JOSE JINGGOY E. ESTRADA, Petitioner, v. SANDIGANBAYAN (THIRD DIVISION), PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
A law may not be constitutionally infirm but its application to a particular party may be unconstitutional. This is the submission of the petitioner who invokes the equal protection clause of the Constitution in his bid to be excluded from the charge of plunder filed against him by the respondent Ombudsman.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
In November 2000, as an offshoot of the impeachment proceedings against Joseph Ejercito Estrada, then President of the Republic of the Philippines, five criminal complaints against the former President and members of his family, his associates, friends and conspirators were filed with the respondent Office of the Ombudsman.
The Information was amended and filed on
On April 30, 2001, petitioner filed a Very Urgent Omnibus Motion2 alleging that: (1) no probable cause exists to put him on trial and hold him liable for plunder, it appearing that he was only allegedly involved in illegal gambling and not in a series or combination of overt or criminal acts as required in R.A. No. 7080; and (2) he is entitled to bail as a matter of right. Petitioner prayed that he be excluded from the Amended Information and be discharged from custody. In the alternative, petitioner also prayed that he be allowed to post bail in an amount to be fixed by respondent court.3cräläwvirtualibräry
On June 28, 2001, petitioner filed a Motion to Resolve Mayor Jose Jinggoy Estradas Motion To Fix Bail On Grounds That An Outgoing Mayor Loses Clout An Incumbent Has And That On Its Face, the Facts Charged In The Information Do Not Make Out A Non-Bailable Offense As To Him.4cräläwvirtualibräry
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court hereby DENIES for lack of merit the following: (1) MOTION TO QUASH AND SUSPEND dated April 24, 2001 filed by accused Jose Jinggoy Estrada; (2) MOTION TO QUASH dated June 7, 2001 filed by accused Joseph Ejercito Estrada; and (3) MOTION TO QUASH (Re: Amended Information dated 18 April 2001) dated June 26, 2001 filed by accused Edward S. Serapio.
Considering the denial of the MOTION TO QUASH AND SUSPEND of accused Jose Jinggoy Estrada, his VERY URGENT OMNIBUS MOTION, praying that he be: (1) dropped from the information for plunder for want of probable cause and (2) discharged from custody immediately which is based on the same grounds mentioned in this MOTION TO QUASH AND SUSPEND is hereby DENIED. Let his alternative prayer in said OMNIBUS MOTION that he be allowed to post bail be SET for hearing together with the petition for bail of accused Edward S. Serapio scheduled for July 10, 2001, at 2:00 oclock in the afternoon after the arraignment of all the accused.7cräläwvirtualibräry
The following day,
Hence, this petition. Petitioner claims that respondent Sandiganbayan acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in:
1) not declaring that R.A. No. 7080 is unconstitutional on its face and, as applied to petitioner, and denying him the equal protection of the laws;
2) not holding that the Plunder Law does not provide complete and sufficient standards;
3) sustaining the charge against petitioner for alleged offenses, and with alleged conspirators, with which and with whom he is not even remotely connected - contrary to the dictum that criminal liability is personal, not vicarious - results in the denial of substantive due process;
4) not fixing bail for petitioner for alleged involvement in jueteng in one count of the information which amounts to cruel and unusual punishment totally in defiance of the principle of proportionality.9cräläwvirtualibräry
We shall resolve the arguments of petitioner in seriatim.
Petitioner contends that R.A. No. 7080 is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to him and denies him the equal protection of the laws.10cräläwvirtualibräry
The contention deserves our scant attention. The constitutionality of R.A. No. 7080, the Anti-Plunder Law, has been settled in the case of Estrada v. Sandiganbayan.11 We take off from the Amended Information which charged petitioner, together with former President Joseph E. Estrada, Atty. Edward Serapio, Charlie Atong Ang, Yolanda T. Ricaforte and others, with the crime of plunder as follows:
The undersigned Ombudsman Prosecutor and OIC-Director, EPIB Office of the Ombudsman, hereby accuses former PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES, Joseph Ejercito Estrada a.k.a. ASIONG SALONGA AND a.k.a JOSE VELARDE, together with Jose Jinggoy Estrada, Charlie Atong Ang, Edward Serapio, Yolanda T. Ricaforte, Alma Alfaro, JOHN DOE a.k.a. Eleuterio Tan OR Eleuterio Ramos Tan or Mr. Uy, Jane Doe a.k.a. Delia Rajas, and John DOES & Jane Does, of the crime of Plunder, defined and penalized under R.A. No. 7080, as amended by Sec. 12 of R.A. No. 7659, committed as follows:
That during the period from June, 1998 to January, 2001, in the Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Joseph Ejercito Estrada, THEN A PUBLIC OFFICER, BEING THEN THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, by himself AND/OR in CONNIVANCE/CONSPIRACY with his co-accused, WHO ARE MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY, RELATIVES BY AFFINITY OR CONSANGUINITY, BUSINESS ASSOCIATES, SUBORDINATES AND/OR OTHER PERSONS, BY TAKING UNDUE ADVANTAGE OF HIS OFFICIAL POSITION, AUTHORITY, RELATIONSHIP, CONNECTION, OR INFLUENCE, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally amass, accumulate and acquire BY HIMSELF, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount OR TOTAL VALUE of FOUR BILLION NINETY SEVEN MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED FOUR THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE PESOS AND SEVENTEEN CENTAVOS [P4,097,804,173.17], more or less, THEREBY UNJUSTLY ENRICHING HIMSELF OR THEMSELVES AT THE EXPENSE AND TO THE DAMAGE OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, through ANY OR A combination OR A series of overt OR criminal acts, OR SIMILAR SCHEMES OR MEANS, described as follows:
(a) by receiving OR collecting, directly or indirectly, on SEVERAL INSTANCES, MONEY IN THE AGGREGATE AMOUNT OF FIVE HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE MILLION PESOS (P545,000,000.00), MORE OR LESS, FROM ILLEGAL GAMBLING IN THE FORM OF GIFT, SHARE, PERCENTAGE, KICKBACK OR ANY FORM OF PECUNIARY BENEFIT, BY HIMSELF AND/OR in connivance with co-accused CHARLIE ATONG ANG, Jose Jinggoy Estrada, Yolanda T. Ricaforte, Edward Serapio, AN (sic) JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES, in consideration OF TOLERATION OR PROTECTION OF ILLEGAL GAMBLING;
(b) by DIVERTING, RECEIVING, misappropriating, converting OR misusing DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, for HIS OR THEIR PERSONAL gain and benefit, public funds in the amount of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY MILLION PESOS [P130,000,000.00], more or less, representing a portion of the TWO HUNDRED MILLION PESOS [P200,000,000] tobacco excise tax share allocated for the Province of Ilocor Sur under R.A. No. 7171, BY HIMSELF AND/OR in CONNIVANCE with co-accused Charlie Atong Ang, Alma Alfaro, JOHN DOE a.k.a. Eleuterio Tan OR Eleuterio Ramos Tan or Mr. Uy, and Jane Doe a.k.a. Delia Rajas, AND OTHER JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES;
(c) by directing, ordering and compelling, FOR HIS PERSONAL GAIN AND BENEFIT, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) TO PURCHASE 351,878,000 SHARES OF STOCK MORE OR LESS, and the Social Security System (SSS), 329,855,000 SHARES OF STOCK MORE OR LESS, OF THE BELLE CORPORATION IN THE AMOUNT OF MORE OR LESS ONE BILLION ONE HUNDRED TWO MILLION NINE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED SEVEN PESOS AND FIFTY CENTAVOS [P1,102,965,607.50] AND MORE OR LESS SEVEN HUNDRED FORTY FOUR MILLION SIX HUNDRED TWELVE THOUSAND AND FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY PESOS [P744,612,450.00], RESPECTIVELY, OR A TOTAL OF MORE OR LESS ONE BILLION EIGHT HUNDRED FORTY SEVEN MILLION FIVE HUNDRED SEVENTY EIGHT THOUSAND FIFTY SEVEN PESOS AND FIFTY CENTAVOS [P1,847,578,057.50]; AND BY COLLECTING OR RECEIVING, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, BY HIMSELF AND/OR IN CONNIVANCE WITH JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES, COMMISSIONS OR PERCENTAGES BY REASON OF SAID PURCHASES OF SHARES OF STOCK IN THE AMOUNT OF ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY NINE MILLION SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS [P189,700,000.00], MORE OR LESS, FROM THE BELLE CORPORATION WHICH BECAME PART OF THE DEPOSIT IN THE EQUITABLE-PCI BANK UNDER THE ACCOUNT NAME JOSE VELARDE;
(d) by unjustly enriching himself FROM COMMISSIONS, GIFTS, SHARES, PERCENTAGES, KICKBACKS, OR ANY FORM OF PECUNIARY BENEFITS, IN CONNIVANCE WITH JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES, in the amount of MORE OR LESS THREE BILLION TWO HUNDRED THIRTY THREE MILLION ONE HUNDRED FOUR THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE PESOS AND SEVENTEEN CENTAVOS [P3,233,104,173.17] AND DEPOSITING THE SAME UNDER HIS ACCOUNT NAME JOSE VELARDE AT THE EQUITABLE-PCI BANK.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Manila for Quezon
Petitioners contention that R.A. No. 7080 is unconstitutional as applied to him is principally perched on the premise that the Amended Information charged him with only one act or one offense which cannot constitute plunder. He then assails the denial of his right to bail.
Petitioners premise is patently false. A careful examination of the Amended Information will show that it is divided into three (3) parts: (1) the first paragraph charges former President Joseph E. Estrada with the crime of plunder together with petitioner Jose Jinggoy Estrada, Charlie Atong Ang, Edward Serapio, Yolanda Ricaforte and others; (2) the second paragraph spells out in general terms how the accused conspired in committing the crime of plunder; and (3) the following four sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) describe in detail the predicate acts constitutive of the crime of plunder pursuant to items (1) to (6) of R.A. No. 7080, and state the names of the accused who committed each act.
Pertinent to the case at bar is the predicate act alleged in
sub-paragraph (a) of the Amended Information which is of receiving or
collecting, directly or indirectly, on several instances, money in the
aggregate amount of
It matters little that sub-paragraph (a) did not utilize the exact words combination or series as they appear in R.A. No. 7080. For in Estrada v. Sandiganbayan,13 we held that where these two terms are to be taken in their popular, not technical, meaning, the word series is synonymous with the clause on several instances. Series refers to a repetition of the same predicate act in any of the items in Section 1 (d) of the law. The word combination contemplates the commission of at least any two different predicate acts in any of said items. Plainly, sub-paragraph (a) of the Amended Information charges petitioner with plunder committed by a series of the same predicate act under Section 1 (d) (2) of the law.
Similarly misleading is petitioners stand that in the Ombudsman
Resolution of April 4, 2001 finding probable cause to charge him with plunder
together with the other accused, he was alleged to have received only the sum
of P2 million, which amount is way below the minimum of P50 million required
under R.A. No. 7080. The submission is
not borne out by the
x x x
Respondent Jose Jinggoy Estrada, the present Mayor of San Juan, Metro Manila, appears to have also surreptitious collection of protection money from jueteng operations in Bulacan. This is gleaned from the statements of Gov. Singson himself and the fact that Mayor Estrada, on at least two occasions, turned over to a certain Emma Lim, an emissary of the respondent governor, jueteng haul totalling P2 million, i.e., P1 million in January, 2000 and another P1 million in February, 2000. An alleged listahan of jueteng recipients listed him as one Jingle Bell, as affirmed by Singson [TSN 8 & Dec. 2000 SICt/17 Oct. 2000 SBRC/SCI].14cräläwvirtualibräry
Hence, contrary to the representations of the petitioner, the Ombudsman made the finding that P2 million was delivered to petitioner as jueteng haul on at least two occasions. The P2 million is, therefore, not the entire sum with which petitioner is specifically charged. This is further confirmed by the conclusion of the Ombudsman that:
x x x
It is clear that Joseph Ejercito Estrada, in confabulation with Jose Jinggoy Estrada, Atty. Edward Serapio and Yolanda Ricaforte, demanded and received, as bribe money, the aggregate sum of P545 million from jueteng collections of the operators thereof, channeled thru Gov. Luis Chavit Singson, in exchange for protection from arrest or interference by law enforcers; x x x.15cräläwvirtualibräry
To be sure, it is too late in the day for the petitioner to argue that the Ombudsman failed to establish any probable cause against him for plunder. The respondent Sandiganbayan itself has found probable cause against the petitioner for which reason it issued a warrant of arrest against him. Petitioner then underwent arraignment and is now on trial. The time to assail the finding of probable cause by the Ombudsman has long passed. The issue cannot be resurrected in this petition.
Next, petitioner contends that the plunder law does not provide sufficient and complete standards to guide the courts in dealing with accused alleged to have contributed to the offense.16 Thus, he posits the following questions:
For example, in an Information for plunder which cites at least ten criminal acts, what penalty do we impose on one who is clearly involved in only one such criminal act? Is it reclusion perpetua? Or should it be a lesser penalty? What if another accused is shown to have participated in three of the ten specifications, what would be the penalty imposable, compared to one who may have been involved in five or seven of the specifications? The law does not provide the standard or specify the penalties and the courts are left to guess. In other words, the courts are called to say what the law is rather than to apply what the lawmaker is supposed to have intended.17cräläwvirtualibräry
Petitioner raises these hypothetical questions for he labors hard under the impression that: (1) he is charged with only one act or offense and (2) he has not conspired with the other accused named in sub-paragraphs (b) to (d) of the Amended Information, ergo, the penalty imposable on him ought to be different from reclusion perpetua to death. R.A. No. 7080, he bewails, is cloudy on the imposable penalty on an accused similarly situated as he is. Petitioner, however, overlooks that the second paragraph of the Amended Information charges him to have conspired with former President Estrada in committing the crime of plunder. His alleged participation consists in the commission of the predicate acts specified in sub-paragraph (a) of the Amended Information. If these allegations are proven, the penalty of petitioner cannot be unclear. It will be no different from that of the former President for in conspiracy, the act of one is the act of the other. The imposable penalty is provided in Section 2 of R.A. No. 7080, viz:
Section 2. Any public officer who, by himself or in connivance with the members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts as described in Section 1(d) hereof in the aggregate amount or total value of at least Fifty million pesos (P50,000,000.00) shall be guilty of the crime of plunder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua to death. Any person who participated with the said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to the crime of plunder shall likewise be punished for such offense. In the imposition of penalties, the degree of participation and the attendance of mitigating and extenuating circumstances, as provided by the Revised Penal Code, shall be considered by the court.
Petitioner also faults the respondent Sandiganbayan for sustaining the charge against petitioner for alleged offenses and with alleged conspirators, with which and with whom he is not even remotely connected contrary to the dictum that criminal liability is personal, not vicarious results in the denial of substantive due process.18cräläwvirtualibräry
The Solicitor General argues, on the other hand, that petitioner is charged not only with the predicate act in sub-paragraph (a) but also with the other predicate acts in sub-paragraphs (b), (c) & (d) because he is indicted as a principal and as co-conspirator of the former President. This is purportedly clear from the first and second paragraphs of the Amended Information.19cräläwvirtualibräry
For better focus, there is a need to examine again the allegations of the Amended Information vis--vis the provisions of R.A. No. 7080.
The Amended Information, in its first two paragraphs, charges petitioner and his other co-accused with the crime of plunder. The first paragraph names all the accused, while the second paragraph describes in general how plunder was committed and lays down most of the elements of the crime itself. Sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) describe in detail the predicate acts that constitute the crime and name in particular the co-conspirators of former President Estrada in each predicate act. The predicate acts alleged in the said four sub-paragraphs correspond to the items enumerated in Section 1 (d) of R.A. No. 7080. Sub-paragraph (a) alleged the predicate act of receiving, on several instances, money from illegal gambling, in consideration of toleration or protection of illegal gambling, and expressly names petitioner as one of those who conspired with former President Estrada in committing the offense. This predicate act corresponds with the offense described in item  of the enumeration in Section 1 (d) of R.A. No. 7080. Sub-paragraph (b) alleged the predicate act of diverting, receiving or misappropriating a portion of the tobacco excise tax share allocated for the province of Ilocos Sur, which act is the offense described in item  in the enumeration in Section 1 (d) of the law. This sub-paragraph does not mention petitioner but instead names other conspirators of the former President. Sub-paragraph (c) alleged two predicate acts - that of ordering the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) to purchase shares of stock of Belle Corporation, and collecting or receiving commissions from such purchase from the Belle Corporation which became part of the deposit in the Jose Velarde account at the Equitable-PCI Bank. These two predicate acts fall under items  and  in the enumeration of R.A. No. 7080, and was allegedly committed by the former President in connivance with John Does and Jane Does. Finally, sub-paragraph (d) alleged the predicate act that the former President unjustly enriched himself from commissions, gifts, kickbacks, in connivance with John Does and Jane Does, and deposited the same under his account name Jose Velarde at the Equitable-PCI Bank. This act corresponds to the offense under item  in the enumeration of Section 1 (d) of R.A. No. 7080.
From the foregoing allegations of the Amended Information, it is clear that all the accused named in sub-paragraphs (a) to (d), thru their individual acts, conspired with former President Estrada to enable the latter to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount of P4,097,804,173.17. As the Amended Information is worded, however, it is not certain whether the accused in sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) conspired with each other to enable the former President to amass the subject ill-gotten wealth. In light of this lack of clarity, petitioner cannot be penalized for the conspiracy entered into by the other accused with the former President as related in the second paragraph of the Amended Information in relation to its sub-paragraphs (b) to (d). We hold that petitioner can be held accountable only for the predicate acts he allegedly committed as related in sub-paragraph (a) of the Amended Information which were allegedly done in conspiracy with the former President whose design was to amass ill-gotten wealth amounting to more than P4 billion.
We hasten to add, however, that the respondent Ombudsman cannot be faulted for including the predicate acts alleged in sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) of the Amended Information in one, and not in four, separate Informations. A study of the history of R.A. No. 7080 will show that the law was crafted to avoid the mischief and folly of filing multiple informations. The Anti-Plunder Law was enacted in the aftermath of the Marcos regime where charges of ill-gotten wealth were filed against former President Marcos and his alleged cronies. Government prosecutors found no appropriate law to deal with the multitude and magnitude of the acts allegedly committed by the former President to acquire illegal wealth.20 They also found that under the then existing laws such as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Revised Penal Code and other special laws, the acts involved different transactions, different time and different personalities. Every transaction constituted a separate crime and required a separate case and the over-all conspiracy had to be broken down into several criminal and graft charges. The preparation of multiple Informations was a legal nightmare but eventually, thirty-nine (39) separate and independent cases were filed against practically the same accused before the Sandiganbayan.21 R.A. No. 7080 or the Anti-Plunder Law22 was enacted precisely to address this procedural problem. This is pellucid in the Explanatory Note to Senate Bill No. 733, viz:
Plunder, a term chosen from other equally apt terminologies like kleptocracy and economic treason, punishes the use of high office for personal enrichment, committed thru a series of acts done not in the public eye but in stealth and secrecy over a period of time, that may involve so many persons, here and abroad, and which touch so many states and territorial units. The acts and/or omissions sought to be penalized do not involve simple cases of malversation of public funds, bribery, extortion, theft and graft but constitute plunder of an entire nation resulting in material damage to the national economy. The above-described crime does not yet exist in Philippine statute books. Thus, the need to come up with a legislation as a safeguard against the possible recurrence of the depravities of the previous regime and as a deterrent to those with similar inclination to succumb to the corrupting influence of power.
There is no denying the fact that the plunder of an entire nation resulting in material damage to the national economy is made up of a complex and manifold network of crimes. In the crime of plunder, therefore, different parties may be united by a common purpose. In the case at bar, the different accused and their different criminal acts have a commonalityto help the former President amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth. Sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) in the Amended Information alleged the different participation of each accused in the conspiracy. The gravamen of the conspiracy charge, therefore, is not that each accused agreed to receive protection money from illegal gambling, that each misappropriated a portion of the tobacco excise tax, that each accused ordered the GSIS and SSS to purchase shares of Belle Corporation and receive commissions from such sale, nor that each unjustly enriched himself from commissions, gifts and kickbacks; rather, it is that each of them, by their individual acts, agreed to participate, directly or indirectly, in the amassing, accumulation and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth of and/or for former President Estrada.
In the American jurisdiction, the presence of several accused in multiple conspiracies commonly involves two structures: (1) the so-called wheel or circle conspiracy, in which there is a single person or group (the hub) dealing individually with two or more other persons or groups (the spokes); and (2) the chain conspiracy, usually involving the distribution of narcotics or other contraband, in which there is successive communication and cooperation in much the same way as with legitimate business operations between manufacturer and wholesaler, then wholesaler and retailer, and then retailer and consumer.23cräläwvirtualibräry
From a reading of the Amended Information, the case at bar appears similar to a wheel conspiracy. The hub is former President Estrada while the spokes are all the accused, and the rim that encloses the spokes is the common goal in the overall conspiracy, i.e., the amassing, accumulation and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth.
Some of our distinguished colleagues would dismiss the charge against the petitioner on the ground that the allegation of conspiracy in the Amended Information is too general. The fear is even expressed that it could serve as a net to ensnare the innocent. Their dissents appear to be inspired by American law and jurisprudence.
We should not confuse our law on conspiracy with conspiracy in American criminal law and in common law. Under Philippine law, conspiracy should be understood on two levels. As a general rule, conspiracy is not a crime in our jurisdiction. It is punished as a crime only when the law fixes a penalty for its commission such as in conspiracy to commit treason, rebellion and sedition. In contrast, under American criminal law, the agreement or conspiracy itself is the gravamen of the offense.24The essence of conspiracy is the combination of two or more persons, by concerted action, to accomplish a criminal or unlawful purpose, or some purpose not in itself criminal or unlawful, by criminal or unlawful means.25 Its elements are: agreement to accomplish an illegal objective, coupled with one or more overt acts in furtherance of the illegal purpose; and requisite intent necessary to commit the underlying substantive offense.26cräläwvirtualibräry
A study of the United States Code ought to be instructive. It principally punishes two (2) crimes of conspiracy27conspiracy to commit any offense or to defraud the United States, and conspiracy to impede or injure officer. Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States is penalized under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 371,28 as follows:
Sec. 371. Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States. If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons to any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.
Conspiracy to impede or injure officer is penalized under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 372, viz:
Sec. 372. Conspiracy to impede or injure officer. If two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties, each of such persons shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than six years, or both.
Section 371 of 18 U.S.C. punishes two acts: (1) conspiracy to commit any offense against the United States; and (2) conspiracy to defraud the United States or any agency thereof. The conspiracy to commit any offense against the United States refers to an act made a crime by federal laws.29 It refers to an act punished by statute.30 Undoubtedly, Section 371 runs the whole gamut of U.S. Federal laws, whether criminal or regulatory.31 These laws cover criminal offenses such as perjury, white slave traffic, racketeering, gambling, arson, murder, theft, bank robbery, etc. and also include customs violations, counterfeiting of currency, copyright violations, mail fraud, lotteries, violations of antitrust laws and laws governing interstate commerce and other areas of federal regulation.32 Section 371 penalizes the conspiracy to commit any of these substantive offenses. The offense of conspiracy is generally separate and distinct from the substantive offense,33 hence, the court rulings that acquittal on the substantive count does not foreclose prosecution and conviction for related conspiracy.34cräläwvirtualibräry
The conspiracy to defraud the government refers primarily to cheating the United States out of property or money. It also covers interference with or obstruction of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.35 It comprehends defrauding the United States in any manner whatever, whether the fraud be declared criminal or not.36cräläwvirtualibräry
The basic difference in the concept of conspiracy notwithstanding, a study of the American case law on how conspiracy should be alleged will reveal that it is not necessary for the indictment to include particularities of time, place, circumstances or causes, in stating the manner and means of effecting the object of the conspiracy. Such specificity of detail falls within the scope of a bill of particulars.37 An indictment for conspiracy is sufficient where it alleges: (1) the agreement; (2) the offense-object toward which the agreement was directed; and (3) the overt acts performed in furtherance of the agreement.38 To allege that the defendants conspired is, at least, to state that they agreed to do the matters which are set forth as the substance of their conspiracy. To allege a conspiracy is to allege an agreement.39 The gist of the crime of conspiracy is unlawful agreement, and where conspiracy is charged, it is not necessary to set out the criminal object with as great a certainty as is required in cases where such object is charged as a substantive offense.40cräläwvirtualibräry
In sum, therefore, there is hardly a substantial difference on how Philippine courts and American courts deal with cases challenging Informations alleging conspiracy on the ground that they lack particularities of time, place, circumstances or causes. In our jurisdiction, as aforestated, conspiracy can be alleged in the Information as a mode of committing a crime or it may be alleged as constitutive of the crime itself. When conspiracy is alleged as a crime in itself, the sufficiency of the allegations in the Information charging the offense is governed by Section 6, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. It requires that the information for this crime must contain the following averments:
Sec. 6. Sufficiency of complaint or information.- A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused, the designation of the offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place where the offense was committed.
When the offense was committed by more than one person, all of them shall be included in the complaint or information.
The complaint or information to be sufficient must state the name of the accused, designate the offense given by statute, state the acts or omissions constituting the offense, the name of the offended party, the approximate date of the commission of the offense and the place where the offense was committed.
Our rulings have long settled the issue on how the acts or omissions constituting the offense should be made in order to meet the standard of sufficiency. Thus, the offense must be designated by its name given by statute or by reference to the section or subsection of the statute punishing it.41 The information must also state the acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its qualifying and aggravating circumstances.42 The acts or omissions complained of must be alleged in such form as is sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is intended to be charged, and enable the court to pronounce proper judgment.43 No information for a crime will be sufficient if it does not accurately and clearly allege the elements of the crime charged.44 Every element of the offense must be stated in the information.45 What facts and circumstances are necessary to be included therein must be determined by reference to the definitions and essentials of the specified crimes.46 The requirement of alleging the elements of a crime in the information is to inform the accused of the nature of the accusation against him so as to enable him to suitably prepare his defense. The presumption is that the accused has no independent knowledge of the facts that constitute the offense.47cräläwvirtualibräry
To reiterate, when conspiracy is charged as a crime, the act of conspiring and all the elements of said crime must be set forth in the complaint or information. For example, the crime of conspiracy to commit treason is committed when, in time of war, two or more persons come to an agreement to levy war against the Government or to adhere to the enemies and to give them aid or comfort, and decide to commit it.48 The elements of this crime are: (1) that the offender owes allegiance to the Government of the Philippines; (2) that there is a war in which the Philippines is involved; (3) that the offender and other person or persons come to an agreement to: (a) levy war against the government, or (b) adhere to the enemies, to give them aid and comfort; and (4) that the offender and other person or persons decide to carry out the agreement. These elements must be alleged in the information.
The requirements on sufficiency of allegations are different when conspiracy is not charged as a crime in itself but only as the mode of committing the crime as in the case at bar. There is less necessity of reciting its particularities in the Information because conspiracy is not the gravamen of the offense charged. The conspiracy is significant only because it changes the criminal liability of all the accused in the conspiracy and makes them answerable as co-principals regardless of the degree of their participation in the crime.49 The liability of the conspirators is collective and each participant will be equally responsible for the acts of others,50 for the act of one is the act of all.51 In People v. Quitlong,52 we ruled on how conspiracy as the mode of committing the offense should be alleged in the Information, viz:
x x x. In embodying the essential elements of the crime charged, the information must set forth the facts and circumstances that have a bearing on the culpability and liability of the accused so that the accused can properly prepare for and undertake his defense. One such fact or circumstance in a complaint against two or more accused persons is that of conspiracy. Quite unlike the omission of an ordinary recital of fact which, if not excepted from or objected to during trial, may be corrected or supplied by competent proof, an allegation, however, of conspiracy, or one that would impute criminal liability to an accused for the act of another or others, is indispensable in order to hold such person, regardless of the nature and extent of his own participation, equally guilty with the other or others in the commission of the crime. Where conspiracy exists and can rightly be appreciated, the individual acts done to perpetrate the felony becomes of secondary importance, the act of one being imputable to all the others (People v. Ilano, 313 SCRA 442). Verily, an accused must know from the information whether he faces a criminal responsibility not only for his acts but also for the acts of his co-accused as well.
A conspiracy indictment need not, of course, aver all the components of conspiracy or allege all the details thereof, like the part that each of the parties therein have performed, the evidence proving the common design or the facts connecting all the accused with one another in the web of the conspiracy. Neither is it necessary to describe conspiracy with the same degree of particularity required in describing a substantive offense. It is enough that the indictment contains a statement of facts relied upon to be constitutive of the offense in ordinary and concise language, with as much certainty as the nature of the case will admit, in a manner that can enable a person of common understanding to know what is intended, and with such precision that the accused may plead his acquittal or conviction to a subsequent indictment based on the same facts. It is said, generally, that an indictment may be held sufficient if it follows the words of the statute and reasonably informs the accused of the character of the offense he is charged with conspiring to commit, or, following the language of the statute, contains a sufficient statement of an overt act to effect the object of the conspiracy, or alleges both the conspiracy and the contemplated crime in the language of the respective statutes defining them (15A C.J.S. 842-844).
x x x
x x x. Conspiracy arises when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Conspiracy comes to life at the very instant the plotters agree, expressly or impliedly, to commit the felony and forthwith to actually pursue it. Verily, the information must state that the accused have confederated to commit the crime or that there has been a community of design, a unity of purpose or an agreement to commit the felony among the accused. Such an allegation, in the absence of the usual usage of the words conspired or confederated or the phrase acting in conspiracy, must aptly appear in the information in the form of definitive acts constituting conspiracy. In fine, the agreement to commit the crime, the unity of purpose or the community of design among the accused must be conveyed such as either by the use of the term conspire or its derivatives and synonyms or by allegations of basic facts constituting the conspiracy. Conspiracy must be alleged, not just inferred, in the information on which basis an accused can aptly enter his plea, a matter that is not to be confused with or likened to the adequacy of evidence that may be required to prove it. In establishing conspiracy when properly alleged, the evidence to support it need not necessarily be shown by direct proof but may be inferred from shown acts and conduct of the accused.
x x x .
Again, following the stream of our own jurisprudence, it is enough to allege conspiracy as a mode in the commission of an offense in either of the following manner: (1) by use of the word conspire, or its derivatives or synonyms, such as confederate, connive, collude, etc;53 or (2) by allegations of basic facts constituting the conspiracy in a manner that a person of common understanding would know what is intended, and with such precision as would enable the accused to competently enter a plea to a subsequent indictment based on the same facts.54cräläwvirtualibräry
The allegation of conspiracy in the information must not be confused with the adequacy of evidence that may be required to prove it. A conspiracy is proved by evidence of actual cooperation; of acts indicative of an agreement, a common purpose or design, a concerted action or concurrence of sentiments to commit the felony and actually pursue it.55 A statement of this evidence is not necessary in the information.
In the case at bar, the second paragraph of the Amended Information alleged in general terms how the accused committed the crime of plunder. It used the words in connivance/conspiracy with his co-accused. Following the ruling in Quitlong, these words are sufficient to allege the conspiracy of the accused with the former President in committing the crime of plunder.
We now come to petitioners plea for bail. On
For three days, i.e., on September 4, 20 and 27, 2001, respondent Sandiganbayan conducted hearings on the motion for bail. Dr. Roberto V. Anastacio, a cardiologist of the Makati Medical Center, testified as sole witness for petitioner.
On the same day, we issued a Resolution referring the motion to respondent Sandiganbayan for resolution and requiring said court to make a report, not later than
The crime of plunder is punished by R.A. No. 7080, as amended by Section 12 of R.A. No. 7659, with the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death. Under our Rules, offenses punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment are non-bailable when the evidence of guilt is strong, to wit:
Sec. 7. Capital offense or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, not bailable. No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong, regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution.59cräläwvirtualibräry
Section 7, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure is based on Section 13, Article III of the 1987 Constitution which reads:
Sec. 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required.
The constitutional mandate makes the grant or denial of bail in capital offenses hinge on the issue of whether or not the evidence of guilt of the accused is strong. This requires that the trial court conduct bail hearings wherein both the prosecution and the defense are afforded sufficient opportunity to present their respective evidence. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution to show strong evidence of guilt.60cräläwvirtualibräry
This Court is not in a position to grant bail to the petitioner
as the matter requires evidentiary hearing that should be conducted by the
Sandiganbayan. The hearings on which
respondent court based its Resolution of
Upon proper motion of the petitioner, respondent Sandiganbayan should conduct hearings to determine if the evidence of petitioners guilt is strong as to warrant the granting of bail to petitioner.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is dismissed for failure to show that the respondent Sandiganbayan acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., please see Separate Opinion.
Kapunan, and Buena, J., joins Justices Santiago and Gutierrez in their separate dissenting opinions.
Ynares-Santiago, J., pls. see separate Dissenting Opinion.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., please see my Dissent.
Carpio, J., no part as before.
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