G.R. No. 162059 January 22, 2008
HANNAH EUNICE D. SERANA, petitioner,
SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
REYES, R.T., J.:
CAN the Sandiganbayan try a government scholaran** accused, along with her brother, of swindling government funds?
MAAARI bang litisin ng Sandiganbayan ang isang iskolar ng bayan, at ang kanyang kapatid, na kapwa pinararatangan ng estafa ng pera ng bayan?
The jurisdictional question is posed in this petition for certiorari assailing the Resolutions1 of the Sandiganbayan, Fifth Division, denying petitioner’s motion to quash the information and her motion for reconsideration.
Petitioner Hannah Eunice D. Serana was a senior student of the University of the Philippines-Cebu. A student of a state university is known as a government scholar. She was appointed by then President Joseph Estrada on December 21, 1999 as a student regent of UP, to serve a one-year term starting January 1, 2000 and ending on December 31, 2000.
In the early part of 2000, petitioner discussed with President Estrada the renovation of Vinzons Hall Annex in UP Diliman.2 On September 4, 2000, petitioner, with her siblings and relatives, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission the Office of the Student Regent Foundation, Inc. (OSRFI).3
One of the projects of the OSRFI was the renovation of the Vinzons Hall Annex.4 President Estrada gave Fifteen Million Pesos (P15,000,000.00) to the OSRFI as financial assistance for the proposed renovation. The source of the funds, according to the information, was the Office of the President.
The renovation of Vinzons Hall Annex failed to materialize.5 The succeeding student regent, Kristine Clare Bugayong, and Christine Jill De Guzman, Secretary General of the KASAMA sa U.P., a system-wide alliance of student councils within the state university, consequently filed a complaint for Malversation of Public Funds and Property with the Office of the Ombudsman.6
On July 3, 2003, the Ombudsman, after due investigation, found probable cause to indict petitioner and her brother Jade Ian D. Serana for estafa, docketed as Criminal Case No. 27819 of the Sandiganbayan.7 The Information reads:
The undersigned Special Prosecution Officer III, Office of the Special Prosecutor, hereby accuses HANNAH EUNICE D. SERANA and JADE IAN D. SERANA of the crime of Estafa, defined and penalized under Paragraph 2(a), Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended committed as follows:
That on October, 24, 2000, or sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, pand within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, above-named accused, HANNAH EUNICE D. SERANA, a high-ranking public officer, being then the Student Regent of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, while in the performance of her official functions, committing the offense in relation to her office and taking advantage of her position, with intent to gain, conspiring with her brother, JADE IAN D. SERANA, a private individual, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud the government by falsely and fraudulently representing to former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada that the renovation of the Vinzons Hall of the University of the Philippines will be renovated and renamed as "President Joseph Ejercito Estrada Student Hall," and for which purpose accused HANNAH EUNICE D. SERANA requested the amount of FIFTEEN MILLION PESOS (P15,000,000.00), Philippine Currency, from the Office of the President, and the latter relying and believing on said false pretenses and misrepresentation gave and delivered to said accused Land Bank Check No. 91353 dated October 24, 2000 in the amount of FIFTEEN MILLION PESOS (P15,000,000.00), which check was subsequently encashed by accused Jade Ian D. Serana on October 25, 2000 and misappropriated for their personal use and benefit, and despite...
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