Section 2 of R.A. No. 7080 (An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder) as amended by R.A. No. 7659 substantially provides that any public officer who amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts 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. Petitioner Joseph Ejercito Estrada, being prosecuted under the said Act, assailed its constitutionality, arguing inter alia, that it abolishes the element of mens rea in crimes already punishable under The Revised Penal Code; and as such, a violation of the fundamental rights of the accused to due process and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.
Whether or not the crime of plunder as defined in R.A. No. 7080 is a malum prohibitum.
No. The Supreme Court held that plunder is malum in se which requires proof of criminal intent. Moreover, the legislative declaration in R.A. No. 7659 that plunder is a heinous offense implies that it is a malum in se. The predicate crimes in the case of plunder involve acts which are inherently immoral or inherently wrong, and are committed “willfully, unlawfully and criminally” by the offender, alleging his guilty knowledge. Thus, the crime of plunder is a malum in se.