The Debate on Which Court Has Jurisdiction Over Sen. de Lima’s Case

Elpidio V. Peria
26 February 2017


from :

Should it be the Sandiganbayan or the Regional Trial Court? How this conundrum is resolved will depend on how the drug trafficking cases filed by the DOJ against Sen. Leila de Lima will be decided by the three branches of the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa. This, in turn, will depend on what criminal offense against Sen. De Lima will have probable cause, a legal standard which does not mean absolute certainty over what crime has been committed, but only the most likely crime she may be guilty of based on the evidence presented.

News reports indicate Sen. De Lima has already filed motions to quash (similar to a motion to dismiss in civil cases) on these cases asserting that it is the Sandiganbayan that has jurisdiction over her.

Examining closely the law creating the Sandiganbayan, a special court created in 1978 during the time of President Marcos tasked to handle exclusively cases against government officials, its most recent iteration in 2015, through Republic Act 10660, from the original Presidential Decree 1486, which got amended by Presidential Decree 1606, and later by Republic Act 8249 in 1997, lists down the cases on which it has exclusive original jurisdiction :

a. Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the Revised Penal Code, where one or more of the accused are officials occupying the following positions in the government, whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the offense

b. Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed with other crimes committed by the public officials and employees mentioned in subsection a. of this section in relation to their office.

c. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986

We looked up what these Executive Orders in 1986 refer to and they deal with the ill-gotten wealth relating the Marcoses and their cronies.

Most likely, the lawyers of the lady Senator are arguing that what she should be tried on should be bribery, which is what is what is referred to in that seemingly innocuous Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the Revised Penal Code.

In filing these cases, the DOJ seemed to have adopted a more expansive strategy, filing 3 cases in 3 different salas or courts will make it difficult to have a uniform outcome that can be uniformly appealed, there will always the possibility of an outlier result that will not be favorable to her. Most likely, Sen. De Lima may have her way in one or two courts ruling in her favor but three, that is a tough, uphill climb.

Eventually, her lawyers may ask that these cases l be consolidated in one sala so that the diversity of outcomes will be avoided, it will be an interesting education in legal strategy how these cases will unfold.

The DOJ or the President’s legal team, maybe Atty. Panelo, can also open up another front in the Senate, where they may try to censure Sen de Lima for ethics violations or perhaps the House of Representatives, where an impeachment complaint may be initiated against her.

These moves however will depend on the outcome of the current court cases against her, so, to prevent us from further speculating, let us await what will happen in the regional trial court in Muntinlupa. Why Muntinlupa, of all places? It is the place where the National Bilibid Prison is located, and in criminal cases, where the crime is committed, in this case, bribery or drug trafficking, was alleged to have been committed, will be the venue or location of the court where the case will be handled.

What is guaranteed here, given our snail-paced justice system, and the various legal maneuvers that will be employed here that will reach up to the Supreme Court, is Sen. De Lima continued media exposure for the next, perhaps the entire six year term of President Duterte.

They may have jailed her for now, but, judging from the way Sen. De Lima waved to her supporters as she was being transported to her place of custody from the court, President Duterte may have only clarified in the public’s mind who will be up against Sen. Manny Pacquiao (given that President Duterte has been egging on the neophyte Senator to run) in 2022.


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