September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law

Here are selected September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law:

Revised Penal Code

Bigamy;  nullity of previous marriage. Petitioner’s conviction of the crime of bigamy must be affirmed. The subsequent judicial declaration of nullity of petitioner’s two marriages to Alocillo cannot be considered a valid defense in the crime of bigamy. The moment petitioner contracted a second marriage without the previous one having been judicially declared null and void, the crime of bigamy was already consummated because at the time of the celebration of the second marriage, petitioner’s marriage to Alocillo, which had not yet been declared null and void by a court of competent jurisdiction, was deemed valid and subsisting. Neither would a judicial declaration of the nullity of petitioner’s marriage to Uy make any difference. As held in Tenebro, “[s]ince a marriage contracted during the subsistence of a valid marriage is automatically void, the nullity of this second marriage is not per se an argument for the avoidance of criminal liability for bigamy. x x x A plain reading of [Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code], therefore, would indicate that the provision penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage.” Victoria S. Jarillo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164435, September 29, 2009

Bigamy;  prescription.  Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, bigamy is punishable by prision mayor, which is classified under Article 25 of said Code as an afflictive penalty. Article 90 thereof provides that “[c]rimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe in fifteen years,” while Article 91 states that “[t]he period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents x x x .”

Petitioner asserts that Uy had known of her previous marriage as far back as 1978; hence, prescription began to run from that time. Note that the party who raises a fact as a matter of defense has the burden of proving it. The defendant or accused is obliged to produce evidence in support of its defense; otherwise, failing to establish the same, it remains self-serving. Thus, for petitioner’s defense of prescription to prosper, it was incumbent upon her to adduce evidence that as early as the year 1978, Uy already obtained knowledge of her previous marriage.  Victoria S. Jarillo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164435. September 29, 2009

Conspiracy. It is immaterial whether appellant Agustin acted as a principal or an accomplice. What really matters is that the conspiracy was proven and he took part in it.  People of the Philippines vs. Ernesto Cruz, Jr. y Concepcion, et al., G.R. No. 168446, September 18, 2009.

Kidnapping; elements. The primary element of the crime of kidnapping is actual confinement, detention and restraint of the victim. There must be a showing of actual confinement or restriction of the victim, and that such deprivation was the intention of the malefactor. An accused is liable for kidnapping when the evidence adequately proves that he forcefully transported, locked up or restrained the victim. There must exist indubitable proof that the actual intent of the malefactor was to deprive the victim of his liberty. The restraint of liberty must not arise merely as an incident to the commission of another offense that the offender primarily intended to commit.   People of the Philippines vs. Ernesto Cruz, Jr. y Concepcion, et al., G.R. No. 168446, September 18, 2009.

Rape;  damages,  Appellant’s challenge to the assailed decision having failed, and no circumstance which creates reasonable doubt on his guilt being extant, his conviction must be upheld.
The prevailing jurisprudence on like cases authorizes a civil indemnity of P50,000, not P75,000, in addition to moral damages for a like amount. People of the Philippines vs. Elizardo Cabiles alias “SARDO” G.R. No. 181629, September 18, 2009.

Rape;  elements.  The elements of statutory rape, of which appellant was charged are: (1) that the accused had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that the woman is below 12 years of age.

In the present case, the prosecution failed to prove the age of AAA, much less the allegation that she was under the age of twelve when she was raped. Thus, the Court cannot hold appellant liable for statutory rape. However, since the prosecution was able to establish, without any objection from the defense, that appellant had carnal knowledge of AAA with the use of force, he can be convicted of simple rape the penalty for which is reclusion perpetua. Appellant may not be convicted of rape in its qualified form, as to impose upon him the penalty of death, considering that, while the aggravating circumstance of relationship was proven, the prosecution failed to establish AAA’s minority by independent proof. People of the Philippines vs. Armando Padilla y Nicolas, G.R. No. 167955, September 30, 2009.

Robbery;  elements.  The elements of robbery are: (1) the subject is personal property belonging to another; (2) there is unlawful taking of that property; (3) the taking is with intent to gain; and (4) there is violence against or intimidation of any person or use of force upon things. Carnapping, on the other hand, has these elements: “taking, with intent to gain, of a motor vehicle belonging to another without the latter’s consent, or by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or by using force upon things.”  Elmer Diamante y Sioson, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180992, September 4, 2009.

Robbery with rape; elements. Robbery with rape is committed when the following elements concur: (1) the taking of personal property is committed with violence against or intimidation of persons; (2) the property taken belongs to another; (3) the taking is characterized by intent to gain or animus lucrandi; (4) the robbery is accompanied by rape.
In this case, we find the evidence sufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that appellants committed the crime of robbery with rape.

The first three elements were proven by the following established facts: the victims categorically identified appellants as the ones who threatened them and took their personal belongings; all appellants held weapons; appellants entered the house of Candido, herded Candido and his son, Dennis, in a corner of their house and tied their hands; BBB heard the cries of Dennis and when he checked where the cries were coming from, appellants intercepted him and tied his hands as well; appellants entered the house of BBB and AAA, and thereafter ransacked the said house taking valuable items. From the foregoing, it is clear that the crime of robbery was committed.  People of the Philippines vs. Antonio Ortiz, et al.,  G.R. No. 179944, September 4, 2009.

Self defense.  The appellate and trial courts correctly rejected Ruperto’s theory of self-defense. When he admitted authorship of the crime, the burden of proof shifted to him to establish all the elements of self-defense. He must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution, for even if the prosecution evidence is weak, it cannot be disbelieved after the accused himself has admitted the killing. Thus, he must meet the requisites of self-defense, prescribed by Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code, which are: (1) unlawful aggression; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. People of the Philippines Vs. Roel Arbalate, et al., G.R. No. 183457, September 17, 2009.

Special Laws

Anti-Graft. For a charge under Section 3(g) to prosper, the following elements must be present: (1) that the accused is a public officer; (2) that he entered into a contract or transaction on behalf of the government; and (3) that such contract or transaction is grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.

The presence of the first two elements of the crime is not disputed. Hence, the threshold question we should resolve is whether the walis tingting purchase contracts were grossly and manifestly injurious or disadvantageous to the government.

The fact of overpricing is embedded in the third criminal element of Section 3 (g) of R.A. No. 3019. Given the factual milieu of this case, the subject contracts would be grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government if characterized by an overpriced procurement. However, the gross and manifest disadvantage to the government was not sufficiently shown because the conclusion of overpricing was erroneous since it was not also adequately proven. Thus, we grant the petitions.

In criminal cases, to justify a conviction, the culpability of an accused must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, as the accused enjoys a constitutionally enshrined disputable presumption of innocence. The court, in ascertaining the guilt of an accused, must, after having marshaled the facts and circumstances, reach a moral certainty as to the accused’s guilt. Moral certainty is that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. Otherwise, where there is reasonable doubt, the accused must be acquitted. Ofelia Caunan vs. People of the Philippines, et al. / Joey P. Marquez vs. The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, et al. G.R. Nos. 181999 & G.R. No. 182001-04/G.R. No. 182020-24, September 2, 2009

Anti-Graft.  Under Section 3 (e) of RA No. 3019, the following essential elements must be present:
1. The accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions;

2. He must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence; and

3. His action caused any undue injury to any party, including the government, or gave any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions.

All the elements of the offense charged have been duly established beyond reasonable doubt. Petitioner, being then the Mayor of Angadanan, Isabela is a public officer discharging administrative and official functions. The act of purchasing the subject truck without the requisite public bidding and authority from the Sangguniang Bayan displays gross and inexcusable negligence. Undue injury was caused to the Government because said truck could have been purchased at a much lower price.

The contention that the acquisition through a negotiated purchase was valid the same being pursuant to COA Resolution Nos. 95-244 and 95-244-A, is untenable. Petitioner’s reliance on said COA Resolutions is misplaced. COA Resolution No. 95-244 as amended by Resolution No. 95-244-A states that there is no necessity of prescribing the limit of purchases not subject to public bidding since Executive Order No. 301 authorizes the heads of an agency with the approval of the Department Heads to enter into a negotiated purchase as long as the same is advantageous to the government.

Both resolutions are implementing guidelines which must be read and applied in conjunction with Title VI, Book II, of Republic Act No. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991. Section 356 thereof states the general rule that the acquisition of supplies by the local government units shall be through competitive bidding. The only instances when public bidding requirements can be dispensed with are provided under Section 366.  Felicitas P. Ong vs. The People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 176546, September 25, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  buy bust.  Buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment employed by peace officers to apprehend prohibited drug law violators in the act of committing a drug-related offense. Because of the built-in dangers of abuse that the operation entails, it is governed by specific procedures on the seizure and custody of drugs, separately from the general law procedures geared to ensure that the rights of people under criminal investigation and of the accused facing a criminal charge are safeguarded.
The records indicate that the buy-bust team did not follow the outlined procedure on the inventory and photographing of the seized drugs, despite its mandatory character as indicated by the use of the word “shall.” People of the Philippines vs. Antonio vs. Antonio Ramos y Viray, G.R. No. 180508, September 4, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  buy bust.  Primarily, a buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment whereby ways and means are resorted to for the purpose of trapping and capturing lawbreakers in the execution of their criminal plan. Unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty, their testimonies on the operation deserve full faith and credit. When the police officers involved in the buy-bust operation have no motive to falsely testify against the accused, the courts shall uphold the presumption that they have performed their duties regularly. The courts, nonetheless, are advised to take caution in applying the presumption of regularity. It should not by itself prevail over the presumption of innocence and the constitutionally protected rights of the individual. Thus, this Court discussed in People v. Doria the “objective” test in buy-bust operations to determine the credibility of the testimonies of the police officers involved in the operation. People of the Philippines vs. Tecson Lim y Chua and Maximo Flores y Viterbo, G.R. No. 187503, September 11, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  buy bust. In our jurisprudence, a buy-bust operation is a recognized means of entrapment using such ways and means devised by peace officers for the purpose of trapping or capturing a lawbreaker. It is legal and has been proved to be an effective method of apprehending drug peddlers, provided due regard to constitutional and legal safeguards is undertaken.

In the prosecution of illegal sale of shabu, the essential elements have to be established, to wit: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as evidence. The delivery of the illicit drug to the poseur-buyer and the receipt by the seller of the marked money successfully consummate the buy-bust transaction.

In the instant case, the prosecution was able to establish these elements beyond moral certainty. Accused-appellant sold and delivered the shabu for PhP500 to PO2 Concepcion posing as buyer; the said drug was seized and identified as a prohibited drug and subsequently presented in evidence; there was actual exchange of the marked money and contraband; and finally, accused-appellant was fully aware that he was selling and delivering a prohibited drug. People of the Philippines vs. Hasanaddin Guira y Bansil, G.R. No. 186497, September 17, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  chain of custody. In every prosecution for the illegal sale of prohibited drugs, the presentation of the drug, i.e., the corpus delicti, as evidence in court is material. In fact, the existence of the dangerous drug is crucial to a judgment of conviction. It is, therefore, indispensable that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond doubt. Even more than this, what must also be established is the fact that the substance bought during the buy-bust operation is the same substance offered in court as exhibit. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in that it ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed.

A close reading of the law reveals that it allows certain exceptions. Thus, contrary to the assertions of accused-appellant, Section 21 need not be followed with pedantic rigor. Non-compliance with Sec. 21 does not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. What is essential is “the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.”

In the instant case, there was substantial compliance with the law and the integrity of the drugs seized from accused-appellant was preserved. The chain of custody of the drugs subject matter of the case was shown not to have been broken.  People of the Philippines vs. Hasanaddin Guira y Bansil, G.R. No. 186497, September 17, 2009.
Dangerous Drugs Act;  defense. Denial, as a defense, is an inherently weak one and has been viewed by this Court with disdain, for it can easily be concocted and is a very common line of defense in prosecutions arising from violations of RA 9165. Similarly, the defense of frame-up is also easily fabricated and commonly used in buy-bust cases.

In order for the Court to appreciate such defenses, there must be clear and convincing evidence to prove such defense because in the absence of any intent on the part of the police authorities to falsely impute such crime against accused-appellant, the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty stands.

In the case at bar, the defense failed to show any evidence of ill motive on the part of the police officers.  People of the Philippines vs. Hasanaddin Guira y Bansil, G.R. No. 186497, September 17, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession. Illegal possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11 of R.A. No. 9165 carries the following elements: (1) possession by the accused of an item or object identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) the possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the free and conscious possession of the drug by the accused. On the other hand, the elements of illegal possession of equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs under Section 12 are: (1) possession or control by the accused of any equipment, apparatus or other paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking, consuming, administering, injecting, ingesting, or introducing any dangerous drug into the body; and (2) such possession is not authorized by law. The evidence for the prosecution showed the presence of all these elements. Gilbert Zalameda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183656, September 4, 2009; see Bonifacio Dolera y Tejada vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180693, September 4, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession. In illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the elements are: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug. Antonio Lopez y Dela Cruz vs. People of the Philippines,  G.R. No. 184037, September 29, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  illegal sale.  In the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, what is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the traded substance––the object evidence which is the core of the corpus delicti. These requirements have been sufficiently established in the instant case. What is more, the integrity of the evidence is presumed to be preserved unless there is a showing of bad faith, ill will, or proof that the evidence has been tampered with. Capco has the burden to show that the evidence was tampered or meddled with to overcome a presumption of regularity in the handling of exhibits by public officers. Capco failed in this respect.  People of the Philippines vs. Donato Capco y Sabadlab, G.R. No. 183088, September 17, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  illegal sale. Under Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, the elements necessary in a prosecution for the illegal sale of shabu are: the identity of the buyer and the seller; the object and the consideration; and the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material is proof that the transaction or sale transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti — the body or substance of the crime which establishes the fact that a crime has actually been committed.

In prosecutions involving narcotics, the narcotic substance itself constitutes the corpus delicti of the offense and its existence is vital to sustain a judgment of conviction beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt demands that unwavering exactitude be observed in establishing the corpus delicti. The “chain of custody” rule performs this function as it ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed.  People of the Philippines vs. Nicolas Gutierrez y Licunan, G.R. No. 179213, September 3, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  penalty.  Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law, accused shall be sentenced to an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by law punishing the offense, and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum term prescribed by the same.

Hence, the maximum penalty should be in the range of 17 years, four (4) months, and one (1) day to 20 years, while the minimum should not be less than 12 years and one day to 14 years and eight (8) months.  The minimum penalty set by the trial court is within the proper range; but as to the maximum penalty, considering that there are no aggravating circumstances, we find that the penalty of imprisonment for 17 years, four (4) months, and one (1) day is appropriate. People of the Philippines vs. Melody Gutierrez y Lauriada, G.R. No. 187156, September 8, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  procedure. Generally, non-compliance with Sec. 21 of RA 9165 will not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized or confiscated from the accused inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as they would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.  People of the Philippines vs. Donato Capco y Sabadlab, G.R. No. 183088, September 17, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  procedure.  Jurisprudence teems with pronouncements that failure to strictly comply with Section 21(1), Article II of R.A. No. 9165 does not necessarily render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized or confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as these would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. In the present case, we see substantial compliance by the police with the required procedure on the custody and control of the confiscated items, thus showing that the integrity of the seized evidence was not compromised. We refer particularly to the succession of events established by evidence, to the overall handling of the seized items by specified individuals, to the test results obtained, under a situation where no objection to admissibility was ever raised by the defense. All these, to the unprejudiced mind, show that the evidence seized were the same evidence tested and subsequently identified and testified to in court.

Dangerous Drug Act; procedure. Non-compliance with the procedural requirements under Republic Act No. 9165 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations relative to the custody, photographing and drug-testing of the apprehended persons, are not serious flaws that can render void the seizures and custody of drugs in a buy-bust operation. In addition, the Court has already ruled that the non-presentation of the pre-operation report is not fatal to the cause of the prosecution, because it is not indispensable in a buy-bust operation.

What determines if there was, indeed, a sale of dangerous drugs in a buy-bust operation is proof of the concurrence of all the elements of the offense, to wit: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor, which the prosecution has satisfactorily established. The prosecution satisfactorily proved the illegal sale of dangerous drugs and presented in court the evidence of corpus delicti. People of the Philippines vs. Loreto Daria y Cruz, G.R. No. 186138, September 11, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  procedure.  The stipulated procedure, under justifiable grounds, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items, for as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officers. The evident purpose of the procedure provided for is the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or the innocence of the accused. Its absence, by itself, is not fatal to the prosecution’s case and will not discharge accused-appellant from his crime. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. In the instant case, the integrity of the drugs seized remained intact, and the crystalline substance contained therein was later on determined to be positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).

Assuming arguendo that the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty will not apply due to the failure to comply with Section 21(a), the same will not automatically lead to the exoneration of the accused. Accused-appellant’s conviction was based not solely on said presumption, but on the documentary and real evidence; and, more importantly, on the oral evidence of prosecution witnesses, whom we found to be credible. One witness is sufficient to prove the corpus delicti - that there was a consummated sale between the poseur-buyer and the accused – there being no quantum of proof as to the number of witnesses to prove the same. To emphasize, accused-appellant himself verified in his testimony that the said transaction took place.  People of the Philippines vs. Elly Naelga,  G.R. No. 171018, September 11, 2009.

Illegal possession of firearms;  mission order. Permit to carry firearm is not the same as permit to carry licensed firearm outside one’s residence. Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations of P.D. No. 1866, a Mission Order is defined as “a written directive or order issued by government authority as enumerated in Section 5 hereof to persons who are under his supervision and control for a definite purpose or objective during a specified period and to such place or places as therein mentioned which may entitle the bearer thereof to carry his duly issued or licensed firearms outside of residence when so specified therein.”

The Mission Order issued to petitioner authorized him to carry firearms “in connection with confidential (illegible) cases assigned to [him].” Admittedly, petitioner was at Rivas’ restaurant in connection with a private business transaction. Additionally, the Mission Order did not authorize petitioner to carry his duly issued firearm outside of his residence. Eugene C. Firaza vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 179319, September 18, 2009.

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