March 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal law and Procedure

Here are select March 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1. REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy; liability of conspirators. Assuming that the prosecution witnesses failed to identify exactly who inflicted the fatal wounds on Joey during the commotion, Erwin’s liability is not diminished since he and the others with him acted with concert in beating up and ultimately killing Joey. Conspiracy makes all the assailants equally liable as co-principals by direct participation. Since about 15 men, including accused Erwin, pounced on their one helpless victim, relentlessly bludgeoned him on the head, and stabbed him on the stomach until he was dead, there is no question that the accused took advantage of their superior strength. The Supreme Court thus affirmed the decision of the lower courts finding accused Erwin guilty of murder. People of the Philippines v. Erwin Tamayo y Bautisa, G.R. No. 196960, March 12, 2014.

Rape; rape victim with a mental disability either deprived of reason or demented. Article 266-A, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, provides for two circumstances when having carnal knowledge of a woman with a mental disability is considered rape, to wit: paragraph 1(b) – when the offended party is deprived of reason; and paragraph 1(d) – when the offended party is demented. Under paragraph 1(d), the term demented refers to a person who has dementia, which is a condition of deteriorated mentality, characterized by marked decline from the individual’s former intellectual level and often by emotional apathy, madness, or insanity. On the other hand, under paragraph 1(b), the phrase deprived of reason has been interpreted to include those suffering from mental abnormality, deficiency, or retardation. People of the Philippines v. Ernesto Ventura Sr., G.R. No. 205230, March 12, 2014.

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February 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select February 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1. REVISED PENAL CODE

Aiding or abetting; Unsolicited Commercial Communications; Child Pornography. Aiding or abetting has of course well-defined meaning and application in existing laws. When a person aids or abets another in destroying a forest, smuggling merchandise into the country, or interfering in the peaceful picketing of laborers, his action is essentially physical and so is susceptible to easy assessment as criminal in character. These forms of aiding or abetting lend themselves to the tests of common sense and human experience. If such means are adopted, self-inhibition borne of fear of what sinister predicaments await internet users will suppress otherwise robust discussion of public issues. Democracy will be threatened and with it, all liberties. What is more, as the petitioners point out, formal crimes such as libel are not punishable unless consummated. In the absence of legislation tracing the interaction of netizens and their level of responsibility such as in other countries, Section 5, in relation to Section 4(c)(4) on Libel, Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, cannot stand scrutiny. Jose Jesus M. Disini Jr., et al v. The Secretary of Justice, et al, G.R. No. 203335, February 11, 2014.

Conspiracy; direct proof. While direct proof is not essential to establish conspiracy as it may be inferred from the collective acts of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime which point to a joint purpose, design, concerted action, and community of interests, records are, however, bereft of any showing as to how the particular acts of petitioners figured into the common design of taking out the subject volume and inserting the falsified documents therein. It would be a stretch to conclude that the act of Castro of inviting Atibula to Atienza’s party, without any other proof of Castro’s participation, was instrumental or, at the very least, reasonably connected to Atienza and his own alleged participation in the above-stated crimes. Hence, the prosecution’s theory of conspiracy does not deserve any merit. Ricardo L. Atienza and Alfredo A. Castro v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 188694, February 12, 2014.

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January 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select January 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippine on criminal law and procedure:

1. Revised Penal Code

Acts of lasciviousness; elements. The elements of acts of lasciviousness under Art. 336 of the Revised Penal Code are as follows: (1) That the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness; (2) That it is done under any of the following circumstances: a. By using force or intimidation; or b. When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; or c. When the offended party is under 12 years of age; and (3) That the offended party is another person of either sex. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Complex crime of carnapping with homicide; when present; proof required. To prove the special complex crime of carnapping with homicide, there must be proof not only of the essential elements of carnapping, but also that it was the original criminal design of the culprit and the killing was perpetrated in the course of the commission of the carnapping or on the occasion thereof. The appellate court correctly observed that the killing of Jesus cannot qualify the carnapping into a special complex crime because the carnapping was merely an afterthought when the victim’s death was already fait accompli. Thus, appellant is guilty only of simple carnapping. People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana, G.R. No. 201092, January 15, 2014.

Damages; when awarded when death occurs due to a crime. It is enshrined in jurisprudence that 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. There being no aggravating circumstance since abuse of superior strength is absorbed in the qualifying circumstance of treachery, the award of P75,000.00 as moral damages should be decreased to P50,000.00. Such an amount is granted even in the absence of proof of mental and emotional suffering of the victim’s heirs. Pursuant to current jurisprudence, the award of civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 and exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00 is correct. The amount of actual damages duly proven in court in the sum of P60,100.00 is likewise upheld. Finally, the Supreme Court imposed interest at the rate of 6% per annum on all damages from the date of finality of this ruling until fully paid. People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana, G.R. No. 201092, January 15, 2014.

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December 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1. REVISED PENAL CODE

Falsification of public documents; falsification of local budget preparation forms. To warrant the suspension of a public officer under section 13 of R.A. 3019, he must be charged with an offense (1) under R.A. 3019, or (2) under Title Seven, Book II of the RPC, or (3) involving fraud upon government or public funds or property. Admittedly, petitioner in this case was not charged under R.A. 3019. Neither was he charged under Title Seven, Book II of the RPC as the crime of falsification of public documents under Article 171 of the RPC is covered by Title Four, Book II thereof. The relevant question now is whether falsification of public documents is considered as fraud upon government or public funds or property. To address the issue, the Supreme Court (SC) cited Bustillo v. Sandiganbayan. Petitioner therein was charged with falsifying municipal vouchers which, as used in government, are official documents. He asserted the said offense does not involve “fraud or property”; hence, his suspension finds no basis in section 13 of R.A. 3019. In construing the term “fraud” as used in section 13 of R.A. 3019, the SC held in said case that the same is understood in its general sense, that is, referring to “an instance or an act of trickery or deceit especially when involving misrepresentation.” And since vouchers are official documents signifying a cash outflow from government coffers, falsification thereof invariably involves fraud upon public funds. In the same vein, the act imputed against petitioner constitutes fraud upon government or public funds. Hadjim Hashim Abdul v. Sandiganbayan (Fifth Division) and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 184496, December 2, 2013.

Kidnapping for ransom; elements. In proving the crime of kidnapping for ransom, the prosecution has to show that: (a) the accused was a private person; (b) he kidnapped or detained or in any manner deprived another of his or her liberty; (c) the kidnapping or detention was illegal; and (d) the victim was kidnapped or detained for ransom. All these were proven in the criminal case on review. The testimony of Alejandro and Marvelous sufficiently established the commission of the crime and the accused-appellants’ culpability. Maca was positively identified by Marvelous as one of the men who collared her, Marelie and Mae by the bedroom, tied them up and brought them to the mountains of Bagyangon. He was also identified as the one who left the group when they were on the mountains to buy food after Con-ui refused. Con-ui, on the other hand, was identified by Alejandro as the one who was addressed by one of the abductors with the statement, “why did it take you so long in coming back? We were already tired of waiting for you.” Con-ui was also identified by Marvelous as the one who took the key to the drawer, opened it and took the money in it. Their testimony also established the fact that they were deprived of their liberty when they were all hogtied and forcibly brought out of the house and into the mountains. That the deprivation of their liberty was for the purpose of extorting ransom was confirmed by Alejandro who testified that the abductors asked him for money and even let him off so he can come up with the P300,000.00 ransom. People of the Philippines v. Jonathan Con-U and Ramil Maca, G.R. No. 205442, December 11, 2013.

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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.

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October 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Jurisprudence

Here are select October 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and jurisprudence:

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy; concept; proof of conspiracy need not rest on direct evidence. Accused-appellants Dukilman, Ronas and Evad argue in their respective briefs that conspiracy, insofar as they were concerned, was not convincingly established. Dukilman hinges his argument on the fact that he was not one of those arrested during the rescue operation based on the testimony of Inspector Ouano. On the other hand, Ronas and Evad base their argument on the fact that they had no participation whatsoever in the negotiation for the ransom money. The Supreme Court held otherwise. Although Dukilman was not one of those apprehended at the cottage during the rescue operation, the testimony of Police Inspector Arnado sufficiently established that he was one of the four people apprehended when the police intercepted the Tamaraw FX at the Nichols Tollgate. Likewise, the testimony of Police Inspector Ouano sufficiently established that Ronas and Evad were two of those who were arrested during the rescue operation. It has been held that to be a conspirator, one need not participate in every detail of the execution; he need not even take part in every act or need not even know the exact part to be performed by the others in the execution of the conspiracy. Once conspiracy is shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators. Further, proof of the conspiracy need not rest on direct evidence, as the same may be inferred from the collective conduct of the parties before, during or after the commission of the crime indicating a common understanding among them with respect to the commission of the offense. The testimonies, when taken together, reveal the common purpose of the accused-appellants and how they were all united in its execution from beginning to end. There were testimonies proving that (1) before the incident, two of the accused-appellants kept coming back to the victim’s house; (2) during the kidnapping, accused-appellants changed shifts in guarding the victim; and (3) the accused appellants were those present when the ransom money was recovered and when the rescue operation was conducted. Seeing that conspiracy among Gambao, Karim, Dukilman, Abao, Udal, Mandao, Dilangalen, Macalinbol, Ronas and Evad was established beyond reasonable doubt based on the proffered evidence of the prosecution, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators. People of the Philippines v. Halil Gambao, et al, G.R. No. 172707, October 1, 2013.

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September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code; elements. In order to constitute estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code, the act of postdating or issuing a check in payment of an obligation must be the efficient cause of the defraudation. This means that the offender must be able to obtain money or property from the offended party by reason of the issuance of the check, whether dated or postdated. In other words, the Prosecution must show that the person to whom the check was delivered would not have parted with his money or property were it not for the issuance of the check by the offender. The essential elements of this crime are the following: (a) a check is postdated or issued in payment of an obligation contracted at the time the check is issued; (b) lack or insufficiency of funds to cover the check; and (c) damage to the payee thereof. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

Estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code; what the law punishes is fraud or deceit, not the mere issuance of a worthless check. In this case, the Prosecution established that Ligaray had released the goods to Cañada because of the postdated check the latter had given to him; and that the check was dishonored when presented for payment because of the insufficiency of funds. In every criminal prosecution, however, the identity of the offender, like the crime itself, must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt. In that regard, the Prosecution did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that it was accused Wagas who had defrauded Ligaray by issuing the check. Firstly, Ligaray expressly admitted that he did not personally meet the person with whom he was transacting over the telephone. Even after the dishonor of the check, Ligaray did not personally see and meet whoever he had dealt with and to whom he had made the demand for payment, and that he had talked with him only over the telephone. Secondly, the check delivered to Ligaray was made payable to cash – this type of check was payable to the bearer and could be negotiated by mere delivery without the need of an indorsement. This rendered it highly probable that Wagas had issued the check not to Ligaray, but to somebody else like Cañada, his brother-in-law, who then negotiated it to Ligaray. Relevantly, Ligaray confirmed that he did not himself see or meet Wagas at the time of the transaction and thereafter, and expressly stated that the person who signed for and received the stocks of rice was Cañada.  It bears stressing that the accused, to be guilty of estafa as charged, must have used the check in order to defraud the complainant. What the law punishes is the fraud or deceit, not the mere issuance of the worthless check. Wagas could not be held guilty of estafa simply because he had issued the check used to defraud Ligaray. The proof of guilt must still clearly show that it had been Wagas as the drawer who had defrauded Ligaray by means of the check. Thus, considering that the circumstances of the identification of Wagas as the person who transacted on the rice did not preclude a reasonable possibility of mistake, the proof of guilt did not measure up to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt demanded in criminal cases. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

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