Case Digest: G.R. No. 148560 , November 19, 2001 Joeseph Ejercito Estrada, Petitioner vs.SANDIGANBAYAN (Third Division) and People of the Republic of the Philippines, Respondents
G.R. No. 148560 , November 19, 2001
Joeseph Ejercito Estrada, Petitioner
SANDIGANBAYAN (Third Division) and People of the Republic of the Philippines, Respondents
Petitioner, Former President Joseph Estrada, the highest-ranking official to be prosecuted under RA 7080 (An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder), assailed the constitutionality of the said law based on the following grounds: (1) the law suffers from vagueness; (2) it dispenses with the reasonable doubt standard in criminal prosecutions; and (3) it abolishes the element of mens rea or criminal intent in the crimes already punishable under the Revised Penal Code. The foregoing, according to Estrada, violated his fundamental rights to due process and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.
Is the Plunder Law unconstitutional for being vague?
No. The plunder law contains ascertainable standards and well-defined parameters which would enable the accused to determine the nature of his violation. Republic Act 7080 also known as Plunder Law, as amended by RA 7569, provides for comprehensive guide or rule that would inform those who are subject to it what conduct would render them liable to its penalties. A statute or act may be said to be vague when it lacks comprehensive standards that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess as its meaning and differ in application. However, the questioned law is not rendered uncertain and void merely because general terms are used therein or because of the employment of terms without defining them. The petitioner’s reliance on “void-for-vagueness” doctrine is clearly misplaced. It can only be invoked against the specie of legislation that is utterly vague on its face, that which cannot be clarified either by a saving clause or by construction. Being one of the senators who voted for its passage, petitioner must be aware that the law was extensively deliberated upon by the senate and its appropriate committees by reason of which he even registered his affirmative vote with full knowledge of its legal implications and due observance to the constitution