On Accusation And Conviction

 

by jun asuncion

 

Since quite a few of  the observers had indirectly suggested in their comments that the decisions made by the Sandiganbayan do not possess finality in their character, I reproduced herewith-  for clarification purposes and with due acknowledgement to the authors- entries from the Wikipedia about the Sandiganbayan Court, The Court Of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

First, it had astonished me to know that some of our Bulan Observers and writers do not classify the Sandiganbayan as an independent court by itself, that many of us do not know that verdict or convictions  made and promulgated  by its jurors are in themselves final, which means that if the convicted would not appeal his case to the Supreme Court for review, then  he or she must serve the sentence given by the Sandiganbayan.

Second, there seems to be a confusion among us about the meaning of accusation and conviction and quite a few suggest in their comments that conviction is the same as accusation.

Definitions

most dictionaries define accuse (transitive verb) as follows:

1 : to charge with a fault or offense : blame

2 : to charge with an offense judicially or by a public process

 and con·vict is defined as follows:

1. Law : To find or prove (someone) guilty of an offense or crime, especially by the verdict of a court.

2. To show or declare to be blameworthy; condemn

3. To make aware of one’s sinfulness or guilt.

And in common parlance, we call a person who is released from prison after serving his sentence as ex-convict, not ex-accused.

These two legal terms are two different things, the usage of which clearly suggests the momentary stage of the court trial. Accusation is used before and during the court hearing and conviction is used to denote the end of the court hearing when the final verdict has been made.

Hence, during the court hearing, the accused or defendant can either be convicted or even vindicated.

(Perhaps the term vindication may help us also clarify the confusion. Vindication  is defined as “to clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof.” Notice, it is to clear of accusation, not to clear of conviction!  Synonymous with it is the verb to acquit someone of something which means “to establish someone’s innocence of a criminal charge or the blame for some wrongdoing”)

It is clear then, that an accused cannot be declared a convict unless a court of law hands in a verdict to this effect.

And Sandiganbayan is a court of law.

Now, back to Jose Solis’ case,- and just talking about facts and things as they are known : Mr. Jose Solis (who is probably on temporary liberty) was convicted last March 3-  after he was accused by the Ombudsman and tried at the Sandiganbayan of violating anti-graft laws and of falsifying documents.

Part of the confusion about the terms accusation and conviction may be traced to how the reporters in some of the newspapers of national – and internet – circulation have interchangeably used the two terms as in the Manila Bulletin report reproduced hereunder. Note that in the first paragraph, the reporter used “convicted” only to use the term accused” again in 8th paragraph.

Now, when the Solis’ Case is elevated to the Supreme Court, decisions made by the Sandiganbayan and Solis’ renewed defense will be reviewed. In my understanding (and I stand to be corrected), alone this act of appealing  to the Supreme Court does not make yet the prior conviction made by the Sandiganbayan null and void. This phase of the case is actually the main cause of confusing conviction with accusation since the public now expects from the Supreme Court  either conviction (or confirmation of Sandiganbayan’s findings and sentence) or acquittal ( or non-confirmation or reversal), hence, putting Solis’ status by this sole expectation (at this stage of event) back to that of an accused!

But actually, “review on appeal is not as a matter of right, but “of sound judicial discretion and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor”.[13] In the exercise of appellate review, the Supreme Court may reverse the decision of lower courts upon a finding of an “error of law”. The Court generally declines to engage in review the findings of fact made by the lower courts, although there are notable exceptions to this rule. The Court also refuses to entertain cases originally filed before it that should have been filed first with the trial courts.” (Wikipedia)

Now, what these “sound judicial discretion”, “error of laws” and “notable exceptions” mean, are things that define Philippine judicial system within the given political landscape that we all know.

jun asuncion

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Manila Bulletin

Sandiganbayan convicts Sorsogon representative

By GABRIEL S. MABUTAS March 4, 2010, 10:16am

The Sandiganbayan convicted on Wednesday Sorsogon Rep. Jose G. Solis for charges of graft and falsification of public documents allegedly for allowing the transfer of an inalienable land in favor of a private individual when he was still the Administrator of National Mapping and Resource Information Administration.

In a 67-page decision written by Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz, the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division rendered the decision after finding the lawmaker guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3-G of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The ruling was concurred in by Associate Justices Francisco Villaruz and Alex Quiroz.

Solis, along with private individual Florencia Garcia-Diaz, was slapped a jail term of six years and one month to 10 years.

The lawmaker was also meted out an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In the falsification case, Solis alone was sentenced to suffer an imprisonment of two years and four months and one day to six years and one day.

Solis personally appeared before the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division to hear the verdict.

“In every prosecution, the guilt of the accused has to be established invariably by proof beyond reasonable doubt. The elements of the crime must be shown to exist and be adequately proven. In this case, we are convinced that the prosecution has ably discharged this quantum of proof to sustain the conviction of accused Solis and Garcia-Diaz for violation of Section 3G of RA 3019,” the Sandiganbayan said.

It has given the accused five days to double their bail bond which shall be used for their temporary liberty. This, after the accused manifested that they are filing their motion for reconsideration.

The Sandiganbayan, however, acquitted other accused in the case namely Salvador Bonnevie, Virgilio Fabian Jr., Ireneo Valencia and Arthur Viernes, being the officials of NAMRIA who entered into the contract with Diaz, due to the failure of the prosecution to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The case against former Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez was dismissed since he passed away before the case was promulgated.

Court records show that on May 18, 1999, Solis, then official of NAMRIA, conspired with Diaz to enter into a compromise agreement for the registration of a real property, with a land area of 4,689 hectares, in favor of the latter and in gross disadvantage to the government.

It was alleged that the said parcel of land is not alienable or registerable as the same falls within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

The title of the land was issued in the name of Melecio Padilla, from whom the title applicant Flora Garcia and now her heiress claimant Garcia-Diaz, derived her claim. But the Supreme Court later ruled that it is seriously flawed. On February 26, 1992, the Court of Appeals denied, in a ruling, the application of Garcia to have the lands registered in accordance with the agreement

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manilastandardtoday.com

MANILA, Philippines–The antigraft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday sentenced to up to 10 years in jail an incumbent Sorsogon congressman after finding him guilty of graft and falsification for wrongly classifying a government lot to favor a private claimant more than 10 years ago.

The court’s third Division also disqualified from holding any public office Sorsogon second District Rep. Jose Solis, who is running for governor.

The court also found guilty of graft his co-accused, Florencia Garcia-Diaz, the private claimant who stood to benefit from the wrong classification of almost 5,000 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija.

Solis, who was present when the decision was promulgated, is planning to appeal his conviction. His lawyers, however, refused to give any statement when approached by the Inquirer.

Congressman gets 6 years for fake land sale

THE anti-graft court on Wednesday sentenced Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis to six to 10 years in jail for illegally awarding the title of a piece of land in Laur, Nueva Ecija, to a private person in 1999, when he was head of the National Mapping and Resource Information Administration.

The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division found Solis and his co-defendant, Florencia Garcia-Diaz, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating anti-graft laws.

“We are convinced that the prosecution has ably discharged [its duty] to sustain the conviction of [the accused],” the court said.

Solis, 70, a civil engineer and on his third term as congressman, was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

The court gave him and Diaz five days to post bail for their temporary liberty.

Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz cleared three other defendants after prosecutors failed to establish their guilt. Another accused was not arraigned because he was at large.

The court said that on May 18, 1999, Solis conspired with Diaz to register in her name 4,689 hectares of land in Laur, Nueva Ecija, that was part of Fort Magsaysay, a military reservation.

It dismissed Solis’ defense that he was no longer connected with the Mapping Administration when the case happened, and that he had merely recommended the transfer of the piece of property on his subordinates’ recommendations.

“Accused Solis could not extricate himself from liability … [because] he was no longer connected with [the agency] at the time the compromise agreement was executed,” the court said. Macon Ramos Araneta

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 Sandiganbayan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Sandiganbayan is a special court in the Philippines which was established under Presidential Decree No. 1606. Its rank is equivalent to the Court of Appeals. The court consists of 14 Associate Justices and 1 Presiding Justice. The Sandiganbayan building is located at Centennial Building, Commonwealth Ave., Batasan Road, Quezon City in Metro Manila.

The creation of the Sandiganbayan was originally provided for by Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution of the Philippines:

“SEC. 5. The National Assembly shall create a special court, to be known as Sandiganbayan, which shall have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices and such other offenses committed by public officers and employees, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations, in relation to their office as may be determined by law.”

In obedience to this mandate, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, exercising the emergency legislative power granted him under Amendment No. 6 of the 1976 Amendments to the 1973 Constitution, issued on June 11, 1978, Presidential Decree No. 1486 creating the Sandiganbayan and putting it on the same level as what were then known as the Courts of First Instance, now the Regional Trial Courts. Shortly thereafter, however, the Sandiganbayan was elevated to the level of the Court of Appeals by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1606 issued on December 10, 1978.

At the start of its operation on February 12, 1979, the Sandiganbayan had only one Division, composed of the Presiding Justice, Hon. Manuel R. Pamaran, and two Associate Justices, Hon. Bernardo P. Fernandez and Hon. Romeo M. Escareal, and a skeleton force of fifteen (15). The start of the third year of the Court’s operation in 1981 was marked by the activation of the Second Division. The appointment of three more Justices of the Third Division in August 4, 1982 completed the full membership of the Court.

The People Power Revolution of February 1986 signaled the beginning of a new dispensation, caused substantial changes in the entire government machinery, including the judiciary. However, both the “Freedom Constitution” and the new Constitution have seen fit to maintain the Sandiganbayan as one of the principal instruments of public accountability. In furtherance of this, its jurisdiction has been broadened to include the so-called “ill-gotten wealth” cases investigated by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) through Executive Orders No. 14 and No. 14-A. In the reorganization program of the new government, the resignation of some of the members of the Court was accepted leading to the appointment of a new Presiding Justice in the person of Hon. Francis E. Garchitorena.

To further strengthen the functional and structural organization of the Sandiganbayan, several amendments have been introduced to the original law creating it, the latest of which are Republic Acts No. 7975 and No. 8249. Under these new laws, the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan is now confined to cases involving public officials occupying positions classified as salary grade “27” and higher. As restructured, the Sandiganbayan is presently composed of a Presiding Justice and fourteen (14) Associate Justices who sit in five (5) Divisions of three Justices each in the trial and determination of cases.

————–

Philippine Court of Appeals

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Philippine Court of Appeals (Filipino: Hukumang Paghahabol ng Pilipinas) is the Philippines’ second highest judicial court, just after the Supreme Court. The court consists of 68 Associate Justices and 1 Presiding Justice. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Court of Appeals “reviews not only the decisions and orders of the Regional Trial Courts nationwide but also those of the Court of Tax Appeals, as well as the awards, judgments, final orders or resolutions of, or authorized by 21 Quasi-Judicial Agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions mentioned in Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, plus the National Amnesty Commission (Pres. Proclamation No. 347 of 1994) and Office of the Ombudsman (Fabian v. Desierto, 295 SCRA 470). Added to the formidable list are the decisions and resolutions of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) which are now initially reviewable by this court, instead of a direct recourse to the Supreme Court, via petition for certiorari under Rule 65 (St. Martin Funeral Homes v. NLRC, 295 SCRA 414)”. 

 On July 28, 1986, President Aquino issued Executive Order No.33 restoring the original name of the Court of Appeals with a Presiding Justice and fifty (50) Associate Justices.

On February 23, 1995, R.A. No. 7902 was passed expanding the jurisdiction of the Court effective March 18, 1995. On December 30, 1996, R.A. No. 8246 created six (6) more divisions in the Court, thereby increasing its membership from 51 to 69 Justices. These additional divisions – 3 for Visayas and 3 for Mindanao paved the way for the appellate court’s regionalization. The CA in the Visayas sits in Cebu City while Cagayan de Oro City is home to the CA for Mindanao.

On February 1, 2010, the Court celebrated its 74th Anniversary.[2]

———–

Supreme Court of the Philippines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 The Supreme Court of the Philippines (Filipino: Kataas-taasang Hukuman ng Pilipinas or Korte Suprema) is the Philippines’ highest judicial court, as well as the court of last resort. The court consists of 14 Associate Justices and 1 Chief Justice. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Supreme Court has “administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof”.

Functions

The powers of the Supreme Court are defined in Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution. These functions may be generally divided into two – judicial functions and administrative functions. The administrative functions of the Court pertain to the supervision and control over the Philippine judiciary and its employees, as well as over members of the Philippine bar. Pursuant to these functions, the Court is empowered to order a change of venue of trial in order to avoid a miscarriage of justice and to appoint all officials and employees of the judiciary.[10] The Court is further authorized to promulgate the rules for admission to the practice of law, for legal assistance to the underprivileged, and the procedural rules to be observed in all courts.[11]

The more prominent role of the Court is located in the exercise of its judicial functions. Section 1 of Article VIII contains definition of judicial power that had not been found in previous constitutions. The provision states in part that:

Judicial power includes the duty of courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.

The definition reaffirms the power of the Supreme Court to engage in judicial review, a power that had traditionally belonged to the Court even before this provision was enacted. Still, this new provision effectively dissuades from the easy resort to the political question doctrine as a means of declining to review a law or state action, as was often done by the Court during the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos.[12] As a result, the existence of “grave abuse of discretion” on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government is sufficient basis to nullify state action.

 Cases

The Court is authorized to sit either en banc or in divisions of 3, 5 or 7 members. Since the 1970s, the Court has constituted itself in 3 divisions with 5 members each. Majority of the cases are heard and decided by the divisions, rather than the court en banc. However, the Constitution requires that the Court hear en banc “[a]ll cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, as well as “those involving the constitutionality, application, or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions, ordinances, and other regulations”.[4] The Court en banc also decides cases originally heard by a division when a majority vote cannot be reached within the division. The Court also has the discretion to hear a case en banc even if no constitutional issue is involved, as it typically does if the decision would reverse precedent or presents novel or important questions.

Appellate review

Far and away the most common mode by which a case reaches the Supreme Court is through an appeal from a decision rendered by a lower court. Appealed cases generally originate from lawsuits or criminal indictments filed and tried before the trial courts. These decisions of the trial courts may then be elevated on appeal to the Court of Appeals, or more rarely, directly to the Supreme Court if only “questions of law” are involved. Apart from decisions of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court may also directly review on appeal decisions rendered by the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals. Decisions rendered by administrative agencies are not directly appealable to the Supreme Court, they must be first challenged before the Court of Appeals. However, decisions of the Commission on Elections may be elevated directly for review to the Supreme Court, although the procedure is not, strictly speaking, in the nature of an appeal.

Review on appeal is not as a matter of right, but “of sound judicial discretion and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor”.[13] In the exercise of appellate review, the Supreme Court may reverse the decision of lower courts upon a finding of an “error of law”. The Court generally declines to engage in review the findings of fact made by the lower courts, although there are notable exceptions to this rule. The Court also refuses to entertain cases originally filed before it that should have been filed first with the trial courts.

……………………..

Judicial corruption

On January 25, 2005, and on December 10, 2006, Philippines Social Weather Stations released the results of its 2 surveys on corruption in the judiciary; it published that: a) like 1995, 1/4 of lawyers said many/very many judges are corrupt. But (49%) stated that a judges received bribes, just 8% of lawyers admitted they reported the bribery, because they could not prove it. [Tables 8-9]; judges, however, said, just 7% call many/very many judges as corrupt[Tables 10-11];b) “Judges see some corruption; proportions who said – many/very many corrupt judges or justices: 17% in reference to RTC judges, 14% to MTC judges, 12% to Court of Appeals justices, 4% i to Shari’a Court judges, 4% to Sandiganbayan justices and 2% in reference to Supreme Court justices [Table 15].[27][28]

The September 14, 2008, Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) survey, ranked the Philippines 6th (6.10) among corrupt Asian judicial systems. PERC stated that “despite India and the Philippines being democracies, expatriates did not look favourably on their judicial systems because of corruption.” PERC reported Hong Kong and Singapore have the best judicial systems in Asia, with Indonesia and Vietnam the worst: Hong Kong’s judicial system scored 1.45 on the scale (zero representing the best performance and 10 the worst); Singapore with a grade of 1.92, followed by Japan (3.50), South Korea (4.62), Taiwan (4.93), the Philippines (6.10), Malaysia (6.47), India (6.50), Thailand (7.00), China (7.25), Vietnam’s (8.10) and Indonesia (8.26).[29][30]

In the September 23, 2008, Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (global survey ranking countries in terms of perceived corruption), the Philippines dropped to 141st, down 10 places from 2007, among 180 countries surveyed. It scored a 2.3 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), lower than 2007’s 2.5, on a scale where 10 is the highest possible grade.[31][32][33] Vincent Lazatin, TAN executive director, said: “We are compared to our nearest neighbors Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, with Vietnam seen as eventually overtaking us in a few years. The difference is that (in other countries) when business sets aside money to grease the wheels, they know that they will get what they paid for. In the Philippines, there is no certainty.”[34]

“Bantay Korte Suprema”

“Watch the Supreme Court” coalition was launched at the Training Center, Ground Floor, Supreme Court Centennial Bldg on November 17, 2008, “to ensure the fair and honest selection of the 7 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court on 2009.” Members of “Bantay Korte Suprema” include retired Philippine presidents, retired Supreme Court justices, legislators, legal practitioners, the academe, the business community and the media. Senate President Jovito Salonga, UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen, Senate Majority Leader and JBC member Kiko Pangilinan, the Philippine Bar Association, Artemio Panganiban, and Atty. Rodolfo Urbiztondo, of the 48,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and the chambers of commerce, witnessed the landmark event. BKS will neither select nor endorse a candidate, “but if it receive information that makes a candidate incompetent, it will divulge this to the public and inform the JBC.” At the BKS launching, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the public monitoring of the selection of justices to the SC was signed.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Appointments Watch (SCAW) coalition of law groups and civil society to monitor the appointment of persons to judicial positions was also re-launched. The SCAW consortium, composed of the Alternative Law Groups, Libertas, Philippine Association of law Schools and the Transparency and Accountability Network, together with the online news magazine Newsbreak, reactivated itself for the JBC selection process of candidates.[35][36][37][38]

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