Political Law

Serana v. Sandiganbayan G.R. No. 162059 January 22, 2008

FACTS:

Petitioner Hannah Eunice D. Serana was appointed by then President Joseph Estrada  as a student regent of UP, to serve a one-year term.

Petitioner discussed with President Estrada the renovation of Vinzons Hall Annex in UP Diliman.

Petitioner, with her siblings and relatives, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission the Office of the Student Regent Foundation, Inc. (OSRFI).

One of the projects of the OSRFI was the renovation of the Vinzons Hall Annex. 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. The succeeding student regent and the  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.

The Ombudsman, after due investigation, found probable cause to indict petitioner and her brother Jade Ian D. Serana for estafa.

Petitioner moved to quash the information. She claimed that the Sandiganbayan does not have any jurisdiction over the offense charged or over her person, in her capacity as UP student regent, claiming that she was not a public officer since she merely represented her peers, in contrast to the other regents who held their positions in an ex officio capacity. She addsed that she was a simple student and did not receive any salary as a student regent.

The OMB opposed the motion. According to the Ombudsman, petitioner, despite her protestations, iwas a public officer. As a member of the BOR, she hads the general powers of administration and exerciseds the corporate powers of UP.

The Sandiganbayan denied petitioner’s motion for lack of merit.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioner is a public officer.

 

RULING:

Petitioner UP student regent is a public officer.

Petitioner claims that she is not a public officer with Salary Grade 27; she is, in fact, a regular tuition fee-paying student. This is bereft of merit. It is not only the salary grade that determines the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan also has jurisdiction over other officers enumerated in P.D. No. 1606.

Petitioner falls under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan as she is placed there by express provision of law.

Section 4(A)(1)(g) of P.D. No. 1606 explictly vested the Sandiganbayan with jurisdiction over Presidents, directors or trustees, or managers of government-owned or controlled corporations, state universities or educational institutions or foundations. Petitioner falls under this category. As the Sandiganbayan pointed out, the BOR performs functions similar to those of a board of trustees of a non-stock corporation. By express mandate of law, petitioner is, indeed, a public officer as contemplated by P.D. No. 1606.

Moreover, it is well established that compensation is not an essential element of public office. At most, it is merely incidental to the public office.

Delegation of sovereign functions is essential in the public office. An investment in an individual of some portion of the sovereign functions of the government, to be exercised by him for the benefit of the public makes one a public officer.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.