June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected June 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

Criminal Law

1. Revised Penal Code

Aggravating circumstance; evident premeditation. In order for evident premeditation to be appreciated, the following requisites must be proven: (1) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (2) an act manifestly indicating that the culprit has clung to his determination; and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the determination and execution, to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act and to allow his conscience to overcome the resolution of his will. In the instant case, appellant uttered the words “iyang mama na iyan, may araw din siya sa akin.” Even conceding that these utterances were in the form of a threat, it still cannot be presumed that at the time they were made, there was indeed a determination to kill and that appellants had indeed clung to that determination, planning and meditating on how to kill the victim. People of the Philippines vs. Jonel Falabrica Serenas, et al, G.R. No. 188124, June 29, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; evident premeditation. For evident premeditation to be considered, the following must be established: (1) the time when the accused determined (conceived) to commit the crime; (2) an overt act manifestly indicating that he clung to his determination to commit the crime (kill his victim); and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the decision to commit the crime and the execution thereof to allow the accused to reflect upon the consequences of his act. Premeditation presupposes a deliberate planning of the crime before executing it. The execution of the criminal act, in other words, must be preceded by cool thought and reflection. In this case, there was a showing of a plan or preparation to kill, or proof that the accused meditated and reflected upon his decision to execute the crime. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms which tend directly and specially to ensure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense, which the offended party might make. For treachery to be appreciated, two conditions must concur: (a) the employment of means, methods or manner of execution that would ensure the offender’s safety from any defense or retaliatory act on the part of the offended party; and (b) the offender’s deliberate or conscious choice of means, method or manner of execution. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. The essence of treachery is the sudden attack by an aggressor without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim, depriving the latter of any real chance to defend himself, thereby ensuring the commission of the crime without risk to the aggressor. Jurisprudence teaches that there is treachery when an adult person attacks and causes the death of a child of tender years. As the Supreme Court elucidated in People vs. Cabarrubias, the killing of a child is characterized by treachery even if the manner of assault is not shown. For, the weakness of the victim due to his tender years results in the absence of any danger to the accused. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Aggravating circumnstance; treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to himself arising from any defense which the offended party might make. People of the Philippines vs. Jonel Falabrica Serenas, et al. G.R. No. 188124, June 29, 2010.

Dishonesty and falsification of public document. A birth certificate, being a public document, serves as prima facie evidence of filiation. The making of a false statement therein constitutes dishonesty and falsification of public document. Respondent cannot escape liability by claiming that she did not have any intention to conceal the identity of the child nor cause the loss of any trace as to the child’s true filiation to the child’s prejudice. When public documents are falsified, the intent to injure a third person need not be present because the principal thing punished is the violation of the public faith and the destruction of the truth the document proclaims. Anonymous vs. Emma B. Curamen, A.M. No. 08-2549, June 18, 2010.

Estafa; elements. The elements of estafa through misappropriation or conversion are: (1) the offender’s receipt of money, goods, or other personal property in trust, or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to deliver, or to return, the same; (2) misappropriation or conversion by the offender of the money or property received, or denial of receipt of the money or property; (3) the misappropriation, conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and (4) demand by the offended party that the offender return the money or property received. Dulce Pamintuan vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 172820, June 23, 2010

Estafa; misappropriation. The essence of this kind of estafa is the appropriation or conversion of money or property received to the prejudice of the entity to whom a return should be made. The words “convert” and “misappropriate” connote the act of using or disposing of another’s property as if it were one’s own, or of devoting it to a purpose or use different from that agreed upon. To misappropriate for one’s own use includes not only conversion to one’s personal advantage, but also every attempt to dispose of the property of another without right. Dulce Pamintuan vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 172820, June 23, 2010.

Estafa; misappropriation presumed. In proving the element of conversion or misappropriation, a legal presumption of misappropriation arises when the accused fails to deliver the proceeds of the sale or to return the items to be sold and fails to give an account of their whereabouts. Dulce Pamintuan vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 172820, June 23, 2010

Exempting circumstance; insanity. Article 12 of the Revised Penal Code provides among that an imbecile or an insane person, unless the latter has acted during a lucid interval shall be exempt from criminal liability. The exempting circumstance of insanity is not easily available to an accused as a successful defense. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Exempting circumstance; insanity; burden of proof. Insanity is the exception rather than the rule in the human condition. While Article 12(1) of the Revised Penal Code provides that an imbecile or insane person is exempt from criminal liability, unless that person has acted during a lucid interval, the presumption, under Article 800 of the Civil Code, is that every human is sane. Anyone who pleads the exempting circumstance of insanity bears the burden of proving it with clear and convincing evidence. It is in the nature of confession and avoidance. An accused invoking insanity admits to have committed the crime but claims that he or she is not guilty because of insanity. The testimony or proof of an accused’s insanity must, however, relate to the time immediately preceding or coetaneous with the commission of the offense with which he is charged. The Supreme Court agreed with the Solicitor General that the mental records the appellant wishes to support his defense with are inapplicable to the theory the he espouses. The NCMH records of his mental health only pertain to his ability to stand trial and not to his mental state immediately before or during the commission of the crimes. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Exempting circumstance; insanity; burden of proof. The change in the appellant’s behavior was triggered by jealousy. He acted out of jealous rage at the thought of his wife having an affair overseas. Uncontrolled jealousy and anger are not equivalent to insanity. There is a vast difference between a genuinely insane person and one who has worked himself up into such a frenzy of anger that he fails to use reason or good judgment in what he does. The Supreme Court reiterated the established rule that only when there is a complete deprivation of intelligence at the time of the commission of the crime should the exempting circumstance of insanity be considered. In People v. Ocfemia, the Supreme Court ruled that the professed inability of the accused to recall events before and after the stabbing incident, does not necessarily indicate an aberrant mind but is more indicative of a concocted excuse to exculpate himself. It is simply too convenient for the appellant to claim that he could not remember anything rather than face the consequences of his terrible deed. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Exempting circumstance; insanity; burden of proof. The requirements for a finding of insanity have not been met by the defense. The appellant’s unusual behavior prior to and after he committed parricide do not meet the stringent standards on an insanity plea as required by the Supreme Court. The presumption of sanity has not been overcome. In contrast, the prosecution, as found by the lower courts, sufficiently established evidence that appellant voluntarily killed his two children. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Kidnapping for ransom; elements. To prove the crime of kidnapping for ransom under Art. 267 of the Revised Penal Code, the prosecution has to show (a) that the accused was a private person; (b) that he kidnapped or detained or in any manner deprived another of his or her liberty; (c) that the kidnapping or detention was illegal; and (d) that the victim was kidnapped or detained for ransom. All of these elements were proven to be present in the instant case. People of the Philippines vs. Madum Ganih, G.R. No. 185388, June 16, 2010

Kindapping for ransom; damages. The award of damages dictates the following amounts to be imposed: Php 75,000 as civil indemnity which is awarded if the crime warrants the imposition of death penalty; Php 75,000 as moral damages because the victim is assumed to have suffered moral injuries, without need of proof; and Php 30,000 as exemplary damages. Even though the death penalty was not imposed, the civil indemnity of Php 75,000 is still proper because the said award is not dependent on the actual imposition of the death penalty but on the fact that the qualifying circumstances warranting the imposition of the death penalty attended the commission of the offense. However, instead of the usual Php 75,000.00 moral damages, the Supreme Court in this case, sustained the award of Php 200,000 as moral damages for the ignominy and sufferings of the victim and her family have suffered due to the accused-appellant’s act of detaining the victim in blindfold and mentally torturing her and her family into raising the ransom money. People of the Philippines vs. Johnny Bautista y Bautista, et al., G.R. No. 188601, June 29, 2010.

Murder; complex crime. The Court of Appeals found all the accused guilty of the complex crime of murder on the ground that it was impossible to ascertain the deaths caused by each and every one of the assailants. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s finding and convicted all the accused for three separate crimes of murder. The Supreme Court explained that it is clear from the evidence on record that the three (3) crimes of murder did not result from a single act but from several individual and distinct acts. Deeply rooted is the doctrine that when various victims expire from separate shots, such acts constitute separate and distinct crimes. People of the Philippines vs. Mitsuel L. Elarcosa, et al., G.R. No. 186539, June 29, 2010.

Murder; damages. The penalty of reclusion perpetua imposed by the Court of Appeals on the appellant here for each count of murder was affirmed by the Supreme Court as well as the award of PhP 75,000 as civil indemnity ex delicto. The Supreme Court, however, modified the award of moral damages, which is mandatory in homicide and murder without need of allegation and proof other than the death of the victim. In order to conform with recent jurisprudence on heinous crimes where the proper imposable penalty is death, if not for R.A. 9346, the award of moral damages is increased to PhP 75,000 for each count of murder. The award of exemplary damages in the amount of PhP 30,000 is additionally in order if, as here, the crime was committed with an aggravating circumstance, be it generic or qualifying. The Supreme Court thus granted the same to serve as deterrent to serious wrongdoings, as a vindication of the wanton invasion of the rights of the victims, or punishment for those guilty of outrageous conduct. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Murder; damages. In this case, the Supreme Court found that the prosecution has proven that one of the appellants’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of murder. As such, the Supreme Court increased the award of civil indemnity and moral damages to P75,000.00 each. The trial court’s grant of P23,000.00 as actual damages is increased to P25,000.00, but as temperate damages in line with the ruling in People v. Villanueva. The Supreme Court upheld the grant of P20,000.00 as attorney’s fees, with the victim’s mother having hired a private prosecutor to prosecute the case. The award of exemplary damages was also increased to P30,000.00 in line with recent jurisprudence. People of the Philippines vs. Jonel Falabrica Serenas, et al., G.R. No. 188124, June 29, 2010.

Murder; elements. Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (“RPC”) defines “Murder” as the unlawful killing of a person, which is not parricide or infanticide, provided that treachery or evident premeditation, among other circumstances, attended the killing. The presence of one of the circumstances enumerated in Art. 248 of the Code would suffice to qualify a killing as murder. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Murder; self-defense. When self-defense is invoked by an accused charged with murder or homicide, he necessarily owns up to the killing but intends to evade criminal liability by proving that the killing was justified. Hence, it becomes incumbent upon the accused to prove by clear and convincing evidence the three (3) elements of self-defense, namely: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. Of these elements, the accused must, initially, prove unlawful aggression, because without it, there can be no self-defense, either complete or incomplete. People of the Philippines vs. Ryan Lalongisip y Delos Angeles, G.R. No. 188331, June 16, 2010.

Parricide; damages. When death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5) temperate damages. While the Solicitor General in this case recommended the reduction of civil indemnity from P75,000 to P50,000. Recent jurisprudence however pegs civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000, which is automatically granted to the offended party, or his/her heirs in case of the former’s death, without need of further evidence other than the fact of the commission of murder, homicide, parricide and rape. People v. Regalario has explained that the said award is not dependent on the actual imposition of the death penalty but on the fact that qualifying circumstances warranting the imposition of the death penalty attended the commission of the offense. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Parricide; damages. According to Art. 2199 of the Civil Code, one is entitled to adequate compensation for pecuniary loss suffered by him that is duly proved. This compensation is termed actual damages. The party seeking actual damages must produce competent proof or the best evidence obtainable, such as receipts, to justify an award therefor. In this case, the Supreme Court awarded actual damages in view of the presentation of receipts as evidence showing wake and funeral expenses. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Parricide; damages The award of moral damages was also found by the Supreme Court to be in order. Even in the absence of any allegation and proof of the heirs’ emotional suffering, it has been recognized that the loss of a loved one to a violent death brings emotional pain and anguish more so in this case where two young children were brutally killed while their mother was away. The award of P75,000.00 is proper pursuant to established jurisprudence holding that where the imposable penalty is death but reduced to reclusion perpetua pursuant to RA 9346, the award of moral damages should be increased from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00. The Supreme Court also awarded the amount of P30,000 as exemplary damages on account of relationship, a qualifying circumstance, which was alleged and proved, in the crime of parricide. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Parricide; elements. The Revised Penal Code defines parricide as follows: Art. 246. Parricide. – Any person who shall kill his father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or any of his ascendants, or descendants, or his spouse, shall be guilty of parricide and shall be punished by the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death. Parricide is committed when: (1) a person is killed; (2) the deceased is killed by the accused; (3) the deceased is the father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or a legitimate other ascendant or other descendant, or the legitimate spouse of the accused. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Parricide; penalty. In view of RA 9346 (the Act prohibiting the imposition of death penalty), the Supreme Court affirmed the modification of the sentence made by the Court of Appeals by imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua instead of death. People of the Philippines vs. Honorio Tibon y Deiso, G.R. No. 188320, June 29, 2010.

Parricide; exempting circumstance; accident. Since appellant argues that the exempting circumstance of accident should be appreciated by the Court in her favor, it is therefore incumbent upon her to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the following essential requisites of the exempting circumstance are present: [i] she was performing a lawful act; [2] with due care; [3] she caused the injury to her husband by mere accident; and [4] without fault or intention of causing it. The Court however, found it incredulous that the pointing of the gun towards her husband’s head and pulling the trigger be considered as performing a lawful act with due care. People of the Philippines vs. Susan Latosa y Chico, G.R. No. 186128, June 23, 2010.

Perjury; elements. For perjury to exist, (1) there must be a sworn statement that is required by law; (2) it must be made under oath before a competent officer; (3) the statement contains a deliberate assertion of falsehood; and (4) the false declaration is with regard to a material matter. The first three elements were proven in the instant case. However, the prosecution failed to establish the element of deliberate falsehood. A conviction for perjury cannot be obtained by the prosecution by merely showing the inconsistent or contradictory statements of the accused, even if both statements are sworn. The prosecution must additionally prove which of the two statements is false and must show the statement to be false by evidence other than the contradictory statement. Eriberto Masangkay vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164443, June 18, 2010.

Perjury; elements. The rationale for requiring evidence other than a contradictory statement is explained thus: Proof that accused has given contradictory testimony under oath at a different time will not be sufficient to establish the falsity of his testimony charged as perjury, for this would leave simply one oath of the defendant as against another, and it would not appear that the testimony charged was false rather than the testimony contradictory thereof. The two statements will simply neutralize each other; there must be some corroboration of the contradictory testimony. Such corroboration, however, may be furnished by evidence aliunde tending to show perjury independently of the declarations of testimony of the accused. Eriberto Masangkay vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164443, June 18, 2010.

Rape; damages. The Supreme Court upheld the award of Php 75,000 as civil indemnity ex delicto and the same amount as moral damages for each count of qualified rape is in line with existing case laws awarding said amount for heinous crimes punished with death. While the new law prohibits the imposition of death, the penalty provided for heinous crime is still death and qualified rape is still a heinous offense. The concurrence of the victim’s minority and her relationship with the offender, her father, is a special qualifying circumstance which categorizes the crime as heinous. The award of Php 30,000 exemplary damages is also proper not only to deter outrageous conduct, but also in view of the aggravating circumstances of minority and relationship surrounding the commission of the offense, both of which were alleged in the information and proved during trial. People of the Philippines vs. Pastor Llanaas, Jr. y Belches, G.R. No. 190616, June 29, 2010.

Robbery with homicide; elements. Robbery with homicide exists when a homicide is committed either by reason, or on occasion, of the robbery. To sustain a conviction for robbery with homicide, the prosecution must prove the following elements: (1) the taking of personal property belonging to another; (2) with intent to gain; (3) with the use of violence or intimidation against a person; and (4) on the occasion or by reason of the robbery, the crime of homicide, as used in the generic sense, was committed. People of the Philippines vs. Rene Baron y Tangarocan, G.Rs. No. 185209, June 28, 2010.

Robbery with homicide; elements; intent to rob. A conviction needs certainty that the robbery is the central purpose and objective of the malefactor and the killing is merely incidental to the robbery. The intent to rob must precede the taking of human life but the killing may occur before, during or after the robbery. And, when a homicide takes place by reason of or on the occasion of the robbery, all those who took part shall be guilty of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide whether they actually participated in the killing, unless there is proof that there was an endeavor to prevent the killing, applying the basic principle of conspiracy that the act of one is the act of all. People of the Philippines vs. Rene Baron y Tangarocan, G.R. No. 185209, June 28, 2010.

2.      Special Laws

Dangerous Drugs Act; malum prohibitum. When an accused is charged with illegal possession or transportation of prohibited drugs, the ownership thereof is immaterial. Consequently, proof of ownership of the confiscated marijuana is not necessary. Appellant’s alleged lack of knowledge does not constitute a valid defense. Lack of criminal intent and good faith are not exempting circumstances where the crime charged is malum prohibitum, as in this case. People of the Philippines vs. Belen Mariacos, G.R. No. 188611, June 16, 2010

Dangerous Drugs Act; malum prohibitum. Mere possession and/or delivery of a prohibited drug, without legal authority, is punishable under the Dangerous Drugs Act. Anti-narcotics laws, like anti-gambling laws, are regulatory statutes. They are rules of convenience designed to secure a more orderly regulation of the affairs of society, and their violation gives rise to crimes mala prohibita. People of the Philippines vs. Belen Mariacos, G.R. No. 188611, June 16, 2010

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. Appellant questions his conviction because of the failure of the apprehending team to photograph the seized items. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court sustained his conviction, ruling that PSI Lizardo immediately conducted an inventory of the items at the police station where the accused were then held in custody. Even without considering the presence of the accused at the inventory, the presence of barangay kagawad and two representatives from the media who witnessed the inventory and signed the corresponding certificate of inventory sufficiently safeguarded the seized evidence from possible alteration, substitution or tampering. The presence of these third parties (as required by law) during the inventory, as well as the clear lack of any irregularity affecting the identity of the evidence, more than made up for the prosecution’s failure to photograph the confiscated specimens. In other words, there has been substantial compliance by the police authorities with the required procedure on the custody and control of the confiscated drugs even without the required photographs. People of the Philippines vs. Sitti Domado, G.R. No. 172971, June 16, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal possession of drugs. 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. Similarly, in this case, the evidence of the corpus delicti must be established beyond doubt. People of the Philippines vs. Mario Miguel y Bernabe, et al., G.R. No. 180505, June 29, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal sale of drugs. In order to successfully prosecute an accused for illegal sale of drugs, the prosecution must be able to prove the following elements: (1) identities of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. Material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale had actually taken place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti. The term corpus delicti means the actual commission by someone of the particular crime charged. People of the Philippines vs. Mario Miguel y Bernabe, et al., G.R. No. 180505, June 29, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal sale of drugs. As a method of authenticating evidence in crimes involving illegal sale of drugs, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness’ possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same. People of the Philippines vs. Sapia Andongan y Sandigang, G.R. No. 184595, June 29, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal sale of drugs. In this case, there was no claim or indication that the shabu allegedly seized from appellant was the same shabu subjected to laboratory examination. Parenthetically, there is also no showing that the buy-bust team complied with the procedural requirements of Section 21, paragraph 1 of Article II of R.A. No. 9165. With the flawed evidence for the prosecution, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty by the prosecution witness-police officer does not arise. Thus, People v. Santos instructively provides that the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot by itself overcome the presumption of innocence nor constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt. Without the presumption of regularity, the evidentiary gap in identifying the seized evidence from its turnover by the poseur-buyer, its handling and custody, until its turnover to the forensic laboratory for analysis, stands out in bold relief.  This gap renders the case for the prosecution less than complete in terms of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. People of the Philippines vs. Sapia Andongan y Sandigang, G.R. No. 184595, June 29, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; penalty. Under the law, the illegal sale of shabu carries with it the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00), regardless of the quantity and purity of the substance involved. People of the Philippines vs. Mario Miguel y Bernabe, et al., G.R. No. 180505, June 29, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal sale of shabu. The elements necessary to establish a case for illegal sale of shabu are: (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. What is material in a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti or the illicit drug in evidence. People of the Philippines vs. Aldrin Berdadero y Armamento, G.R. No. 179710, June 29, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal sale of shabu. The essential elements that must be established in prosecuting a case of illegal sale of shabu are: [i] the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale and the consideration; and [ii] the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefore. What is material is proof that the transaction actually took place, along with the presentation in court of the illegal substance which constitutes the corpus delicti of the crime. People of the Philippines vs. Jakar Mapan Le y Suba, et al., G.R. No. 188976, June 29, 2010.

R.A. 8043; Syndicated illegal recruitment. To commit syndicated illegal recruitment, three elements must be established: (1) the offender undertakes either any activity within the meaning of “recruitment and placement” defined under Article 13(b), or any of the prohibited practices enumerated under Art. 34 of the Labor Code; (2) he has no valid license or authority required by law to enable one to lawfully engage in recruitment and placement of workers; and (3) the illegal recruitment is committed by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another. When illegal recruitment is committed by a syndicate or in large scale, i.e., if it is committed against three (3) or more persons individually or as a group, it is considered an offense involving economic sabotage. People of the Philippines vs. Rodolfo Gallo y Gadot, G.R. No. 187730, June 29, 2010.

Criminal Procedure

Criminal Contempt. The guarantee given to Jesus Disini that he would not be compelled to testify in other cases against Herminio Disini constitutes a grant of immunity from civil or criminal prosecution. Here, Disini’s refusal to testify as ordered by the Sandiganbayan is certain to result in prosecution for criminal contempt. It constitutes criminal contempt since guilt would draw a penalty of fine or imprisonment or both. Criminal contempt is “conduct directed against the authority and dignity of the court or a judge acting judicially; it is an act of obstructing the administration of justice which tends to bring the court into disrepute and disrespect. Jesus P. Disini vs. The Honorable Sandiganbayan, et al, G.R. No. 180564. June 22, 2010

Criminal Contempt. In criminal contempt, the proceedings are regarded as criminal and the rules of criminal procedure apply. What is more, it is generally held that the State or respondent Republic is the real prosecutor in such case. The grant therefore of immunity to Disini, against being compelled to testify is ultimately a grant of immunity from being criminally prosecuted by the State for refusal to testify, something that falls within the express coverage of the immunity given him. Jesus P. Disini vs. The Honorable Sandiganbayan, et al., G.R. No. 180564. June 22, 2010

Evidence; corpus delicti. Paragraph 1 of Section 21, Article II of RA 9165 outlines the procedure to be followed in the custody and handling of the seized drugs. The failure of the prosecution to show that the police officers conducted the required physical inventory and photograph of the evidence confiscated pursuant to said guidelines is not fatal. Indeed, the implementing rules provide that “non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizure of and custody over said items.” People of the Philippines vs. Aldrin Berdadero y Armamento, G.R. No. 179710, June 29, 2010.

Evidence; corpus delicti. The Supreme Court reiterated its ruling in People v. Del Monte that what is of vital importance 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 innocence of the accused. The existence of the dangerous drug is a condition sine qua non for conviction for the illegal sale of dangerous drugs. The dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of the crime and the fact of its existence is vital to a judgment of conviction. Thus, it is essential that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond doubt. People of the Philippines vs. Aldrin Berdadero y Armamento, G.R. No. 179710, June 29, 2010.

Evidence; corpus delicti. The chain of custody requirement performs the function of ensuring that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are preserved, so much so that unnecessary doubts as to the identity of the evidence are removed. To be admissible, the prosecution must show by records or testimony, the continuous whereabouts of the exhibit at least between the time it came into possession of the police officers and until it was tested in the laboratory to determine its composition up to the time it was offered in evidence. People of the Philippines vs. Aldrin Berdadero y Armamento, G.R. No. 179710, June 29, 2010.

Evidence; corpus delicti. In this case, the testimonies of prosecution witnesses convincingly show that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the confiscated illegal substance was properly preserved. The appellant in this case has the burden to show that the evidence was tampered or meddled with to overcome a presumption of regularity in the handling of exhibits of public officers and a presumption that public officers properly discharge their duties. The appellant was unable to discharge such burden. People of the Philippines vs. Aldrin Berdadero y Armamento, G.R. No. 179710, June 29, 2010.

Evidence; dying declaration. Under Section 37, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides that “the declaration of a dying person, made under the consciousness of an impending death, may be received in any case wherein his death is the subject of inquiry, as evidence of the cause and surrounding circumstances of such death.” A dying declaration is evidence of the highest order; it is entitled to the utmost credence on the premise that no one person who knows of his impending death would make a careless and false accusation. At the brink of death, all thoughts of concocting lies disappear. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Evidence; dying declaration. As an exception to the rule against hearsay evidence, a dying declaration or ante mortem statement is evidence of the highest order and is entitled to utmost credence since no person aware of his impending death would make a careless and false accusation. In order for a dying declaration to be held admissible, four requisites must concur: first, the declaration must concern the cause and surrounding circumstances of the declarant’s death; second, at the time the declaration was made, the declarant must be under the consciousness of an impending death; third, the declarant is competent as a witness; and fourth, the declaration must be offered in a criminal case for homicide, murder, or parricide, in which the declarant is the victim. People of the Philippines vs. Jonel Falabrica Serenas, et al., G.R. No. 188124, June 29, 2010.

(Lindy wishes to thank Nuj Dumbrigue and Hann Sevilla for their help in preparing this post.)

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