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G.R. No. 148560, November 19, 2001

Petitioner Joseph Estrada prosecuted An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder,
wishes to impress upon the Court that the assailed law is so defectively fashioned that it
crosses that thin but distinct line which divides the valid from the constitutionally infirm. His
contentions are mainly based on the effects of the said law that it suffers from the vice of
vagueness; it dispenses with the "reasonable doubt" standard in criminal prosecutions; and it
abolishes the element of mens rea in crimes already punishable under The Revised Penal Code
saying that it violates the fundamental rights of the accused.
The focal point of the case is the alleged “vagueness” of the law in the terms it uses.
Particularly, this terms are: combination, series and unwarranted. Because of this, the petitioner
uses the facial challenge on the validity of the mentioned law.

Whether or not the petitioner possesses the locus standi to attack the validity of the law using
the facial challenge.

On how the law uses the terms combination and series does not constitute vagueness. The
petitioner’s contention that it would not give a fair warning and sufficient notice of what the law
seeks to penalize cannot be plausibly argued. Void-for-vagueness doctrine is manifestly
misplaced under the petitioner’s reliance since ordinary intelligence can understand what
conduct is prohibited by the statute. It can only be invoked against that specie of legislation that
is utterly vague on its face, wherein clarification by a saving clause or construction cannot be
invoked. Said doctrine may not invoked in this case since the statute is clear and free from
ambiguity. Vagueness doctrine merely requires a reasonable degree of certainty for the statute
to be upheld, not absolute precision or mathematical exactitude.
On the other hand, overbreadth doctrine decrees that governmental purpose may not be
achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of
protected freedoms.
Doctrine of strict scrutiny holds that a facial challenge is allowed to be made to vague statute
and to one which is overbroad because of possible chilling effect upon protected speech.
Furthermore, in the area of criminal law, the law cannot take chances as in the area of free
speech. A facial challenge to legislative acts is the most difficult challenge to mount successfully
since the challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists.
Doctrines mentioned are analytical tools developed for facial challenge of a statute in free
speech cases. With respect to such statue, the established rule is that one to who application of
a statute is constitutional will not be heard to attack the statute on the ground that impliedly it
might also be taken as applying to other persons or other situations in which its application
might be unconstitutional. On its face invalidation of statues results in striking them down
entirely on the ground that they might be applied to parties not before the Court whose activities
are constitutionally protected. It is evident that the purported ambiguity of the Plunder Law is
more imagined than real.
The crime of plunder as a malum in se is deemed to have been resolve in the Congress’
decision to include it among the heinous crime punishable by reclusion perpetua to death.
Supreme Court holds the plunder law constitutional and petition is dismissed for lacking merit.