The voting of the majority of the Court in the De Lima case has resulted in a ridiculous situation. The majority opinion is not actually carried by a majority vote, but is actually the opinion of a mere majority within the majority (because there is a minority of three in the majority of nine who thought otherwise), thus having the whole Court arrive at a minority vote of six (including that of Justice Bernabe’s dissenting opinion) that the crime charged is Illegal Drug Trading, as against the other nine justices who thought that the crime charged was either Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading, Direct Bribery, Indirect Bribery, or that the Information is void for vagueness.
Six is not a majority of 15 justices. It is a minority. Six justices voting that the crime charged in the Information is Illegal Drug Trading does not affirm the validity of the Information. It nullifies the Information for its vagueness, because a clear majority of nine justices of the Court have other opinions on what the Information actually charges, and this is anything else but Illegal Drug Trading.
There are 15 justices of the Supreme Court. If only six can agree on what crime is charged in the Information, with the other nine having other crimes in mind, then that Information is patently vague and fails to apprise the accused of the nature of the offense she is charged with. It is an unconstitutional indictment that must be slain on sight. The injustice in De Lima’s predicament is that she continues to suffer in jail, while only a minority of six out of 15 justices of the Supreme Court agree on what she is in jail for.
Given this situation, the other question of course is for what crime did the majority of nine justices rule that probable cause was validly found by the lower court judge, if they could not even agree on what crime is actually charged in the Information? Was probable cause determined to exist by the majority on the crime of Illegal Drug Trading, or was it on the crime of Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading? The majority ponencia is not clear on this. But somehow, it was made to appear that the majority justices agreed it must be on some crime penalized under the Dangerous Drugs Law.
But again, this cannot be. The Supreme Court majority cannot justify a finding of probable cause on both Illegal Drug Trading and Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading, because under the Rules of Court, basic constitutional requirements demand that one and the same Information must charge only one offense, not two.
Only five justices among the majority agree with the conclusion that the court a quo did not commit grave abuse of discretion in finding that probable cause exists for the crime of Illegal Drug Trading. Three justices from the majority, viz., Justices De Castro, Peralta, and Tijam, could not possibly posit that the lower court validly found probable cause for the commission of the crime of Illegal Drug Trading, if in their opinion the crime charged in the Information is Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading. In so far as the position of these three justices is concerned, how could the lower court possibly determine the existence of probable cause for Illegal Drug Trading, if for them the crime charged in the Information is actually Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading?
What is therefore clear is that among 15 justices of the entire Court, only five agree that the lower court did not commit grave abuse of discretion, and that, indeed, it validly found probable cause for the crime of Illegal Drug Trading. Again, five out of 15 justices do not comprise a majority of the Court. It is, in fact, a minority. How could a minority of five justices therefore carry a disposition binding to the whole Court that Judge Guerrero did not commit grave abuse of discretion in determining that probable cause exists for the crime of Illegal Drug Trading?
For the three justices of the majority who opined that the crime charged is Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading, certainly the lower court must have committed grave abuse of discretion when it determined the existence of probable cause for the wrong crime, i.e., Illegal Drug Trading, instead of Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading.
Plainly put, a proper Summation of Votes of the Court in the De Lima case shows that only five justices consistently uphold all the actions of the lower court upon the purported grounds and basis that it so acted, i.e., the Information is sufficient in charging Illegal Drug Trading, and that probable cause exists that this crime was committed by De Lima. Again, five is not a majority. How the petition was therefore dismissed on the basis of the vote of a minority of five, the dissenting votes of six, and the concurring but actually non-concurring votes of three justices on the vital issues of what crime is actually charged and whether probable cause was properly determined to exist for this crime, is the million-dollar question in any bar examination.
It therefore appears that beyond the form of the Court’s Decision and its separate concurring opinions, its substance as revealed in a Summation of Votes—that the voting did not actually carry a conclusive disposition on the vital issues of whether or not the Information sufficiently identifies the crime charged and is not void for being vague, and whether or not the lower court committed grave abuse of discretion in determining that probable cause exists for the crime of Illegal Drug Trading – rather points to a disposition granting the petition to release Senator De Lima.
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