Case Digest: Arroyo v. DOJ

G.R. No. 199082 : July 23, 2013

JOSE MIGUEL T. ARROYO, Petitioner,v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; HON. LEILA DE LIMA, in her capacity as Secretary of the Department of Justice; HON. SIXTO BRILLANTES, JR., in his capacity as Chairperson of the Commission on Elections; and the JOINT DOJ-COMELEC PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE and FACT-FINDING TEAM, Respondents.



On August 15, 2011, the Comelec and the DOJ issued Joint Order No. 001-2011 creating and constituting a Joint Committee and Fact-Finding Team (referred to as Joint Panel) on the 2004 and 2007 National Elections electoral fraud and manipulation cases.

In its Initial Report, the Fact-Finding Team concluded that manipulation of the results in the May 14, 2007 senatorial elections in the provinces of North and South Cotabato, and Maguindanao was indeed perpetrated.The Fact-Finding Team recommended, among others, that petitioner Benjamin S. Abalos, Sr. (Abalos) be subjected to preliminary investigation for electoral sabotage for conspiring to manipulate the election results in North and South Cotabato; that GMA and Abalos be subjected to another preliminary investigation for manipulating the election results in Maguindanao; and, that Mike Arroyo be subjected to further investigation.The case was docketed as DOJ-Comelec Case No. 001-2011.

Senator Pimentel filed a Complaint Affidavit for Electoral Sabotage against petitioners and twelve others, and several John Does and Jane Does. The case was docketed as DOJ-Comelec Case No. 002-2011. Thereafter, petitioners filed before the Court separate Petitions for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction assailing the creation of the Joint Panel.

The Joint Committee promulgated a Joint Resolution which was later indorsed to the Comelec. The Comelec en banc issued a Resolution approving and adopting the Joint Resolution subject to modifications. The Comelec resolved, among others, that an information for electoral sabotage be filed against GMA and Abalos, while the charges against Mike Arroyo be dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

The RTC issued a Warrant for GMAs arrest which was duly served. GMA was later arraigned and she entered a plea of "not guilty." She was, for some time, on hospital arrest but was able to obtain temporary liberty when her motion for bail was granted. At present, she is again on hospital arrest by virtue of a warrant issued in another criminal case.

The Court denied the petitions and supplemental petitions of herein petitioners. Hence, this motion for reconsideration. Mike Arroyo reiterates his arguments on the independence of the Comelec as basis in nullifying the subject joint DOJ-Comelec resolutions. Mike Arroyo also maintains that the DOJ should conduct preliminary investigation only when deputized by the Comelec but not exercise concurrent jurisdiction. Finally, as has been repeatedly pointed out in his earlier pleadings before the Court, Mike Arroyo claims that the proceedings involving the electoral sabotage case were rushed because of pressures from the executive branch of the government.

ISSUE: Whether or not the creation of Joint Panel is valid

HELD: Yes.

Political Law- Power of the COMELEC to investigate and prosecute cases

This is not the first time that the Court is confronted with the issue of whether the Comelec has the exclusive power to investigate and prosecute cases of violations of election laws. In Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency (BANAT) Party-List v. Commission on Elections, the constitutionality of Section 43of RA 9369 had already been raised by petitioners therein and addressed by the Court. While recognizing the Comelecs exclusive power to investigate and prosecute cases under Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 or the Omnibus Election Code, the Court pointed out that the framers of the 1987 Constitution did not have such intention. This exclusivity is thus a legislative enactment that can very well be amended by Section 43 of RA 9369. Therefore, under the present law, the Comelec and other prosecuting arms of the government, such as the DOJ, now exercise concurrent jurisdiction in the investigation and prosecution of election offenses.

Indeed, as aptly pointed out by GMA, there is a discrepancy between Comelec Resolution No. 3467 dated January 12, 2001 and Joint Order No. 001-2011, dated August 15, 2011, creating and constituting a Joint Committee and Fact-Finding Team on the 2004 and 2007 National Elections electoral fraud and manipulation cases. However, GMA seemed to miss the date when these two resolutions were promulgated by the Comelec.

It is noteworthy that Comelec Resolution No. 3467 was issued when Section 265 of the Omnibus Election Code was still effective, while Joint Order No. 001-2011 as well as Comelec Resolution Nos. 8733and 9057mentioned in the assailed decision but missed out by GMA in her motion, were issued during the effectivity of Section 43 of RA 9369, giving the Comelec and other prosecuting arms of the government the concurrent jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute election offenses. This amendment paved the way for the discrepancy.

In Comelec Resolution No. 3467, the Comelec maintained the continuing deputation of prosecutors and the Comelec Law Department was tasked to supervise the investigatory and prosecutory functions of the task force pursuant to the mandate of the Omnibus Election Code. However, with the amendment, the Comelec likewise changed the tenor of the later resolutions to reflect the new mandate of the Comelec and other prosecuting arms of the government now exercising concurrent jurisdiction. Thus, the Comelec Law Department and the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor of the DOJ were tasked to jointly supervise the investigatory and prosecutory functions of the Comelec-DOJ Task Force.

Notwithstanding the grant of concurrent jurisdiction, the Comelec and the DOJ nevertheless included a provision in the assailed Joint Order whereby the resolutions of the Joint Committee finding probable cause for election offenses shall still be approved by the Comelec in accordance with the Comelec Rules of Procedure. With more reason, therefore, that we cannot consider the creation of the Joint Committee as an abdication of the Comelecs independence enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

Motion for Reconsideration DENIED.