November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law:

Revised Penal Code

Conspiracy;  elements. Under Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code, there is conspiracy when two or more persons agree to commit a felony and decided to commit it. Conspiracy exists where the participants perform specific acts that indicate unity of purpose in accomplishing the same unlawful object. The presence of conspiracy is implied where the separate acts committed, taken collectively, emanate from a concerted and associated action.

It is clear from the testimonies of Joselito and Marcos that appellants were of one mind in killing Pedro, as shown by their well-connected overt acts during the incident, to wit: (1) appellants altogether approached Pedro; (2) appellant Ausencio suddenly embraced and held the shoulders of Pedro; (3) appellants Romulo and Lutgardo went in front of Pedro; (3) appellant Romulo hit Pedro on the forehead with a ukulele; (4) appellant Lutgardo stabbed Pedro in the left part of the stomach; (5) appellant Ausencio pushed Pedro to the ground and told the latter, “You can go home now as you have already been stabbed”; and (6) appellants altogether fled the scene. No other logical conclusion would follow from appellants’ concerted action, except that they had a common purpose in accomplishing the same felonious act. Conspiracy having been established, appellants are liable as co-principals regardless of their participation.   People of the Philippines vs. Ausencio Comillo, Jr., et al.,  G.R. No. 186538, November 25, 2009.

Homicide; elements. The elements of homicide are as follows: (1) a person was killed; (2) the accused killed him without any justifying circumstance; (3) the accused had the intention to kill, which is presumed; and (4) the killing was not attended by any of the qualifying circumstances of murder, or by that of parricide or infanticide.

It bears stressing that in criminal cases, the prosecution is not required to show the guilt of the accused with absolute certainty. Only moral certainty is demanded, or that degree of proof which, to an unprejudiced mind, produces conviction. Rey A. Villamor vs. People of the Philippines, G.R .No. 182156. November 25, 2009

Murder; alibi. It is settled that for the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at some other place at the time of the commission of the crime, but also that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus delicti or within its immediate vicinity.  The People of the Philippines vs. Reynaldo Hernando y Aquino, G.R. No. 186493, November 25, 2009.

Continue reading

Rehabilitation proceedings and the non-impairment clause

Can a rehabilitation court compel a lender to accept a 50% reduction in the borrower’s principal obligation?  Would that violate the non-impairment of contracts clause of the Constitution?

In Pacific Wide Realty and Development Corporation vs. Puerto Azul Land, Inc./Pacific Wide Realty and Development Corporation Vs. Puerto Azul Land, Inc.G.R. No. 178768/G.R. No. 180893, November 25, 2009, the borrower, Puerto Azul Land, Inc. (PALI) is the owner and developer of the Puerto Azul Complex situated in Ternate, Cavite. Its business involves the development of Puerto Azul into a satellite city with residential areas, resort, tourism and retail commercial centers with recreational areas. In order to finance its operations, it obtained loans from various banks, the principal amount of which amounted to aroundPhP640 million.

Because of financial difficulties, PALI subsequently filed a petition for rehabilitation. After trial, the rehabilitation court issued a decision which reads, in part:

The rehabilitation of the petitioner, therefore, shall proceed as follows. . .

2.      Creditors who will not opt for dacion shall be paid in accordance with the restructuring of the obligations as recommended by the Receiver as follows:

a)      The obligations to secured creditors will be subject to a 50% haircut of the principal, and repayment shall be semi-annually over a period of 10 years, with 3-year grace period. Accrued interests and penalties shall be condoned. Interest shall be paid at the rate of 2% p.a. for the first 5 years and 5% p.a. thereafter until the obligations are fully paid. The petitioner shall allot 50% of its cash flow available for debt service for secured creditors. Upon completion of payments to government and employee accounts, the petitioner’s cash flow available for debt service shall be used until the obligations are fully paid.

b)      One half (1/2) of the principal of the petitioner’s unsecured loan obligations to other creditors shall be settled through non-cash offsetting arrangements, with the balance payable semi-annually over a period of 10 years, with 3-year grace period, with interest at the rate of 2% p.a. for the first 5 years and 5% p.a. from the 6th year onwards until the obligations are settled in full. Accrued interest and penalties shall be condoned.  (underscoring supplied)

Continue reading

November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Action;  forum shopping. Petitioners Espiritu, et al. point out that the certificate of non-forum shopping that respondents KPE and Petron attached to the petition they filed with the Court of Appeals was inadequate, having been signed only by Petron, through Atty. Cruz.

But, while procedural requirements such as that of submittal of a certificate of non-forum shopping cannot be totally disregarded, they may be deemed substantially complied with under justifiable circumstances. One of these circumstances is where the petitioners filed a collective action in which they share a common interest in its subject matter or raise a common cause of action. In such a case, the certification by one of the petitioners may be deemed sufficient.

Here, KPE and Petron shared a common cause of action against petitioners Espiritu, et al., namely, the violation of their proprietary rights with respect to the use of Gasul tanks and trademark. Furthermore, Atty. Cruz said in his certification that he was executing it “for and on behalf of the Corporation, and co-petitioner Carmen J. Doloiras.” Thus, the object of the requirement – to ensure that a party takes no recourse to multiple forums – was substantially achieved. Besides, the failure of KPE to sign the certificate of non-forum shopping does not render the petition defective with respect to Petron which signed it through Atty. Cruz. The Court of Appeals, therefore, acted correctly in giving due course to the petition before it.  Manuel C. Espiritu, Jr., et al. vs. Petron Corporation, et al., G.R. No. 170891, November 24, 2009.

Action;  real party in interest. As the successor-in-interest of the late Arsenio E. Concepcion and co-owner of the subject property, respondent Nenita S. Concepcion is entitled to prosecute the ejectment case not only in a representative capacity, but as a real party-in-interest. Article 487 of the Civil Code states, “Any one of the co-owners may bring an action in ejectment.” Hence, assuming that respondent failed to submit the proper documents showing her capacity to sue in a representative capacity for the estate of her deceased husband, the Court, in the interest of speedy disposition of cases, may deem her capacitated to prosecute the ejectment case as a real party-in-interest being a co-owner of the subject property considering that the trial court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and has also acquired jurisdiction over the parties, including respondent Nenita S. Concepcion.  Angelina S. Soriente, et al. vs. The Estate of the late Arsenio E. Concepcion, etc., G.R. No. 160239, November 25, 2009.

Appeal; locus standi. Petitioners correctly argue that the Credit Cooperative has no locus standi on appeal, since it failed to file a notice of appeal to the RTC’s September 14, 1999 Decision granting the motion for summary judgment. It was only the Union which appealed the case through a notice of appeal filed by its counsel, Atty. Luciano R. Caraang (Atty. Caraang). There is also no showing that Atty. Caraang represented both the Union and the Credit Cooperative in filing such notice of appeal. In fact, the Credit Cooperative did not deny its failure to file an appeal; however, it argued that it filed with the Court of Appeals an appellant’s brief in compliance with the appellate court’s directive to submit one. Suffice it to state that the Court of Appeals’ directive for the Credit Cooperative to file its brief did not clothe the Credit Cooperative with locus standi on appeal. The purpose of the filing of the brief is merely to present, in coherent and concise form, the points and questions in controversy, and by fair argument on the facts and law of the case, to assist the court in arriving at a just and proper conclusion. The Court of Appeals may have ordered the Credit Cooperative to submit its brief to enable it to properly dispose of the case on appeal. However, in the Credit Cooperative’s brief, not only did it ask for the reversal of the Summary Judgment but also prayed for the return of its garnished funds. This cannot be allowed. It would be grave error to grant the relief prayed for without violating the well-settled rule that a party who does not appeal from the decision may not obtain any affirmative relief from the appellate court other than what he has obtained from the lower court, if any, whose decision is brought up on appeal.

The rule is clear that no modification of judgment could be granted to a party who did not appeal.   Jose Feliciano Loy, et al. vs. San Miguel Corporation Employees Union-Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (SMCEU-PTGWO), et al., G.R. No. 164886, November 24, 2009.

Arbitration;  third parties. We agree with the CA ruling that the BPPA arbitration clause does not apply to the present case since third parties are involved. Any judgment or ruling to be rendered by the panel of arbitrators will be useless if third parties are included in the case, since the arbitral ruling will not bind them; they are not parties to the arbitration agreement. In the present case, DOLE included as parties the spouses Abujos and Oribanex since they are necessary parties, i.e., they were directly involved in the BPPA violation DOLE alleged, and their participation are indispensable for a complete resolution of the dispute. To require the spouses Abujos and Oribanex to submit themselves to arbitration and to abide by whatever judgment or ruling the panel of arbitrators shall make is legally untenable; no law and no agreement made with their participation can compel them to submit to arbitration.  Stanfilco Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative vs. DOLE Philippines, Inc. (Stanfilco Division), Oribanex Services, Inc., Spouses Elly and Myrna Abujos, G.R. No. 154048, November 27, 2009.

Continue reading

Legalese 2009 (Week 48)

Lexicon

cloud on title – a semblance of title, either legal or equitable, or a claim or a right in real property, appearing in some legal form but which is, in fact, invalid or which would be inequitable to enforce (see Comments and Cases on Property, p. 208 [2007]).

Continue reading

November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on commercial law:

Corporate employees;  appointment. Ordinary company employees are generally employed not by action of the directors and stockholders but by that of the managing officer of the corporation who also determines the compensation to be paid such employees. Corporate officers, on the other hand, are elected or appointed by the directors or stockholders, and are those who are given that character either by the Corporation Code or by the corporation’s by-laws.

Here, it was the PDMC president who appointed petitioner Gomez administrator, not its board of directors or the stockholders. The president alone also determined her compensation package. Moreover, the administrator was not among the corporate officers mentioned in the PDMC by-laws. The corporate officers proper were the chairman, president, executive vice-president, vice-president, general manager, treasurer, and secretary.  Gloria V. Gomez vs. PNOC Development and Management Corporation (PDMC), G.R. No. 174044, November 27, 2009.

Rehabilitation; accommodation mortgagors. The rehabilitation court committed no reversible error when it removed TCT No. 133164 from the coverage of the stay order. The Interim Rules of Procedure on Corporate Rehabilitation is silent on the enforcement of claims specifically against the properties of accommodation mortgagors. It only covers the suspension, during the pendency of the rehabilitation, of the enforcement of all claims against the debtor, its guarantors and sureties not solidarily liable with the mortgagor.

Furthermore, the newly adopted Rules of Procedure on Corporate Rehabilitation has a specific provision for this special arrangement among a debtor, its creditor and its accommodation mortgagor. Section 7(b), Rule 3 of the said Rules explicitly allows the foreclosure by a creditor of a property not belonging to a debtor under corporate rehabilitation.  Pacific Wide Realty and Development Corporation vs. Puerto Azul Land, Inc./Pacific Wide Realty and Development Corporation Vs. Puerto Azul Land, Inc., G.R. No. 178768/G.R. No. 180893, November 25, 2009.

Continue reading

Iniquitous and unconscionable interest rate (again)

In September 2009, the Supreme Court promulgated its decision in Ileana Dr. Macalino vs. Bank of the Philippines Islands, G.R. No. 175490, September 17, 2009, and held that the interest rate of 1.5% per month on credit card payments should be reduced to 1% per month.

In Sps. Isagani & Diosdada Castro vs. Angelina de Leon Tan, G.R. No. 168940. November 24, 2009, the Supreme Court again faced the issue of whether the interest rate imposed (this time under a loan agreement) is excessive.  Here, the loan agreement (denominated as Kasulatan ng Sanglaan ng Lupa at Bahay) provided for an interest rate of 5% per month, compounded monthly.  The principal amount of the loan was PhP30,000.

The borrowers (spouses Tan) failed to pay the loan and the lenders (spouses Castro) instituted an extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage. The lenders emerged as the only bidder and the redemption period expired without the property being redeemed.

A Complaint for Nullification of Mortgage and Foreclosure and/or Partial Rescission of Documents and Damages was subsequently filed before the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan. The complainants alleged, inter alia, that the interest rate imposed on the principal amount of P30,000.00 is unconscionable.

The Regional Trial Court reduced the interest rate to 12% per annum and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

In proceedings before the Supreme Court, the petitioners contend that with the removal by the Bangko Sentral of the ceiling on the rate of interest that may be stipulated in a contract of loan, the lender and the borrower could validly agree on any interest rate on loans. Thus, they argue that the Court of Appeals gravely erred when it declared the stipulated interest in the Kasulatan as null as if there was no express stipulation on the compounded interest.

On the other hand, respondents assert that the appellate court correctly struck down the said stipulated interest for being excessive and contrary to morals, if not against the law. They also point out that a contract has the force of law between the parties, but only when the terms, clauses and conditions thereof are not contrary to law, morals, public order or public policy.

Continue reading

November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on labor law:

Collective bargaining agreement; exclusive bargaining status. While the parties may agree to extend the CBA’s original five-year term together with all other CBA provisions, any such amendment or term in excess of five years will not carry with it a change in the union’s exclusive collective bargaining status. By express provision of the above-quoted Article 253-A, the exclusive bargaining status cannot go beyond five years and the representation status is a legal matter not for the workplace parties to agree upon. In other words, despite an agreement for a CBA with a life of more than five years, either as an original provision or by amendment, the bargaining union’s exclusive bargaining status is effective only for five years and can be challenged within sixty (60) days prior to the expiration of the CBA’s first five years.

In the present case, the CBA was originally signed for a period of five years, i.e., from February 1, 1998 to January 30, 2003, with a provision for the renegotiation of the CBA’s other provisions at the end of the 3rd year of the five-year CBA term. Thus, prior to January 30, 2001 the workplace parties sat down for renegotiation but instead of confining themselves to the economic and non-economic CBA provisions, also extended the life of the CBA for another four months, i.e., from the original expiry date on January 30, 2003 to May 30, 2003.

As discussed above, this negotiated extension of the CBA term has no legal effect on the FVCLU-PTGWO’s exclusive bargaining representation status which remained effective only for five years ending on the original expiry date of January 30, 2003. Thus, sixty days prior to this date, or starting December 2, 2002, SANAMA-SIGLO could properly file a petition for certification election. Its petition, filed on January 21, 2003 or nine (9) days before the expiration of the CBA and of FVCLU-PTGWO’s exclusive bargaining status, was seasonably filed.

We thus find no error in the appellate court’s ruling reinstating the DOLE order for the conduct of a certification election. FVC Labor Union-Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (FVCLU-PTGWO) Vs. Sama-samang Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa FVC-Solidarity of Independet and General Labor Organization (SANAMA-FVC-SIGLO), G.R. No. 176249, November 27, 2009.

Dismissal; attorney’s fees. In San Miguel Corporation v. Aballa, thr Court held that in actions for recovery of wages or where an employee was forced to litigate and thus incur expenses to protect his rights and interests, a maximum of 10% of the total monetary award by way of attorney’s fees is justifiable under Article 111 of the Labor Code; Section 8, Rule VIII of Book III of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code; and paragraph 7, Article 2208 of the Civil Code. The award of attorney’s fees is proper and there need not be any showing that the employer acted maliciously or in bad faith when it withheld the wages. There need only be a showing that the lawful wages were not paid accordingly.   Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company vs. Inocencio B. Berbano, Jr., G.R. No. 165199, November 27, 2009.

Continue reading