That on or about the year 1993 or sometime prior or subsequent thereto in the Municipality of Cabatuan, Province of Isabela, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, [C]ENITA M. CARIAGA, a public officer, being the Municipal Treasurer of Cabatuan, Isabela, and as such is accountable for taxes, fees and monies collected and/or received by her by reason of her position, acting in relation to her office and taking advantage of the same, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, misappropriate and convert to her personal use the amount of TWO THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED EIGHTY FIVE PESOS (P2,785.00) representing the remittance of the Municipality of Cabatuan to the Provincial Government of Isabela as the latter's share in the real property taxes collected, which amount was not received by the Provincial Government of Isabela, to the damage and prejudice of the government in the amount aforestated.
CONTRARY TO LAW.1 (underscoring supplied)
WHEREFORE, finding the accused CENITA M. CARIAGA, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MALVERSATION for which she is charged in the three (3) separate informations and in the absence of any mitigating circumstance, hereby sentences her to suffer:
1. In Crim. Case No. Br.20-1293, an indeterminate penalty of from FOUR (4) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION CORRECCIONAL as minimum to SEVEN (7) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION MAYOR as maximum and its accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification and a fine of Two Thousand Seven Hundred Eighty Five (P2,785.00) Pesos, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. Cost against the accused.
2. In Crim. Case No. Br. 20-1294, an indeterminate penalty of from TEN (10) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION MAYOR as minimum to EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of RECLUSION TEMPORAL as maximum and to suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification and to pay a fine of Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Twenty Seven (P25,627.00) Pesos. She is ordered to indemnify the Provincial Government of Isabela Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Twenty Seven (P25,627.00) Pesos, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. Cost against the accused.
3. In Crim. Case No. Br. 20-1295, an indeterminate penalty of from TEN (10) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION MAYOR as minimum to FOURTEEN (14) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of RECLUSION TEMPORAL as maximum, and to suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification and a fine of Twenty Thousand Seven Hundred Thirty (P20,730.00) Pesos, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The bailbonds are cancelled. Costs against the accused.
Concomitantly, jurisdiction over the offense is vested with the Regional Trial Court considering that the position of Municipal Treasurer corresponds to a salary grade below 27. Pursuant to Section 4 of [Presidential Decree No. 1606, as amended by Republic Act No. 8249], it is the Sandiganbayan, to the exclusion of all others, which enjoys appellate jurisdiction over the offense. Evidently, the appeal to this Court of the conviction for malversation of public funds was improperly and improvidently made. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)
- WHETHER . . ., CONSIDERING THE CLEAR AND GRAVE ERROR COMMITTED BY COUNSEL OF [PETITIONER] AND OTHER EXTRA-ORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES, THE APPEAL OF... [PETITIONER] WRONGFULLY DIRECTED TO THE COURT OF APPEALS BE DISMISSED OUTRIGHT...OR BE ENDORSED AND TRANSMITTED TO THE SANDIGANBAYAN WHERE THE APPEAL SHALL THEN PROCEED IN DUE COURSE.
- WHETHER . . ., IN CONSIDERATION OF SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE IN A CRIMINAL CASE, NEW TRIAL BE GRANTED TO THE PETITIONER TO BE UNDERTAKEN IN THE SANDIGANBAYAN (ALTERNATIVELY IN THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT) SO THAT CRUCIAL EVIDENCE OF PETITIONER...BE ADMITTED.6
SEC. 2. Dismissal of improper appeal to the Court of Appeals. x x x.
An appeal erroneously taken to the Court of Appeals shall not be transferred to the appropriate court but shall be dismissed outright. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)
x x x x
In cases where none of the accused are occupying positions corresponding to Salary Grade '27' or higher, as prescribed in the said Republic Act No. 6758, or military and PNP officers mentioned above, exclusive original jurisdiction thereof shall be vested in the proper regional trial court, metropolitan trial court, municipal trial court, and municipal circuit trial court, as the case may be, pursuant to their respective jurisdictions as provided in Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended.
The Sandiganbayan shall exercise exclusive appellate jurisdiction over final judgments, resolutions or orders of regional trial courts whether in the exercise of their own original jurisdiction or of their appellate jurisdiction as herein provided. x x x (emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied).
x x x petitioner's failure to designate the proper forum for her appeal was inadvertent. The omission did not appear to be a dilatory tactic on her part. Indeed, petitioner had more to lose had that been the case as her appeal could be dismissed outright for lack of jurisdiction - which was exactly what happened in the CA.
The trial court, on the other hand, was duty bound to forward the records of the case to the proper forum, the Sandiganbayan. It is unfortunate that the RTC judge concerned ordered the pertinent records to be forwarded to the wrong court, to the great prejudice of petitioner. Cases involving government employees with a salary grade lower than 27 are fairly common, albeit regrettably so. The judge was expected to know and should have known the law and the rules of procedure. He should have known when appeals are to be taken to the CA and when they should be forwarded to the Sandiganbayan. He should have conscientiously and carefully observed this responsibility specially in cases such as this where a person's liberty was at stake. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)
* Additional member per Special Order No. 838 dated May 17, 2010.
1 CA rollo, p. 12-13.
2 Id. at 14-17.
3 Penned by Judge Henedino P. Eduarte.
4 Rollo, pp. 46-50. Penned by then CA Presiding Justice (now a retired member of the Court) Ruben T. Reyes with Associate Justices Mario L. Guariña III and Japar B. Dimaampao concurring.
5 Id. at 52-55.
6 Id. at 23-24.
7 Creating a Special Court To Be Known As "Sandiganbayan" and for Other Purposes.
8 An Act Further Defining the Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.
9 De Guzman v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 103276, 256 SCRA 171, 179 (1996).
10 G.R. No. 183373, January 30, 2009, 577 SCRA 600.
11 By Order of July 5, 2004 the RTC approved the Notice of Appeal and directed the branch clerk of court to
...transmit the entire record of the instant case with all the pages prominently and consecutively numbered, together with an index of the contents thereof, the original and duplicate copies of the transcript of stenographic notes of the testimonies of the witnesses and the exhibits of the parties, to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. (emphasis and underscoring supplied).
12 Vide: Sarraga, Sr. v. Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, G.R. No. 143783, 442 Phil. 55 (2002).