August 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select August 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Rape; elements. Accused appealed to the Supreme Court (“SC”) the decision of the Court of Appeals convicting him of the crimes of statutory rape (in Criminal Case No. 4467) and qualified rape (in Criminal Case No. 4468) committed against his daughter “AAA.” The SC affirmed both convictions. Since AAA was 10 years and 9 months old when the crime charged in Criminal Case No. 4467 was committed, then, the crime charged and proven is one of statutory rape. The two elements of statutory rape are: (1) that the accused had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that the woman is below 12 years of age. Proof of force and consent is immaterial if the woman is under 12 years of age, not only because force is not an element of statutory rape, but also because the absence of free consent is presumed. Conviction will lie provided sexual intercourse is proven. On the other hand, AAA was 12 years and five days old when the second incident of rape occurred. Consequently, accused-appellant cannot be convicted in Criminal Case No. 4468 for statutory rape, which requires that the victim be below 12 years of age. However, even though accused-appellant cannot be convicted of statutory rape in Criminal Case No. 4468, and despite the absence of evidence of resistance on the part of AAA, his criminal liability for rape nevertheless remains. The SC cited People v. Orillosa, which held: “Actual force or intimidation need not be employed in incestuous rape of a minor because the moral and physical dominion of the father is sufficient to cow the victim into submission to his beastly desires. When a father commits the odious crime of rape against his own daughter, his moral ascendancy or influence over the latter substitutes for violence and intimidation.” People of the Philippines v. Antonio Osma, Jr. y Agaton, G.R. No. 187734, August 29, 2012.

Rape; penalty. The statutory rape and qualified rape committed by the accused-appellant would have been punishable by death under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, if not for the enactment of RA 9346 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty. Pursuant to RA 9346, the penalty that should be imposed is reclusion perpetua. In People v. Lauga, the Supreme Court held that where the rape is committed with any of the qualifying or aggravating circumstances warranting the imposition of the death penalty, the victim is entitled to P75,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto and P75,000.00 as moral damages. In addition, like in Lauga where the thirteen-year-old victim was raped by her father, P30,000.00 as exemplary damages was awarded to the victim. People of the Philippines v. Antonio Osma, Jr. y Agaton, G.R. No. 187734, August 29, 2012.

Robbery with homicide; elements. Appellant was charged with and convicted by the lower court of robbery with homicide, a special complex crime against property. Robbery with homicide exists when a homicide is committed either by reason, or on occasion, of the robbery. In charging robbery with homicide, the onus probandi is to establish that: (a) the taking of personal property was with the use of violence or intimidation against a person; (b) the property belongs to another; (c) the taking is characterized with animus lucrandi or with intent to gain; and (d) on the occasion or by reason of the robbery, the crime of homicide (which is used in the generic sense) was committed. Appellant’s contention that there is no evidence of robbery is devoid of merit. The element of taking and the existence of the money stolen by appellant were adequately established by the prosecution. Henry positively testified that he left P2,000.00 in the drawer in the ricemill in the morning of October 3, 2000 which was no longer found upon discovery of his wife’s lifeless body. Investigator Demejes testified that when he came to the crime scene, he saw the place in disarray, i.e., drawers and coins were scattered on the floor, another drawer was pulled out from its original location and left on a couch, and that a blue tote bag was also seen on top of a table and a passbook on top of the bed. Intent to rob is an internal act, but may be inferred from proof of violent unlawful taking of personal property. The prosecution was able to establish that the motive for killing the victim was robbery. People of the Philippines v. Raul Beriber y Fuentes, G.R. No. 195243, August 29, 2012.

Rape; use of a deadly weapon; penalty. On July 1, 1996, appellant along with one Tony Ginumtad were charged with the crime of rape committed against “AAA.” Under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, which is the law then in force at the time of the commission of the crime, when the rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon, the crime takes a qualified form and the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua to death.  Here, the use of the knife, which is a deadly weapon, was not specifically alleged in the Information.  However, it was duly proven during the proceedings that appellant armed himself with a knife which facilitated the commission of the crime.  In People v. Begino, the Supreme Court held that “the circumstances that qualify a crime should be alleged and proved beyond reasonable doubt as the crime itself.  These attendant circumstances alter the nature of the crime of rape and increase the penalty.  As such, they are in the nature of qualifying circumstances.” If the same are not pleaded but proved, they shall be considered only as aggravating circumstances since the latter admit of proof even if not pleaded. Consequently, the use of a deadly weapon may be considered as an aggravating circumstance here. As such, exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00 is imposed on the appellant in addition to civil indemnity and moral damages.  Moreover, an interest at the rate of 6% per annumshall be imposed, reckoned from the finality of judgment until fully paid.  Appellant is also not eligible for parole pursuant to R.A. 9346. People of the Philippines v. Pedro G. Banig, G.R. No. 177137, August 23, 2012.

2.            SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

Dangerous Drugs; illegal possession of shabu. As to the crime of illegal possession of shabu, the prosecution clearly proved the presence of the following essential elements of the crime: (a) the accused [was] in possession of an item or object that is identified to be a prohibited or dangerous drug; (b) such possession [was] not authorized by law; and (c) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug. After the arrest of the accused-appellant, seventeen (17) heat-sealed sachets of white substance were found in his possession. The chemistry report showed that the white substance in the plastic sachets tested for shabu. There was no showing that such possession was authorized by law. The conviction of the accused-appellant by the lower courts is, therefore, sustained. People of the Philippines v. John Brian Amarillo y Mapa a.k.a. “Jao Mapa,” G.R. No. 194721, August 15, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; illegal sale of shabu. After a buy-bust operation conducted by the police operatives, accused was charged with illegal sale and illegal possession of shabu.To prove illegal sale of shabu, the following elements must be present: (a) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale, and the consideration; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment for the thing. And, to secure conviction, it is material to establish that the transaction or sale actually took place, and to bring to the court the corpus delicti as evidence. Here, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant, not being authorized by law, sold a sachet of shabu to PO1 Mendoza in a buy-bust operation. Further, the seized items, together with the result of the laboratory examination and the marked money were all presented in court. People of the Philippines v. John Brian Amarillo y Mapa a.k.a. “Jao Mapa,” G.R. No. 194721, August 15, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; failure to strictly comply with requirements of section 21, R.A. 9165. The defense argues that the arresting officers did not testify that the marking of the seized items were done in the presence of the persons mentioned by the law and its implementing rules; and that testimonies on how the confiscated items were turned over to the investigator for examination were lacking. The Supreme Court (“SC”) cited the well-settled principle that 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 and does not automatically render accused-appellant’s arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. The SC has long settled that an accused may still be found guilty, despite the failure to faithfully observe the requirements provided under Sec. 21 of R.A. 9165, for as long as the chain of custody remains unbroken. People of the Philippines v. John Brian Amarillo y Mapa a.k.a. “Jao Mapa,” G.R. No. 194721, August 15, 2012.

Forfeiture; due process. This case seeks to annul and set aside the Sandiganbayan Resolution which ordered the forfeiture of some of the properties of the late NBI Director, Jolly R. Bugarin pursuant to the decision of the Supreme Court (“SC”) in Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan. The heirs of Bugarin pray that the Sandiganbayan be compelled to conduct hearings for the purpose of properly determining the properties of Bugarin that should be forfeited in favor of the Republic, this despite the fact that the SC in Republic has already decreed that properties of Bugarin acquired from 1968 to 1980 which were disproportionate to his lawful income during the said period be forfeited in favor of the Republic. The SC held that Bugarin was accorded due process. He was given his day in court to prove that his acquired properties were lawfully attained. The summary of properties acquired by Bugarin during his tenure as NBI Director was based on his very own exhibits. From this enumeration, the SC set aside those properties that had been liquidated or those that had been obtained in 1981 onwards. Even those properties the acquisition dates of which could no longer be determined were also excluded, all to the benefit of Bugarin. What remained was a trimmed-down listing of properties from which the Sandiganbayan may choose to execute the forfeiture order of the SC. The essence of due process is the right to be heard. Bugarin or his heirs were certainly not denied that right. Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy. The Heirs of Jolly R. Bugarin namely Ma. Aileen H. Bugarin, Ma. Linda B. Abiog and Ma. Annette B. Sumulong v. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 174431, August 6, 2012.

Jurisdiction; Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan maintains that Section 4(a)(1)(g) of RA 8249 which defines the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, cannot apply to the accused, Bello, because, while he held the highest rank among those who allegedly conspired to commit the crime charged, he did not hold any of the government positions enumerated under that section, i.e., presidents, directors or trustees, or managers of government-owned or controlled corporations. The term “manager” as defined in Black’s Law Dictionary is one who has charge of the corporation and control of its businesses, or of its branches, establishments, divisions, or departments, and who is vested with a certain amount of discretion and independent judgment. Under this definition, the Supreme Court held that respondent Bello was covered under the term “manager,” he having charge of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefit System Legal Department when the questioned transactions took place. As such, he is within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.  People of the Philippines v. Meinrado Enrique A. Bello, et al., G.R. No. 166948-59, August 29, 2012.

Jurisdiction; Sandiganbayan. Respondent Bello argues that the Sandiganbayan does not exercise jurisdiction over him because his rank at the time of the commission of the acts complained of was merely that of Police Superintendent in the Philippine National Police. However, the Information does not charge him for offenses relating to the regular police work of a police officer of his rank. He is rather charged for offenses he committed in relation to his office, namely, that of a “manager” of the Legal Department of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefit System (“AFP-RSBS”), a government-owned and controlled corporation. What is needed is that the public officials mentioned by law must commit the offense described in Section 3(e) of RA 3019 while in the performance of official duties or in relation to the office being held. Here, the OMB charged Bello with using his office as Legal Department Head to manipulate the documentations of AFP-RSBS land acquisitions to the prejudice of the government. People of the Philippines v. Meinrado Enrique A. Bello, et al, G.R. No. 166948-59, August 29, 2012.

Ombudsman; findings of fact of the Ombudsman.Petitioner was designated as a Special Collecting Officer at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Customs House, Collection Division, Pasay City. The Audit Observation Memorandum dated November 26, 2002, reported that petitioner had an unremitted collection from the sale of accountable forms with money value and stamps.  Based on the analysis of the monthly sales of accountable forms and stamps, petitioner failed to remit a total of P53,214,258.00 from January 2000 to October 2002. The Ombudsman rendered a Decision finding petitioner guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct. Insisting on his innocence, petitioner claims that no competent evidence was presented before the Ombudsman to show that he is guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct. The Supreme Court (“SC”) held that questions of fact may not be the subject of an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Court as the SC is not a trier of facts. As a rule, findings of fact of the Ombudsman, when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are conclusive and binding upon the SC unless there is grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Ombudsman. There is none here. There is substantial evidence to show that petitioner failed to remit the amount of P53,658,371.00 from the sale of accountable forms with money value and documentary stamps from January 2000 up to October 2002.  Ernesto A. Fajardo v. Office of the Ombudsman, et al, G.R. No. 173268, August 23, 2012.

3.         CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Arrest; warrantless arrest. Ambre insists that the warrantless arrest and search made against her were illegal because no offense was being committed at the time and the police operatives were not authorized by a judicial order to enter the dwelling of Sultan. She argues that the alleged “hot pursuit” on Sultan which ended in the latter’s house, where she, Mendoza and Castro were supposedly found having a pot session, was more imaginary than real. In arrests in flagrante delicto, the accused is apprehended at the very moment he is committing or attempting to commit or has just committed an offense in the presence of the arresting officer. To constitute a valid in flagrante delicto arrest, two requisites must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer. Here, there is no gainsaying that Ambre was caught by the police officers in the act of using shabu and, thus, can be lawfully arrested without a warrant. PO1 Mateo positively identified Ambre sniffing suspected shabu from an aluminum foil being held by Castro. Prior justification for intrusion or prior lawful intrusion is not an element of an arrest in flagrante delicto. Even granting arguendo that the apprehending officers had no legal right to be present in the dwelling of Sultan, it would not render unlawful the arrest of Ambre, who was seen sniffing shabu with Castro and Mendoza in a pot session by the police officers. PO2 Masi and PO1 Mateo were not only authorized but were also duty-bound to arrest Ambre together with Castro and Mendoza for illegal use of methamphetamine hydrochloride in violation of section 15, Article II of R.A. No. 9165. Margarita Ambre Y Cayuni v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 191532, August 15, 2012.

Arrest; warrantless arrest. Belocura is charged with illegal possession of 1,789.823 grams of marijuana in violation of RA 6425 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. Belocura argues that his arrest and the ensuing search of his vehicle and recovery of the incriminating bricks of marijuana were in violation of his rights under the Constitution because he was then violating only a simple traffic rule related to the illegal use of a government plate. He claims that the arresting policemen had no probable cause to search his vehicle for anything. The Supreme Court was not persuaded by this argument. Belocura was caught in flagrante delicto violating Section 31 of RA 4139 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code. Even by his own admission, he was actually committing a crime in the presence or within the view of the arresting policemen. The manner by which Belocura was apprehended fell under the first category in Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court. Thus, his arrest was valid, and the arresting policemen thereby became cloaked with the authority to validly search his person and effects for weapons or any other article he might use in the commission of the crime or was the fruit of the crime or might be used as evidence in the trial of the case, and to seize from him and the area within his reach or under his control such weapon or other article. People of the Philippines v. Reynaldo Belocura y Perez, G.R. No. 173474, August 29, 2012.

Evidence; positive identification. This is an appeal of the 31 July 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals (“CA”) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 03188, affirming the conviction of Edgar Balquedra (“appellant”) for raping AAA. It was held that the CA was correct in affirming the lower court’s finding that AAA’s testimony was credible and sufficient to establish the rape committed by appellant.  The records will show that AAA had positively identified appellant as the perpetrator.  Although the crime was committed at night, there was a lighted kerosene lamp on the table when he entered the shanty. AAA had sufficient light and means to identify her assailant at the time of the incident.  There was no evidence presented that this light was put out when she went to sleep, or that it was knocked off the table, or that it broke while the crime was being committed.  Also, appellant raped AAA facing her and covering only her mouth, thus giving her a full view of his face.  Moreover, appellant was familiar to AAA, since he was her neighbor, his residence a mere 200 meters away from hers. He himself admitted that she had known him since she was a child. The appeal is denied. People of the Philippines v. Edgar Balquedra, G.R. No. 191192, August 22, 2012.

Jurisdiction; objections to validity of arrest or jurisdiction over the person of the accused. This is an automatic appeal from the Decision dated July 28, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (“CA”). The CA affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court finding Arturo Lara (“Lara”) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of robbery with homicide. Lara argued that he was arrested without a warrant under circumstances that do not justify a warrantless arrest rendered void all proceedings including those that led to his conviction.  The Supreme Court denied the appeal. It ruled that jurisdiction over the person of the accused may be acquired through compulsory process such as a warrant of arrest or through his voluntary appearance, such as when he surrenders to the police or to the court.  Any objection to the arrest or acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of the accused must be made before he enters his plea, otherwise the objection is deemed waived.  An accused submits to the jurisdiction of the trial court upon entering a plea and participating actively in the trial and this precludes him invoking any irregularities that may have attended his arrest.  Furthermore, the illegal arrest of an accused is not a sufficient ground to reverse and set aside a conviction that was arrived upon a complaint duly filed and a trial conducted without error under section 9, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. People of the Philippines v. Arturo Lara y Orbista, G.R. No. 199877, August 13, 2012.

(Lindy thanks Janette R. Ancog and Izabel F. Serina  for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

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