May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Conspiracy; proof. Conspiracy requires the same degree of proof required to establish the crime — proof beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, mere presence at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission without proof of cooperation or agreement to cooperate is not enough to constitute one a party to a conspiracy. Michael San Juan y Cruz v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 177191, May 30, 2011.

Continued crimes; foreknowledge to prove single intent. Petitioner’s theory, fusing his liability to one count of Grave Threats because he only had “a single mental resolution, a single impulse, and single intent” to threaten the Darongs assumes a vital fact: that he had foreknowledge of Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente’s presence near the water tank in the morning of 8 April 1999. The records, however, belie this assumption. Moreover, petitioner went to the water tank not to execute his “single intent” to threaten Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente but to investigate a suspected water tap. Not having known in advance of the Darongs’ presence near the water tank at the time in question, petitioner could not have formed any intent to threaten any of them until shortly before he inadvertently came across each of them. Petitioner’s theory holds water only if the facts are altered – that is, he threatened Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente at the same place and at the same time. Santiago Paera v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181626, May 30, 2011.

Justifying circumstance; defense-of-stranger rule. The defense-of-stranger rule under paragraph 3, Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code requires proof of (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) absence of evil motives such as revenge and resentment. None of these requisites obtain in this case. Not one of the Darongs committed acts of aggression against third parties’ rights when petitioner successively threatened them with bodily harm. Indeed, all of them were performing ordinary, peaceful acts – Indalecio was standing near the water tank, Diosetea was walking towards Indalecio and Vicente was standing in the vegetable garden a few meters away. With the element of unlawful aggression absent, inquiry on the reasonableness of the means petitioner used to prevent or repel it is rendered irrelevant. As for the third requisite, the records more than support the conclusion that petitioner acted with resentment. Santiago Paera v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181626, May 30, 2011.

Justifying circumstance; self-defense. To escape liability, one who admits killing another in the name of self-defense bears the burden of proving: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person claiming self-defense.  In this case, the appellant miserably failed to prove unlawful aggression on  the  part  of  Labides.  There was no evidence to support the appellant’s claim that Labides broke into his home by destroying the door. Nor was there any evidence that Labides tried to attack him with a piece of wood. The appellant himself admitted that he did not sustain any injury due to the incident. Moreover, physical evidence belies the appellant’s claim of self-defense.  The number, location and severity of the hack wounds the appellant inflicted on Labides all indicate an intention to kill, and not merely to wound or defend. The totality of this evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that the aggressor was in fact the appellant and not Labides. People of the Philippines v. Antonio Sabella y Bragais, G.R. No. 183092, May 30, 2011.

Qualified theft; elements. To constitute the crime of theft, defined and penalized under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code, the following elements must be established that: (1)   there be taking of personal property; (2) said property belongs to another; (3) the taking be done with intent to gain; (4) the taking be done without the consent of the owner; and (5) the taking be accomplished without use of violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things. Theft is qualified under Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code under the following circumstances: (1) if the theft is committed by a domestic servant; (2) if the theft is committed with grave abuse of confidence; (3) if the property stolen is a (a) motor vehicle, (b) mail matter, or (c) large cattle; (4) if the property stolen consists of coconuts taken from the premises of a plantation; (5) if the property is fish taken from a fishpond or fishery; or (6) if property is taken on the occasion of fire, earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, or any other calamity, vehicular accident, or civil disturbance. Clay & Feather International, Inc., et al v. Alexander T. Lichaytoo and Clifford T. Lichaytoo, G.R. No. 193105, May 30, 2011.

Rape; guidelines in review of rape cases.  In reviewing rape cases, the Supreme Court is guided by three settled principles: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility and while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the person accused, although innocent, to disprove; (2) considering the intrinsic nature of the crime, only two persons being usually involved, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. People of the Philippines v. Edgardo O. Ogarte, G.R. No. 182690, May 30, 2011.

Rape; mandatory indemnity and damages.The award of civil indemnity to the rape victim is mandatory upon a finding that rape took place. Moral damages, on the other hand, are awarded to rape victims without need of proof other than the fact of rape under the assumption that the victim suffered moral injuries from the experience she underwent. Considering that the death penalty was not imposed due to the prosecution’s failure to prove the minority of the victim, the amounts of civil indemnity and moral damages are reduced from P75,000.00 to P50,000.00, respectively, for each count. People of the Philippines v. Ernesto Mercado, G.R. No. 189847, May 30, 2011.

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 is committed with violence or intimidation against persons; (2) the property belongs to another; (3) the taking is animo lucrandi or with intent to gain; and (4) on the occasion or by reason of the robbery, the crime of homicide, as used in the generic sense, was committed. 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. People of the Philippines v. Ricky Ladiana y Davao and Antonio Manuel Uy, G.R. No. 174660, May 30, 2011.

2. SPECIAL LAW

Dangerous Drugs Act; penalties. On the illegal possession of shabu (Criminal Case No. 12451-D), the appellant was caught in possession of .10 gram of shabu. As such, the Supreme Court sustained the following penalties imposed by the RTC and the CA in accordance with Section 11, paragraph 2(3), Article II of R.A. No. 9165: (a) imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years: and (b) to pay a fine of P300,000.00. People of the Philippines v. Arielito Alivio, et al, G.R. No. 177771, May 30, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; transport of drugs; definition. “Transport” as used under the Dangerous Drugs Act is defined to mean:  “to carry or convey from one place to another.”  The essential element of the charge is the movement of the dangerous drug from one place to another.  In the present case, although petitioner and his co-accused were arrested inside a car, the car was not in transit when they were accosted.  The car was parked and stationary.  The prosecution failed to show that any distance was travelled by petitioner with the drugs in his possession. Michael San Juan y Cruz v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 177191, May 30, 2011.

3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Appeal; criminal cases. It is the unique nature of an appeal in a criminal case that the appeal throws the whole case open for review and it is the duty of the appellate court to correct, cite, and appreciate errors in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or unassigned. Michael San Juan y Cruz v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 177191, May 30, 2011.

Appeal; relaxation of prohibition against new issues. Elementary principles of due process forbid the pernicious procedural strategy of adopting new theories for the first time before the Supreme Court – it not only catches off-guard the opposing party, it also denies judges the analytical benefit uniform theorizing affords. Thus, courts generally refuse to pass upon freshly raised theories.  This rule would have been applied in this case were it not for the fact that petitioner’s liberty is at stake and the Office of the Solicitor General partially views his cause with favor.  Santiago Paera v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181626, May 30, 2011.

Criminal procedure; aggravating circumstances. The Regional Trial Court erred in appreciating the aggravating circumstances of nocturnity and treachery which were not specifically alleged in the information. Sections 8 and 9 of Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure provides that aggravating circumstances must be alleged in the information, otherwise, they cannot be considered against the accused even if they are proven during the trial. People of the Philippines v. Ricky Ladiana y Davao and Antonio Manuel Uy, G.R. No. 174660, May 30, 2011.

Evidence; circumstantial evidence. While there was no direct evidence to establish appellant’s participation in the commission of the crime, direct evidence is not the only matrix wherefrom a trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt.  The rules of evidence allow a trial court to rely on circumstantial evidence to support its conclusion of guilt. Circumstantial evidence is that evidence which proves a fact or series of facts from which the facts in issue may be established by inference.  At times, resort to circumstantial evidence is imperative since to insist on direct testimony would, in many cases, result in setting felons free and deny proper protection to the community.  People of the Philippines v. Ricky Ladiana y Davao and Antonio Manuel Uy, G.R. No. 174660, May 30, 2011.

Evidence; circumstantial evidence. Thus, Section 4, Rule 133 of the Revised Rules of Court on circumstantial evidence requires the concurrence of the following: (1) there must be more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused. A judgment of conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be sustained when the circumstances proved form an unbroken chain that results to a fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the guilty person. People of the Philippines v. Ricky Ladiana y Davao and Antonio Manuel Uy, G.R. No. 174660, May 30, 2011.

Probable cause; definition. Probable cause is defined as the existence of such facts and circumstances as would excite the belief in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted.  George Miller v. Secretary Hernando B. Perez, et al, G.R. No. 165412, May 30, 2011.

Probable cause; determination. To determine the existence of probable cause, there is need to conduct preliminary investigation. A preliminary investigation constitutes a realistic judicial appraisal of the merits of a case.  Its purpose is to determine whether (a) a crime has been committed; and (b) whether there is a probable cause to believe that the accused is guilty thereof.  It is a means of discovering which person or persons may be reasonably charged with a crime. It is well-settled that the determination of probable cause for the purpose of filing an information in court is an executive function which pertains at the first instance to the public prosecutor and then to the Secretary of Justice. The Secretary of Justice may reverse or modify the resolution of the prosecutor, after which he shall direct the prosecutor concerned either to file the corresponding information without conducting another preliminary investigation, or to dismiss or move for dismissal of the complaint or information with notice to the parties. George Miller v. Secretary Hernando B. Perez, et al, G.R. No. 165412, May 30, 2011.

Jurisdiction; Ombudsman.The Ombudsman has concurrent jurisdiction with similarly authorized agencies. In this case, the Supreme Court debunked petitioners’ argument that because they are not presidential appointees, it is only the Ombudsman which has jurisdiction over them. The Supreme Court ruled that the power of the Ombudsman to investigate offenses involving public officials is not exclusive, but is concurrent with other similarly authorized agencies of the government in relation to the offense charged.   Therefore, with respect to petitioners, the Ombudsman may share its authority to conduct an investigation concerning administrative charges against them with other agencies. Theron V. Lacson v. The Hon. Executive Secretary, et al/Jaime R. Millan and Bernardo T. Viray v. The Hon. Executive Secretary, et al, G.R. No. 165399 & 165475/G.R. No. 165404 & 165489, May 30, 2011.

Jurisdiction; Sandiganbayan. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that since respondent stands charged for violating Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 in his capacity as president of ExpoCorp — a private corporation and not a government-owned or controlled corporation –he (respondent) is beyond the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.  People of the Philippines v. Luis J. Morales, G.R. No. 166355, May 30, 2011.

Jurisdiction; SandiganbayanSection 5, Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution defines the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan “shall have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices and such other offenses committed by public officers and employees, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations, in relation to their office as may be determined by law. R.A. 8249 (which amended P.D. 1606), delineated the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. which reads in part – “The Sandiganbayan shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:

(a) Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the Revised Penal Code, where one or more of the accused are officials occupying the following positions in the government whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the offense: (1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the positions of regional director and higher, otherwise classified as Grade ’27′ and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 (Republic Act No. 6758), specifically including: (i)Provincial governors, vice-governors, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and provincial treasurers, assessors, engineers and other provincial department heads;(ii) City mayors, vice-mayors, members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, city treasurers, assessors, engineers and other city department heads;(iii)Officials of the diplomatic service occupying the position of consul and higher;(iv)Philippine army and air force colonels, naval captains, and all officers of higher rank; (v)Officers of the Philippine National Police while occupying the position of provincial director and those holding the rank of senior superintendent or higher; (vi) City and provincial prosecutors and their assistants, and officials and prosecutors in the Office of the Ombudsman and special prosecutor; (vii)   Presidents, directors or trustees, or managers of government-owned or -controlled corporations, state universities or educational institutions or foundations; (2) Members of Congress and officials thereof classified as Grade ’27′ and up under the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989; (3) Members of the judiciary without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution; (4) Chairmen and members of Constitutional Commissions, without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution; and (5) All other national and local officials classified as Grade ’27′ and higher under the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989.

(b) Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed with other crimes committed by the public officials and employees mentioned in subsection (a) of this section in relation to their office.

(c) Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986.  People of the Philippines v. Luis J. Morales, G.R. No. 166355, May 30, 2011.

(Lindy thanks Nuj Dumbrigue and Janette Ancog for their assistance in the preparation of this post.) 

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