|Kung mga tao (Grand Jury) lamang ang humusga sa kaso ni Gloria, di pagduduhan na pamumulitika|
RTC of Pasay is the correct jurisdiction of Gloria’s case
By BERTENI “TOTO” CATALUÑA CAUSING
Editor-in-chief, Dyaryo Magdalo
So many lawyers and laymen are arguing that the Pasay City Regional Trial Court has no jurisdiction over the electoral sabotage case filed against former President-in-fact Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and former Commission on Elections Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol.
By the way, before I proceed, let me make it clear that I prefixed “president-in-fact” to Gloria because she had in in fact served as the president for six years from 2004 to 2010 but she did not win the presidential elections of 2004 and it was deceased Fernando “Da King” Poe Jr. who actually won.
And I state without fear of contradiction: The Regional Trial Court of Pasay City has the exclusive jurisdiction over the electoral sabotage case of Gloria and company in relation to the votes shaving-adding (dagdag-bawas) that took place in the 2007 senatorial elections; and the Sandiganbayan has no authority to hear and decide the same case.
First, it is expressly stated by Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, enacted as Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 on December 3, 1985 that any criminal action or proceeding for violation of the same code.
To be clear, let me quote Section 268, to wit: “Sec. 268. Jurisdiction of courts. - The regional trial court shall have the exclusive original jurisdiction to try and decide any criminal action or proceedings for violation of this Code, except those relating to the offense of failure to register or failure to vote which shall be under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan or municipal trial courts. From the decision of the courts, appeal will lie as in other criminal cases.”
Then, know that the electoral sabotage crime has been deemed included as part of BP Blg. 881 because it was added to this code as election crimes by Republic Act 9369.
By the way, there are three (3) kinds of electoral sabotage defined by RA 9369, and, briefly. In layman’s terms, these three types are:
(a) shaving or adding or not crediting any number of votes that made a losing candidate to a national office win;
(b) shaving or adding or not crediting at least 5,001 votes in a single election document or in transferring from one election document to another and that the act adversely affects the results of the election; and (c) made a losing candidate in any position win; and
(c) shaving or adding or not crediting at least 10,001 votes regardless of the position involved and regardless of whether the favored candidate won or not or regardless of whether the results were adversely affected or not.
The case filed against Gloria, Andal Sr. and Bedol involves the shaving and adding of votes that made all the 12 senatorial candidates of Team Unity (TU) win in Maguindanao province and made all the senatorial bets of Genuine Opposition (GO) lose.
It is recalled that Senator Panfilo Lacson, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and now President Benigno S. Aquino III had zero vote in Maguindanao during that 2007 senatorial elections.
It is also recalled that now Governor Chavit Singson was proclaimed No. 1 in Maguindanao while losing in his own province of Ilocos Sur.
During that 2007 election in Maguindanao, more than 10,000 votes were involved in the shaving of votes from the senatorial candidates of the opposition and adding of votes to all senatorial candidates of Team Unity of Gloria.
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Having known that irrespective of winning or losing and the position involved, shaving or adding or not crediting of 10,001 votes is already a criminal offense of electoral sabotage.
For having benefited from that, is it not that all—to repeat, “all”—candidates then of Team Unity, particualrly Miguel Zubiri, Chavit Singson, Senator Joker Arroyo and Senator Ed Angara must also be charged with electoral sabotage?
Going back to the question of jurisdiction, there are lawyers, including my professor then at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) College of Law, Alan F. Paguia, expressed apprehension that the Pasay RTC may have no jurisdiction over the electoral sabotage case, aside from expressing an idea that the electoral sabotage law is unconstitutional.
But I stand without fear that Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over any election offenses, including electoral sabotage, even if it was committed in relation to the office.
Let it be known that Sandiganbayan was created by virtue of Section 5, Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution that says:
“Section 5. The National Assembly shall create a special court, to be known as Sandiganbayan, which shall have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices and such other offenses committed by public officers and employees, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations, in relation to their office as may be determined by law.”
Then, Section 4 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution re-enacted the same provision by stating as follows:
“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.”
These two constitutional provisions only mean that NOT ALL CRIMES DONE IN RELATION TO THEIR OFFICE ARE TO BE COVERED BY THE JURISDCITION OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN. It means that it covers only those that may be provided by law enacted by the Congress.
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Is there any law that so provides?
Yes, this is Republic Act No. 8249.
Section 4 of RA 8249 states that the Sandiganbayan has the exclusive power to try criminal cases of public officials having salary grade 27 or higher at the time of the commission of the crimes and that the crimes should be graft and corruption cases or other offenses committed in relation to their office.
Does this mean that election crimes committed in relation to the office of the offenders are covered by the Sandiganbayan?
While there are many cases of election offense done in relation to the office and this can be committed by Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and employees or teachers and soldiers or policemen deputized by the Comelec to render election duties, it cannot be legally said that the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over these election offenses.
This is because of the existence of another law, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, or the Omnibus Election Code, whose Section 268 expressly states that the regional trial courts (formerly courts of first instance) shall have exclusive original jurisdcition over criminal action or violation of the code.
Between RA 8249 and BP 881, the former generally applies to offenses commited in relation to the offices while the latter is very specific only on election offenses.
So that if the Omnibus Election Code is pitted against its co-equal RA 8249, then there is no question that the Omnibus Election Code must prevail.
This is because of the legal maxim that says that between two laws that may apply, one that is specific to the matters must prevail.
The other reason that supports the argument that it is the regional trial court that has the jurisdiction over electoral sabotage and other election crimes is the abundance of circumstances of laws showing that the intention of the framers of the Constitution, the 1973 or the 1987, is to make election offenses distinct from the coverage of the general claus “in relation to the office.”
One circumstance is the fact that the creation and empowerment provisions for the Sandiganbayan and the creation and empowerment of the Tanodbayan or the Ombudsman are both found in ONE ARTICLE, under the article providing for “Accountability of Public Officers.” It is Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution. It is Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.
This circumstance infers the intention of the framers of the constitution that they want the Office of the Ombudsman to be made for the Sandiganbayan and the Sandiganbayan to be made for the Ombudsman. The two must work in tandem in obedience to the natural purpose of making each effective in performing their functions and exercising their powers.
One more circumstance shows that there is nothing stated about election offenses in the article where the Sandiganbayan and Tanodbayan or Ombudsman provisions are found.
Another circumstance is the fact that election offenses are stated in a separate article of the Constitution, Article IX of the 1987 Constitution and Article XII of the 1973 Constitution. So that if it is separated by the framers, it means more that they did not intend for the election offense to be covered by the Sandiganbayan.
To borrow the reasoning of the Supreme Court, it ruled that the appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona to the position of Chief Justice is not covered by the prohibition on midnight appointments because the appointment of the Chief Justice and the prohibition against midnight appointment are found in separate articles of the 1987 Constitution.
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Another circumstance is this.
The Office of the Ombudsman is empowered with the exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and file criminal cases done in relation to the office of the offenders, including murders if done by a policeman responding in a police operation, like cases when the arrested person already surrendered but the cop still shot that person dead.
On the other hand, the Constitution gives exclusive jurisdiction to the Comelec to investigation and file election crimes.
This separation by the Constitution of exclusive jurisdicitons over crimes done “in relation to the office” and election offenses is the loudest show of intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution that they made the election offenses as one type distinct form those done “in relation to the office.”
Still another circumstances is the fact that the laws gave only to the Office of the Ombudsman the exclusive authority to file before the Sandiganbayan and that there is no law that gives the Comelec the power to file before the Sandiganbayan election criminal cases. It means that the Ombudsman is the prosecuting arm of the Sandiganbayan.
Additionally, the Office of the Ombudsman has no power to file cases of election crimes because the 1987 Constitution expressly gives this power to the Comelec.
Moreover, there is no law that expressly vests jurisdiction to the Sandiganbayan the power to hear and decide election offenses. As such, it cannot touch them. This is because it is a doctrine that jurisdictions cannot be presumed or cannot be assumed and they must be expressly given by law or the Constitution.
Besides, it is not totaly repugnant or not totaly offensive to the general constitutional provision of “crimes committed in relation to the office” and RA 8249 if the provision of Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code is to be made an exception to that general constitutional provision.
Hence, under the principle that if one law can be harmonized with another, the two laws must be respected and given effect. And the only way to do this is to give effect to Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code and give effect to RA 8249 at the same time.
To allow the election offenses committed by Comelec officials to be tried by the Sandiganbayan because they, no doubt, committed the acts in relation to their office, and at the same time allow their co-conspirators not employees or not deputized by the Comelec to be tried by the regional trial courts will sow confusion, open the floodgates to controversies, defeat the Constitutional provision on “speedy trial,” and open the possibility of Sandiganbayan decisions contradicting the decisions of the regional trial courts.
It stands to reason, therefore, that only one court should have jurisdiction. And by parity of reasoning and preponderance of the laws favoring it, it is the regional trial courts that should try election offenses, even if they were committed in relation to the offices.
And of all regional trial courts, why it should be in the Pasay RTC?
The crime of electoral sabotage of the 2007 senatorial election is deemed to have occurred in Pasay City because the national canvassing was done in the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and that PICC is located in Pasay City.
Criminal law is territorial. Where a crime occurred, there it tried.
Rogelio De Jesus vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. L-61998, February 22, 1983 and Natividad Corpus, et al vs. Tanodbayan, G.R. No. L-62075, April 15, 1987.
WHY NOT INCLUDE IN ELECTORAL SABOTAGE CASE ALL SENATORIAL CANDIDATES OF TEAM UNITY OF GLORIA DURING THE 2007 ELECTIONS?
The cheaters did not become one-inch less of the cheater just because they did not win.
Even if cheater never won, his act is always as despicable as Miguel Zubiri’s win.