Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan
The jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan is defined in Section 4 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1606, as last amended by Section 2 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10660, approved April 16, 2015.
The very long Sec. 4 of P.D. No. 1606 could be reduced into just three (3) questions, all three of which must be answered in the affirmative in order for the case to be under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan:
- Did at least one of the accused occupy a Grade 27 or higher position or is one of those specifically enumerated in Sec. 4(a)(1)(a) to (g) or was a member of the judiciary or was a chair or a member of the COMELEC, COA, or CSC at the time of the commission of the offense, whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity?
- Is the case a violation of R.A. No. 3019 or R.A. No. 1379 or Articles 204 to 212 of the Revised Penal Code or committed “in relation to their office” or pursuant to E.O. Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, s. 1986?
- Does the information allege damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or closely related transactions or acts in an amount exceeding P1,000,000.00?
If even one of these questions is answered negatively, the case is not under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. For those criminal cases which are not under the jurisdiction of specialized courts (e.g. Court of Tax Appeals for NIRC/TRC violations exceeding P1,000,000.00, or RTC for libel, or MTC for B.P. 22), you look into the penalty and follow the rule on jurisdiction under B.P. Blg. 129. Also take note the rule on impeachment.
To know the specific Salary Grade for a specific position, refer to the Manual on Position Classification and Compensation prepared by the Department of Budget and Management, the latest of which is the 2012 version available at the DBM website. Take note that those officials listed under Sec. 4(a)(1)(a) to (g) even if not classified as SG 27 or higher, is covered by the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan; see Inding v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 143047, July 14, 2004. Also take note that it is the SG of the office being occupied at the time of the commission of the offense, not the actual SG of the official occupying the office, which is determinative.
- Senator De Lima was accused of Illegal Drug Trading committed when she was Secretary of Justice (SG 31). The case was filed with the RTC. Sen. De Lima questioned the jurisdiction of the RTC, contending that it should be the Sandiganbayan. Held: RTC has jurisdiction. Section 4(b) of PD 1606 as amended by RA 10660 is a general law; Sec. 90, RA 9165 is the special law excluding from the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction violations of R.A. No. 9165 committed by such officials, even if committed in relation to their office. (De Lima v. Guerrero, G.R. No. 229781, October 10, 2017)
- Ednimo, using the official TV station of the province during a “Talk Time with the Constituents”, libeled one Ms. Kapilya. After preliminary investigation, probable cause was found, and an Information was filed before the Sandiganbayan because the governor is SG 30, and the libel was committed in relation to her office. Her defense counsel contended that the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction. Answer: Yes, the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction, because even though a governor is salary grade 30, and even if it is contended that the libel was committed “in relation to his office”, being aired during a “Talk Time with the Constituents” segment on the province-owned TV channel, following De Lima v. Guerrero, Sec. 4(b) of PD 1606 as amended is the general law, Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code is the special law, excluding from the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction libel committed by such officials, even if committed in relation to their office.
- Mario Joel Reyes (Palawan Governor, SG 30) and his brother, Coron town mayor Mario Reyes (SG 27) were accused of masterminding the murder of environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega. The proper court is the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa City, where Dr. Ortega was assassinated. The crime was not committed in relation to office.
- Under the 2012 PCC, the vice-mayor of a component city is only SG 26. However, a city vice-mayor is explicitly listed under Sec. 4(a)(1)(b), thus a vice-mayor of a component city accused of accepting a 1.5 M bribe will be tried by the Sandiganbayan.
A Sangguniang Bayan member outside of Metro Manila is only SG 24 under the 2012 PCC. The mayor and vice-mayor of the town was suspended for six months, thus Councilor Teban was acting mayor. The Information alleged that the government suffered 1.6 million pesos damage because he influenced the bids and awards committee to purchase medicines from a supplier (a violation of RA 3019), and the medicines turned out to be expired, while he was acting mayor. The Sandiganbayan will have jurisdiction because as acting mayor, Teban was occupying an SG 27 position, the crime is a violation of RA 3019, and the Information alleged damage in excess of one million pesos.