Nuñez vs. Sandiganbayan

Nos. L-50581-50617. January 30, 1982.

FACTS

In 1979, Nunez was accused of respondent Court of estafa through falsification of public and commercial documents committed in connivance with his other co-accused, all public officials, in several cases. He filed a motion to quash on constitutional and jurisdictional grounds, which was denied by Sandiganbayan. Hence, he filed for petition for certiorari and prohibition claiming that the Presidential Decree No. 1486, is violative of the due process, equal protection, and ex post facto clauses of the Constitution.

Nunez contention underlies on the premise that the Sandiganbayan proceedings violates petitioner’s right to equal protection, because—appeal as a matter of right became minimized into a mere matter of discretion – there is only one chance to appeal conviction, by certiorari to the Supreme Court, instead of the traditional two chances; while all other estafa indictees are entitled to appeal as a matter of right covering both law and facts and to two appellate courts,

Presidential Decree (P.D. 1486, as amended by P.D. 1606) creating the Sandiganbayan and prescribing its own unique rules of procedure and appeal

ISSUES:

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(1) Whether or not the guarantee of equal protection is violated and therefore Presidential Decree No. 1486 shall be nullified?

(2) Would the omission of the Court of Appeals as an intermediate tribunal deprive petitioner of a right vital to the protection of his liberty?

HELD:

(1) No. To assure that the general welfare be promoted, which is the end of law, a regulatory measure may cut into the rights to liberty and property. Those adversely affected may under such circumstances invoke the equal protection clause only if they can show that the governmental act assailed, far from being inspired by the attainment of the common weal was prompted by the spirit of hostility, or at the very least, discrimination that finds no support in reason.” For the principle is that equal protection and security shall be given to every person under circumstances which, if not identical, are analogous. If law be looked upon in terms of burden or charges, those that fall within a class should be treated in the same fashion, whatever restrictions cast on some in the group equally binding on the rest.

The Bill of Rights must give way to specific provisions of the Constitution. The creation of the Sandiganbayan was provided for in the Constitution in response to a problem – dishonesty in the public service. In the case of Co Chiong v. Cuaderno, that the general guarantees of the Bill of Rights, included among which are the due process of law and equal protection clauses must “give way to a specific provision,” in that decision, one reserving to “Filipino citizens of the operation of public services or utilities.” The scope of such a principle is not to be constricted. It is certainly broad enough to cover the instant situation. Petitioner should therefore, have anticipated that a different procedure that would be prescribed for that tribunal will not be violative of equal protection clause.

(2) No. Petitioner’s innocence or guilt is passed upon by the three-judge court of a division of respondent Court. Moreover, a unanimous vote is required, failing which “the Presiding Justice shall designate two other justices from among the members of the Court to sit temporarily with them, forming a division of five justices, and the concurrence of a majority of such division shall be necessary for rendering judgment.” Then if convicted, this Court has the duty if he seeks a review to see whether any error of law was committed to justify a reversal of the judgment. In that sense, it cannot be said that on the appellate level there is no way of scrutinizing whether the quantum of evidence required for a finding of guilt has been satisfied.

DISPOSITIVE PORTION

WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed. No costs.

DOCTRINE

In the case of J. M. Tuason & Co. v. Land Tenure Administration, classification is not ruled out –  “that the laws operate equally and uniformly on all persons under similar circumstances or that all persons must be treated in the same manner, the conditions not being different, both in the privileges conferred and the liabilities imposed. Favoritism and undue preference cannot be allowed. For the principle is that equal protection and security shall be given to every person under circumstances which, if not identical, are analogous. If law be looked upon in terms of burden or charges, those that fall within a class should be treated in the same fashion, whatever restrictions cast on some in the group equally binding on the rest.”

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