G.R. No. 166859 April 12, 2011
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
SANDIGANBAYAN (FIRST DIVISION), EDUARDO M. COJUANGCO, JR.,
For over two decades, the issue of whether the sequestered sizable block of shares representing 20% of the outstanding capital stock of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) at the time of acquisition belonged to their registered owners or to the coconut farmers has remained unresolved.
On July 31, 1987, the Republic commenced Civil Case No. 0033 in the Sandiganbayan by complaint, impleading as defendants respondent Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. and 59 individual defendants.
The Republic avers that defendant Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. taking undue advantage of his association, influence and connection, acting in unlawful concert with Defendants Ferdinand E. Marcos and Imelda R. Marcos, and other individuals closely associated with the Marcoses, embarked upon devices, schemes and stratagems, including the use of various corporations as fronts, to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of Plaintiff and the Filipino people, such as when he – misused coconut levy funds to buy out majority of the outstanding shares of stock of San Miguel Corporation in order to control the largest agri-business, foods and beverage company in the Philippines.
These so called front companies, which ACCRA Law Offices organized for Defendant Cojuangco to be able to control more than 60% of SMC shares, were funded by institutions which depended upon the coconut levy such as the UCPB, UNICOM, United Coconut Planters Assurance Corp. (COCOLIFE), among others. Cojuangco and his ACCRA lawyers used the funds from 6 large coconut oil mills and 10 copra trading companies to borrow money from the UCPB and purchase these holding companies and the SMC stocks. Cojuangco used $150 million from the coconut levy.
Herein defendant specifically denies the allegations including any insinuation that whatever association he may have had with the late Ferdinand Marcos or Imelda Marcos has been in connection with any of the acts or transactions alleged in the complaint or for any unlawful purpose.
During the pre-trial Sandiganbayan advised the plaintiff to present more factual evidence to substantiate its allegations. The Republic nonetheless choosing not to adduce evidence proving the factual allegations, particularly the matters specifically asked by the Court, instead plaintiff opted to pursue its claims by Motion for Summary Judgment.
On November 28, 2007, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the case for failure of plaintiff to prove by preponderance of evidence its causes of action against defendants.
1) What are the "various sources" of funds, which the defendant Cojuangco and his companies claim they utilized to acquire the disputed SMC shares?
2) Whether or not such funds acquired from alleged "various sources" can be considered coconut levy funds;
3) Whether or not defendant Cojuangco had indeed served in the governing bodies of PC, UCPB and/or CIIF Oil Mills at the time the funds used to purchase the SMC shares were obtained such that he owed a fiduciary duty to render an account to these entities as well as to the coconut farmers;
The Supreme Court affirm the decision of November 28, 2007, because the Republic did not discharge its burden as the plaintiff to establish by preponderance of evidence that the respondents’ SMC shares were illegally acquired with coconut-levy funds.
The Republic mainly relied on the statement made by Mr. Conjuangco on his Pre-trial brief and hastily derived conclusions from the defendants’ statements in their previous pleadings although such conclusions were not supported by categorical facts but only mere inferences.
"According to Cojuangco’s own Pre-Trial Brief, these so-called ‘various sources’, i.e., the sources from which he obtained the funds he claimed to have used in buying the 20% SMC shares are not in fact ‘various’ as he claims them to be. He says he obtained ‘loans’ from UCPB and ‘advances’ from the CIIF Oil Mills. He even goes as far as to admit that his only evidence in this case would have been ‘records of UCPB’ and a ‘representative of the CIIF Oil Mills’ obviously the ‘records of UCPB’ relate to the ‘loans’ that Cojuangco claims to have obtained from UCPB – of which he was President and CEO – while the ‘representative of the CIIF Oil Mills’ will obviously testify on the ‘advances’ Cojuangco obtained from CIIF Oil Mills – of which he was also the President and CEO."
From the foregoing premises, plaintiff went on to conclude that:
"These admissions of defendant Cojuangco are outright admissions that he (1) took money from the bank entrusted by law with the administration of coconut levy funds and (2) took more money from the very corporations/oil mills in which part of those coconut levy funds (the CIIF) was placed – treating the funds of UCPB and the CIIF as his own personal capital to buy ‘his’ SMC shares."
Plaintiff’s contention that the defendant’s statements in his Pre-Trial Brief regarding the presentation of a possible CIIF witness as well as UCPB records, can already be considered as admissions of the defendant’s exclusive use and misuse of coconut levy funds to acquire the subject SMC shares and defendant Cojuangco’s alleged taking advantage of his positions to acquire the subject SMC shares is unacceptable.. Moreover, in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court "should take that view of the evidence most favorable to the party against whom it is directed, giving such party the benefit of all inferences." Inasmuch as this issue cannot be resolved merely from an interpretation of the defendant’s statements in his brief, the UCPB records must be produced and the CIIF witness must be heard to ensure that that the conclusions that will be derived have factual basis and are thus, valid.
The Court is given a very clear impression that the plaintiff does not know what documents will be or whether they are even available to prove the causes of action in the complaint. The Court has pursued and has exerted every form of inquiry to see if there is a way by which the plaintiff could explain in any significant particularity the acts and the evidence which will support its claim of wrong-doing by the defendants. The plaintiff has failed to do so.
1) What are the "various sources" of funds, which the defendant Cojuangco and his companies claim they utilized to acquire the disputed SMC shares?
Mr. Cojuangco claimed that it came from various sources, a loan from UCPB and advances from CIIF. How? He is not obliged to explain because the Republic failed to present preponderance of evidence the burden of proof has not shifted on Mr. Cojuangco.
2) Whether or not such funds acquired from alleged "various sources" can be considered coconut levy funds?
No, since in a contract of loan the money borrowed becomes the property of the debtor. Mr. Cojuangco’s liability at most will be the collection of sum of money. Besides the Republic failed to present its evidence to prove this allegation.
3) Whether or not defendant Cojuangco had indeed served in the governing bodies of PC, UCPB and/or CIIF Oil Mills at the time the funds used to purchase the SMC shares were obtained such that he owed a fiduciary duty to render an account to these entities as well as to the coconut farmers?
Although the trust relationship supposedly arose from Cojuangco’s being an officer and member of the Board of Directors of the UCPB, the link between this alleged fact and the borrowings or advances was not established. Nor was there evidence on the loans or borrowings, their amounts, the approving authority, etc. As trial court, the Sandiganbayan could not presume his breach of fiduciary duties without evidence showing so, for fraud or breach of trust is never presumed, but must be alleged and proved.
G.R. Nos. 120681-83 October 1, 1999
JEJOMAR C. BINAY, petitioner,
HON. SANDIGANBAYAN (Third Division) and the DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, respondents.
G.R. No. 128136 October 1, 1999
MARIO C. MAGSAYSAY, FRANCISCO B. CASTILLO, CRISTINA D. MABIOG, REGINO E. MALAPIT, ERLINDA I. MASANGCAY and VICENTE DE LA ROSA, petitioner,
HON. SANDIGANBAYAN, HON. OMBUDSMAN and its PROSECUTOR WENDELL BARERRAS-SULIT and STATE PROSECUTORS ERIC HENRY JOSEPH F. MALLONGA and GIDEON C. MENDOZA, respondents.
Pursuant to Section 4, Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution, Presidential Decree No. 1486 created an Anti-Graft Court known as the Sandiganbayan. Since then the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan has undergone various
changes, the most recent of which were effected through Republic Act Nos. 7975 and 8249.
In G.R. Nos. 120681-83, petitioner Jejomar Binay seeks to annul, among others, the Resolution of the Sandiganbayan denying his motion to refer Criminal Case Nos. 21001, 21005 and 21007 to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati and declaring that the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over said cases despite the enactment of R.A. No. 7975.
In G.R. No. 128136, petitioner Mario C. Magsaysay, et al. assail the October 22, 1996 Resolution of the Sandiganbayan, reversing its Order of June 21, 1996 which suspended the proceedings in Criminal Case No 23278 in deference to whatever ruling this Court will lay down in the Binay cases.
Whether the Sandiganbayan, under these laws( RA 7975 and RA 8249) , exercises exclusive original jurisdiction over criminal cases involving municipal mayors accused of violations of Republic Act No. 3019 and Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.
R.A. No. 7975, redefining the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, took effect on May 16, 1995.
While Congress enacted R.A. No. 8249, again redefining the jurisdiction of the Anti-Graft Court. This law took effect, per Section 10 thereof, on February 23, 1997.
According to Mayor Binay when the offense was charged he was paid a salary which merits a grade lower than Grade "27".
The Court does not subscribe to the manner by which petitioners classify Grades.
The grade depends upon the nature of one's position — the level of difficulty, responsibilities, and qualification requirements thereof — relative to that of another position. It is the official's Grade that determines his or her salary, not the other way around.
It is possible that a local government official's salary may be less than that prescribed for his Grade since his salary depends also on the class and financial capability of his or her respective local government unit. Nevertheless, it is the law which fixes the official's grade.
Municipal Mayors are classified as Grade "27" under the Compensation & Position Classification Act of 1989.
Therefore, when the offense was charged against Mayor Binay the Sandiganbayan exercised exclusive original jurisdiction over it.
The effects of Section 7 of R.A. No. 7975 may be summarized as follows:
1. If trial of cases before the Sandiganbayan has already begun as of the approval of R.A. No. 7975, R.A. No. 7975 does not apply.
2. If trial of cases before the Sandiganbayan has not begun as of the approval of R.A. No. 7975, then R.A. No. 7975 applies.
(a) If by virtue of Section 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended by Section 2 of R.A. No. 7975, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over a case before it, then the cases shall be referred to the Sandiganbayan.
(b) If by virtue of Section 4 of P.D. No. 1606, as amended by Section 2 of R.A. No. 7975, the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over a case before it, the case shall be referred to the regular courts.
On July 27, 1988 charges were filed against Mayor Binay with the Office of the Ombudsman. On September 7, 1994, the informations were filed by the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan. But Mayor Binay was not yet arraigned when RA 7975 took effect. On the case of Mayor Magsaysay the law was already in effect when the information was filed against him in RTC of Batangas.
The trial of the cases involving Mayor Binay had not yet begun as of the date of the approval of R.A. No. 7975; consequently, the Anti-Graft Court retains jurisdiction over said cases.
In any case, whatever seeming ambiguity or doubt regarding the application of Section 7 of R.A. No. 7975 should be laid to rest by Section 7 of R.A. No. 8249, which states:
Sec. 7. Transitory Provision. — This Act shall apply to all cases pending in any court over which trial has not begun as of the approval hereof.
The latter provision more accurately expresses the legislature's intent and in any event should be applied in this case, R.A. No. 8249 having superseded R.A. No. 7975.
The ramifications of Section 7 of R.A. No. 8249 may be stated as follows:
1. If trial of the cases pending before whatever court has already begun as of the approval of R.A. No. 8249, said law does not apply.
2. If trial of cases pending before whatever court has not begun as of the approval of R.A. No. 8249, then said law applies.
(a) If the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over a case pending before it, then it retains jurisdiction.
(b) If the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over a case pending before it, the case shall be referred to the regular courts.
(c) If the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over a case pending before a regular court, the latter loses jurisdiction and the same shall be referred to the Sandiganbayan.
(d) If a regular court has jurisdiction over a case pending before it, then said court retains jurisdiction.
Both laws RA 7975 and RA 8249 retains jurisdiction over Binay’s cases.
Mayor Magsaysay’s case:
Having ruled that the criminal case against petitioners in G.R. No. 128136 is within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, the Court will now dispose of the following issues raised by them:
(1) The Sandiganbayan was ousted of its jurisdiction by the filing of an information alleging the same facts with the Regional Trial Court.
(2) Respondents are estopped from filing an information before the Sandiganbayan considering that they had already filed another information alleging the same facts before the Regional Trial Court.
(3) The filing of the information before the Sandiganbayan constitutes double jeopardy.
Petitioners invoke the rule that "the jurisdiction of a court once it attaches cannot be ousted by subsequent happenings or events, although of such character which would have prevented jurisdiction from attaching in the first instance." They claim that the filing of the information in the Sandiganbayan was a "subsequent happening or event" which cannot oust the RTC of its jurisdiction.
This rule has no application here for the simple reason that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the case. Jurisdiction never attached to the RTC. When the information was filed before the RTC, R.A. No. 7975 was already in effect and, under said law, jurisdiction over the case pertained to the Sandiganbayan.
Office of the Ombudsman is not estopped to file the case in the Sandiganbayan after already filing it with the RTC because it merely made a mistake in the choice of the proper forum. Jurisdiction is determined by law and not by the consent or agreement of the parties.
The filing of the information in the Sandiganbayan did not put petitioners in double jeopardy even though they had already pleaded "not guilty" to the information earlier filed in the RTC. The first jeopardy never attached in the first place, the RTC not being a court of competent jurisdiction.
MAGLUNOB et al vs. THE NATIONAL ABACA & OTHER FIBERS CORPORATION
G.R. No. L-6203 February 26, 1954
Petitioner’s are landless war veterans and recognized and deserving guerillas qualified to acquire public lands under RA 65 of which the respondent Corporation is the owner as evidenced by a Certificate of Title 1405 issued by the Registry of Deeds. Petitioners file a petition for mandamus compelling the respondent Corporation to execute deed of sale or lease contracts on petitioners occupying the parcels of land.
Whether or not RA 65 confers rights to the petitioners?
Whether or not respondent has a specific legal duty to perform as enjoined by law in connection therewith ?
Executive orders and directives of the President are administrative in nature they cannot generally confer any right because it is only conferred by law.
Republic Act No. 65 only granted preference to the war veterans and that involves discretion to determine whether the applicants for lease or sale of parts of a parcel of land under the management of the respondent are entitled to such lease or purchase.