October 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Bigamy; elements. The elements of the crime of bigamy are: (a) the offender has been legally married; (b) the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (c) that he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and (d) the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity. The felony is consummated on the celebration of the second marriage or subsequent marriage.  It is essential in the prosecution for bigamy that the alleged second marriage, having all the essential requirements, would be valid were it not for the subsistence of the first marriage. In this case, it appears that when respondent Lourdes contracted a second marriage with Silverio in 1983, her first marriage with Socrates celebrated in 1976 was still subsisting as the same had not yet been annulled or declared void by a competent authority. Thus, respondent was properly charged with the crime of bigamy, since the essential elements of the offense charged were sufficiently alleged. Merlinda Cipriano Montaez v. Lourdes Tajolosa Cipriano, G.R. No. 181089, October 22, 2012.

Bigamy; subsequent judicial declaration of nullity of first marriage. Although the judicial declaration of respondent’s first marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity was declared in 2003 and retroacted to the date of the celebration of the marriage in 1976, insofar as the vinculum between the spouses is concerned, said marriage is not without legal effects. Among these effects is incurring criminal liability for bigamy. Article 40 of the Family Code, which requires a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void before a person may contract a subsequent marriage, is a rule of procedure, which should be applied retroactively because Article 256 of the Family Code itself provides that said “Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights.” The retroactive application of procedural laws is not violative of any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected. The reason is that as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws. To hold otherwise would render the State’s penal laws on bigamy completely nugatory, and allow individuals to deliberately ensure that each marital contract be flawed in some manner, and to thus escape the consequences of contracting multiple marriages, while beguiling throngs of hapless women with the promise of futurity and commitment. Thus, it is immaterial that the declaration of nullity of the previous marriage was rendered before the information was filed or that the previous and subsequent marriages were celebrated before the effectivity of the Family Code. What makes a person criminally liable for bigamy is when he contracts a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage. Merlinda Cipriano Montaez v. Lourdes Tajolosa Cipriano, G.R. No. 181089, October 22, 2012.

Conspiracy. Under Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code, there is conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning a felony and decide to commit it. It may be inferred from the acts of the accused before, during or after the commission of the crime which, when taken together, would be enough to reveal a community of criminal design, as the proof of conspiracy is frequently made by evidence of a chain of circumstances. There is conspiracy among accused-appellants and their cohorts when they kidnapped Yasumitsu. Their community of criminal design could be inferred from their arrival at the Hashiba’s home already armed with weapons, as well as from their clearly designated roles upon entry into the house (i.e., some served as lookouts; some accompanied Emelie to the second floor to look for jewelry, cash, and other property to take; and some guarded and hogtied the other people in the house) and in the abduction of Yasumitsu (i.e., Jovel S. Apole went back to Surigao City to secure the release of the ransom money while Renato C. Apole and Rolando A. Apole stayed in Tubajon to guard Yasumitsu). The Supreme Court thus concurred with the Regional Trial Court that “all these acts were complimentary to one another and geared toward the attainment of a common ultimate objective to extort a ransom of three (3) million in exchange for the Japanese’s freedom.” People of the Philippines v. Jovel S. Apole, et al, G.R. No. 189820, October 10, 2012.

Conspiracy. There is conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Actions indicating close personal association and shared sentiment among the accused can prove its presence. Proof that the perpetrators met beforehand and decided to commit the crime is not necessary as long as their acts manifest a common design and oneness of purpose. Here, both the lower courts found conspiracy in attendance. The witnesses, Magallanes and Francisco, testified that accused Nazareno and Saliendra purposely waited for David and his companions out on the street as they came out of the wake. They likewise testified that Nazareno and Saliendra took concerted steps aimed at killing or causing serious harm to David. Nazareno repeatedly struck David on the area of his neck with a stick; Saliendra hurled a fist-sized stone to David’s head. Even when David tried to flee, they still chased him and together with other barangay tanods, beat him to unconsciousness. Although Magallanes testified that accused Saliendra and Nazareno acted “quite differently” from each other before the attack, their actions before and during the incident reveal a common purpose. Although Saliendra appears to have delivered the fatal blow, Nazareno cannot escape liability because, in a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. People of the Philippines v. Chito Nazareno, G.R. No. 196434, October 24, 2012.

Kidnapping; elements. For the crime of kidnapping, the following elements, as provided in Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, must be proven: (a) a person has been deprived of his liberty, (b) the offender is a private individual, and (c) the detention is unlawful. The deprivation required by Article 267 means not only the imprisonment of a person, but also the deprivation of his liberty in whatever form and for whatever length of time. It involves a situation where the victim cannot go out of the place of confinement or detention or is restricted or impeded in his liberty to move. In other words, the essence of kidnapping is the actual deprivation of the victim’s liberty, coupled with indubitable proof of the intent of the accused to effect such deprivation. People of the Philippines v. Jovel S. Apole, et al, G.R. No. 189820, October 10, 2012.

Kidnapping; elements.  In the present case, Yasumitsu was evidently deprived by accused-appellants of his liberty for seven days. Armed with guns and a grenade, accused-appellants and their cohorts took Yasumitsu from the latter’s home in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur, to Surigao City, by car, and then all the way to Tubajon, Surigao del Norte, by boat. Accused-appellants held Yasumitsu from January 23 to January 29, 2003. During said period, Yasumitsu was unable to communicate with his family or to go home. The Supreme Court thus found accused-appellants guilty of the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom and Serious Illegal Detention. People of the Philippines v. Jovel S. Apole, et al, G.R. No. 189820, October 10, 2012.

Perpetual special disqualification; accessory penalties. The Comelec ordered the cancellation of Jalosjos’ certificate of candidacy on the ground of false material representation when he declared under oath that he was eligible for the office he had sought to be elected to when in fact he was not by reason of a final judgment in a criminal case, the sentence of which he has not yet served. The penalty imposed on Jalosjos was the indeterminate sentence of one year, eight months and twenty days of prisión correccional as minimum, to four years, two months and one day of prisión mayor as maximum. The Supreme Court ruled that the perpetual special disqualification against Jalosjos arising from his criminal conviction by final judgment is a material fact involving eligibility which is a proper ground for a petition under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code. The penalty of prisión mayor automatically carries with it, by operation of law, the accessory penalties of temporary absolute disqualification and perpetual special disqualification. Under Article 30 of the Revised Penal Code, temporary absolute disqualification produces the effect of “deprivation of the right to vote in any election for any popular elective office or to be elected to such office.” The duration of the temporary absolute disqualification is the same as that of the principal penalty. On the other hand, under Article 32 of the Revised Penal Code perpetual special disqualification means that “the offender shall not be permitted to hold any public office during the period of his disqualification,” which is perpetually. Both temporary absolute disqualification and perpetual special disqualification constitute ineligibilities to hold elective public office. A person suffering from these ineligibilities is ineligible to run for elective public office, and commits a false material representation if he states in his certificate of candidacy that he is eligible to so run. The accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification takes effect immediately once the judgment of conviction becomes final. Once the judgment of conviction becomes final, it is immediately executory. In the case of Jalosjos, he became ineligible perpetually to hold or to run for any elective public office from the time his judgment of conviction became final. Dominador G. Jalosjos, Jr. v. Commission on Elections, et al./Agapito J. Cardino v. Dominador G. Jalosjos, Jr., et al, G.R. No. 193237/G.R. No. 193536, October 9, 2012.

Rape. Accused Delos Reyes claims there are improbabilities in AAA’s story that render it hard to believe as they are contrary to human experience. He pointed out AAA’s failure to run away when he was taking his pants off using both his hands and her failure to shout for help, kick the accused or bite his penis during the assault. On this score, the Supreme Court (“SC”) ratiocinated that rape is not commonly experienced by a woman. Thus, there is no common reaction to it. Physical resistance need not be established in rape when intimidation is exercised upon the victim and the latter submits herself against her will to the rapist’s embrace because of fear for life and personal safety. The SC further ruled that the fact that it could have been more convenient for Delos Reyes to rape AAA in the house of Go instead of bringing her to the construction site and back again does not affect her credibility. The close physical proximity of other residents and passersby at the construction site or the neighbors of Go does not render impossible the commission of the crime. It has been repeatedly emphasized that rape can be committed even in places where people congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within school premises, inside a house where there are other occupants, and even in the same room where other members of the family are also sleeping. Lust is not a respecter of time and place. Moreover, the failure to immediately report the dastardly acts to her family or to the authorities at the soonest possible time or her failure to immediately change her clothes is not enough reason to cast reasonable doubt on the guilt of Delos Reyes. The SC has repeatedly held that delay in reporting rape incidents, in the face of threats of physical violence, cannot be taken against the victim. People of the Philippines v. Val Delos Reyes, G.R. No. 177357, October 17, 2012.

Rape; qualified rape. Accused-appellant Violeja’s offense could not be deemed qualified rape, despite the proviso in Article 335 (as amended by RA 7659), imposing the death penalty on rape committed when the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, stepparent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim. This is due to the fact that the “live-in” or common-law relationship between accused-appellant and VEA’s mother was not alleged in the Information despite being proven in the trial court. What was alleged in the Information is that VEA was the stepdaughter of the accused-appellant but jurisprudence provides that a stepfather-stepdaughter relationship as a qualifying circumstance presupposes that the victim’s mother and the accused contracted marriage.  However, it was shown during trial that no marriage was ever contracted between appellant and the victim’s mother. Hence, appellant Viojela was only found guiltyof simple rape.People of the Philippines v. Alejandro Violeja y Asartin, G.R. No. 177140, October 17, 2012.

Rape; statutory rape. Sexual intercourse with a girl below 12 years old is referred to as statutory rape which is penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code. Although the Supreme Court (“SC”) was convinced that indeed rape had been committed by appellant Violeja, it found that the prosecution failed to present VEA’s birth certificate or to otherwise unequivocally prove that VEA was indeed below 12 years of age at the time of the incident in question. The trial court merely relied on the testimonies of VEA and her mother who attested to the effect that she was only 10 years old at the time of the rape. In the absence of relevant documentary evidence or an express admission from the accused, the bare testimony of the victim’s mother or a member of the family would suffice only if the victim is alleged to be below seven years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 12 years old. In the present case, VEA was supposedly 10 years of age on the material date stated in the Information. In view of this paucity in the prosecution’s evidence on the matter of the victim’s age, jurisprudential guidelines set forth in the case of People v. Rullepa compelled the SC to reclassify appellant’s offense from statutory rape to simple rape. People of the Philippines v. Alejandro Violeja y Asartin, G.R. No. 177140, October 17, 2012.

Robbery; elements. The crime of robbery under Article 293 of the Revised Penal Code has the following elements: (a) intent to gain, (b) unlawful taking, (c) personal property belonging to another, and (d) violence against or intimidation of person or force upon things. Under Article 296 of the same Code, “when more than three armed malefactors take part in the commission of robbery, it shall be deemed to have been committed by a band.” It further provides that “any member of a band who is present at the commission of a robbery by the band, shall be punished as principal of any of the assaults committed by the band, unless it be shown that he attempted to prevent the same.” All of the foregoing elements had been satisfactorily established herein. At least five people, including accused-appellants, carrying guns and a hand grenade, barged into the home of, and forcibly took pieces of jewelry and other personal properties belonging to spouses Yatsumitsu and Emelie Hashiba. Accused-appellants themselves made their intent to gain clear when they assured their victims that they were only after the money. The Supreme Court thus found accused-appellants guilty of the crime of Robbery with Violence Against or Intimidation of Persons by a Band. People of the Philippines v. Jovel S. Apole, et al, G.R. No. 189820, October 10, 2012.

2.         SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

Chain of custody; standards. Accused Brainer argues that since no one testified as to how the alleged seized and confiscated transparent plastic sachet containing shabu reached the PNP Crime Laboratory, then there is reasonable suspicion whether the item physically examined by the Forensic Chemical Officer was the very same one seized and confiscated by the buy-bust team from her. In this case, the prosecution adequately established that there was an unbroken chain of custody over the shabu seized from Brainer. First, during the buy-bust operation, Brainer handed over a green Safeguard soap box, inside of which was a small transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance, to PO2 Gatdula upon the latter’s payment of P1,000.00. Second, after Brainer’s arrest, PO2 Gatdula marked the green Safeguard soap box, with the small transparent plastic sachet containing the white crystalline substance still inside said soap box. The marked soap box was always in PO2 Gatdula’s custody. Upon reaching the police station, PO2 Gatdula removed the small transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance from the marked soap box, and marked the sachet itself with “MMB.” Third, Police Inspector David, as SAID-SOTU Chief, prepared the Request for Laboratory Examination, and said Request, together with the small transparent plastic sachet marked “MMB” containing white crystalline substance, was delivered by PO2 Mercado to the PNP Crime Laboratory, where it was received by Police Inspector and Forensic Chemical Officer Reyes. In her Chemistry Report No. D-1158-04, Police Inspector and Forensic Chemical Officer Reyes confirmed that the marked item seized from Brainer was positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. And fourth, the small transparent plastic sachet marked with “MMB” and the white crystalline substance it contains were presented and identified in open court by PO2 Gatdula. PO2 Gatdula confirmed that these were the very items confiscated from Brainer and the marking “MMB” on the small transparent plastic sachet was his own handwriting. The Supreme Court thus found nothing in the case which jeopardized the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items. People of the Philippines v. Maricar Brainer y Mangulabnan, G.R. No. 188571, October 10, 2012.

Chain of custody; standards. Accused-appellants insisted on the police officer’s non-compliance with the chain of custody rule since there was “no physical inventory and photograph of the seized items were taken in their presence or in the presence of their counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice and an elective official.” The Supreme Court ruled that since the “perfect chain” is almost always impossible to obtain, noncompliance with Sec. 21 of RA 9165, as stated in the Implementing Rules and Regulations, does not, without more, automatically render the seizure of the dangerous drug void, and evidence is admissible as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team. People of the Philippines v. Asia Musa y Pinasilo, Ara Monongan y Papao, Faisah Abas y Mama, and Mike Solalo y Mlok, G.R. No. 199735, October 24, 2012.

Accused; effects of escape of accused. A review of the evidence on record shows that the chain of custody rule was sufficiently observed by the apprehending officers. Thru the testimonies of the PO1 Memoracion and PO1 Arago, the prosecution was able to prove that the shabu seized from accused Musa was the very same shabu presented in evidence as part of the corpus delicti. Hence, the fact that the PO1 Memoracion and PO1 Arago did not make an inventory of the seized items or that they did not take photographs of them is not fatal considering that the prosecution was able to establish with moral certainty that the identity, integrity, and evidentiary value of the shabu was not jeopardized from the time of its seizure until the time it was presented in court. People of the Philippines v. Asia Musa y Pinasilo, Ara Monongan y Papao, Faisah Abas y Mama, and Mike Solalo y Mlok, G.R. No. 199735, October 24, 2012.

Drug syndicate; definition. By definition, a drug syndicate is any organized group of two or more persons forming or joining together with the intention of committing any offense prescribed under RA 9165. In determining whether or not the offense was committed by any person belonging to an organized/syndicated crime group, the Supreme Court (“SC”), guided by its ruling in People v. Alberca, defined an organized/syndicated crime group as a group of two or more persons collaborating, confederating, or mutually helping one another for the purposes of gain in the commission of any crime. Here, the SC found that the existence of conspiracy among accused-appellants in selling shabu was duly established, but the prosecution failed to provide proof that they operated as an organized group or as a drug syndicate. Consequently, the aggravating circumstance that “the offense was committed by an organized/syndicated group” cannot be appreciated. People of the Philippines v. Asia Musa y Pinasilo, Ara Monongan y Papao, Faisah Abas y Mama, and Mike Solalo y Mlok, G.R. No. 199735, October 24, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; sale of illegal drugs; elements. In order to successfully prosecute an offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, the following elements must first be established: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object and consideration of the sale; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of the corpus delicti. The commission of illegal sale merely requires the consummation of the selling transaction, which happens the moment the buyer receives the drug from the seller. As long as the police officer went through the operation as a buyer, whose offer was accepted by appellant, followed by the delivery of the dangerous drugs to the former, the crime is already consummated. People of the Philippines v. Reyna Bataluna Llanita and Sotero Banguis Buar, G.R. No. 189817, October 3, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; sale of illegal drugs; elements.  In this case, the prosecution has amply proven all the elements of the drugs sale with moral certainty. The Supreme Court found credibility in the statements of the police officers as to the completed illegal sale of dangerous drug. Examination of the testimony of PO2 Catuday reveals that the elements of illegal sale are present to affirm the conviction of accused Llanita and Buar. His recitation of facts was further corroborated on material points by PO2 Plopinio in his testimony dated 13 August 2007. It is well settled rule that narration of the incident by law enforcers, buttressed by the presumption that they have regularly performed their duties in the absence of convincing proof to the contrary, must be given weight. People of the Philippines v. Reyna Bataluna Llanita and Sotero Banguis Buar, G.R. No. 189817, October 3, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; sale of illegal drugs; elements. For the successful prosecution of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be established: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt of the marked money consummate the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping officers and the accused. In other words, the commission of the offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, merely requires the consummation of the selling transaction, which happens the moment the exchange of money and drugs between the buyer and the seller takes place. People of the Philippines v. Maricar Brainer y Mangulabnan, G.R. No. 188571, October 10, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; sale of illegal drugs; elements. A review of the records of this case reveals that the prosecution was able to prove all the essential elements of illegal sale of shabu. PO2 Gatdula, the poseur-buyer, was able to positively identify Brainer as the person who sold to him the plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance, later determined to be shabu, for the sum of P1,000, during a legitimate buy-bust operation. As the Regional Trial Court expressly observed, Gatdula’s narration of the circumstances leading to the consummation of the sale of illegal drugs and the arrest of Brainer was given in a clear, positive, and straightforward manner. The defense utterly failed to prove any ill motive on PO2 Gatdula’s part which would have spurred the police officer to falsely impute a serious crime against Brainer. The Supreme Court thus held that evidence beyond reasonable doubt existed to find Brainer guilty of the illegal sale of dangerous drug. People of the Philippines v. Maricar Brainer y Mangulabnan, G.R. No. 188571, October 10, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; sale and possession of illegal drugs; chain of custody. In the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs, the following elements should be proved: (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. The prosecution must (1) prove that the transaction or sale actually took place, and (2) present in court evidence of the corpus delicti. As regards the prosecution for illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the elements to be proven are the following: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or an object identified to be a prohibited or a regulated drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug. These elements that should be proven in both the sale and possession of dangerous drugs intrinsically include the identification of what was seized by police officers to be the same item examined and presented in court. This identification must be established with moral certainty and is a function of the rule on the chain of custody. People of the Philippines v. Meriam Guru y Kazan, G.R. No. 189808. October 24, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; sale and possession of illegal drugs; chain of custody.  In the case at bar, the physical inventory of the subject specimens was made only at the police station and by an unnamed investigator. This, in itself, evokes to a reasonable mind several questions on the safekeeping of the specimens from the time accused-appellant Guru was arrested, up to the time she and the buy-bust team arrived at the police station. The identity of the person who marked the specimens and his or her competence to distinguish between the item sold by accused-appellant and the item recovered from her are likewise relevant points of inquiry. Finally, the conflicting evidence as regards the persons who had custody of the specimens after the marking casts serious doubts as to whether the identity and integrity of said items had truly been preserved. The Supreme Court found that these are all substantial gaps in the chain of custody which inevitably create a rational uncertainty in the appreciation of the existence of the corpus delicti. Thus, accused-appellant was acquitted of both illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs on account of reasonable doubt. People of the Philippines v. Meriam Guru y Kazan, G.R. No. 189808. October 24, 2012.

3.         CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Accused; effects of the escape of accused. At the outset, the cases at bar were elevated to the Supreme Court (“SC”) on automatic review in view of the Regional Trial Court’s (“RTC”) imposition of the death penalty upon appellant in its June 25, 1997 Decision. However, with the SC’s pronouncement in the 2004 case of People v. Mateo providing for and making mandatory the intermediate review by the Court of Appeals (“CA”) of cases involving the death penalty, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, the proper course of action would be to remand these cases to the appellate court for the conduct of an intermediate review. After a judicious review of the records, however, the SC no longer saw the necessity of transferring these cases to the CA for intermediate review and instead, deemed it more appropriate to dismiss the instant appeal. Records reveal that the appellant jumped bail during the proceedings before the RTC and was, in fact, tried and convicted in absentia. There was a dearth of evidence showing that he had since surrendered to the court’s jurisdiction. Thus, he had no right to pray for affirmative relief before the courts. People of the Philippines v. Val de los Reyes and Donel Go/People of the Philippines v. Val de los Reyes, G.R. Nos. 130714 & 139634/G.R. Nos. 139331 & 140845-46, October 16, 2012.

Accused; effects of the escape of accused. Once an accused escapes from prison or confinement, jumps bail as in appellant’s case, or flees to a foreign country, he loses his standing in court, and unless he surrenders or submits to the jurisdiction of the court, he is deemed to have waived any right to seek relief therefrom. Thus, even if the Supreme Court were to remand these cases to the CA for intermediate review, the CA would only be constrained to dismiss appellant’s appeal, as he is considered a fugitive from justice. Here, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the accused. People of the Philippines v. Val de los Reyes and Donel Go/People of the Philippines v. Val de los Reyes, G.R. Nos. 130714 & 139634/G.R. Nos. 139331 & 140845-46, October 16, 2012.

Alibi. The Supreme Court (“SC”) upheld the rulings of the lower courts that Laurino’s defense of alibideserves scant consideration. Alibiis an inherently weak defense because it is easy to fabricate and highly unreliable. To merit approbation, the appellant must adduce clear and convincing evidence that he was in a place other than the situs criminis at the time when the crime was committed, such that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime when it was committed. In this case, Laurino failed to prove that it was physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene on May 11, 2002. Both the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”) and the Court of Appeals (“CA”) even observed that Laurino claimed to be then merely two (2) to five (5) kilometers away from the crime scene. At any rate, settled is the rule that alibi and denial cannot prevail over the positive and categorical testimony and identification of an accused by the complainant. The SC thus upheld the RTC’s finding, as affirmed by CA, that AAA’s testimony, that she was ravished by her uncle on May 11, 2002, is worthy of belief as it was clear, consistent and spontaneously given. People of the Philippines v. Noel T. Laurino, G.R. No. 199264, October 24, 2012.

Appeals; fresh period rule in criminal cases. It is now settled that the fresh period rule is applicable in criminal cases, like the instant case, where accused Rodriguez filed a motion for reconsideration of a judgment of conviction for unfair competition which was denied by the trial court. The application of the statutory privilege of appeal must not prejudice an accused who must be accorded the same statutory privilege as litigants in civil cases who are granted a fresh 15-day period within which to file an appeal from receipt of the denial of their motion for new trial or reconsideration. It is indeed absurd and incongruous that an appeal from a conviction in a criminal case is more stringent than those of civil cases. If the Supreme Court has accorded litigants in civil cases—under the spirit and rationale in Neypes—greater leeway in filing an appeal through the “fresh period rule,” with more reason that it should equally grant the same to criminal cases which involve the accused’s “sacrosanct right to liberty, which is protected by the Constitution, as no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Consequently, the Supreme Court held that petitioner seasonably filed his notice of appeal. Rolex Rodriquez y Olayres v. People of the Philippines and Allied Domecq Spirits and Wines, represented by Allied Domecq Phils., Inc., G.R. No. 192799, October 24, 2012.

Jurisdiction over the subject matter. Petitioners alleged that the trial court gravely abused its discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction when it transferred the criminal case filed against the respondents to the jurisdiction of the military tribunal. It is an elementary rule of procedural law that jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case is conferred by law and is determined by the allegations of the complaint irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon all or some of the claims asserted therein. The averments in the complaint and the character of the relief sought are the matters to be consulted. In the case at bar, the information states that respondents, “conspiring together and mutually helping with one another, taking advantage of their superior strength, as elements of the Philippine Army, armed with their government-issued firearms with intent to kill, by means of treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot the victims, hitting them on different parts of their bodies, thereby inflicting upon them multiple gunshot wounds which caused their deaths.” Murder is a crime punishable under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and is within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”). Hence, irrespective of whether the killing was actually justified or not, jurisdiction to try the crime charged against the respondents is vested upon the RTC by law. Fe V. Rapsing, Tita C. Villanueva and Annie F. Aparejado, represented by Edgar Aparejado v. Hon. Judge Maximino R. Ables, of RTC-Branch 47, Masbate City; SSGT. Edison Rural, et al., G.R. No. 171855, October 15, 2012.

Office of the Solicitor General; authority to represent the State in appeals of criminal cases. After the Regional Trial Court ordered the dismissal of the libel suits against the petitioners, respondent Cuneta-Pangilinan filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals (“CA”). The CA granted the petition and ordered that the cases against petitioners be remanded to the trial court. Petitioners thus brought before the Supreme Court (“SC”) a petition for review on certiorari seeking to set aside the decision of the CA. The SC granted the petition and held that petitioners can no longer be held liable because the petition for certiorari of respondent was not filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (“OSG”), but by respondent in her personal capacity. The authority to represent the State in appeals of criminal cases before the SC and the CA is vested solely in the OSG. The acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case against him can only be appealed by the Solicitor General acting on behalf of the State. The private complainant or the offended party may question such acquittal or dismissal only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned. In the case at bar, the petition filed by the respondent before the CA essentially questioned the criminal aspect of the order of the RTC, not the civil aspect of the case. Hence, the SC ordered the reinstatement of the order of the RTC which dismissed the criminal actions against petitioners. Lito Bautista and Jimmy Alcantara v. Sharon G. Cuneta-Pangilinan, G.R. No. 189754, October 24, 2012.

Witnesses; credibility of witnesses. Accused Brainer urges the Supreme Court (“SC”) to give credence and probative value to her testimony that no entrapment occurred on June 23, 2004 which resulted in her arrest, and that she could not have sold shabu to PO2 Gatdula because she knew the police officer personally. Essentially, Brainer is attacking PO2 Gatdula’s credibility, asserting that the police officer was ill motivated to extract money from her. Time and again, the SC has ruled that the evaluation by the trial court of the credibility of witnesses is entitled to the highest respect and will not be disturbed on appeal unless certain facts of substance and value were overlooked which, if considered, might affect the result of the case. The reason for this rule is that the trial court is in a better position to decide thereon, having personally heard the witnesses and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. In this case, the SC found no reason to deviate from the foregoing rule. People of the Philippines v. Maricar Brainer y Mangulabnan, G.R. No. 188571, October 10, 2012.

(Lindy thanks Izabel Serina for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

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