Nunez v Sandiganbayan – GR L-50581-50617 30 Jan 1982

Issue:
Whether the Sandiganbayan proceedings violates petitioner’s right to equal protection, because:
1. appeal as a matter of right became minimized into a mere matter of discretion;
2. appeal likewise was shrunk and limited only to questions of law, excluding a review of the facts and trial evidence; and
3. 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, i.e., first to the Court of Appeals and thereafter to the Supreme Court.”

Held:
No, that is hardly convincing, considering that the classification satisfies the test announced by this Court requiring that it “must be based on substantial distinctions which make real differences; it must be germane to the purposes of the law; it must not be limited to existing conditions only, and must apply equally to each member of the class. To repeat, the Constitution specifically makes mention of the creation of a special court, the Sandiganbayan precisely in response to a problem, the urgency of which cannot be denied, namely, dishonesty in the public service. It follows that those who may thereafter be tried by such court ought to have been aware as far back as January 17, 1973, when the present Constitution came into force, that a different procedure for the accused therein, whether a private citizen as petitioner is or a public official, is not necessarily offensive to the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Petitioner, moreover, cannot be unaware 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, The scope of such a principle is not to be constricted. It is certainly broad enough to cover the instant situation.

“The Ideal situation is for the law’s benefits to be available to all, that none be placed outside the sphere of its coverage. Only thus could chance and favor be excluded and the affairs of men governed by that serene and impartial uniformity which is of the very essence of the Idea of law.” There is recognition, however, in the opinion that what in fact exists “cannot approximate the Ideal. Nor is the law susceptible to the reproach that it does not take into account the realities of the situation. The constitutional guarantee then is not to be given a meaning that disregards what is, what does in fact exist. 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. ” Classification is thus not ruled out, it being sufficient 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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