed to the exclusive jurisdiction of the
Sandiganbayan.

Sec. 2 of EO 14 pertinently provides: “The Presidential


Commission on Good Government shall file all such
cases, whether civil or criminal, with the
Sandiganbayan, which shall have exclusive and original
jurisdiction thereof.”

The above proviso has been squarely applied in Peña,


where this Court held that the exclusive jurisdiction
conferred on the Sandiganbayan would evidently
extend not only to the principal causes of action, that
is, recovery of alleged ill-gotten wealth, but also to all
incidents arising from, incidental to, or related to such
cases, including a dispute over the sale of the shares,
the propriety of the issuance of ancillary writs of
relative provisional remedies, and the sequestration of
the shares, which may not be made the subject of
separate actions or proceedings in another
forum. Indeed, the issue of the ownership of the
sequestered companies, UHC and PNCC, as well as
IRC’s ownership of them, is undeniably related to
the recovery of the alleged ill-gotten wealth and
can be squarely addressed via the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.

Fourth, while it is clear that the exclusive jurisdiction of


the Sandiganbayan only encompasses cases where
PCGG is impleaded, such requirement is satisfied in the
instant case. The appellate court clearly granted PCGG’s
petition for certiorari in CA-G.R. SP No. 49686, assailing
the trial court’s denial of its Motion for Leave to
Intervene with Motion to Dismiss. Thus, the trial court’s
April 20, 1998 Order was reversed and set aside by the
appellate court through its assailed
Decision. Consequently, PCGG was granted the
right to intervene and thus became properly
impleaded in the instant case. Without doubt, the
trial court has no jurisdiction to hear and decide Civil
Case No. 91-2721.37 (Additional emphasis supplied)

In the light of the foregoing, it is clear that the


Sandiganbayan has exclusive jurisdiction over the
subject matter of Civil Case Nos. 12-1251 and 12-1252.

First, the subject matters of respondents’ petitions in


Civil Case Nos. 0033-A and 0033-F filed by the PCGG
against Eduardo M. Cojuangco, et al. are the same, i.e.,
the ownership of CIIF companies and CIIF SMC Block
of Shares, which were claimed by the Government as
acquired by the defendants using public funds (coco
levy funds). In the interest of orderly administration of
justice and the policy against multiplicity of suits, it is
but proper that all incidents affecting the coconut levy
funds and assets be addressed and resolved by the
Sandiganbayan. Claims of ownership of a portion of the
subject CIIF companies and SMC shares by private
entities such as UCPB and COCOLIFE are inextricably
related to the aforementioned ill-gotten wealth cases
filed in the Sandiganbayan.

Second, UCPB, along with the CIIF companies and CIIF


SMC Block of Shares, were duly sequestered by the
PCGG and had been under the latter’s administration
for more than 25 years. With the final determination
made by this Court in COCOFED v. Republic that these
properties unquestionably belong to the Government as
they were acquired using the coconut levy funds, the
PCGG can now exercise full acts of ownership as
evident from the latest executive issuance, EO 180, by
President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

Third, aside from their sequestration by PCGG, the


ownership of the aforesaid assets is the subject matter
in both Civil Case Nos. 12-1251 and 12-1252 filed in
the RTC and Civil Case Nos. 0033-A and 0033-F in the
Sandiganbayan. Respondents’ assertion that the
subject matter of their petitions for declaratory relief is
different due to private funds used in buying shares in
UCPB and CIIF oil mills is but a feeble attempt to create
an exception to the Sandiganbayan’s exclusive
jurisdiction. As underscored in Cuenca v. PCGG,38 the
benchmark is whether such shares of UCPB and CIIF oil
mills are alleged to be ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses
and their perceived cronies, which is sufficient to bring
the case within the exclusive jurisdiction of the
Sandiganbayan pursuant to existing laws and decrees.
Fourth, the requirement in Peña and Nepomuceno that
the PCGG must be a party to the suit in order to invoke
the Sandiganbayan’s exclusive jurisdiction was satisfied
in this case. PCGG was impleaded as co-defendant in
Civil Case Nos. 12-1251 and 12-1252. It even filed a
motion to dismiss in both cases and appealed from the
denial of said motions by respondent judge. Thus, while
the Republic itself was not impleaded in the petitions
for declaratory relief, PCGG was formally made a party
thereto.

Applicability of Res Judicata

The doctrine of res judicata provides that a final


judgment on the merits rendered by a court of
competent jurisdiction is conclusive as to the rights of
the parties and their privies and constitutes an
absolute bar to subsequent actions involving the same
claim, demand, or cause of action.39 The following
requisites must obtain for the application of the
doctrine: (1) the former judgment or order must be
final; (2) it must be a judgment or order on the merits,
that is, it was rendered after a consideration of the
evidence or stipulations submitted by the parties at the
trial of the case; (3) it must have been rendered by a
court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and
the parties; and (4) there must be, between the first
and second actions, identity of parties, of subject
matter and of cause of action. This requisite is satisfied
if the two actions are substantially between the same
parties.40
redarclaw
There is no question regarding compliance with the
first, second and third requisites. However,
respondents maintain that while they adhere to the
Decision in COCOFED v. Republic, said decision did not
affect their right or title to the subject properties since
the subject matter in their petitions for declaratory
relief is not the coconut levy funds but their own
private funds used by them in purchasing shares from
UCPB and CIIF companies, that in turn resulted in their
indirect ownership of the CIIF SMC Block of Shares in
their respective proportions: 11.03% (UCPB) and
11.01% (COCOLIFE).

Respondents further assert that they are not bound by


the adjudication of ownership in COCOFED v.
Republic considering that they were not impleaded as
defendants in Civil Case Nos. 0033-A and 0033-F.

We disagree.

In Universal Broadcasting Corporation v.


Sandiganbayan (5th Div.),41 we reiterated that it is not
necessary to implead companies which are the res of
suits for recovery of ill-gotten wealth. We held that –

Petitioner submits that the Sandiganbayan never


acquired jurisdiction over it as it was not impleaded as
a party-defendant in Civil Case No. 0035.

The submission has no merit.

The Price Mansion property is an asset alleged to be ill-


gotten. Like UBC, it is listed as among the properties of
Benjamin Romualdez. For sure, UBC is among the
corporations listed as alleged repositories of shares of
stock controlled by Romualdez.

In Republic v. Sandiganbayan, the Court held


that there is no need to implead firms which are
merely the res of the actions in ill-gotten wealth
cases and that judgment may simply be directed
against the assets, thus: LawlibraryofCR Alaw

C. Impleading Unnecessary Re Firms which are the Res


of the Actions

And as to corporations organized with ill-gotten wealth,


but are not themselves guilty of misappropriation, fraud
or other illicit conduct – in other words, the companies
themselves are the object or thing involved in the
action, the res thereof - there is no need to
implead them either. Indeed, their impleading is not
proper on the strength alone of their having been
formed with ill-gotten funds, absent any other
particular wrongdoing on their part. The judgment
may simply be directed against the shares of
stock shown to have been issued in consideration
of ill-gotten wealth. x x x

x x x In this light, they are simply the res in the actions


for the recovery of illegally acquired wealth, and there
is, in principle, no cause of action against them and no
ground to implead them as defendants in said actions.
x x x 42 (Additional emphasis supplied)
The doctrine of res judicata has two aspects. The first,
known as “bar by prior judgment,” or “estoppel by
verdict,” is the effect of a judgment as a bar to the
prosecution of a second action upon the same claim,
demand or cause of action. The second, known as
“conclusiveness of judgment,” otherwise known as the
rule of auter action pendent, ordains that issues
actually and directly resolved in a former suit cannot
again be raised in any future case between the same
parties involving a different cause of action.43
redarclaw

[C]onclusiveness of judgment – states that a fact or


question which was in issue in a former suit and there
was judicially passed upon and determined by a court
of competent jurisdiction, is conclusively settled by the
judgment therein as far as the parties to that action
and persons in privity with them are concerned and
cannot be again litigated in any future action between
such parties or their privies, in the same court or any
other court of concurrent jurisdiction on either the
same or different cause of action, while the judgment
remains unreversed by proper authority. It has been
held that in order that a judgment in one action can be
conclusive as to a particular matter in another action
between the same parties or their privies, it is
essential that the issue be identical. If a
particular point or question is in issue in the
second action, and the judgment will depend on
the determination of that particular point or
question, a former judgment between the same
parties or their privies will be final and conclusive
in the second if that same point or question was
in issue and adjudicated in the first suit. Identity
of cause of action is not required but merely
identity of issues.44 (Emphasis and italics supplied)

We have applied the doctrine of conclusiveness of


judgment in a previous case involving ownership of
shares of stock in a sequestered corporation, as
follows:Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

In cases wherein the doctrine of “conclusiveness of


judgment” applies, there is, as in Civil Case No. 0034
and Civil Case No. 0188 identity of issues not
necessarily identity of causes of action. The prior
adjudication of the Sandiganbayan affirmed by
this Court in G.R. No. 140615, as to the ownership
of the 1/7 Piedras shares of Arambulo, is
conclusive in the second case, as it has been
judicially resolved.

The filing of Civil Case No. 0188, although it has a


different cause of action from Civil Case No. 0034, will
not enable the PCGG to escape the operation of the
principle of res judicata. A case litigated once shall not
be relitigated in another action as it would violate the
interest of the State to put an end to litigation –
republicae ut sit litium and the policy that no man shall
be vexed twice for the same cause – nemo debet bis
vexari et eadem causa. Once a litigant’s rights had
been adjudicated in a valid final judgment by a
competent court, he should not be granted an unbridled
license to come back for another try.45 (Additional
italcis and emphasis supplied)

We hold that res judicata under the second aspect


(conclusiveness of judgment) is applicable in this case.
The issue of ownership of the sequestered CIIF
companies and CIIF SMC Block of Shares was directly
and actually resolved by the Sandiganbayan and
affirmed by this Court in COCOFED v. Republic. More
important, in the said decision, we categorically
affirmed the resolutions issued by the Sandiganbayan
in Civil Case Nos. 0033-A and 0033-F “THAT THERE IS
NO MORE NECESSITY OF FURTHER TRIAL WITH
RESPECT TO THE ISSUE OF OWNERSHIP OF (1) THE
SEQUESTERED UCPB SHARES, (2) THE CIIF BLOCK OF
SMC SHARES, AND (3) THE CIIF COMPANIES, AS THEY
HAVE FINALLY BEEN ADJUDICATED IN THE
AFOREMENTIONED PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENTS
DATED JULY 11, 2003 AND MAY 7, 2004.” Among the
admitted facts set forth in the Order dated February 23,
2004 is the acquisition by UCPB of the “controlling
interests” in the six CIIF oil mills. The Partial
Summary Judgment further quoted from the Answer to
Third Amended Complaint (Subdivided) with
Compulsory Counterclaims dated January 7, 2000 filed
by the CIIF oil mills and 14 holding companies, in which
they also alleged that pursuant to the authority granted
to it by P.D. 961 and P.D. 1568, “UCPB
acquired controlling interests” in the six CIIF oil
mills.46
redarclaw

In the same decision we specifically upheld the


Sandiganbayan’s findings and conclusion on the issue of
ownership of the CIIF OMG, the 14 holding companies
and the CIIF SMC Block of Shares, viz.: LawlibraryofCRAlaw

The CIIF Companies and the CIIF Block


of SMC shares are public funds/assets

From the foregoing discussions, it is fairly established


that the coconut levy funds are special public funds.
Consequently, any property purchased by means of
the coconut levy funds should likewise be treated
as public funds or public property, subject to
burdens and restrictions attached by law to such
property.

In this case, the 6 CIIF Oil Mills were acquired by


the UCPB using coconut levy funds. On the other
hand, the 14 CIIF holding companies are wholly
owned subsidiaries of the CIIF Oil
Mills. Conversely, these companies were acquired
using or whose capitalization comes from the coconut
levy funds. However, as in the case of UCPB, UCPB
itself distributed a part of its investments in the CIIF oil
mills to coconut farmers, and retained a part thereof as
administrator. The portion distributed to the supposed
coconut farmers followed the procedure outlined in PCA
Resolution No. 033-78. And as the administrator of the
CIIF holding companies, the UCPB authorized the
acquisition of the SMC shares. In fact, these companies
were formed or organized solely for the purpose of
holding the SMC shares. As found by the
Sandiganbayan, the 14 CIIF holding companies used
borrowed funds from the UCPB to acquire the SMC
shares in the aggregate amount of P1.656 Billion.

Since the CIIF companies and the CIIF block of SMC


shares were acquired using coconut levy funds – funds,
which have been established to be public in character –
it goes without saying that these acquired corporations
and assets ought to be regarded and treated as
government assets. Being government properties, they
are accordingly owned by the Government, for the
coconut industry pursuant to currently existing laws.

It may be conceded hypothetically, as COCOFED, et


al. urge, that the 14 CIIF holding companies acquired
the SMC shares in question using advances from the
CIIF companies and from UCPB loans. But there can be
no gainsaying that the same advances and UCPB loans
are public in character, constituting as they do assets of
the 14 holding companies, which in turn are wholly-
owned subsidiaries of the 6 CIIF Oil Mills. And these oil
mills were organized, capitalized and/or financed
using coconut levy funds. In net effect, the CIIF
block of SMC shares are simply the fruits of the coconut
levy funds acquired at the expense of the coconut
industry. In Republic v. COCOFED, the en banc Court,
speaking through Justice (later Chief Justice) Artemio
Panganiban, stated: “Because the subject UCPB shares
were acquired with government funds, the government
becomes their prima facie beneficial and true owner.”
By parity of reasoning, the adverted block of SMC
shares, acquired as they were with government funds,
belong to the government as, at the very least, their
beneficial and true owner.

We thus affirm the decision of the Sandiganbayan on


this point. But as We have earlier discussed, reiterating
our holding in Republic v. COCOFED, the State’s
avowed policy or purpose in creating the coconut levy
fund is for the development of the entire coconut
industry, which is one of the major industries that
promotes sustained economic stability, and not merely
the livelihood of a significant segment of the
population. Accordingly, We sustain the ruling of the
Sandiganbayan in CC No. 0033-F that the CIIF
companies and the CIIF block of SMC shares are
public funds necessarily owned by the
Government. We, however, modify the same in
the following wise: These shares shall belong to
the Government, which shall be used only for the
benefit of the coconut farmers and for the
development of the coconut industry.47 (Emphasis
and underscoring supplied)

In G.R. No. 180705, separately decided by this Court


on November 27, 2012, we also affirmed the
Sandiganbayan’s decision nullifying the shares of stock
transfer to Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. We held that as
the coconut levy funds partake of the nature of taxes
and can only be used for public purpose, and
importantly, for the purpose for which it was exacted,
i.e., the development, rehabilitation and stabilization of
the coconut industry, they cannot be used to benefit––
whether directly or indirectly––private individuals, be it
by way of a commission, or as the PCA-Cojuangco
Agreement words it, compensation. Accordingly, the
UCPB shares of stock representing the 7.22% fully paid
shares subject of the petition, with all dividends
declared, paid or issued thereon, as well as any
increments thereto arising from, but not limited to, the
exercise of pre-emptive rights, were ordered
reconveyed to the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines, which shall “be used only for the benefit of
all coconut farmers and for the development of the
coconut industry.”48
redarclaw

Having resolved that subject matter jurisdiction


pertains to the Sandiganbayan and not the RTC, and
that the petitions for declaratory relief are barred by
our January 24, 2012 Decision which settled with
finality the issue of ownership of the CIIF oil mills, the
14 holding companies and CIIF SMC Block of Shares,
we deem it unnecessary to address the other issues
presented.

WHEREFORE, the petitions are GRANTED. The Orders


dated April 29, 2013 and June 28, 2013 in Civil Case
No. 12-1251; and Omnibus Order dated May 15, 2013
(Branch 138) and Order dated December 4, 2013 in
Civil Case Nos. 12-1251 and 12-1252 (consolidated
petitions) of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City,
Branch 59, are hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE.
The petitions in Civil Case Nos. 12-1251 and 12-1252
filed by UCPB and COCOLIFE, respectively,
are DISMISSED.
[G.R. NO. 124644. February 5, 2004]

ARNEL ESCOBAL, Petitioner, v. HON. FRANCIS


GARCHITORENA, Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan,
Atty. Luisabel Alfonso-Cortez, Executive Clerk of Court IV of
the Sandiganbayan, Hon. David C. Naval, Presiding Judge of
the Regional Trial Court of Naga City, Branch 21, Luz N.
Nueca, Respondents.

DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

This is a Petition for Certiorari with a prayer for the issuance of a


temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction filed by Arnel
Escobal seeking the nullification of the remand by the Presiding
Justice of the Sandiganbayan of the records of Criminal Case No.
90-3184 to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Naga City, Branch 21.

The petition at bench arose from the following milieu: ςηαñ rοblε š νιr†υα l lαω lιb rα rÿ

The petitioner is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, a


member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine
Constabulary, as well as the Intelligence Group of the Philippine
National Police. On March 16, 1990, the petitioner was conducting
surveillance operations on drug trafficking at the Sa Harong Caf Bar
and Restaurant located along Barlin St., Naga City. He somehow got
involved in a shooting incident, resulting in the death of one Rodney
Rafael N. Nueca. On February 6, 1991, an amended Information
was filed with the RTC of Naga City, Branch 21, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 90-3184 charging the petitioner and a certain
Natividad Bombita, Jr. alias Jun Bombita with murder. The
accusatory portion of the amended Information reads:

That on or about March 16, 1990, in the City of Naga, Philippines,


and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court by virtue of the
Presidential Waiver, dated June 1, 1990, with intent to kill,
conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping each
other, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
attack, assault and maul one Rodney Nueca and accused 2Lt Arnel
Escobal armed with a caliber .45 service pistol shoot said Rodney
Nueca thereby inflicting upon him serious, mortal and fatal wounds
which caused his death, and as a consequence thereof, complainant
LUZ N. NUECA, mother of the deceased victim, suffered actual and
compensatory damages in the amount of THREE HUNDRED SIXTY-
SEVEN THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED SEVEN & 95/100 (P367,107.95)
PESOS, Philippine Currency, and moral and exemplary damages in
the amount of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FIVE THOUSAND
(P135,000.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency.1

On March 19, 1991, the RTC issued an Order preventively


suspending the petitioner from the service under Presidential
Decree No. 971, as amended by P.D. No. 1847. When apprised of
the said order, the General Headquarters of the PNP issued on
October 6, 1992 Special Order No. 91, preventively suspending the
petitioner from the service until the case was terminated.2ςrνll

The petitioner was arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by the


RTC, while accused Bombita remained at large. The petitioner
posted bail and was granted temporary liberty.

When arraigned on April 9, 1991,3 the petitioner, assisted by


counsel, pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. Thereafter, on
December 23, 1991, the petitioner filed a Motion to Quash4 the
Information alleging that as mandated by Commonwealth Act No.
408,5 in relation to Section 1, Presidential Decree No. 1822 and
Section 95 of R.A. No. 6975, the court martial, not the RTC, had
jurisdiction over criminal cases involving PNP members and officers.

Pending the resolution of the motion, the petitioner on June 25,


1993 requested the Chief of the PNP for his reinstatement. He
alleged that under R.A. No. 6975, his suspension should last for
only 90 days, and, having served the same, he should now be
reinstated. On September 23, 1993,6 the PNP Region V
Headquarters wrote Judge David C. Naval requesting information on
whether he issued an order lifting the petitioners suspension. The
RTC did not reply. Thus, on February 22, 1994, the petitioner filed a
motion in the RTC for the lifting of the order of suspension. He
alleged that he had served the 90-day preventive suspension and
pleaded for compassionate justice. The RTC denied the motion on
March 9, 1994.7 Trial thereafter proceeded, and the prosecution
rested its case. The petitioner commenced the presentation of his
evidence. On July 20, 1994, he filed a Motion to Dismiss8 the case.
Citing Republic of the Philippines v. Asuncion, et al.,9 he argued that
since he committed the crime in the performance of his duties, the
Sandiganbayan had exclusive jurisdiction over the case.

On October 28, 1994, the RTC issued an Order10 denying the motion
to dismiss. It, however, ordered the conduct of a preliminary
hearing to determine whether or not the crime charged was
committed by the petitioner in relation to his office as a member of
the PNP.

In the preliminary hearing, the prosecution manifested that it was


no longer presenting any evidence in connection with the petitioners
motion. It reasoned that it had already rested its case, and that its
evidence showed that the petitioner did not commit the offense
charged in connection with the performance of his duties as a
member of the Philippine Constabulary. According to the
prosecution, they were able to show the following facts: (a) the
petitioner was not wearing his uniform during the incident; (b) the
offense was committed just after midnight; (c) the petitioner was
drunk when the crime was committed; (d) the petitioner was in the
company of civilians; and, (e) the offense was committed in a
beerhouse called Sa Harong Caf Bar and Restaurant.11 ςrνll

For his part, the petitioner testified that at about 10:00 p.m. on
March 15, 1990, he was at the Sa Harong Caf Bar and Restaurant at
Barlin St., Naga City, to conduct surveillance on alleged drug
trafficking, pursuant to Mission Order No. 03-04 issued by Police
Superintendent Rufo R. Pulido.The petitioner adduced in evidence
the sworn statements of Benjamin Cario and Roberto Fajardo who
corroborated his testimony that he was on a surveillance mission on
the aforestated date.12 ςrνll

On July 31, 1995, the trial court issued an Order declaring that the
petitioner committed the crime charged while not in the
performance of his official function. The trial court added that upon
the enactment of R.A. No. 7975,13 the issue had become moot and
academic. The amendatory law transferred the jurisdiction over the
offense charged from the Sandiganbayan to the RTC since the
petitioner did not have a salary grade of 27 as provided for in or by
Section 4(a) (1), (3) thereof. The trial court nevertheless ordered
the prosecution to amend the Information pursuant to the ruling
in Republic v. Asuncion14 and R.A. No. 7975. The amendment
consisted in the inclusion therein of an allegation that the offense
charged was not committed by the petitioner in the performance of
his duties/functions, nor in relation to his office.

The petitioner filed a motion for the reconsideration15 of the said


order, reiterating that based on his testimony and those of
Benjamin Cario and Roberto Fajardo, the offense charged was
committed by him in relation to his official functions. He asserted
that the trial court failed to consider the exceptions to the
prohibition. He asserted that R.A. No. 7975, which was enacted on
March 30, 1995, could not be applied retroactively.16 ςrνll

The petitioner further alleged that Luz Nacario Nueca, the mother of
the victim, through counsel, categorically and unequivocably
admitted in her complaint filed with the Peoples Law Enforcement
Board (PLEB) that he was on an official mission when the crime was
committed.

On November 24, 1995, the RTC made a volte face and issued an
Order reversing and setting aside its July 31, 1995 Order. It
declared that based on the petitioners evidence, he was on official
mission when the shooting occurred. It concluded that the
prosecution failed to adduce controverting evidence thereto. It
likewise considered Luz Nacario Nuecas admission in her complaint
before the PLEB that the petitioner was on official mission when the
shooting happened.

The RTC ordered the public prosecutor to file a Re-Amended


Information and to allege that the offense charged was committed
by the petitioner in the performance of his duties/functions or in
relation to his office; and, conformably to R.A. No. 7975, to
thereafter transmit the same, as well as the complete records with
the stenographic notes, to the Sandiganbayan, to wit: ςηαñrοbl εš νι r†υ αl lαω l ιbrα rÿ
WHEREFORE, the Order dated July 31, 1995 is hereby SET ASIDE
and RECONSIDERED, and it is hereby declared that after
preliminary hearing, this Court has found that the offense charged
in the Information herein was committed by the accused in his
relation to his function and duty as member of the then Philippine
Constabulary.

Conformably with R.A. No. 7975 and the ruling of the Supreme
Court in Republic v. Asuncion, et al., G.R. No. 180208, March 11,
1994: ςηαñrοbl εš νι r†υα l lαω lι brα rÿ

(1) The City Prosecutor is hereby ordered to file a Re-Amended


Information alleging that the offense charged was committed by the
Accused in the performance of his duties/functions or in relation to
his office, within fifteen (15) days from receipt hereof;chanrob lesvi rtua llawlib ra ry

(2) After the filing of the Re-Amended Information, the complete


records of this case, together with the transcripts of the
stenographic notes taken during the entire proceedings herein, are
hereby ordered transmitted immediately to the Honorable
Sandiganbayan, through its Clerk of Court, Manila, for appropriate
proceedings.17 ςrνll

On January 8, 1996, the Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan


ordered the Executive Clerk of Court IV, Atty. Luisabel Alfonso-
Cortez, to return the records of Criminal Case No. 90-3184 to the
court of origin, RTC of Naga City, Branch 21. It reasoned that under
P.D. No. 1606, as amended by R.A. No. 7975,18 the RTC retained
jurisdiction over the case, considering that the petitioner had a
salary grade of 23. Furthermore, the prosecution had already rested
its case and the petitioner had commenced presenting his evidence
in the RTC; following the rule on continuity of jurisdiction, the latter
court should continue with the case and render judgment therein
after trial.

Upon the remand of the records, the RTC set the case for trial on
May 3, 1996, for the petitioner to continue presenting his evidence.
Instead of adducing his evidence, the petitioner filed a petition
for certiorari , assailing the Order of the Presiding Justice of the
Sandiganbayan remanding the records of the case to the RTC.
The threshold issue for resolution is whether or not the Presiding
Justice of the Sandiganbayan committed a grave abuse of his
discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in ordering the
remand of the case to the RTC.

The petitioner contends that when the amended information was


filed with the RTC on February 6, 1991, P.D. No. 1606 was still in
effect. Under Section 4(a) of the decree, the Sandiganbayan had
exclusive jurisdiction over the case against him as he was charged
with homicide with the imposable penalty of reclusion temporal, and
the crime was committed while in the performance of his duties. He
further asserts that although P.D. No. 1606, as amended by P.D.
No. 1861 and by R.A. No. 7975 provides that crimes committed by
members and officers of the PNP with a salary grade below 27
committed in relation to office are within the exclusive jurisdiction of
the proper RTC, the amendment thus introduced by R.A. No. 7975
should not be applied retroactively. This is so, the petitioner asserts,
because under Section 7 of R.A. No. 7975, only those cases where
trial has not begun in the Sandiganbayan upon the effectivity of the
law should be referred to the proper trial court.

The private complainant agrees with the contention of the


petitioner. In contrast, the Office of the Special Prosecutor contends
that the Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan acted in accordance
with law when he ordered the remand of the case to the RTC. It
asserts that R.A. No. 7975 should be applied retroactively. Although
the Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction over the crime committed by
the petitioner when the amended information was filed with the
RTC, by the time it resolved petitioners motion to dismiss on July
31, 1995, R.A. No. 7975 had already taken effect. Thus, the law
should be given retroactive effect.

The Ruling of the Court

The respondent Presiding Justice acted in accordance with law and


the rulings of this Court when he ordered the remand of the case to
the RTC, the court of origin.

The jurisdiction of the court over criminal cases is determined by


the allegations in the Information or the Complaint and the statute
in effect at the time of the commencement of the action, unless
such statute provides for a retroactive application thereof.The
jurisdictional requirements must be alleged in the
Information.19 Such jurisdiction of the court acquired at the
inception of the case continues until the case is terminated.20 ςrνll

Under Section 4(a) of P.D. No. 1606 as amended by P.D. No. 1861,
the Sandiganbayan had exclusive jurisdiction in all cases involving
the following: ςηαñ rοbl εš νι r†υα l lαω lι brα rÿ

(1) Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise


known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act No.
1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII of the Revised Penal
Code; chanroblesv irt uallawl ibra ry

(2) Other offenses or felonies committed by public officers and


employees in relation to their office, including those employed in
government-owned or controlled corporations, whether simple or
complexed with other crimes, where the penalty prescribed by law
is higher than prision correccional or imprisonment for six (6) years,
or a fine of P6,000.00. 21 ςrνll

However, for the Sandiganbayan to have exclusive jurisdiction


under the said law over crimes committed by public officers in
relation to their office, it is essential that the facts showing the
intimate relation between the office of the offender and the
discharge of official duties must be alleged in the Information. It is
not enough to merely allege in the Information that the crime
charged was committed by the offender in relation to his office
because that would be a conclusion of law.22 The amended
Information filed with the RTC against the petitioner does not
contain any allegation showing the intimate relation between his
office and the discharge of his duties. Hence, the RTC had
jurisdiction over the offense charged when on November 24, 1995,
it ordered the re-amendment of the Information to include therein
an allegation that the petitioner committed the crime in relation to
office. The trial court erred when it ordered the elevation of the
records to the Sandiganbayan. It bears stressing that R.A. No. 7975
amending P.D. No. 1606 was already in effect and under Section 2
of the law: ςηαñ rοblε š νιr†υα l lαω lιb rα rÿ
In cases where none of the principal accused are occupying
positions corresponding to salary grade 27 or higher, as prescribed
in the said Republic Act No. 6758, or PNP officers occupying the
rank of superintendent or higher, or their equivalent, exclusive
jurisdiction thereof shall be vested in the proper Regional Trial
Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, and Municipal
Circuit Trial Court, as the case may be, pursuant to their respective
jurisdiction as provided in Batas Pambansa Blg. 129.

Under the law, even if the offender committed the crime charged in
relation to his office but occupies a position corresponding to a
salary grade below 27, the proper Regional Trial Court or Municipal
Trial Court, as the case may be, shall have exclusive jurisdiction
over the case. In this case, the petitioner was a Police Senior
Inspector, with salary grade 23. He was charged with homicide
punishable by reclusion temporal. Hence, the RTC had exclusive
jurisdiction over the crime charged conformably to Sections 20 and
32 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Section 2 of R.A.
No. 7691.

The petitioners contention that R.A. No. 7975 should not be applied
retroactively has no legal basis. It bears stressing that R.A. No.
7975 is a substantive procedural law which may be applied
retroactively.23
ςrνll

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DISMISSED.


No pronouncement as to costs.

G.R. No. 162059 January 22, 2008

HANNAH EUNICE D. SERANA, petitioner,


vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, respondents.
DECISION
REYES, R.T., J.:
CAN the Sandiganbayan try a government
scholaran** accused, along with her brother, of swindling
government funds?

MAAARI bang litisin ng Sandiganbayan ang isang iskolar


ng bayan, at ang kanyang kapatid, na kapwa
pinararatangan ng estafa ng pera ng bayan?

The jurisdictional question is posed in this petition for certiorari


assailing the Resolutions1 of the Sandiganbayan, Fifth Division,
denying petitioner’s motion to quash the information and her
motion for reconsideration.
The Antecedents

Petitioner Hannah Eunice D. Serana was a senior student of the


University of the Philippines-Cebu. A student of a state
university is known as a government scholar. She was
appointed by then President Joseph Estrada on December 21,
1999 as a student regent of UP, to serve a one-year term
starting January 1, 2000 and ending on December 31, 2000.
In the early part of 2000, petitioner discussed with President
Estrada the renovation of Vinzons Hall Annex in UP
Diliman.2 On September 4, 2000, petitioner, with her siblings
and relatives, registered with the Securities and Exchange
Commission the Office of the Student Regent Foundation, Inc.
(OSRFI).3
One of the projects of the OSRFI was the renovation of the
Vinzons Hall Annex.4 President Estrada gave Fifteen Million
Pesos (P15,000,000.00) to the OSRFI as financial assistance
for the proposed renovation. The source of the funds, according
to the information, was the Office of the President.
The renovation of Vinzons Hall Annex failed to materialize.5 The
succeeding student regent, Kristine Clare Bugayong, and
Christine Jill De Guzman, Secretary General of the KASAMA sa
U.P., a system-wide alliance of student councils within the state
university, consequently filed a complaint for Malversation of
Public Funds and Property with the Office of the Ombudsman.6

On July 3, 2003, the Ombudsman, after due investigation, found


probable cause to indict petitioner and her brother Jade Ian D.
Serana for estafa, docketed as Criminal Case No. 27819 of the
Sandiganbayan.7 The Information reads:
The undersigned Special Prosecution Officer III, Office of
the Special Prosecutor, hereby accuses HANNAH EUNICE
D. SERANA and JADE IAN D. SERANA of the crime of
Estafa, defined and penalized under Paragraph 2(a),
Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended
committed as follows:

That on October, 24, 2000, or sometime prior or


subsequent thereto, in Quezon City, Metro Manila,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, above-named accused, HANNAH EUNICE D.
SERANA, a high-ranking public officer, being then the
Student Regent of the University of the Philippines,
Diliman, Quezon City, while in the performance of her
official functions, committing the offense in relation to her
office and taking advantage of her position, with intent to
gain, conspiring with her brother, JADE IAN D. SERANA, a
private individual, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously defraud the government by falsely and
fraudulently representing to former President Joseph
Ejercito Estrada that the renovation of the Vinzons Hall of
the University of the Philippines will be renovated and
renamed as "President Joseph Ejercito Estrada Student
Hall," and for which purpose accused HANNAH EUNICE
D. SERANA requested the amount of FIFTEEN MILLION
PESOS (P15,000,000.00), Philippine Currency, from the
Office of the President, and the latter relying and believing
on said false pretenses and misrepresentation gave and
delivered to said accused Land Bank Check No. 91353
dated October 24, 2000 in the amount of FIFTEEN
MILLION PESOS (P15,000,000.00), which check was
subsequently encashed by accused Jade Ian D. Serana on
October 25, 2000 and misappropriated for their personal
use and benefit, and despite repeated demands made
upon the accused for them to return aforesaid amount, the
said accused failed and refused to do so to the damage
and prejudice of the government in the aforesaid amount.
CONTRARY TO LAW. (Underscoring supplied)
Petitioner moved to quash the information. She claimed that the
Sandiganbayan does not have any jurisdiction over the offense
charged or over her person, in her capacity as UP student
regent.
Petitioner claimed that Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019, as
amended by R.A. No. 8249, enumerates the crimes or offenses
over which the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction.8 It has no
jurisdiction over the crime of estafa.9 It only has jurisdiction over
crimes covered by Title VII, Chapter II, Section 2 (Crimes
Committed by Public Officers), Book II of the Revised Penal
Code (RPC). Estafa falling under Title X, Chapter VI (Crimes
Against Property), Book II of the RPC is not within the
Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction.
She also argued that it was President Estrada, not the
government, that was duped. Even assuming that she received
the P15,000,000.00, that amount came from Estrada, not from
the coffers of the government.10

Petitioner likewise posited that the Sandiganbayan had no


jurisdiction over her person. As a student regent, she was not a
public officer since she merely represented her peers, in
contrast to the other regents who held their positions in an ex
officio capacity. She addsed that she was a simple student and
did not receive any salary as a student regent.
She further contended that she had no power or authority to
receive monies or funds. Such power was vested with the
Board of Regents (BOR) as a whole. Since it was not alleged in
the information that it was among her functions or duties to
receive funds, or that the crime was committed in connection
with her official functions, the same is beyond the jurisdiction of
the Sandiganbayan citing the case of Soller v.
Sandiganbayan.11
The Ombudsman opposed the motion.12 It disputed petitioner’s
interpretation of the law. Section 4(b) of Presidential Decree
(P.D.) No. 1606 clearly contains the catch -all phrase "in
relation to office," thus, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over
the charges against petitioner. In the same breath, the
prosecution countered that the source of the money is a matter
of defense. It should be threshed out during a full-blown trial.13
According to the Ombudsman, petitioner, despite her
protestations, iwas a public officer. As a member of the BOR,
she hads the general powers of administration and exerciseds
the corporate powers of UP. Based on Mechem’s definition of a
public office, petitioner’s stance that she was not compensated,
hence, not a public officer, is erroneous. Compensation is not
an essential part of public office. Parenthetically, compensation
has been interpreted to include allowances. By this definition,
petitioner was compensated.14
Sandiganbayan Disposition

In a Resolution dated November 14, 2003, the Sandiganbayan


denied petitioner’s motion for lack of merit.15 It ratiocinated:

The focal point in controversy is the jurisdiction of the


Sandiganbayan over this case.

It is extremely erroneous to hold that only criminal offenses


covered by Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the
Revised Penal Code are within the jurisdiction of this
Court. As correctly pointed out by the prosecution, Section
4(b) of R.A. 8249 provides that the Sandiganbayan also
has jurisdiction over other offenses committed by public
officials and employees in relation to their office. From this
provision, there is no single doubt that this Court has
jurisdiction over the offense of estafa committed by a
public official in relation to his office.
Accused-movant’s claim that being merely a member in
representation of the student body, she was never a public
officer since she never received any compensation nor
does she fall under Salary Grade 27, is of no moment, in
view of the express provision of Section 4 of Republic Act
No. 8249 which provides:

Sec. 4. Jurisdiction – The Sandiganbayan shall exercise


exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:
(A) x x x
(1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the
positions of regional director and higher, otherwise
classified as Grade "27" and higher, of the Compensation
and Position Classification Act of 1989 (Republic Act No.
6758), specifically including:
xxxx

(g) Presidents, directors or trustees, or managers of


government-owned or controlled corporations, state
universities or educational institutions or foundations.
(Italics supplied)

It is very clear from the aforequoted provision that the


Sandiganbayan has original exclusive jurisdiction over all
offenses involving the officials enumerated in subsection
(g), irrespective of their salary grades, because the
primordial consideration in the inclusion of these officials is
the nature of their responsibilities and functions.
Is accused-movant included in the contemplated provision
of law?
A meticulous review of the existing Charter of the
University of the Philippines reveals that the Board of
Regents, to which accused-movant belongs, exclusively
exercises the general powers of administration and
corporate powers in the university, such as: 1) To receive
and appropriate to the ends specified by law such sums as
may be provided by law for the support of the university; 2)
To prescribe rules for its own government and to enact for
the government of the university such general ordinances
and regulations, not contrary to law, as are consistent with
the purposes of the university; and 3) To appoint, on
recommendation of the President of the University,
professors, instructors, lecturers and other employees of
the University; to fix their compensation, hours of service,
and such other duties and conditions as it may deem
proper; to grant to them in its discretion leave of absence
under such regulations as it may promulgate, any other
provisions of law to the contrary notwithstanding, and to
remove them for cause after an investigation and hearing
shall have been had.

It is well-established in corporation law that the corporation


can act only through its board of directors, or board of
trustees in the case of non-stock corporations. The board
of directors or trustees, therefore, is the governing body of
the corporation.

It is unmistakably evident that the Board of Regents of the


University of the Philippines is performing functions similar
to those of the Board of Trustees of a non-stock
corporation. This draws to fore the conclusion that being a
member of such board, accused-movant undoubtedly falls
within the category of public officials upon whom this Court
is vested with original exclusive jurisdiction, regardless of
the fact that she does not occupy a position classified as
Salary Grade 27 or higher under the Compensation and
Position Classification Act of 1989.

Finally, this court finds that accused-movant’s contention


that the same of P15 Million was received from former
President Estrada and not from the coffers of the
government, is a matter a defense that should be properly
ventilated during the trial on the merits of this case.16

On November 19, 2003, petitioner filed a motion for


reconsideration.17 The motion was denied with finality in a
Resolution dated February 4, 2004.18
Issue
Petitioner is now before this Court, contending that "THE
RESPONDENT COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION IN NOT QUASHING THE INFORMATION AND
DISMISING THE CASE NOTWITHSTANDING THAT IS HAS
NO JURISDICTION OVER THE OFFENSE CHARGED IN THE
INFORMATION."19

In her discussion, she reiterates her four-fold argument below,


namely: (a) the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over estafa;
(b) petitioner is not a public officer with Salary Grade 27 and
she paid her tuition fees; (c) the offense charged was not
committed in relation to her office; (d) the funds in question
personally came from President Estrada, not from the
government.
Our Ruling
The petition cannot be granted.
Preliminarily, the denial of a motion to
quash is not correctible by certiorari.
We would ordinarily dismiss this petition for certiorari outright on
procedural grounds. Well-established is the rule that when a
motion to quash in a criminal case is denied, the remedy is not
a petition for certiorari, but for petitioners to go to trial, without
prejudice to reiterating the special defenses invoked in their
motion to quash.20 Remedial measures as regards interlocutory
orders, such as a motion to quash, are frowned upon and often
dismissed.21 The evident reason for this rule is to avoid
multiplicity of appeals in a single action.22
In Newsweek, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court,23 the Court
clearly explained and illustrated the rule and the exceptions,
thus:

As a general rule, an order denying a motion to dismiss is


merely interlocutory and cannot be subject of appeal until
final judgment or order is rendered. (Sec. 2 of Rule 41).
The ordinary procedure to be followed in such a case is to
file an answer, go to trial and if the decision is adverse,
reiterate the issue on appeal from the final judgment. The
same rule applies to an order denying a motion to quash,
except that instead of filing an answer a plea is entered
and no appeal lies from a judgment of acquittal.

This general rule is subject to certain exceptions. If the


court, in denying the motion to dismiss or motion to quash,
acts without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse
of discretion, then certiorari or prohibition lies. The reason
is that it would be unfair to require the defendant or
accused to undergo the ordeal and expense of a trial if the
court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter or offense,
or is not the court of proper venue, or if the denial of the
motion to dismiss or motion to quash is made with grave
abuse of discretion or a whimsical and capricious exercise
of judgment. In such cases, the ordinary remedy of appeal
cannot be plain and adequate. The following are a few
examples of the exceptions to the general rule.

In De Jesus v. Garcia (19 SCRA 554), upon the denial of a


motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction over the
subject matter, this Court granted the petition
for certiorari and prohibition against the City Court of
Manila and directed the respondent court to dismiss the
case.
In Lopez v. City Judge (18 SCRA 616), upon the denial of
a motion to quash based on lack of jurisdiction over the
offense, this Court granted the petition for prohibition and
enjoined the respondent court from further proceeding in
the case.

In Enriquez v. Macadaeg (84 Phil. 674), upon the denial of


a motion to dismiss based on improper venue, this Court
granted the petition for prohibition and enjoined the
respondent judge from taking cognizance of the case
except to dismiss the same.
In Manalo v. Mariano (69 SCRA 80), upon the denial of a
motion to dismiss based on bar by prior judgment, this
Court granted the petition for certiorari and directed the
respondent judge to dismiss the case.

In Yuviengco v. Dacuycuy (105 SCRA 668), upon the


denial of a motion to dismiss based on the Statute of
Frauds, this Court granted the petition for certiorari and
dismissed the amended complaint.

In Tacas v. Cariaso (72 SCRA 527), this Court granted the


petition for certiorari after the motion to quash based on
double jeopardy was denied by respondent judge and
ordered him to desist from further action in the criminal
case except to dismiss the same.

In People v. Ramos (83 SCRA 11), the order denying the


motion to quash based on prescription was set aside
on certiorari and the criminal case was dismissed by this
Court.24

We do not find the Sandiganbayan to have committed a grave


abuse of discretion.
The jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan is
set by P.D. No. 1606, as amended, not by
R.A. No. 3019, as amended.

We first address petitioner’s contention that the jurisdiction of


the Sandiganbayan is determined by Section 4 of R.A. No. 3019
(The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as amended). We
note that petitioner refers to Section 4 of the said law yet quotes
Section 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended, in her motion to quash
before the Sandiganbayan.25 She repeats the reference in the
instant petition for certiorari26 and in her memorandum of
authorities.27

We cannot bring ourselves to write this off as a mere clerical or


typographical error. It bears stressing that petitioner repeated
this claim twice despite corrections made by the
Sandiganbayan.28

Her claim has no basis in law. It is P.D. No. 1606, as amended,


rather than R.A. No. 3019, as amended, that determines the
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. A brief legislative history of
the statute creating the Sandiganbayan is in order. The
Sandiganbayan was created by P.D. No. 1486, promulgated by
then President Ferdinand E. Marcos on June 11, 1978. It was
promulgated to attain the highest norms of official conduct
required of public officers and employees, based on the concept
that public officers and employees shall serve with the highest
degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency and
shall remain at all times accountable to the people.29

P.D. No. 1486 was, in turn, amended by P.D. No. 1606 which
was promulgated on December 10, 1978. P.D. No. 1606
expanded the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.30
P.D. No. 1606 was later amended by P.D. No. 1861 on March
23, 1983, further altering the Sandiganbayan jurisdiction. R.A.
No. 7975 approved on March 30, 1995 made succeeding
amendments to P.D. No. 1606, which was again amended on
February 5, 1997 by R.A. No. 8249. Section 4 of R.A. No. 8249
further modified the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. As it now
stands, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the following:
Sec. 4. Jurisdiction. - The Sandiganbayan shall exercise
exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:
A. Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, other
known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,
Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII,
Book II of the Revised Penal Code, where one or more of
the accused are officials occupying the following positions
in the government, whether in a permanent, acting or
interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the
offense:

(1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the


positions of regional director and higher, otherwise
classified as Grade "27" and higher, of the Compensation
and Position Classification Act of 989 (Republic Act No.
6758), specifically including:

" (a) Provincial governors, vice-governors, members of


the sangguniang panlalawigan, and provincial treasurers,
assessors, engineers, and other city department heads;

" (b) City mayor, vice-mayors, members of


the sangguniang panlungsod, city treasurers, assessors,
engineers, and other city department heads;
"(c ) Officials of the diplomatic service occupying the
position of consul and higher;
" (d) Philippine army and air force colonels, naval captains,
and all officers of higher rank;

" (e) Officers of the Philippine National Police while


occupying the position of provincial director and those
holding the rank of senior superintended or higher;

" (f) City and provincial prosecutors and their assistants,


and officials and prosecutors in the Office of the
Ombudsman and special prosecutor;

" (g) Presidents, directors or trustees, or managers of


government-owned or controlled corporations, state
universities or educational institutions or foundations.

" (2) Members of Congress and officials thereof classified


as Grade "27'" and up under the Compensation and
Position Classification Act of 1989;

" (3) Members of the judiciary without prejudice to the


provisions of the Constitution;

" (4) Chairmen and members of Constitutional


Commission, without prejudice to the provisions of the
Constitution; and

" (5) All other national and local officials classified as


Grade "27'" and higher under the Compensation and
Position Classification Act of 1989.

B. Other offenses of felonies whether simple or complexed


with other crimes committed by the public officials and
employees mentioned in subsection a of this section in
relation to their office.
C. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in
connection with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A,
issued in 1986.

" In cases where none of the accused are occupying


positions corresponding to Salary Grade "27'" or higher, as
prescribed in the said Republic Act No. 6758, or military
and PNP officer mentioned above, exclusive original
jurisdiction thereof shall be vested in the proper regional
court, metropolitan trial court, municipal trial court, and
municipal circuit trial court, as the case may be, pursuant
to their respective jurisdictions as provided in Batas
Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended.

" The Sandiganbayan shall exercise exclusive appellate


jurisdiction over final judgments, resolutions or order of
regional trial courts whether in the exercise of their own
original jurisdiction or of their appellate jurisdiction as
herein provided.
" The Sandiganbayan shall have exclusive original
jurisdiction over petitions for the issuance of the writs of
mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus,
injunctions, and other ancillary writs and processes in aid
of its appellate jurisdiction and over petitions of similar
nature, including quo warranto, arising or that may arise in
cases filed or which may be filed under Executive Order
Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986: Provided, That the
jurisdiction over these petitions shall not be exclusive of
the Supreme Court.
" The procedure prescribed in Batas Pambansa Blg. 129,
as well as the implementing rules that the Supreme Court
has promulgated and may thereafter promulgate, relative
to appeals/petitions for review to the Court of Appeals,
shall apply to appeals and petitions for review filed with the
Sandiganbayan. In all cases elevated to the
Sandiganbayan and from the Sandiganbayan to the
Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman, through its
special prosecutor, shall represent the People of the
Philippines, except in cases filed pursuant to Executive
Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986.

" In case private individuals are charged as co-principals,


accomplices or accessories with the public officers or
employees, including those employed in government-
owned or controlled corporations, they shall be tried jointly
with said public officers and employees in the proper
courts which shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over
them.
" Any provisions of law or Rules of Court to the contrary
notwithstanding, the criminal action and the corresponding
civil action for the recovery of civil liability shall, at all times,
be simultaneously instituted with, and jointly determined in,
the same proceeding by the Sandiganbayan or the
appropriate courts, the filing of the criminal action being
deemed to necessarily carry with it the filing of the civil
action, and no right to reserve the filing such civil action
separately from the criminal action shall be recognized:
Provided, however, That where the civil action had
heretofore been filed separately but judgment therein has
not yet been rendered, and the criminal case is hereafter
filed with the Sandiganbayan or the appropriate court, said
civil action shall be transferred to the Sandiganbayan or
the appropriate court, as the case may be, for
consolidation and joint determination with the criminal
action, otherwise the separate civil action shall be deemed
abandoned."

Upon the other hand, R.A. No. 3019 is a penal statute approved
on August 17, 1960. The said law represses certain acts of
public officers and private persons alike which constitute graft or
corrupt practices or which may lead thereto.31 Pursuant to
Section 10 of R.A. No. 3019, all prosecutions for violation of the
said law should be filed with the Sandiganbayan.32
R.A. No. 3019 does not contain an enumeration of the cases
over which the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction. In fact, Section
4 of R.A. No. 3019 erroneously cited by petitioner, deals not
with the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan but with prohibition
on private individuals. We quote:

Section 4. Prohibition on private individuals. – (a) It shall


be unlawful for any person having family or close personal
relation with any public official to capitalize or exploit or
take advantage of such family or close personal relation by
directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any present,
gift or material or pecuniary advantage from any other
person having some business, transaction, application,
request or contract with the government, in which such
public official has to intervene. Family relation shall include
the spouse or relatives by consanguinity or affinity in the
third civil degree. The word "close personal relation" shall
include close personal friendship, social and fraternal
connections, and professional employment all giving rise to
intimacy which assures free access to such public officer.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to induce
or cause any public official to commit any of the offenses
defined in Section 3 hereof.

In fine, the two statutes differ in that P.D. No. 1606, as


amended, defines the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan while
R.A. No. 3019, as amended, defines graft and corrupt practices
and provides for their penalties.

Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over


the offense of estafa.

Relying on Section 4 of P.D. No. 1606, petitioner contends


that estafa is not among those crimes cognizable by the
Sandiganbayan. We note that in hoisting this argument,
petitioner isolated the first paragraph of Section 4 of P.D. No.
1606, without regard to the succeeding paragraphs of the said
provision.
The rule is well-established in this jurisdiction that statutes
should receive a sensible construction so as to avoid an unjust
or an absurd conclusion.33 Interpretatio talis in ambiguis semper
fienda est, ut evitetur inconveniens et absurdum. Where there is
ambiguity, such interpretation as will avoid inconvenience and
absurdity is to be adopted. Kung saan mayroong kalabuan,
ang pagpapaliwanag ay hindi dapat maging mahirap at
katawa-tawa.

Every section, provision or clause of the statute must be


expounded by reference to each other in order to arrive at the
effect contemplated by the legislature.34 The intention of the
legislator must be ascertained from the whole text of the law
and every part of the act is to be taken into view.35 In other
words, petitioner’s interpretation lies in direct opposition to the
rule that a statute must be interpreted as a whole under the
principle that the best interpreter of a statute is the statute
itself.36 Optima statuti interpretatrix est ipsum statutum. Ang
isang batas ay marapat na bigyan ng kahulugan sa
kanyang kabuuan sa ilalim ng prinsipyo na ang
pinakamainam na interpretasyon ay ang mismong batas.
Section 4(B) of P.D. No. 1606 reads:

B. Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed


with other crimes committed by the public officials and
employees mentioned in subsection a of this section in
relation to their office.

Evidently, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over other


felonies committed by public officials in relation to their office.
We see no plausible or sensible reason to exclude estafa as
one of the offenses included in Section 4(bB) of P.D. No. 1606.
Plainly, estafa is one of those other felonies. The jurisdiction is
simply subject to the twin requirements that (a) the offense is
committed by public officials and employees mentioned in
Section 4(A) of P.D. No. 1606, as amended, and that (b) the
offense is committed in relation to their office.
In Perlas, Jr. v. People,37 the Court had occasion to explain that
the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over an indictment
for estafa versus a director of the National Parks Development
Committee, a government instrumentality. The Court held then:

The National Parks Development Committee was created


originally as an Executive Committee on January 14, 1963,
for the development of the Quezon Memorial, Luneta and
other national parks (Executive Order No. 30). It was later
designated as the National Parks Development Committee
(NPDC) on February 7, 1974 (E.O. No. 69). On January 9,
1966, Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos and Teodoro F. Valencia
were designated Chairman and Vice-Chairman
respectively (E.O. No. 3). Despite an attempt to transfer it
to the Bureau of Forest Development, Department of
Natural Resources, on December 1, 1975 (Letter of
Implementation No. 39, issued pursuant to PD No. 830,
dated November 27, 1975), the NPDC has remained under
the Office of the President (E.O. No. 709, dated July 27,
1981).

Since 1977 to 1981, the annual appropriations decrees


listed NPDC as a regular government agency under the
Office of the President and allotments for its maintenance
and operating expenses were issued direct to NPDC (Exh.
10-A, Perlas, Item Nos. 2, 3).

The Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction over estafa was reiterated


with greater firmness in Bondoc v. Sandiganbayan.38 Pertinent
parts of the Court’s ruling in Bondoc read:

Furthermore, it is not legally possible to transfer Bondoc’s


cases to the Regional Trial Court, for the simple reason
that the latter would not have jurisdiction over the offenses.
As already above intimated, the inability of the
Sandiganbayan to hold a joint trial of Bondoc’s cases and
those of the government employees separately charged for
the same crimes, has not altered the nature of the offenses
charged, as estafa thru falsification punishable by
penalties higher than prision correccional or imprisonment
of six years, or a fine of P6,000.00, committed by
government employees in conspiracy with private persons,
including Bondoc. These crimes are within the exclusive,
original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. They simply
cannot be taken cognizance of by the regular courts, apart
from the fact that even if the cases could be so transferred,
a joint trial would nonetheless not be possible.
Petitioner UP student regent
is a public officer.

Petitioner also contends that she is not a public officer. She


does not receive any salary or remuneration as a UP student
regent. This is not the first or likely the last time that We will be
called upon to define a public officer. In Khan, Jr. v. Office of the
Ombudsman, We ruled that it is difficult to pin down the
definition of a public officer.39 The 1987 Constitution does not
define who are public officers. Rather, the varied definitions and
concepts are found in different statutes and jurisprudence.
In Aparri v. Court of Appeals,40 the Court held that:

A public office is the right, authority, and duty created and


conferred by law, by which for a given period, either fixed
by law or enduring at the pleasure of the creating power,
an individual is invested with some portion of the sovereign
functions of the government, to be exercise by him for the
benefit of the public ([Mechem Public Offices and
Officers,] Sec. 1). The right to hold a public office under our
political system is therefore not a natural right. It exists,
when it exists at all only because and by virtue of some law
expressly or impliedly creating and conferring it (Mechem
Ibid., Sec. 64). There is no such thing as a vested interest
or an estate in an office, or even an absolute right to hold
office. Excepting constitutional offices which provide for
special immunity as regards salary and tenure, no one can
be said to have any vested right in an office or its salary
(42 Am. Jur. 881).
In Laurel v. Desierto,41 the Court adopted the definition of
Mechem of a public office:
"A public office is the right, authority and duty, created and
conferred by law, by which, for a given period, either fixed
by law or enduring at the pleasure of the creating power,
an individual is invested with some portion of the sovereign
functions of the government, to be exercised by him for the
benefit of the public. The individual so invested is a public
officer."42
Petitioner claims that she is not a public officer with Salary
Grade 27; she is, in fact, a regular tuition fee-paying student.
This is likewise bereft of merit. It is not only the salary grade
that determines the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. The
Sandiganbayan also has jurisdiction over other officers
enumerated in P.D. No. 1606. In Geduspan v. People,43 We
held that while the first part of Section 4(A) covers only officials
with Salary Grade 27 and higher, its second part specifically
includes other executive officials whose positions may not be of
Salary Grade 27 and higher but who are by express provision of
law placed under the jurisdiction of the said court. Petitioner
falls under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan as she is
placed there by express provision of law.44
Section 4(A)(1)(g) of P.D. No. 1606 explictly vested the
Sandiganbayan with jurisdiction over Presidents, directors or
trustees, or managers of government-owned or controlled
corporations, state universities or educational institutions or
foundations. Petitioner falls under this category. As the
Sandiganbayan pointed out, the BOR performs functions similar
to those of a board of trustees of a non-stock corporation.45 By
express mandate of law, petitioner is, indeed, a public officer as
contemplated by P.D. No. 1606.
Moreover, it is well established that compensation is not an
essential element of public office.46 At most, it is merely
incidental to the public office.47

Delegation of sovereign functions is essential in the public


office. An investment in an individual of some portion of the
sovereign functions of the government, to be exercised by him
for the benefit of the public makes one a public officer.48

The administration of the UP is a sovereign function in line with


Article XIV of the Constitution. UP performs a legitimate
governmental function by providing advanced instruction in
literature, philosophy, the sciences, and arts, and giving
professional and technical training.49 Moreover, UP is
maintained by the Government and it declares no dividends and
is not a corporation created for profit.50

The offense charged was committed


in relation to public office, according
to the Information.

Petitioner likewise argues that even assuming that she is a


public officer, the Sandiganbayan would still not have
jurisdiction over the offense because it was not committed in
relation to her office.
According to petitioner, she had no power or authority to act
without the approval of the BOR. She adds there was no Board
Resolution issued by the BOR authorizing her to contract with
then President Estrada; and that her acts were not ratified by
the governing body of the state university. Resultantly, her act
was done in a private capacity and not in relation to public
office.
It is axiomatic that jurisdiction is determined by the averments in
the information.51 More than that, jurisdiction is not affected by
the pleas or the theories set up by defendant or respondent in
an answer, a motion to dismiss, or a motion to
quash.52 Otherwise, jurisdiction would become dependent
almost entirely upon the whims of defendant or respondent.53
In the case at bench, the information alleged, in no uncertain
terms that petitioner, being then a student regent of U.P., "while
in the performance of her official functions, committing the
offense in relation to her office and taking advantage of her
position, with intent to gain, conspiring with her brother, JADE
IAN D. SERANA, a private individual, did then and there wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously defraud the government x x x."
(Underscoring supplied)

Clearly, there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of


the Sandiganbayan when it did not quash the information based
on this ground.

Source of funds is a defense that should


be raised during trial on the merits.
It is contended anew that the amount came from President
Estrada’s private funds and not from the government coffers.
Petitioner insists the charge has no leg to stand on.

We cannot agree. The information alleges that the funds came


from the Office of the President and not its then occupant,
President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. Under the information, it is
averred that "petitioner requested the amount of Fifteen Million
Pesos (P15,000,000.00), Philippine Currency, from the Office of
the President, and the latter relying and believing on said false
pretenses and misrepresentation gave and delivered to said
accused Land Bank Check No. 91353 dated October 24, 2000
in the amount of Fifteen Million Pesos (P15,000,000.00)."
Again, the Court sustains the Sandiganbayan observation that
the source of the P15,000,000 is a matter of defense that
should be ventilated during the trial on the merits of the instant
case.54

A lawyer owes candor, fairness


and honesty to the Court.

As a parting note, petitioner’s counsel, Renato G. dela Cruz,


misrepresented his reference to Section 4 of P.D. No. 1606 as a
quotation from Section 4 of R.A. No. 3019. A review of his
motion to quash, the instant petition for certiorari and his
memorandum, unveils the misquotation. We urge petitioner’s
counsel to observe Canon 10 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, specifically Rule 10.02 of the Rules stating that
"a lawyer shall not misquote or misrepresent."
The Court stressed the importance of this rule in Pangan v.
Ramos,55 where Atty Dionisio D. Ramos used the name Pedro
D.D. Ramos in connection with a criminal case. The Court ruled
that Atty. Ramos resorted to deception by using a name
different from that with which he was authorized. We severely
reprimanded Atty. Ramos and warned that a repetition may
warrant suspension or disbarment.56

We admonish petitioner’s counsel to be more careful and


accurate in his citation. A lawyer’s conduct before the court
should be characterized by candor and fairness.57 The
administration of justice would gravely suffer if lawyers do not
act with complete candor and honesty before the courts.58
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit.
G.R. No. 191894 July 15, 2015
DANILO A. DUNCANO, Petitioner,
vs.
HON. SANDIGANBAYAN (2nd DIVISION), and HON. OFFICE
OF THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, Respondents.
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
This petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court
(Rules) with prayer for issuance of preliminary injunction and/or
temporary restraining order seeks to reverse and set aside the
August 18, 2009 Resolution1 and February 8, 2010 Order2 of
respondent Sandiganbayan Second Division in Criminal Case
No. SB-09-CRM-0080, which denied petitioner's Motion to
Dismiss on the ground of la9k of jurisdiction.
The facts are plain and undisputed.

Petitioner Danilo A. Duncano is, at the time material to the case,


the Regional Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)
with Salary Grade 26 as classified under Republic Act (R.A.)
No. 6758.3 On March 24, 2009,4 the Office of the Special
Prosecutor (OSP), Office of the Ombudsman, filed a criminal
case against him for violation of Section 8, in relation to Section
11 of R.A. No. 6713,5 allegedly committed as follows:

That on or about April 15, 2003, or sometime prior or


subsequent thereto, in Quezon City, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused
DANILODUNCANO y ACIDO, a high ranking public officer,
being the Regional Director of Revenue Region No. 7, of the
Bureau of Internal Revenue, Quezon City, and as such is under
an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath
of his assets, liabilities and net worth and financial and business
interests, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and criminally
fail to disclose in his Sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities
and Networth (SALN) for the year 2002, his financial and
business interests/connection in Documail Provides Corporation
and Don Plus Trading of which he and his family are the
registered owners thereof, and the 1993 Nissan Patrol motor
vehicle registered in the name of his son VINCENT LOUIS P.
DUNCANO which are part of his assets, to the damage and
prejudice of public interest.
CONTRARY TO LAW.6

Prior to his arraignment, petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss


With Prayer to Defer the Issuance of Warrant of Arrest7 before
respondent Sandiganbayan Second Division. As the OSP
alleged, he admitted that he is a Regional Director with Salary
Grade 26. Citing Inding v. Sandiganbayan8 and Serana v.
Sandiganbayan, et al.,9 he asserted that under Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 1606, as amended by Section 4 (A) (1) of
R.A No. 8249,10 the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction to try
and hear the case because he is an official of the executive
branch occupying the position of a Regional Director but with a
compensation that is classified as below Salary Grade 27.

In its Opposition,11 the OSP argued that a reading of Section 4


(A) (1) (a) to (g) of the subject law would clearly show that the
qualification as to Salary Grade 27 and higher applies only to
officials of the executive branch other than the Regional
Director and those specifically enumerated. This is so since the
term "Regional Director" and "higher" are separated by the
conjunction "and," which signifies that these two positions are
different, apart and distinct, words but are conjoined together
"relating one to the other" to give effect to the purpose of the
law. The fact that the position of Regional Director was
specifically mentioned without indication as to its salary grade
signifies the lawmakers’ intention that officials occupying such
position, regardless of salary grade, fall within the original and
exclusive jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. This issue, it is
claimed, was already resolved in Inding. Finally, the OSP
contended that the filing of the motion to dismiss is premature
considering that the Sandiganbayan has yet to acquire
jurisdiction over the person of the accused.

Still not to be outdone, petitioner invoked the applicability of


Cuyco v. Sandiganbayan12 and Organo v. Sandiganbayan13 in
his rejoinder.

On August 18, 2009, the Sandiganbayan Second Division


promulgated its Resolution, disposing: WHEREFORE, in the
light of the foregoing, the Court hereby DENIES the instant
Motion to Dismiss for being devoid of merit. Let a Warrant of
Arrest be therefore issued against the accused.
SO ORDERED.14
The respondent court ruled that the position of Regional
Director is one of those exceptions where the Sandiganbayan
has jurisdiction even if such position is not Salary Grade 27. It
was opined that Section 4 (A) (1) of R.A No. 8249 unequivocally
provides that respondent court has jurisdiction over officials of
the executive branch of the government occupying the position
of regional director and higher, otherwise classified as Salary
Grade 27 and higher, of R.A. No. 6758, including those officials
who are expressly enumerated in subparagraphs (a) to (g). In
support of the ruling, this Court’s pronouncements in Indingand
Binay v. Sandiganbayan15 were cited.
Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but it was
denied;16 Hence, this petition.
Instead of issuing a temporary restraining order or writ of
preliminary injunction, the Court required respondents to file a
comment on the petition without necessarily giving due course
thereto.17 Upon compliance of the OSP, a Rejoinder
(supposedly a Reply) was filed by petitioner.

At the heart of the controversy is the determination of whether,


according to P.D. No. 1606, as amended by Section 4 (A) (1) of
R.A No. 8249, only Regional Directors with Salary Grade of 27
and higher, as classified under R.A. No. 6758, fall within the
exclusive jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. Arguing that he is
not included among the public officials specifically enumerated
in Section 4 (A) (1) (a) to (g) of the law and heavily relying as
well on Cuyco, petitioner insists that respondent court lacks
jurisdiction over him, who is merely a Regional Director with
Salary Grade 26. On the contrary, the OSP maintains that a
Regional Director, irrespective of salary grade, falls within the
exclusive original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. We find
merit in the petition.

The creation of the Sandiganbayan was mandated by Section


5, Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution.18 By virtue of the powers
vested in him by the Constitution and pursuant to Proclamation
No. 1081, dated September 21, 1972, former President
Ferdinand E. Marcos issued P.D. No. 1486.19 The decree was
later amended by P.D. No. 1606,20 Section 20 of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 129,21 P.D. No. 1860,22 and P.D. No. 1861.23

With the advent of the 1987 Constitution, the special court was
retained as provided for in Section 4, Article XI thereof.24 Aside
from Executive Order Nos. 1425 and 14-a,26 and R.A.
7080,27 which expanded the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan,
P.D. No. 1606 was further modified by R.A. No. 7975,28 R.A. No.
8249,29 and just this year, R.A. No. 10660.30
For the purpose of this case, the relevant provision is Section 4
of R.A. No. 8249, which states: SEC. 4. Section 4 of the same
decree is hereby further amended to read as follows:

"SEC. 4. Jurisdiction.– The Sandiganbayan shall exercise


exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:

"A. Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise


known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act
No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the
Revised Penal Code, where one or more of the accused are
officials occupying the following positions in the government,
whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time
of the commission of the offense:
"(1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the positions of
regional director and higher, otherwise classified as Grade ‘27’
and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act
of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758), specifically including:
"(a) Provincial governors, vice-governors, members of the
sangguniang panlalawigan, and provincial treasurers,
assessors, engineers, and other provincial department
heads;
"(b) City mayor, vice-mayors, members of the sangguniang
panlungsod, city treasurers, assessors, engineers, and
other city department heads;
"(c) Officials of the diplomatic service occupying the
position of consul and higher;
"(d) Philippine army and air force colonels, naval captains,
and all officers of higher rank;
"(e) Officers of the Philippine National Police while
occupying the position of provincial director and those
holding the rank of senior superintendent or higher;

"(f) City and provincial prosecutors and their assistants,


and officials and prosecutors in the Office of the
Ombudsman and special prosecutor;

"(g) Presidents, directors or trustees, or managers of


government-owned or controlled corporations, state
universities or educational institutions or foundations.

"(2) Members of Congress and officials thereof classified


as Grade ‘27’ and up under the Compensation and
Position Classification Act of 1989;

"(3) Members of the judiciary without prejudice to the


provisions of the Constitution;

"(4) Chairmen and members of Constitutional Commission,


without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution; and

"(5) All other national and local officials classified as Grade


‘27’ and higher under the Compensation and Position
Classification Act of 1989.

"B. Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed


with other crimes committed by the public officials and
employees mentioned in subsection a of this section in relation
to their office.

"C. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection


with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986.
x x x"
Based on the afore-quoted, those that fall within the original
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan are: (1) officials of the
executive branch with Salary Grade 27 or higher, and (2)
officials specifically enumerated in Section 4 (A) (1) (a) to (g),
regardless of their salary grades.31 While the first part of Section
4 (A) covers only officials of the executive branch with Salary
Grade 27 and higher, its second part specifically includes other
executive officials whose positions may not be of Salary Grade
27 and higher but who are by express provision of law placed
under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.32

That the phrase "otherwise classified as Grade ‘27’ and higher"


qualifies "regional director and higher" is apparent from the
Sponsorship Speech of Senator Raul S. Roco on Senate Bill
Nos. 1353and 844, which eventually became R.A. Nos. 7975
and 8249, respectively:

As proposed by the Committee, the Sandiganbayan shall


exercise original jurisdiction over the cases assigned to it only in
instances where one or more of the principal accused are
officials occupying the positions of regional director and higher
or are otherwise classified as Grade 27 and higher by the
Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989, whether
in a permanent, acting or interim capacity at the time of the
commission of the offense. The jurisdiction, therefore, refers to
a certain grade upwards, which shall remain with the
Sandiganbayan.33 (Emphasis supplied)

To speed up trial in the Sandiganbayan, Republic Act No. 7975


was enacted for that Court to concentrate on the "larger fish"
and leave the "small fry" to the lower courts. This law became
effective on May 6, 1995 and it provided a two-pronged solution
to the clogging of the dockets of that court, to wit:
It divested the Sandiganbayan of jurisdiction over public officials
whose salary grades were at Grade "26" or lower, devolving
thereby these cases to the lower courts, and retaining the
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan only over public officials
whose salary grades were at Grade "27" or higher and over
other specific public officials holding important positions in
government regardless of salary grade; x x x34 (Emphasis
supplied)

The legislative intent is to allow the Sandiganbayan to devote its


time and expertise to big-time cases involving the so-called "big
fishes" in the government rather than those accused who are of
limited means who stand trial for "petty crimes," the so-called
"small fry," which, in turn, helps the court decongest its
dockets.35

Yet, those that are classified as Salary Grade 26 and below


may still fall within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan,
provided that they hold the positions enumerated by the law.36 In
this category, it is the position held, not the salary grade, which
determines the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.37 The specific
inclusion constitutes an exception to the general qualification
relating to "officials of the executive branch occupying the
positions of regional director and higher, otherwise classified as
Grade ‘27’ and higher, of the Compensation and Position
Classification Act of 1989."38 As ruled in Inding:

Following this disquisition, the paragraph of Section 4 which


provides that if the accused is occupying a position lower than
SG 27, the proper trial court has jurisdiction, can only be
properly interpreted as applying to those cases where the
principal accused is occupying a position lower than SG 27 and
not among those specifically included in the enumeration in
Section 4 a. (1) (a) to (g). Stated otherwise, except for those
officials specifically included in Section 4 a. (1) (a) to (g),
regardless of their salary grades, over whom the
Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction, all other public officials below
SG 27 shall be under the jurisdiction of the proper trial courts
"where none of the principal accused are occupying positions
corresponding to SG 27 or higher." By this construction, the
entire Section 4 is given effect. The cardinal rule, after all, in
statutory construction is that the particular words, clauses and
phrases should not be studied as detached and isolated
expressions, but the whole and every part of the statute must
be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts and in
order to produce a harmonious whole. And courts should adopt
a construction that will give effect to every part of a statute, if at
all possible. Ut magis valeat quam pereat or that construction is
to be sought which gives effect to the whole of the statute – its
every word.39
Thus, to cite a few, We have held that a member of the
Sangguniang Panlungsod,40 a department manager of the
Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth),41 a student
regent of the University of the Philippines,42 and a Head of the
Legal Department and Chief of the Documentation with
corresponding ranks of Vice-Presidents and Assistant Vice-
President of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Retirement
and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS)43 fall within the
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.

Petitioner is not an executive official with Salary Grade 27 or


higher. Neither does he hold any position particularly
enumerated in Section 4 (A) (1) (a) to (g). As he correctly
argues, his case is, in fact, on all fours with Cuyco. Therein, the
1avv phi1

accused was the Regional Director of the Land Transportation


Office, Region IX, Zamboanga City, but at the time of the
commission of the crime in 1992, his position was classified as
Director II with Salary Grade 26.44 It was opined: Petitioner
contends that at the time of the commission of the offense in
1992, he was occupying the position of Director II, Salary Grade
26, hence, jurisdiction over the cases falls with the Regional
Trial Court.
We sustain petitioner's contention.

The Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over violations of


Section 3(a) and (e), Republic Act No. 3019, as amended,
unless committed by public officials and employees occupying
positions of regional director and higher with Salary Grade "27"
or higher, under the Compensation and Position Classification
Act of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758) in relation to their office.
In ruling in favor of its jurisdiction, even though petitioner
admittedly occupied the position of Director II with Salary Grade
"26" under the Compensation and Position Classification Act of
1989 (Republic Act No. 6758), the Sandiganbayan incurred in
serious error of jurisdiction, and acted with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in suspending
petitioner from office, entitling petitioner to the reliefs prayed
for.45
In the same way, a certification issued by the OIC – Assistant
Chief, Personnel Division of the BIR shows that, although
petitioner is a Regional Director of the BIR, his position is
classified as Director II with Salary Grade 26.46

There is no merit in the OSP’s allegation that the petition was


prematurely filed on the ground that respondent court has not
yet acquired jurisdiction over the person of petitioner. Records
disclose that when a warrant of arrest was issued by
respondent court, petitioner voluntarily surrendered and posted
a cash bond on September 17, 2009.Also, he was arraigned on
April 14, 2010,prior to the filing of the petition on April 30, 2010.
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the instant petition for
certiorari is GRANTED. The August 18, 2009 Resolution and
February 8, 2010 Order of the Sandiganbayan Second Division,
which denied petitioner's Motion to Dismiss on the ground of
lack of jurisdiction, are REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 229781


SENATOR LEILA M. DE LIMA, Petitioner
vs.
HON. JUANITA GUERRERO, in her capacity as Presiding
Judge, Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204,
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, P/DIR. GEN. RONALD M.
DELA ROSA, in his capacity as Chief of the Philippine
National Police, PSUPT. PHILIP GIL M. PHILIPPS, in his
capacity as Director, Headquarters Support Service, SUPT.
ARNEL JAMANDRON APUD, in his capacity as Chief, PNP
Custodial Service Unit, and ALL PERSONS ACTING UNDER
THEIR CONTROL, SUPERVISION, INSTRUCTION OR
DIRECTION IN RELATION TO THE ORDERS THAT MAY BE
ISSUED BY THE COURT, Respondents
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:

For consideration is the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition


with Application for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction, and Urgent
Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Status Quo Ante
Order1 under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner
Senator Leila De Lima. In it, petitioner assails the following
orders and warrant issued by respondent judge Hon. Juanita
Guerrero of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City,
Branch 204, in Criminal Case No. 17-165, entitled "People vs.
Leila De Lima, et al.:" (1) the Order dated February 23, 2017
finding probable cause for the issuance of warrant of arrest
against petitioner De Lima; (2) the Warrant of Arrest against De
Lima also dated February 23, 2017; (3) the Order dated
February 24, 2017 committing the petitioner to the custody of
the PNP Custodial Center; and finally, (4) the supposed
omission of the respondent judge to act on petitioner's Motion to
Quash, through which she questioned the jurisdiction of the
RTC.2
Antecedents
The facts are undisputed. The Senate and the House of
Representatives conducted several inquiries on the proliferation
of dangerous drugs syndicated at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP),
inviting inmates who executed affidavits in support of their
testimonies.3 These legislative inquiries led to the filing of the
following complaints with the Department of Justice:
a) NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00313, entitled "Volunteers
against Crime and Corruption (VACC), represented by
Dante Jimenez vs. Senator Leila M. De Lima, et al.;"
b) NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00315, entitled "Reynaldo
Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala vs. Senator Leila De Lima, et
al.;"
c) NPS No. XVI-INV-16K-00331, entitled "Jaybee Nifio
Sebastian, represented by his wife Roxanne Sebastian, vs.
Senator Leila M De Lima, et al.;" and
d) NPS No. XVI-INV-16K-00336, entitled "National Bureau
of Investigation (NBI) vs. Senator Leila M. De Lima, et al. "4
Pursuant to DOJ Department Order No. 790, the four cases
were consolidated and the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors (DOJ
Panel),5 headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter
Ong, was directed to conduct the requisite preliminary
investigation.6

The DOJ Panel conducted a preliminary hearing on December


2, 2016,7 wherein the petitioner, through her counsel, filed
an Omnibus Motion to Immediately Endorse the Cases to the
Office of the Ombudsman and for the Inhibition of the Panel of
Prosecutors and the Secretary of Justice ("Omnibus
Motion").8 In the main, the petitioner argued that the Office of
the Ombudsman has the exclusive authority and jurisdiction to
hear the four complaints against her. Further, alleging evident
partiality on the part of the DOJ Panel, the petitioner contended
that the DOJ prosecutors should inhibit themselves and refer
the complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman.
A hearing on the Omnibus Motion was conducted on December
9, 2016,9 wherein the complainants, YACC, Reynaldo
Esmeralda (Esmeralda) and Ruel Lasala (Lasala), filed a Joint
Comment/Opposition to the Omnibus Motion. 10

On December 12, 2016, petitioner, in turn, interposed a Reply


to the Joint Comment/Opposition filed by complainants VACC,
Esmeralda and Lasala. In addition, petitioner submitted
a Manifestation with Motion to First Resolve Pending Incident
and to Defer Further Proceedings. 11
During the hearing conducted on December 21, 2016, petitioner
manifested that she has decided not to submit her counter-
affidavit citing the pendency of her two motions.12 The DOJ
Panel, however, ruled that it will not entertain belatedly filed
counter-affidavits, and declared all pending incidents and the
cases as submitted for resolution. Petitioner moved for but was
denied reconsideration by the DOJ Panel.13

On January 13, 2017, petitioner filed before the Court of


Appeals a Petition for Prohibition and Certiorari14assailing the
jurisdiction of the DOJ Panel over the complaints against her.
The petitions, docketed as CA-G.R. No. 149097 and CA-G.R.
No. SP No. 149385, are currently pending with the Special 6th
Division of the appellate court.15 Meanwhile, in the absence of a
restraining order issued by the Court of Appeals, the DOJ Panel
proceeded with the conduct of the preliminary
investigation16 and, in its Joint Resolution dated February 14,
2017,17 recommended the filing of Informations against
petitioner De Lima. Accordingly, on February 17, 2017,
three Informations were filed against petitioner De Lima and
several co-accused before the RTC ofMuntinlupa City. One of
the Infonnations was docketed as Criminal Case No. 17-
16518 and raffled off to Branch 204, presided by respondent
judge. This Information charging petitioner for violation of
Section 5 in relation to Section (jj), Section 26(b), and Section
28 of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165, contained the following
averments:

That within the period from November 2012 to March 2013, in


the City of Muntinlupa, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, accused Leila M. De Lima, being then the
Secretary of the Department of Justice, and accused Rafael
Marcos Z. Rages, being then the Officer-in-Charge of the
Bureau of Corrections, by taking advantage of their public
office, conspiring and confederating with accused Ronnie P.
Dayan, being then an employee of the Department of Justice
detailed to De Lima, all of them having moral ascendancy or
influence over inmates in the New Bilibid Prison, did then and
there commit illegal drug trading, in the following manner: De
Lima and Ragos, with the use of their power, position, and
authority, demand, solicit and extort money from the high profile
inmates in the New Bilibid Prison to support the senatorial bid of
De Lima in the May 2016 election; by reason of which, the
inmates, not being lawfully authorized by law and through the
use of mobile phones and other electronic devices, did then and
there willfully and unlawfully trade and traffic dangerous drugs,
and thereafter give and deliver to De Lima, through Ragos and
Dayan, the proceeds of illegal drug trading amounting to Five
Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 24 November 2012, Five
Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 15 December 2012, and One
Hundred Thousand (₱100,000.00) Pesos weekly "tara" each
from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison.19
On February 20, 2017, petitioner filed a Motion to
Quash,20mainly raising the following: the RTC lacks jurisdiction
over the offense charged against petitioner; the DOJ Panel
lacks authority to file the Information; the Information charges
more than one offense; the allegations and the recitals of facts
do not allege the corpus delicti of the charge; the Information is
based on testimonies of witnesses who are not qualified to be
discharged as state witnesses; and the testimonies of these
witnesses are hearsay.21

On February 23, 2017, respondent judge issued the presently


assailed Order 22finding probable cause for the issuance of
warrants of arrest against De Lima and her co-accused.
The Order stated, viz.:
After a careful evaluation of the herein Information and all the
evidence presented during the preliminary investigation
conducted in this case by the Department of Justice, Manila, the
Court finds sufficient probable cause for the issuance of
Warrants of Arrest against all the accused LEILA M. DE LIMA,
RAFAEL MARCOS Z. RAGOS and RONNIE P ALISOC
DAYAN.

WHEREFORE, let Warrants of Arrest be issued against the


abovementioned accused.
SO ORDERED.23

Accordingly, the questioned Warrant of Arrest dated February


23, 2017 ,24 which contained no recommendation for bail, was
issued against petitioner.

On February 24, 2017, the PNP Investigation and Detection


Group served the Warrant of Arrest on petitioner and the
respondent judge issued the assailed February 24, 2017
Order,25 committing petitioner to the custody of the PNP
Custodial Center.

On February 27, 2017, petitioner repaired to this court via the


present petition, praying for the following reliefs:

a. Granting a writ of certiorari annulling and setting aside


the Order dated 23 February 2017, the Warrant of Arrest dated
the same date, and the Order dated 24 February 2017 of the
Regional Trial Court - Branch 204, Muntinlupa City, in Criminal
Case No. 17-165 entitled People of the Philippines versus Leila
M De Lima, et al.;
b. Granting a writ of prohibition enjoining and prohibiting
respondent judge from conducting further proceedings until and
unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality;
c. Issuing an order granting the application for the issuance of
temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary
injunction to the proceedings; and

d. Issuing a Status Quo Ante Order restoring the parties to the


status prior to the issuance of the Order and Warrant of Arrest,
both dated February 23, 201 7, thereby recalling both
processes and restoring petitioner to her liberty and freedom.26

On March 9, 2017, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), on


behalf of the respondents, interposed its Comment to the
petition.27 The OSG argued that the petition should be dismissed
as De Lima failed to show that she has no other plain, speedy,
and adequate remedy. Further, the OSG posited that the
petitioner did not observe the hierarchy of courts and violated
the rule against forum shopping. On substantive grounds, the
OSG asserted inter alia that the RTC has jurisdiction over the
offense charged against the petitioner, that the respondent
judge observed the constitutional and procedural rules, and so
did not commit grave abuse of discretion, in the issuance of the
assailed orders and warrant.28

On petitioner's motion, the Court directed the holding of oral


arguments on the significant issues raised. The Court then
heard the parties in oral arguments on March 14, 21, and 28,
2017.29

In the meantime, the OSG filed a Manifestation dated March 13,


2017,30 claiming that petitioner falsified the jurats appearing in
the: (1) Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping
page of her petition; and (2) Affidavit of Merit in support of her
prayer for injunctive relief. The OSG alleged that while
the advertedjurats appeared to be notarized by a certain Atty.
Maria Cecille C. Tresvalles-Cabalo on February 24, 2017, the
guest logbook31 in the PNP Custodial Center Unit in Camp
Crame for February 24, 2017 does not bear the name of Atty.
Tresvalles-Cabalo. Thus, so the OSG maintained, petitioner De
Lima did not actually appear and swear before the notary public
on such date in Quezon City, contrary to the allegations in
the jurats. For the OSG, the petition should therefore be
dismissed outright for the falsity committed by petitioner De
Lima.
In compliance with an Order of this Court, petitioner filed
the Affidavit of Atty. Maria Cecille C. Tresvalles-Cabalo dated
March 20, 201732 to shed light on the allegations of falsity
in petitioner'sjurats.

The parties simultaneously filed their respective Memoranda on


April 17, 2017.33
The Issues
From the pleadings and as delineated in this Court's Advisory
dated March 10, 201734 and discussed by the parties during the
oral arguments, the issues for resolution by this Court are:
Procedural Issues:
A Whether or not petitioner is excused from compliance with the
doctrine on hierarchy of courts considering that the petition
should first be filed with the Court of Appeals.
B. Whether or not the pendency of the Motion to Quash the
Information before the trial court renders the instant petition
premature.
C. Whether or not petitioner, in filing the present petition,
violated the rule against forum shopping given the pendency of
the Motion to Quash the Information before the Regional Trial
Court of Muntinlupa City in Criminal Case No. 17-165 and the
Petition for Certiorari filed before the Court of Appeals in C.A.
G.R. SP No. 149097, assailing the preliminary investigation
conducted by the DOJ Panel.

Substantive Issues:
A. Whether the Regional Trial Court or the Sandiganbayan has
the jurisdiction over the violation of Republic Act No. 9165
averred in the assailed Information.

B. Whether or not the respondent gravely abused her discretion


in finding probable cause to issue the Warrant of Arrest against
petitioner.

C. Whether or not petitioner is entitled to a Temporary


Restraining Order and/or Status Quo Ante Order in the interim
until the instant petition is resolved or until the trial court rules
on the Motion to Quash.
OUR RULING

Before proceeding to a discussion on the outlined issues, We


shall first confront the issue of the alleged falsification
committed by petitioner in the jurats of her Verification and
Certification against Forum Shopping and Affidavit of Merit in
support of her prayer for injunctive relief.

In her Affidavit, Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo disproves the OSG's


allegation that she did not notarize the petitioner's Verification
and Certification against Forum Shopping and Affidavit of Merit
in this wise:
4. On February 24, 2017 at or around nine in the morning (9:00
AM), I went to PNP, CIDG, Camp Crame, Quezon City to
notarize the Petition as discussed the previous night.
5. I met Senator De Lima when she was brought to the CIDG at
Camp Crame and I was informed that the Petition was already
signed and ready for notarization.

6. I was then provided the Petition by her staff. I examined the


signature of Senator De Lima and confirmed that it was signed
by her. I have known the signature of the senator given our
personal relationship. Nonetheless, I still requested from her
staff a photocopy of any of her government-issued valid
Identification Cards (ID) bearing her signature. A photocopy of
her passport was presented to me. I compared the signatures
on the Petition and the Passport and I was able to verify that the
Petition was in fact signed by her. Afterwards, I attached the
photocopy of her Passport to the Petition which I appended to
my Notarial Report/Record.

7. Since I already know that Sen. De Lima caused the


preparation of the Petition and that it was her who signed the
same, I stamped and signed the same.

8. To confirm with Senator De Lima that I have already


notarized the Petition, I sought entry to the detention facility at
or around three in the afternoon (3:00 PM). x x x
xxxx
11. Since I was never cleared after hours of waiting, I was not
able to talk again to Senator De Lima to confirm the notarization
of the Petition. I then decided to leave Camp Crame.35

At first glance, it is curious that Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo who


claims to have "stamped and signed the [Verification and
Certification and Affidavit of Merit]" inside Camp Crame,
presumably in De Lima's presence, still found it necessary to,
hours later, "confirm with Senator De Lima that [she had]
already notarized the Petition." Nonetheless, assuming the
veracity of the allegations narrated in the Affidavit, it is
immediately clear that petitioner De Lima did not sign the
Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping and
Affidavit of Merit in front of the notary public. This is contrary to
the jurats (i.e., the certifications of the notary public at the end
of the instruments) signed by Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo that the
documents were "SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to before me."

Such clear breach of notarial protocol is highly censurable36 as


Section 6, Rule II of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice
requires the affiant, petitioner De Lima in this case, to sign the
instrument or document in the presence of the notary, viz.:

SECTION 6. Jurat. - "Jurat" refers to an act in which an


individual on a single occasion:

(a) appears in person before the notary public and presents an


instrument or document;
(b) is personally known to the notary public or identified by the
notary public through competent evidence of identity as defined
by these Rules;
(c) signs the instrument or document in the presence of the
notary; and
(d) takes an oath or affirmation before the notary public as to
such instrument or document.(Emphasis and underscoring
supplied.)
While there is jurisprudence to the effect that "an irregular
notarization merely reduces the evidentiary value of a document
to that of a private document, which requires /roof of its due
execution and authenticity to be admissible as evidence,"37 the
same cannot be considered controlling in determining
compliance with the requirements of Sections 1 and 2, Rule 65
of the Rules of Court. Both Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 6538 require
that the petitions for certiorari and prohibition must be verified
and accompanied by a "sworn certificate of non-forum
shopping."
In this regard, Section 4, Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure
states that "[a] pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant
has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true
and correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic
records." "A pleading required to be verified which x x x lacks a
proper verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading."
Meanwhile, Section 5, Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure
provides that "[t]he plaintiff or principal party shall certify under
oath in the complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a
claim for relief, or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and
simultaneously filed therewith: (a) that he has not theretofore
commenced any action or filed any claim involving the same
issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to the
best of his knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending
therein; (b) if there is such other pending action or claim, a
complete statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he
should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim
has been filed or is pending, he shall report that fact within five
(5) days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint
or initiatory pleading has been filed." "Failure to comply with the
foregoing requirements shall not be curable by mere
amendment of the complaint or other initiatory pleading but
shall be cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice,
unless otherwise provided x x x."

In this case, when petitioner De Lima failed to sign the


Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping in the
presence of the notary, she has likewise failed to properly
swear under oath the contents thereof, thereby rendering false
and null the jurat and invalidating the Verification and
Certification against Forum Shopping. The significance of a
proper jurat and the effect of its invalidity was elucidated
in William Go Que Construction v. Court of Appeals,39where this
Court held that:
In .this case, it is undisputed that the Verification/Certification
against Forum Shopping attached to the petition for certiorari in
CA-G.R. SP No. 109427 was not accompanied with a valid
affidavit/properly certified under oath. This was because
the jurat thereof was defective in that it did not indicate the
pertinent details regarding the affiants' (i.e., private
respondents) competent evidence of identities.

Under Section 6, Rule II of AM. No. 02-8-13-SC 63 dated July


6, 2004, entitled the "2004 Rules on Notarial Practice" (2004
Rules on Notarial Practice), ajurat refers to an act in which an
individual on a single occasion:
xxxx
In Fernandez v. Villegas (Fernandez), the Court pronounced
that noncompliance with the verification requirement or a defect
therein "does not necessarily render the pleading fatally
defective. The court may order its submission or correction or
act on the pleading if the attending circumstances are such that
strict compliance with the Rule may be dispensed with in order
that the ends of justice may be served thereby." "Verification is
deemed substantially complied with when one who has ample
knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the
complaint or petition signs the verification, and when matters
alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true
and correct." Here, there was no substantial compliance with
the verification requirement as it cannot be ascertained that any
of the private respondents actually swore to the truth of the
allegations in the petition for certiorari in CA-G.R. SP No.
109427 given the lack of competent evidence of any of their
identities. Because of this, the fact that even one of the private
respondents swore that the allegations in the pleading are true
and correct of his knowledge and belief is shrouded in doubt.
For the same reason, neither was there substantial compliance
with the certification against forum shopping requirement.
In Fernandez, the Court explained that "non-compliance
therewith or a defect therein, unlike in verification, is generally
not curable by its subsequent submission or correction thereof,
unless there is a need to relax the Rule on the ground of
'substantial compliance' or presence of 'special circumstances
or compelling reasons."' Here, the CA did not mention - nor
does there exist - any perceivable special circumstance or
compelling reason which justifies the rules' relaxation. At all
events, it is uncertain if any of the private respondents certified
under oath that no similar action has been filed or is pending in
another forum.
xxxx
Case law states that "[v]erification is required to secure an
assurance that the allegations in the petition have been made in
good faith or are true and correct, and not merely speculative."
On the other hand, "[t]he certification against forum shopping is
required based on the principle that a party-litigant should not
be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in different fora."
The important purposes behind these requirements cannot be
simply brushed aside absent any sustainable explanation
justifying their relaxation. In this case, proper justification is
especially called for in light of the serious allegations of forgery
as to the signatures of the remaining private
respondents, i.e., Lominiqui and Andales. Thus, by simply
treating the insufficient submissions before it as compliance
with its Resolution dated August 13, 2009 requiring anew the
submission of a proper verification/certification against forum
shopping, the CA patently and grossly ignored settled
procedural rules and, hence, gravely abused its discretion. All
things considered, the proper course of action was for it to
dismiss the petition.40 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Without the presence of the notary upon the signing of the


Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping, there is
no assurance that the petitioner swore under oath that the
allegations in the petition have been made in good faith or are
true and correct, and not merely speculative. It must be noted
that verification is not an empty ritual or a meaningless
formality. Its import must never be sacrificed in the name of
mere expedience or sheer caprice,41 as what apparently
happened in the present case. Similarly, the absence of the
notary public when petitioner allegedly affixed her signature
also negates a proper attestation that forum shopping has not
been committed by the filing of the petition. Thus, the petition is,
for all intents and purposes, an unsigned pleading that does not
deserve the cognizance of this Court.42 In Salum bides, Jr. v.
Office of the Ombudsman,43the Court held thus:

The Court has distinguished the effects of non-compliance with


the requirement of verification and that of certification against
forum shopping. A defective verification shall be treated as an
unsigned pleading and thus produces no legal effect, subject to
the discretion of the court to allow the deficiency to be
remedied, while the failure to certifv against forum
shopping shall be cause for dismissal without prejudice, unless
otherwise provided, and is not curable by amendment of the
initiatory pleading. (Emphasis and italicization from the original.)
Notably, petitioner has not proffered any reason to justify her
failure to sign the Verification and Certification Against Forum
Shopping in the presence of the notary. There is, therefore, no
justification to relax the rules and excuse the petitioner's non-
compliance therewith. This Court had reminded parties seeking
the ultimate relief of certiorari to observe the rules, since
nonobservance thereof cannot be brushed aside as a "mere
technicality."44 Procedural rules are not to be belittled or simply
disregarded, for these prescribed procedures ensure an orderly
and speedy administration of justice.45 Thus, as in William Go
Que Construction, the proper course of action is to dismiss
outright the present petition.

Even if We set aside this procedural infirmity, the petition just


the same merits denial on several other grounds.
PETITIONER DISREGARDED THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS

Trifling with the rule on hierarchy of courts is looked upon with


disfavor by this Court.46 It will not entertain direct resort to it
when relief can be obtained in the lower courts.47 The Court has
repeatedly emphasized that the rule on hierarchy of courts is an
important component of the orderly administration of justice and
not imposed merely for whimsical and arbitrary
reasons.48 In The Diocese of Bacolod v. Commission on
Elections,49the Court explained the reason for the doctrine
thusly:

The Court must enjoin the observance of the policy on the


hierarchy of courts, and now affirms that the policy is not to be
ignored without serious consequences. The strictness of the
policy is designed to shield the Court from having to deal with
causes that are also well within the competence of the lower
courts, and thus leave time for the Court to deal with the more
fundamental and more essential tasks that the Constitution has
assigned to it. The Court may act on petitions for the
extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus only
when absolutely necessary or when serious and important
reasons exist to justify an exception to the policy.
xxxx

The doctrine that requires respect for the hierarchy of courts


was created by this court to ensure that every level of the
judiciary performs its designated roles in an effective and
efficient manner. Trial courts do not only determine the facts
from the evaluation of the evidence presented before them.
They are likewise competent to determine issues of law which
may include the validity of an ordinance, statute, or even an
executive issuance in relation to the Constitution. To effectively
perform these functions, they are territorially organized into
regions and then into branches. Their writs generally reach
within those territorial boundaries. Necessarily, they mostly
perform the all-important task of inferring the facts from the
evidence as these are physically presented before them. In
many instances, the facts occur within their territorial
jurisdiction, which properly present the "actual case" that makes
ripe a determination of the constitutionality of such action. The
consequences, of course, would be national in scope. There
are, however, some cases where resort to courts at their level
would not be practical considering their decisions could still be
appealed before the higher courts, such as the Court of
Appeals.

The Court of Appeals is primarily designed as an appellate


court that reviews the determination of facts and law made by
the trial courts. It is collegiate in nature. This nature ensures
more standpoints in the review of the actions of the trial court.
But the Court of Appeals also has original jurisdiction over most
special civil actions. Unlike the trial courts, its writs can have a
nationwide scope. It is competent to determine facts and,
ideally, should act on constitutional issues that may not
necessarily be novel unless there are factual questions to
determine.

This court, on the other hand, leads the judiciary by breaking


new ground or further reiterating - in the light of new
circumstances or in the light of some confusion of bench or bar
- existing precedents. Rather than a court of first instance or as
a repetition of the actions of the Court of Appeals, this court
promulgates these doctrinal devices in order that it truly
performs that role.50 (Emphasis supplied.)
Nonetheless, there are recognized exceptions to this rule and
direct resort to this Court were allowed in some instances.
These exceptions were summarized in a case of recent
vintage, Aala v. Uy, as follows:

In a fairly recent case, we summarized other well-defined


exceptions to the doctrine on hierarchy of courts. Immediate
resort to this Court may be allowed when any of the following
grounds are present: (1) when genuine issues of
constitutionality are raised that must be addressed immediately;
(2) when the case involves transcendental importance; (3) when
the case is novel; (4) when the constitutional issues raised are
better decided by this Court; (5) when time is of the essence;
(6) when the subject of review involves acts of a constitutional
organ; (7) when there is no other plain, speedy, adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law; (8) when the petition
includes questions that may affect public welfare, public policy,
or demanded by the broader interest of justice; (9) when the
order complained of was a patent nullity; and (10) when the
appeal was considered as an inappropriate remedy.51

Unfortunately, none of these exceptions were sufficiently


established in the present petition so as to convince this court to
brush aside the rules on the hierarchy of courts.

Petitioner's allegation that her case has sparked national and


international interest is obviously not covered by the exceptions
to the rules on hierarchy of courts. The notoriety of a case,
without more, is not and will not be a reason for this Court's
decisions. Neither will this Court be swayed to relax its rules on
the bare fact that the petitioner belongs to the minority party in
the present administration. A primary hallmark of an
independent judiciary is its political neutrality. This Court is thus
loath to perceive and consider the issues before it through the
warped prisms of political partisanships.

That the petitioner is a senator of the republic does not also


merit a special treatment of her case. The right to equal
treatment before the law accorded to every Filipino also forbids
the elevation of petitioner's cause on account of her position
and status in the government.

Further, contrary to her position, the matter presented before


the Court is not of first impression. Petitioner is not the first
public official accused of violating RA 9165 nor is she the first
defendant to question the finding of probable cause for her
arrest. In fact, stripped of all political complexions, the
controversy involves run-of-the mill matters that could have
been resolved with ease by the lower court had it been given a
chance to do so in the first place.
In like manner, petitioner's argument that the rule on the
hierarchy of court should be disregarded as her case involves
pure questions of law does not obtain. One of the grounds upon
which petitioner anchors her case is that the respondent judge
erred and committed grave abuse of discretion in finding
probable cause to issue her arrest. By itself, this ground
removes the case from the ambit of cases involving pure
questions of law. It is established that the issue of whether or
not probable cause exists for the issuance of warrants for the
arrest of the accused is a question of fact, determinable as it is
from a review of the allegations in the Information, the
Resolution of the Investigating Prosecutor, including other
documents and/ or evidence appended to the Information.52 This
matter, therefore, should have first been brought before the
appellate court, which is in the better position to review and
determine factual matters.
Yet, petitioner harps on the supposed judicial efficiency and
economy of abandoning the rule on the hierarchy of courts in
the present case. Indeed, the Court has considered the
practical aspects of the administration of justice in deciding to
apply the exceptions rather than the rule. However, it is all the
more for these practical considerations that the Court must
insist on the application of the rule and not the exceptions in this
case. As petitioner herself alleges, with the President having
declared the fight against illegal drugs and corruption as central
to his platform of government, there will be a spike of cases
brought before the courts involving drugs and public
officers.53 As it now stands, there are 232,557 criminal cases
involving drugs, and around 260,796 criminal cases involving
other offenses pending before the R TCs.54 This Court cannot
thus allow a precedent allowing public officers assailing the
finding of probable cause for the issuance of arrest warrants to
be brought directly to this Court, bypassing the appellate court,
without any compelling reason.
THE PRESENT PETITION IS PREMATURE
The prematurity of the present petition is at once betrayed in the
reliefs sought by petitioner's Prayer, which to restate for added
emphasis, provides:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, and in the interest of


substantial justice and fair play, Petitioner respectfully prays the
Honorable Court that judgment be rendered:

a. Granting a writ of certiorari annulling and setting aside


the Order dated 23 February 2017, the Warrant of Arrest dated
the same date, and the Order dated 24 February 2017 of the
Regional Trial CourtBranch 204, Muntinlupa City, in Criminal
Case No. 17-165 entitled People of the Philippines versus Leila
M De Lima et al.;
b. Granting a writ of prohibition enjoining and prohibiting
respondent judge from conducting further proceedings until and
unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality;
c. Issuing an order granting the application for the issuance of
temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary
injunction to the proceedings; and

d. Issuing a Status Quo Ante Order restoring the parties to the


status prior to the issuance of the Order and Warrant of Arrest,
both dated February 23, 201 7, thereby recalling both
processes and restoring petitioner to her liberty and
freedom.55 (Emphasis supplied)
Under paragraph (a), petitioner asks for a writ
of certiorari annulling the Order dated February 23, 2017 finding
probable cause, the warrant of arrest and the Order dated
February 24, 2017 committing petitioner to the custody of the
PNP Custodial Center. Clearly petitioner seeks the recall of said
orders to effectuate her release from detention and restore her
liberty. She did not ask for the dismissal of the subject criminal
case.
More importantly, her request for the issuance of a writ of
prohibition under paragraph (b) of the prayer "until and unless
the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality," is an
unmistakable admission that the RTC has yet to rule on her
Motion to Quash and the existence of the RTC's authority to
rule on the said motion. This admission against interest binds
the petitioner; an admission against interest being the best
evidence that affords the greatest certainty of the facts in
dispute.56 It is based on the presumption that "no man would
declare anything against himself unless such declaration is true.
"57 It can be presumed then that the declaration corresponds
with the truth, and it is her fault if it does not.58
Moreover, petitioner under paragraphs (c) and (d) prayed for a
TRO and writ of preliminary injunction and a status quo ante
order which easily reveal her real motive in filing the instant
petition-to restore to "petitioner her liberty and freedom."
Nowhere in the prayer did petitioner explicitly ask for the
dismissal of Criminal Case No. 17-165. What is clear is she
merely asked the respondent judge to rule on her Motion to
Quash before issuing the warrant of arrest.

In view of the foregoing, there is no other course of action to


take than to dismiss the petition on the ground of prematurity
and allow respondent Judge to rule on the Motion to Quash
according to the desire of petitioner.
This Court, in Solid Builders Inc. v. China Banking
Corp., explained why a party should not pre-empt the action of
a trial court:

Even Article 1229 of the Civil Code, which SBI and MFII invoke,
works against them. Under that provision, the equitable
reduction of the penalty stipulated by the parties in their contract
will be based on a finding by the court that such penalty is
iniquitous or unconscionable. Here, the trial court has not yet
made a ruling as to whether the penalty agreed upon by CBC
with SBI and MFII is unconscionable. Such finding will be made
by the trial court only after it has heard both parties and
weighed their respective evidence in light of all relevant
circumstances. Hence, for SBI and MFII to claim any right or
benefit under that provision at this point is
premature.59 (Emphasis supplied)
In State of Investment House, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,60the
Court likewise held that a petition for certiorari can be resorted
to only after the court a quo has already and actually rendered
its decision. It held, viz.:

We note, however, that the appellate court never actually ruled


on whether or not petitioner's right had prescribed. It merely
declared that it was in a position to so rule and thereafter
required the parties to submit memoranda. In making such a
declaration, did the CA commit grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack of jurisdiction? It did not.
xxxx

All things considered, this petition is premature. The CA has


decided nothing and whatever petitioner's vehement objections
may be (to any eventual ruling on the issue of prescription)
should be raised only after such ruling shall have actually been
promulgated.

The situation evidently does not yet call for a recourse to a


petition for certiorari under Rule 65. 61(Italicization from the
original. Emphasis supplied.)

An analogous ruling was made by this Court in Diaz v.


Nora, where it ruled in this wise:

x x x In the case of the respondent labor arbiter, he has not


denied the motion for execution filed by the petitioner. He
merely did not act on the same. Neither had petitioner urged the
immediate resolution of his motion for execution by said arbiter.
In the case of the respondent NLRC, it was not even given the
opportunity to pass upon the question raised by petitioner as to
whether or not it has jurisdiction over the appeal, so the records
of the case can be remanded to the respondent labor arbiter for
execution of the decision.
Obviously, petitioner had a plain, speedy and adequate remedy
to seek relief from public respondents but he failed to avail
himself of the same before coming to this Court. To say the
least, the petition is premature and must be struck
down.62 (Emphasis supplied.)
The dissents would deny the applicability of the foregoing on
the ground that these were not criminal cases that involved a
pending motion to quash. However, it should be obvious from
the afore-quoted excerpts that the nature of the cases had
nothing to do with this Court's finding of prematurity in those
cases. Instead, what was stressed therein was that the lower
courts had not yet made, nor was not given the opportunity to
make, a ruling before the parties came before this forum.
Indeed, the prematurity of the present petition cannot be over-
emphasized considering that petitioner is actually asking the
Court to rule on some of the grounds subject of her Motion to
Quash. The Court, if it rules positively in favor of petitioner
regarding the grounds of the Motion to Quash, will be
preempting the respondent Judge from doing her duty to
resolve the said motion and even prejudge the case. This is
clearly outside of the ambit of orderly and expeditious rules of
procedure. This, without a doubt, causes an inevitable delay in
the proceedings in the trial court, as the latter abstains from
resolving the incidents until this Court rules with finality on the
instant petition.

Without such order, the present petition cannot satisfy the


requirements set before this Court can exercise its review
powers. Section 5 (2)(C) of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution
explicitly requires the existence of "final judgments and orders
of lower courts" before the Court can exercise its power to
"review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal
or certiorari" in "all cases in which the jurisdiction of any lower
court is in issue," viz.:
SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following
powers:
(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting
ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over
petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo
warranto, and habeas corpus.

(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal


or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final
judgments and orders of lower courts in:
(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any
treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential
decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or
regulation is in question.

(b) All cases involving the legality of any tax, impost,


assessment, or toll, or any penalty imposed in relation thereto.

(c) All cases in which the jurisdiction of any lower court is in


issue.

(d) All criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion


perpetua or higher.

(e) All cases in which only an error or question of law is


involved. (Emphasis supplied.)

In the palpable absence of a ruling on the Motion to Quash --


which puts the jurisdiction of the lower court in issue -- there is
no controversy for this Court to resolve; there is simply no final
judgment or order of the lower court to review, revise, reverse,
modify, or affirm. As per the block letter provision of the
Constitution, this Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction in a
vacuum nor issue a definitive ruling on mere suppositions.
Succinctly, the present petition is immediately dismissible for
this Court lacks jurisdiction to review a non-existent court
action. It can only act to protect a party from a real and actual
ruling by a lower tribunal. Surely, it is not for this Court to
negate "uncertain contingent future event that may not occur as
anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all," as the lower court's
feared denial of the subject Motion to Quash.63

The established rule is that courts of justice will take cognizance


only of controversies "wherein actual and not merely
hypothetical issues are involved."64 The reason underlying the
rule is "to prevent the courts through avoidance of premature
adjudication from entangling themselves in abstract
disagreements, and for us to be satisfied that the case does not
present a hypothetical injury or a claim contingent upon some
event that has not and indeed may never transpire."65
Even granting arguendo that what is invoked is the original
jurisdiction of this Court under Section 5 (1) of Article VIII, the
petition nonetheless falls short of the Constitutional
requirements and of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. In the
absence of a final judgment, order, or ruling on the Motion to
Quash challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court, there is no
occasion for this Court to issue the extraordinary writ
of certiorari. Without a judgment or ruling, there is nothing for
this Court to declare as having been issued without jurisdiction
or in grave abuse of discretion.

Furthermore, it is a basic requirement under Rule 65 that there


be "[no] other plain, speedy and adequate remedy found in
law."66 Thus, the failure to exhaust all other remedies, as will be
later discussed, before a premature resort to this Court is fatal
to the petitioner's cause of action.
Petitioner even failed to move for the reconsideration of the
February 23 and 24, 2017 Orders she is currently assailing in
this Petition. As this Court held in Estrada v. Office of the
Ombudsman, "[a] motion for reconsideration allows the public
respondent an opportunity to correct its factual and legal errors
x x x [it] is mandatory before the filing of a petition
for certiorari."67The reasons proffered by petitioner fail to justify
her present premature recourse.
Various policies and rules have been issued to curb the
tendencies of litigants to disregard, nay violate, the rule
enunciated in Section 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution to allow
the Court to devote its time and attention to matters within its
jurisdiction and prevent the overcrowding of its docket. There is
no reason to consider the proceedings at bar as an exception.

PETITIONER VIOLATED THE RULE AGAINST FORUM


SHOPPING

It is settled that forum shopping exists when a party repetitively


avails himself of several judicial remedies in different courts,
simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the
same transactions and the same essential facts and
circumstances, and all raising substantially the same issues
either pending in, or already resolved adversely by, some other
court. It is considered an act of malpractice as it trifles with the
courts and abuses their processes.68 Thus, as elucidated
in Luzon Iron Development Group Corporation v. Bridgestone
Mining and Development Corporation,69forum shopping warrants
the immediate dismissal of the suits filed:

Forum shopping is the act of litigants who repetitively avail


themselves of multiple judicial remedies in different fora,
simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the
same transactions and the same essential facts and
circumstances; and raising substantially similar issues either
pending in or already resolved adversely by some other court;
or for the purpose of increasing their chances of obtaining a
favorable decision, if not in one court, then in another. The
rationale against forum-shopping is that a party should not be
allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in two different
courts, for to do so would constitute abuse of court processes
which tends to degrade the administration of justice, wreaks
havoc upon orderly judicial procedure, and adds to the
congestion of the heavily burdened dockets of the courts.
xxxx
What is essential in determining the existence of forum-
shopping is the vexation caused the courts and litigants by a
party who asks different courts and/or administrative agencies
to rule on similar or related causes and/or grant the same or
substantially similar reliefs, in the process creating the
possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered upon the
same issues.
xxxx

We emphasize that the grave evil sought to be avoided by the


rule against forum-shopping is the rendition by two competent
tribunals of two separate and contradictory decisions. To avoid
any confusion, this Court adheres strictly to the rules against
forum shopping, and any violation of these rules results in the
dismissal of a case. The acts committed and described herein
can possibly constitute direct contempt.70
This policy echoes the last sentence of Section 5, Rule 7 of the
Rules of Court, which states that "[i]f the acts of the party or his
counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping,
the same shall be ground for summary dismissal with prejudice
and shall constitute direct contempt as well as a cause for
administrative sanctions."

The test to determine the existence of forum shopping is


whether the elements of litis pendentia, or whether a final
judgment in one case amounts to res judicata in the other.
Forum shopping therefore exists when the following elements
are present: (a) identity of parties, or at least such parties
representing the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of
rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the relief being founded
on the same facts; and (c) the identity of the two preceding
particulars, such that any judgment rendered in the other action
will, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res
judicata in the action under consideration.71

Anent the first requisite, there is an identity of parties when the


parties in both actions are the same, or there is privity between
them, or they are successors-in-interest by title subsequent to
the commencement of the action litigating for the same thing
and under the same title and in the same capacity.72

Meanwhile, the second and third requisites obtain where the


same evidence necessary to sustain the second cause of action
is sufficient to authorize a recovery in the first, even if the forms
or the nature of the two (2) actions are different from each
other. If the same facts or evidence would sustain both, the two
(2) actions are considered the same within the rule that the
judgment in the former is a bar to the subsequent action;
otherwise, it is not.73
All these requisites are present in this case.

The presence of the first requisite is at once apparent. The


petitioner is an accused in the criminal case below, while the
respondents in this case, all represented by the Solicitor
General, have substantial identity with the complainant in the
criminal case still pending before the trial court.

As for the second requisite, even a cursory reading of the


petition and the Motion to Quash will reveal that the arguments
and the reliefs prayed for are essentially the same. In both,
petitioner advances the RTC's supposed lack of jurisdiction
over the offense, the alleged multiplicity of offenses included in
the Information; the purported lack of the corpus delicti of the
charge, and, basically, the non-existence of probable cause to
indict her. And, removed of all non-essentials, she essentially
prays for the same thing in both the present petition and
the Motion to Quash: the nullification of the Information and her
restoration to liberty and freedom. Thus, our ruling in Jent v.
Tullet Prebon (Philippines), Inc. 74 does not apply in the present
case as the petition at bar and the motion to quash pending
before the court a quo involve similar if not the same reliefs.
What is more, while Justice Caguioa highlights our
pronouncement in Jent excepting an "appeal or special civil
action for certiorari" from the rule against the violation of forum
shopping, the good justice overlooks that the phrase had been
used with respect to forum shopping committed
through successive actions by a "party, against whom an
adverse judgment or order has [already] been rendered in one
forum."75 The exception with respect to an "appeal or special
civil action for certiorari" does not apply where the forum
shopping is committed by simultaneous actions where no
judgment or order has yet been rendered by either forum. To
restate for emphasis, the RTC has yet to rule on the Motion to
Quash. Thus, the present petition and the motion to quash
before the R TC are simultaneous actions that do not exempt
petitions for certiorari from the rule against forum shopping.

With the presence of the first two requisites, the third one
necessarily obtains in the present case. Should we grant the
petition and declare the RTC without jurisdiction over the
offense, the RTC is bound to grant De Lima's Motion to
Quash in deference to this Court's authority. In the alternative, if
the trial court rules on the Motion to Quash in the interim, the
instant petition will be rendered moot and academic.
In situations like the factual milieu of this instant petition, while
nobody can restrain a party to a case before the trial court to
institute a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court, still such petition must be rejected outright because
petitions that cover simultaneous actions are anathema to the
orderly and expeditious processing and adjudication of cases.
On the ground of forum shopping alone, the petition merits
immediate dismissal.
THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT HAS JURISDICTION

Even discounting the petitioner's procedural lapses, this Court


is still wont to deny the instant petition on substantive grounds.
Petitioner argues that, based on the allegations of the
Information in Criminal Case No. 17-165, the Sandiganbayan
has the jurisdiction to try and hear the case against her. She
posits that the Information charges her not with violation of RA
9165 but with Direct Bribery-a felony within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan given her rank as the former
Secretary of Justice with Salary Grade 31. For the petitioner,
even assuming that the crime described in the Information is a
violation of RA 9165, the Sandiganbayan still has the exclusive
jurisdiction to try the case considering that the acts described in
the Information were intimately related to her position as the
Secretary of Justice. Some justices of this Court would even
adopt the petitioner's view, declaring that the Information
charged against the petitioner is Direct Bribery.
The respondents, on the other hand, maintain that the R TC has
exclusive jurisdiction to try violations of RA 9165, including the
acts described in the Information against the petitioner. The
Sandiganbayan, so the respondents contend, was specifically
created as an anti-graft court. It was never conferred with the
power to try drug-related cases even those committed by public
officials. In fact, respondents point out that the history of the
laws enabling and governing the Sandiganbayan will reveal that
its jurisdiction was streamlined to address specific cases of graft
and corruption, plunder, and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth.
Before discussing the issue on jurisdiction over the subject
matter, it is necessary to clarify the crime with which the
petitioner is being charged. For ease of reference, the
Information filed with the R TC is restated below:

PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES,

Plaintiff,
Versus Criminal Case No. 17-165
LEILA M. DE LIMA (NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00315
and NPS No. XVl-INV-16K-
(66 Laguna de Bay corner
00336) For: Violation of the
Subic Bay Drive, South Bay
Comprehensive Dangerous
Village, Paraiiaque City
Drugs Act of 2002, Section 5,
and/or Room 502, GSIS
in relation to Section 3(jj),
Building, Financial Center,
Section 26 (b), and Section
Roxas Boulevard, Pasay
28, Republic Act No.
City), RAFAEL MARCOS Z.
9165 (lllegal Drug Trading)
RAGOS (c/o National
Bureau of Investigation, Taft
Avenue, Manila) and
RONNIE P ALISOC DAY
AN, (Barangay Galarin,
Urbiztondo, Pangasinan),
Accused

x-------------------------------------x
INFORMATION
The undersigned Prosecutors, constituted as a Panel pursuant
to Department Orders 706 and 790 dated October 14, 2016 and
November 11, 2016, respectively, accuse LEILA M. DE LIMA,
RAFAEL MARCOS Z. RAGOS and RONNIE P ALISOC DAY
AN, for violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 3 (jj), Section
26 (b) and Section 28, Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known
as the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002, committed as
follows:

That within the period from November 2012 to March 2013, in


the City of Muntinlupa, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, accused Leila M. De Lima, being then the
Secretary of the Department of Justice, and accused Rafael
Marcos Z. Ragos, being then the Officer-in-Charge of the
Bureau of Corrections, by taking advantage of their public
office, conspiring and confederating with accused Ronnie P.
Dayan, being then the employee of the Department of Justice
detailed to De Lima, all of them having moral ascendancy or
influence over inmates in the New Bilibid Prison, did then and
there commit illegal drug trading, in the following manner: De
Lima and Ragos, with the use of their power, position, and
authority demand, solicit and extort money from the high profile
inmates in the New Bilibid Prison to support the Senatorial bid
of De Lima in the May 2016 election; by reason of which, the
inmates, not being lawfully authorized by law and through the
use of mobile phones and other electronic devices, did then and
there willfully and unlawfully trade and traffic dangerous drugs,
and thereafter give and deliver to De Lima, through Ragos and
Dayan, the proceeds of illegal drug trading amounting to Five
Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 24 November 2012, Five
Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 15 December 2012, and One
Hundred Thousand (₱l00,000.00) Pesos weekly "tara" each
from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison.
CONTRARY TO LAW.76
Notably, the designation, the prefatory statements and the
accusatory portions of the Information repeatedly provide that
the petitioner is charged with "Violation of the Comprehensive
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Section 5, in relation to Section
3(jj), Section 26(b), and Section 28, Republic Act No. 9165."
From the very designation of the crime in the Information itself,
it should be plain that the crime with which the petitioner is
charged is a violation of RA 9165. As this Court clarified
in Quimvel v. People, 77 the designation of the offense in the
Information is a critical element required under Section 6, Rule
110 of the Rules of Court in apprising the accused of the
offense being charged, viz.:

The offense charged can also be elucidated by consulting the


designation of the offense as appearing in the Information. The
designation of the offense is a critical element required under
Sec. 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court for it assists in apprising
the accused of the offense being charged. Its inclusion in the
Information is imperative to avoid surprise on the accused and
to afford him of the opportunity to prepare his defense
accordingly. Its import is underscored in this case where the
preamble states that the crime charged is of "Acts of
Lasciviousness in relation to Section 5(b) of
R.A. No.7610." 78(Emphasis supplied.)

Further, a reading of the provisions of RA 9165 under which the


petitioner is prosecuted would convey that De Lima is being
charged as a conspirator in the crime of Illegal Drug
Trading. The pertinent provisions of RA 9165 read:

SECTION 3. Definitions. - As used in this Act, the following


terms shall mean:
xxxx
(jj) Trading. - Transactions involving the illegal trafficking of
dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential
chemicals using electronic devices such as, but not limited to,
text messages, e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios,
internet, instant messengers and chat rooms or acting as a
broker in any of such transactions whether for money or any
other consideration in violation of this Act.
xxxx

SECTION 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation,


Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Dangerous Drugs
and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - The
penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from
Five hundred thousand pesos (₱500,000.00) to Ten million
pesos (₱10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person,
who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade, administer,
dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in
transit or transport any dangerous drug, including any and all
species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity
involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.
xxxx
SECTION 26. Attempt or Conspiracy. - Any attempt or
conspiracy to commit the following unlawful acts shall be
penalized by the same penalty prescribed for the commission of
the same as provided under this Act:
xxxx
(b) Sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery,
distribution and transportation of any dangerous drug and/or
controlled precursor and essential chemical;
xxxx

SECTION 28. Criminal Liability of Government Officials and


Employees. - The maximum penalties of the unlawful acts
provided for in this Act shall be imposed, in addition to absolute
perpetual disqualification from any public office, if those found
guilty of such unlawful acts are government officials and
employees.

While it may be argued that some facts may be taken as


constitutive of some elements of Direct Bribery under the
Revised Penal Code (RPC), these facts taken together with the
other allegations in the Information portray a much bigger
picture, Illegal Drug Trading. The latter crime, described by the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as "a
global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture,
distribution and sale of substances,"79 necessarily involves
various component crimes, not the least of which is the bribery
and corruption of government officials. An example would be
reports of recent vintage regarding billions of pesos' worth of
illegal drugs allowed to enter Philippine ports without the
scrutiny of Customs officials. Any money and bribery that may
have changed hands to allow the importation of the confiscated
drugs are certainly but trivial contributions in the furtherance of
the transnational illegal drug trading - the offense for which the
persons involved should be penalized.

Read as a whole, and not picked apart with each word or


phrase construed separately, the Information against De Lima
goes beyond an indictment for Direct Bribery under Article 210
of the RPC.80 As Justice Martires articulately explained, the
averments on solicitation of money in the Information, which
may be taken as constitutive of bribery, form "part of the
description on how illegal drug trading took place at the NBP."
The averments on how petitioner asked for and received money
from the NBP inmates simply complete the links of conspiracy
between her, Ragos, Dayan and the NBP inmates in willfully
and unlawfully trading dangerous drugs through the use of
mobile phones and other electronic devices under Section 5, in
relation to Section 3(jj), Section 26(b), and Section 28, of RA
9165.

On this score, that it has not been alleged that petitioner


actually participated in the actual trafficking of dangerous drugs
and had simply allowed the NBP inmates to do so is non
sequitur given that the allegation of conspiracy makes her liable
for the acts of her co-conspirators. As this Court elucidated, it is
not indispensable for a co-conspirator to take a direct part in
every act of the crime. A conspirator need not even know of all
the parts which the others have to perform,81 as conspiracy is
the common design to commit a felony; it is not participation
in all the details of the execution of the crime. 82 As long as
the accused, in one way or another, helped and cooperated in
the consummation of a felony, she is liable as a co-
principal.83 As the Information provides, De Lima's participation
and cooperation was instrumental in the trading of dangerous
drugs by the NBP inmates. The minute details of this
participation and cooperation are matters of evidence that need
not be specified in the Information but presented and threshed
out during trial.
Yet, some justices remain adamant in their position that the
Information fails to allege the necessary elements of Illegal
Drug Trading. Justice Carpio, in particular, would cite cases
supposedly enumerating the elements necessary for a valid
Information for Illegal Drug Trading. However, it should be
noted that the subject of these cases was "Illegal Sale" of
dangerous drugs -- a crime separate and distinct from
"Illegal Trading" averred in the Information against De Lima.
The elements of "Illegal Sale" will necessary differ from the
elements of Illegal Trading under Section 5, in relation to
Section 3(jj), of RA 9165. The definitions of these two separate
acts are reproduced below for easy reference:

SECTION 3. Definitions. - As used in this Act, the following


terms shall mean:
xxxx

(ii) Sell. - Any act of giving away any dangerous drug and/or
controlled precursor and essential chemical whether for money
or any other consideration.
(jj) Trading. - Transactions involving the illegal trafficking of
dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential
chemicals using electronic devices such as, but not limited to,
text messages, e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios,
internet, instant messengers and chat rooms or acting as a
broker in any of such transactions whether for money or any
other consideration in violation of this Act.
It is obvious from the foregoing that the crime of illegal
trading has been written in strokes much broader than that
for illegal sale. In fact, an illegal sale of drugs may be
considered as only one of the possible component acts of illegal
trading which may be committed through two modes: (1) illegal
trafficking using electronic devices; or (2) acting as a broker in
any transactions involved in the illegal trafficking of dangerous
drugs.
On this score, the crime of "illegal trafficking" embraces various
other offenses punishable by RA 9165. Section 3(r) of RA 9165
provides:

(r) Illegal Trafficking. - The illegal cultivation, culture, delivery,


administration, dispensation, manufacture, sale, trading,
transportation, distribution, importation, exportation and
possession of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor
and essential chemical.

In turn, the crimes included in the definition of Illegal Trafficking


of drugs are defined as follows:

(a) Administer. - Any act of introducing any dangerous drug into


the body of any person, with or without his/her knowledge, by
injection, inhalation, ingestion or other means, or of committing
any act of indispensable assistance to a person in administering
a dangerous drug to himself/herself unless administered by a
duly licensed practitioner for purposes of medication.
xxxx
(d) Chemical Diversion. - The sale, distribution, supply or
transport of legitimately imported, in-transit, manufactured or
procured controlled precursors and essential chemicals, in
diluted, mixtures or in concentrated form, to any person or entity
engaged in the manufacture of any dangerous drug, and shall
include packaging, repackaging, labeling, relabeling or
concealment of such transaction through fraud, destruction of
documents, fraudulent use of permits, misdeclaration, use of
front companies or mail fraud.
xxxx
(i) Cultivate or Culture. - Any act of knowingly planting, growing,
raising, or permitting the planting, growing or raising of any
plant which is the source of a dangerous drug.
xxxx

(k) Deliver. - Any act of knowingly passing a dangerous drug to


another, personally or otherwise, and by any means, with or
without consideration.
xxxx

(m) Dispense. - Any act of giving away, selling or distributing


medicine or any dangerous drug with or without the use of
prescription.
xxxx
(u) Manufacture. - The production, preparation, compounding or
processing of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor
and essential chemical, either directly or indirectly or by
extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently
by means of chemical synthesis or by a combination of
extraction and chemical synthesis, and shall include any
packaging or repackaging of such substances, design or
configuration of its form, or labeling or relabeling of its
container; except that such terms do not include the
preparation, compounding, packaging or labeling of a drug or
other substances by a duly authorized practitioner as an
incident to his/her administration or dispensation of such drug or
substance in the course of his/her professional practice
including research, teaching and chemical analysis of
dangerous drugs or such substances that are not intended for
sale or for any other purpose.
xxxx
(kk) Use. - Any act of injecting, intravenously or intramuscularly,
of consuming, either by chewing, smoking, sniffing, eating,
swallowing, drinking or otherwise introducing into the
physiological system of the body, any of the dangerous drugs.

With the complexity of the operations involved in Illegal Trading


of drugs, as recognized and defined in RA 9165, it will be quite
myopic and restrictive to require the elements of Illegal Sale-a
mere component act-in the prosecution for Illegal Trading.

More so, that which qualifies the crime of Illegal Trafficking to


Illegal Trading may make it impossible to provide the details of
the elements of Illegal Sale. By "using electronic devices such
as, but not limited to, text messages, email, mobile or landlines,
two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms,"
the Illegal Trading can be remotely perpetrated away from
where the drugs are actually being sold; away from the subject
of the illegal sale. With the proliferation of digital technology
coupled with ride sharing and delivery services, Illegal Trading
under RA 9165 can be committed without getting one's hand on
the substances or knowing and meeting the seller or buyer. To
require the elements of Illegal Sale (the identities of the buyer,
seller, the object and consideration, in Illegal Trade) would be
impractical.

The same may be said of the second mode for committing


Illegal Trading, or trading by "acting as a broker" in transactions
involved in Illegal Trafficking. In this instance, the accused may
neither have physical possession of the drugs nor meet the
buyer and seller and yet violate RA 9165. As pointed out by
Justice Perlas-Bernabe, as early as 1916, jurisprudence has
defined a broker as one who is simply a middleman, negotiating
contracts relative to property with which he has no custody, viz.:
A broker is generally defined as one who is engaged, for others,
on a commission, negotiating contracts relative to property with
the custody of which he has no concern; the negotiator between
other parties, never acting in his own name, but in the name of
those who employed him; he is strictly a middleman and for
some purposes the agent of both parties.84 (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied.)
In some cases, this Court even acknowledged persons as
brokers even "where they actually took no part in the
negotiations, never saw the customer."85 For the Court, the
primary occupation of a broker is simply bringing "the buyer and
the seller together, even if no sale is eventually
made. "86 Hence, in indictments for Illegal Trading, it is illogical
to require the elements of Illegal Sale of drugs, such as the
identities of the buyer and the seller, the object and
consideration.87 For the prosecution of Illegal Trading of drugs to
prosper, proof that the accused "act[ed] as a broker" or brought
together the buyer and seller of illegal drugs "using electronic
devices such as, but not limited to, text messages, e-mail,
mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant
messengers and chat rooms" is sufficient.
The DOJ' s designation of the charge as one for Illegal Drug
Trading thus holds sway. After all, the prosecution is vested
with a wide range of discretion-including the discretion of
whether, what, and whom to charge.88 The exercise of this
discretion depends on a smorgasboard of factors, which are
best appreciated by the prosecutors.89

As such, with the designation of the offense, the recital of facts


in the Information, there can be no other conclusion than that
petitioner is being charged not with Direct Bribery but with
violation of RA 9165.
Granting without conceding that the information contains
averments which constitute the elements of Direct Bribery or
that more than one offence is charged or as ill this case,
possibly bribery and violation of RA 9165, still the prosecution
has the authority to amend the information at any time before
arraignment. Since petitioner has not yet been arraigned, then
the information subject of Criminal Case No. 17-165 can still be
amended pursuant to Section 14, Rule 110 of the Rules of
Court which reads:

SECTION 14. Amendment or Substitution. - A complaint or


information may be amended, in form or in substance, without
leave of court, at any time before the accused enters his plea.
After the plea and during the trial, a formal amendment may
only be made with leave of court and when it can be done
without causing prejudice to the rights of the accused.
Now the question that irresistibly demands an answer is
whether it is the Sandiganbayan or the RTC that has jurisdiction
over the subject matter of Criminal Case No. 17-
165, i.e., violation of RA 9165.

It is basic that jurisdiction over the subject matter in a criminal


case is given only by law in the manner and form prescribed by
law.90 It is determined by the statute in force at the time of the
commencement of the action.91 Indeed, Congress has the
plenary power to define, prescribe and apportion the jurisdiction
of various courts. It follows then that Congress may also, by
law, provide that a certain class of cases should be exclusively
heard and determined by one court. Such would be a special
law that is construed as an exception to the general law on
jurisdiction of courts.92
The pertinent special law governing drug-related cases is RA
9165, which updated the rules provided in RA 6425, otherwise
known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. A plain reading of
RA 9165, as of RA 6425, will reveal that jurisdiction over drug-
related cases is exclusively vested with the Regional Trial Court
and no other. The designation of the RTC as the court with the
exclusive jurisdiction over drug-related cases is apparent in the
following provisions where it was expressly mentioned and
recognized as the only court with the authority to hear drug-
related cases:

Section 20. Confiscation and Forfeiture of the Proceeds or


Instruments of the Unlawful Act, Including the Properties or
Proceeds Derived from the Illegal Trafficking of Dangerous
Drugs and/or Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - x x x x

After conviction in the Regional Trial Court in the appropriate


criminal case filed, the Court shall immediately schedule a
hearing for the confiscation and forfeiture of all the proceeds of
the offense and all the assets and properties of the accused
either owned or held by him or in the name of some other
persons if the same shall be found to be manifestly out of
proportion to his/her lawful income:
xxxx
During the pendency of the case in the Regional Trial Court, no
property, or income derived therefrom, which may be
confiscated and forfeited, shall be disposed, alienated or
transferred and the same shall be in custodia legis and no bond
shall be admitted for the release of the same.
xxxx

Section 61. Compulsory Confinement of a Drug Dependent


Who Refuses to Apply Under the Voluntary Submission
Program. - x x x
A petition for the confinement of a person alleged to be
dependent on dangerous drugs to a Center may be filed by any
person authorized by the Board with the Regional Trial Court of
the province or city where such person is found.
xxxx

Section 62. Compulsory Submission of a Drug Dependent


Charged with an Offense to Treatment and Rehabilitation. - If a
person charged with an offense where the imposable penalty is
imprisonment of less than six (6) years and one (1) day, and is
found by the prosecutor or by the court, at any stage of the
proceedings, to be a drug dependent, the prosecutor or the
court as the case may be, shall suspend all further proceedings
and transmit copies of the record of the case to the Board.
In the event the Board determines, after medical examination,
that public interest requires that such drug dependent be
committed to a center for treatment and rehabilitation, it shall
file a petition for his/her commitment with the regional trial court
of the province or city where he/she is being investigated or
tried: x x x
xxxx

Section 90. Jurisdiction. - The Supreme Court shall designate


special courts from among the existing Regional Trial Courts in
each judicial region to exclusively try and hear cases involving
violations of this Act. The number of courts designated in each
judicial region shall be based on the population and the number
of cases pending in their respective jurisdiction.

The DOJ shall designate special prosecutors to exclusively


handle cases involving violations of this Act.
Notably, no other trial court was mentioned in RA 9165 as
having the authority to take cognizance of drug-related cases.
Thus, in Morales v. Court of Appeals,93this Court categorically
named the RTC as the court with jurisdiction over drug related-
cases, as follows:

Applying by analogy the ruling in People v. Simon, People v. De


Lara, People v. Santos, and Ordonez v. Vinarao, the imposable
penalty in this case which involves 0.4587 grams
of shabu should not exceed prision correccional. We say by
analogy because these cases involved marijuana, not
methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu). In Section 20 of RA.
No. 6425, as amended by Section 17 of RA No. 7659, the
maximum quantities of marijuana and methamphetamine
hydrochloride for purposes of imposing the maximum penalties
are not the same. For the latter, if the quantity involved is 200
grams or more, the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death and a
fine ranging from ₱500,000 to PIO million shall be imposed.
Accordingly, if the quantity involved is below 200 grams, the
imposable penalties should be as follows:
xxxx

Clearly, the penalty which may be imposed for the offense


charged in Criminal Case No. 96-8443 would at most be
only prision correccional duration is from six (6) months and one
(1) day to six (6) years. Does it follow then that, as the petitioner
insists, the RTC has no jurisdiction thereon in view of the
amendment of Section 32 of B.P. Big. 129 by R.A. No. 7691,
which vested upon Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial
Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts exclusive original
jurisdiction over all offenses punishable with imprisonment not
exceeding six (6) years irrespective of the amount of fine and
regardless of other imposable accessory or other penalties?
This Section 32 as thus amended now reads:
xxxx
The exception in the opening sentence is of special significance
which we cannot disregard. x xx The aforementioned exception
refers not only to Section 20 of B.P. Blg. 129 providing for the
jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts in criminal cases, but also to
other laws which specifically lodge in Regional Trial Courts
exclusive jurisdiction over specific criminal cases, e. g., (a)
Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A.
Nos. 1289 and 4363 on written defamation or libel; (b) Decree
on Intellectual Property (P. D. No. 49, as amended), which
vests upon Courts of First Instance exclusive jurisdiction over
the cases therein mentioned regardless of the imposable
penalty; and (c) more appropriately for the case at bar, Section
39 of RA No. 6425, as amended by P.D. No. 44, which vests on
Courts of First Instance, Circuit Criminal Courts, and the
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts concurrent exclusive
original jurisdiction over all cases involving violations of said
Act.
xxxx

That Congress indeed did not intend to repeal these special


laws vesting exclusive jurisdiction in the Regional Trial Courts
over certain cases is clearly evident from the exception
provided for in the opening sentence of Section 32 of B.P. Blg.
129, as amended by RA No. 7691. These special laws are not,
therefore, covered by the repealing clause (Section 6) of RA
No. 7691.
Neither can it be successfully argued that Section 39 of RA. No.
6425, as amended by P.D. No. 44, is no longer operative
because Section 44 of B.P. Big. 129 abolished the Courts of
First Instance, Circuit Criminal Courts, and Juvenile and
Domestic Relations Courts. While, indeed, Section 44 provides
that these courts were to be "deemed automatically abolished"
upon the declaration by the President that the reorganization
provided in B.P. Blg. 129 had been completed, this Court
should not lose sight of the fact that the Regional Trial Courts
merely replaced the Courts of First Instance as clearly borne
out by the last two sentences of Section 44, to wit:
xxxx
Consequently, it is not accurate to state that the "abolition" of
the Courts of First Instance carried with it the abolition of their
exclusive original jurisdiction in drug cases vested by Section
39 of R.A. No. 6425, as amended by P. D. No. 44. If that were
so, then so must it be with respect to Article 360 of the Revised
Penal Code and Section 57 of the Decree on Intellectual
Property. On the contrary, in the resolution of 19 June 1996 in
Caro v. Court of Appeals and in the resolution of 26 February
1997 in Villalon v. Ba/dado, this Court expressly ruled that
Regional Trial Courts have the exclusive original jurisdiction
over libel cases pursuant to Article 360 of the Revised Penal
Code. In Administrative Order No. 104-96 this Court mandates
that:
xxxx
The same Administrative Order recognizes that violations of
RA. No. 6425, as amended, regardless of the quantity involved,
are to be tried and decided by the Regional Trial Courts therein
designated as special courts.94 (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)
Yet, much has been made of the terminology used in Section
90 of RA 9165. The dissents would highlight the provision's
departure from Section 39 of RA 6425 - the erstwhile drugs law,
which provides:

SECTION 39. Jurisdiction of the Circuit Criminal Court. - The


Circuit Criminal Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction
over all cases involving offenses punishable under this Act.

For those in the dissent, the failure to reproduce the phrase


"exclusive original jurisdiction" is a clear indication that no court,
least of all the RTC, has been vested with such "exclusive
original jurisdiction" so that even the Sandiganbayan can take
cognizance and resolve a criminal prosecution for violation of
RA 9165.
As thoroughly discussed by Justice Peralta in his Concurring
Opinion, such deduction is unwarranted given the clear intent of
the legislature not only to retain the "exclusive original
jurisdiction" of the RTCs over violations of the drugs law but to
segregate from among the several RTCs of each judicial region
some RTCs that will "exclusively try and hear cases involving
violations of [RA 9165)." If at all, the change introduced by the
new phraseology of Section 90, RA 9165 is not the deprivation
of the RTCs' "exclusive original jurisdiction" but the further
restriction of this "exclusive original jurisdiction" to select RTCs
of each judicial region. This intent can be clearly gleaned from
the interpellation on House Bill No. 4433, entitled "An Act
Instituting the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, repealing Republic
Act No. 6425, as amended:"

Initially, Rep. Dilangalen referred to the fact sheet attached to


the Bill which states that the measure will undertake a
comprehensive amendment to the existing law on dangerous
drugs -- RA No. 6425, as amended. Adverting to Section 64 of
the Bill on the repealing clause, he then asked whether the
Committee is in effect amending or repealing the aforecited law.
Rep. Cuenco replied that any provision of law which is in
conflict with the provisions of the Bill is repealed and/or modified
accordingly.

In this regard, Rep. Dilangalen suggested that if the


Committee's intention was only to amend RA No. 6425, then
the wording used should be "to amend" and not "to repeal" with
regard to the provisions that are contrary to the provisions of the
Bill.
Adverting to Article VIII, Section 60, on Jurisdiction Over
Dangerous Drugs Case, which provides that "the Supreme
Court shall designate regional trial courts to have original
jurisdiction over all offenses punishable by this Act," Rep.
Dilangalen inquired whether it is the Committee's intention that
certain RTC salas will be designated by the Supreme Court to
try drug-related offenses, although all RTCs have original
jurisdiction over those offenses.
Rep. Cuenco replied in the affirmative. He pointed that at
present, the Supreme Court's assignment of drug cases to
certain judges is not exclusive because the latter can still
handle cases other than drug-related cases. He added that the
Committee's intention is to assign drug-related cases to judges
who will handle exclusively these cases assigned to them.
In this regard, Rep. Dilangalen stated that, at the appropriate
time, he would like to propose the following amendment; "The
Supreme Court shall designate specific salas of the RTC to try
exclusively offenses related to drugs."
Rep. Cuenca agreed therewith, adding that the Body is
proposing the creation of exclusive drug courts because at
present, almost all of the judges are besieged by a lot of drug
cases some of which have been pending for almost 20
years.95 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Per the "Records of the Bilateral Conference Committee on the


Disagreeing Provisions of Senate Bill No. 1858 and House Bill
No. 4433," the term "designation" of R TCs that will exclusively
handle drug-related offenses was used to skirt the budgetary
requirements that might accrue by the "creation" of exclusive
drugs courts. It was never intended to divest the R TCs of their
exclusive original jurisdiction over drug-related cases. The
Records are clear:

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). x x x [W]e would like to


propose the creation of drug courts to handle exclusively drug
cases; the imposition of a 60-day deadline on courts within
which to decide drug cases; and No. 3, provide penalties on
officers of the law and government prosecutors for mishandling
and delaying drugs cases.
We will address these concerns one by one.

1. The possible creation of drugs courts to handle exclusively


drug cases. Any comments?
xxxx
THE CHAIRMAN (SEN. BARBERS). We have no objection to
this proposal, Mr. Chairman. As a matter of fact, this is one of
the areas where we come into an agreement when we were in
Japan. However, I just would like to add a paragraph after the
word "Act" in Section 86 of the Senate versions, Mr. Chairman.
And this is in connection with the designation of special courts
by "The Supreme Court shall designate special courts from
among the existing Regional Trial Courts in each judicial region
to exclusively try and hear cases involving violations of this Act.
The number of court designated in each judicial region shall be
based on the population and the number of pending cases in
their respective jurisdiction." That is my proposal, Mr. Chairman.

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). We adopt the same


proposal.
xxxx

THE CHAIRMAN (SEN. BARBERS). I have no problem with


that, Mr. Chairman, but I'd like to call your attention to the fact
that my proposal is only for designation because if it is for a
creation that would entail another budget, Mr. Chairman. And
almost always, the Department of Budget would tell us at the
budget hearing that we lack funds, we do not have money. So
that might delay the very purpose why we want the RTC or the
municipal courts to handle exclusively the drug cases. That's
why my proposal is designation not creation.
THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). Areglado. No problem,
designation. Approved.96
The exclusive original jurisdiction over violations of RA 9165 is
not transferred to the Sandiganbayan whenever the accused
occupies a position classified as Grade 27 or higher, regardless
of whether the violation is alleged as committed in relation to
office. The power of the Sandiganbayan to sit in judgment of
high-ranking government officials is not omnipotent. The
Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction is circumscribed by law and its
limits are currently defined and prescribed by RA 10660,97 which
amended Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1606.98 As it now
stands, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the following:
SEC. 4. Jurisdiction. - The Sandiganbayan shall exercise
exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:
a. Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise
known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act
No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the
Revised Penal Code, where one or more of the accused are
officials occupying the following positions in the government,
whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time
of the commission of the offense:
(1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the positions of
regional director and higher, otherwise classified as Grade '27'
and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act
of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758), specifically including:
xxxx
(2) Members of Congress and officials thereof classified as
Grade '27' and higher under the Compensation and Position
Classification Act of 1989;
(3) Members of the judiciary without prejudice to the provisions
of the Constitution;
(4) Chairmen and members of the Constitutional Commissions,
without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution; and

(5) All other national and local officials classified as Grade '27'
and higher under the Compensation and Position Classification
Act of 1989.

b. Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed with


other crimes committed by the public officials and employees
mentioned in subsection a. of this section in relation to their
office.
c. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection
with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986.
Provided, That the Regional Trial Court shall have exclusive
original jurisdiction where the information: (a) does not allege
any damage to the government or any bribery; or (b) alleges
damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or
closely related transactions or acts in an amount not exceeding
One Million pesos (₱l,000,000.00).

The foregoing immediately betrays that the Sandiganbayan


primarily sits as a special anti-graft court pursuant to a specific
injunction in the 1973 Constitution.99 Its characterization and
continuation as such was expressly given a constitutional fiat
under Section 4, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, which
states:

SECTION 4. The present anti-graft court known as the


Sandiganbayan shall continue to function and exercise its
jurisdiction as now or hereafter may be provided by law.

It should occasion no surprise, therefore, that the


Sandiganbayan is without jurisdiction to hear drug-related
cases. Even Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA
10660, touted by the petitioner and the dissents as a catchall
provision, does not operate to strip the R TCs of its exclusive
original jurisdiction over violations of RA 9165. As pointed out
by Justices Tijam and Martires, a perusal of the drugs law will
reveal that public officials were never considered excluded from
its scope. Hence, Section 27 of RA 9165 punishes government
officials found to have benefited from the trafficking of
dangerous drugs, while Section 28 of the law imposes the
maximum penalty on such government officials and employees.
The adverted sections read:
SECTION 27. Criminal Liability of a Public Officer or Employee
for Misappropriation, Misapplication or Failure to Account for the
Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs,
Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and
Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or
Laborat01y Equipment Including the Proceeds or Properties
Obtained from the Unlawful Act Committed - The penalty of life
imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred
thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos
(Pl0,000,000.00), in addition to absolute perpetual
disqualification from any public office, shall be imposed upon
any public officer or employee who misappropriates, misapplies
or fails to account for confiscated, seized or surrendered
dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled
precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia
and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds or
properties obtained from the unlawful acts as provided for in this
Act.

Any elective local or national official found to have benefited


from the proceeds of the trafficking of dangerous drugs as
prescribed in this Act, or have received any financial or material
contributions or donations from natural or juridical persons
found guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs as prescribed in this
Act, shall be removed from office and perpetually disqualified
from holding any elective or appointive positions in the
government, its divisions, subdivisions, and intermediaries,
including government-owned or -controlled corporations.
SECTION 28. Criminal Liability of Government Officials and
Employees. - The maximum penalties of the unlawful acts
provided for in this Act shall be imposed, in addition to absolute
perpetual disqualification from any public office, if those found
guilty of such unlawful acts are government officials and
employees. (Emphasis supplied)
Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660, provides
but the general rule, couched in a "broad and general
phraseology. "100 Exceptions abound. Besides the jurisdiction on
written defamations and libel, as illustrated
in Morales 101and People v. Benipayo, 102 the RTC is likewise
given "exclusive original jurisdiction to try and decide any
criminal action or proceedings for violation of the Omnibus
Election Code,"103 regardless of whether such violation was
committed by public officers occupying positions classified as
Grade 27 or higher in relation to their offices. In fact, offenses
committed by members of the Armed Forces in relation to their
office, i.e., in the words of RA 7055,104 "service-connected
crimes or offenses," are not cognizable by the Sandiganbayan
but by court-martial.

Certainly, jurisdiction over offenses and felonies committed by


public officers is not determined solely by the pay scale or by
the fact that they were committed "in relation to their office." In
determining the forum vested with the jurisdiction to try and
decide criminal actions, the laws governing the subject matter of
the criminal prosecution must likewise be considered.
In this case, RA 9165 specifies the RTC as the court with the
jurisdiction to "exclusively try and hear cases involving
violations of [RA 9165)." This is an exception, couched in
the special law on dangerous drugs, to the general rule
under Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660. It
is a canon of statutory construction that a special law prevails
over a general law and the latter is to be considered as an
exception to the general.105
Parenthetically, it has been advanced that RA 10660 has
repealed Section 90 of RA 9165. However, a closer look at the
repealing clause of RA 10660 will show that there is no express
repeal of Section 90 of RA 9165 and well-entrenched is the rule
that an implied repeal is disfavored. It is only accepted upon the
clearest proof of inconsistency so repugnant that the two laws
cannot be enforced.106 The presumption against implied repeal is
stronger when of two laws involved one is special and the other
general.107 The mentioned rule in statutory construction that a
special law prevails over a general law applies regardless of the
laws' respective dates of passage. Thus, this Court ruled:

x x x [I]t is a canon of statutory construction that a special law


prevails over a general law - regardless of their dates of
passage - and the special is to be considered as remaining an
exception to the general.
So also, every effort must be exerted to avoid a conflict
between statutes. If reasonable construction is possible, the
laws must be reconciled in that manner.
Repeals of laws by implication moreover are not favored, and
the mere repugnancy between two statutes should be very clear
to warrant the court in holding that the later in time repeals the
other.108

To reiterate for emphasis, Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as


amended by RA 10660, is the general law on jurisdiction of
the Sandiganbayan over crimes and offenses committed by
high-ranking public officers in relation to their office; Section 90,
RA 9165 is the special law excluding from the
Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction violations of RA 9165 committed
by such public officers. In the latter case, jurisdiction is vested
upon the RTCs designated by the Supreme Court as drugs
court, regardless of whether the violation of RA 9165 was
committed in relation to the public officials' office.
The exceptional rule provided under Section 90, RA 9165
relegating original exclusive jurisdiction to RTCs specially
designated by the Supreme Court logically follows given the
technical aspect of drug-related cases. With the proliferation of
cases involving violation of RA 9165, it is easy to dismiss them
as common and untechnical. However, narcotic substances
possess unique characteristics that render them not readily
identifiable.109 In fact, they must first be subjected to scientific
analysis by forensic chemists to determine their composition
and nature.110 Thus, judges presiding over designated drugs
courts are specially trained by the Philippine Judicial Academy
(PhilJa) and given scientific instructions to equip them with the
proper tools to appreciate pharmacological evidence and give
analytical insight upon this esoteric subject. After all, the
primary consideration of RA 9165 is the fact that the substances
involved are, in fact, dangerous drugs, their plant sources, or
their controlled precursors and essential chemicals. Without a
doubt, not one of the Sandiganbayan justices were provided
with knowledge and technical expertise on matters relating to
prohibited substances.

Hard figures likewise support the original and exclusive


jurisdiction of the RTCs over violations of RA 9165. As
previously stated, as of June 30, 2017, there are 232,557 drugs
cases pending before the RTCs. On the other hand, not even a
single case filed before the Sandiganbayan from February 1979
to June 30, 2017 dealt with violations of the drugs law. Instead,
true to its designation as an anti-graft court, the bulk of the
cases filed before the Sandiganbayan involve violations of RA
3019, entitled the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act" and
malversation.111 With these, it would not only be unwise but
reckless to allow the tribunal uninstructed and inexperienced
with the intricacies of drugs cases to hear and decide violations
of RA 9165 solely on account of the pay scale of the accused.

Likewise of special significance is the proviso introduced by RA


10660 which, to reiterate for emphasis, states:

Provided, That the Regional Trial Court shall have exclusive


original jurisdiction where the information: (a) does not allege
any damage to the government or any bribery; or (b) alleges
damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or
closely related transactions or acts in an amount not exceeding
One million pesos (₱l,000,000.00).

The clear import of the new paragraph introduced by RA 10660


is to streamline the cases handled by the Sandiganbayan by
delegating to the RTCs some cases involving high-ranking
public officials. With the dissents' proposition, opening the
Sandiganbayan to the influx of drug-related cases, RA 10660
which was intended to unclog the dockets of the
Sandiganbayan would all be for naught. Hence, sustaining the
RTC's jurisdiction over drug-related cases despite the
accused's high-ranking position, as in this case, is all the more
proper.

Even granting arguendo that the Court declares the


Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the information subject of
Criminal Case No. 17-165, still it will not automatically result in
the release from detention and restore the liberty and freedom
of petitioner. The R TC has several options if it dismisses the
criminal case based on the grounds raised by petitioner in her
Motion to Quash.
Under Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, the trial court has three
(3) possible alternative actions when confronted with a Motion
to Quash:
1. Order the amendment of the Infonnation;
2. Sustain the Motion to Quash; or
3. Deny the Motion to Quash.
The first two options are available to the trial court where the
motion to quash is meritorious. Specifically, as to the first
option, this court had held that should the Information be
deficient or lacking in any material allegation, the trial court can
order the amendment of the Information under Section 4, Rule
117 of the Rules of Court, which states:

SECTION 4. Amendment of Complaint or Information. - If the


motion to quash is based on an alleged defect of the complaint
or information which can be cured by amendment, the court
shall order that an amendment be made.

If it is based on the ground that the facts charged do not


constitute an offense, the prosecution shall be given by the
court an opportunity to correct the defect by amendment. The
motion shall be granted if the prosecution fails to make the
amendment, or the complaint or information still suffers from the
same defect despite the amendment.

The failure of the trial court to order the correction of a defect in


the Information curable by an amendment amounts to an
arbitrary exercise of power. So, this Court held in Dio v. People:

This Court has held that failure to provide the prosecution with
the opportunity to amend is an arbitrary exercise of power.
In People v. Sandiganbayan (Fourth Division): When a motion
to quash is filed challenging the validity and sufficiency of an
Information, and the defect may be cured by amendment,
courts must deny the motion to quash and order the prosecution
to file an amended Information. Generally, a defect pertaining to
the failure of an Information to charge facts constituting an
offense is one that may be corrected by an amendment. In such
instances, courts are mandated not to automatically quash the
Information; rather, it should grant the prosecution the
opportunity to cure the defect through an amendment. This rule
allows a case to proceed without undue delay. By allowing the
defect to be cured by simple amendment, unnecessary appeals
based on technical grounds, which only result to prolonging the
proceedings, are avoided.

More than this practical consideration, however, is the due


process underpinnings of this rule. As explained by this Court in
People v. Andrade, the State, just like any other litigant, is
entitled to its day in court. Thus, a court's refusal to grant the
prosecution the opportunity to amend an Information, where
such right is expressly granted under the Rules of Court and
affirmed time and again in a string of Supreme Court decisions,
effectively curtails the State's right to due process.112
Notably, the defect involved in Dio was the Information's failure
to establish the venue - a matter of jurisdiction in criminal cases.
Thus, in the case at bar where petitioner has not yet been
arraigned, the court a quo has the power to order the
amendment of the February 17, 2017 Information filed against
the petitioner. This power to order the amendment is not
reposed with this Court in the exercise of its certiorari powers.
Nevertheless, should the trial court sustain the motion by
actually ordering the quashal of the Infonnation, the prosecution
is not precluded from filing another information. An order
sustaining the motion to quash the information would neither
bar another prosecution113 or require the release of the accused
from custody. Instead, under Section 5, Rule 117 of the Rules
of Court, the trial court can simply order that another complaint
or information be filed without discharging the accused from
custody. Section 5, Rule 117 states, thus:
Section 5. Effect of sustaining the motion to quash. - If the
motion to quash is sustained, the court may order that another
complaint or information be filed except as provided in Section 6
of this rule. If the order is made, the accused, if in custody, shall
not be discharged unless admitted to bail. If no order is made or
if having been made, no new information is filed within the time
specified in the order or within such further time as the court
may allow for good cause, the accused, if in custody, shall be
discharged unless he is also in custody for another charge.
Section 6, Rule 117, adverted to in the foregoing provision,
prevents the re-filing of an information on only two grounds: that
the criminal action or liability has already been extinguished,
and that of double jeopardy. Neither was invoked in
petitioner's Motion to Quash filed before the court a quo.

The third option available to the trial court is the denial of the
motion to quash. Even granting, for the nonce, the petitioner's
position that the trial court's issuance of the warrant for her
arrest is an implied denial of her Motion to Quash, the proper
remedy against this court action is to proceed to trial, not to file
the present petition for certiorari. This Court in Galzote v.
Briones reiterated this established doctrine:

A preliminary consideration in this case relates to the propriety


of the chosen legal remedies availed of by the petitioner in the
lower courts to question the denial of his motion to quash. In the
usual course of procedure, a denial of a motion to quash filed
by the accused results in the continuation of the trial and the
determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. If a
judgment of conviction is rendered and the lower court's
decision of conviction is appealed, the accused can then raise
the denial of his motion to quash not only as an error committed
by the trial court but as an added ground to overturn the latter's
ruling.
In this case, the petitioner did not proceed to trial but opted to
immediately question the denial of his motion to quash via a
special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court.

As a rule, the denial of a motion to quash is an interlocutory


order and is not appealable; an appeal from an interlocutory
order is not allowed under Section 1 (b), Rule 41 of the Rules of
Court. Neither can it be a proper subject of a petition
for certiorari which can be used only in the absence of an
appeal or any other adequate, plain and speedy remedy. The
plain and speedy remedy upon denial of an interlocutory order
is to proceed to trial as discussed above.114 (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)

At this juncture, it must be stressed yet again that the trial court
has been denied the opportunity to act and rule on petitioner's
motion when the latter jumped the gun and prematurely
repaired posthaste to this Court, thereby immobilizing the trial
court in its tracks. Verily, De Lima should have waited for the
decision on her motion to quash instead of prematurely filing the
instant recourse.

In the light of the foregoing, the best course of action for the
Court to take is to dismiss the petition and direct the trial court
to rule on the Motion to Quash and undertake all the necessary
proceedings to expedite the adjudication of the subject criminal
case.
RESPONDENT JUDGE DID NOT ABUSE HER DISCRETION
IN FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE TO ORDER THE
PETITIONER'S ARREST

The basis for petitioner's contention that respondent judge


committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the February 23,
2017 Order115 finding probable cause to arrest the petitioner is
two-pronged: respondent judge should have first resolved the
pending Motion to Quash before ordering the petitioner's arrest;
and there is no probable cause to justify the petitioner's arrest.

Grave abuse of discretion is the capricious and whimsical


exercise of judgment equivalent to an evasion of positive
duty or a virtual refusal to act at all in contemplation of the law.116
In the present case, the respondent judge had no positive
duty to first resolve the Motion to Quash before issuing a
warrant of arrest. There is no rule of procedure, statute, or
jurisprudence to support the petitioner's claim. Rather, Sec.5(a),
Rule 112 of the Rules of Court117 required the respondent judge
to evaluate the prosecutor's resolution and its supporting
evidence within a limited period of only ten (10) days, viz.:
SEC. 5. When warrant of arrest may issue. -
(a) By the Regional Trial Court. - Within ten (10) days from the
filing of the complaint or information, the judge shall personally
evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting
evidence. He may immediately dismiss the case if the evidence
on record clearly fails to establish probable cause. If he finds
probable cause, he shall issue a warrant of arrest, or a
commitment order when the complaint or information was filed
pursuant to Section 6 of this Rule. In case of doubt on the
existence of probable cause, the judge may order the
prosecutor to present additional evidence within five (5) days
from notice and the issue must be resolved by the court within
thirty (30) days from the filing of the complaint or information.

It is not far-fetched to conclude, therefore, that had the


respondent judge waited longer and first attended to the
petitioner's Motion to Quash, she would have exposed herself
to a possible administrative liability for failure to observe Sec.
5(a), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. Her exercise of discretion
was sound and in conformity with the provisions of the Rules of
Court considering that a Motion to Quash may be filed and, thus
resolved by a trial court judge, at any time before the accused
petitioner enters her plea.118 What is more, it is in accord with
this Court's ruling in Marcos v. Cabrera-Faller119that "[a]s the
presiding judge, it was her task, upon the filing of the
Information, to first and foremost determine the existence or
non-existence of probable cause for the arrest of the accused."
This Court's ruling in Miranda v. Tuliao 120does not support the
petitioner's position. Miranda does not prevent a trial court from
ordering the arrest of an accused even pending a motion to
quash the infonnation. At most, it simply explains that an
accused can seek judicial relief even if he has not yet been
taken in the custody of law.

Undoubtedly, contrary to petitioner's postulation, there is no rule


or basic principle requiring a trial judge to first resolve a motion
to quash, whether grounded on lack of jurisdiction or not, before
issuing a warrant of arrest. As such, respondent judge
committed no grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed
February 23, 2017 Order even before resolving
petitioner's Motion to Quash. There is certainly no indication
that respondent judge deviated from the usual procedure in
finding probable cause to issue the petitioner's arrest.
And yet, petitioner further contends that the language of the
February 23, 2017 Order violated her constitutional rights and is
contrary to the doctrine in Soliven v. Makasiar. 121Petitioner
maintains that respondent judge failed to personally determine
the probable cause for the issuance of the warrant of arrest
since, as stated in the assailed Order, respondent judge based
her findings on the evidence presented during the preliminary
investigation and not on the report and supporting documents
submitted by the prosecutor.122 This hardly deserves serious
consideration.

Personal determination of the existence of probable cause by


the judge is required before a warrant of arrest may issue. The
Constitution123 and the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure124 command the judge "to refrain from making a
mindless acquiescence to the prosecutor's findings and to
conduct his own examination of the facts and circumstances
presented by both parties. "125 This much is clear from this
Court's n1ling in Soliven cited by the petitioner, viz.:

What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and


personal responsibility of the issuing judge to satisfy himself the
existence of probable cause. In satisfying himself of the
existence of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of
arrest, the judge is not required to personally examine the
complainant and his witnesses. Following established doctrine
and procedure, he shall: (1) personally evaluate the report and
the supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the
existence of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a
warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis thereof he finds no
probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal's report and require
the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him
in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of probable
cause.126

It must be emphasized, however, that in determining the


probable cause to issue the warrant of arrest against the
petitioner, respondent judge evaluated the Information and "all
the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation
conducted in this case." The assailed February 23, 2017 Order
is here restated for easy reference and provides, thusly:
After a careful evaluation of the herein Information and all the
evidence presented during the preliminary investigation
conducted in this case by the Department of Justice, Manila, the
Court finds sufficient probable cause for the issuance of
Warrants of Arrest against all the accused LEILA M. DE LIMA x
x x.127 (Emphasis supplied.)

As the prosecutor's report/resolution precisely finds support


from the evidence presented during the preliminary
investigation, this Court cannot consider the respondent judge
to have evaded her duty or refused to perform her obligation to
satisfy herself that substantial basis exists for the petitioner's
arrest. "All the evidence presented during the preliminary
investigation" encompasses a broader category than the
"supporting evidence" required to be evaluated in Soliven. It
may perhaps even be stated that respondent judge performed
her duty in a manner that far exceeds what is required of her by
the rules when she reviewed all the evidence, not just the
supporting documents. At the very least, she certainly
discharged a judge's duty in finding probable cause for the
issuance of a warrant, as described in Ho v. People:
The above rulings in Soliven, Inting and Lim, Sr. were iterated
in Allado v. Diokno, where we explained again what probable
cause means. Probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of
arrest is the existence of such facts and circumstances that
would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent person to believe
that an offense has been committed by the person sought to be
arrested. Hence, the judge, before issuing a warrant of arrest,
'must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted,
there is sufficient proof that a crime has been committed and
that the person to be arrested is probably guilty thereof' At this
stage of the criminal proceeding, the judge is not yet tasked to
review in detail the evidence submitted during the preliminary
investigation. It is sufficient that he personally evaluates such
evidence in determining probable cause. In Webb v. De
Leon we stressed that the judge merely determines the
probability, not the certainty, of guilt of the accused and, in
doing so, he need not conduct a de novo hearing. He simply
personally reviews the prosecutor's initial determination finding
probable cause to see if it is supported by substantial
evidence."
xxxx
x x x [T]he judge cannot rely solely on the report of the
prosecutor in finding probable cause to justify the issuance of a
warrant of arrest. Obviously and understandably, the contents
of the prosecutor's report will support his own conclusion that
there is reason to charge the accused for an offense and hold
him for trial. However, the judge must decide independently.
Hence, he must have supporting evidence, other than the
prosecutor's bare report, upon which to legally sustain his own
findings on the existence (or non-existence) of probable cause
to issue an arrest order. This responsibility of determining
personally and independently the existence or nonexistence of
probable cause is lodged in him by no less than the most basic
law of the land. Parenthetically, the prosecutor could ease the
burden of the judge and speed up the litigation process by
forwarding to the latter not only the information and his bare
resolution finding probable cause, but also so much of the
records and the evidence on hand as to enable His Honor to
make his personal and separate judicial finding on whether to
issue a warrant of arrest.
Lastly, it is not required that the complete or entire records of
the case during the preliminary investigation be submitted to
and examined by the judge. We do not intend to unduly burden
trial courts by obliging them to examine the complete records of
every case all the time simply for the purpose of ordering the
arrest of an accused. What is required, rather, is that the judge
must have sufficient supporting documents (such as the
complaint, affidavits, counter-affidavits, sworn statements of
witnesses or transcript of stenographic notes, if any) upon
which to make his independent judgment or, at the very least,
upon which to verify the findings of the prosecutor as to the
existence of probable cause. The point is: he cannot rely solely
and entirely on the prosecutor's recommendation, as
Respondent Court did in this case. Although the prosecutor
enjoys the legal presumption of regularity in the performance of
his official duties and functions, which in turn gives his report
the presumption of accuracy, the Constitution, we repeat,
commands the judge to personally determine probable cause in
the issuance of warrants of arrest. This Court has consistently
held that a judge fails in his bounden duty if he relies merely on
the certification or the report of the investigating
officer.128 (Emphasis supplied.)
Notably, for purposes of determining the propriety of the
issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge is tasked to merely
determine the probability, not the certainty, of the guilt of the
accused.129 She is given wide latitude of discretion in the
determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of
arrest.130 A finding of probable cause to order the accused's
arrest does not require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient
evidence to procure a conviction.131 It is enough that it is
believed that the act or omission complained of constitutes the
offense charged.132
Again, per the February 23, 2017 Order, respondent judge
evaluated all the evidence presented during the preliminary
investigation and on the basis thereof found probable cause to
issue the warrant of arrest against the petitioner. This is not
surprising given that the only evidence available on record are
those provided by the complainants and the petitioner, in fact,
did not present any counter-affidavit or evidence to controvert
this. Thus, there is nothing to disprove the following preliminary
findings of the DOJ prosecutors relative to the allegations in the
Information filed in Criminal Case No. 17-165:

Thus, from November 2012 to March 2013, De Lima[,] Ragos


and Dayan should be indicted for violation of Section 5, in
relation to Section 3Gj), Section 26(b) and Section 28, of R.A.
9165, owing to the delivery of PS million in two (2) occasions,
on 24 November 2012 and 15 December 2012, to Dayan and
De Lima. The monies came inmate Peter Co [were] proceeds
from illicit drug trade, which were given to support the senatorial
bid of De Lima.

Also in the same period, Dayan demanded from Ragos money


to support the senatorial bid of De Lima. Ragos demanded and
received ₱100,000 tara from each of the high-profile inmates in
exchange for privileges, including their illicit drug trade. Ablen
collected the money for Ragos who, in turn, delivered them to
Dayan at De Lima's residence.133
The foregoing findings of the DOJ find support in the affidavits
and testimonies of several persons. For instance, in his Affidavit
dated September 3, 2016, NBI agent Jovencio P. Ablen, Jr.
narrated, viz.:

21. On the morning of 24 November 2012, I received a call from


Dep. Dir. Ragos asking where I was. I told him I was at home.
He replied that he will fetch me to accompany him on a very
important task.

22. Approximately an hour later, he arrived at my house. I


boarded his vehicle, a Hyundai Tucson, with plate no. RGU910.
He then told me that he will deliver something to the then
Secretary of Justice, Sen. Leila De Lima. He continued and
said "Nior confidential 'to. Tayong dalawa lang ang nakakaalam
nito. Dadalhin natin yung quota kay Lola. SM 'yang nasa bag.
Tingnan mo."
23. The black bag he was referring to was in front of my feet. It
[was a] black handbag. When I opened the bag, I saw bundles
of One Thousand Peso bills. 1âwphi1

24. At about 10 o'clock in the morning, we arrived at the house


located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay
Village, Paranaque City.
25. Dep. Dir. Ragos parked his vehicle in front of the house. We
both alighted the vehicle but he told me to stay. He then
proceeded to the house.

26. From our parked vehicle, I saw Mr. Ronnie Dayan open the
gate. Dep. Dir. Ragos then handed the black handbag
containing bundles of one thousand peso bills to Mr. Dayan.
27. At that time, I also saw the then DOJ Sec. De Lima at the
main door of the house. She was wearing plain clothes which is
commonly known referred to as "duster."

28. The house was elevated from the road and the fence was
not high that is why I was able to clearly see the person at the
main door, that is, Sen. De Lima.

29. When Dep. Dir. Ragos and Mr. Dayan reached the main
door, I saw Mr. Dayan hand the black handbag to Sen. De
Lima, which she received. The three of them then entered the
house.

30. After about thirty (30) minutes, Dep. Dir. Ragos went out of
the house. He no longer has the black handbag with him.

31. We then drove to the BuCor Director's Quarters in


Muntinlupa City. While cruising, Dep. Dir. Ragos told me "Nior
'wag kang maingay kahit kanino at wala kang nakita ha," to
which I replied "Sabi mo e. e di wala akong nakita."

32. On the morning of 15 December 2012, Dep. Dir. Ragos


again fetched me from my house and we proceeded to the
same house located at Laguna Bay comer Subic Bay Drive,
South Bay Village, Paranaque City.

33. That time, I saw a plastic bag in front of my feet. I asked


Dep. Dir. Ragos "Quota na naman Sir?" Dep. Dir. Ragos
replied "Ano pa nga ba, 'tang ina sila lang meron. "134

Petitioner's co-accused, Rafael Ragos, recounted in his own


Affidavit dated September 26, 2016 a similar scenario:

8. One morning on the latter part of November 2012, I saw a


black handbag containing a huge sum of money on my bed
inside the Director's Quarters of the BuCor. I looked inside the
black handbag and saw that it contains bundles of one
thousand peso bills.
9. I then received a call asking me to deliver the black handbag
to Mr. Ronnie Dayan. The caller said the black handbag came
from Peter Co and it contains "Limang Manoi<' which means
Five Million Pesos (Php5,000,000.00) as a "manoR' refers to
One Million Pesos (Php 1,000,000.00) in the vernacular inside
the New Bilibid Prison.

10. As I personally know Mr. Dayan and knows that he stays in


the house of the then DOJ Sec. Leila M. De Lima located at
Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village,
Paranaque City, I knew I had to deliver the black handbag to
Sen. De Lima at the said address.
11. Before proceeding to the house of Sen. De Lima at the
above[-]mentioned address, I called Mr. Ablen to accompany
me in delivering the money. I told him we were going to do an
important task.

12. Mr. Ablen agreed to accompany me so I fetched him from


his house and we proceeded to the house of Sen. De Lima at
the above-mentioned address.

13. While we were in the car, I told Mr. Ablen that the important
task we will do is deliver Five Million Pesos (Php5,000,000.00)
"Quota" to Sen. De Lima. I also told him that the money was in
the black handbag that was on the floor of the passenger seat
(in front of him) and he could check it, to which Mr. Ablen
complied.

14. Before noon, we arrived at the house of Sen. De Lima


located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay
Village, Paranaque City.
15. I parked my vehicle in front of the house. Both Mr. Ablen
and I alighted from the vehicle but I went to the gate alone
carrying the black handbag containing the Five Million Pesos
(Php5,000,000.00).

16. At the gate, Mr. Ronnie Dayan greeted me and opened the
gate for me. I then handed the handbag containing the money
to Mr. Dayan.

17. We then proceeded to the main door of the house where


Sen. De Lima was waiting for us. At the main door, Mr. Dayan
handed the black handbag to Sen. De Lima, who received the
same. We then entered the house.

18. About thirty minutes after, I went out of the house and
proceeded to my quarters at the BuCor, Muntinlupa City.

19. One morning in the middle part of December 2012, I


received a call to again deliver the plastic bag containing money
from Peter Co to Mr. Ronnie Dayan. This time the money was
packed in a plastic bag left on my bed inside my quarters at the
BuCor, Muntinlupa City. From the outside of the bag, I could
easily perceive that it contains money because the bag is
translucent.

20. Just like before, I fetched Mr. Ablen from his house before
proceeding to the house of Sen. De Lima located at Laguna
Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque
City, where I know I could find Mr. Dayan.

21. In the car, Mr. Ablen asked me if we are going to deliver


"quota." I answered yes.
22. We arrived at the house of Sen. De Lima at the above[-
]mentioned address at noontime. I again parked in front of the
house.

23. I carried the plastic bag containing money to the house. At


the gate, I was greeted by Mr. Ronnie Dayan. At that point, I
handed the bag to Mr. Dayan. He received the bag and we
proceeded inside the house.135

The source of the monies delivered to petitioner De Lima was


expressly bared by several felons incarcerated inside the NBP.
Among them is Peter Co, who testified in the following manner:

6. Noong huling bahagi ng 2012, sinabi sa akin ni Hans Tanna


nanghihingi ng kontribusyon sa mga Chinese sa Maximum
Security Compound ng NBP si dating DOJ Sec. De Lima para
sa kanyang planong pagtakbo sa senado sa 2013
Elections. Dalawang beses akong nagbigay ng tig-
P5 Million para tugunan ang hiling ni Sen. De Lima, na
dating DOJ Secretary;

7. Binigay ko ang mga halagang ito kay Hans Tan para


maibigay kay Sen. Leila De Lima na dating DOJ Secretary. Sa
parehong pagkakataon, sinabihan na lang ako ni Hans Tan na
naibigay na ang pera kay Ronnie Dayan na siyang
tumatanggap ng pera para kay dating DOJ Sec. De Lima Sinabi
rin ni Hans Tanna ang nagdeliver ng pera ay si
dating OIC ng BuCor na si Rafael Ragos.

8. Sa kabuuan, nakapagbigay ang mga Chinese sa loob


ng Maximum ng PIO Million sa mga huling bahagi ng
taong 2012 kay dating DOJ Sec. De Lima para sa kanyang
planong pagtakbo sa senado sa 2013 Elections. Ang mga
perang ito ay mula sa pinagbentahan ng illegal na droga.136
All these, at least preliminarily, outline a case for illegal drug
trading committed in conspiracy by the petitioner and her co-
accused. Thus, the Court cannot sustain the allegation that
respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion in
issuing the assailed Order for petitioner's arrest.

Petitioner would later confine herself to the contention that the


prosecution's evidence is inadmissible, provided as they were
by petitioner's co-accused who are convicted felons and whose
testimonies are but hearsay evidence.
Nowhere in Ramos v. Sandiganbayan 137 - the case relied upon
by petitioner - did this Court rule that testimonies given by a co-
accused are of no value. The Court simply held that said
testimonies should be received with great caution, but not that
they would not be considered. The testimony of Ramos' co-
accused was, in fact, admitted in the cited case. Furthermore,
this Court explicitly ruled in Estrada v. Office of the
Ombudsman138that hearsay evidence is admissible during
preliminary investigation. The Court held thusly:
Thus, probable cause can be established with hearsay
evidence, as long as there is substantial basis for crediting the
hearsay. Hearsay evidence is admissible in determining
probable cause in a preliminary investigation because such
investigation is merely preliminary, and does not finally
adjudicate rights and obligations of parties.139 (Emphasis
supplied.)
Verily, the admissibility of evidence,140 their evidentiary weight,
probative value, and the credibility of the witness are matters
that are best left to be resolved in a full-blown trial,141 not during
a preliminary investigation where the technical rules of evidence
are not applied142 nor at the stage of the determination of
probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Thus,
the better alternative is to proceed to the conduct of trial on the
merits for the petitioner and the prosecution to present their
respective evidence in support of their allegations.

With the foregoing disquisitions, the provisional reliefs prayed


for, as a consequence, have to be rejected.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for prohibition


and certiorari is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Regional
Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204 is ordered to proceed
with dispatch with Criminal Case N6.17-165.
SO ORDERED.