April 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1.     Revised Penal Code

Conspiracy; liability of conspirators. When conspiracy is established, the responsibility of the conspirators is collective, not individual. This renders all of them equally liable regardless of the extent of their respective participations, the act of one being deemed to be the act of the other or the others, in the commission of the felony. . People of the Philippines v. Dima Montanir, Ronald Norva and Eduardo Chua, G.R. No. 187534, April 4, 2011.

Conspiracy; liability of conspirators. Each conspirator is responsible for everything done by his confederates which follows incidentally in the execution of a common design as one of its probable and natural consequences even though it was not intended as part of the original design. Responsibility of a conspirator is not confined to the accomplishment of a particular purpose of conspiracy but extends to collateral acts and offenses incident to and growing out of the purpose intended. Conspirators are held to have intended the consequences of their acts and by purposely engaging in conspiracy which necessarily and directly produces a prohibited result, they are, in contemplation of law, chargeable with intending that result. Conspirators are necessarily liable for the acts of another conspirator unless such act differs radically and substantively from that which they intended to commit. People of the Philippines v. Dima Montanir, Ronald Norva and Eduardo Chua, G.R. No. 187534, April 4, 2011.

Damages; indemnity for death. Consistent with prevailing jurisprudence, the heirs of Haide is granted P75,000.00 as death indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. Damages in such amounts are to be granted whenever the accused are adjudged guilty of a crime covered by R.A. 7659, like the murder charged and proved herein. Indeed, the principal consideration for the award of damages is the penalty provided by law or imposable for the offense because of its heinousness, not the public penalty actually imposed on the offender.  In other words, the litmus test in the determination of the civil indemnity is the heinous character of the crime committed, which would have warranted the imposition of the death penalty, regardless of whether the penalty actually imposed is reduced to reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines v. Gilberto Villarico Sr. aka “Berting”, Gilberto Villarico Jr., Jerry Ramentos, and Ricky Villarico, G.R. No. 158362, April 4, 2011.

Kidnapping and failure to return a minor; elements. Article 270 of the Revised Penal Code considers it a crime when a person who has been entrusted with the custody of a minor later on deliberately fails to return said minor to his parent or guardian.  The two essential elements of this crime are: 1) The offender is entrusted with the custody of a minor person; and 2) The offender deliberately fails to restore the said minor to his parents or guardians. People of the Philippines v. Aida Marquez, G.R. No. 181440, April 13, 2011.

Kidnapping and failure to return a minor; elements. While one of the essential elements of this crime is that the offender was entrusted with the custody of the minor, what is actually being punished is not the kidnapping but the deliberate failure of that person to restore the minor to his parents or guardians. It has been held that “deliberate” must imply something more than mere negligence – it must be premeditated, headstrong, foolishly daring or intentionally and maliciously wrong. In this case, it does not matter, for the first element to be present, how long said custody lasted as it cannot be denied that Marquez was the one entrusted with the custody of the minor Justine.  Thus, the first element of the crime is satisfied. Furthermore, Marquez’s deliberate failure to return Justine, when demanded to do so by the latter’s mother, shows that the second element is likewise undoubtedly present in this case. People of the Philippines v. Aida Marquez, G.R. No. 181440, April 13, 2011.

Malversation; presumption of malversation. Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code provides that the failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public fund or property with which he is chargeable upon demand by any duly authorized officer shall be prima facie evidence that he has put such missing funds or property to personal uses. Petitioner failed to rebut the legal presumption that he had misappropriated the fees to his personal use, his disclaimer being self-serving.  Why Valeria, whom petitioner had pointed to as having full responsibility for the collections, including their deposit to the bank, covered by the audit period, was never presented to corroborate his claim dents his defense, as does his failure to present the Regional Director or a certification from him for the same purpose. Jose Tubola Jr. v. Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 154042, April 11, 2011.

Rape; delay in making accusation. AAA’s delay in disclosing her sexual defilement to CCC is understandable.  As AAA testified, after every rape, she was threatened by accused-appellant not to report the same to anyone; otherwise, accused-appellant would kill AAA and her mother.  It has been repeatedly held that a delay or vacillation in making a criminal accusation does not necessarily impair the credibility of witnesses if such delay is satisfactorily explained.  Fear of reprisal, social humiliation, familial considerations, and economic reasons have been considered as sufficient explanations. People of the Philippines v. Ronaldo Saludo, G.R. No. 178406, April 6, 2011.

Rape; sweetheart defense. The “sweetheart theory” or “sweetheart defense” is an oft-abused justification. Before such a defense can even be considered as having credence, it must be proven by compelling evidence.  The defense cannot just present testimonial evidence in support of the theory. Independent proof is required — such as tokens, mementos, and photographs. In any event, the claim is inconsequential since it is well-settled that being sweethearts does not negate the commission of rape because such fact does not give appellant license to have sexual intercourse against her will and will not exonerate him from the criminal charge of rape. Being sweethearts does not prove consent to the sexual act. Thus, having failed to satisfactorily establish that “AAA” voluntarily consented to engage in sexual intercourse with him, the said act constitutes rape on the part of the appellant.  People of the Philippines v. Reynaldo Olesco y Ondayang, G.R. No. 174861, April 11, 2011.

2.      Special Laws

Dangerous Drugs; coordination with PDEA. PO3 Casas received information through a telephone call regarding the illegal drug activities of a certain “Jojo” Roble in Looc, Danao City. Coordination was then made with the Special Operations Group (“SOG”) and a buy-bust team was formed composed of PO3 Casas, PO2 Laurel, the SOG and the mayor of Danao City, Mayor Durano. A briefing was conducted where several pieces of marked 100-peso bills were handed to the poseur-buyer by PO3 Casas. No coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency was made. This is in violation of Sec. 86(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. 9165. Said Sec. 86(a) provides that “the PDEA shall be the lead agency in the enforcement of the Act while the PNP, the NBI and other law enforcement agencies shall continue to conduct anti-drug operations in support of PDEA: provided, that the said agencies shall, as far as practicable, coordinate with the PDEA prior to anti-drug operations; provided, further, that, in any case, said agencies shall inform the PDEA of their anti-drug operations within twenty-four (24) hours from the time of actual custody of the suspects or seizure of said drugs and substances, and shall regularly update the PDEA on the status of the cases involving the said anti-drug operations”. For such a violation and for failure to follow the requisites found in Sec. 21 of the IRR of R.A. 9165, which outlines the post-procedure in taking custody of seized drugs, without any acceptable justification, the prosecution failed to meet the required quantum of evidence sufficient to support a conviction; in which case, the constitutional presumption of innocence prevails. People of the Philippines v. Andrew Roble, G.R. No. 192188, April 11, 2011.

E.O. 1; Ill-gotten wealth. The distinction laid down by E.O. 1 and its related issuances, expounded by relevant judicial pronouncements, unavoidably required competent evidentiary substantiation made in appropriate judicial proceedings to determine: (a) whether the assets or properties involved had come from the vast resources of government; and (b) whether the individuals owning or holding such assets or properties were close associates of President Marcos. The requirement of competent evidentiary substantiation made in appropriate judicial proceedings was imposed because the factual premises for the reconveyance of the assets or properties in favor of the government due to their being ill-gotten wealth could not be simply assumed. Accordingly, the Republic should furnish to the Sandiganbayan in proper judicial proceedings the competent evidence proving who were the close associates of President Marcos who had amassed assets and properties that would be rightly considered as ill-gotten wealth. Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan, Eduardo M. Cojuangco, et al, G.R. No. 166859, G.R. No. 169203, G.R. No. 180702, April 12, 2011.

Prescription; R.A. 3019 offenses. Section 15, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, which states that the right of the State to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials or employees from them or from their nominees or transferees, shall not be barred by prescription, laches or estoppels, applies only to civil actions for recovery of ill-gotten wealth, and not to criminal cases, including those involving offenses under R.A. 3019. Presidential Ad-Hoc Fact Finding Committee on Behest Loans, etc. v.Honorable Aniano A. Desierto as Ombudsman, et al, G.R. No. 135715, April 13, 2011.

Prescription; R.A. 3019 offenses. The period of prescription for the offenses committed under R.A. 3019, committed in 1976 and prior to the amendment of R.A. 3019, is ten (10) years. Generally, the prescriptive period shall commence to run on the day the crime is committed.  That an aggrieved person entitled to an action has no knowledge of his right to sue or of the facts out of which his right arises, does not prevent the running of the prescriptive period. Presidential Ad-Hoc Fact Finding Committee on Behest Loans, etc. v.Honorable Aniano A. Desierto as Ombudsman, et al, G.R. No. 135715, April 13, 2011.

Prescription; R.A. 3019 offenses. An exception to the rule that the prescriptive period for offenses under R.A. 3019 commences to run on the day the crime is committed regardless of the lack of knowledge of the aggrieved person of his right to sue or of the facts out of which his right arises is the “blameless ignorance” doctrine, incorporated in Section 2 of Act No. 3326.  Under this doctrine, the statute of limitations runs only upon discovery of the fact of the invasion of a right that will support a cause of action. The courts would decline to apply the statute of limitations where the plaintiff does not know or has no reasonable means of knowing the existence of a cause of action. Thus, it was held in a catena of cases, that if the violation of the special law was not known at the time of its commission, the prescription begins to run only from the discovery thereof, i.e., discovery of the unlawful nature of the constitutive act or acts. Presidential Ad-Hoc Fact Finding Committee on Behest Loans, etc. v.Honorable Aniano A. Desierto as Ombudsman, et al, G.R. No. 135715, April 13, 2011.

3.      Criminal Procedure

Evidence; chain of custody rule. To remove any doubt or uncertainty about the identity and integrity of the seized drug, evidence must definitely show that the illegal drug presented in court is the same illegal drug actually recovered from the accused-appellant; otherwise, the prosecution for possession under R.A. 9165 fails. The chain of custody rule requires that the marking of the seized items should be done in the presence of the apprehended violator and immediately upon confiscation to ensure that they are the same items that enter the chain and are eventually the ones offered in evidence. It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the 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. Indeed, it is from the testimony of every witness who handled the evidence from which a reliable assurance can be derived that the evidence presented in court is one and the same as that seized from the accused. People of the Philippines v. Alberto Bacus Alcuizar, G.R. No. 189980, April 6, 2011.

Evidence; chain of custody rule. Verily, the failure of the police officers to mark the dangerous drugs immediately after their seizure and the vague recollection of SPO1 Agadier concerning the custody of the drugs from the residence of appellant up to the time it was submitted to the crime laboratory constitute a huge and significant gap in the chain of custody which substantially affects the identity of the corpus delicti. People of the Philippines v. Alberto Bacus Alcuizar, G.R. No. 189980, April 6, 2011.

Evidence; denial and alibi; positive identification by victim. Appellant’s defense of denial and alibi should be dismissed outright in light of his positive identification by the victim “AAA.”  It is an established jurisprudential rule that denial and alibi, being negative self-serving defenses, cannot prevail over the affirmative allegations of the victim and her categorical and positive identification of the accused as her assailant. Denial and alibi must be proved by the accused with clear and convincing evidence; otherwise, they cannot prevail over the positive testimony of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters. The assertion of appellant that he was in Manila on January 9, 2003, does not inspire belief since it remained uncorroborated by clear and convincing evidence that he was really in Manila when the last rape was committed. People of the Philippines v. Florante Relanes alias “Dante”, G.R. No. 175831, April 12, 2011.

Public prosecutor; power of direction and control over prosecution of criminal cases. It is well-settled that prosecution of crimes pertains to the executive department of the government whose principal power and responsibility is to insure that laws are faithfully executed. Corollary to this power is the right to prosecute violators.  Thus, all criminal actions commenced by complaint or information are prosecuted under the direction and control of public prosecutors. In the prosecution of special laws, however, the exigencies of public service sometimes require the designation of special prosecutors from different government agencies to assist the public prosecutor; but this designation does not detract from the public prosecutor having control and supervision over the case. Bureau of Customs v. Peter Sherman, et al, G.R. No. 190487, April 13, 2011.

Public prosecutor; power of direction and control over prosecution of criminal cases. The participation in the case of a private complainant, like petitioner, is limited to that of a witness, both in the criminal and civil aspect of the case.  As petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the challenged CTA Resolution did not bear the imprimatur of the public prosecutor to which the control of the prosecution of the case belongs, the present petition fails. Bureau of Customs v. Peter Sherman, et al, G.R. No. 190487, April 13, 2011.

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