Double Jeopardy, Ordinance?

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The relationship between ordinances enacted by local government units and national laws enacted by congress has always been controversial. The usual issue is with respect to the application of a local ordinance that may cover the same subject with that of a national law which obviously applies to the entire country. This is the same issue that confronts local legislators such as sangguniang barangay, bayan, panlungsod and panlalawigan: can they enact an ordinance which has the same subject with a national law? If they enact one, what would be the effect when it comes to applicability? If a person commits an act which violates an ordinance and also a national law, what shall apply? If he is convicted under the ordinance, can he be charged again under the national law? The last question was resolved in the landmark case of People of the Philippines vs. Relova and Opulencia which was decided on 06 March 1987.

Violation of Ordinance and Penal Code

Manuel Opulencia was found by authorities to have made illegal connections to obtain electricity for his business and installed certain devices to lower the meter readings to the prejudice of the City of Batangas. In fact he admitted to have installed said connections and devices in his written statement. The city fiscal then filed a case against Opulencia for having violated a city ordinance. After entering a not guilty plea, he moved for the dismissal of the case on the ground that the case has already prescribed since it was filed only after nine months from the commission of the violation. The trial court granted the motion. The fiscal then filed another case, this time for theft under the Revised Penal Code. Before entering his plea, Opulencia filed a motion to quash on the ground that the filing of the second case violated his right against double jeopardy. The trial court granted the motion and denied the subsequent motion for reconsideration. The People (the State) went to the Supreme Court to question the dismissal of the second case by the trial court on the ground of double jeopardy.

There is Double Jeopardy

The State believes that the case should not be dismissed because there was no double jeopardy. According to the petitioner, the first case for which the accused was charged is not identical with the offense for which he is being charged with in the second case. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the accused since the first offense is substantially similar to the second one. The Court said: “where the offenses charged are There is Double Jeopardy

The State believes that the case should not be dismissed because there was no double jeopardy. According to the petitioner, the first case for which the accused was charged is not identical with the offense for which he is being charged with in the second case. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the accused since the first offense is substantially similar to the second one. The Court said: “where the offenses charged are penalized either by different sections of the same statute or by different statutes, the important inquiry relates to the identity of offenses charged: the constitutional protection against double jeopardy is available only where an Identity is shown to exist between the earlier and the subsequent offenses charged. In contrast, where one offense is charged under a municipal ordinance while the other is penalized by a statute, the critical inquiry is to the identity of the acts which the accused is said to have committed and which are alleged to have given rise to the two offenses: the constitutional protection against double jeopardy is available so long as the acts which constitute or have given rise to the first offense under a municipal ordinance are the same acts which constitute or have given rise to the offense charged under a statute.” The filling of a case against a person for violation of an ordinance may be a bar to the filing of another case for violation of a national law.

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