January 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected January 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

CRIMINAL LAW

Revised Penal Code

Aggravating circumstance; abuse of superior strength. To take advantage of superior strength is to purposely use excessive force, out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked. As testified by Santiago Arasula, the lone eyewitness, the two accused were stabbing his brother, who was unarmed and intoxicated.  It is clear, therefore, that Armando was in no position to defend himself from two armed assailants, who, as Santiago testified, were armed with small bolos.  While it is true that superiority in number does not per se mean superiority in strength, accused-appellants in this case did not only enjoy superiority in number, but were armed with weapons, while the victim had no means with which to defend himself. Accused-appellants took advantage of their number and weapons, as well as the condition of the victim, to commit the crime. People of the Philippines vs. Hemiano De Jesus and Rodelo Morales, G.R. No. 186528, January 26, 2011.

Criminal liability; principal by inducement. Accused Rohmat is criminally responsible under the second paragraph of Article 17 of the Revised Penal Code, specifically, the provision on “principal by inducement.” The instructions and training he had given Asali on how to make bombs – coupled with their careful planning and persistent attempts to bomb different areas in Metro Manila and Rohmat’s confirmation that Trinidad would be getting TNT from Asali as part of their mission – prove the finding that Rohmat’s co-inducement was the determining cause of the commission of the crime. Such “command or advice [was] of such nature that, without it, the crime would not have materialized.” Further, the inducement was “so influential in producing the criminal act that without it, the act would not have been performed.” People of the Philippines vs. Khaddafy Janjalani, et al, G.R. No. 188314, January 10, 2011.

Exempting circumstance; compulsion of irresistible force. A person who acts under the compulsion of an irresistible force, like one who acts under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of equal or greater injury, is exempt from criminal liability because he does not act with freedom.  Actus me invito factus non est meus actus. An act done by me against my will is not my act.  The force contemplated must be so formidable as to reduce the actor to a mere instrument who acts not only without will but against his will.  The duress, force, fear or intimidation must be present, imminent and impending, and of such nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily harm if the act be done.  A threat of future injury is not enough.  The compulsion must be of such a character as to leave no opportunity for the accused for escape or self-defense in equal combat. People of the Philippines vs. Nelida Dequina, Joselito Jundoc and Nora Jingabo, G.R. No. 177570, January 19, 2011.

Justifying circumstance; self defense. It is axiomatic that where an accused pleads self-defense, he thereby admits authorship of the crime.  Accordingly, the burden of evidence is shifted to the accused who must then prove with clear and convincing proof the following elements of self-defense: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the attack; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.  People of the Philippines vs. Hemiano De Jesus and Rodelo Morales, G.R. No. 186528, January 26, 2011.

Justifying circumstance; self defense. Although all three elements must concur, self-defense must rest firstly on proof of unlawful aggression on the part of the victim.  If no unlawful aggression attributed to the victim is established, there can be no self-defense, whether complete or incomplete.  Unlawful aggression is a condition sine qua non for the justifying circumstance of self-defense to apply. As de Jesus claims that the killing was done in self-defense, the burden is, thus, on him to prove unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, as well as the other elements of the justifying circumstance of self-defense. Even if events had transpired as de Jesus related, he still failed to show that there was unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, or the other elements of the justifying circumstance of self-defense.  In fact, he stated it was after he got possession of the bolo that he stabbed Armando.  Thus, the aggression on the part of Armando, if it existed, would have already ceased.  As there was no longer any unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, the justifying circumstance of self-defense is absent. People of the Philippines vs. Hemiano De Jesus and Rodelo Morales, G.R. No. 186528, January 26, 2011.

Kidnapping for ransom; elements. In order for the accused to be convicted of kidnapping for ransom under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, the prosecution is burdened to prove beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime, namely: (1) the offender is a private individual; (2) he kidnaps or detains another, or in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3) the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal; and (4) in the commission of the offense was for the purpose of extorting ransom. As such, the duration of the detention of the victim is immaterial. People of the Philippines vs. Ernesto Uyboco y Ramos, G.R. No. 178039, January 19, 2011.

Murder; damages. The award of civil indemnity made by the lower court was raised by the Supreme Court to P75,000 in order for the award to conform with current jurisprudence. Likewise, moral damages was also awarded by the Supreme Court because they are mandatory in cases of murder and homicide, without need of allegation and proof other than the death of the victim. In addition, the moral damages awarded by the lower court in the present case was modified by the Supreme Court and increased to P75,000 in accordance with current jurisprudence. The Supreme Court affirmed the temperate damages awarded by the Court of Appeals, instead of the actual damages awarded by the RTC, considering that Santiago Arasula was unable to prove the actual expenses incurred by the death of his brother.  Art. 2224 of the Civil Code provides: “Temperate or moderate damages, which are more than nominal but less than compensatory damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty.”  The Supreme Court awarded P25,000 as temperate damages since it is proper in homicide or murder cases when no evidence of burial or funeral expenses is presented in the trial court. Exemplary damages are also proper, as the crime was attended by the aggravating circumstance of taking advantage of superior strength.  Art. 2230 of the Civil Code states: “In criminal offenses, exemplary damages as a part of the civil liability may be imposed when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances.  Such damages are separate and distinct from fines and shall be paid to the offended party.”  The amount of P30,000 as exemplary damages should be awarded pursuant to current jurisprudence. The damages assessed in this case shall be subject to interest at 6%. People of the Philippines vs. Hemiano De Jesus and Rodelo Morales, G.R. No. 186528, January 26, 2011.

Treachery; elements. The Supreme Court affirmed the accused’s conviction and ruled that treachery attended the killing. In order for treachery to be properly appreciated, two elements must be present: (1) at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself; and (2) the accused consciously and deliberately adopted the particular means, methods or forms of attack employed by him.  The evidence showed that accused hid behind a coconut tree and when Estose passed by the tree, completely unaware of any danger, accused immediately hacked him with a bolo.  Estose could only attempt to parry the blows with his bare hands and as a result, he got wounded.  Furthermore, when Estose tried to retreat, stumbling in the process, accused even took advantage of this and stabbed him resulting in his death. Evidently, the means employed by accused-appellant assured himself of no risk at all arising from the defense which the deceased might make. People of the Philippines vs. Rogelio Dolorido y Estrada, G.R. No. 191721, January 12, 2010.

Special Laws

BP 22 offense; elements. The elements of the crime are, as follows: (1) the making, drawing, and issuance of any check to apply on account or for value; (2) the knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its presentment; and (3) the subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit, or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment. Jaime Alferez vs. People of the Philippines and Pingping Co., G.R. No. 182301, January 31, 2011.

BP 22 offense; notice of dishonor of check. In this case, the prosecution failed to prove the second element. The prosecution merely presented a copy of the demand letter, together with the registry receipt and the return card, allegedly sent to petitioner. However, there was no attempt to authenticate or identify the signature on the registry return card. Receipts for registered letters and return receipts do not by themselves prove receipt; they must be properly authenticated to serve as proof of receipt of the letter, claimed to be a notice of dishonor. To be sure, the presentation of the registry card with an unauthenticated signature, does not meet the required proof beyond reasonable doubt that petitioner received such notice. Moreover, for notice by mail, it must appear that the same was served on the addressee or a duly authorized agent of the addressee.  From the registry receipt alone, it is possible that petitioner or his authorized agent did receive the demand letter. Possibilities, however, cannot replace proof beyond reasonable doubt. As there is insufficient proof that petitioner received the notice of dishonor, the presumption that he had knowledge of insufficiency of funds cannot arise. Jaime Alferez vs. People of the Philippines and Pingping Co., G.R. No. 182301, January 31, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; buy-bust operation. The Supreme Court acquitted the accused on the ground that the police officers involved in the buy-bust operation failed to comply with Section 21 (a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9165, which requires them to take immediate inventory of and photograph the seized item in the presence of the accused or his representative or responsible third persons mentioned. Here, the prosecution failed to show that the substances allegedly seized from the accused were the same substances presented in court to prove their guilt.  Since custody and possession change over time, it has been held indispensable that the officer who seized the article places it in a plastic container unless it is already in one, seals it if yet unsealed, and puts his marking on the cover.  In this way there is assurance, upon inspection, that the substance reaches the laboratory in the same condition it was seized from the accused. Here, the police officers did not mark the sealed plastic sachets to show that they were the same things they took from the accused.  Rather, the marking on the items were done by the station investigator who would have no way of knowing that the substances were really seized from the accused.  The marking of captured items immediately after they are seized from the accused is the starting point in the custodial link.   This step is vital because succeeding handlers of the specimens will use the markings as reference.  Failure to place such markings paves the way for swapping, planting, and contamination of the evidence. These lapses seriously cast doubt on the authenticity of the corpus delicti, warranting acquittal on reasonable doubt. People of the Philippines vs. Luis Pajarin y Dela Cruz and Efren Pallaya y Tuviera, G.R. No. 190640, January 12, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; buy-bust operation. A prior surveillance or test buy is not required for a valid buy-bust operation, as long as the operatives are accompanied by their informant. Settled is the rule that the absence of a prior surveillance or test buy does not affect the legality of the buy-bust operation. There is no textbook method of conducting buy-bust operations. The Court has left to the discretion of police authorities the selection of effective means to apprehend drug dealers. A prior surveillance, much less a lengthy one, is not necessary, especially where the police operatives are accompanied by their informant during the entrapment. Flexibility is a trait of good police work. When time is of the essence, the police may dispense with the need for prior surveillance. In the instant case, having been accompanied by the informant to the person who was peddling the dangerous drugs, the policemen need not have conducted any prior surveillance before they undertook the buy-bust operation. People of the Philippines vs. Francisco Manlangit, G.R. No. 189806, January 12, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. The “chain of custody” is the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of the 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 thus include a testimony about the every link in the chain, from the moment the item was seized to the time it was offered in court as evidence, such that every person who handled the same would admit as to 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.  The same 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. Erlinda Capuno y Tison, G.R. No. 185715, January 19, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. It is from the testimony of every witness who handled the evidence from which a reliable assurance can be derived that the evidence presented in court is one and the same as that seized from the accused. In the present case, the prosecution’s evidence failed to establish the chain that would have shown that the shabu presented in court was the very same specimen seized from the appellant. People of the Philippines vs. Erlinda Capuno y Tison, G.R. No. 185715, January 19, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody.  “Chain of custody” means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous     drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature  of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition. In this case, there was no compliance with the inventory and photographing of the seized dangerous drug and marked money immediately after the buy-bust operation.  Such non-compliance does not necessarily render void and invalid the seizure of the dangerous drugs.  There must, however, be justifiable grounds to warrant exception therefrom, and provided that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/s. People of the Philippines vs. Jay Lorena y Labag, G.R. No. 184954, January 10, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody.  While a perfect chain of custody is almost always impossible to achieve, an unbroken chain becomes indispensable and essential in the prosecution of drug cases owing to its susceptibility to alteration, tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange.  Hence, every link must be accounted for. Among others, the transfer of the specimen from the provincial crime laboratory to the regional crime laboratory was unaccounted for Nobleza, who received the specimen from Bearis and conducted the initial field test on it, testified that after the examination and preparing the result, she turned over the same to the evidence custodian, SPO3 Augusto Basagre. Clemen, the chemist who conducted the confirmatory test at the regional crime laboratory, testified that she received the specimen from one P/Insp. Alfredo Lopez, Deputy Provincial Officer of the Provincial Crime Laboratory, the signatory of the memorandum for request for laboratory examination. The prosecution failed to present evidence to show how the specimen was transferred from Basagre to Lopez. Given the foregoing lapses committed by the apprehending officers, the saving clause cannot apply to the case at bar. Not only did the prosecution fail to offer any justifiable ground why the procedure required by law was not complied with, it was also unable to establish the chain of custody of the shabu allegedly taken from appellant. The obvious gaps in the chain of custody created reasonable doubt as to whether the specimen seized from appellant was the same specimen brought to the crime laboratories and eventually offered in court as evidence.  Without adequate proof of the corpus delicti, appellant’s conviction cannot stand. People of the Philippines vs. Jay Lorena y Labag, G.R. No. 184954, January 10, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession; elements. With respect to the charge of illegal possession of dangerous drugs under section 11, article II of RA 9165, the evidence of the prosecution has sufficiently established the elements of the violation, to wit: (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. Possession of dangerous drugs constitutes prima facie evidence of knowledge or animus possidendi sufficient to convict an accused in the absence of a satisfactory explanation of such possession.  Thus, the burden of evidence is shifted to the accused to explain the absence of knowledge or animus possidendi. People of the Philippines vs. Nene Quiamanlon y Malog, G.R. No. 191198, January 26, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements. In a prosecution for the illegal sale of a prohibited drug under section 5 of R.A. No. 9165, the prosecution must prove the following elements: (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. All these require evidence that the sale transaction transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti, i.e., the body or substance of the crime that establishes that a crime has actually been committed, as shown by presenting the object of the illegal transaction. To remove any doubt or uncertainty on the identity and integrity of the seized drug, evidence must definitely show that the illegal drug presented in court is the same illegal drug actually recovered from the appellant; otherwise, the prosecution for possession or for drug pushing under R.A. No. 9165 fails. People of the Philippines vs. Erlinda Capuno y Tison, G.R. No. 185715, January 19, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements. In every prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be sufficiently proved to sustain a conviction therefor: (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 for it. What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place. 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.  People of the Philippines vs. Jacquilin Pambid y Cortez, G.R. No. 192237, January 26, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements. In this case, the prosecution was able to establish these elements beyond moral certainty.  Accused-appellant sold the shabu for P200 to PO2 Collado 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 she was selling and delivering a prohibited drug.  People of the Philippines vs. Jacquilin Pambid y Cortez, G.R. No. 192237, January 26, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements. In a prosecution for illegal sale of a prohibited drug under Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165, the prosecution must prove the following elements: (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. All these require evidence that the sale transaction transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti, i.e., the body or substance of the crime that establishes that a crime has actually been committed, as shown by presenting the object of the illegal transaction. People of the Philippines vs. Sevillano Delos Reyes y Lantican, G.R. No. 181039, January 31, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements. 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 for it. People of the Philippines vs. Evangeline Sobangee y Edaño, G.R. No. 186120, January 31, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements. In every prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like marijuana, the following elements must be sufficiently proved to sustain a conviction therefor: (1) the identity of the buyer, as well as the seller, the object and consideration of the sale; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. People of the Philippines vs. Mark Lester Dela Rosa y Suello, G.R. No. 185166, January 26, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; corpus delicti. What is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the dangerous drugs seized as evidence.  In this case, the Supreme Court reiterated the meaning of the term corpus delicti which is the actual commission by someone of the particular crime charged. The commission of the offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like marijuana, requires merely the consummation of the selling transaction, which happens the moment the buyer receives the drug from the seller. Settled is the rule that as long as the police officer went through the operation as a buyer and his offer was accepted by appellant and the dangerous drugs delivered to the former, the crime is considered consummated by the delivery of the goods. People of the Philippines vs. Mark Lester Dela Rosa y Suello, G.R. No. 185166, January 26, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements. In every prosecution for illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be sufficiently proved to sustain a conviction therefor: (1) that the accused is in possession of the object identified as a prohibited or regulatory drug; (2) that such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) that the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug. People of the Philippines vs. Jacquilin Pambid y Cortez, G.R. No. 192237, January 26, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; noncompliance with procedural requirements. Section 21 of RA 9165 need not be followed as an exact science.  Non-compliance with section 21 does not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. Non-compliance with the procedural requirements under RA 9165 and its IRR relative to the custody, photographing, and drug-testing of the apprehended persons is not a serious flaw that can render void the seizures and custody of drugs in a buy-bust operation. 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 fact, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Rep. Act No. 9165 adequately reflects the desire of the law to excuse from the rigid tenor of Section 21 situations wherein slight infractions in methodology are present but the integrity and identity of the specimen remains intact. People of the Philippines vs. Rufino Vicente, Jr. y Suella, G.R. No. 188847, January 31, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties. Under the Rules of Court, there is an evidentiary presumption that official duties have been regularly performed. This presumption, however, is not conclusive. It cannot, by itself, overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence. Any taint of irregularity affects the whole performance and should make the presumption unavailable. The presumption, in other words, obtains only when nothing in the records suggests that the law enforcers involved deviated from the standard conduct of official duty as provided for in the law. People of the Philippines vs. Erlinda Capuno y Tison, G.R. No. 185715, January 19, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties. Where the official act in question is irregular on its face, an adverse presumption arises as a matter of course. The Supreme Court found merit in the appellant’s claim that the prosecution failed to discharge its burden of proving her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, due to the unreliability of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and substantial gaps in the chain of custody, raising reasonable doubt on the authenticity of the corpus delicti. People of the Philippines vs. Erlinda Capuno y Tison, G.R. No. 185715, January 19, 2011.

Illegal possession of firearms; elements. Illegal possession of firearms, or, in this case, part of a firearm, is committed when the holder thereof: (1) possesses a firearm or a part thereof; and (2) lacks the authority or license to possess the firearm. The rule is that ownership is not an essential element of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. What the law requires is merely possession which includes not only actual physical possession, but also constructive possession or the subjection of the thing to one’s control and management. Elenita C. Fajardo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 190889, January 10, 2010.

Illegal possession of firearms; elements. In this case, petitioner was neither in physical nor constructive possession of the subject receivers. The testimony of SPO2 Nava clearly showed that he only saw Valerio on top of the house when the receivers were thrown. None of the witnesses saw petitioner holding the receivers, before or during their disposal. At the very least, petitioner’s possession of the receivers was merely incidental because Valerio, the one in actual physical possession, was seen at the rooftop of petitioner’s house. Absent any evidence pointing to petitioner’s participation, knowledge or consent in Valerio’s actions, she cannot be held liable for illegal possession of the receivers. Petitioner’s apparent liability for illegal possession of part of a firearm can only proceed from the assumption that one of the thrown receivers matches the gun seen tucked in the waistband of her shorts earlier that night. Unfortunately, the prosecution failed to convert such assumption into concrete evidence. Mere speculations and probabilities cannot substitute for proof required to establish the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt.  The rule is the same whether the offenses are punishable under the Revised Penal Code, which are mala in se, or in crimes, which are malum prohibitum by virtue of special law. The quantum of proof required by law was not adequately met in this case in so far as petitioner is concerned.  Elenita C. Fajardo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 190889, January 10, 2010.

Illegal recruitment; elements. Article 38(a) of the Labor Code, as amended, specifies that recruitment activities undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of authority are deemed illegal and punishable by law. When the illegal recruitment is committed against three or more persons, individually or as a group, then it is deemed committed in large scale and carries with it stiffer penalties as the same is deemed a form of economic sabotage. But to prove illegal recruitment, it must be shown that the accused, without being duly authorized by law, gave complainants the distinct impression that he had the power or ability to send them abroad for work, such that the latter were convinced to part with their money in order to be employed.  It is important that there must at least be a promise or offer of an employment from the person posing as a recruiter, whether locally or abroad. People of the Philippines vs. Teresita “Tessie” Laogo, G.R. No. 176264, January 10, 2011.

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Arraignment; suspension. The grounds for suspension of arraignment under section 11, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court are the following: (a) the accused appears to be suffering from an unsound mental condition which effectively renders him unable to fully understand the charge against him and to plead intelligently thereto. In such case, the court shall order his mental examination and, if necessary, his confinement for such purpose; (b) there exists a prejudicial question; and (b) a petition for review of the resolution of the prosecutor is pending at either the Department of Justice or the Office of the President; Provided, that the period of suspension shall not exceed sixty (60) days counted from the filing of the petition with the reviewing office. Spouses Trinidad, et al vs. Victor Ang, G.R. No. 192898, January 31, 2011.

Arraignment; suspension. While the pendency of a petition for review is a ground for suspension of the arraignment, the same rule limits the deferment of the arraignment to a period of 60 days reckoned from the filing of the petition with the reviewing office.  It follows therefore that after the expiration of said period, the trial court is bound to arraign the accused or to deny the motion to defer arraignment. Spouses Trinidad, et al vs. Victor Ang, G.R. No. 192898, January 31, 2011.

Arrest; warrantless arrest. An arrest made during the commission of a crime does not require a warrant.  Such warrantless arrest is considered reasonable and valid under Rule 113,  section 5(a) of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. In the instant case, contrary to accused-appellants’ contention, there was indeed a valid warrantless arrest in flagrante delicto.  Consider the circumstances immediately prior to and surrounding the arrest of accused-appellants:  (1) the police officers received information from an operative about an ongoing shipment of contraband; (2) the police officers, with the operative, proceeded to Villa Vicenta Resort in Barangay Bignay II, Sariaya, Quezon; (3) they observed the goings-on at the resort from a distance of around 50 meters; and (4) they spotted the six accused-appellants loading transparent bags containing a white substance into a white L-300 van. Evidently, the arresting police officers had probable cause to suspect that accused-appellants were loading and transporting contraband, more so when Hwan, upon being accosted, readily mentioned that they were loading shabu and pointed to Tan as their leader.  Thus, the arrest of accused-appellants – who were caught in flagrante delicto of possessing, and in the act of loading into a white L-300 van, shabu, a prohibited drug under RA 6425, as amended­­ – is valid. People of the Philippines vs. Ng Yik bun, et al, G.R. No. 180452. January 10, 2010.

Arrest; warrantless arrest. The appellant questioned the validity of his arrest and the search conducted inside his car in the absence of a warrant. The Supreme Court ruled that the arrest was valid pursuant to section 5, paragraph (b) of Rule 113 of the Rules of Court, which provides that a “peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person: . . . (b) when an offense has in fact been committed and he has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested has committed it.” Item (b), which is the second instance provided under the foregoing rule when a lawful warrantless arrest can be made, necessitates two stringent requirements before a warrantless arrest can be effected: (1) an offense has just been committed; and (2) the person making the arrest has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested has committed it. The records of the case here show that both requirements are present.  The police officers present at the Magallanes Commercial Center were able to witness the pay-off which effectively consummates the crime of kidnapping.  They all saw appellant take the money from the car trunk of Jepson. Such knowledge was then relayed to the other police officers stationed in Fort Bonifacio where appellant was expected to pass by. It is sufficient for the arresting team that they were monitoring the pay-off for a number of hours long enough for them to be informed that it was indeed appellant, who was the kidnapper.  This is equivalent to personal knowledge based on probable cause.  People of the Philippines vs. Ernesto Uyboco y Ramos, G.R. No. 178039, January 19, 2011.

Custodial Investigation. Custodial investigation refers to “any questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” This presupposes that he is suspected of having committed a crime and that the investigator is trying to elicit information or a confession from him. The rule begins to operate at once, as soon as the investigation ceases to be a general inquiry into an unsolved crime, and direction is aimed upon a particular suspect who has been taken into custody and to whom the police would then direct interrogatory questions which tend to elicit incriminating statements. The assailed statements herein were spontaneously made by petitioner and were not at all elicited through questioning. It was established that petitioner, together with his cousin Fiscal Jayona, personally went to the police station and voluntarily made the statement that Leticia jumped out of his vehicle at around 12:30 a.m. of September 9, 1992. Thus, the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals did not err in holding that the constitutional procedure for custodial investigation is not applicable in the instant case. Benjamin Jesalva vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 187725, January 19, 2011.

Evidence; admissibility of extrajudicial confession. Nagares challenges the admissibility of his extrajudicial confession, claiming that it was made under duress and that he was not assisted by an independent counsel during the custodial investigation. Nagares maintains such flaws in the investigation violated his right guaranteed under section 12, Article III of the Constitution. However, based on the records, Nagares’ extrajudicial confession was voluntarily given, and thus admissible. The Court of Appeals made the following findings: (1) there is no evidence of compulsion or duress or violence on the person of Nagares; (2) Nagares did not complain to the officers administering the oath during the taking of his sworn statement; (3) he did not file any criminal or administrative complaint against his alleged malefactors for maltreatment; (4) no marks of violence were observed on his body; and (5) he did not have himself examined by a physician to support his claim. Moreover, appellant’s confession is replete with details, which makes it highly improbable that it was not voluntarily given. Moreover, photographs taken during the signing, thumbmarking, and swearing of the extrajudicial confession negate Nagares’ claims as all these pictures depicted a “cordial and pleasant atmosphere” devoid of any sign of torture, threat, duress or tension on Nagares’ person. Based on the foregoing, there is clearly no basis for Nagares’ plea that his extrajudicial confession should have been excluded from the evidence. People of the Philippines vs. Rodolfo Capitle and Arutor Nagares, G.R. No. 175330, January 12, 2010.

Evidence; alibi. Appellant’s denial and alibi are not worthy of belief.  It is an oft-quoted doctrine that positive identification prevails over denial and alibi.  Alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Furthermore, for the defense of alibi to prosper, appellant must establish that (a) he was in another place at the time of the commission of the offense; and (b) he was so far away that he could not have been physically present at the place of the crime, or its immediate vicinity, at the time of its commission. Morales testified that at the time of the killing, he was in his house, not far from the house of the victim, around 20 arm’s-lengths, as per his reckoning. There is, thus, the possibility of him being physically present at the place of the crime; indeed, as per his testimony, he was in the immediate vicinity.  He presented no corroborating evidence to show that he was elsewhere at the time of the killing, nor did he present any witnesses to his whereabouts.  There is only his word that he was not there, against Santiago’s credible testimony.  His defense, thus, cannot prosper. People of the Philippines vs. Hemiano De Jesus and Rodelo Morales, G.R. No. 186528, January 26, 2011.

Evidence; conspiracy. Conspiracy can be inferred from and proven by acts of the accused themselves when said acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action, and community of interests.  Although the same degree of proof required for establishing the crime is required to support a finding of the presence of conspiracy, it need not be proven by direct evidence.  Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated. In this case, the Supreme Court held that a conspiracy by and among accused-appellants was present as it may be inferred from the acts of the accused-appellants. As shown, the three accused left Iloilo together, stayed in Manila for a while, left for Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga and returned to Manila thereafter.  They were together when the apprehending police officers pounced on them near the pier premises on their way back to Iloilo, each of them carrying a travelling bag which contained marijuana. People of the Philippines vs. Nelida Dequina, Joselito Jundoc and Nora Jingabo, G.R. No. 177570, January 19, 2011.

Evidence; credibility of witnesses. The Supreme Court in this case gave due weight and respect to the ruling of the lower courts in giving credence to the positive testimonies of witnesses in pointing to the appellant as one of the kidnappers.  The witnesses testified in a clear and categorical manner, unfazed by efforts of the defense to discredit them. As a rule, the assessment of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court, which had a unique opportunity to observe the witnesses firsthand and to note their demeanor, conduct and attitude. While it is true that the trial judge who conducted the hearing would be in a better position to ascertain the truth or falsity of the testimonies of the witnesses, it does not necessarily follow that a judge who was not present during the trial, as in this case, cannot render a valid and just decision, since the latter can very well rely on the transcribed stenographic notes taken during the trial as the basis of his decision. People of the Philippines vs. Ernesto Uyboco y Ramos, G.R. No. 178039, January 19, 2011.

Evidence; denial. The Supreme Court has consistently held that “denials unsubstantiated by convincing evidence are not enough to engender reasonable doubt particularly where the prosecution presents sufficiently telling proof of guilt,” as in the instant case. The sachet containing the dangerous drug was positively identified by PO3 Villamor during trial as the very sachet containing the white crystalline substance sold and delivered to him by Quiamanlon. Thus, appellant’s denial is self-serving and has little weight in law. People of the Philippines vs. Nene Quiamanlon y Malog, G.R. No. 191198, January 26, 2011.

Evidence; mere denial cannot overcome presumption of regularity. A bare denial is an inherently weak defense and has been invariably viewed by the Supreme Court with disfavor, for it can be easily concocted but difficult to prove, and is a common standard line of defense in most prosecutions arising from violations of RA 9165. In the absence of any intent on the part of the police authorities to falsely impute such crime against the accused, the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty stands. The Supreme Court upheld the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty and found that the prosecution has discharged its burden of proving the guilt of appellant beyond reasonable doubt. People of the Philippines vs. Nene Quiamanlon y Malog, G.R. No. 191198, January 26, 2011.

Evidence; mere denial cannot overcome presumption of regularity. The sachet containing the dangerous drug was positively identified by MADAC operative Bilason during the trial as the very sachet with white crystalline substance sold and delivered to him by accused-appellants. Thus, accused-appellants’ denial is self-serving and has little weight in law. A bare denial is an inherently weak defense, and has been invariably viewed with disfavor, for it can be easily concocted but difficult to prove, and is a common standard line of defense in most prosecutions arising from violations of RA 9165. Denials unsubstantiated by convincing evidence are not enough to engender reasonable doubt particularly where the prosecution presents sufficiently telling proof of guilt. In the absence of any intent on the part of the police authorities to falsely impute such crime against the accused-appellants, the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty stands, especially here, where an astute analysis of MADAC operative Bilason’s testimony does not indicate any inconsistency, contradiction, or fabrication. People of the Philippines vs. Carlo Magno Aure y Arnaldo and Melchor Austriaco y Aguila, G.R. No. 185163, January 17, 2011.

Evidence; seized items not photographed. As a last ditch effort of the appellant exculpate himself, he claimed that his arrest was tainted with irregularity as the seized items were not photographed in accordance with the provisions of Section 21, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, thus, an evident violation thereof. The Supreme Court rejected the appellant’s argument and ruled that the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9165 allows flexibility in complying with the express requirements under Section 21 of the said law. Indeed, the evident purpose of the procedure 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 of or innocence of the accused. Thus, the proviso stating that non-compliance with 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. People of the Philippines vs. Mark Lester Dela Rosa y Suello, G.R. No. 185166, January 26, 2011.

Evidence; seized items not photographed. Even granting arguendo that the prosecution failed to show that the police officers conducted the required physical inventory and photograph of the evidence confiscated pursuant to the aforesaid guidelines, the same is not fatal and does not automatically render appellant’s arrest illegal or the items seized or confiscated from him inadmissible.  What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items, as it would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. The prosecution has adequately shown the continuous and unbroken possession and subsequent transfers of the three plastic sachets of marijuana from the time appellant handed to PO3 Lowaton the one plastic sachet of marijuana to consummate the sale thereof, then the subsequent recovery by PO3 Lowaton of two more plastic sachets of marijuana from appellant followed by the markings made by PO3 Lowaton of his initials on the said three plastic sachets of marijuana at the place where appellant was arrested and in his presence  until they were sent to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination that yielded positive result for the presence of marijuana, a dangerous drug, as evidenced by a Physical Science Report No. D-659-06S, and up to the time that the marked three plastic sachets of marijuana were offered in court. Such fact persuasively proves that the three plastic sachets of marijuana presented in court were the same items seized from appellant during the buy-bust operation.  The integrity and evidentiary value thereof was duly preserved. People of the Philippines vs. Mark Lester Dela Rosa y Suello, G.R. No. 185166, January 26, 2011.

Evidence; proof beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt demands that unwavering exactitude be observed in establishing the corpus delicti — the body of the crime whose core is the confiscated illicit drug. Thus, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in buy-bust operations as it ensures that doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. People of the Philippines vs. Erlinda Capuno y Tison, G.R. No. 185715, January 19, 2011.

Information; test for sufficiency. The fundamental test in determining the adequacy of the averments in an information is whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, would establish the essential elements of the crime. Matters extrinsic or evidence aliunde should not be considered. The following are the essential elements for an offense punishable under Section 3(e) of RA 3019: (a) that the accused are public officers or private persons charged in conspiracy with them; (b) that said public officers committed the prohibited acts during the performance of their official duties or in relation to their public positions; (c) that they caused undue injury to any party, whether the Government or a private party; (c) that such injury was caused by giving unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to such parties; and (d) that the public officers acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. People of the Philippines vs. Robert P. Balao, et al, G.R. No. 176819, January 26, 2011.

Information; test for sufficiency. Clearly, the allegations in the 5 March 2001 information, if hypothetically admitted, would establish the essential elements of the crime. The information stated that (1) Balao, Lazarte, Jr., Angsico, and Dacalos were the general manager, team head of the Visayas Management Office, and Visayas division manager, respectively, of the National Housing Authority; (2) they committed the prohibited acts “in or about the month of March, 1992,” “while in the performance of their official functions;” (3) they caused undue injury to the Government in the amount of P232,628.35, “supposedly for the excavation and roadfilling works on the Pahanocoy Sites and Services Project in Bacolod City despite the fact that no such works were undertaken”; (4) they gave “unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to accused Arceo C. Cruz and A.C. Construction and themselves;” and (5) they acted “with deliberate intent, with manifest partiality and evident bad faith.” People of the Philippines vs. Robert P. Balao, et al, G.R. No. 176819, January 26, 2011.

Judgment; absence of accused at promulgation. The accused who failed to appear at the promulgation of the judgment of conviction shall lose the remedies available under the Rules of Court against the judgment — (a) the filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration (Rule 121), and (b) an appeal from the judgment of conviction (Rule 122).  However, the Rules allow the accused to regain his standing in court in order to avail of these remedies by:  (a) his surrender, and (b) his filing of a motion for leave of court to avail of these remedies, stating therein the reasons for his absence, within 15 days from the date of promulgation of judgment.  If the trial court finds that his absence was for a justifiable cause, the accused shall be allowed to avail of the said remedies within 15 days from notice or order finding his absence justified and allowing him the available remedies against the judgment of conviction. Edward Garrick Villena and Percival Doroja vs. People of the Philippines, Nomar B. Degeron, et al, G.R. No. 184091, January 31, 2011.

Judgment; absence of accused at promulgation. Petitioners’ mere filing of notices of appeal through their new counsel, therein only explaining their absence during the promulgation of judgment, cannot be considered an act of surrender despite the fact that said notices were filed within 15 days from September 28, 2007, the purported date when their new counsel personally secured a copy of the judgment of conviction from the Regional Trial Court.  The term “surrender” under Section 6, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court contemplates an act whereby a convicted accused physically and voluntarily submits himself to the jurisdiction of the court to suffer the consequences of the verdict against him.  The filing of notices of appeal cannot suffice as a physical and voluntary submission of petitioners to the Regional Trial Court’s jurisdiction.  It is only upon petitioners’ valid surrender, and only after proper motion, that they can avail of the remedy of appeal.  Absent compliance with these requirements, their notices of appeal, the initiatory step to appeal from their conviction, were properly denied due course. Edward Garrick Villena and Percival Doroja vs. People of the Philippines, Nomar B. Degeron, et al, G.R. No. 184091, January 31, 2011.

Sandiganbayan; jurisdiction. The Ombudsman has jurisdiction over administrative cases involving grave misconduct committed by the officials and employees of government-owned or -controlled corporations. The Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction to try and decide criminal actions involving violations of R.A. 3019 committed by public officials and employees, including presidents, directors and managers of government-owned or -controlled corporations. Antonio M. Carandang vs. Hon. Desierto, Office of the Ombudsman/Antonio M. Carandang vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 148076/G.R. No. 153161, January 12, 2011.

Sandiganbayan; jurisdiction. The respective jurisdictions of the respondents as expressly defined and delineated by the law are lacking in this case. A corporation is considered a government-owned or -controlled corporation only when the Government directly or indirectly owns or controls at least a majority or 51% share of the capital stock. Although it is true that the Sandiganbayan (Second Division) ordered the transfer to the PCGG of Benedicto’s shares that represented 72.4% of the total issued and outstanding capital stock of RPN, such quantification of Benedicto’s shareholding cannot be controlling in view of Benedicto’s timely filing of a motion for reconsideration whereby he clarified and insisted that the shares ceded to the PCGG had accounted for only 32.4%, not 72.4%, of RPN’s outstanding capital stock. With the extent of Benedicto’s holdings in RPN remaining unresolved with finality, concluding that the Government held the majority of RPN’s capital stock as to make RPN a government-owned or -controlled corporation would be bereft of any factual and legal basis. Antonio M. Carandang vs. Hon. Desierto, Office of the Ombudsman/Antonio M. Carandang vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 148076/G.R. No. 153161, January 12, 2011.

Warrantless searches and seizures; when allowed. Settled is the rule that no arrest, search or seizure can be made without a valid warrant issued by a competent judicial authority.  The Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. It further decrees that any evidence obtained in violation of said right shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. Nevertheless, the constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain legal and judicial exceptions, as follows: (1) warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Section 12, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court and by prevailing jurisprudence; (2) seizure of evidence in plain view; (3) search of a moving vehicle; (4) consented warrantless search; (5) customs search; (6) stop and frisk; and (7) exigent and emergency circumstances. People of the Philippines vs. Nelida Dequina, Joselito Jundoc and Nora Jingabo, G.R. No. 177570, January 19, 2011.

Warrantless searches and seizures; when allowed. “Transport” as used under the Dangerous Drugs Act is defined to mean “to carry or convey from one place to another.” The evidence in this case shows that at the time of their arrest, accused-appellants were caught in flagrante carrying/transporting dried marijuana leaves in their traveling bags.  PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco need not even open Dequina’s traveling bag to determine its content because when the latter noticed the police officers’ presence, she walked briskly away and in her hurry, accidentally dropped her traveling bag, causing the zipper to open and exposed the dried marijuana bricks therein.  Since a crime was then actually being committed by the accused-appellants, their warrantless arrest was legally justified, and the following warrantless search of their traveling bags was allowable as incidental to their lawful arrest. People of the Philippines vs. Nelida Dequina, Joselito Jundoc and Nora Jingabo, G.R. No. 177570, January 19, 2011.

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

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