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Rufino Nuez vs Sandiganbayan & the People of the Philippines

Nuez assails the validity of the PD 1486 creating the Sandiganbayan as amended by PD 1606. He was accused before the Sandiganbayan of estafa through falsification of public and commercial documents committed in connivance with his other co-accused, all public officials, in several cases. It is the claim of Nuez that PD1486, as amended, is violative of the due process, equal protection, and ex post facto clauses of the Constitution. He claims that the Sandiganbayan proceedings violates Nuezs right to equal protection, because appeal as a matter of right became minimized into a mere matter of discretion; appeal likewise was shrunk and limited only to questions of law, excluding a review of the facts and trial evidence; and there is only one chance to appeal conviction, by certiorari to the SC, instead of the traditional two chances; while all other estafa indictees are entitled to appeal as a matter of right covering both law and facts and to two appellate courts, i.e., first to the CA and thereafter to the SC. ISSUE: Whether or not the creation of Sandiganbayan violates equal protection insofar as appeals would be concerned. HELD: The SC ruled against Nuez. The 1973 Constitution had provided for the creation of a special court that shall have original jurisdiction over cases involving public officials charged with graft and corruption. The constitution specifically makes mention of the creation of a special court, the Sandiganbayan, precisely in response to a problem, the urgency of which cannot be denied, namely, dishonesty in the public service. It follows that those who may thereafter be tried by such court ought to have been aware as far back as January 17, 1973, when the present Constitution came into force, that a different procedure for the accused therein, whether a private citizen as petitioner is or a public official, is not necessarily offensive to the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Further, the classification therein set forth met the standard requiring that it must be based on substantial distinctions which make real differences; it must be germane to the purposes of the law; it must not be limited to existingconditions only, and must apply equally to each member of the class. Further still, decisions in the Sandiganbayan are reached by a unanimous decision from 3 justices - a showing that decisions therein are more conceivably carefully reached than other trialcourts.