June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Act of lasciviousness against a minor under the Revised Penal Code and R.A. 7610. Acts of lasciviousness as defined in Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code (“RPC”) has the following elements: (1)  that the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness; (2)  that it is done under any of the following circumstances: a) by using force or 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. Pursuant to the foregoing provision, before an accused can be convicted of child abuse through lascivious conduct committed against a minor below 12 years of age, the requisites for acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC must be met in addition to the requisites for sexual abuse under Section 5 of R.A. 7610. To establish sexual abuse under Section 5, Article III of R.A. 7610, the following elements must be present: (1) the accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct; (2) the said act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse; (3) the child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age. Corollarily, Section 2(h) of the rules and regulations of R.A. No. 7610 defines “lascivious conduct” as “[t]he 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 of the Philippines v. Ireno Bonaagua y Berce, G.R. No. 188897, June 6, 2011.

Act of lasciviousness of a minor under the Revised Penal Code and R.A. 7610. The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Court of Appeals (“CA”) that the accused was guilty of the crime of acts of lasciviousness under Section 5(b) of R.A. 7610. Undeniably, all the aforestated elements are present in Criminal Case No. 03-0255.  The accused committed the crime of lascivious acts by touching the  breasts and licking the vagina of AAA, who was 8 years old at the time as established by her birth certificate.  As correctly found by the CA, the accused is guilty of the crime of acts of lasciviousness under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610.  People of the Philippines v. Ireno Bonaagua y Berce, G.R. No. 188897, June 6, 2011.

Estafa; elements. In every prosecution for estafa under Article 315(2)(a) of the Revised Penal Code, the following elements must be present:  (a) that there must be a false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means; (b) that such false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (c) that the offended party must have relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means, that is, he was induced to part with his money or property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means; (d) that as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage. Elvira Lateo y Eleazar, et al v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161651, June 8, 2011.

Estafa; elements. In this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals that the petitioners were only guilty of attempted estafa. As aptly found by the lower courts, the petitioners had commenced the commission of the crime of estafa but failed to perform all the acts of execution which would produce the crime, not by reason of their own spontaneous desistance but because of their apprehension by the authorities before they could obtain the amount. Since only the intent to cause damage and not the damage itself had been shown, petitioners can only be convicted of attempted estafa. Elvira Lateo y Eleazar, et al v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161651, June 8, 2011.

Estafa; elements. The elements of estafa are: (a) that the accused defrauded another by abuse of confidence or by means of deceit, and (b) that damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or third person. Both these elements are present in the instant case.  Ocden represented to Ferrer, Golidan, and Golidan’s two sons, Jeffries and Howard, that she could provide them with overseas jobs.  Convinced by Ocden, Ferrer, Golidan, and Golidan’s sons paid substantial amounts as placement fees to her.  Ferrer and Golidan’s sons were never able to leave for Italy; instead, they ended up in Zamboanga, where, Ocden claimed, it would be easier to have their visas to Italy processed.  Despite the fact that Golidan’s sons, Jeffries and Howard, were stranded in Zamboanga for almost a month, Ocden still assured them and their mother that they would be able to leave for Italy.  There is definitely deceit on the part of Ocden and damage on the part of Ferrer and Golidan’s sons, thus, justifying Ocden’s conviction for estafa. People of the Philippines v. Dolores Ocden, G.R. No. 173198, June 1, 2011.

Illegal possession and use of false bank notes. The elements of the crime committed under Article 168 of the Revised Penal Code are the following: (a) that any treasury or bank note or certificate or other obligation and security payable to bearer, or any instrument payable to order or other document of credit not payable to bearer is forged or falsified by another person; (2) that the offender knows that any of the said instruments is forged or falsified; and (3) that he either used or possessed with intent to use any of such forged or falsified instruments. Mark Clemente y Martinez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 194367, June 15, 2011.

Illegal possession and use of false bank notesIn this case, the Supreme Court, citing People v. Digoro, reversed and set aside the findings of the lower courts and acquitted petitioner of the crime of Illegal possession and use of false bank notes defined and penalized under Article 168 of the Revised Penal Code.  In Digoro, possession of false treasury or bank notes alone, without anything more, is not a criminal offense. For it to constitute an offense under Article 168 of the RPC, the possession must be with intent to use said false treasury or bank notes. In the case at bar, the prosecution failed to show that petitioner used the counterfeit money or that he intended to use the counterfeit bills. Francis dela Cruz, to whom petitioner supposedly gave the fake P500 bill to buy soft drinks, was not presented in court.  According to the jail officers, they were only informed by Francis dela Cruz that petitioner asked the latter to buy soft drinks at the Manila City jail bakery using a fake P500 bill. In short, the jail officers did not have personal knowledge that petitioner asked Francis dela Cruz to use the P500 bill. Their account, however, is hearsay and not based on the personal knowledge. Mark Clemente y Martinez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 194367, June 15, 2011.

Kidnapping. Records reveal that the prosecution witnesses were unwavering in their account of how accused-appellants worked together to abduct and guard their kidnapped victims, fight off military forces who were searching and trying to rescue said victims, and how ransom was demanded and paid.  Furthermore, the detention of the hostages lasted for several months and they were transferred from one place to another, being always on the move for several days.  Thus, in this case, for accused-appellants’ alibi to prosper they are required to prove their whereabouts for all those months.  This they were not able to do, making the defense of alibi absolutely unavailing. People of the Philippines v. Urban Salcedo, et al, accused-appellants, KhadaffyJanjalani, et al, accused, G.R. No. 186523, June 22, 2011.

Kidnapping; elements. The elements of kidnapping and serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code are: (1) the offender is a private individual; (2) he kidnaps or detains another or in any other manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3) the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal; and (4) in the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances is present: (a) the kidnapping or detention lasts for more than 3 days; or (b) it is committed by simulating public authority; or (c) any serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained or threats to kill him are made; or (d) the person kidnapped or detained is a minor, female, or a public officer.  In this case, the crime of kidnapping was proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. Appellants Lando and Al, both private individuals, forcibly took AAA, a female, away from the house of the Estrellas and held her captive against her will. Thereafter, appellant Lando brought AAA to his house in San Miguel Tarlac, whereby she was deprived of her liberty for almost one month. People of the Philippines v. Alberto Anticamara y Cabillo, et al, G.R. No. 178771, June 8, 2011.

Kidnapping; elementsIt is settled that the crime of serious illegal detention consists not only of placing a person in an enclosure, but also in detaining him or depriving him in any manner of his liberty. For there to be kidnapping, it is enough that the victim is restrained from going home. Its essence is the actual deprivation of the victim’s liberty, coupled with indubitable proof of the intent of the accused to effect such deprivation. Although AAA was not confined in an enclosure, she was restrained and deprived of her liberty, because every time appellant Lando and his wife went out of the house, they brought AAA with them. The foregoing only shows that AAA was constantly guarded by appellant Lando and his family. People of the Philippines v. Alberto Anticamara y Cabillo, et al,  G.R. No. 178771, June 8, 2011.

Kidnapping; elements. All the elements of kidnapping under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code were proven in this case. Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 7659,  provides that “[a]ny 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: (a) if the kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than three days; (b) if it shall have been committed simulating public authority; (c) if 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) if the person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, except when the accused is any of the parents, female or a public officer. The penalty 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 abovementioned 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. People of the Philippines v. Joseph Mostrales y Abad, G.R. No. 184925, June 15, 2011.

Kidnapping; elements. In the instant case, the prosecution was able to prove all the elements of kidnapping as follows: (1) the offender is a private individual; not either of the parents of the victim or a public officer who has a duty under the law to detain a person; (2) he kidnaps or detains another, or in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3) the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal; and (4) in the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances is present: (a) the kidnapping or detention lasts for more than three days; (b) it is committed by simulating public authority; (c) any serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained or threats to kill him are made; or (d) the person kidnapped or detained is a minor, female or a public official. The essence of the crime of kidnapping is the actual deprivation of the victim’s liberty, coupled with indubitable proof of the intent of the accused to effect the same. Moreover, if the victim is a minor, or the victim is kidnapped and illegally detained for the purpose of extorting ransom, the duration of his detention becomes inconsequential. Ransom here means money, price or consideration paid or demanded for the redemption of a captured person that will release him from captivity. As the Court of Appeals correctly stated, although the accused testified that he was a member of the Philippine Marines on November 12, 2001, he had no duty under the law to detain Ma. Angela.  Her kidnapping was clearly illegal and undertaken for the purpose of extorting ransom from her family. People of the Philippines v. Joseph Mostrales y Abad, G.R. No. 184925, June 15, 2011.

Murder; qualifying circumstance. Here, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Court of Appeals in appreciating the qualifying circumstance of treachery as the victim was shot at the back. The attack was deliberate, sudden and unexpected; it afforded the unsuspecting victim no opportunity to resist or defend himself. People of the Philippines v. Efren Patelan Lamberte, et al, G.R. No. 182918, June 6, 2011.

Qualifying circumstance; treachery in murder. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack on an unsuspecting victim by the perpetrator of the crime, depriving the victim of any chance to defend himself or repel the aggression, thus, insuring its commission without risk to the aggressor and without any provocation on the part of the victim.The sudden attack by Esquibel with a bladed weapon, with Baloloy’s back against him, was undoubtedly treacherous. Baloloy was washing his hands outside his house when Esquibel appeared out of nowhere and stabbed him. Baloloy was unprepared and had no means to put up a defense. Such aggression insured the commission of the crime without risk on Esquibel. Thus, Esquibel is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder. People of the Philippines v. Angelito Esquibel y Jesus, G.R. No. 192465, June 8, 2011.

Rape; elements. Under the Revised Penal Code, effectuated by R.A. No. 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, rape is committed, among others, by a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: (a) through force, threat, or intimidation; (b) when the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; (c) by means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and (d) when the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present. People of the Philippines vs. Jonie Dominguez, G.R. No. 191065, June 13, 2011.

Rape; elements. In this case, the prosecution was able to show the existence of the elements of rape under the amended Revised Penal Code, effectuated by R.A. No. 8353 (or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997). Before and after the violations, the intimidation took the form of threats that the victims’ family would be killed by the accused. The accused also employed trickery and took advantage of his authority over his grandnieces. Under these circumstances, the accused was able to have carnal knowledge of BBB and commit a series of sexual assaults against both her and AAA. The two incidents of rape against AAA happened before she reached 12 years of age, she being 9 and 10 then. For those incidents, proof of threats, force or intimidation, is not necessary. People of the Philippines vs. Jonie Dominguez, G.R. No. 191065, June 13, 2011.

Rape; elements. The elements needed to prove the crime of rape under paragraph 1(a) of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) are: (1) the offender is a man; (2) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (3) the act is accomplished by using force or intimidation. All these elements were sufficiently proved by the prosecution. The testimony of AAA overwhelmingly proves that accused-appellant raped her with the use of force and intimidation.  People of the Philippines v. Feliciano “Saysot” Cias, G.R. No. 194379, June 1, 2011.

Rape; penalty. Under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, whenever the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death.  At the time of the commission of the offense on December 25, 1998, Republic Act No. 8353 (otherwise known as the “Anti-Rape Law of 1997”) was already in effect.  The amendatory law, particularly Article 266-B thereof, provides an identical provision and imposes the same penalty when the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons. In this case, such circumstance was sufficiently alleged in the Information and established during the trial.  In People v. Macapanas, the Supreme Court ruled that being in the nature of a qualifying circumstance, ‘use of a deadly weapon’ increases the penalties by degrees, and cannot be treated merely as a generic aggravating circumstance which affects only the period of the penalty.  This so-called qualified form of rape committed with the use of a deadly weapon carries a penalty of reclusion perpetua to death.  Hence, the imposable penalty in this case is reclusion perpetua conformably with Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code. People of the Philippines v. Carlo Dumadag y Romio, G.R. No. 176740, June 22, 2011.

Rape; statutory rape. Sexual intercourse with a girl below 12 years old is statutory rape. In this type of rape, force and intimidation are immaterial; the only subject of inquiry is the age of the woman and whether carnal knowledge took place. In her (victim’s) testimony dated May 19, 1999, AAA positively identified the appellant as the one who raped her. Her testimony was clear and straightforward; she was consistent in her recollection of the details of her sexual abuse. In addition, her testimony was corroborated by the medical findings of Dr. Cerillo. The prosecution positively established the elements of statutory rape under Article 266-A(d) of the Revised Penal Code. First, the appellant succeeded in having carnal knowledge with the victim. Not only did AAA identify her father as her rapist, she also recounted the sexual abuse in detail, particularly how her father inserted his penis into her vagina. Second, the prosecution established that AAA was below 12 years of age at the time of the rape. During the pre-trial, the parties admitted that AAA was “only 11 years old at the time of the commission of the crime.”AAA herself testified that she was born on October 26, 1986, and was 11 years old when she was raped. This testimony was corroborated by her stepmother, BBB. People of the Philippines v. Lucresio Espina, G.R. No. 183564, June 29, 2011.

Rape; statutory rape. In convicting the appellant, the Supreme Court found unmeritorious the appellant’s twin defenses of denial and alibi. Denial could not prevail over the victim’s direct, positive and categorical assertion.  Significantly, the appellant admitted that he was in Barangay Bantigue when the incident happened. It is settled that alibi necessarily fails when there is positive evidence of the physical presence of the accused at the crime scene or its immediate vicinity. People of the Philippines v. Lucresio Espina, G.R. No. 183564, June 29, 2011.

Rape; statutory rape distinguished from child abuse. Under Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610 in relation to RA 8353, if the victim of sexual abuse is below 12 years of age, the offender should not be prosecuted for sexual abuse but for statutory rape under Article 266-A(1)(d) of the Revised Penal Code and penalized with reclusion perpetua. On the other hand, if the victim is 12 years or older, the offender should be charged with either sexual abuse under Section 5(b) of RA 7610 or rape under Article 266-A (except paragraph 1[d]) of the Revised Penal Code. However, the offender cannot be accused of both crimes for the same act because his right against double jeopardy will be prejudiced. A person cannot be subjected twice to criminal liability for a single criminal act. People of the Philippines v. Eduardo Dahilig y Agaran, G.R. No. 187083, June 13, 2011.

Rape; statutory rape distinguished from child abuse. In this case, the victim was more than 12 years old (i.e., 13 years old) when the crime was committed against her. Therefore, appellant may be prosecuted either for: (a) violation of Section 5(b) of RA 7610; or (b) rape under Article 266-A (except paragraph 1[d]) of the Revised Penal Code. The prosecution’s evidence established that appellant sexually violated the person of AAA through force and intimidation by threatening her with a bladed instrument and forcing her to submit to his bestial designs. Accordingly, the accused can indeed be charged with either Rape or Child Abuse and be convicted therefor. Since the information merely charged the accused with rape in violation of Article 266-A par. 1 in relation to Article 266-B, 1st par. of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 8353, the Supreme Court convicted the appellant for rape in violation of Article 266-A par. 1 in relation to Article 266-B, 1st par. of the Revised Penal Code. People of the Philippines v. Eduardo Dahilig y Agaran, G.R. No. 187083, June 13, 2011.

Rape; statutory rape; elements. Specifically, Article 266-A(1)(d) of the Revised Penal Code spells out the definition of the crime of statutory rape, the elements of which are: (1) that the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that such a woman is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented. In the prosecution of statutory rape cases, force, intimidation and physical evidence of injury are not relevant considerations; the only subject of inquiry is the age of the woman and whether carnal knowledge took place.  The law presumes that the victim does not and cannot have a will of her own on account of her tender years; the child’s consent is immaterial because of her presumed incapacity to discern good from evil. In the instant case, the element of carnal knowledge was primarily established by the testimony of AAA, which the Court of Appeals (“CA”) and the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”) found to be unequivocal and deserving credence. The Supreme Court affirmed the factual findings of the RTC and the CA on the issue of the credibility of AAA’s testimony.  AAA unhesitatingly pointed to her father, the accused-appellant, as the perpetrator of the reprehensible acts of rape against her.  The testimony of AAA was indeed straightforward, unequivocal, definite and convincing. People of the Philippines v. Benjamin Padilla y Untalan, G.R. No. 182917, June 8, 2011.

Rape; statutory rape; elements. A man commits rape by having carnal knowledge of a child under twelve (12) years of age even in the absence of any of the following circumstances: (a) through force, threat or intimidation; (b) when the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; or (c) by means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority. People of the Philippines v. Ito Pinic, G.R. No. 186395, June 8, 2011.

2. SPECIAL LAW

Anti-Graft;  undue injury. The term “undue injury” in the context of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act punishing the act of “causing undue injury to any party,” has a meaning akin to that civil law concept of “actual damage.”  Actual damage, in the context of these definitions, is akin to that in civil law.  Article 2199 of the Civil Code provides that except as provided by law or by stipulation, one is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by a party as he has duly proved.  Efren L. Alvarez vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 192591, June 29, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. Since custody and possession of the drugs usually change from the time they are seized to the time they are presented in court, it is indispensable that, if the drugs are already in sealed plastic sachets, the police officer involved immediately place identifying marks on the cover.  If the drugs are not in a sealed container, the officer is to place them in a plastic container, seal the container, and put his marking on the cover.  In this way there is assurance that the drugs would reach the crime laboratory analyst in the same condition it was seized from the accused. This did not happen here.  Domingo M. Ulep v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183849, June 1, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. None of the officers involved in the seizure marked the plastic sachets of alleged drugs.  The markings took place at the police station already and it is not clear who made them.  Prompt marking of the seized items is vital because it serves as the starting point in the custodial link and succeeding handlers of the specimens often use the marking as reference.  Since the officers in this case could not even agree as to who made the required marking, then it would be difficult for the Supreme Court to rest easy that the specimens presented before the trial court were the same specimens seized from Ulep.  These lapses cast a serious doubt on the authenticity of the corpus delicti, warranting acquittal on reasonable doubt. Domingo M. Ulep v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183849, June 1, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. In every prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drug, what is crucial is the identity of the buyer and seller, the object and its consideration, the delivery of the thing sold, and the payment for it. Implicit in these cases is first and foremost the identity and existence, coupled with the presentation to the court of the traded prohibited substance, this object evidence being an integral part of the corpus delicti of the crime of possession or selling of regulated/prohibited drug. There can be no such crime when nagging doubts persist on whether the specimen submitted for examination and presented in court was the one recovered from, or sold by, the accused. Essential, therefore, in appropriate cases is that the identity of the prohibited drug be established with moral certainty. The chain-of-custody requirement, set forth in Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979, performs this function which ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed.  People of the Philippines v. Mads Saludin Mantawil, et al, G.R. No. 188319, June 8, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. In Malillin v. People, the Supreme Court ruled that the chain of custody requirements that must be met in proving that the seized drugs are the ones presented in court are as follows: (1) testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence; and (2) witnesses should 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 item. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no broken chain in the custody of the confiscated shabu. People of the Philippines v. Mads Saludin Mantawil, et al, G.R. No. 188319, June 8, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody rule; non-compliance. The non-compliance with the procedure laid down in Section 21 of the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002 is not fatal as long as there is justifiable ground therefor, and as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the confiscated/seized items, are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team. Its non-compliance will not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost importance 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.  People of the Philippines v. Arnel Bentacan Navarrete, G.R. No. 185211, June 6, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody rule; non-compliance.  The apprehending team in the present case has not, however, shown any justifiable ground to exempt it from complying with the legal requirements.  To impose benediction on such shoddy police work, absent of any exempting circumstances, would only spawn further abuses. In fine, the unjustified failure of the police officers to show that the integrity of the object evidence (shabu) was properly preserved negates the presumption of regularity accorded to acts undertaken by police officers in the pursuit of their official duties. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the appellant’s contention that the apprehending police officers were gravely remiss in complying with the statutory requirements imposed under Section 21 and ruled on his acquittal based on reasonable doubt. People of the Philippines v. Arnel Bentacan Navarrete, G.R. No. 185211, June 6, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; evidence; credibility of witnesses. In People v. Doria, the Supreme Court laid down the “objective test” in determining the credibility of prosecution witnesses regarding the conduct of buy-bust operations.  It is the duty of the prosecution to present a complete picture detailing the buy-bust operation—from the initial contact between the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, the promise or payment of the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the illegal drug subject of sale.  The manner by which the initial contact was made, the offer to purchase the drug, the payment of the ‘buy-bust money’, and the delivery of the illegal drug must be the subject of strict scrutiny by the courts to insure that law-abiding citizens are not unlawfully induced to commit an offense. People of the Philippines v. Garry De la Cruz, G.R. No. 185717, June 8, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; evidence; defense of frame-up/denial. The defense of frame-up in drug cases requires strong and convincing evidence because of the presumption that the law enforcement agencies acted in the regular performance of their official duties.  Nonetheless, such a defense may be given credence when there is sufficient evidence or proof making it to be very plausible or true.  The accused-appellant’s defenses of denial and frame-up are credible given the circumstances of the case.  Indeed, jurisprudence has established that the defense of denial assumes significance only when the prosecution’s evidence is such that it does not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, as in the instant case.  At the very least, there is reasonable doubt that there was a buy-bust operation conducted and that accused-appellant sold the seized shabu.  After all, a criminal conviction rests on the strength of the evidence of the prosecution and not on the weakness of the defense. People of the Philippines v. Garry Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 185717, June 8, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale; elements. In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be proven: (1) that the transaction or sale took place; (2) that the corpus delicti or the illicit drug was presented as evidence; and (3) that the buyer and seller were identified. The presence of these elements is sufficient to support the trial court’s finding of appellants’ guilt. What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the prohibited or regulated drug. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt of the marked money consummate the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping officers and the accused.  The presentation in court of the corpus delicti — the body or substance of the crime – establishes the fact that a crime has actually been committed. Ruel Ampatuan@ Ruel v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183676, June 22, 2011.

Dangerous Drug Act; illegal sale; elements. For the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs to prosper, the following elements must be proved: (1) the identity of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and its payment.  What is material is the proof that the transaction actually took place, coupled with the presentation before the court of the corpus delicti. People of the Philippines v. Garry Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 185717, June 8, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale; elements. In prosecutions involving the illegal sale of drugs, 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 as evidence. For conviction of the crime of illegal sale of prohibited or regulated drugs, the following elements must concur: (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment for it. A perusal of the records would reveal that the foregoing requisites are present in the case at bar.  The proof of the shabu transaction was established by prosecution witness Senior Police Officer (SPO) 2 William Manglo, the poseur-buyer, who made a positive identification of the appellant as the one who gave him the “Mercury Drug” bag and to whom he gave the marked money during the buy-bust operation. People of the Philippines v. Chito G. Gratil, G.R. No. 182236. June 22, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale; penalty. The penalty for the illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, is explicitly provided for in Section 5, Article II of R.A. 9165 which reads in part: “The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity involved, or shall act as a broke in any of such transactions.” It is clear from the foregoing provision that the sale of any dangerous drug, like 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.  In view, however, of the effectivity of R.A. 9346, the imposition of the supreme penalty of death has been proscribed.  Accordingly, the penalty applicable to appellant shall only be life imprisonment and fine without eligibility for parole.  The Supreme Court in this case sustained the penalty of imprisonment and fine imposed upon appellant by the lower courts. People of the Philippines v. Manuel Cruz y Cruz, G.R. No. 187047, June 15, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; sale and possession of dangerous drugs; penalties. Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 explicitly provides that the penalty for the illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, notwithstanding 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.  In light, however, of the effectivity of Republic Act No. 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.  Ergo, the penalty applicable to appellant shall only be life imprisonment and fine without eligibility for parole.  Illegal possession of dangerous drugs, like shabu, on the other hand, is penalized under Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165. Therein, it is stated that illegal possession of less than five grams of shabu, a dangerous drug, is penalized with imprisonment of 12 years and 1 day to 20 years and a fine ranging from P300,000.00 to P400,000.00.   Since appellant, without any legal authority, had in his possession 0.67 grams of shabu or less than five grams thereof, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the penalty of 12 years and 1 day to 14 years and 1 day and fine of P300,000.00 imposed by the trial court and affirmed by the appellate court is proper. People of the Philippines v. Lorie Villahermosa y Leco, G.R. No. 186465, June 1, 2011.

3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Administrative cases; res judicata. Dismissal of a criminal action does not foreclose institution of an administrative proceeding against the same respondent, nor carry with it the relief from administrative liability.  Res judicata did not set in because there is no identity of causes of action.  Moreover, the decision of the Ombudsman dismissing the criminal complaint cannot be considered a valid and final judgment.  On the criminal complaint, the Ombudsman only had the power to investigate and file the appropriate case before the Sandiganbayan.  Hon. Waldo Q. Flores, et al v. Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor, G.R. No. 170146, June 8, 2011.

Appeal; respect for trial court’s findings of fact. Since the prosecution and the defensein this case presented very different facts of the case, it was obligatory upon the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”) to determine which of these facts should be given great weight and credence. The RTC gave credence to the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses, which the Court of Appeals (“CA”) found to be without grave abuse of discretion.  The CA likewise did not make any finding that the RTC overlooked or misinterpreted a material fact.  In fact, the CA affirmed the factual determination made by the RTC.  As explained and discussed in a multitude of cases, the trial court judge is in the best position to make this determination as the judge was the one who personally heard the accused and the witnesses, as well as observed their demeanor and the manner in which they testified during trial.  Accordingly, the trial court’s finding of facts and its assessment of the credibility of the witnesses will not be disturbed or interfered with. People of the Philippines v. Darius Bautista y Orsino @ Dada, G.R. No. 191266, June 6, 2011.

Criminal procedure; motion to dismiss or withdraw Information. Well-entrenched is the rule that once a case is filed with the court, any disposition of it rests on the sound discretion of the court. In thus resolving a motion to dismiss a case or to withdraw an Information, the trial court should not rely solely and merely on the findings of the public prosecutor or the Secretary of Justice.  It is the court’s bounden duty to assess independently the merits of the motion, and this assessment must be embodied in a written order disposing of the motion. While the recommendation of the prosecutor or the ruling of the Secretary of Justice is persuasive, it is not binding on courts.  By relying solely on the manifestation of the public prosecutor and the resolution of the DOJ Secretary, the trial court abdicated its judicial power and refused to perform a positive duty enjoined by law.  The said Orders were thus stained with grave abuse of discretion and violated the complainant’s right to due process. They were void, had no legal standing, and produced no effect whatsoever.  Joseph C. Cerezo v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 185230, June 1, 2011.

Criminal procedure; probable causeJurisprudence has established rules on the determination of probable cause. In Galario v. Office of the Ombudsman (Mindanao), it was held that a finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not a crime has been committed and there is enough reason to believe that it was committed by the accused. It need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt. A finding of probable cause merely binds over the suspect to stand trial. It is not a pronouncement of guilt.The term does not mean “actual and positive cause” nor does it import absolute certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief. Moreover, probable cause does not require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction. In the case at bar, the Office of the Ombudsman found sufficient reason to believe that a violation of R.A. 3019 has been committed and that the petitioners are probably guilty thereof. Marcelo G. Ganaden, et al v. The Hon. Office of the Ombudsman, et al,  G.R. No. 169359-61, June 1, 2011.

Double jeopardy; elements. Double jeopardy attaches only (1) upon a valid indictment, (2) before a competent court, (3) after arraignment, (4) when a valid plea has been entered, and (5) when the defendant was convicted or acquitted, or the case was dismissed or otherwise terminated without the express consent of the accused.  None of these requisites applies where the Ombudsman only conducted a preliminary investigation of the same criminal offense against the respondent public officer.  The dismissal of a case during preliminary investigation does not constitute double jeopardy, preliminary investigation not being part of the trial. Hon. Waldo Q. Flores, et al v. Atty. Antonio F. Montemayor, G.R. No. 170146, June 8, 2011.

Evidence; reasonable doubt. The evidence presented by the prosecution showed that appellant is guilty of only one count of rape, and not four counts.  The Informations charged appellant with having raped “AAA” on the first week, second week, and third week, of March 2001, and on March 23, 2001.  However, as argued by the defense, the testimony of “AAA” with regard to the first three incidents particularly on the dates when and the places where the offenses were supposedly committed contains disturbing discrepancies.  “AAA” testified that she was raped inside their tent in “BBB”.  However, in her re-direct examination, “AAA” testified that she was raped elsewhere.The inconsistencies in the testimony of “AAA” regarding the first three rape incidents are not inconsequential.  These inconsistencies create a reasonable doubt as to whether appellant did in fact rape “AAA” during those occasions.  Consequently, appellant must be acquitted of the charges of rape allegedly committed during the first week, second week, and third week, of March 2001 based on reasonable doubt.  People of the Philippines v. Rosauro Asetre y Duran, G.R. No. 175834, June 8, 2011.

Prejudicial publicity; totality-of-circumstances test. Respecting the possible influence of media coverage on the impartiality of trial court judges, petitioners correctly explain that prejudicial publicity insofar as it undermines the right to a fair trial must pass the “totality of circumstances” test, applied in People v. Teehankee, Jr. and Estrada v. Desierto, that the right of an accused to a fair trial is not incompatible to a free press, that pervasive publicity is not per se prejudicial to the right of an accused to a fair trial, and that there must be allegation and proof of the impaired capacity of a judge to render a bias-free decision.  Mere fear of possible undue influence is not tantamount to actual prejudice resulting in the deprivation of the right to a fair trial. Re: Petition for Radio and Television Coverage of the Multiple Murder Cases against Maguindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, et al, A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC/A.M. No. 10-11-6-SC/A.M. No. 10-11-7-SC, June 14, 2011.

(Lindy thanks Nuj Dumbrigue and Janette Ancog for their help in the preparation of this post.)


 

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