Thursday, March 15, 2012

Esquivel vs. Ombudsman

Facts: Several police officers filed complaint-affidavits against petitioners Antonio Esquivel, municipal mayor of Jaen, Nueva Ecija and his brother, Mark Anthony Esquivel, barangay captain of Barangay Apo, Jaen, Nueva Ecija. They were charged with illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, maltreatment, attempted murder and grave threats. After the preliminary investigation, the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon issued a resolution recommending that both petitioners be indicted for less serious physical injuries and Mayor Esquivel alone for grave threats. The Ombudsman approved the resolution. Informations were filed with the Sandiganbayan. Petitioners pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Issue: Whether or not the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the persons of petitioners. 

Held: YES. Petitioners claim that positions of municipal mayor and barangay captain are not mentioned in R.A. No. 7975, therefore, the Sandiganbayan does not have jurisdiction over their persons. However, the Supreme Court in Rodrigo, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, Binay v. Sandiganbayan, and Layus v. Sandiganbayan, held that municipal mayors fall under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. Nor can Barangay Captain Mark Anthony Esquivel claim that since he is not a municipal mayor, he is outside the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction. R.A. No. 7975, as amended by R.A. No. 8249, provides that it is only in cases where "none of the accused are occupying positions corresponding to salary grade ‘27’ or higher" that "exclusive original jurisdiction shall be vested in the proper regional trial court, metropolitan trial court, municipal trial court, and municipal circuit court, as the case may be, pursuant to their respective jurisdictions as provided in B.P. Blg. 129, as amended." Under the 1991 Local Government Code, Mayor Esquivel has a salary grade of 27. Since Barangay Captain Esquivel is the co-accused of Mayor Esquivel, whose position falls under salary grade 27, the Sandiganbayan committed no grave abuse of discretion in assuming jurisdiction over the criminal cases.

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