Crime and Senator Joseph Estrada
The most discussed law these days is Republic Act 7080 otherwise known as the law on plunder. Seen as a deterrent to prevent public officials from stealing money from the government, the plunder law was passed in 1991 with the most significant signatory being one Senator Joseph Estrada. In this edition of the Law Professor, we shall now examine the intricacies of the Plunder Law.
What is plunder and how is it committed?
According to Section 2 of RA 7080, plunder is committed when a public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts as described in Section 1 (d) of RA 7080 in the aggregate amount or total value of at least Fifty million pesos (P50,000,000. 00).
In addition, any person who participated with the said public officer in the commission of plunder shall likewise be punished. The criminal acts described in Section 1 (d) are as follows: 1. Through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds or raids on the public treasury; 2. By receiving, directly or indirectly, any commission, gift, share, percentage, kickbacks or any/or entity in connection with any government contract or project or by reason of the office or position of the public officer concerned; 3.
By the illegal or fraudulent conveyance or disposition of assets belonging to the National government or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities or government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries; 4. By obtaining, receiving or accepting directly or indirectly any shares of stock, equity or any other form of interest or participation including the promise of future employment in any business enterprise or undertaking; 5.
By establishing agricultural, industrial or commercial monopolies or other combinations and/or implementation of decrees and orders intended to benefit particular persons or special interests; or, 6. By taking undue advantage of official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence to unjustly enrich himself or themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines. In the original version of RA 7080, the offender was liable only if the aggregate amount amassed is at least Seventy-five million pesos
(P75,000,000. 00) with the corresponding penalty of life imprisonment with perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any public office. However, RA 7659 (The Death Penalty Law) amended Section 2 of RA 7080, and lowered the amount to Fifty million pesos and increased the imposable penalty to death, to wit: Sec. 12. Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7080 (An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder) is hereby amended to read as follows: “Sec. 2. Definition of the Crime of Plunder; Penalties.
– Any public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt criminal acts as described in Section 1 (d) hereof in the aggregate amount or total value of at least Fifty million pesos (P50,000,000. 00) shall be guilty of the crime of plunder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua to death.
Any person who participated with the said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to the crime of plunder shall likewise be punished for such offense. In the imposition of penalties, the degree of participation and the attendance of mitigating and extenuating circumstances, as provided by the Revised Penal Code, shall be considered by the court. The court shall declare any and all ill-gotten wealth and their interests and other incomes and assets including the properties and shares of stocks derived from the deposit or investment thereof forfeited in favor of the State.
” Section 4 of RA 7080 also prescribes the method for proving that the crime of plunder was committed. It states that for purposes of establishing the crime of plunder, it shall not be necessary to prove each and every criminal act done by the accused in furtherance of the scheme or conspiracy to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth, it being sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt a pattern of overt or criminal acts indicative of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy.