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Case Digests Law School

Case Digest: Panfilo Lacson vs. Executive Secretary – G.R. No. 128096

Case Title: Panfilo Lacson vs. Executive Secretary

Case Number: G.R. No. 128096, January 20, 1999

Doctrine/Relevant Topic: RPC Art. 1 – Time when Act takes effect

Facts:

       Petitioner Panfilo Lacson, joined by intervenors Acop and Zubia, Jr. questioned the constitutionality of Sections 4 and 7 of Republic Act No. 8249 and sought to prevent the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the trial of Criminal Cases Nos. 23047-23057 (for multiple murders) against them on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. This stems from an operation against members of the Kuratung Baleleng gang in Commonwealth Avenue, which led to the deaths of 11 members.

       Deputy Ombudsman Blancaflor absolved all the PNP officers allegedly involved in the incident from any criminal liability, saying it was a legitimate police operation. A review board led by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Villa overturned the Blancaflor panel’s findings and indicted 26 respondents for multiple murders. Reinvestigating, the Ombudsman filed eleven (11) amended informations before the Sandiganbayan on March 1, 1996, charging the petitioner only as an accessory, along with Romeo Acop and Francisco Zubia, Jr. RA 8249 later took effect, expanding the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, affecting the above case.

Issue:

       Whether or not RA 8249 is unconstitutional as an ex post facto law and Sandiganbayan have jurisdiction over the case.

Ruling:

       Petitioner and intervenors argued that the retroactive application of R.A. 8249 to the Kuratong Baleleng cases constitutes an ex post facto law for they are deprived of their right to procedural due process. The Supreme Court ruled that this contention is erroneous and explained that there is nothing ex post facto in R.A. 8249, citing the case of Calder v. Bull. It says that Ex post facto law, generally, prohibits retrospectivity of penal laws. R.A. 8249 is not a penal law but a substantive law on jurisdiction. Not being a penal law, its retroactive application cannot be challenged as unconstitutional. Thus, the constitutionality of Sections 4 and 7 of R.A. 8249 was sustained.

On the jurisdiction of Sandiganbayan over the case, the Court ruled that while the amended information alleges that the said accessories committed the offense “in relation to office as officers and members of the (PNP),” the Court found no intimate connection between the offense charged and the accused’s official functions, which is an essential element in determining the jurisdiction of Sandiganbayan. The Court explained that “it is an elementary rule that jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information and not by the result of evidence after trial.”

As a result of the failure to show that the charge of murder was directly related to the accused PNP officers’ official functions, the offense charged is plain murder and falls under the original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court and not the Sandiganbayan.

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