November 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select November 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy. Appellant conspired with his co-accused in killing the victim. They ganged up on the victim and took turns in stabbing and mauling him – animated by the same purpose and criminal intent to kill. Such unity of mind and purpose is shown by the twelve stab wounds and several abrasions found on different parts of the body of the victim that led to his instantaneous death. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that while there may be no evidence of an appreciable time that these persons agreed on the criminal resolution prior to the incident, the stabbings were not separate but were geared towards the consummation of the same end – to attack and kill the victim. Appellant’s positive identification by Candelada as one of those persons who stabbed the victim makes him criminally responsible as principal by indispensable cooperation. People of the Philippines v. Basilio Villarmea y Echavez, et al, G.R. No. 200029, November 13, 2013.

Murder; imposable penalty; damages to be awarded. When death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5) temperate damages.” The heirs of the victim are likewise entitled to moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00. The award of exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00, in view of the aggravating circumstance of treachery, is likewise proper and in line with prevailing jurisprudence. Moreover, while actual damages cannot be awarded since there was no evidence of actual expenses incurred for the death of the victim, in lieu thereof, the sum of P25,000.00 may be granted, as it is hereby granted, by way of temperate damages as it cannot be denied that the heirs of the [victim] suffered pecuniary loss although the exact amount was not proved. In addition, all damages awarded shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of the decision until fully paid. People of the Philippines v. Andy Zulueta, a.k.a. Bogarts,G.R. No. 192183, November 11, 2013.

Qualified theft; grave abuse of confidence. To warrant the conviction and, hence, imposition of the penalty for qualified theft, there must be an allegation in the information and proof that there existed between the offended party and the accused such high degree of confidence or that the stolen goods have been entrusted to the custody or vigilance of the accused. In other words, where the accused had never been vested physical access to, or material possession of, the stolen goods, it may not be said that he or she exploited such access or material possession thereby committing such grave abuse of confidence in taking the property. Without the circumstance of a grave abuse of confidence and considering that the use of force in breaking the door was not alleged in the Information, petitioner can only be held accountable for the crime of simple theft under Art. 308 in relation to Art. 309 of the RPC. Ryan Viray v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 205180, November 11, 2013.

Qualifying circumstance; advantage of superior strength. Superiority in number does not necessarily amount to the qualifying circumstance of taking advantage of superior strength. It must be shown that the aggressors combined forces in order to secure advantage from their superiority in strength. When appreciating this qualifying circumstance, it must be proven that the accused simultaneously assaulted the deceased. Indeed, when assailants attack a victim alternately, they cannot be said to have taken advantage of their superior strength. In this case, the unidentified companions of appellant punched Claro first. He was already about to escape when he was struck by appellant on the head with a beer bottle. Thus, the attack mounted by the unidentified persons had already ceased when appellant took over. Also, the fact that Claro would have been able to escape showed that the initial attack was not that overwhelming, considering that there were three of them attacking. Clearly, there was no blatant disparity in strength between Claro, on the one hand, and appellant and his companions on the other. People of the Philippines v. Javier Canaveras, G.R. No. 193839, November 27, 2013.

Rape; consent; failure of victim to shout for help is not consent. The failure of “AAA” to shout for help should not be taken against her. People react differently when confronted with a shocking or startling situation. Some may show aggressive resistance while others may opt to remain passive. The failure of “AAA” to shout for help and seek assistance should not be construed as consent, or as voluntarily engaging in an illicit relationship with the appellant, as implied by the defense. It would be recalled that appellant poked a knife at “AAA’s” neck. Such threat of immediate danger to her life cowed “AAA” to submit to the carnal desires of the appellant. However, immediately after appellant left, “AAA” lost no time in seeking the help of her sister-in-law and in reporting the incident to the police authorities. In fact, the police authorities were able to apprehend appellant because “AAA” immediately reported the incident to them. People of the Philippines v. Jonas Guillen y Atienza, G.R. No. 191756, November 25, 2013.

Rape; consent; minor victim’s act of crying indicates lack of consent. As an element of rape, force, threat or intimidation need not be irresistible, but just enough to bring about the desired result. In the present case, AAA testified that she cried when the appellant inserted his penis into her vagina. As a child of tender years, she could not reasonably be expected to resist in the same manner that an adult would under the same or similar circumstances. Nonetheless, AAA’s act of crying during the rape is sufficient indication that the appellant’s act was against her will. AAA also revealed that the appellant threatened to kill her parents if she disclosed the incident to anyone. People of the Philippines v. Natalio Hilarion y Laliag, G.R. No. 201105, November 24, 2013.

Rape; conviction based on rape victim’s testimony alone. It is settled in jurisprudence that in a prosecution for rape, the accused may be convicted solely on the basis of the testimony of the victim that is credible, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Furthermore, it is axiomatic that when it comes to evaluating the credibility of the testimonies of the witnesses, great respect is accorded to the findings of the trial judge who is in a better position to observe the demeanor, facial expression, and manner of testifying of witnesses, and to decide who among them is telling the truth. Lastly, in order for a discrepancy or inconsistency in the testimony of a witness to serve as a basis for acquittal, it must establish beyond doubt the innocence of the appellant for the crime charged since the credibility of a rape victim is not diminished, let alone impaired, by minor inconsistencies in her testimony. People of the Philippines v. Roberto Velasco, G.R. No. 190318, November 27, 2013.

Rape; inconsistencies in the testimony of a minor rape victim. With regard to the inconsistencies on the part of “AAA,” it bears stressing that victims do not cherish keeping in their memory an accurate account of the manner in which they were sexually violated. Thus, an errorless recollection of a harrowing experience cannot be expected of a witness, especially when she is recounting details from an experience as humiliating and painful as rape. Furthermore, rape victims, especially child victims, should not be expected to act the way mature individuals would when placed in such a situation. Verily, in this case, minor inconsistencies in the testimony of “AAA” are to be expected because (1) she was a minor child during her defloration; (2) she was to testify on a painful and humiliating experience; (3) she was sexually assaulted several times; and, (4) she was examined on details and events that happened almost six months before she testified. People of the Philippines v. Doney Gaduyon y Tapispisan, G.R. No. 181473, November 11, 2013.

Rape; proof of healed hymenal lacerations is immaterial in rape. Anent appellant’s contention that “AAA’s” healed hymenal laceration does not prove rape, the Supreme Court found the same to be irrelevant and immaterial. Hymenal laceration, whether fresh or healed, is not an element of the crime of rape. Even a medical examination is not necessary as it is merely corroborative. The fact of rape in this case was satisfactorily established by the testimony of “AAA” alone. People of the Philippines v. Jonas Guillen y Atienza, G.R. No. 191756, November 25, 2013.

Rape; rape through sexual intercourse and rape through sexual assault distinguished. Rape can be committed either through sexual intercourse or through sexual assault. In rape through sexual intercourse, carnal knowledge is the crucial element which must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. This is also referred to as “organ rape” or “penile rape” and must be attended by any of the circumstances enumerated in subparagraphs (a) to (d) of paragraph 1 of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code. There must be evidence to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrator’s penis touched the labia of the victim or slid into her female organ, and not merely stroked the external surface thereof, to ensure his conviction of rape by sexual intercourse. On the other hand, in rape by sexual assault, the perpetrator, under any of the attendant circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1, commits this kind of rape by inserting his penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object into the genital or anal orifice of another person. It is also called “instrument or object rape”, also “gender-free rape”, or the narrower “homosexual rape.” People of the Philippines v. Doney Gaduyon y Tapispisan, G.R. No. 181473, November 11, 2013.

Rape; statutory rape; proof of victim’s age is required. While AAA’s mother, BBB, testified that her daughter was six (6) years old at the time of the rape, it had not been previously established that the certificate of live birth or other similar authentic document such as the baptismal certificate or school records have been lost or destroyed or otherwise unavailable. Even AAA’s own testimony on cross examination that she was six (6) years old at the time of the incident would not suffice to prove her minority since her age was not expressly and clearly admitted by the accused. Age is an essential element of statutory rape; hence the victim’s age must be proved with equal certainty and clarity as the crime itself. People of the Philippines v. Natalio Hilarion y Laliag, G.R. No. 201105, November 24, 2013.

Theft; penalty when amount of property taken not established. If there is no available evidence to prove the value of the stolen property or that the prosecution failed to prove it, the corresponding penalty to be imposed on the accused-appellant should be the minimum penalty corresponding to theft involving the value of P5.00. Since the amount of the property taken was not established by an independent and reliable estimate, the courts may fix the value of the property taken based on the attendant circumstances of the case or impose the minimum penalty under Art. 309 of the RPC. Ryan Viray v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 205180, November 11, 2013.

Treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make. The essence of treachery is that the attack comes without a warning and in a swift, deliberate, and unexpected manner, affording the hapless, unarmed, and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape. In this case, the victim Labando was totally unaware of the threat. He was merely sitting on the bench in front of a sarisari store eating bananas when appellant, without any provocation or prior argument, suddenly stabbed him on his chest, piercing the right ventricle of his heart thus causing his instantaneous death. The stabbing was deliberate, unexpected, swift and sudden which foreclosed any escape, resistance or defense coming from the victim. People of the Philippines v. Andy Zulueta, a.k.a. Bogarts,G.R. No. 192183, November 11, 2013.

Treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof, which tend directly and specially to ensure its execution without risk to himself arising from the defense that the offended party might make. The essence of treachery is that the attack is deliberate and without warning, done swiftly and unexpectedly, affording the hapless, unarmed and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape. There was treachery in the case at bar. The victim was utterly defenseless, unarmed and taken by surprise by the sudden and unexpected attack from his assailants. The numerical superiority of the assailants also gave him no opportunity to retaliate. People of the Philippines v. Basilio Villarmea y Echavez, et al,G.R. No. 200029, November 13, 2013.

Treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof that tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from the defense that the offended party might make. Treachery is appreciated as a qualifying circumstance when the following elements are shown: a) the malefactor employed means, method, or manner of execution affording the person attacked no opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and b) the means, method, or manner of execution was deliberately or consciously adopted by the offender. People of the Philippines v. Javier Canaveras, G.R. No. 193839, November 27, 2013.

Treachery; absence of premeditation. Treachery involves not only the swiftness, surprise, or suddenness of an attack upon an unsuspecting victim, rendering the victim defenseless. It should also be shown that the mode of attack has knowingly been intended to accomplish the wicked intent. It means that the accused must have made some preparation to kill the deceased in a manner that would insure the execution of the crime or render it impossible or hard for the person attacked to resort to self-defense or retaliation. The mode of attack, therefore, must have been planned by the offender and must not have sprung from an unexpected turn of events. Thus, treachery is not present when the killing is not premeditated, or where the sudden attack is not preconceived and deliberately adopted, but is just triggered by a sudden infuriation on the part of the accused as a result of a provocative act of the victim, or when the killing is done at the spur of the moment. In this case, there was no time for appellant and his companions to plan and agree to deliberately adopt a particular means to kill Claro. Even the choice of weapon, a beer bottle readily available and within grabbing range at the table as appellant followed outside, shows that the intent to harm came about spontaneously. People of the Philippines v. Javier Canaveras, G.R. No. 193839, November 27, 2013.

2.            SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

BP 22; civil action deemed instituted in the criminal case. With respect to criminal actions for violation of BP 22, it is explicitly clear that the corresponding civil action is deemed included and that a reservation to file such separately is not allowed. The rule is that every act or omission punishable by law has its accompanying civil liability. The civil aspect of every criminal case is based on the principle that every person criminally liable is also civilly liable. If the accused, however, is not found to be criminally liable, it does not necessarily mean that he will not likewise be held civilly liable because extinction of the penal action does not carry with it the extinction of the civil action. This rule more specifically applies when (a) the acquittal is based on reasonable doubt as only preponderance of evidence is required; (b) the court declares that the liability of the accused is only civil; and (c) the civil liability of the accused does not arise from or is not based upon the crime of which the accused was acquitted. The civil action based on the delict is extinguished if there is a finding in the final judgment in the criminal action that the act or omission from which the civil liability may arise did not exist or where the accused did not commit the acts or omission imputed to him. Nissan Gallery-Ortigas v. Purification F. Felipe,G.R. No. 199067, November 11, 2013.

BP 22; civil liability despite acquittal. If the judgment is of acquittal, the imposition of the civil liability will depend on whether or not the act or omission from which it might arise exists. A person acquitted of a criminal charge, however, is not necessarily civilly free because the quantum of proof required in criminal prosecution (proof beyond reasonable doubt) is greater than that required for civil liability (mere preponderance of evidence). In order to be completely free from civil liability, a person’s acquittal must be based on the fact he did not commit the offense. If the acquittal is based merely on reasonable doubt, the accused may still be held civilly liable since this does not mean he did not commit the act complained of. It may only be that the facts proved did not constitute the offense charged. Nissan Gallery-Ortigas v. Purification F. Felipe,G.R. No. 199067, November 11, 2013.

BP 22; elements. The essential elements of the offense of violation of BP 22 are the following: (1) The making, drawing, and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value; (2) The knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue there were no sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and (3) The dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or the dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the drawee bank to stop payment. Here, the first and third elements were duly proven in the trial. Of the three (3) elements, the second element is the hardest to prove as it involves a state of mind. Thus, Section 2 of BP 22 creates a presumption of knowledge of insufficiency of funds which, however, arises only after it is proved that the issuer had received a written notice of dishonor and that within five (5) days from receipt thereof, he failed to pay the amount of the check or to make arrangements for its payment. Accused was acquitted because the element of notice of dishonour was not sufficiently established. Nevertheless, the act or omission from which her civil liability arose, which was the making or the issuing of the subject worthless check, clearly existed. Her acquittal from the criminal charge of BP 22 was based on reasonable doubt and it did not relieve her of the corresponding civil liability. Nissan Gallery-Ortigas v. Purification F. Felipe,G.R. No. 199067, November 11, 2013.   

R.A. 3019; Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; causing undue injury. Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 requires the prosecution to prove that the appointments of Dr. Posadas caused “undue injury” to the government or gave him “unwarranted benefits.” The Supreme Court has always interpreted “undue injury” as “actual damage.” What is more, such “actual damage” must not only be capable of proof; it must be actually proved with a reasonable degree of certainty. A finding of “undue injury” cannot be based on flimsy and non-substantial evidence or upon speculation, conjecture, or guesswork. The element of undue injury cannot be presumed even after the supposed wrong has been established. It must be proved as one of the elements of the crime. Here, the majority assumed that the payment to Dr. Posadas of P30,000.00 monthly as TMC Project Director caused actual injury to the Government. The record shows, however, that the P247,500.00 payment to him that the COA Resident Auditor disallowed was deducted from his terminal leave benefits. Dr. Roger R. Posadas and Dr. Rolando P. Dayco v. Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 168951 & G.R. No. 169000, November 27, 2013.

R.A. 7610; sexual abuse; coverage. R.A. 7610 defines and penalizes child prostitution and other sexual abuse. Sexual abuse includes the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of a child to engage in, or assist another person to engage in, sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct or the molestation, prostitution, or incest with children. Lascivious conduct means the intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation, lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a person. People of the Philippines v. Doney Gaduyon y Tapispisan, G.R. No. 181473, November 11, 2013.

R.A. 7610; sexual abuse; elements. In Section 5(b), Article III of R.A. 7610, the following requisites must concur: (1) the accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct; (2) the act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse; and (3) the child, whether male or female is below eighteen (18) years of age. This paragraph “punishes sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct not only with a child exploited in prostitution but also with a child subjected to other sexual abuse. It covers not only a situation where a child is abused for profit but also one in which a child, through coercion, intimidation or influence, engages in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct.” People of the Philippines v. Doney Gaduyon y Tapispisan, G.R. No. 181473, November 11, 2013.

R.A. 9165; Dangerous Drug Act; chain of custody; procedural requirements. The law excuses non-compliance under justifiable grounds. However, whatever justifiable grounds may excuse the police officers involved in the buy-bust operation in this case from complying with section 21 will remain unknown, because appellant did not question during trial the safekeeping of the items seized from him. Indeed, the police officers’ alleged violations of sections 21 and 86 of R.A. 9165 were not raised before the trial court but were instead raised for the first time on appeal. In no instance did appellant least intimate at the trial court that there were lapses in the safekeeping of seized items that affected their integrity and evidentiary value. Objection to evidence cannot be raised for the first time on appeal; when a party desires the court to reject the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of objection. Without such objection he cannot raise the question for the first time on appeal. People of the Philippines v. Marilyn Santos, et al., G.R. No. 193190, November 13, 2013. 

R.A. 9165; Dangerous Drug Act; where non-compliance with mandatory chain of custody rules may be excused. Non-compliance with section 21 does not necessarily render the arrest illegal or the items seized inadmissible because what is essential is that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are preserved which would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. Moreover, despite the seemingly mandatory language used in the procedural rule at issue, a perusal of section 21, Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9165 reveals the existence of a clause which may render non-compliance with said procedural rule non-prejudicial to the prosecution of drug offenses. Essentially, section 21(1) of R.A. 9165 ensures that the chain of custody of the seized drugs to be used in evidence must be complete and unbroken. In the case at bar, appellant’s argument that the arresting officers involved were not able to strictly comply with the procedural guidelines stated in section 21(1) did not absolve her because, notwithstanding the procedural error, the integrity and the evidentiary value of the illegal drugs used in this case were duly preserved and the chain of custody of said evidence was shown to be unbroken. People of the Philippines v. Marissa Castillo y Alignay, G.R. No. 190180, November 27, 2013.

R.A. 9165; Dangerous Drug Act; sale of illegal drugs; elements. To secure a conviction for illegal sale of shabu, the following essential elements must be established: (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 thereof.” What is material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti. The seemingly incompatible statements of PO2 Aninias and SPO2 Male did not destroy their credibility. Brushing aside the alleged inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, the Supreme Court found that the testimonial evidence of the prosecution duly established the fact that appellants sold to PO2 Aninias, the poseur-buyer, six heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets that contained white crystalline substance that later tested positive for shabu. Thus, the elements of the crime charged had been sufficiently established. People of the Philippines v. Marilyn Santos, et al, G.R. No. 193190, November 13, 2013.

3.            CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

 Affidavits of desistance; retractions of testimonies previously given in court disfavored. Recantations are viewed with suspicion and reservation. The Supreme Court looks with disfavor upon retractions of testimonies previously given in court. Especially when the affidavit of retraction is executed by a prosecution witness after the judgment of conviction has already been rendered, it is too late in the day for his recantation without portraying himself as a liar. At most, the retraction is an afterthought which should not be given probative value. It is settled that an affidavit of desistance made by a witness after conviction of the accused is not reliable, and deserves only scant attention. The rationale for the rule is obvious: affidavits of retraction can easily be secured from witnesses, usually through intimidation or for a monetary consideration. Recanted testimony is exceedingly unreliable. There is always the probability that it will later be repudiated. Only when there exist special circumstances in the case which when coupled with the retraction raise doubts as to the truth of the testimony or statement given, can retractions be considered and upheld. People of the Philippines v. P/Supt. Artemio E. Lamasen, et al, G.R. No. 198338, November 13, 2013.

Alibi. Appellant’s alibi, being inherently weak, deserves no credence at all especially when measured up against the positive identification by the prosecution witness Bryan Pascua (Pascua), pointing to appellant as the perpetrator of the crime. Besides, nobody corroborated appellant’s alibi other than his wife who is obviously biased in his favor thus making her testimony self-serving. Moreover, appellant failed to prove that it was physically impossible for him to be present at the crime scene at the time of its commission. As observed by the Court of Appeals, Cagayan de Oro City could be traversed from Gingoog City within two hours; hence, it is not physically impossible for appellant to commit the crime in Cagayan de Oro City and still go home to Gingoog City after its commission. Aside from having been positively identified by prosecution witness Pascua, appellant failed to impute any ill motive to Pascua. Thus, the Supreme Court upheld trial court’s lending credence to Pascua’s testimony. People of the Philippines v. Andy Zulueta, a.k.a. Bogarts,G.R. No. 192183, November 11, 2013.

Alibi. As his principal defense against all these criminal charges, appellant provided an alibi. He maintains that, at the time of the three rape incidents as well as the one instance of acts of lasciviousness, he was working at a construction site in Barangay Caingin, Malolos City, Bulacan with his nephew Roderick Palconet. Time and again, the Supreme Court repeated the legal doctrine that for alibi to prosper, it must be proved that during the commission of the crime, the accused was in another place and that it was physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene. Furthermore, in order for a corroboration of an alibi to be considered credible, it must necessarily come from disinterested witnesses.  In the case at bar, the testimony of appellant’s sole corroborating witness reveals that the distance between the construction site and the appellant’s house where the instances of rape and acts of lasciviousness occurred is relatively short and can be covered by a mere five-minute travel by motor vehicle. People of the Philippines v. Roberto Velasco, G.R. No. 190318, November 27, 2013.

Alibi and denial. Appellant could only offer alibi and denial as his defenses. However, alibi and denial are weak defenses especially when measured up against the positive identification made by the victim pointing to appellant as the malefactor. Besides, appellant failed to prove that it was physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene at the time of its commission. Aside from claiming that he was at Galas, Quezon City when the rape incident happened, he failed to submit any proof to show that it is physically impossible for him to be at Sampaloc, Manila where and when the rape happened. Besides, appellant’s alibi crumbles in the face of his apprehension near the scene of the crime immediately after “AAA” reported the incident to the police authorities. People of the Philippines v. Jonas Guillen y Atienza, G.R. No. 191756, November 25, 2013.

Denial; weight of corroborating testimony of witnesses. Appellant argued that her denial is not entirely unsubstantiated because the same is corroborated by the testimony of her daughter, Marinell Castillo. However, contrasted with the credible and positive testimony of P02 Santos and POI Chavez, the corroborating testimony made by appellant’s daughter is given lesser probative value than that of the prosecution’s witnesses since it has consistently been held that the defense of denial or frame-up, like alibi, has been invariably viewed by the courts with disfavor for it can easily be concocted and is a common and standard defense ploy in most prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act. For the defense of denial to prosper, it is necessary that the corroboration is credible, the same having been offered preferably by disinterested witnesses. In so doing, we regard the testimony of appellant’s daughter, which in no way can be considered as disinterested and unbiased, as invalid corroboration unworthy of belief. People of the Philippines v. Marissa Castillo y Alignay, G.R. No. 190180, November 27, 2013.

Search warrants; probable cause; personal knowledge of applicant or witnesses. A core requisite before a warrant shall validly issue is the existence of a probable cause, meaning “the existence of such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place to be searched.” And when the law speaks of facts, the reference is to facts, data or information personally known to the applicant and the witnesses he may present. Absent the element of personal knowledge by the applicant or his witnesses of the facts upon which the issuance of a search warrant may be justified, the warrant is deemed not based on probable cause and is a nullity, its issuance being, in legal contemplation, arbitrary. The determination of probable cause does not call for the application of rules and standards of proof that a judgment of conviction requires after trial on the merits. As implied by the words themselves, “probable cause” is concerned with probability, not absolute or even moral certainty. The prosecution need not present at this stage proof beyond reasonable doubt. The standards of judgment are those of a reasonably prudent man, not the exacting calibrations of a judge after a full-blown trial. Century Chinese Medicine Co., et a. v. People of the Philippines and Ling Na Lau, G.R. No. 188526, November 11, 2013.

Search warrants; trademark infringement and unfair competition. The Rules on the Issuance of the Search and Seizure in Civil Actions for Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights is not applicable in this case as the search warrants were not applied based thereon, but in anticipation of criminal actions for violation of intellectual property rights under R.A. 8293.  It was established that respondent had asked the NBI for assistance to conduct investigation and search warrant implementation for possible apprehension of several drugstore owners selling imitation or counterfeit TOP GEL T.G. & DEVICE OF A LEAF papaya whitening soap. Also, in his affidavit to support his application for the issuance of the search warrants, NBI Agent Furing stated that “the items to be seized will be used as relevant evidence in the criminal actions that are likely to be instituted.” Hence, Rule 126 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure applies. Century Chinese Medicine Co., et al. v. People of the Philippines and Ling Na Lau, G.R. No. 188526, November 11, 2013.

Silence of the accused; silence not an admission of guilt when under custodial investigation. When appellant was brought to the police station, he was already a suspect to the crime of rape. As such, he was already under custodial investigation. Section 12, Article III of the Constitution explicitly provides, viz: “Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice…” When appellant remained silent when confronted by the accusation of “AAA” at the police station, he was exercising his basic and fundamental right to remain silent. At that stage, his silence should not be taken against him. Thus, it was error on the part of the trial court to state that appellant’s silence should be deemed as implied admission of guilt. In fact, this right cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel and any admission obtained in violation of this rule shall be inadmissible in evidence. People of the Philippines v. Jonas Guillen y Atienza, G.R. No. 191756, November 25, 2013.

Warrantless arrest; irregularity of arrest must be raised before arraignment. An accused is estopped from assailing any irregularity of his arrest if he fails to raise this issue or to move for the quashal of the information against him on this ground before arraignment, thus, any objection involving a warrant of arrest or the procedure by which the court acquired jurisdiction of the person of the accused must be made before he enters his plea; otherwise, the objection is deemed waived. Even if appellant’s warrantless arrest were proven to be indeed invalid, such a scenario would still not provide salvation to appellant’s cause because jurisprudence also instructs us that the illegal arrest of an accused is not sufficient cause for setting aside a valid judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint after a trial free from error. People of the Philippines v. Roberto Velasco, G.R. No. 190318, November 27, 2013.

Witnesses; credibility of witnesses. Settled is the rule that discrepancies on minor matters do not impair the essential integrity of the prosecution’s evidence as a whole or reflect on the witnesses’ honesty. These inconsistencies, which may be caused by the natural fickleness of memory, even tend to strengthen rather than weaken the credibility of the prosecution witnesses because they erase any suspicion of rehearsed testimony. What is important is that the testimonies agree on the essential facts and that the respective versions corroborate and substantially coincide with each other to make a consistent and coherent whole. The variance in the statements of SPO2 Male as to the role(s) played by appellants does not detract from the fact that both accused were involved in the transaction with the poseur-buyer. Neither did the same mean that the police officers in this case were guilty of prevarication or otherwise in bad faith in their testimonies. People of the Philippines v. Marilyn Santos, et al, G.R. No. 193190, November 13, 2013.

(Lindy thanks Isabel F. Serina, Elaine B. de los Santos, and Vincent C. Juan for assisting in the preparation of this post.)