May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Conspiracy; proof. Conspiracy requires the same degree of proof required to establish the crime — proof beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, mere presence at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission without proof of cooperation or agreement to cooperate is not enough to constitute one a party to a conspiracy. Michael San Juan y Cruz v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 177191, May 30, 2011.

Continued crimes; foreknowledge to prove single intent. Petitioner’s theory, fusing his liability to one count of Grave Threats because he only had “a single mental resolution, a single impulse, and single intent” to threaten the Darongs assumes a vital fact: that he had foreknowledge of Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente’s presence near the water tank in the morning of 8 April 1999. The records, however, belie this assumption. Moreover, petitioner went to the water tank not to execute his “single intent” to threaten Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente but to investigate a suspected water tap. Not having known in advance of the Darongs’ presence near the water tank at the time in question, petitioner could not have formed any intent to threaten any of them until shortly before he inadvertently came across each of them. Petitioner’s theory holds water only if the facts are altered – that is, he threatened Indalecio, Diosetea, and Vicente at the same place and at the same time. Santiago Paera v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181626, May 30, 2011.

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May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected May 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Declaration of unconstitutionality; doctrine of operative fact.  An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is inoperative as if it has not been passed at all.  The doctrine of operative fact is an exception this rule.  It applies as a matter of equity and fair play, and nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences that cannot always be ignored. It applies when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law.  The doctrine cannot be applied to this case, as to hold otherwise would be iniquitous to petitioner who was illegally dismissed from employment and would allow his employer to profit from a violation of an unconstitutional provision of law.  Claudio S. Yap v. Thenamaris Ship’s Management and Intermare Maritime Agencies, Inc., G.R. No. 179532. May 30, 2011.

Judicial review; review of executive policy.  Petitioner here seeks judicial review of a question of Executive policy, which the Court ruled is outside its jurisdiction.  Despite the definition of judicial power under Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, the determination of where, as between two possible routes, to construct a road extension is not within the province of courts.  Such determination belongs exclusively to the Executive branch.  Barangay Captain Beda Torrecampo v. Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, et al., G.R. No. 188296. May 30, 2011.

Administrative Law; Public Officers

Administrative cases; due process.  Petitioners argue that they were denied due process because their order of dismissal was not accompanied by any justification from the Board of Directors of Philippine Estates Authority, which merely relied on the findings of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission.  The Court dismissed this argument on the basis that petitioners were given the opportunity to be heard in the course of PAGC’s investigation.  The essence of due process in administrative proceedings is the opportunity to explain one’s side or seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of, and to submit any evidence a party may have in support of his defense. The demands of due process are sufficiently met when the parties are given the opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered.  Petitioners here actively participated in the proceedings before PAGC where they were afforded the opportunity to explain their actions through their memoranda.  The essence of due process is the right to be heard and this evidently was afforded to them.  Theron V. Lacson v. The Hon. Executive Secretary, et al./Jaime R. Millan and Bernardo T. Viray v. The Hon. Executive Secretary, et al., G.R. No. 165399 & 165475/G.R. No. 165404 & 165489. May 30, 2011.

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May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected May 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Court personnel; gross dishonesty and gross misconduct. It is the clerks of court’s duty to faithfully perform their duties and responsibilities as such “to the end that there was full compliance with function, that of being custodians of the court’s funds and revenues, records, properties and premises.”  They are the chief administrative officers of their respective courts. It is also their duty to ensure that the proper procedures are followed in the collection of cash bonds. Clerks of court are officers of the law who perform vital functions in the prompt and sound administration of justice. Their office is the hub of adjudicative and administrative orders, processes and concerns. Thus, the unwarranted failure to fulfill these responsibilities deserves administrative sanction and not even the full payment of the collection shortages will exempt the accountable officer from liability. By failing to properly remit the cash collections constituting public funds, Recio violated the trust reposed in her as disbursement officer of the Judiciary.  Her failure to explain satisfactorily the fund shortage, and to restitute the shortage and fully comply with the Court’s directives leave us no choice but to hold her liable for gross neglect of duty and gross dishonesty. Office of the Court Administrator v. Recio, A.M. No. P-11-2932. May 30, 2011

Court personnel; duty of sheriff. A court sheriff’s act of distorting the facts in his Officer’s Return during the implementation of a writ issued by a trial court is a matter that remains within the supervisory control of the court. The alleged errors committed by the court’s ministerial officers, like the respondent sheriff, should be correctible by the court. The alleged irregularities should have been brought first to the RTC for its resolution. The same is true with the writ of possession itself. It was the judge’s responsibility as the writ was issued by the court. The respondent sheriff’s duty, it must be stressed, is only to implement the writ and this duty is ministerial. Maylas v. Esmeria, A.M. No. P-11-2932. May 30, 2011 Continue reading

May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected May 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Section 10, Republic Act No. 8042; unconstitutional.  Petitioner Yap was employed as an electrician for respondent’s vessel under a 12-month contract. He was found to be illegally terminated with nine months remaining on his contract term. The Court of Appeals (CA) awarded petitioner salaries for three months as provided under Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042. On certiorari, the Supreme Court reversed the CA and declared that petitioner was entitled to his salaries for the full unexpired portion of his contract. The Court has previously declared in Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc. (2009) that the clause “or for three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less” provided in the 5th paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 is unconstitutional for being violative of the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to equal protection of the laws. The subject clause contains a suspect classification in that, in the computation of the monetary benefits of fixed-term employees who are illegally discharged, it imposes a 3-month cap on the claim of OFWs with an unexpired portion of one year or more in their contracts, but none on the claims of other OFWs or local workers with fixed-term employment. The subject clause singles out one classification of OFWs and burdens it with a peculiar disadvantage. Moreover, the subject clause does not state or imply any definitive governmental purpose; hence, the same violates not just petitioner’s right to equal protection, but also his right to substantive due process under Section 1, Article III of the Constitution.  Claudio S. Yap vs. Thenamaris Ship’s Management and Intermare Maritime Agencies, Inc., G.R. No. 179532, May 30, 2011

Doctrine of Operative Fact; applied as a matter of equity and fair play. Petitioner Yap was employed on respondent’s vessel under a 12-month contract. Upon finding that he was illegally terminated, the Court of Appeals (CA) awarded petitioner salaries for three months as provided under Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042 (RA 8042). While the case was pending in the Supreme Court, Section 10 of RA 8042 was declared unconstitutional. In deciding to award petitioner his salaries for the entire unexpired portion of his contract, the Supreme Court rejected the application of the operative fact doctrine.  As an exception to the general rule, the doctrine applies only as a matter of equity and fair play. It recognizes that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot always be ignored. The doctrine is applicable when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law. This case should not be included in the aforementioned exception. After all, it was not the fault of petitioner that he lost his job due to an act of illegal dismissal committed by respondents. To rule otherwise would be iniquitous to petitioner and other OFWs, and would, in effect, send a wrong signal that principals/employers and recruitment/manning agencies may violate an OFW’s security of tenure which an employment contract embodies and actually profit from such violation based on an unconstitutional provision of law. Claudio S. Yap vs. Thenamaris Ship’s Management and Intermare Maritime Agencies, Inc., G.R. No. 179532, May 30, 2011.

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May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are selected May 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Mining Act; meeting 72 hour requirement via fax. It is clear from Section 8 of DAO 63 that the MGB Central Office processes all FTAA applications after payment of the requisite fees. Section 8 requires the FTAA applicant to furnish the MGB Regional Office a copy of the FTAA application within 72 hours from filing of the FTAA application.

In the present case, the records show that Newmont filed its FTAA applications with the MGB Central Office in Quezon City on 20 December 1994. After Newmont paid the filing and processing fees, the MGB Central Office registered Newmont’s FTAA applications on the same date. On the other hand, Diamond Drilling filed its MPSA application with the MGB-CAR Regional Office in Baguio City on 20 December 1994. However, since the pertinent documents needed by the MGB-CAR Regional Office were lacking, it took two more days for Diamond Drilling to complete the requirements. Diamond Drilling paid its filing and processing fees only on 22 December 1994 or two days after Newmont’s FTAA applications were registered with the MGB Central Office. Thus, Diamond Drilling’s MPSA application was registered by the MGB-CAR Regional Office only on 22 December 1994.

Since Newmont’s FTAA applications preceded that of Diamond Drilling’s MPSA application, priority should be given to Newmont. Section 8 of DAO 63 is clear. It states that in the event there are two or more applicants over the same area, priority shall be given to the applicant that first filed its application.

Newmont in fact furnished the MGB-CAR Regional Office with copies of its FTAA applications, through fax transmission, within 72 hours from filing of the FTAA applications. Considering the distance between Quezon City and Baguio City where the MGB-CAR Regional Office is located, and the requirement to furnish the proper Regional Office (some of which are located in Visayas and Mindanao) a copy of the FTAA application within a short period of 72 hours, a fax machine copy is a reasonable and sufficient mode of serving a copy of the FTAA application to the proper Regional Office.  Section 8 of DAO 63 does not specify how a copy of the FTAA application should be furnished to the proper Regional Office.

Being the first to file its FTAA applications ahead of Diamond Drilling’s MPSA application, and having furnished copies of its FTAA applications to the MGB-CAR Regional Office within 72 hours from filing, Newmont must be given preferential right to utilize the area included in its FTAA applications.  Diamond Drilling Corporation of the Philippines v. Newmont Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 183576, May 30, 2011.

(Note: as of the date of this post, the Supreme Court website has not yet published the May 2011 cases except for May 30 and May 31 cases.  This post will be updated after the other May 2011 cases become available.)

(Hector thanks Mowie Sison for his assistance to Lexoterica.)

Dissension in the Court: April 2011

The following is a summary of a recent decision promulgated by the High Court in April 2011 where one Justice felt compelled to express his dissent from the decision penned by the ponente.

1.         Negligence or No Negligence? (Carpio-Morales vs. Bersamin)

On April 13, 2011, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Ocean Builders Construction Corp. and/or Dennis Hao vs. Spouses Antonio and Anicia Cubacub.  Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales penned the majority decision.  Although the decision was rendered by the Supreme Court from the cool comforts of its Baguio City summer sanctuary, Justice Lucas Bersamin opted to turn up the heat as sole dissenter.

Ocean Builders, of which petitioner Dennis Hao was general manager, employed Bladimir Cubacub as a maintenance man.  On April 9, 1995, Bladimir fell ill to chicken pox as a result of which Hao advised him to rest for three days, which Bladimir promptly did at the company’s barracks.  Three days later, according to the ponente, Bladimir proceeded with his usual chores of manning the gate of the company premises and even cleaned company vehicles.

Apparently still not feeling well, he asked a co-worker to accompany him to his house in the province of Tarlac.  Upon being informed of this request, Hao gave Bladimir P1,000.00 and instructed Bladimir’s co-worker to instead bring Bladimir to the nearest hospital.  Thus, on April 12, 1995, Bladimir was taken to the Caybiga Community Hospital, a primary-care hospital around one kilometer away from the office of the company, and in which Bladimir was confined.

At the request and suggestion of the attending physician, Bladimir’s parents, respondent spouses Antonio and Anicia Cubacub, together with a friend, Dr. Hermes Frias, arrived at the hospital the following day and transferred Bladimir to the Quezon City General Hospital (QCGH) where he was placed in the intensive care unit.  Bladimir died the following day, April 14, 1995.

The death certificate issued by the QCGH recorded Bladimir’s immediate cause of death as cardio-respiratory arrest and the antecedent cause as pneumonia. On the other hand, the death certificate issued by Dr. Frias recorded the causes of death as cardiac arrest, multiple organ system failure, septicaemia and chicken pox.

Around four months after Bladimir’s death, his parents filed a tort action for damages before the Regional Trial Court of Tarlac alleging that Hao was guilty of negligence which resulted in the deterioration of Bladimir’s condition leading to eventual his death.

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