August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

CRIMINAL LAW

Acts of lasciviousness; elements. Appellant’s acts of removing the towel wrapped in the body of AAA, laying her on the sofa and kissing, and touching her private parts do not exactly demonstrate the intent of appellant to have carnal knowledge of AAA on that particular date but merely constitute the elements of the crime of acts of lasciviousness as defined in the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Section 5, Article III of R.A. 7610, AAA, being a minor when the incident happened.  People vs. Alejandro Rellota y Tadeo, G.R. No. 168103, August 3, 2010.

Acts of lasciviousness; elements. The elements of the crime of acts lasciviousness are: (1) that the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness; (2) that it is done: (a) by using force and 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. Section 32, Article XIII, of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7610 or the Child Abuse Law defines lascivious conduct, as follows: “The intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation, lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a person.” People vs. Alejandro Rellota y Tadeo, G.R. No. 168103, August 3, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. As to the manner by which appellant killed the victim, there is no doubt that the same was attended by treachery. Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that an attack on a victim who has just wakened or who was roused from sleep is one attended by treachery because in such situation, the victim is in no position to put up any form of defense. There is treachery where the attack was sudden and unexpected, rendering the victim defenseless and ensuring the accomplishment of the assailant’s purpose without risk to himself. The essence of treachery is the swift and unexpected attack on an unsuspecting and unarmed victim who does not give the slightest provocation. In this case, it was evident that the victim was not aware that he would be attacked by appellant. He had just wakened when appellant stabbed him having been roused from his sleep by appellant’s act of kicking the door behind which the victim usually sleeps. It must also be pointed out that the victim was drunk when the attack happened, having been earlier engaged in a drinking spree with appellant, thus rendering him even more powerless to defend himself from appellant’s assault. Clearly, the victim’s guard was down when appellant stabbed him with the bolo. People vs. Charlie Nazareno y Melanios, G.R. No. 180915, August 9, 2010.

Aggravating circumstances; treachery and evident premeditation. Treachery exists when an offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to ensure its execution, without risk to himself, arising from the defense which the offended party might make. As narrated by the victim, she could not have been aware that she would be attacked by the appellant. In the darkness of the night while she just finished relieving herself and still trying to get up, she was shot by appellant in the head with a gun. There was no opportunity for her to defend herself, since appellant, suddenly and without provocation, shot her as she was about to get up.  The essence of treachery is the unexpected and sudden attack on the victim which renders the latter unable and unprepared to defend himself by reason of the suddenness and severity of the attack. This criterion applies whether the attack is frontal or from behind. Moreover, the requisites of evident premeditation was likewise duly established in this case, to wit: (a) the time when the accused determined to commit the crime; (b) an act manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to his determination; and (c) a sufficient lapse of time between such determination and execution to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act. People vs. Venancio Roxas y Arguelles, G.R. No. 172604, August 17, 2010.

Attempted Homicide; penalty.  The imposable penalty for attempted homicide is prision correccional, which is two degrees lower than reclusion temporal, the penalty for homicide. The maximum of the indeterminate penalty shall be taken from the imposable penalty of prision correccional, taking into account the modifying circumstances, if any.  There being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances, the maximum penalty should be imposed in its medium period (Art. 64, Revised Penal Code).  To determine the minimum of the indeterminate penalty, the penalty of prision correccional has to be reduced by one degree, which is aresto mayor. The minimum of the indeterminate penalty shall be taken from the full range of aresto mayor in any of its periods.  Hence, petitioner was correctly sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty from four (4) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum. Freddie Cabildo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 189971, August 23, 2010.

Carnapping; elements. Carnapping is the taking, with intent to gain, of a motor vehicle belonging to another without the latter’s consent, or by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or by using force upon things. More specifically, the elements of the crime are as follows: (1) that there is an actual taking of the vehicle; (2) that the offender intends to gain from the taking of the vehicle; (3) that the vehicle belongs to a person other than the offender himself; (4) that the taking is without the consent of the owner thereof; or that the taking was committed by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or by using force upon things.  People vs. Venancio Roxas y Arguelles, G.R. No. 172604, August 17, 2010.

Complex crime; kidnapping and frustrated murder. The Regional Trial Court correctly complexed the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with frustrated murder in this case.  A complex crime is committed when a single act constitutes two or more, grave or less grave, felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other. People vs. Venancio Roxas y Arguelles, G.R. No. 172604, August 17, 2010.

Complex crime; penalty. In a complex crime, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period.  Since the kidnapping and serious illegal detention is the more serious crime, the proper penalty under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 7659, should be applied in its maximum period; thus, the penalty should be death. However, in light of R.A. 9346, or the Anti-Death Penalty Law, which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the imposition of the penalty of reclusion perpetua instead of death is thus proper and the renders the accused  ineligible for parole. People vs .Venancio Roxas y Arguelles, G.R. No. 172604, August 17, 2010.

Criminal Liability; effect of death of accused pending appeal. Ayochok’s death on January 15, 2010, during the pendency of his appeal, extinguished not only his criminal liability for the crime of murder committed against SPO1 Claudio N. Caligtan, but also his civil liability arising solely from or based on his crime. Under Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code, criminal liability is totally extinguished by the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment. Thus, the death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability and the civil liability based solely thereon. People vs. Jaime Ayochok y Tauli, G.R. No. 175784, August 25, 2010.

Crime; subsidiary liability of employer. The provisions of the Revised Penal Code on subsidiary liability are deemed written into the judgments in cases to which they apply. Thus, in the dispositive portion of its decision, the trial court need not expressly pronounce the subsidiary liability of the employer. Nonetheless, before the employers’ subsidiary liability is enforced, adequate evidence must exist establishing that (1) they are indeed the employers of the convicted employees; (2) they are engaged in some kind of industry; (3) the crime was committed by the employees in the discharge of their duties; and (4) the execution against the latter has not been satisfied due to insolvency. These conditions may be determined in the same criminal action in which the employee’s liability, criminal and civil, has been pronounced, in a hearing set for that precise purpose, with due notice to the employer, as part of the proceedings for the execution of the judgment. Rolito Calang and Philtranco Service Enterprises Inc. vs. People, G.R.  No. 190696, August 3, 2010.

Estafa; conviction affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed here the conviction of the petitioner for violating paragraph 1(b) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code penalizing any person who defrauds another with unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, namely, by misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of another, money, goods or any other personal property received by the offender in trust , or in commission, or for administration, or under other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of, or to return the same, even though such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond, or by denying having received such money, goods, or other property. Pursuant to a Special Power of Attorney issued by the victim (SPA-Exh “A”), it was shown that petitioner was indeed authorized to collect the payments for and on behalf of the victim in the area of Santiago City, Isabela. Petitioner’s failure to remit the money he collected from Santiago City to the victim constitutes estafa under paragraph 1(b) of the Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. Von Madarang y Montemayor vs. People, G.R. No. 179577, August 25, 2010.

Kidnapping; elements. The Supreme Court affirmed here the conviction of the appellant for the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention. Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code provides that “any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in any other manner deprive him of his liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death if: (a) the kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than three days; (b) it shall have been committed simulating public authority; (c) any serious physical injuries shall have been inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained, or if threats to kill him shall have been made; (d) the person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, except when the accused is any of the parents, female or a public officer. People vs. Venancio Roxas y Arguelles, G.R. No. 172604, August 17, 2010.

Kidnapping; penalty. The penalty for kidnapping shall be death where the kidnapping or detention was committed for the purpose of extorting ransom from the victim or any other person, even if none of the circumstances above-mentioned were present in the commission of the offense. When the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or is subjected to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be imposed (As amended by Sec. 8, Republic Act No. 7659). People vs. Venancio Roxas y Arguelles, G.R. No. 172604, August 17, 2010.

Murder; civil liability upon acquittal. Under Rule 120, Section 2 of the Rules of Court, a trial court, in case of acquittal of an accused, is to state whether the prosecution absolutely failed to prove his (accused) guilt or merely failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and in either case, it shall determine if the act or omission from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. A perusal of the decision of the trial court shows that it found that the acts or omissions from which the civil liability of respondents might arise did not exist; thus, there was no basis to award any civil liability to the private complainants. Ramon Garces vs. Simplicio Hernandez, et al, G.R. No. 180761, August 18, 2010.

Murder; damage awards.  The award for civil indemnity is mandatory and is granted to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the commission of the crime. To conform with recent jurisprudence, however, the amount awarded by the Court of Appeals is hereby increased to P75,000.00. As in the case of civil indemnity ex delicto, moral damages in murder cases require no further proof than death. The Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals correctly awarded moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 in view of the violent death of the victim and the resultant grief to his family. On the other hand, exemplary damages shall be imposed as part of the civil liability arising from the crime where aggravating circumstances attended the commission thereof. Thus, the award of exemplary damages is also warranted because of the presence of the qualifying aggravating circumstance of treachery in the commission of the crime. The amount of P25,000.00 granted by the trial court and the Court of Appeals should, however, be increased to P30,000.00 in line with current jurisprudence on the matter. Finally, temperate damages are awarded when it appears that the heirs of the victim suffered pecuniary loss but the amount thereof cannot be proved with certainty. While the brother of the victim testified that he spent P50,000.00 as funeral expenses and P5,000.00 as hospital expenses he, however failed to present duly issued receipts therefor. Hence, he cannot recover actual damages as these require that the amount claimed be supported by receipts. Thus, the award of temperate damages in the amount of P25,000.00 is likewise proper. People vs. Charlie Nazareno y Melanios, G.R. No. 180915, August 9, 2010.

Novation; extinguishment of criminal liability. It is best to emphasize that “novation is not one of the grounds prescribed by the Revised Penal Code for the extinguishment of criminal liability.” In a catena of cases, it was ruled that criminal liability for estafa is not affected by a compromise or novation of contract. In Firaza v. People and Recuerdo v. People, the Supreme Court ruled that in the crime of estafa, reimbursement or belated payment to the offended party of the money swindled by the accused does not extinguish the criminal liability of the latter.  Also, as held in People v. Moreno and in People v. Ladera, “criminal liability for estafa is not affected by compromise or novation of contract, for it is a public offense which must be prosecuted and punished by the Government on its own motion even though complete reparation should have been made of the damage suffered by the offended party.”  Similarly in the case of Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company v. Tonda, the Supreme Court ruled that in estafa, reimbursement of or compromise as to the amount misappropriated after the commission of the crime affects only the civil liability of the offender, and not his criminal liability. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company vs. Rogelio Reynaldo and Jose C. Adrandea, G.R. No. 164538, August 9, 2010.

Parricide; elements. The elements of the crime of parricide are: (1) a person is killed; (2) the deceased is killed by the accused; and (3) the deceased is the father, mother or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, of the accused or any of his ascendants or descendants, or his spouse. People vs. T/Sgt. Porferio R. Angus, Jr., G.R. No. 178778, August 3, 2010.

Qualifying circumstance; abuse of superior strength. The fact that two persons attacked the victim does not per se establish that the crime was committed with abuse of superior strength, there being no proof of the relative strength of the aggressors and the victim. Mere superiority in numbers is not indicative of the presence of this circumstance. The evidence must establish that the assailants purposely sought the advantage or that they had the deliberate intent to use this advantage. To take advantage of superior strength means to purposely use excessive force out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked. People vs. Elizer Beduya and Ric Beduya, G.R. No. 175315, August 9, 2010.

Qualifying rape; damage awards. Where the special qualifying circumstances of age and relationship, although not alleged in the information, are nonetheless established during the trial, the award of civil indemnity and moral damages in conviction for simple rape should equal the award of civil indemnity and moral damages in conviction for qualified rape. Truly, BBB’s moral suffering is just as great when her father who raped her is convicted for qualified rape as when he is convicted only for simple rape due to a technicality. Thus, the Court modified the award of civil indemnity and moral damages from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00 for each count of rape. People vs. Rustico Bartolin, G.R. No. 179498, August 3, 2010.

Rape; elements of attempted rape. Attempted rape requires that the offender commenced the commission of rape directly by overt acts, but does not perform all the acts of execution by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance. The prosecution must therefore establish the following elements of an attempted felony: (1) the offender commences the commission of the felony directly by overt acts; (2) he does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony; (3) the offender’s act be not stopped by his own spontaneous desistance; (4) the nonperformance of all acts of execution was due to cause or accident other than his spontaneous desistance. The above elements are wanting in the present case. Appellant’s act of removing the towel wrapped in the body of AAA, laying her on the sofa and kissing and touching her private parts does not exactly demonstrate the intent of appellant to have carnal knowledge of AAA on that particular date, thus, dismissing the mere opinion and speculation of AAA, based on her testimony, that appellant wanted to rape her.  People vs. Alejandro Rellota y Tadeo, G.R. No. 168103, August 3, 2010.

Rape. Under Article 266-A(d) of the Revised Penal Code, rape can also be committed by a man having carnal knowledge of a woman who is below 12 years of age. People vs. Isidro Flores y Lagua. G.R. No. 188315, August 25, 2010.

Rape; damage awards. With respect to damages, the Supreme Court affirmed the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals’ awards of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages for each count of rape committed. Civil indemnity is automatically awarded upon proof of the commission of the crime by the offender. In accordance with prevailing jurisprudence, the civil indemnity awarded to victims of qualified rape shall not be less than P75,000.00, and P50,000.00 for simple rape. Moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 for each count is also automatically granted in a rape case without need of further proof other than the fact of its commission. The Supreme Court, however, also awarded exemplary damages in view of the minority of the victim.  In line with prevailing jurisprudence, an award of P30,000.00 for each count of rape is warranted. People vs. Leonito Amatorio, G.R. No. 175837, August 8, 2010.

Rape; damage awards. As to the damages awarded, considering that accused-appellant is guilty of committing rape under Art. 266-A, par. 1(d) and rape through sexual assault under Art. 266-A, par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code, the award should reflect that: for rape under Art. 266-A, par. 1(d), civil indemnity is pegged at P50,000, moral damages at P50,000, and exemplary damages increased to P30,000 consistent with prevailing jurisprudence; and for rape through sexual assault under Art. 266-A, par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code, the award of damages will be P30,000 as civil indemnity, P30,000 as moral damages, and P30,000 as exemplary damages, in line with prevailing jurisprudence. People vs. Michael Lindo y Vergara, G.R. No. 189818, August 9, 2010.

Rape; principles to consider.  In the determination of the innocence or guilt of the accused in rape cases, courts consider the following principles: [i] an accusation of rape can be made with facility, but while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; [ii] considering that in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great caution; and [iii] 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. People vs. Melvin Lolos, G.R. No. 189092, August 9, 2010.

Rape; principles to consider. Three principles guide the courts in resolving rape cases: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility, but while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (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. People vs. Leonito Amatorio, G.R. No. 175837, August 8, 2010.

Rape; simple rape. The failure to accurately allege the relationship between appellant and his victim in the information bars his conviction of rape in its qualified form. Thus, since appellant’s relationship with the rape victim was not alleged in the Information, the appellant is thus auspiciously spared from being convicted of qualified rape. The Regional Trial Court erred when it convicted the appellant of qualified rape in as he can only be held liable for simple rape as correctly ruled by the Court of Appeals. Articles 266-A and 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 8353, otherwise known as The Anti-Rape Law of 1997, reads in part: “Rape is committed by a man who has carnal knowledge of a woman through force, threat or intimidation.” People vs. Leonito Amatorio, G.R. No. 175837, August 8, 2010.

Simple rape; allegations in information.  The Court affirmed the accused-appellant’s conviction for simple rape, instead of qualified rape. According to the Court, the concurrence of the minority of the victim and her relationship to the offender being special qualifying circumstances, these should be alleged in the information as well as proven beyond reasonable doubt in order that the death penalty may be imposed. In this case however, the alleged that accused-appellant, who is the step-father of XYZ, succeeded in having carnal knowledge of the latter, who was then thirteen (13) years of age. The birth certificate of XYZ presented during the trial clearly established that she was below 18 years old when the rape was committed on 4 February 1998.  The records, however, revealed that accused-appellant and AAA were not legally married but were merely engaged in a common-law relationship. Legally speaking, the term “stepparent” refers to “an accused who is legally married to one of the parents of the victim.” Although a common-law husband is subject to the punishment of death, if he commits rape against his wife’s daughter, nevertheless, the death penalty cannot be imposed on accused-appellant because the relationship alleged in the information in Criminal Case No. 13546 is different with that which was actually proven. Thus, accused-appellant is guilty only of simple rape. People vs. Manuel Aguilar, G.R. No. 185206, August 25, 2010.

Statutory rape. Under Art. 266-A(1)(d) of the Revised Penal Code, statutory rape is committed “by a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman” who is “under twelve (12) years of age.”  In the instant case, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that appellant had carnal knowledge of “BBB” who was only 5 years of age at the time. People vs. Efren Alfonso, G.R. No. 182094, August 18, 2010.

Statutory rape.  The accused argues that his acts of showing his penis to BBB and the touching of AAA’s vagina, mashing of her breasts and letting his penis touch her vagina constitute lascivious conduct and not statutory rape, citing Section 2(h) of the Rules and Regulations on the Reporting and Investigation of Child Abuse Cases, R.A. 7610. He cites that the lascivious conduct is supported by the medico-legal findings on AAA and BBB  where it was found that there was no hymenal laceration on their organs. In affirming the accused’s conviction for statutory rape, the Court held that proof of hymenal laceration is not an element of rape.  An intact hymen does not negate a finding that the victim was raped.  To sustain a conviction for rape, full penetration of the female genital organ is not necessary.  It is enough that there is proof of entry of the male organ into the labia of the pudendum of the female organ.  Penetration of the penis by entry into the lips of the vagina, even without laceration of the hymen, is enough to constitute rape, and even the briefest of contact is deemed rape.  As long as the attempt to insert the penis results in contact with the lips of the vagina, even without rupture or laceration of the hymen, the rape is consummated. People vs. Leonardo Degay y Undalos, G.R. 182526, August 25, 2010.

Swindling; elements. Article 316 (2) of the Revised Penal Code states that the penalty of aresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods and a fine of not less than the value of the damage caused and not more than three times such value shall be imposed upon any person who, knowing that a real property is encumbered, shall dispose of the same, although such encumbrance be not recorded. For petitioners to be convicted of the crime of swindling under Article 316 (2) of the Revised Penal Code, the prosecution had the burden to prove the confluence of the following essential elements of the crime: (1) that the thing disposed of be real property; (2) that the offender knew that the real property was encumbered, whether the encumbrance is recorded or not; (3) that there must be express representation by the offender that the real property is free from encumbrance; and (4) that the act of disposing of the real property be made to the damage of another. Francisco R. Llamas and Carmelita C. Llamas vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 149588, August 16, 2010

Usurpation of judicial functions. Art. 241 of the Revised Penal Code imposes the penalty of aresto mayor in its medium period to prision correctional in its minimum period on any person who (1) is not a judge, and (2) attempts to perform an act of authority for which the law has vested only in a judge. Accused could not be held liable under Art. 241 considering that not all the acts constitutive of usurpation of judicial functions were attendant in the instant case. The accused’s task as provincial adjudicator when he rendered judgment in DARAB Case No. 034 BUL ’88 was to adjudicate the claims of the opposing parties. As such, he performed a quasi-judicial function closely akin to the function of a judge of a court of law. Therefore, he is not liable under Art. 241.  Jose Reyes vs. People, G.R. No. 177105-06, August 12, 2010.

SPECIAL LAWS

Bouncing Checks Law; prejudicial question. The High Court dismissed respondents’ contention that the novation of the credit line agreement was a prejudicial question in the prosecution for violation of B.P. 22. According to the Court, the mere act of issuing a worthless check, even if merely as an accommodation, is covered by B.P. 22. The agreement surrounding the issuance of dishonored checks is irrelevant to the prosecution for violation of B.P. 22, the gravamen of the offense being the act of making and issuing a worthless check or a check that is dishonored upon its presentment for payment. Thus, even if it will be subsequently declared that a novation took place between respondents and petitioner, respondents are still not exempt from prosecution for violation of B.P. 22 for the dishonored checks. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Ramon P. Jacinto, G.R. No. 154622, August 3, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. The chain of custody rule is provided for under Section 21 of R.A. 9165. 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 in 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 witness’ 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 vs. Joselito Nasara y Dahay, G.R. No. 188328, August 25, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. In the present case, the records do not show that the procedural requirements of Section 21 of R.A. 9165 with respect to the custody and disposition of confiscated drugs were followed. No physical inventory and photographs were taken.  On that score alone, the case for the prosecution fails, absent a plausible explanation to justify failure to comply with the requirements. People vs. Joselito Nasara y Dahay, G.R. No. 188328, August 25, 2010.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. Parenthetically, there is even no showing that coordination with PDEA prior to and after the conduct of the buy-bust operation was made, in violation of Section 86(a), Implementing Rules and Regulations to R.A. 9165. Given the purpose of conducting a laboratory examination of the suspicious items seized – to determine if indeed they contain, in this case, shabu, a more strict standard is imposed by law to ascertain that they are the same items seized or are not substituted or adulterated, the said standard has not been observed in the present case. The chain of custody was broken after SPO2 Dionco failed to mark the first sachet which is the subject of the sale and the subject of the Information.  Why said sachet, together with the two others, was delivered to the PNP Crime Laboratory after more than eight hours from initial custody of the apprehending officers was not even explained. The police officers–members of the buy–bust team cannot bank on the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties. The presumption has been destroyed upon their unjustified failure to conform to the procedural requirements mentioned above. The prosecution having failed to discharge its onus of proving the guilt beyond reasonable doubt of appellant, his exoneration is in order. People vs. Joselito Nasara y Dahay, G.R. No. 188328, August 25, 2010.

Dangerous drugs; chain of custody. The procedure to be followed in the custody and handling of seized dangerous drugs is outlined in Section 21, par. 1, Article II of R.A. 9165 which provides in part: “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.” The same provision is implemented by Section 21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9165 which further provides 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 vs. Rogelio J. Rosialda, G.R. No. 188330. August 25, 2010.

Dangerous drugs; chain of custody. In affirming the conviction of the appellant, the Supreme Court found that the prosecution has adequately showed the continuous and unbroken possession and subsequent transfers of the plastic sachet containing dangerous drugs from the time appellant handed it to the poseur-buyer (PO1 Panis) to consummate the sale of illicit drugs until it was offered in court.  The fact that the plastic sachet containing shabu was immediately marked by PO1 Panis, with such marking remaining until the plastic sachet was presented in court, persuasively proves not only the identity of the shabu as seized from appellant, but more importantly that it is the same item seized from the buy-bust operation.  Its integrity and evidentiary value were thus duly preserved.  The Court of Appeals correctly found the chain of custody of the seized drug as unbroken.  People vs. Rogelio J. Rosialda, G.R. No. 188330. August 25, 2010.

Dangerous drugs; chain of custody. To remove any doubt on the identity and integrity of the seized drug, evidence must show that the illegal drug presented in court is the same illegal drug actually recovered from accused; otherwise, the prosecution for possession or for drug pushing under R.A. No. 9165 fails. In this case, the accused was acquitted because no physical inventory and photograph of the seized items were taken in the presence of the accused, media and the Department of Justice. People vs. Felimon Pagaduan, G.R. No. 179029, August 12, 2010.

Illegal sale of drugs; elements. A successful prosecution for the illegal sale of dangerous drugs must establish these elements: (1) identities of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. In the prosecution for illegal sale of shabu, what is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place and the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as evidence. People vs. Peter M. Campomanes and Edith Mendoza, G.R. No. 187741, August 8, 2010.

Illegal sale of drugs; elements. In a prosecution for illegal sale of a prohibited drugs under R.A.  9165, the prosecution must prove these elements: (1) identity of the buyer and the seller, the object and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefore. All these require evidence that the sale transaction transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti that establishes that a crime has actually been committed, as shown by presenting the object of the illegal transaction. People vs. Felimon Pagaduan, G.R. No. 179029, August 12, 2010.

Illegal sale of drugs; elements. In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must first be established: (1) proof that the transaction or sale took place and (2) the presentation in court of the corpus delicti or the illicit drug as evidence. People vs. Rogelio J. Rosialda, G.R. No. 188330. August 25, 2010.

Illegal sale of drugs; elements. Conviction is proper in prosecutions involving illegal sale of regulated or prohibited drugs if these elements are present: (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 thereto. What is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the prohibited or regulated drug. People vs. Michael Sembrano y Castro, G.R. No. 185848, August 16, 2010.

Sale of illegal drugs; penalty. Under Section 5, Article II of R.A. 9165, the sale of any dangerous drug, such as shabu, regardless of its quantity and purity, carries with it the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P500,000.00 to  P10,000,000.00. With the effectivity, however, of R.A. 9346, otherwise known as “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines,” the imposition of the supreme penalty of death has been proscribed.  In this case, the penalty applicable to the appellant shall only be life imprisonment and fine without eligibility for parole.  People vs. Michael Sembrano y Castro, G.R. No. 185848, August 16, 2010.

Possession of illegal drugs; element. For illegal possession of regulated or prohibited drugs, the prosecution must establish the following elements: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug. All the aforesaid elements were established in this case. People vs. Michael Sembrano y Castro, G.R. No. 185848, August 16, 2010.

Possession of illegal drugs; penalty. Illegal possession of dangerous drugs is penalized under Section 11, Article II of R.A. 9165. The law specifically states that illegal possession of less than five (5) grams of said dangerous drug is penalized with imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from P300,000.00 to P400,000.00. The evidence adduced by the prosecution in Criminal Case No. Q-04-128371 established beyond reasonable doubt that appellant, without any legal authority, had in his possession 0.27 gram of shabu or less than five (5) grams of dangerous drug. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum period of the imposable penalty shall not fall below the minimum period set by the law; the maximum period shall not exceed the maximum period allowed under the law.  Taking the foregoing into consideration, the Court of Appeals erred in imposing the penalty of P300,000.00 fine and imprisonment of six (6) years and one (1) day to eight (8) years only. Thus, the penalty of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to fourteen (14) years and fine of P300,000.00 imposed by the Regional Trial Court is proper. People vs. Michael Sembrano y Castro, G.R. No. 185848, August 16, 2010.

SSS Act; failure to remit contributions; malum prohibitum. Remittance of contribution to the SSS under Sec. 22 of the Social Security Act is mandatory. No discretion or alternative is granted to the SSS Commission in the enforcement of the law’s mandate that the employer who fails to comply with his legal obligation to remit the premiums to the SSS shall pay a penalty of 3% per month. Good faith or bad faith is irrelevant since the law makes no distinction between an employer who professes good reasons for delaying remittance of premiums and another who deliberately disregards the legal duty imposed upon him to make such remittance. From the moment the remittance of premiums due is delay, the penalty immediately attaches to the delayed premium payments by force of law. Failure to comply with the law being malum prohibitum, intent to commit it or good faith is immaterial.  Romarico J. Mendoza v. People, G.R. No. 183891, August 3, 2010.

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Acquittal; remedy. A Rule 65 petition for certiorari,  not appeal, is the remedy to question a verdict of acquittal whether at the trial court or at the appellate level. Our jurisdiction adheres to the finality-of-acquittal doctrine, that is, a judgment of acquittal is final and unappealable. Like any other rule, however, the above said rule is not absolute. By way of exception, a judgment of acquittal in a criminal case may be assailed in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court upon a clear showing by the petitioner that the lower court, in acquitting the accused, committed not merely reversible errors of judgment but also grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction or a denial of due process, thus rendering the assailed judgment void. In this petition, the OSG claims that Abordo’s acquittal in Criminal Case No. N-2213 was improper.  Since appeal could not be taken without violating Abordo’s constitutionally guaranteed right against double jeopardy, the OSG was correct in pursuing its cause via a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 before the appellate court. People vs. Hon. Enrique C. Asis, G.R. No. 173089, August 25, 2010.

Anti-graft and corrupt practices act; elements. In order to be held guilty of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, the provision itself explicitly requires that the accused caused undue injury for having acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or with gross inexcusable negligence, in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial function.  Also, the undue injury caused to any party, including the government, must mean actual injury or damage which must be established by evidence.  Here, the People’s evidence failed to prove the elements of the crime: first, the circumstances behind the award of the lease contracts governing the new public market negate bad faith in the issuance of Memorandum No. 1;  second, while Abella, et al, alleged undue damage/injury by reason of Memorandum No. 1 because they had been unable to occupy the new public market stalls and were thus deprived of their daily income of varying amounts, they admitted that they had continued working and earning from the time their market stalls were closed until the present time.  Hence, there was no sufficient evidence to establish actual injury or damage suffered by Abella, et al., by reason of Memorandum No. 1. People vs. Sandiganbayan and Mayor Henry Barrera, G.R. Nos. 153952-72. August 23, 2010.

Appeal; scope of review in criminal cases. It is settled that in a criminal case, an appeal throws the whole case open for review, and it becomes the duty of the appellate court to correct such errors as may be found in the judgment appealed from, whether they are made the subject of the assignment of errors or not. People vs. Michael Lindo y Vergara, G.R. No. 189818, August 9, 2010.

Arrest; objections to validity. The principle that the accused is precluded after arraignment from questioning the illegal arrest or the lack of or irregular preliminary investigation applies only if the accused voluntarily enters his plea and participates during trial, without previously invoking his objections thereto. There must be clear and convincing proof that the accused had an actual intention to relinquish his right to question the existence of probable cause. Here, the OSG offered no clear and convincing proof that the accused’s participation in the trial was unconditional and with the intent to voluntarily and unequivocally abandon his petition questioning the charge of murder against him. When the only proof of intention rests on what a party does, his act should be so manifestly consistent with and indicative of an intent to voluntarily and unequivocally relinquish that particular right that no other explanation of his conduct is possible. Jose Antonio C. Leviste v. Hon. Elmo M. Alameda, et al, G.R. No. 182677, August 3, 2010.

Arrest; probable cause. Recent jurisprudence holds that in searches incident to a lawful arrest, the arrest must precede the search; generally, the process cannot be reversed. Nevertheless, a search substantially contemporaneous with an arrest can precede the arrest if the police has probable cause to make the arrest at the outset of the search. Thus, given the factual milieu of the case, there is a need to determine whether the police officers had probable cause to arrest appellant. Although probable cause eludes exact and concrete definition, it ordinarily signifies a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man to believe that the person accused is guilty of the offense of which he is charged. People vs. Jack Racho y Raquero, G.R. No. 186529, August 3, 2010.

Arrest; warrantless arrest. When an arrest is made during an entrapment operation, it is not required that a warrant be secured in line with the provisions of Rule 113, Section 5(a) of the Revised Rules of Court allowing warrantless arrests. Under the said rule, a peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense. In this case, the appellant was arrested during an entrapment operation where he was caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu.  People vs. Michael Sembrano y Castro, G.R. No. 185848, August 16, 2010.

Ceriorari; motion for reconsideration required; exceptions. As a rule, the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure lies only when the lower court has been given the opportunity to correct the error imputed to it through a motion for reconsideration of the assailed order or resolution. This rule, though, admits the following exceptions: (1) when the issue raised is purely of law, (2) when public interest is involved, or (3) in cases of urgency.  As a fourth exception, the Supreme Court has also ruled that the filing of a motion for reconsideration before availment of the remedy of certiorari is not a sine qua non when the questions raised are the same as those that have already been squarely argued and exhaustively passed upon by the lower court. In this case, aside from the public interest involved in the recovery of alleged ill-gotten wealth by the Government, it was shown that the issue herein raised by petitioner had already been squarely argued by it and amply discussed by public respondent in its assailed resolution. Hence, the requirement of prior filing of a motion for reconsideration may be dispensed with. Republic vs. Sandiganbayan, et al, G.R. No. 159275, August 25, 2010.

Certiorari; appropriateness of remedy. Certiorari is also an appropriate remedy to assail an interlocutory order (1) when the tribunal issued such order without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, and (2) when the assailed interlocutory order is patently erroneous, and the remedy of appeal would not afford adequate and expeditious relief. Recourse to a petition for certiorari to assail an interlocutory order is now expressly recognized in the ultimate paragraph of Section 1, Rule 41 of the Revised Rules of Court. Republic vs. Sandiganbayan, et al, G.R. No. 159275, August 25, 2010.

Certiorari; appropriateness of remedy. It is well settled that a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court lies only when “there is no appeal nor plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law,” and certiorari cannot be allowed when a party to a case fails to appeal a judgment despite the availability of that remedy, certiorari not being a substitute for a lost appeal. People vs. Hon. Basilio R. Gabo, et al, G.R. No. 161083, August 3, 2010.

Double jeopardy; defined. When an accused has been convicted or acquitted, or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a valid complaint or information or other formal charge sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction and after the accused had pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case shall be a bar to another prosecution for the offense charged, or for any attempt to commit the same or frustration thereof, or for any offense which necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the former complaint or information. Heirs of Jane Honrales vs. Jonathan Honrales/People of the Philippines and Heirs of Jane Honrales vs. Jonathan Honrales, G.R. No. 182651/G.R. No. 182657. August 25, 2010.

Double jeopardy; requisites. Thus, double jeopardy exists when the following requisites are present: (1) a first jeopardy attached prior to the second; (2) the first jeopardy has been validly terminated; and (3) a second jeopardy is for the same offense as in the first. A first jeopardy attaches only (a) after a valid indictment; (b) before a competent court; (c) after arraignment; (d) when a valid plea has been entered; and (e) when the accused has been acquitted or convicted, or the case dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent.  Heirs of Jane Honrales vs. Jonathan Honrales/People of the Philippines and Heirs of Jane Honrales vs. Jonathan Honrales, G.R. No. 182651/G.R. No. 182657. August 25, 2010.

Double jeopardy; requisites. In the instant case, the Metropolitan Trial Court took cognizance of the Information for reckless imprudence resulting in parricide while the criminal case for parricide was still pending before the Regional Trial Court. There is no double jeopardy in the instant case. In Dioquino v. Cruz, Jr., the Supreme Court held that once jurisdiction is acquired by the court in which the Information is filed, it is there retained.  Therefore, as the offense of reckless imprudence resulting in parricide was included in the charge for intentional parricide pending before the Regional Trial Court, the Metropolitan Trial Court clearly had no jurisdiction over the criminal case filed before it, the Regional Trial Court having retained jurisdiction over the offense to the exclusion of all other courts.  The requisite that the judgment be rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is therefore absent. A decision rendered without jurisdiction is not a decision in contemplation of law and can never become executory. Heirs of Jane Honrales vs. Jonathan Honrales/People of the Philippines and Heirs of Jane Honrales vs. Jonathan Honrales, G.R. No. 182651/G.R. No. 182657. August 25, 2010.

Evidence; alibi. The defense of alibi to be believed, must be supported by the most convincing evidence, as it is an inherently weak argument that can be easily fabricated to suit the ends of those who seek its recourse. Alibi must be supported by credible corroboration from disinterested witnesses; otherwise, it is fatal to the accused. Further, for alibi to prosper, appellants must prove not only that they were somewhere else when the crime was committed, but also that it was not physically possible for them to have been at the scene of the crime or within its immediate vicinity. In the present case, appellants’ alibi was corroborated by their relatives and friends who may not have been impartial witnesses. Thus, their defense of denial and alibi cannot prevail over the circumstantial evidence establishing their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. People vs. Wilson Lopez, et al., G.R. No. 176354, August 3, 2010.

Evidence; chain of custody. Section 21(a) of Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9165 provides: “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 vs. Peter M. Campomanes and Edith Mendoza, G.R. No. 187741, August 8, 2010.

Evidence; chain of custody. Although Section 21(1) of R.A. 9165 mandates that the apprehending team must immediately conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and photograph them, noncompliance with said section 21 is not fatal as long as there is a “justifiable ground” therefor, and as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the confiscated/seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending team. Thus, the prosecution must demonstrate that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence seized have been preserved. People vs. Peter M. Campomanes and Edith Mendoza, G.R. No. 187741, August 8, 2010.

Evidence; chain of custody. In People v. Naelga, the Supreme Court explained that what is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items because the same will be utilized in ascertaining the guilt or innocence of the accused. It must be stressed that said “justifiable ground” will remain unknown in the light of the apparent failure of the accused-appellant to challenge the custody and safekeeping or the issue of disposition and preservation of the subject drugs and drug paraphernalia before the Regional Trial Court. The accused cannot be allowed too late in the day to question the police officers’ alleged non-compliance with Section 21 for the first time on appeal. In this case, there was substantial compliance with the law and the integrity of the drugs seized was properly preserved. People vs. Peter M. Campomanes and Edith Mendoza, G.R. No. 187741, August 8, 2010.

Evidence; credibility of rape witness. In the determination of guilt for the crime of rape, primordial is the credibility of complainant’s testimony, because, in rape cases, the accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided it is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Moreover, when the offended party is a young and immature girl, as in this case, where the victim was barely 9 years old at the time the rape was committed, courts are inclined to lend credence to their version of what transpired, not only because of their relative vulnerability, but also because of the shame and embarrassment to which they would be exposed by a court trial if the matter about which they testified were not true. People vs. Leonito Amatorio, G.R. No. 175837, August 8, 2010.

Evidence; denial. The only defense offered by appellant against the accusations against her was mere denial which is an inherently weak defense which can easily be put forward. Denial, without clear and convincing evidence to support them, cannot prevail over the positive and unequivocal testimonies of complainants. Besides, it is contrary to human nature and experience the complainants would conspire and accuse appellant, who is a stranger, or even a casual acquaintance, of a crime that would take her liberty and send her to prison just to appease their (complainants’) feeling of rejection and assuage the frustration of their dreams to go abroad. People vs. Anita Trinidad, G.R. No. 181244, August 9, 2010.

Evidence; denial. Appellant’s defenses of denial and frame-up are both self-serving and uncorroborated, and must fail in light of straightforward and positive testimony of poseur-buyer identifying him (appellant) as the seller of shabu.  The twin defenses of denial and frame-up hold little weight vis-à-vis the strong evidence gathered by the prosecution in proving his complicity to the offenses.  Contrary to the defense’s claim, it is not impossible for a buy-bust operation to be conducted in broad daylight, as in the case at bar.  Frame-up, like denial, is viewed with disfavor for it can easily be concocted.  People vs. Michael Sembrano y Castro, G.R. No. 185848, August 16, 2010.

Evidence; dying declaration; requisites. As a rule, a dying declaration is hearsay and is inadmissible as evidence.  In order that a dying declaration may be admissible as evidence, four requisites must concur, namely: (1) that the declaration must concern the cause and surrounding circumstances of the declarant’s death; (2) that at the time the declaration was made, the declarant was under a consciousness of an impending death; (3) that the declarant is competent as a witness; and (4) that the declaration is offered in a criminal case for homicide, murder or parricide, in which the declarant is a victim. All the above requisites are present in this case.  At the time she narrated how the malefactors robbed and stabbed her, Estrelita was conscious and lying on the lap of her son, with gaping wounds on her chest. People vs. Romeo Labagala y Abigonia, Alvin Labagala y Juat and Richard Allan Alejo y Sigasig, G.R. No. 184603, August 2, 2010.

Evidence; findings of fact. The findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are entitled to the highest respect and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which would have affected the result of the case. The trial court is in a better position to decide the question of credibility, having seen and heard the witnesses themselves and observed their behavior and manner of testifying. People vs. Venancio Roxas y Arguelles, G.R. No. 172604, August 17, 2010.

Evidence; judicial admission. On redirect examination, the appellant admitted having killed victim. As such, the appellant’s testimony amounts to a judicial admission of guilt which may be given in evidence against himself under Section 26 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. People vs. Charlie Nazareno y Melanios, G.R. No. 180915, August 9, 2010.

Evidence; mental retardation.  Accused posits that the prosecution was unable to prove that the victim was a mental retardate. In rejecting this contention, the Court ruled that a mental retardate, in general, exhibits a slow rate of maturation, physical and/or psychological, as well as impaired learning capacity. The mental retardation of persons and the degrees thereof may be manifested by their overt acts, appearance, attitude and behavior, e.g., their manner of walking, ability to feed oneself or attend to personal hygiene, dependency on others for protection and care and inability to achieve intelligible speech, may be indicative of the degree of mental retardation of a person which may be testified on and proven by ordinary witnesses who come in contact with an alleged mental retardate. Moreover, for purposes of determining the mental capacity of a person, the personal observation of the trial judge suffices even in the absence of an expert opinion. Finally, the admission made by accused’s father that he knew the victim to be feeble-minded and retarded militates against the claim of the accused. The victim’s condition was so apparent to people who have had an opportunity to interact and deal with her that accused cannot deny the victim’s mental condition. People vs. Efren Castillo, G.R. No. 186533, August 9, 2010.

Evidence; testimony of rape victim.  A rape victim’s testimony against her parent is entitled to great weight since, customarily, Filipino children revere and respect their elders.  These values are so deeply ingrained in Filipino families that it is unthinkable for a daughter to concoct brazenly a story of rape against her father if such were not true.  Indeed, courts usually give greater weight to the testimony of a girl who fell victim to sexual assault, especially a minor, and particularly, in incestuous rape as in this case, because no woman would be willing to undergo a public trial and bear the concomitant shame, humiliation, and dishonor of exposing her own degradation were it not for the purpose of condemning injustice and ensuring that the offender is punished. People vs. Norlito Sambahon y Nueva, G.R. No. 182789, August 3, 2010.

Information; filing. On appeal, petitioner argues that the filing of the informations in the MTCC had already removed the cases from the power and authority of the prosecution to dismiss the same in accordance with the doctrine laid down in Crespo v. Mogul (Crespo). In dismissing the petition, the Supreme Court, by citing Ledesma v. Court of Appeals (Ledesma), ruled that Crespo does not foreclose an appeal made of the resolution of a prosecutor in the determination of probable cause notwithstanding that informations had already been filed in court. In Marcelo vsCourt of Appeals, the Supreme Court clarified that Crespo did not foreclose the power or authority of the secretary of justice to review resolutions of his subordinates in criminal cases. The Supreme Court recognized that in Crespo, the action of the investigating fiscal or prosecutor in the preliminary investigation is subject to the approval of the provincial or city fiscal or chief state prosecutor. Thereafter, it may be appealed to the secretary of justice. The justice secretary’s power of review may still be availed of despite the filing of an information in court. Filemon A. Verzano, Jr. vs. Francis Vitor D. Paro, G.R. No. 171643, August 8, 2010.

Information; filing.  In the case at bar, while it is generally the Secretary of Justice who has the authority to review the decisions of the prosecutors, the same precedential principles apply in full force and effect to the authority of the Court of Appeals to correct the acts tainted with grave abuse of discretion by the prosecutorial officers notwithstanding the filing of the informations before the MTCC. The authority of the Court of Appeals is bolstered by the fact that the petition filed before it was one under Rule 65. Therefore, it has the jurisdiction to determine whether or not the Regional State Prosecutor acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Ledesma adds that where the secretary of justice exercises his power of review only after an Information has been filed, trial courts should defer or suspend arraignment and further proceedings until the appeal is resolved. On this note, the MTCC was thus correct when it suspended the proceedings in view of the appeal taken by respondents to the resolution of the Regional State Prosecutor. As observed by the Court of Appeals, the suspension of the proceedings by the MTCC was done in the exercise of its jurisdiction. Filemon A. Verzano, Jr. vs. Francis Vitor D. Paro, G.R. No. 171643, August 8, 2010.

Information; variance in offense charged in complaint. Under Section 4, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, when there is a variance between the offense charged in the complaint or information [and that proved], and the offense as charged is included in or necessarily includes the offense proved, the accused shall be convicted of the offense proved which is included in the offense charged, or of the offense charged which is included in the offense proved. People vs. Alejandro Rellota y Tadeo, G.R. No. 168103, August 3, 2010.

Mandamus against public prosecutor; when available. Mandamus is a remedial measure for parties aggrieved which shall be issued when “any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station.” The writ of mandamus is not available to control discretion. Neither may it be issued to compel the exercise of discretion.  Truly, it is a matter of discretion on the part of the prosecutor to determine which persons appear responsible for the commission of a crime.  However, the moment he finds one to be so liable, it becomes his inescapable duty to charge him therewith and to prosecute him for the same.  In such a situation, the rule loses its discretionary character and becomes mandatory.  Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company vs. Rogelio Reynaldo and Jose C. Adrandea, G.R. No. 164538, August 9, 2010.

Mandamus against public prosecutor; when available. Thus, where, as in this case, despite the sufficiency of the evidence before the prosecutor, he refuses to file the corresponding information against the person responsible, he abuses his discretion.  His act is tantamount to a deliberate refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law.  The Secretary of Justice, on the other hand, gravely abused his discretion when, despite the existence of sufficient evidence for the crime of estafa as acknowledged by the investigating prosecutor, he completely ignored the latter’s finding and proceeded with the questioned resolution anchored on purely evidentiary matters in utter disregard of the concept of probable cause. To be sure, findings of the Secretary of Justice are not subject to review unless shown to have been made with grave abuse.  The present case calls for the application of the exception.  Given the facts of this case, petitioner has clearly established that the public prosecutor and the Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company vs. Rogelio Reynaldo and Jose C. Adrandea, G.R. No. 164538, August 9, 2010.

Procedural rules; liberal application. The Supreme Court has, on occasion, suspended the application of technical rules of procedure where matters of life, liberty, honor or property, among other instances, are at stake. It (Supreme Court) has allowed some meritorious cases to proceed despite inherent procedural defects and lapses on the principle that rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. The strict and rigid application of rules that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice must always be avoided.  It is far better and more prudent to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case to attain the ends of justice, rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause grave injustice to the parties. Francisco R. Llamas and Carmelita C. Llamas vs. The Hon. Court of Appeals, et al, G.R. No. 149588, August 16, 2010

Public prosecutor;  grave abuse. Probable cause is defined as such facts and circumstances that will engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial.” Generally, a public prosecutor is afforded a wide latitude of discretion in the conduct of a preliminary investigation.  By way of exception, however, judicial review is allowed where respondent has clearly established that the prosecutor committed grave abuse of discretion, that is, when he has exercised his discretion “in an arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, patent and gross enough as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law.” Tested against these guidelines, the Supreme Court finds that this case falls under the exception rather than the general rule. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company vs. Rogelio Reynaldo and Jose C. Adrandea, G.R. No. 164538, August 9, 2010.

Search warrant; factors for validity. The validity of the issuance of a search warrant rests upon the following factors: (1) it must be issued upon probable cause; (2) the probable cause must be determined by the judge himself and not by the applicant or any other person; (3) in the determination of probable cause, the judge must examine, under oath or affirmation, the complainant and such witnesses as the latter may produce; and (4) the warrant issued must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. People v. Estela Tuan, G.R. No. 176066, August 11, 2010.

Secretary of Justice; court not bound. It bears stressing that the trial court is not bound to adopt the resolution of the Secretary of Justice, in spite of being affirmed by the appellate courts, since it is mandated to independently evaluate or assess the merits of the case and it may either agree or disagree with the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice.  Reliance on the resolution of the Secretary of Justice alone would be an abdication of the trial court’s duty and jurisdiction to determine a prima facie case. Thus, the trial court may make an independent assessment of the merits of the case based on the affidavits and counter-affidavits, documents, or evidence appended to the Information; the records of the public prosecutor which the court may order the latter to produce before it; or any evidence already adduced before the court by the accused at the time the motion is filed by the public prosecutor. The trial court should make its assessment separately and independently of the evaluation of the prosecution or of the Secretary of Justice.  This assessment should be embodied in the written order disposing of the motion to dismiss or the motion to withdraw the information. Leonardo U Flores vs. Hon. Raul S. Gonzales, G.R. No. 188197, August 3, 2010.

Stop and Frisk; validity. In a “stop-and-frisk,” it is essential is that a genuine reason must exist, in light of the police officer’s experience and surrounding conditions, to warrant the belief that the person who manifests unusual suspicious conduct has weapons or contraband concealed about him. Such a “stop-and-frisk” practice serves a dual purpose: (1) the general interest of effective crime prevention and detection, which underlies the recognition that a police officer may, under appropriate  circumstances and in an appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior even without probable cause; and (2) the more pressing interest of safety and self-preservation which permit the police officer to take steps to assure himself that the person with whom he deals is not armed with a deadly weapon that could unexpectedly and fatally be used against the police officer. Susan Esquillo y Romines vs. People, G.R. No. 182010, August 25, 2010.

Stop and Frisk; validity. The circumstances under which petitioner was arrested indeed engender the belief that a search on her person was warranted: The police officers were on a surveillance operation as part of their law enforcement efforts when PO1 Cruzin saw petitioner placing a plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance into her cigarette case.  Given his training as a law enforcement officer, it was instinctive on his part to be drawn to curiosity and to approach her.  That petitioner reacted by attempting to flee after he introduced himself as a police officer and inquired about the contents of the plastic sachet all the more pricked his curiosity. Susan Esquillo y Romines vs. People, G.R. No. 182010, August 25, 2010.

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

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