March 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected March 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.     Revised Penal Code

Aggravating circumstance; band. The Supreme Court held that the court a quo erred in finding the appellants guilty of robbery with homicide committed by a band. The Court declared that this is an erroneous denomination of the crime committed as there is no crime of robbery with homicide committed by a band. If robbery with homicide is committed by a band, the indictable offense would still be denominated as robbery with homicide under Article 294(1) of the Revised Penal Code. The element of band would be appreciated as an ordinary aggravating circumstance. People of the Philippines  v. Ngano Sugan, Nga Ben Latam, Gaga Latam, et al, G.R. No. 192789, March 23, 2011.

Evident Premeditation; requisites. For an aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation to be appreciated, all the following elements must be shown: (a) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (b) an act manifestly indicating that the culprit has clung to his determination; and (b) sufficient lapse of time between the determination and execution to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act. In this case, evident premeditation was not established.  First, there is no showing, much less an indication, that accused-appellant had taken advantage of a sufficient time to carefully plan the killing of Balano; or that a considerable time has lapsed enough for accused-appellant to reflect upon the consequences of his act but nevertheless clung to his predetermined and well-crafted plan.  The prosecution was only able to establish the fact of accused-appellant’s sudden stabbing of Balano after he hid behind the coconut tree.  This fact only successfully establishes the qualifying circumstance of treachery but not the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation. In appreciating the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation, it is indispensable that the fact of planning the crime be established. Particularly, it is indispensable to show how and when the plan to kill was hatched or how much time had elapsed before it was carried out. Accordingly, when there is no evidence showing how and when the accused planned to killing and how much time elapsed before it was carried out, evident premeditation cannot prosper. In this case, the prosecution failed to establish how and when the plan to kill Balano was devised.  As this has not been clearly shown, consequently, evident premeditation cannot be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance. People of the Philippines v. Allan Gabrino, G.R. No. 189981, March 9, 2011.

Murder; abuse of superior strength. The crime committed by the accused-appellant in this case is still murder (and not homicide), since the killing of the victim is qualified by taking advantage of superior strength. The aggravating circumstance of taking advantage of superior strength is considered whenever there is notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressors that is plainly and obviously advantageous to the aggressors and purposely selected or taken advantage of to facilitate the commission of the crime. It is taken into account whenever the aggressor purposely used excessive force that is “out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked.” The victim need not be completely defenseless in order for the said aggravating circumstance to be appreciated. There are no fixed and invariable rules in considering abuse of superior strength or employing means to weaken the defense of the victim. People of the Philippines v. Alex Paling, G.R. No. 185390,March 16, 2011.

Murder; abuse of superior strength. Superiority does not always mean numerical superiority. Abuse of superiority depends upon the relative strength of the aggressor vis-à-vis the victim. Abuse of superiority is determined by the excess of the aggressor’s natural strength over that of the victim, considering the position of both, and the employment of the means to weaken the defense, although not annulling it. The aggressor must have taken advantage of his natural strength to ensure the commission of the crime. In the present case, the victim, Walter, while being restrained by Vilbar, was simultaneously stabbed by Paling and Ernie. Plainly, not only did the perpetrators outnumber their victim, more importantly, they secured advantage of their combined strength to perpetrate the crime with impunity. Under these circumstances, it is undeniable that there was gross inequality of forces between the victim and the three accused. People of the Philippines v. Alex Paling, G.R. No. 185390,March 16, 2011.

Murder; damages.  The accused-appellant in this case was held liable for damages and interest. It is now settled that as a general rule, the Supreme Court  awards civil indemnity, as well as moral and exemplary damages. In People v. Combate, “when the circumstances surrounding the crime call for the imposition of reclusion perpetua only, the Supreme Court has ruled that the proper amounts should be PhP 50,000 as civil indemnity, PhP 50,000 as moral damages, and PhP 30,000 as exemplary damages.Thus, in line with the current jurisprudence, the Supreme Court increased the PhP 65,000 damages awarded by the Regional Trial Court (which was and affirmed by the CA) as follows: PhP 50,000 in civil indemnity, PhP 50,000 in moral damages, and PhP 30,000 in exemplary damages, with an interest of six percent (6%) per annum. People of the Philippines v. Allan Gabrino, G.R. No. 189981,March 9, 2011.

Rape; alibi. The defense of alibi cannot prevail over the victim’s positive identification of the perpetrator of the crime, except when it is established that it was physically impossible for the accused to have been at the locus criminis at the time of the commission of the crime. People of the Philippines vs. Hermie M. Jacinto, G.R. No. 182239. March 16, 2011.

Rape; date of rape. Contrary to accused-appellant’s contentions, the date of the rape is not important.  It is not even an element of the crime of rape.  The exact date of the sexual assault is not an essential element of the crime of rape; what should control is the fact of the commission of the rape or that there is proof of the penetration of the female organ.  In fact, if a minor inconsistency existed, such as that with respect to the date of commission, it strengthens rather than diminishes the credibility of complainant as it erases suspicion of a contrived testimony.  The date of the commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime but merely a minor inconsistency which cannot affect the credibility of the testimony of the victim. What is more, the trial court even noted that the victim was crying while answering questions about the details of her rape.  When a woman, especially a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that the crime was committed. People of the Philippines v. Domingo Banan y Lumido, G.R. No. 193664, March 23, 2011.

Rape; determination of guilt. The following are the principles with which courts are guided in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused in rape cases: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility and while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove the charge; (2) 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 (3) the evidence of the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. People of the Philippines v. Jimmy Alverio, G.R. No. 194259,March 16, 2011.

Rape; identification of author of crime. A successful prosecution of a criminal action largely depends on proof of two things: the identification of the author of the crime and his actual commission of the same.  An ample proof that a crime has been committed has no use if the prosecution is unable to convincingly prove the offender’s identity.  The constitutional presumption of innocence that an accused enjoys is not demolished by an identification that is full of uncertainties. By the nature of rape, the court has to, quite often, rely on the sole testimony of the victim.  For this reason, the court is always reminded to subject her testimony to a most rigid and careful scrutiny.  It cannot afford to overlook details that are essential to an understanding of the truth. People of the Philippines v. Jenny Tumambing y Tamayo, G.R. No. 191261,March 2, 2011.

Rape; identification of author of crime. In this case, the victim’s testimony is anything but believable and consistent. In this case, although the victim categorically said on cross-examination that she saw her attacker enter the room, she did not shout or raise an alarming call.  Nor did she try to escape. She just lay in bed. In fact, she maintained that position in bed even when her attacker was standing before her and removing his clothes. She did not shout nor struggle when he penetrated her. There is one thing that the victim appeared sure of, her rapist wore a yellow shirt. But this is inconsistent with her testimony that after the stranger in her room was done raping her, “bigla na lang po siyang lumabas x x x sinundan ko siya ng tingin.” Since the victim did not say that the man put his clothes back on, it seems a certainty that he collected his clothes and carried this out when he left the room.  Since the victim then turned on the light for the first time, she had a chance to see him clearly.  But, if this were so and he walked out naked, why was she (the victim) so certain that he wore a yellow shirt? With such serious doubts regarding the true identity of the victim’s rapist, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction of accused. People of the Philippines v. Jenny Tumambing y Tamayo, G.R. No. 191261,March 2, 2011.

Rape; penetration. Where the victim is a child, the absence of medical evidence of penetration does not negate the commission of rape.  The presence of hymenal lacerations is not a required element in the crime of rape.  What is essential is evidence of penetration, however slight, of the labia minora, which circumstance was proven beyond doubt by the testimony of AAA.  Besides, the prime consideration in the prosecution of rape is the victim’s testimony, not necessarily the medical findings; a medical examination of the victim is not indispensable in a prosecution for rape.  The victim’s testimony alone, if credible, is sufficient to convict.  AAA was categorical and straightforward in narrating the sordid details of how the appellant ravished her. People of the Philippines  v. Antonio Otos alias “Antonio Omos”, G.R. No. 189821, March 23,  2011.

Rape; penalty. All the basic elements of the crime of rape against accused-appellant are present in this case. Considering that the victim’s minority and her relationship to the accused-appellant have been alleged in the Informations and were duly proven, the accused-appellant is guilty of two counts of qualified rape. In view of the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, the penalty of death that should have been meted out to the accused-appellant under Articles 266-A and 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, shall now be reclusion perpetua for each count of qualified rape, without eligibility for parole. People of the Philippines v. Nilo Rocabo, G.R. No. 193482,March 2, 2011.

Rape; principles in conviction. In the determination of the innocence or guilt of a person accused of rape, the following well-entrenched principles shall be considered: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape in which 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. Necessarily, the credible, natural, and convincingtestimony of the victim may be sufficient to convict the accused. More so, when the testimony is supported by the medico-legal findings of the examining physician. People of the Philippines vs. Hermie M. Jacinto, G.R. No. 182239. March 16, 2011.

Rape; testimony of victim. In rape cases, it is not required that the victim’s testimony should dovetail in every respect regarding the precise movement of the offender from beginning to end. Violent crimes usually fill their victims with dread and terrible fear for their lives.  Rarely would they mentally record details of the startling events as they happen with the expectation that they would get some subpoena in some future time to testify in some future court.  Reality is not like that. What is important is that the core of the victim’s testimony that the accused-appellant, her lessor, barged into her room, threatened to butcher her with a knife if she resisted, and forced himself into her, had remained unchanged.  Perfect testimonies, repeated with precision in the same language, in the course of cross-examination usually indicate coaching and rehearsals.  It is here that the trial judge’s face-to-face appreciation of the complainant’s testimony makes a lot of difference.  He can see the movement of the eyes, the tremor of the lips, or the turn of the head that only the sum total of human experience brought to bear can interpret.  Except where the trial judge’s error is so obvious, the Supreme Court will, as in this case, defer to his appreciation of the credibility of the witness. People of the Philippines v. Luisito Lalican y Arce, G.R. No. 191389,March 7, 2011.

Rape with Homicide; circumstantial evidence. Under Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, circumstantial evidence shall be sufficient for conviction when the following requisites are complied with: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proved; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. All the circumstances must be consistent with one another, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent.  Thus, conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be upheld, provided that the circumstances proven constitute an unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion that point to the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the guilty person. People of the Philippines v. Federico Lucero, G.R. No. 188705,March 2, 2011.

Rape with Homicide; elements. In the special complex crime of rape with homicide, the following elements must concur: (1) the appellant had carnal knowledge of a woman; (2) carnal knowledge of a woman was achieved by means of force, threat or intimidation; and (3) by reason or on occasion of such carnal knowledge by means of force, threat or intimidation, the appellant killed a woman. People of the Philippines v. Federico Lucero, G.R. No. 188705,March 2, 2011

Treachery; nature. Treachery exists when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make. What is important in ascertaining the existence of treachery is the fact that the attack was made swiftly, deliberately, unexpectedly, and without a warning, thus affording the unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape the attack. In People v. Lobino, the Supreme Court held that a sudden attack against an unarmed victim constitutes treachery. In this case, it is clear that accused-appellant employed treachery in stabbing and killing Balano. People of the Philippines v. Allan Gabrino, G.R. No. 189981, March 9, 2011.

Treachery; nature.      This case is about the alleged attendance of the qualifying circumstance of treachery in connection with a killing that occurred shortly after one group of individuals charged another with cheating in bet. True, an assailant uses treachery when he suddenly and unexpectedly attacks his unsuspecting victim and denies him any real chance to defend himself.  By this, the assailant ensures the success of his attack with no risk to his person.  In numerous cases, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the idea of treachery does not apply when the killing is not premeditated or when the accused did not deliberately choose the means he employed for committing the crime. Here, the clash between the Montero group and the accused Teriapil and Balonga developed spontaneously.  The Montero group suspected the two of having cheated them in the pigeon race.  Arevalo testified that when he told Balonga of his suspicion, the latter ran away.  At this point, the Montero group decided to proceed with haste to where accused Teriapil and Balonga were to get their bet money back.  On getting there, however, they were met with crude explosives called pillboxes.  From the succession of events, it can hardly be said that accused Teriapil had planned to attack Montero or the other members of his group.  The clash between the two groups and the slaying of Montero followed a continuous relay of events that began with the accusation that accused Teriapil and Balonga had cheated the victim and his companions in the pigeon race. Although accused Teriapil was positioned inside his house, there is no evidence that he deliberately hid there to surprise and ambush Montero.  Montero’s group was fully alerted when pillboxes met them.  They knew they had to defend themselves from aggression that awaited them.  Besides, based on the records, the march of events did not afford accused Teriapil and Balonga the time to plan and prepare how they were to resist the Montero group that came in number to get their money back from those who, they thought, cheated them. People of the Philippines v. Marianito Teriapil y Quinawayan, G.R. No. 191361,March 2, 2011.

2.     Special Laws

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody. On appeal, the accused assailed his conviction on the ground that the prosecution failed to establish the “chain of custody” of the shabu seized during the buy-bust operation. He (accused) further argued that buy-bust team failed to comply with the requisites of Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (“IRR”) requiring the immediate inventory and photograph of the items seized in the buy-bust operation. The Supreme Court debunked accused’s arguments and ruled that the requirements under R.A. No. 9165 and its IRR are not inflexible.  People of the Philippines vs. Rolly Soriaga y Sto. Domingo, G.R. No. 191392, March 14, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody. What is essential is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. Marking upon immediate confiscation of the seized drugs does not exclude the possibility that marking can be at the police station or office of the apprehending team. The Supreme Court does not always require for the strict step-by-step adherence to the procedural requirements; what is important is to ensure the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as these would determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. People of the Philippines vs. Rolly Soriaga y Sto. Domingo, G.R. No. 191392, March 14, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody. Non-compliance with Section 21 of R.A. 9165, particularly the making of the inventory and the photographing of the drugs confiscated and/or seized, will not render the drugs inadmissible in evidence. Under Section 3 of Rule 128 of the Rules of Court, evidence is admissible when it is relevant to the issue and is not excluded by the law or these rules. For evidence to be inadmissible, there should be a law or rule which forbids its reception. If there is no such law or rule, the evidence must be admitted subject only to the evidentiary weight that will accorded to it by the courts. People of the Philippines vs. Rolly Soriaga y Sto. Domingo, G.R. No. 191392, March 14, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody. The failure of the prosecution to show that the police officers conducted the required physical inventory and photograph of the evidence confiscated pursuant to guidelines under Republic Act No. 9165, does not automatically render the accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized from him inadmissible.  People of the Philippines v. Bertha Presas y Tolentino, G.R. No. 182525, March 2, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody. A proviso was added in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (“IRR”) of Republic Act No. 9165 on the rules on the custody and disposition of the confiscated illegal drugs (i.e., Section 21[a] Article II of the IRR) that non-compliance with requirements under the said rules 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 seized items.  However, it must still be shown that there exists justifiable grounds and proof that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence have been preserved. It is no longer necessary to dwell on the justifiable reasons that might have been offered for the failure to comply with the outlined procedure since it was never asked nor raised as an issue by the defense during the trial.  Pertinently, it is the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items which must be proven to establish the corpus delicti. People of the Philippines v. Bertha Presas y Tolentino, G.R. No. 182525, March 2, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody. In this case, the failure on the part of the MADAC operatives to take photographs and make an inventory of the drugs seized from the appellant was not fatal because the prosecution was able to preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the said illegal drugs. The concurrence of all elements of the illegal sale of shabu was proven by the prosecution.  The chain of custody did not appear to be broken. The recovery and handling of the seized drugs were satisfactorily established. People of the Philippines v. Bertha Presas y Tolentino, G.R. No. 182525, March 2, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; denial and entrapment.  Dela Cruz’s denial of the charges and claim of frame-up are inherently weak defenses.  In drug cases, entrapment is a normal police technique to catch the culprit in flagrante delicto.  On the other hand, denial and frame-up are the usual defenses set up by the accused.  Affirmative statements are given greater weight than mere denials. In some instances, law enforcers resort to the practice of planting evidence to extract information or even to harass civilians.  However, frame-up is a defense that has been invariably viewed by the Court with disfavor as it can be easily concocted, hence, commonly used as a standard line of defense in most prosecutions arising from violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act.  The Court pointed out that it was aware of the disastrous consequences on the enforcement of law and order, not to mention the well-being of society, if the courts, solely on the basis of the police officers’ alleged rotten reputation, accept in every instance this form of defense which can be so easily fabricated.  It is precisely for this reason that the legal presumption that official duty has been regularly performed exists.  Bare denials cannot prevail over the positive identification by PO2 Ocampo of Dela Cruz as the person who sold him the shabu. People of the Philippines v. Reynald Dela Cruz y Libantocia, G.R. No. 177324, March 30,2011.

Dangerous Drugs; elements of illegal sale. In every prosecution for illegal sale of shabu under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 or the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” the following elements must be sufficiently proved: (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. In this case, all the above elements were duly established by the prosecution.  People of the Philippines v. Bertha Presas y Tolentino, G.R. No. 182525,March 2, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; testimony of laboratory analyst. Accused-appellant assailed his conviction, among others, on the non-presentation of the forensic chemist who conducted the laboratory test. Accused-appellant argued that the forensic chemist’s laboratory findings are hearsay evidence. The Supreme Court ruled that the non-presentation of the forensic chemist is not fatal to the prosecution’s case. The corpus delicti in dangerous drugs cases constitutes the dangerous drug itself. This means that proof beyond doubt of the identity of the prohibited drug is essential. Besides, corpus delicti has nothing to do with the testimony of the laboratory analyst. In its previous rulings, the Supreme Court has accorded the report of an official forensic chemist regarding a recovered prohibited drug with the presumption of regularity in its preparation. Corollarily, under Section 44 of Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court, entries in official records made in the performance of official duty are prima facie evidence of the facts they state.  People of the Philippines v. Bertha Presas y Tolentino, G.R. No. 182525,March 2, 2011.

Section 3(e) of RA 3019; elements. To prove the liability of the accused public officials under Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the prosecution must prove the following elements: (1) that the accused are public officers or private persons charged in conspiracy with them; (2) that said public officers commit the prohibited acts during the performance of their official duties or in relation to their public positions; (3) that they caused undue injury to any party, whether the Government or a private party; (4) OR that such injury is caused by giving unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to the other party; and (5) that the public officers have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. Paulino S. Asilo, Jr. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Victoria Bueta Vda. De Comendador, in representation of Demetrio T. Comendador v. Visitacion C. Bombasi and Cesar C. Bombasi, G.R. No. 159017-18 & G.R. No. 159059,March 9, 2011.

Section 3(e) of RA 3019; evident bad faith. Under Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019, “evident bad faith” connotes not only bad judgment but also palpably and patently fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do moral obliquity or conscious wrongdoing for some perverse motive or ill will. It contemplates a state of mind affirmatively operating with furtive design or with some motive or self-interest or ill will or for ulterior purposes. It is evident from the records, as correctly observed by the Sandiganbayan, that Asilo and Mayor Comendador as accused below did not deny that there was indeed damage caused to the Spouses Bombasi on account of the demolition.  Paulino S. Asilo, Jr. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Victoria Bueta Vda. De Comendador, in representation of Demetrio T. Comendador v. Visitacion C. Bombasi and Cesar C. Bombasi, G.R. No. 159017-18 & G.R. No. 159059,March 9, 2011.

Section 3(e) of RA 3019; evident bad faith. Clearly, the demolition of plaintiff’s store was carried out without a court order, and notwithstanding a restraining order which the plaintiff was able to obtain.  The demolition was done in the exercise of official duties which apparently was attended by evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence as there is nothing in the two (2) resolutions which gave the herein accused the authority to demolish plaintiff’s store. It is in the case at bar that the accused public officials committed bad faith in performing the demolition. Paulino S. Asilo, Jr. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Victoria Bueta Vda. De Comendador, in representation of Demetrio T. Comendador v. Visitacion C. Bombasi and Cesar C. Bombasi, G.R. No. 159017-18 & G.R. No. 159059,March 9, 2011.

Section 3(e) of RA 3019; undue injury. Under Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 30119, “undue injury” is consistently interpreted as “actual.”  “Undue” has been defined as “more than necessary, not proper, or illegal; and “injury” as any wrong or damage done to another, either in his person, rights, reputation or property, i.e., the invasion of any legally protected interest of another.  Actual damage, in the context of these definitions, is akin to that in civil law. Paulino S. Asilo, Jr. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Victoria Bueta Vda. De Comendador, in representation of Demetrio T. Comendador v. Visitacion C. Bombasi and Cesar C. Bombasi, G.R. No. 159017-18 & G.R. No. 159059,March 9, 2011.

Section 3(e) of RA 3019; undue injury. In this case, there is sufficient amount of evidence to establish that there was an undue injury suffered on the part of the Spouses Bombasi and that the public officials concerned acted with evident bad faith when they performed the demolition of the market stall. Causing undue injury to any party, including the government, could only mean actual injury or damage which must be established by evidence. Paulino S. Asilo, Jr. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Victoria Bueta Vda. De Comendador, in representation of Demetrio T. Comendador v. Visitacion C. Bombasi and Cesar C. Bombasi, G.R. No. 159017-18 & G.R. No. 159059,March 9, 2011.

3.  Criminal Procedure

Conviction; observing demeanor of witnesses and rendering judgment. The fact that the trial judge who rendered judgment was not the one who had the occasion to observe the demeanor of the witnesses during trial but merely relied on the records of the case does not render the judgment erroneous, especially where the evidence on record is sufficient to support its conclusion. People of the Philippines v. Alex Paling, G.R. No. 185390,March 16, 2011.

Conviction; observing demeanor of witnesses and rendering judgment. The circumstance that the Judge who rendered the judgment was not the one who heard the witnesses, does not detract from the validity of the verdict of conviction. Even a cursory perusal of the Decision would show that it was based on the evidence presented during trial and that it was carefully studied, with testimonies on direct and cross examination as well as questions from the Supreme Court carefully passed upon. Further, it is not unusual for a judge who did not try a case in its entirety to decide it on the basis of the records on hand. This is because the judge can rely on the transcripts of stenographic notes and calibrate the testimonies of witnesses in accordance with their conformity to common experience, knowledge and observation of ordinary men. Such reliance does not violate substantive and procedural due process of law. Considering that, in the instant case, the transcripts of stenographic notes taken during the trial were extant and complete, there was no impediment for the judge to decide the case. People of the Philippines v. Alex Paling, G.R. No. 185390,March 16, 2011.

Demurrer to Evidence; grant thereof not appealable. In criminal cases, the grant of a demurrer is tantamount to an acquittal and the dismissal order may not be appealed because this would place the accused in double jeopardy. People of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan and Manuel G. Barcenas, G.R. No. 174504, March 21, 2011.

Demurrer to Evidence; when grant thereof reviewable. Although the dismissal order is not subject to appeal, it is still reviewable but only through certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. However, for the writ to issue, the trial court must be shown to have acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction such as where the prosecution was denied the opportunity to present its case or where the trial was a sham thus rendering the assailed judgment void. The burden is on the petitioner to clearly demonstrate that the trial court blatantly abused its authority to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice. People of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan and Manuel G. Barcenas, G.R. No. 174504, March 21, 2011.

Dying declaration; requisites. In order for a dying declaration to be held admissible, four requisites must concur: first, the declaration must concern the cause and surrounding circumstances of the declarant’s death; second, at the time the declaration was made, the declarant must be under the consciousness of an impending death; third, the declarant is competent as a witness; and fourth, the declaration must be offered in a criminal case for homicide, murder, or parricide, in which the declarant is the victim. People of the Philippines v. Rodrigo Salcedo alias “Digol” G.R. No. 178272, March 14, 2011.

Dying declaration; requisites. All the requisites for a dying declaration were sufficiently met in this case.  First, the statement of the deceased concerned the cause and circumstances surrounding her death. When asked who stabbed her, Analyn uttered the name of the appellant. Further, as proven during trial, appellant was the only person referred to as “Digol” in their place. Second, the victim must have been fully aware that she was on the brink of death, considering her bloodied condition and the gaping wounds on her chest when Efren saw her. True, she made no express statement showing that she was conscious of her impending death, however, the degree and seriousness of the wounds and the fact that death occurred shortly afterwards may be considered as sufficient evidence that the declaration was made by the victim with full realization that she was in a dying condition. Third, the declarant, at the time she uttered the dying declaration, was competent as a witness.  Fourth, the victim’s statement was being offered in a criminal prosecution for her murder.  Thus, Analyn’s condemnatory ante mortem statement naming appellant as her assailant deserves full faith and credit and is admissible in evidence as a dying declaration. People of the Philippines v. Rodrigo Salcedo alias “Digol,” G.R. No. 178272, March 14, 2011.

Judicial Order; form. Accused-appellant assails the continuation of the trial against her notwithstanding the order of provisional dismissal earlier issued by the trial court following the repeated failure of the prosecution witnesses to attend scheduled hearings. Specifically, appellant argues that the case should not have been revived without the proper motion from the prosecution. The Supreme Court debunked accused-appellant’s contention and ruled that based on the case records, it shows that the provisional dismissal, which was declared in open court by the judge on September 25, 2001, was never reduced into writing after Special Investigators in this case (i.e., Kawada and Manguerra) appeared at the last minute of the said hearing. Moreover, it appears that the said issue was brought up by accused-appellant’s counsel in the next hearing and was settled when the trial court judge issued an order, again in open court, recalling and setting aside the September 25, 2001 order provisionally dismissing the case. People of the Philippines v. Baida Salak y Bangkulas, G.R. No. 181249,March 14, 2011.

Judicial Order; form. It bears emphasizing that an oral order has no juridical existence until and unless it had been reduced into writing and promulgated, i.e., delivered by the judge to the clerk of court for filing, release to the parties and implementation. In fact, even if it had been written and promulgated, or even if it had already been properly served on the parties, it is still plainly within the power of the judge to recall it and set it aside because every court has the inherent power, among others, to amend and control its process and orders so as to make them conformable to law and justice. People of the Philippines v. Baida Salak y Bangkulas, G.R. No. 181249, March 14, 2011.

(Lindy thanks Nuj Dumbrigue and Hann Sevilla for their help in preparing this post.   This post will be updated to include additional March 2011 cases.)

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