Case Digest: Arroyo vs. DOJ

G.R. No. 199082 : September 18, 2012

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.


FACTS:

The Comelec issued Resolution No. 9266 approving the creation of a joint committee with the Department of Justice (DOJ), which shall conduct preliminary investigation on the alleged election offenses and anomalies committed during the 2004 and 2007 elections.

The Comelec and the DOJ issued Joint Order No. 001-2011 creating and constituting a Joint Committee and Fact-Finding Team on the 2004 and 2007 National Elections electoral fraud and manipulation cases composed of officials from the DOJ and the Comelec. 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 were indeed perpetrated. The Fact-Finding Team recommended that herein petitioners Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), et al. to be subjected to preliminary investigation for electoral sabotage.

After the preliminary investigation, the COMELEC en banc adopted a resolution ordering that information/s for the crime of electoral sabotage be filed against GMA, et al. while that the charges against Jose Miguel Arroyo, among others, should be dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

Consequently, GMA, et al. assail the validity of the creation of COMELEC-DOJ Joint Panel and of Joint Order No. 001-2011 before the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:

I. Whether or not the creation of COMELEC-DOJ Joint Panel is valid?
II. Whether or not Joint Order No. 001-2011 violates the equal protection clause?


HELD: Petitions are DISMISSED.

FIRST ISSUE: The creation of COMELEC-DOJ Joint Panel is valid.

POLITICAL LAW: powers of COMELEC


Section 2, Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution enumerates the powers and functions of the Comelec. The grant to the Comelec of the power to investigate and prosecute election offenses as an adjunct to the enforcement and administration of all election laws is intended to enable the Comelec to effectively insure to the people the free, orderly, and honest conduct of elections. The constitutional grant of prosecutorial power in the Comelec was reflected in Section 265 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code.

Under the above provision of law, the power to conduct preliminary investigation is vested exclusively with the Comelec. The latter, however, was given by the same provision of law the authority to avail itself of the assistance of other prosecuting arms of the government. Thus, under the Omnibus Election Code, while the exclusive jurisdiction to conduct preliminary investigation had been lodged with the Comelec, the prosecutors had been conducting preliminary investigations pursuant to the continuing delegated authority given by the Comelec.

Thus, Comelec Resolution No. 9266, approving the creation of the Joint Committee and Fact-Finding Team, should be viewed not as an abdication of the constitutional bodys independence but as a means to fulfill its duty of ensuring the prompt investigation and prosecution of election offenses as an adjunct of its mandate of ensuring a free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections.

SECOND ISSUE: Joint Order No. 001-2011 does not violate the equal protection clause.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: equal protection


Petitioners claim that the creation of the Joint Committee and Fact-Finding Team is in violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution because its sole purpose is the investigation and prosecution of certain persons and incidents. They insist that the Joint Panel was created to target only the Arroyo Administration as well as public officials linked to the Arroyo Administration.

While GMA and Mike Arroyo were among those subjected to preliminary investigation, not all respondents therein were linked to GMA as there were public officers who were investigated upon in connection with their acts in the performance of their official duties. Private individuals were also subjected to the investigation by the Joint Committee.

The equal protection guarantee exists to prevent undue favor or privilege. It is intended to eliminate discrimination and oppression based on inequality. Recognizing the existence of real differences among men, it does not demand absolute equality. It merely requires that all persons under like circumstances and conditions shall be treated alike both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced.

DISMISSED.

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