In the early morning of May 18, 1995, eleven (11) persons believed to be members of the Kuratong Baleleng gang, reportedly an organized crime syndicate which had been involved in a spate of bank robberies in Metro Manila, where slain along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City by elements of the Anti-Bank Robbery and Intelligence Task Group (ABRITG) headed by Chieff Superintendent Jewel Canson of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The ABRITG was composed of police officers from the Traffic Management Command (TMC) led by petitioner-intervenor Senior Superintendent Francisco Zubia, Jr.; Presidential Anti-Crime Commission — Task Force Habagat (PACC-TFH) headed by petitioner Chief Superintendent Panfilo M. Lacson; Central Police District Command (CPDC) led by Chief Superintendent Ricardo de Leon; and the Criminal Investigation Command (CIC) headed by petitioner-intervenor Chief Superintendent Romeo Acop.
After conducting a reinvestigation, the Ombudsman filed on March 1, 1996 eleven (11) amended informations5 before the Sandiganbayan, wherein petitioner was charged only as an accessory, together with Romeo Acop and Francisco Zubia, Jr. and other. One of the accused6 was dropped from the case.
On March 5-6, 1996, all the accused filed separate motions questioning the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, asserting that under the amended informations, the cases fall within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court pursuant to Section 2 (paragraphs a and c) of Republic Act No. 7975.7 They contend that the said law limited the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan to cases where one or more of the “principal accused” are government officials with Salary Grade (SG) 27 or higher, or PNP officials with the rank of Chief Superintendent (Brigadier General) or higher. The highest ranking principal accused in the amended informations has the rank of only a Chief Inspector, and none has the equivalent of at least SG 27.
Considering that three of the accused in each of these cases are PNP Chief Superintendents: namely, Jewel T. Canson, Romeo M. Acop and Panfilo M. Lacson, and that trial has not yet begun in all these cases — in fact, no order of arrest has been issued — the Sandiganbayan has competence to take cognizance of the cases. Hence this case.
Whether the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the accused.
No, The stringent requirement that the charge be set forth with such particularly as will reasonably indicate the exact offense which the accused is alleged to have committed in relation to his office was, sad to say, not satisfied. SC believe that the mere allegation in the amended information that the offense was committed by the accused public officer in relation to his office is not sufficient. That phrase is merely a conclusion between of law, not a factual averment that would show the close intimacy between the offense charged and the discharge of the accused’s official duties. What is controlling is the specific factual allegations in the information that would indicate the close intimacy between the discharge of the accused’s official duties and the commission of the offense charged, in order to qualify the crime as having been committed in relation to public office. Consequently, for failure to show in the amended information that the charge of murder was intimately connected with the discharge of official functions of the accused PNP officers, the offense charged in the subject criminal cases is plain murder and, therefore, within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court, not the Sandiganbayan.