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PILA Case Digest: Sec. of Justice v. Hon. Lantion (2000)

Sec. of Justice v. Hon. Lantion
GR No. 139465 Jan. 18 2000

Lessons: Extradition Process

Laws:  Extradition Treaty between the Philippines and the United States, PD 1069, Bill of Rights

    In accordance to "Extradition Treaty Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States of America" (RP-US Extradition Treaty), the Department of Justice received from the Department of Foreign Affairs U.S. Note Verbale No. 0522 containing a request for the extradition of Mark Jimenez to the United States attached with the Grand Jury Indictment, the warrant of arrest issued by the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, and other supporting documents on June 18, 1999.  Mr. Jimenez was charged with the following:

i.    18 USC 371 (Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States; 2 counts; Maximum Penalty: 5 years/count)
ii.    26 USC 7201 (Attempt to evade or defeat tax;4 counts; Maximum Penalty:5 years/count)
iii.    18 USC 1343 (Fraud by wire, radio, or television; 2 counts; Maximum Penalty: 5 years/count)
iv.    18 USC 1001 (False statement or entries; 6 counts; Maximum Penalty: 5 years/count)
v.    2 USC 441f (Election contributions in name of another; 33 counts; Maximum Penalty: less than 1 year)

The Department of Justice denied Mr. Jimenez request for extradition documents based
on the following:

i.    Article 7 of the Extradition Treaty between the Philippines and the United States enumerates the documentary requirements and establishes the procedures under which the documents submitted shall be received and admitted as evidence.  Evidentiary requirements are under Section 4 of P.D. No. 1069.  Evaluation by the Department of the documents is not a preliminary investigation nor akin to preliminary investigation of criminal cases.   Thus, the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the accused in all criminal prosecutions are not available.  It merely determines the compliance of the Requesting Government with the procedures and requirements under the relevant law and treaty.  After the filing of the petition for extradition, the person sought to be extradited will be furnished by the court with copies of the petition.
ii.    The Department of Justice under P.D. No. 1069 is the counsel of the foreign governments in all extradition requests.  Furthermore, Article 7 of the RP-US Extradition Treaty provides that the Philippine Government must represent the interests of the United States in any proceedings arising out of a request for extradition.   Thus, it must comply with the request of the United States Government to prevent unauthorized disclosure of the subject information.
iii.    Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides that "Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith". Extradition is a tool of criminal law enforcement and to be effective, requests for extradition or surrender of accused or convicted persons must be processed expeditiously.

Mr. Jimenez filed with filed with the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region a petition presided over by the Honorable Ralph C. Lantion against the Secretary of Justice, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation:
i.    mandamus to compel the Department to furnish the extradition documents
ii.    certiorari to set aside Department’s letter dated July 13, 1999 denying his request
iii.    prohibition to restrain the Department from considering the extradition request and from filing an extradition petition in court
iv.    enjoin the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the Director of the NBI from performing any act directed to the extradition
v.    application for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction

Honorable Ralph C. Lantion ordered the Secretary of Justice, the Secretary of Foreign
Affairs and the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation to maintain the status quo by refraining from committing the acts complained of, from conducting further proceedings in connection with the request of the United States Government, from filing the corresponding Petition with a Regional Trial court and from performing any act directed to the extradition for a period of 20 days from service of the order.

    Hon. Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines ordered Hon. Lantion to cease and desist from enforcing the order.  Due to transcendental importance, the Court brushed aside peripheral procedural matters which concern the proceedings in Civil Case No. 99-94684 and the TRO and proceded on the issues.

i.    Whether or NOT the evaluation procedure is not a preliminary investigation nor akin to preliminary investigation of criminal cases
ii.    Whether or NOT the twin basic due process rights granted by Sec. 3, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court on the right to be furnished a copy of the complaint, the affidavits, and other supporting documents and the right to submit counter-affidavits and other supporting documents within 10 days from receipt is dispensable
iii.    Whether or NOT the right of the people to information on matters of public concern granted under Sec. 7 of Art. III of the 1987 Constitution is violated

HELD:  DISMISSED for lack of merit. Petitioner is ordered to furnish private respondent copies of the extradition request and its supporting papers, and to grant him a reasonable period within which to file his comment with supporting evidence.

i.    NO.

Extradition Request
The Extradition Request (Sec. 4. PD 1069) is made by the Foreign Diplomat of the
Requesting State, addressed to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.  The Secretary of Foreign Affairs has the executive authority to conduct the evaluation process which, just like the extradition proceedings proper, belongs to a class by itself or is sui generis. It is not a criminal investigation but it is also erroneous to say that it is purely an exercise of ministerial functions. At such stage, the executive authority has the power:
1)    to make a technical assessment of the completeness and sufficiency of the extradition papers in form and substance
2)    to outrightly deny the request if on its face and on the face of the supporting documents the crimes indicated are not extraditable
3)    to make a determination whether or not the request is politically motivated, or that the offense is a military one which is not punishable under non-military penal legislation. 

The process may be characterized as an investigative or inquisitorial process (NOT an exercise of an administrative body's quasi-judicial power) (Sec. 5. PD 1069 and Pars. 2 and 3, Art. 7 of the RP-US Extradition Treaty) that is indispensable to prosecution.   The power of investigation consists in gathering, organizing and analyzing evidence, which is a useful aid or tool in an administrative agency's performance of its rule-making or quasi-judicial functions. 
In Ruperto v. Torres, the Court laid down the test of determining whether an administrative body is exercising judicial functions or merely investigatory functions applies to an administrative body authorized to evaluate extradition documents.   If the only purpose for investigation is to evaluate evidence submitted before it based on the facts and circumstances presented to it, and if the agency is not authorized to make a final pronouncement affecting the parties, then there is an absence of judicial discretion and judgment.  Thus, the role of the administrative body is limited to an initial finding of whether or not the extradition petition can be filed in court.  The court has the power to determine whether or not the extradition should be effected.  The evaluation procedure (in contrast to ordinary investigations) may result in the deprivation of liberty of the prospective extraditee or accused (Sec. 2[c] of PD 1069) at 2 stages:
1)    provisional arrest of the prospective extraditee pending the submission of the request
This is because the Treaty provides that in case of urgency, a contracting party may request the provisional arrest of the person sought pending presentation of the request (Par. 1, Art. 9 of the RP-US Extradition Treaty) to prevent flight but he shall be automatically discharged after 60 days (Par. 4 of the RP-US Extradition Treaty) or 20 days (Sec. 20[d] PD 1069) if no request is submitted.  Otherwise, he can be continuously detained, or if not, subsequently rearrested (Par. 5, Art 9, RP-US Extradition Treaty)
2)    temporary arrest of the prospective extraditee during the pendency of the extradition petition in court (Sec. 6, PD 1069).
The peculiarity and deviant characteristic of the evaluation procedure is that:
1)    there is yet no extradite; BUT
2)    it results in an administrative if adverse to the person involved, may cause his immediate incarceration

The evaluation process partakes of the nature of a criminal investigation.   Similar to the evaluation stage of extradition proceedings, a preliminary investigation, which may result in the filing of an information against the respondent, can possibly lead to his arrest, and to the deprivation of his liberty.  The characterization of a treaty in Wright was in reference to the applicability of the prohibition against an ex post facto law. It had nothing to do with the denial of the right to notice, information, and hearing. 

In this case, the extradition request was delivered to the Department of Foreign Affairs on June 17, 1999 (the following day the Department of Justice received the request).  Thus, the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to discharge its duty of evaluating the same and its accompanying documents. 

Extradition Petition
    After delivery of the Extradition Request by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to the Secretary of Justice, the latter shall designate and authorize an attorney in his office to take charge of the case (Par. 1, Sec. 5, PD 1069).  The attorney shall file a written Extradition Petition with the proper regional trial court, with a prayer that the court take the extradition request under consideration (Par. 2, Sec. 5, PD 1069).  The presiding judge shall issue an order summoning the prospective extraditee to appear and to answer the petition.  The judge may issue a warrant of arrest if it appears that the immediate arrest and temporary detention of the accused will best serve the ends of justice or to prevent flight  (Par. 1, Sec. 6, PD 1069). 

Extradition Hearing
    The provisions of the Rules of Court, insofar as practicable and not inconsistent with the summary nature of the proceedings, shall apply during the Extradition Hearing (Par. 1, Sec. 9, PD 1069)  The attorney may represent the Requesting state.  (Sec. 8, PD 1069).  The Court’s decision on whether the petition is extraditable based on the application of the dual criminality rule and other conditions mentioned in Article 2 of the RP-US Extradition Treaty or whether or not the offense for which extradition is requested is a political one (Par. 3, Article 7 of the RP-US Extradition Treaty) shall be final and immediately executory (Sec. 12, PD 1069) and appealable with the Court of Appeals where the provisions of the Rules of Court governing appeal in criminal cases in the Court of Appeals shall apply except for the required 15-day period to file brief (Sec. 13, PD 1069).

ii.    YES. 

Neither the Treaty nor the Extradition Law precludes the twin rights of notice and hearing from a prospective extradite.  In the absence of a law or principle of law, we must apply the rules of fair play.  Petitioner contends that United States requested the Philippine Government to prevent unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.  Such argument, however has been overturned by petitioner's revelation that everything it refuses to make available at this stage would be obtainable during trial.   If the information is truly confidential, the veil of secrecy cannot be lifted at any stage of the extradition proceedings.  The constitutional issue in the case at bar does not even call for "justice outside legality," since private respondent's due process rights, although not guaranteed by statute or by treaty, are protected by constitutional guarantees.

However in this case, with the meticulous nature of the evaluation, which cannot just be completed in an abbreviated period of time due to its intricacies and certain problems in the extradition papers (such as those that are in Spanish and without the official English translation, and those that are not properly authenticated) it cannot to be said to be urgent.  Therefore, notice and hearing requirements of administrative due process cannot be dispensed with and shelved aside. 

iii.    NO.
During the evaluation procedure, no official governmental action of our own government has as yet been done; hence the invocation of the right is premature.  Later, and in contrast, records of the extradition hearing would already fall under matters of public concern, because our government by then shall have already made an official decision to grant the extradition request.