July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected July 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

CRIMINAL LAW

1.     Revised Penal Code

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. In the killing of victims in this case, the trial court was correct in appreciating the aggravating circumstance of treachery. There is treachery when the attack is so sudden and unexpected that the victim had no opportunity either to avert the attack or to defend himself. Indeed, nothing can be more sudden and unexpected than when a father stabs to death his two young daughters while they were sound asleep and totally defenseless. People of the Philippines vs. Calonge y Verana, G.R. No. 182793, July 5, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. The Court held that treachery can still be appreciated even though the victim was forewarned of the danger to his life because what is decisive is that the attack was executed in a manner that the victim was rendered defenseless and unable to retaliate. Although the victim knew that the accused held a grudge against him, he never had any inkling that he would actually be attacked that night. The way it was executed made it impossible for the victim to respond or defend himself. He just had no opportunity to repel the sudden attack, rendering him completely helpless. Accused, moreover, used a firearm to easily neutralize the victim, which was undeniably a swift and effective way to achieve his purpose. Lastly, but significantly, the accused aimed for the face of the victim ensuring that the bullet would penetrate it and damage his brain. These acts are distinctly indicative of the treacherous means employed by the accused to guarantee the consummation of his criminal plan. Thus, as treachery attended the killing of Loreto Cruz, such circumstance qualified the killing as murder, punishable under paragraph 1 of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. People of the Philippines vs. Pedro Ortiz, Jr. y Lopez, G.R. No. 188704, July 7, 2010.

Attempted homicide; civil liability; temperate damages. The Supreme Court modified the decision of the Court of Appeals with respect to the petitioner’s civil liability for being erroneous and contrary to prevailing jurisprudence. The Court of Appeals ordered actual damages to be paid in the amount of P3,858.50. In People v. Andres, the Supreme Court held that if the actual damages, proven by receipts during the trial, amount to less than P25,000.00, the victim shall be entitled to temperate damages in the amount of P25,000.00 in lieu of actual damages. The award of temperate damages is based on Article 2224 of the New Civil Code which states that temperate or moderate damages may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss was suffered but its amount cannot be proven with certainty. In this case, the victim is entitled to the award of P25,000.00 as temperate damages considering that the amount of actual damages is only P3,858.50. Actual damages should no longer be awarded. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Attempted homicide; civil liability; moral damages. The Supreme Court found that the victim is entitled to moral damages in the amount of P10,000.00 in accordance with settled jurisprudence. Under Article 2219, paragraph 1 of the New Civil Code, the victim is entitled to moral damages in a criminal offense resulting in physical injuries. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Attempted homicide; penalty. Article 51 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, provides that the imposable penalty for an attempted crime shall be lower by two degrees than that prescribed by law for the consummated felony. Thus, under Article 249, the crime of homicide is punished by reclusion temporal. Applying Article 61 (Rules of graduating penalties) and Article 71 (Graduated scales), two (2) degrees lower of reclusion temporal is prision correccional which has a duration of six (6) months and one (1) day to six (6) years. Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum term of the indeterminate sentence shall be taken, in view of the attending circumstances that could be properly imposed under the rules of the Revised Penal Code, and the minimum term shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Revised Penal Code. Thus, the maximum term of the indeterminate sentence shall be taken within the range of prision correccional, depending on the modifying circumstances. In turn, the minimum term of the indeterminate penalty to be imposed shall be taken from the penalty one degree lower of prision correccional, that is arresto mayor with a duration of one (1) month and one (1) day to six (6) months. In the absence of any modifying circumstance, the maximum term of the indeterminate penalty shall be taken from the medium period of prision correccional or two (2) years and four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2) months. The minimum term shall be taken within the range of arresto mayor. The Supreme Court affirmed the penalty imposed by the Court of Appeal against the petitioner of six (6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum term of the indeterminate penalty, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum term of the indeterminate penalty. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Direct Assault; elements. Direct assault is defined and penalized under Article 148 of the Revised Penal Code. It is an offense against public order that may be committed in two ways: first, by any person or persons who, without a public uprising, shall employ force or intimidation for the attainment of any of the purposes enumerated in defining the crimes of rebellion and sedition; and second, by any person or persons who, without a public uprising, shall attack, employ force, or seriously intimidate or resist any person in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official duties, or on occasion of such performance. The instant case falls under the second mode, which is the more common form of assault. Its elements are: 1. That the offender (a) makes an attack, (b) employs force, (c) makes a serious intimidation, or (d) makes a serious resistance; 2. That the person assaulted is a person in authority or his agent; 3. That at the time of the assault the person in authority or his agent (a) is engaged in the actual performance of official duties, or [b] that he is assaulted by reason of the past performance of official duties; 4. That the offender knows that the one he is assaulting is a person in authority or his agent in the exercise of his duties; and 5. That there is no public uprising. Lydia Gelig vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 173150, July 28, 2010.

Estafa through falsification of public documents. Petitioners are private individuals who presented the alleged will to the probate court and made it appear that Alegria signed the alleged will disposing of her rights and interest in the real properties, as well as all of her personal properties to petitioners when in fact petitioners knew that Alegria never signed such alleged will as her signatures therein were forged. Petitioners argued that they already had in their possession the personal properties of Alegria which included the pieces of jewelry by virtue of an alleged general power of attorney executed by Alegria in their favor. However, such agency between Alegria and petitioners was terminated upon Alegria’s death; thus, they had no basis for taking possession and custody of Alegria’s properties after her death. However, by virtue of the falsified will which petitioners presented for probate, and by which petitioners became co-administrators of the estate of the Figueras couple, and had gained possession of the jewelry, they were not able to account for the same when ordered to do so by the probate court. The crime committed was estafa through falsification of public document. Felizardo S. Obando and Juan S. Obando vs. People of the Philippine, G.R. No. 138696. July 7, 2010.

Frustrated and attempted homicide distinguished. Under Article 6 of the Revised Penal Code, a felony is frustrated when the offender performs all the acts of execution which would produce the felony as a consequence but which, nevertheless, do not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator. There is an attempt when the offender commences the commission of a felony directly by overt acts, and does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance. In Palaganas v. People, the Supreme Court made the following distinctions between frustrated and attempted felony as follows: (a) In frustrated felony, the offender has performed all the acts of execution which should produce the felony as a consequence; whereas in attempted felony, the offender merely commences the commission of a felony directly by overt acts and does not perform all the acts of execution; (b) In frustrated felony, the reason for the non-accomplishment of the crime is some cause independent of the will of the perpetrator; on the other hand, in attempted felony, the reason for the non-fulfillment of the crime is a cause or accident other than the offender’s own spontaneous desistance. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Frustrated and attempted homicide distinguished. The crucial point to consider is the nature of the wound inflicted which must be supported by independent proof showing that the wound inflicted was sufficient to cause the victim’s death without timely medical intervention. In this case, from all accounts, although the stab wound of the victim could have been fatal since the victim testified that he saw his intestines showed, no exact evidence exists to prove the gravity of the wound; hence, the Supreme Court did not consider the stab wound as sufficient to cause death. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Homicide and serious physical injuries distinguished. The assailant’s intent to kill is the main element that distinguishes the crime of physical injuries from the crime of homicide. The crime can only be homicide if the intent to kill is proven. Intent to kill is a state of mind that the courts can discern only through external manifestations, i.e., acts and conduct of the accused at the time of the assault and immediately thereafter. In Rivera v. People, the Supreme Court considered the following factors to determine the presence of an intent to kill: (1) the means used by the malefactors; (2) the nature, location, and number of wounds sustained by the victim; (3) the conduct of the malefactors before, at the time, or immediately after the killing of the victim; and (4) the circumstances under which the crime was committed and the motives of the accused.  The Supreme Court also considered the motive and the words uttered by the offender at the time he inflicted injuries on the victim as additional determinative factors. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Homicide and serious physical injuries distinguished. The records show that the petitioner used a knife in his assault. The petitioner stabbed the victim in the abdomen while the latter was held by Gener and Orieta. Immediately after the stabbing, the petitioner, Gener and Orieta beat and stoned the victim until he fell into a creek. It was only then that the petitioner, Gener and Orieta left. The Supreme Court considered in this regard that the stabbing occurred at around 9:30 p.m. with only the petitioner, Gener, Orieta, and the victim as the only persons left in the area. The Court of Appeals aptly observed that a reasonable inference can be made that the victim was left for dead when he fell into the creek. Under these circumstances, we are convinced that the petitioner, in stabbing, beating and stoning the victim, intended to kill him. Thus, the crime committed cannot be merely serious physical injuries. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Kidnapping; deprivation of liberty. The essence of kidnapping is the actual deprivation of the victim’s liberty, coupled with indubitable proof of the intent of the accused to effect such deprivation. People of the Philippines vs. Antonio Siongco y Dela Cruz, et al, G.R. No. 186472, July 5, 2010

Kidnapping; elements. The following are the elements that must be established by the prosecution to obtain a conviction for kidnapping: (a) the offender is a private individual; (b) he kidnaps or detains another, or in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (c) the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal; and (d) in the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances is present: (1) the kidnapping or detention lasts for more than three days; (2) it is committed by simulating public authority; (3) any serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained, or threats to kill him are made; or (4) the person kidnapped or detained, is a minor, a female, or a public officer. If the victim is a minor, or is kidnapped or detained for the purpose of extorting ransom, the duration of detention becomes immaterial. People of the Philippines vs. Antonio Siongco y Dela Cruz, et al., G.R. No. 186472, July 5, 2010.

Kidnapping; penalty. The penalty for kidnapping for the purpose of extorting ransom from the victim or any other person under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code is death. However, Republic Act No. 9346 has banned the imposition of death penalty and reduced all death sentences to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. People of the Philippines vs. Antonio Siongco y Dela Cruz, et al., G.R. No. 186472, July 5, 2010.

Murder; damages. The award of civil indemnity is proper in this case. It requires no proof other than the fact of death as a result of the crime and proof of the accused’s responsibility therefor. Although jurisprudence fixed the civil indemnity at P50,000.00 only, the Supreme Court upheld the award of P300,000.00 as civil indemnity since the parties had stipulated such amount in the event of a judgment of conviction. The award of P50,000.00 as moral damages is proper here. Moral damages are awarded in view of the violent death of a victim. There is no need for any allegation or proof of the emotional sufferings of the victim’s heirs. Likewise, the award of exemplary damages is warranted when the commission of the offense is attended by an aggravating circumstance, whether ordinary or qualifying, as in this case. Accordingly, the Supreme Court awarded exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00 to the heirs of the victim. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Teñoso y Lopez alias “Paking” and Edgardo Cocotan alias “Paot,” G.R. No. 188975, July 5, 2010.

Parricide; elements. Parricide is committed when: (1) a person is killed; (2) the deceased is killed by the accused; (3) the deceased is the father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or a legitimate other ascendant or other descendant, or the legitimate spouse of accused. The key element in parricide is the relationship of the offender with the victim. People of the Philippines vs. Calonge y Verana, G.R. No. 182793, July 5, 2010.

Parricide; penalty. Under Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 5 of Republic Act No. 7659, the penalty for parricide is composed of two (2) indivisible penalties, namely, reclusion perpetua to death. People of the Philippines vs. Calonge y Verana, G.R. No. 182793, July 5, 2010

Rape. Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code provides among others that a crime of rape is committed by a man who has carnal knowledge of a woman through force, threat or intimidation. People of the Philippines vs. Adriano Leonardo y Dantes, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010

Rape; damages. In line with recent jurisprudence regarding damages in rape cases, the civil indemnity in this case must be increased from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00 and the moral damages from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00. People of the Philippines vs. Ermilito Alegre y Lamoste, G.R. No. 184812, July 6, 2010.

Rape; damages. The Supreme Court affirmed the awards of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages given by the lower courts to AAA for each count of rape. Civil indemnity, which is actually in the nature of actual or compensatory damages, is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape. Moral damages in rape cases should be awarded without need of showing that the victim suffered trauma of mental, physical, and psychological sufferings constituting the basis thereof. These are too obvious to still require their recital at the trial by the victim since we even assume and acknowledge such agony as a gauge of her credibility. People of the Philippines vs. Adriano Leonardo y Dantes, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010.

Rape; damages. The Supreme Court modified the amount of moral and exemplary damages, P30,000.00 and P20,000.00, respectively, awarded by the Court of Appeals to the rape victim. Consistent with prevailing jurisprudence, the Supreme Court increased the grant of moral damages to P50,000.00 and the award of exemplary damages to P30,000.00. People of the Philippines vs. Jessie Dacallos y Modina, G.R. No. 189807, July 5, 2010.

Rape; damages. The Supreme Court modified the trial court’s award of damages finding the accused-appellant civilly liable in the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity for each of the counts of consummated rape and P30,000.00 as civil indemnity and moral damages at P25,000.00 for each count of attempted rape. People of the Philippines vs. Romeo Republo, G.R. No. 172962, July 8, 2010.

Rape; elements. To secure a conviction for the crime of rape, the following elements must be proved: (a) that the accused had carnal knowledge of a woman; (b) that said act was accomplished under any of the following circumstances – [i] through force, threat or intimidation; [ii] when the offended party is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious; [iii] by means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; or [iv] when the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present. People of the Philippines vs. Basilio Cadap, G.R. No. 190633, July 5, 2010.

Rape; evidence. The absence of bruises and contusions on the victim’s body does not negate the commission of rape. It is not necessary that the victim should bear marks of physical violence sustained by reason of the persistence of the sexual attacker, nor is the exertion of irresistible force by the culprit an indispensable element of the offense. Thus, for rape to be committed, it is not necessary that there be marks of physical violence present on the victim’s body. People of the Philippines vs. Rommel Belo y De Leon, G.R. No. 187075, July 5, 2010.

Rape; evidence. Corollarily, the fact that the accused did not possess any bread knife when he was apprehended a few moments after the commission of the alleged crime does not negate the existence of force and intimidation. The non-presentation of the weapon used in the commission of rape is not essential to the conviction of the accused. It is settled that the non-presentation of the weapon used in the commission of rape is not essential to the conviction of the accused. People of the Philippines vs. Rommel Belo y De Leon, G.R. No. 187075, July 5, 2010.

Rape; evidence. The testimony of the rape victim that the accused was armed with a deadly weapon when he committed the crime is sufficient to establish that fact for so long as the victim is credible. It must be stressed that in rape, it is usually only the victim who can attest to its occurrence and that is why courts subject the testimony of the alleged victims to strict scrutiny before relying on it for the conviction of the accused. In the present case, complainant positively described how the accused, armed with a knife, threatened and raped his victim. Absent any showing that certain facts of substance and significance have been plainly overlooked or that the trial court’s findings are clearly arbitrary, the conclusions reached by the trial court must be respected and the judgment rendered should be affirmed. People of the Philippines vs. Rommel Belo y De Leon, G.R. No. 187075, July 5, 2010.

Rape; mental retardate. Accused assails his conviction alleging that appellate court erred in admitting evidence and basing its decision on AAA’s mental retardation, a fact which should be but was not alleged in the informations. Under Art. 266-A(d), sexual intercourse with one who is intellectually weak to the extent that she is incapable of giving consent to the carnal act already constitutes rape, without requiring proof that the accused used force or intimidation in committing the act, for as long as that the fact of carnal knowledge and mental retardation is alleged in the information and proven during trial. However, in the case at bar, it should be noted that appellant was charged with rape through force and intimidation. Thus, contrary to appellant’s claims, an allegation in the information of the victim’s mental retardation was not necessary. People of the Philippines vs. Arturo Paler, G.R. No. 186411, July 5, 2010.

Rape; minority. The assertion of the accused that the minority of AAA was not established because the prosecution failed to present her birth certificate in evidence deserves scant consideration. The informations specifically alleged that AAA was a minor, i.e., barely 14 years old on July 14, 1999 and September 1999, when she was raped by her own father. The accused himself, with the assistance of counsel, categorically admitted during pre-trial that AAA was his daughter and that she was only 14 years old on July 14, 1999 and in September 1999. These stipulations are binding because they are judicial admissions within the contemplation of Section 4, Rule 129 of the Revised Rules of Court. The stipulation of facts signed by the parties, that is, the accused, his counsel and the prosecutor, in a criminal case is recognized as a declaration constituting judicial admission and is binding upon the parties. The stipulated facts stated in the pre-trial order amount to an admission by the accused and a waiver of his right to present evidence to the contrary. Although the right to present evidence is guaranteed by the Constitution, such right may be waived expressly or impliedly. Thus, the rule that no proof need be offered as to any facts admitted during a pre-trial hearing applies. People of the Philippines vs. Ricardo Bodoso y Bolor, G.R. No. 188129, July 5, 2010.

Rape; minority. In this regard, the Supreme Court is also guided by the ground rules laid down in the case of People v. Pruna, in appreciating the age, either as an element of the crime or as a qualifying circumstance. Thus: (1) The best evidence to prove the age of the offended party is an original or certified true copy of the certificate of live birth of such party; (2) In the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents such as baptismal certificate and school records which show the date of birth of the victim would suffice to prove age; (3) If the certificate of live birth or authentic document is shown to have been lost or destroyed or otherwise unavailable, the testimony, if clear and credible, of the victim’s mother or a member of the family either by affinity or consanguinity who is qualified to testify on matters respecting pedigree such as the exact age or date of birth of the offended party pursuant to Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence shall be sufficient under the following circumstances: (i) If the victim is alleged to be below 3 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 7 years old; (ii) If the victim is alleged to be below 7 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 12 years old; (iii) If the victim is alleged to be below 12 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 18 years old; (iv) In the absence of a certificate of live birth, authentic document or the testimony of the victim’s mother or relatives concerning the victim’s age, the complainant’s testimony will suffice provided that it is expressly and clearly admitted by the accused; (v) it is the prosecution that has the burden of proving the age of the offended party. People of the Philippines vs. Ricardo Bodoso y Bolor, G.R. No. 188129, July 5, 2010.

Rape; minority. The failure of the accused to object to the testimonial evidence regarding age shall not be taken against him. People of the Philippines vs. Ricardo Bodoso y Bolor, G.R. No. 188129, July 5, 2010.

Rape; penalty. The Supreme Court modified the penalty imposed by the Court of Appeals in this case since it failed to state that the reduction of the penalty of rape from death to reclusion perpetua is without eligibility for parole as held in the case of People v. Antonio Ortiz. Thus, finding the accused guilty of two (2) counts of rape committed against his daughter, AAA, the Supreme Court sentenced the accused, in each count, to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole. People of the Philippines vs. Ricardo Bodoso y Bolor, G.R. No. 188129, July 5, 2010.

Rape; penalty. Under paragraph 1 of Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the crime of simple rape is punishable by reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines vs. Basilio Cadap, G.R. No. 190633, July 5, 2010.

Rape; use of deadly weapon. The use of a deadly weapon in this rape case was a fact specifically averred in the information and proved during the trial. This qualifies the rape the accused has committed. Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code provides that the penalty for rape committed with the use of a deadly weapon should be reclusion perpetua to death. But in view of the enactment of Republic Act 9346 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole as provided by Act 4103 should instead be imposed. People of the Philippines vs. Ermilito Alegre y Lamoste, G.R. No. 184812, July 6, 2010.

Statutory rape; elements. The acts were committed by accused in April of 1997, before RA 8353, the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, took effect on October 22, 1997 and amended the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on the crime of rape. Thus, Article 335(3) of the Revised Penal Code defining how statutory rape is committed is the applicable law. It must be remembered that under the law and prevailing jurisprudence, the gravamen of the offense of statutory rape as provided under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code is the carnal knowledge of a woman below twelve years old. The only elements of statutory rape are: (1) that the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) the such woman is under twelve (12) years of age. Since the very act of sexual intercourse was established, in fact admitted by accused-appellant and the age of AAA was established before the RTC to be 11 years, the acts of accused-appellant fall squarely under Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code. People of the Philippines vs. Roberto Garbida, G.R. No. 188569, July 13, 2010.

Theft; penalty. The Supreme Court discarded the testimony of the private complainant that the value of the magwheels and the other items stolen was more or less P27,000.00 for being a mere sweeping assessment uncorroborated by any other evidence. It was pointed out that the two (2) magwheels which were found in the possession of the accused were pegged at P17,000.00 without any conclusive or definite proof relative to the value of these magwheels other than the testimony of private complainant. Thus, the Court fixed the value of the magwheels at P12,000.00 following the guidelines in Francisco v. People.  Applying Article 309 (2) of the Revised Penal Code and the Indeterminate Sentence Law, petitioner and his co-accused, were sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty ranging from six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months and one (1) day also of prision correccional, as maximum. Luis Chito Buensoceso Lozano vs.. Poeple of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165582, July 9, 2010.

2.     Special Laws

Acts of lasciviousness on a child; penalty. For acts of lasciviousness performed on a child under Section 5(b), Article III of Republic Act No. 7610, the penalty prescribed is reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua. Notwithstanding that Republic Act No. 7610 is a special law, the appellant may enjoy the benefits of the Indeterminate Sentence Law. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the appellant shall be entitled to a minimum term to be taken within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by Republic Act No. 7610. The penalty next lower in degree is prision mayor medium to reclusion temporal minimum, the range of which is from 8 years and 1 day to 14 years and 8 months. On the other hand, the maximum term of the penalty should be taken from the penalty prescribed under Section 5(b), Article III of Republic Act No. 7610, which is reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua, the range of which is from 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to reclusion perpetua. The minimum, medium and maximum term of the same is as follows: minimum – 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months; medium – 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years; and maximum – reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines vs. Adriano Leonardo y Dantes, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010

Batas Pambansa Bilang 22; elements. To reiterate the elements of a violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22, violation thereof exists where: (1) a person makes or draws and issues a check to apply on account or for value; (2) the person who makes or draws and issues the check knows at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the full payment of the check upon its presentment; and (3) the check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit, or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment. Eumelia R. Mitra vs. People of the Philippines and Felicisimo S. Tarcelo, G.R. No. 191404, July 5, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs. What determines if there was, indeed, a sale of dangerous drugs in a buy-bust operation is proof of the concurrence of all the elements of the offense, to wit: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor, which the prosecution has satisfactorily established. The prosecution satisfactorily proved the illegal sale of dangerous drugs and presented in court the evidence of corpus delicti. People of the Philippines vs. Sonny Padua y Reyes, G.R. No. 174097, July 21, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs. Anent the failure of the prosecution to present the testimony of the informant, it is well-settled that the testimony of an informant in drug-pushing cases is not essential for conviction and may be dispensed with if the poseur-buyer testified on the same. Informants are almost always never presented in court because of the need to preserve their invaluable service to the police. Further, not all people who came into contact with the seized drugs are required to testify in court. There is nothing in Republic Act No. 9165 or in any rule implementing the same that imposes such requirement. As long as the chain of custody of the seized drug was clearly established not to have been broken and that the prosecution did not fail to identify properly the drugs seized, it is not indispensable that each and every person who came into possession of the drugs should take the witness stand. People of the Philippines vs. Sonny Padua y Reyes, G.R. No. 174097, July 21, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of shabu; elements. For the successful prosecution of the illegal sale of shabu, the following 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 its payment.  What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as evidence.  All these requisites were met by the prosecution in this case. People of the Philippines vs. Alioding Sultan, G.R. No. 187737, July 5, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of drugs; elements. In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be proven: (1) that the transaction or sale took place; (2) that the corpus delicti or the illicit drug was presented as evidence; and (3) that the buyer and seller were identified. The presence of these elements is sufficient to support the trial court’s finding of appellants’ guilt. What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the prohibited or regulated drug. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt of the marked money consummate the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping officers and the accused. The presentation in court of the corpus delicti — the body or substance of the crime – establishes the fact that a crime has actually been committed. People of the Philippines vs. Christopher De Mesa and Emmanuel Gonzales,G.R. No. 188570. July 6, 2010

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of drugs; elements. The burden of the prosecution in a crime for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is to prove (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller; (2) the sale of dangerous drugs; and (3) the existence of the corpus delicti or the illicit drug as evidence. People of the Philippines vs. Noel Catentay, G.R. No. 183101, July 6, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody; requirements. Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 states: Sec. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner: (1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof. On the other hand, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165 states: SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner: (a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items. People of the Philippines vs. Christopher De Mesa and Emmanuel Gonzales,G.R. No. 188570. July 6, 2010

Sexual abuse; elements. The prosecution in this case has proved the essential elements of sexual abuse under Section 5(b), Article III of Republic Act No. 7610. The elements of sexual abuse under the above provision are as follows: (1) the accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct; (2) the said 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 18 years of age. People of the Philippines vs. Adriano Leonardo y Dantes, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010.

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Appeal; judgment of acquittal. Section 1 of Rule 122 allows “any party” to appeal from a judgment or final order, unless the right of the accused against double jeopardy will be violated. It is axiomatic that an appeal in criminal cases throws the whole case wide open for review by an appellate court. As a consequence, an appeal by the prosecution from a judgment of acquittal necessarily places the accused in double jeopardy. However, the rule barring an appeal from a judgment of acquittal is, not absolute. The following are the recognized exceptions thereto: (i) when the prosecution is denied due process of law; and (ii) when the trial court commits grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in dismissing a criminal case by granting the accused’ demurrer to evidence. People of the Philippines vs. Sandiganbayan (First Division), Victorino A. Basco, Romeo S. David and Rogelio L. Luis, G.R. No. 164577, July 5, 2010.

Corpus delicti; handling. Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 was originally envisioned by the legislature to serve as a protection for the accused from malicious imputations of guilt by abusive police officers. The illegal drugs being the corpus delicti, it is essential for the prosecution to prove and show to the court beyond reasonable doubt that the illegal drugs presented to the trial court as evidence of the crime are indeed the illegal drugs seized from the accused. Section 21, paragraph No. 1, prescribes the method by which law enforcement agents/personnel are to go about in handling the corpus delicti at the time of seizure in order to ensure full protection to the accused. It reads: SEC. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/ Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner: (1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof. However, Section 21 was not meant to thwart the legitimate efforts of law enforcement agents. Slight infractions or nominal deviations by the police from the prescribed method of handling the corpus delicti should not exculpate an otherwise guilty defendant. In fact, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Rep. Act No. 9165 adequately reflects the desire of the law to excuse from the rigid tenor of Section 21 situations wherein slight infractions in methodology are present but the integrity and identity of the specimen remains intact. It reads in part: “Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.” In this case, the failure of the apprehending officer to “immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the prohibited drugs in the presence of the accused” as required by Section 21 can be considered as a slight infraction that does not automatically render the seized items inadmissible. There is a justifiable reason for such failure in this case as was explained by the police officer during his cross-examination. People of the Philippines vs. Alioding Sultan, G.R. No. 187737, July 5, 2010.

Defense; alibi. As consistently enunciated by the Supreme Court, the established doctrine is 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. Based on the findings of the trial court, accused-appellants failed to demonstrate satisfactorily that it was physically impossible for them to be at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. Weak as it is, alibi becomes weaker in the face of the positive identification made by the prosecution witnesses as in this case. People of the Philippines vs. Roberto Asis and Julius Peñaranda, G.R. No. 177573, July 7, 2010.

Evidence; alibi. The Supreme Court considered the defenses of denial and alibi put up by the accused, but found them relatively weak and insufficient to overcome the positive and categorical identification of the accused as perpetrators. The rule is that the defense of denial, when unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is negative and self-serving and merits no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testified on affirmative matters. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Teñoso y Lopez alias “Paking” and Edgardo Cocotan alias “Paot,” G.R. No. 188975, July 5, 2010.

Evidence; alibi. The evidence presented in this case by the defense consisted mainly of bare denials and alibi. As the Supreme Court has oft pronounced, both denial and alibi are inherently weak defenses which cannot prevail over the positive and credible testimony of the prosecution witness that the accused committed the crime. For the defense of alibi to prosper, it is not sufficient that appellant prove that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed, he must also show that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis or its immediate vicinity when the crime was perpetrated. Further, the defense of alibi may not prosper if it is established mainly by the accused themselves and their relatives like in this case and not by credible persons. People of the Philippines vs. Adriano Leonardo y Dantes, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010.

Evidence; child testimony. Testimonies of child-victims are almost always given full weight and credit, since when a woman, more so if she is a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape has been committed. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity. The fact that EMA freely went with the accused to the house of the latter after she went down from the guava tree should not be taken to mean that her account of the events is incredible. It must be noted that EMA was merely (9) years of age when the rape transpired. By her own admission, EMA did not even understand what accused-appellant said when he instructed her to have sexual intercourse with him. Considering the age of the complainant, the Court found it improbable for a girl of her age to fabricate a charge so traumatic to herself and her family had she not been truly subjected to the painful experience of sexual abuse. Moreover, she was steadfast in relating her ordeal and nightmarish experience at the hands of the accused under rigid cross-examination. People of the Philippines vs. Marcos Quiros y Sembrano, G.R. No. 188600, July 13, 2010

Evidence; circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence suffices to convict an accused only if the circumstances proved constitute an unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion that points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others as the guilty person; the circumstances proved must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with any other hypothesis except that of guilty. People of the Philippines vs. Reynaldo Bayon y Ramos, G.R. No. 168627, July 2, 2010.

Evidence; circumstantial evidence. In this case, the court found that the pieces of circumstantial evidence relied upon were insufficient to convict appellant of the crime of qualified theft. In the first circumstance, appellant was not the only stay-in helper of Atty. Limoso, as the latter testified that he had two housemaids. Although Atty. Limoso testified that only appellant, as his masseur, had access to his room, this is doubtful, considering the Filipino lifestyle, in which a household helper is normally tasked to clean the room of his/her employer. Further, in the second circumstance, the disappearance of appellant’s clothes from Atty. Limoso’s house after the discovery of the loss of the aforementioned valuables cannot be construed as flight by the appellant since appellant was talking with the guards in the compound where Atty. Limoso’s residence was located when he was arrested by the police. Notably, the prosecution failed to establish the element of unlawful taking by appellant and this warranted an acquittal. People of the Philippines vs. Reynaldo Bayon y Ramos, G.R. No. 168627, July 2, 2010.

Evidence; circumstantial evidence. The oft-repeated rule has been that circumstantial evidence is adequate for conviction if there is more than one circumstance, the facts from which the inferences are derived have been proven and the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. While no general rule can be laid down as to the quantity of circumstantial evidence which will suffice in a given case, all the circumstances proved must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent, and with every other rational hypothesis except that of guilt. The circumstances proved should constitute an unbroken chain which leads to only one fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused, to the exclusion of all others, is the guilty person. People of the Philippines vs. Calonge y Verana, G.R. No. 182793, July 5, 2010.

Evidence; conflicting testimonies. Accused insists that the testimonies of the prosecution’s eyewitnesses, Alfredo and Allan, were somewhat contradictory, and should not be given credence. Alfredo said that Dela Cruz and Benoza, aided by Baylon, immobilized Yrigan by holding and pulling away his hands from either side so appellant Rollan and the other accused could freely attack him with a long bladed weapon. Allan said, on the other hand, that appellant Rollan and Benabesi were the ones who held Yrigan’s hands while the others attacked him with a bolo and a knife. Rejecting the accused’s argument, the Court ruled that both testimonies show that the assailants acted in conspiracy with each other as evidenced by their concerted action in surrounding Yrigan and attacking him simultaneously, with some holding and pulling at his hands so he could not use them to defend himself and return the attack, and the others stabbing and slashing at him with weapons. Since the accused had not presented evidence of ill-motive on the part of the witnesses to testify falsely against him, their (witnesses’) testimonies can be believed. People of the Philippines vs. Gerardo Rollan y Rey, G.R. No. 175835, July 13, 2010.

Evidence; credibility of rape victim. Failure of a victim to immediately report the rape does not necessarily weaken the case against the accused. The charge of rape is rendered doubtful only if the delay was unreasonable and unexplained. In this case, AAA did not report what her father did to her because she was terribly afraid that he would harm her. This is a normal reaction by minors – to hide the truth because they are easily intimidated by threats on their person and other members of the family. Besides, the trauma to a young girl’s mind of the realization that her own father, who is supposed to be her natural protector, has sexually violated her, cannot be underestimated. When she was cross-examined, AAA replied that she could not even tell her own siblings of her plight because they were all afraid of their father. The only time she felt safe was after they had moved out of their father’s house. Thus, the one year delay in the reporting of AAA’s harrowing experience in the hands of her father does not vitiate the integrity of her testimony. People of the Philippines vs. Rogelio Alarcon, G.R. No. 177219, July 9, 2010.

Evidence; credibility of witness. It is a fundamental rule that the trial court’s factual findings, especially its assessment of the credibility of witnesses, are accorded great weight and respect and binding upon the Supreme Court, particularly when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that the trial court is in the best position to assess the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies because of its unique position of having observed that elusive and incommunicable evidence of the witnesses’ deportment on the stand while testifying, which opportunity is denied to the appellate courts. Only the trial judge can observe the furtive glance, blush of conscious shame, hesitation, flippant or sneering tone, calmness, sigh, or the scant or full realization of an oath. These are significant factors in evaluating the sincerity of witnesses, in the process of unearthing the truth. The appellate courts will generally not disturb such findings unless it plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value that, if considered, might affect the result of the case. In this case, none of these circumstances are present. People of the Philippines vs. Adriano Leonardo y Dantes, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010.

Evidence; credibility of witness. Credible witness and credible testimony are the two essential elements for the determination of the weight of a particular testimony. This principle could not ring any truer where the prosecution relies mainly on the testimony of the complainant, corroborated by the medico-legal findings of a physician. Be that as it may, the accused may be convicted on the basis of the lone, uncorroborated testimony of the rape victim provided that her testimony is clear, convincing and otherwise consistent with human nature. People of the Philippines vs. Adriano Leonardo y Dantes, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010.

Evidence; credibility of witness. The Supreme Court agreed with the findings of the trial court that it is unbelievable that AAA would file complaints for two counts of rape and one count of attempted rape just to exact revenge for the time accused-appellant allegedly kicked her. The Supreme Court is convinced even less that BBB (victim’s mother) would persuade her daughter to lie about such rape incidents because of her quarrel with accused-appellant. The Supreme Court consistently held that: “Not a few accused in rape cases have attributed the charges brought against them to family feuds, resentment, or revenge. But such alleged motives have never swayed the Court from lending full credence to the testimony of a complainant who remained steadfast throughout her direct and cross-examinations, especially a minor as in this case. Further, we simply cannot believe that a lass of tender age would concoct a tale of defloration, allow the examination of her private parts, and undergo the expense, trouble, inconvenience, not to mention the trauma, of a public trial, unless she was in fact raped. People of the Philippines vs. Romeo Republo, G.R. No. 172962, July 8, 2010

Evidence; credibility of witness. No young and decent Filipina would publicly admit that she was ravished and her honor tainted unless such was true, for it would be instinctive for her to protect her honor. People of the Philippines vs. Romeo Republo, G.R. No. 172962, July 8, 2010

Evidence; Credibility of witness. In the review of rape cases, the Supreme Court is almost invariably guided by the following principles: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove it; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. Equally settled is the rule that assessment of credibility of witnesses is a function that is best discharged by the trial judge whose conclusions thereon are accorded much weight and respect, and will not be disturbed on appeal unless a material or substantial fact has been overlooked or misappreciated which if properly taken into account could alter the outcome of the case. Both the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals found the testimony of AAA credible, truthful and straightforward as against a mere denial proffered by the accused. Moreover, the lower courts did not accept accused’s theory that AAA harbored serious anger and resentment toward him because he allegedly mauled her mother, causing the latter to become insane. People of the Philippines vs. Jessie Dacallos y Modina, G.R. No. 189807, July 5, 2010.

Evidence; inconsistency in testimony. The Supreme Court has examined the inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses but found them too inconsequential to adversely affect their overall integrity. Such minor inconsistencies in the narration of a witness do not detract from its essential credibility as long as it is in its entirety coherent and intrinsically believable.  Inaccuracies may in fact suggest that the witness is telling the truth and has not been rehearsed as it is not to be expected that he will be able to remember every single detail of an incident with perfect or total recall. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Teñoso y Lopez alias “Paking” and Edgardo Cocotan alias “Paot,” G.R. No. 188975, July 5, 2010.

Evidence; non-identification of the drugs. As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witnesses’ possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same. People of the Philippines vs. Rose Nandi y Sali, G.R. No. 188905, July 13, 2010.

Evidence; non-identification of the drugs. A closer look at the records of the case reveals that the prosecution failed to show that there was compliance with the inventory requirements of R.A. No. 9165. When the poseur-buyer, PO1 Cecil Collado, took the witness stand, he failed to describe with particulars how the seized shabu was handled and marked after its confiscation. Moreover, the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the subject substance was the very same object taken from the accused. These lapses warrants the acquittal of the accused. People of the Philippines vs. Rose Nandi y Sali, G.R. No. 188905, July 13, 2010.

Evidence; positive identification. The Regional Trial Court and Court of Appeals’ conclusions on the petitioner’s positive identification are supported by ample evidence. The Supreme Court considered in this regard the following pieces of evidence of the prosecution: (1) the manner of attack which was done frontally and at close range, thus allowing the victim to see his assailant; (2) the lighting conditions at the scene of the stabbing, provided by two Meralco posts; the scene was also illuminated by “white, fluorescent type” light coming from a steel manufacturing shop; and (3) that the victim and the petitioner knew each other also allowed the victim to readily identify the petitioner as his assailant. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Evidence; positive identification. The victim’s credibility is further strengthened by his lack of improper motive to falsely accuse the petitioner of the crime. Human experience tells us that it is unnatural for a victim to accuse someone other than his actual attacker; in the normal course of things, the victim would have the earnest desire to bring the guilty person to justice, and no other. We consider, too, that the victim consistently and positively, in and out of court, identified the petitioner as his assailant. The victim testified that the petitioner was a neighbor who lived just a few houses away from his house. Based on these considerations, the Supreme Court found the victim’s identification of the petitioner as his assailant to be positive and conclusive. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010.

Evidence; self-serving. The phrase “self-serving evidence” is a concept which has a well-defined judicial meaning. The common objection known as “self-serving” is not correct because almost all testimonies are self-serving. The proper basis for objection is “hearsay”. Self-serving statements are those made by a party out of court advocating his own interest; they do not include a party’s testimony as a witness in court. Self-serving statements are inadmissible because the adverse party is not given the opportunity for cross-examination, and their admission would encourage fabrication of testimony. This cannot be said of a party’s testimony in court made under oath, with full opportunity on the part of the opposing party for cross-examination. People of the Philippines vs. Mary Lou Omictin y Singco, G.R. No. 188130, July 26, 2010

Evidence; testimony. By the distinctive nature of rape cases, conviction thereon usually rests solely on the basis of the testimony of the victim, provided that such testimony is credible, natural, convincing and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has consistently adhered to the following guiding principles in the review of rape cases, to wit: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) considering that, in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. Complementing the foregoing principles is the rule that the credibility of the victim is always the single most important issue in prosecution for rape; that in passing upon the credibility of witnesses, the highest degree of respect must be afforded to the findings of the trial court. People of the Philippines vs. Basilio Cadap, G.R. No. 190633, July 5, 2010.

Ombudsman; preliminary investigation. The Romualdezes point out that the Office of the Ombudsman should not have conducted an investigation of their case since its authority to investigate ill-gotten or unexplained wealth cases pertained only to wealth amassed after February 25, 1986 and not before that date. Accordingly, since the Romualdezes acquired the allegedly ill-gotten wealth involved in their case as early as 1970, then the Ombudsman had no authority to conduct the investigation that it did. But, as the Sandiganbayan correctly pointed out, the Ombudsman has, under its general investigatory powers, the authority to investigate forfeiture cases where the alleged ill-gotten wealth had been amassed before February 25, 1986. The Supreme Court ruled that the exercise of the Ombudsman’s correlative power to initiate the proper action for the recovery of ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth is restricted only to cases for the recovery of ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth which were amassed after February 25, 1986. However, the Ombudsman has the authority to investigate cases for the forfeiture or recovery of such ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth amassed even before the aforementioned date pursuant to the Ombudsman’s general investigatory power under Section 15(1) of Republic Act No. 6770. Alfredo T. Romualdez vs. The Honorable Sandiganbayan (Third Division) and the Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161602, July 13, 2010.

Rules of Procedure, liberal application. Petitioner’s former counsel erroneously appealed her conviction to the Court of Appeals instead of the Sandiganbayan. Petitioner pleaded that Section 2 of Rule 50 of the Rules of Court which mandated the dismissal of cases erroneously appealed to the Court of Appeals be relaxed and the Court of Appeals be directed to forward the records of the case to the Sandiganbayan. The Supreme Court in granting petitioner’s prayer held that since the appeal involved a criminal case, and the possibility of a person being deprived of liberty due to a procedural lapse a relaxation of the Rules was warranted for rules of procedure must be viewed as tools to facilitate the attainment of justice, such that any rigid and strict application thereof which results in technicalities tending to frustrate substantial justice must always be avoided. Cenita M. Cariaga vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180010, July 30, 2010.

Search Warrant; buy-bust operation. A buy-bust operation is an event where a warrantless arrest is justified under Rule 113, Sec. 5(a) of the Rules of Court. When carried out with due regard for constitutional and legal safeguards, the buy-bust operation is a judicially sanctioned method of apprehending those involved in illegal drug activities. It is a valid form of entrapment, as the idea to commit a crime comes not from the police officers but from the accused himself. The accused is caught in the act and must be apprehended on the spot. People of the Philippines vs. Elizabeth Marcelino y Reyes, G.R. No. 189278, July 26, 2010.

Search Warrant; buy-bust operation. From the very nature of a buy-bust operation, the absence of a warrant does not make the arrest illegal. The illegal drug seized is not the “fruit of the poisonous tree” as the defense allege. The seizure made by the buy-bust team falls under a search incidental to a lawful arrest under Rule 126, Sec. 13 of the Rules of Court. Since the buy-bust operation was established as legitimate, it follows that the search was also valid, and a warrant was likewise not needed to conduct it. People of the Philippines vs. Elizabeth Marcelino y Reyes, G.R. No. 189278, July 26, 2010.

Warrant of Arrest; Probable Cause. Respondents questioned the alleged lack of personal determination of probable cause by Judge Navidad in issuing the warrants for their arrest. The determination of probable cause for purposes of issuing the warrant of arrest is made by the judge. The duty of the judge to determine probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest is mandated by Article III, Section 2 of the Philippine Constitution. This constitutional provision does not mandatorily require the judge to personally examine the complainant and her witnesses. Instead, he may opt to personally evaluate the report and supporting documents submitted by the prosecutor or he may disregard the prosecutor’s report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses. People of the Philippines vs. Joseph “Jojo” V. Gray, Francis B. Greay, and Court of Appeals-Cebu City, Eighteenth Division, G.R. No. 180109, July 26, 2010.

Warrant of Arrest; Probable Cause. What the law requires as personal determination on the part of a judge is that he should not rely solely on the report of the investigating prosecutor. This means that the judge should consider not only the report of the investigating prosecutor but also the affidavit and the documentary evidence of the parties, the counter-affidavit of the accused and his witnesses, as well as the transcript of stenographic notes taken during the preliminary investigation, if any, submitted to the court by the investigating prosecutor upon the filing of the Information. Contrary to respondents’ claim, the language of the Order clearly showed that the judge made his own personal determination of the existence of probable cause by examining not only the prosecutor’s report but also his supporting evidence, consisting mainly of the sworn statements of the prosecution’s witnesses. People of the Philippines vs. Joseph “Jojo” V. Gray, Francis B. Gray and Court of Appeals-Cebu City, Eighteenth Division, G.R. No. 180109, July 26, 2010.

Warrantless Arrest; objections. Petitioner’s claim that his warrantless arrest is illegal lacks merit. However, nowhere in the records can it be found in which petitioner interposed objections to the irregularity of his arrest prior to his arraignment. It has been consistently ruled that 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. Any objection involving a warrant of arrest or the procedure by which the court acquired jurisdiction over the person of the accused must be made before he enters his plea; otherwise, the objection is deemed waived. Salvador Valdez Rebellion vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175700. July 5, 2010.

Warrantless Arrest; objections. In this case, petitioner was duly arraigned, entered a negative plea and actively participated during the trial. Thus, he is deemed to have waived any perceived defect in his arrest and effectively submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court trying his case. At any rate, the illegal arrest of an accused is not a sufficient cause for setting aside a valid judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint after a trial free from error. It will not even negate the validity of the conviction of the accused. Salvador Valdez Rebellion vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175700. July 5, 2010.

Withdrawal of Information. It bears emphasizing that when the trial court grants a motion of the public prosecutor to withdraw the Information in compliance with the directive of the Secretary of Justice, or to deny the said motion, it does so not out of compliance to or defiance of the directive of the Secretary of Justice, but in sound and faithful exercise of its judicial prerogative. The trial court is the best and sole judge on what to do with the case before it.  The prior determination of probable cause by the trial court does not in any way bar a contrary finding upon reassessment of the evidence presented before it. In this case, the Supreme Court agreed with the reasons of the trial for granting the motion for the withdrawal of the Information. Antonio B. Ramos (deceased), substituted by his surviving heirs, namely Ma. Margarita A. Ramos, Antonio A. Ramos, Ma. Regina Ramos De Dios, Jose Vicente A. Ramos, Ma. Pomona Ramos Ko Teh and Oscar Emerito A. Ramos vs. People of the Philippines and Rogerio H. Escobal, G.R. No. 171565, July 13, 2010.

(Lindy wishes to thank Nuj Dumbrigue and Hann Sevilla for their help in preparing this post.)

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