ISSUE: Whether or not the Tanodbayan has the authority to conduct a preliminary investigation of a complaint charging a municipal judge and his clerk of court with violation of Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019 and, upon a finding of prima facie case, proceed to
FACTS: Three informations were filed before the Sandiganbayan by Tanodbayan Special Prosecutor Rodolfo B. Aquino, charging petitioner Vicente S. Orap Presiding Judge of the Municipal Court of Mangatarem, Pangasinan, with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The information, duly approved by Hon. Juan A. Sison, then Chief Special Prosecutor of the Tanodbayan, were docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. SB-020, 021 and 022. Likewise charged under Criminal Case No. 020 was Melanio B. Fernandez, petitioner's Clerk of Court. The fourth information, docketed as Criminal Case No. SB-189, was filed against petitioner, also for violation of Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019. The gravamen of all these charges was to the effect that the accused on different occasions unlawfully and feloniously received and took various sums of money from several persons in connection with Criminal Case No. 2032 of the Municipal Court of Mangatarem entitled, "People vs. Pepito F. Iglesias", for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, serious physical injuries and damage to property. Before his scheduled arraignment, petitioner filed a motion to quash the informations on the ground that the officer who signed the same had no authority to do so and that, corollarily, the Sandiganbayan did not acquire jurisdiction over the offenses charged. After due hearing, the respondent court denied petitioner's motion to quash. Petitioner verbally moved for the reconsideration of the order but the relief sought was denied. Hence, the instant recourse.
RATIO DECIDENDI: The respondent Sandiganbayan ruled that the Tanodbayan has such authority. The Tanodbayan functions not only as an ombudsman, but as prosecutor as well. As ombudsman, his investigatory powers are limited to complaints initiated against officers and personnel of administrative agencies, as defined in Section 9(a) of the law. As prosecutor, however, the authority of the Tanodbayan is primary and without exceptions. His powers are defined in Sections 17 and 19 of P.D. 1607. Section 17 of the Decree, in unequivocal term, confers upon the Tanodbayan, through the Chief Special Prosecutor and the Special Prosecutors, the exclusive authority to "conduct preliminary investigation of all cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, to file informations therefor, and to direct and control the prosecution of said cases therein." If, as petitioner contends, judges, and other court personnel lie outside the investigatory power of the Tanodbayan, then no judge or court employee could ever be brought to justice for crimes and offenses cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, for lack of proper officer or entity authorized to conduct the preliminary investigation on complaints of such nature against them. This absurd situation the law could never have intended, considering that the Office of the Tanodbayan was purposely created to "give effect to the constitutional right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances and to promote higher standards of integrity and efficiency in the government service." The informations in question have complied with the substantial and formal requirements of the law. They carry the certification of the investigating prosecutor as to the existence of a prima facie case. They also bear the approval of the Chief Special Prosecutor, as required by Section 11 of PD 1606. As petitioner is charged with violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which are within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan as defined under Section 4 of P.D. 1606, the said court validly acquired jurisdiction over the information in question.