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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January 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Rulings on Remedial Law

Here are select January 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Action to annul judgment or final order; jurisdiction. In 1981, the Legislature enacted Batas Pambansa Blg.129 (Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980). Among several innovations of this legislative enactment was the formal establishment of the annulment of a judgment or final order as an action independent from the generic classification of litigations in which the subject matter was not capable of pecuniary estimation, and expressly vested the exclusive original jurisdiction over such action in the CA. The action in which the subject of the litigation was incapable of pecuniary estimation continued to be under the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTC, which replaced the CFI as the court of general jurisdiction. Since then, the RTC no longer had jurisdiction over an action to annul the judgment of the RTC, eliminating all concerns about judicial stability. To implement this change, the Court introduced a new  procedure to govern the action to annul the judgment of the RTC in the 1997 revision of the Rules of Court under Rule 47, directing in Section 2 thereof that “[t]he annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.” Pinausukan Seafood House-Roxas Blvd., Inc. v. Far East Bank and Trust Cp., now Bank of the Philippine Islands, et al., G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 2014.

Action to annul judgment or final order; lack of jurisdiction; types. Lack of jurisdiction on the part of the trial court in rendering the judgment or final order is either lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action, or lack of jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner. The former is a matter of substantive law because statutory law defines the jurisdiction of the courts over the subject matter or nature of the action. The latter is a matter of procedural law, for it involves the service of summons or other process on the petitioner. A judgment or final order issued by the trial court without jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action is always void, and, in the words of Justice Street in Banco Español-Filipino v. Palanca (37 Phil 949 [1918]), “in this sense it may be said to be a lawless thing, which can be treated as an outlaw and slain at sight, or ignored wherever and whenever it exhibits its head.” But the defect of lack of jurisdiction over the person, being a matter of procedural law, may be waived by the party concerned either expressly or impliedly. Pinausukan Seafood House-Roxas Blvd., Inc. v. Far East Bank and Trust Cp., now Bank of the Philippine Islands, et al., G.R. No. 159926, January 20, 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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The Recognizance Act of 2012: Giving the Poor “More in Law”

In our criminal justice system, one kind of injustice, that victimizes only the poor, happens every day whenever an accused, who has the right to post bail to attain liberty during the course of the trial of his criminal case, is not able to enjoy such right because he cannot afford to post bail for his release. This reality tramples upon the social justice mandate of our Constitution and has caused great injustice to the poor, especially those who are wrongly accused of the crime for which they have been charged and arrested.

There is a recent legislation that seeks to address this problem: Republic Act 10389 or the Recognizance Act of 2012 (“RA 10389” or the “Act”), which was signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III on March 14, 2013, and which is intended to promote restorative justice amid problems confronting the criminal justice system such as protracted trials, prolonged resolution of cases, inability to post bail bond, and congestion in jails.

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