The power of local government units to enact and implement ordinances which are “little laws” comes from the Local Government Code enacted by Congress. Being a “mere” creation of Congress, the law making power of the local legislative body may be considered insignificant or inferior as opposed to the laws created by Congress. In some aspects, it may be so. The Constitution and the Supreme Court, however, recognised ordinances as almost equal to national laws with respect to the principle of double jeopardy. Our Constitution states: “Section 21. No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. If an act is punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act.” In the prosecution of an offence both punished by a national law and an ordinance, prosecution in the either shall be a bar for prosecution in the other. It does not matter that the other has been enacted by an “inferior” legislative body. What is important is that right of the accused not to be twice put in jeopardy. This is principally for the protection of the right of the individual and not about which law making body has more power.
The case of People versus Relova and Opolencia, demonstrates this concept which establishes the principle that the prosecution under the “lowly” ordinance can bar prosecution under the “mighty” national law. The very controversial Jason Ivler case is also another demonstration of the principle of double jeopardy.
Violation of Ordinance and Penal Code
Opulencia was charged with violation of a city ordinance but the same was dismissed because the case already prescribed. The prosecutor then filed another case for theft under the Revised Penal Code. The accused again moved for the dismissal of the case by reason of double jeopardy since he was earlier prosecuted for the same act. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case but the state went all the way to the Supreme Court on the question of whether there was double jeopardy.
There is Double Jeopardy
The Court decided in favor of the accused and said: “where the offenses charged are penalized either by different sections of the same statute or by different statutes, the important inquiry relates to the identity of offenses charged: the constitutional protection against double jeopardy is available only where an Identity is shown to exist between the earlier and the subsequent offenses charged. In contrast, where one offense is charged under a municipal ordinance while the other is penalized by a statute, the critical inquiry is to the identity of the acts which the accused is said to have committed and which are alleged to have given rise to the two offenses: the constitutional protection against double jeopardy is available so long as the acts which constitute or have given rise to the first offense under a municipal ordinance are the same acts which constitute or have given rise to the offense charged under a statute.”