371 Phil. 1

EN BANC

[ G.R. Nos. 105965-70, August 09, 1999 ]

GEORGE UY, PETITIONER, VS. SANDIGANBAYAN, OMBUDSMAN AND ROGER C. BERBANO, SR., SPECIAL PROSECUTION OFFICER III, OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

PARDO, J.:

This petition for certiorari and prohibition seeks to annul and set aside the resolution[1] of the Sandiganbayan denying petitioner's motion to quash the six (6) informations charging him with violation of Section 3 (e), R.A. No. 3019, as amended, and to permanently enjoin the respondents from proceeding with the criminal cases insofar as petitioner is involved.

At times material hereto, petitioner was Deputy Comptroller of the Philippine Navy. He was designated by his immediate supervisor, Captain Luisito F. Fernandez, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff for Comptrollership, to act on the latter's behalf, during his absence, on matters relating to the activities of the Fiscal Control Branch, O/NG. This included the authority to sign disbursement vouchers relative to the procurement of equipment needed by the Philippine Navy.

On July 2, 1991, six (6) informations for estafa through falsification of official documents and one (1) information for violation of Section 3 (e), R.A. No. 3019, as amended, were filed with the Sandiganbayan against petitioner and nineteen (19) co-accused, namely: (Ret.) Bgen. Mario S. Espina (then Assistant Secretary for Installations and Logistics, Department of National Defense), (Ret.) Rear Admiral Simeon M. Alejandro (then Flag Officer in Command, Philippine Navy), CDR Rodolfo Guanzon, CDR Erlindo A. Erolin, CAPT. Manual Ison (then Commander of the Naval Supply Center, Philippine Navy), CAPT. Andres Andres, LCDR Gilmer B. Batestil, LCDR Jose Alberto I. Velasco, Jr., LTSG Edgar L. Abogado, LT. Teddy O. Pan, LT. Ronald O. Sison, Reynaldo Paderna (Chief Accountant), Antonio Guda (Supply Accountable Officer, Fort San Felipe, Cavite, Philippine Navy), Loida T. Del Rosario (Typist), Marissa Bantigue (owner of MAR GEN Enterprise), Avelina Avila (owner of Avelina Avila General Merchandise), Jenis B. Bantigue (owner of JAB GEN Merchandise), Maria M. Capule (owner of MM Capule Enterprise) and Andrea C. Antonio (owner of AC Antonio Enterprise).

On September 20, 1991, the Sandiganbayan issued an Order[2] directing a comprehensive re-investigation of the cases against all the twenty (20) accused.

After conducting the re-investigation, the Special Prosecutor issued an Order[3] dated November 14, 1991 recommending that the informations for estafa through falsification of official documents be withdrawn and in lieu thereof, informations for violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended, be filed against eleven (11) accused,[4] which included the petitioner.

In a Memorandum[5] dated December 5, 1991, Special Prosecutor Aniano A. Desierto reduced the number of those to be charged under R.A. No. 3019, as amended, to five (5),[6] including petitioner.

Acting on the separate motions for reconsideration of the five (5) remaining accused, the Special Prosecutor issued an Order[7] dated February 18, 1992 dropping two (2) more names[8] from the five (5) officers recommended for prosecution, and recommending that six (6) separate informations for violation of Section 3(e), R.A. 3019, as amended, be filed against the petitioner, LCMDR. Rodolfo Guanzon and LT. Teddy Pan. Except for the variance in the Purchase Order numbers involved and the Payees,[9] the six (6) amended informations[10] filed by Special Prosecutor Officer III Roger C. Berbano, Sr. recite identical allegations, viz:
"That on or about November 1985, and for sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, CDR. Rodolfo Guanzon, being then the Procurement Officer, Philippine Navy, LCDR. George Uy, being then the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Comptrollership, Philippine Navy and Lt. Teddy O. Pan, being then the Naval Group Inspector, Philippine Navy, all public officials, and committing the offense in relation to their office, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally, through evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence, cause undue injury to the Government, and in the exercise of their separate official functions, to wit: accused Guanzon initiated/prepared the Abstract of Canvass and Recommendation of Awards, Certificate of Emergency Purchase and Reasonableness of Price, signed the PO, DV, validated PO No. x x x, accused Uy signed the DV in behalf of the Assistant Chief of Naval Comptrollership, accused Pan as N6 conducted the pre-audit and affixed his signature on the same P.O., the Sales Invoice and Technical Inspection Report -- which documents said accused had the duty to check/verify/examined, thereby `acting or omitting to act' in a situation where there is a duty to act, in that only 100 seal rings were ordered at a unit price of P98.70, yet 1,000 pieces appear to have been sold with total price of P98,700.00, hence there was gross error in multiplication as shown on the face of the aforesaid PO and other supporting documents, resulting to an overpayment of P88,930.00 to x x x, thereby depriving the Government/Philippine Navy of the use thereof until its remittance/return to the Government/Philippine Navy by x x x in December, 1991."
On April 21, 1992, the petitioner filed with the Sandiganbayan a motion to quash[11] the informations on the following grounds:
  1. The Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over the offense charged or the person of the accused.

  2. The officer who has filed the informations had no authority to do so.

  3. The facts charged do not constitute an offense.

  4. More than one (1) offense is charged.
On June 10, 1992, the Sandiganbayan issued the now-assailed Resolution denying petitioner's motion to quash for lack of merit. It passed upon the grounds set forth by petitioner in this wise:
"On the first issue raised by accused-movant, we are not inclined to rule that this Court has no jurisdiction over the person of accused-movant or over the offenses charged herewith. As intimated by the prosecution, this Court has several cases pending before it involving crimes committed by military officers in relation to their office. Unless and until the Highest Tribunal rules otherwise, this Court has no judicious recourse but to entertain and try the various criminal cases filed by the Office of the Special Prosecutor involving military officers and men accused of committing crimes `in relation to their office,' and those involving violation of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Be that as it may, being prosecuted for violation of R.A. 3019, as amended, Accused-movant axiomatically is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court.

We cannot likewise sustain accused-movant's stance that the officer who has filed the informations in the cases at bar had no authority to do so. Both the offense charged and the person of accused-movant being within the exclusive jurisdiction of this Court, it stands to reason that the preliminary investigation and prosecution of the instant criminal charges belong to, and are the exclusive prerogatives of, the Office of the Ombudsman, as provided for in Section 15(1) of Republic Act No. 6770.

Neither are we impressed with the asseveration that the acts charged in the amended informations at bar do not constitute an offense. Such a claim cannot stand in the face of unequivocal rulings of the Supreme Court, thus:
`The fundamental rule in considering a motion to quash on the ground that the averments of the information are not sufficient to constitute the offense charged is whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, would meet the essential elements of the offense, as defined in the law. (People v. Segovia, 103 Phil. 1162).'

`As a general proposition, too, a motion to quash on the ground that the allegations in the information do not constitute the offense charged, or of any offense for that matter, should be resolved on the basis alone of said allegations whose truth and veracity are hypothetically admitted. (People v. Navarro, 75 Phil. 516).'

`The general rule is that in resolving the motion to quash a criminal complaint or information, the facts alleged therein should be taken as they are. This is especially so if the motion to quash is based on the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, but he court may consider additional facts which the fiscal admits to be true. (People v. Navarro, supra).'
In consonance with the foregoing doctrinal pronouncements, the quashal of the informations at bar cannot be sustained since they are sufficient in form and substance to charge indictable offenses. Parenthetically, some of the arguments relied upon by accused-movant refer more to evidentiary matters, the determination of which are not yet legally feasible at this juncture and should only be raised during the trial on the merits.

Finally, We find no merit in the argument that more than one offense is charged in the criminal informations at bar. Precisely, the prosecution split the original information into six (6) distinct amended informations pertaining to six (6) criminal violations of Section 3 (e) of R.A. 3019, as amended. Such is but proper under the premises considering that the acts subject of the criminal cases at bar were allegedly committed on six (6) different purchase orders and there is no showing that they were committed on similar dates or singular occasion."
In the instant petition, petitioner raises the following issues:
1) Whether or not the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the subject criminal cases or the person of the petitioner;

2) Whether or not the respondents Ombudsman and Special Prosecutor have the authority to file the questioned amended information;

3) Whether or not the act or omission charged constitutes an offense.
On the issue of jurisdiction, petitioner and the Solicitor General submit that it is the court-martial, not the Sandiganbayan, which has jurisdiction to try petitioner. Emphasizing the fundamental doctrine that the jurisdiction of a court is determined by the statute in force at the time of the commencement of the action, they claim that at the time the amended informations were filed on July 2, 1991, the controlling law on the jurisdiction over members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is P.D. 1850, "Providing for the trial by courts-martial of members of the Integrated National Police and further defining the jurisdiction of courts-martial over members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines" (which took effect on October 4, 1982), as amended by P.D. 1952 (which took effect in September of 1984), more particularly Section 1(b) thereof provides:
"Section 1. Court Martial Jurisdiction over Integrated National Police and Members of the Armed Forces. -- Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, (a) uniformed members of the Integrated National Police who commit any crime or offense cognizable by the civil courts shall henceforth be exclusively tried by courts-martial pursuant to and in accordance with Commonwealth Act No. 408, as amended, otherwise known as the Articles of War; (b) all persons subject to military law under Article 2 of the aforecited Articles of War who commit any crime or offense shall be exclusively tried by courts-martial or their case disposed of under the said Articles of War; Provided, that, in either of the aforementioned situations, the case shall be disposed of or tried by the proper civil or judicial authorities when court-martial jurisdiction over the offense has prescribed under Article 38 of Commonwealth Act Numbered 408, as amended, or court-martial jurisdiction over the person of the accused military or Integrated National Police personnel can no longer be exercised by virtue of their separation from the active service without jurisdiction having duly attached beforehand unless otherwise provided by law: Provided, further, that the President may, in the interest of Justice, order or direct, at any time before arraignment, that a particular case be tried by the appropriate civil court.

As used herein, the term uniformed members of the Integrated National Police shall refer to police officers, policemen, firemen, and jail guards." (underscoring ours).
Since petitioner is a regular officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he falls squarely under Article 2 of the Articles of War (C.A. 408, as amended) mentioned in the aforecited Section 1(b) of P.D. 1850. Article 2 reads:
"Article 2: Persons subject to Military Law. -- The following persons are subject to these Articles and shall be understood as included in the term `any person subject to military law' or `person subject to military law; whenever used in these articles:
(a)
All officers, members of the Nurse Corps and soldiers belonging to the Regular Force of the Philippine Army; all reservists, from the dates of their call to active duty and while on such active duty; all trainees undergoing military instruction; and all other persons lawfully called, drafted, or ordered into, or to duty or for training in, the said service, from the dates they are required by the terms of the call, draft, or order to obey the same; x x x."
Petitioner and the Solicitor General concede the subsequent passage of Republic Act No. 7055, "An Act Strengthening Civilian Supremacy over the military by returning to the civil courts the jurisdiction over certain offenses involving members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, other persons subject to military law, and the members of the Philippine National Police, repealing for the purpose certain presidential decrees" (which took effect on July 13, 1991) which expressly repealed P.D. 1850. Section 1 of R.A. No. 7055 reads:
"SECTION 1. Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other persons subject to military law, including members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units, who commit crimes or offenses penalized under the Revised Penal Code, other special penal law, or local government ordinances, regardless of whether or not civilians are co-accused, victims, or offended parties which may be natural or judicial persons, shall be tried by the proper civil court, except when the offense, as determined before arraignment by the civil court, is service-connected, in which case the offense shall be tried by court-martial: Provided, That the President of the Philippines may, in the interest of justice, order or direct at any time before arraignment that any such crimes or offenses be tried by the proper civil courts.

As used in this Section, service-connected crimes or offenses shall be limited to those defined in Articles 54 to 70, Articles 72 to 92 and Articles 95 to 97 of Commonwealth Act No. 408, as amended.

In imposing the penalty for such crimes or offenses, the court-martial may take into consideration the penalty prescribed therefor in the Revised Penal Code, other special laws, or local government ordinances."
They nonetheless argue that petitioner's case falls within the exception provided for in said Section 1 of R.A. No. 7055, and, therefore, still cognizable by courts-martial, since the alleged commission of the offense for which petitioner is charged with is "service-connected."

We rule that the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over petitioner, at the time of the filing of the informations, and as now prescribed by law.

Republic Act No. 8249,[12] the latest amendment to P.D. 1606[13] creating the Sandiganbayan (otherwise known as the "Sandiganbayan Law"), provides the prevailing scope of the Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction. The pertinent portions of Section 4 of the Sandiganbayan Law read:
"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:

x x x x x x x x x

"(d.) Philippine army and air force colonels, naval captains, and all officers of higher rank;
x x x x x x x x x

It can be deduced from said provisions of law that both the nature of the offense and the position occupied by the accused are conditions sine qua non before the Sandiganbayan can validly take cognizance of the case.

In the instant case, while petitioner is charged with violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended, which is an offense covered by Section 4 of the Sandiganbayan Law, his position as Lieutenant Commander (LCMDR.) of the Philippine Navy is a rank lower than "naval captains and all officer of higher rank" as prescribed under sub-paragraph (d) of Section 4. Under the Promotions System in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the hierarchy in the position/rank of the officers of the Philippine Navy is as follows:
1. Admiral
2. Vice-Admiral
3. Rear Admiral
4. Commodore
5. Captain
6. Commander
7. Lieutenant Commander
8. Lieutenant Senior Grade
9. Lieutenant Junior Grade
10. Ensign
Thus, not falling within the "rank" requirement stated in Section 4, exclusive jurisdiction over petitioner is vested in the regular courts pursuant to the provision of Section 4 of the Sandiganbayan Law, as amended by R.A. No. 8249, which states that "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 officers mentioned above, exclusive original 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 jurisdictions as provided in Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended."

Consequently, it is the regional trial court that has jurisdiction over the offense charged. Under Section 9 of R. A. No. 3019, as amended, the commission of any of the unlawful acts or omissions enumerated in Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of this Act shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than SIX YEARS AND ONE MONTH or FIFTEEN YEARS. The indictment against petitioner cannot fall within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts and municipal circuit trial courts because under Republic Act No. 7691 which amended certain provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 by expanding the jurisdiction of said inferior courts, they "exercise 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, including the civil liability arising from such offenses or predicated thereon, irrespective of kind, nature, value or amount thereof x x x." This draws the case into the domain of the regional trial courts which, under Section 20 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, "shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction in all criminal cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal or body, except those now falling under the exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan which shall hereafter be exclusively taken cognizance of by the latter."

It is not correct that under R.A. No. 7055, the courts-martial retain jurisdiction over petitioner's case since the offense for which he is charged is "service-connected." The second paragraph of Section 1 of R. A. No. 7055 limits the nature of "service-connected crimes or offenses" to those defined only in Articles 54 to 70, 72 to 92 and 95 to 97 of Commonwealth Act No. 408, as amended,[14] to wit: Fraudulent enlistment, making Unlawful Enlistment, False Muster, False Returns, Desertion, Advising or Aiding Another to Desert, Entertaining a Deserter, Absence Without Leave, Disrespect towards the President, Vice-President and National Assembly, Disrespect toward Superior Officer, Insubordinate Conduct toward Non-Commissioned Officer, Mutiny or Sedition, Failure to Suppress Mutiny or Sedition, Quarrels; Frays; Disorders, Breaking an Arrest or Escaping from Confinement, Refusal to Receive and Keep Prisoners, Failure to make a Report of Prisoners Received, Releasing prisoners without proper authority, Failure to Deliver offenders to Civil Authorities, Misbehavior Before the Enemy, Subordinates Compelling Commander to Surrender, Improper Use of Countersign, Forcing a Safeguard, Neglect or Wrongful Appropriation of Captured Property, Dealing in Captured or Abandoned Property, Relieving, Corresponding with, or Aiding the Enemy, Spies, Damage/Wrongful Disposition of Military Property, Waste or Unlawful Disposition of Military Property, Drunk on Duty, Misbehavior of Sentinel, Personal Interest in Sale of Provisions, Intimidation of Persons Bringing Provisions, Good Order to be Maintained and Wrong Redressed, Provoking Speeches or Gestures, Dueling, Fraud against the Government Affecting Matters and Equipment, Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman, and All Disorders and Neglects to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline and All Conduct of a Nature to Bring Discredit Upon the Military Services. None of these offenses relates to acts or omissions constituting a violation of Section 3 (e), R.A. No. 3019, as amended which reads:
"Sec. 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. - In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

x x x

(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions."
In this connection, it is the prosecutor, not the Ombudsman, who has the authority to file the corresponding information/s against petitioner in the regional trial court. The Ombudsman exercises prosecutorial powers only in cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan.[15]

WHEREFORE, the Resolution of the Sandiganbayan dated June 10, 1992 in Criminal Cases Nos. 16905-16910, is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. In lieu thereof, the Sandiganbayan is ordered to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 16905-16910, and to inform this Court of the action taken hereon within fifteen (15) days from finality of this decision.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.



[1] Penned by Justice Romeo M. Escareal and concurred in by Justices Augusto M. Amores and Sabino R. De Leon, Jr., Rollo, Annex "A", pp. 36-47.

[2] Records, Vol. 2, pp. 614-615.

[3] Rollo, Annex "C", pp. 62-80.

[4] LCDR Rodolfo Guanzon, CMDR. Erlindo Erolin, CAPT. Manuel Izon, CAPT. Andres Andres, LCMDR. Jose Velasco, Reynaldo Paderna, LCMDR. George Uy, LCMDR. Gilmer Batestil, LT. Edgar Abogado, LT. Teddy Pan and LT. Ronaldo Sison.

[5] Records, Vol. 2, pp. 724-731.

[6] BGEN. Mario Espina, REAR ADMIRAL Simeon Alejandro, LCMDR. Rodolfo Guanzon, LCMDR. George Uy and LT. Teddy Pan.

[7] Rollo, Annex "B", pp. 48-50.

[8] BGEN. Mario Espina and Rear Admiral Simeon Alejandro.

[9] In Criminal Case No. 16905, the information involves Purchase Order No. ICE-0173-E-85 [C] and the payee is Maria Capule; In Criminal Case No. 16906, the information involves Purchase Order No. ICE-0173-E-85 [B] and the payee is Jenis Bantigue; In Criminal Case No. 16907, the information involves Purchase Order No. ICE-0173-E-85 [A] and the payee is Andrea C. Antonio; In Criminal Case No. 16908, the information involves Purchase Order No. ICE-0171-E-85 [B] and the payee is Marissa Bantigue; In Criminal Case No. 16909, the information involves Purchase Order No. ICE-0171-E-85 [C] and the payee is Avelina Avila; In Criminal Case No. 16910, the information involves Purchase Order No. ICE-0171-E-85 [A] and the payee is Andrea C. Antonio.

[10] Rollo, Annexes D, E, F, G, H and I, pp. 82-99.

[11] Rollo, Annex "J", pp. 100-119.

[12] Which took effect in February of 1997.

[13] Took effect on December 10, 1978. P.D. 1606 expressly repealed P.D. 1486 which originally created the Sandiganbayan.

[14] By R.A. Nos. 242 and 516.

[15] See Section 15, Republic Act No. 6770, "An Act Providing for the Functional and Structural Organization of the Office of the Ombudsman, and for other purposes."



Source: Supreme Court E-Library
This page was dynamically generated by the E-Library Content Management System (E-LibCMS)