August 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1.         CRIMINAL LAW

Acquittal; civil liability.The only issue in this case is whether petitioner Felixberto A. Abellana could still be held civilly liable notwithstanding his acquittal. Civil liability arises when one, by reason of his own act or omission, done intentionally or negligently, causes damage to another.  Hence, for petitioner to be civilly liable to spouses Alonto, it must be proven that the acts he committed had caused damage to the spouses. Based on the records of the case, we find that the acts allegedly committed by the petitioner did not cause any damage to spouses Alonto. The spouses Alonto indeed signed the document and that their signatures were genuine and not forged. Moreover, defective notarization does not ipso facto invalidate the Deed of Absolute Sale, the transfer of said properties from spouses Alonto to petitioner remains valid.  Hence, when on the basis of said Deed of Absolute Sale, petitioner caused the cancellation of spouses Alonto’s title and the issuance of new ones under his name, and thereafter sold the same to third persons, no damage resulted to the spouses Alonto.  Felixberto A. Abellana v. People of the Philippines and Spouses Saapia and Diaga Alonto, G.R. No. 174654, August 17, 2011.

Bigamy; elements. For a successful prosecution of the crime of bigamy, the following element must be proved: (a) that the offender has been legally married; (b) that the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (c) that he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and (d) that the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity. The instant case has all the elements of the crime of bigamy. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of the petitioner. Cenon R. Teves v. People of the Philippines and Danilo R. Bongalon, G.R. No. 188775. August 24, 2011.

Bigamy; defense of nullity of prior marriage. The Supreme Court debunked petitioner’s contention that he cannot be charged with bigamy in view of the declaration of nullity of his first marriage. The Family Code has settled once and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the matter.  A declaration of the absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a cause of action or a ground for defense.  Cenon R. Teves v. People of the Philippines and Danilo R. Bongalon, G.R. No. 188775. August 24, 2011.

Bigamy; defense of nullity of prior marriage. Where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity is a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void. The Supreme Court noted that in petitioner’s case the complaint was filed before the first marriage was declared a nullity.  It was only the filing of the Information that was overtaken by the declaration of nullity of his first marriage.  Following petitioner’s argument, even assuming that a complaint has been instituted, such as in this case, the offender can still escape liability provided that a decision nullifying his earlier marriage precedes the filing of the Information in court.Such cannot be allowed.  To do so would make the crime of bigamy dependent upon the ability or inability of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to immediately act on complaints and eventually file Informations in court. Cenon R. Teves v. People of the Philippines and Danilo R. Bongalon, G.R. No. 188775, August 24, 2011.

Estafa; prima facie evidence of deceit. Solis wrote appellant a demand letter dated October 13, 1996 which was received by appellant’s husband to inform appellant that her postdated checks had bounced and that she must settle her obligation or else face legal action from Solis.  Appellant did not comply with the demand nor did she deposit the amount necessary to cover the checks within three days from receipt of notice.  This gave rise to a prima facie evidence of deceit, which is an element of the crime of estafa, constituting false pretense or fraudulent act as stated in the second sentence of paragraph 2(d), Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. People of the Philippines v. Virginia Baby P. Montaner, G.R. No. 184053, August 31, 2011.

Frustrated homicide; elements.The elements of frustrated homicide are: (1) the accused intended to kill his victim, as manifested by his use of a deadly weapon in his assault; (2) the victim sustained fatal or mortal wound/s but did not die because of timely medical assistance; and (3) none of the qualifying circumstance for murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, is present. People of the Philippines v. Rodel Lanuza y Bagaoisan, G.R. No. 188562, August 17, 2011.

Frustrated homicide; proof. Evidence to prove intent to kill in crimes against persons may consist, inter alia, of the means used by the malefactors; the nature, location and number of wounds sustained by the victim; the conduct of the malefactors before, at the time of, or immediately after the killing of the victim; the circumstances under which the crime was committed; and the motive of the accused. These elements are extant in the case at bar. The prosecution has satisfactorily proven that accused-appellant intended to kill private complainant based on the method of attack, the weapon used, and the location of the gunshot wound.  Accused-appellant shot private complainant with a shotgun at close range hitting the latter’s abdomen.  Resultantly, private complainant sustained a wound that could have caused his death if not for the timely medical attention given to him. People of the Philippines v. Rodel Lanuza y Bagaoisan, G.R. No. 188562. August 17, 2011.

Murder; elements. For the successful prosecution of the crime of murder, the following elements must be proved: (1) that a person was killed; (2) that the accused killed that person; (3) that the killing was attended by any of the qualifying circumstances mentioned in Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code; and (4) that the killing is not parricide or infanticide. People of the Philippines v. Larry Torres Sr., G.R. No. 190317, August 22, 2011.

Murder; treachery. Treachery was alleged in the information as qualifying circumstance for the charge of murder. The charge of murder was established by the prosecution through its documentary and testimonial evidence. The victim’s death and the treachery that qualified the killing to murder were established. The victim was shown to have died of internal hemorrhage caused by a gunshot wound. The person who caused the gunshot wound was positively identified as the accused-appellant. The trial court noted that Mitchell Santonia and Carandang, the prosecution witnesses, both gave a thorough account of the incident at Perez’s house. Their testimonies on how accused-appellant shot the victim from behind materially corroborated each other. They both testified that the victim and Mitchell Santonia were on their way out of Perez’s house when they heard a gunshot. The victim then fell down and it was accused-appellant whom they saw holding a gun, showing beyond doubt that he is the killer.  All the elements of the crime of murder were duly proved. People of the Philippines v. Larry Torres Sr., G.R. No. 190317, August 22, 2011.

Murder; treachery. Treachery cannot be appreciated to qualify the crime to murder in the absence of any proof of the manner in which the aggression was commenced.  For treachery to be appreciated, the prosecution must prove that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself, and that the offender consciously adopted the particular means, method or form of attack employed by him.  Nobody witnessed the commencement and the manner of the attack. While the witness Vitalicio managed to see Bokingco hitting something on the floor, he failed to see the victim at that time.  People of the Philippines v. Michael Bokingo and Reynante Col, G.R. No. 187536, August 10, 2011.

Qualifying circumstance; treachery. The killing of victim, which was attended by the qualifying circumstance of treachery under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, was adequately proved. As observed by the trial court, the victim was not afforded any means of defending himself or an opportunity to retaliate. The Supreme Court agreed with the Office of the Solicitor General in its argument that the attack on the victim was sudden, unexpected and without warning. Before the shooting, Mitchell Santonia had already convinced his brother to go home and they were on their way out of Perez’s house.  The victim, thus, had his defenses down and had no reason to feel that his life was in danger.  He could not have protected or defended himself as his back was turned when he was suddenly shot from behind. He could not have prepared himself for an attack as he had no inkling of what was about to occur. He had heeded the advice that he should just defer arguing with accused-appellant and headed home instead. As shown by the testimony of Carandang, accused-appellant’s act of shooting the victim was so swift that no one had any time to react or try to stop the attack.  Clearly, the strategy employed by accused-appellant and the means he used to accomplish the act ensured that the killing of the victim would be without risk to himself. People of the Philippines v. Larry Torres Sr., G.R. No. 190317, August 22, 2011. 

2. SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

Dangerous Drugs; illegal possession of dangerous drugs; elements. In a prosecution involving illegal possession of prohibited/dangerous   drugs, the following elements must be proved: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug.  As determined by both the trial and appellate courts, the prosecution was able to establish through testimonial, documentary, and object evidence the said elements. As a matter of settled jurisprudence on illegal possession of drug cases, credence is usually accorded the narration of the incident by the apprehending police officers who are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner. Cesar D. Castro v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 193379. August 15, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs; illegal sale of dangerous drugs; elements. In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be proved: (1) that the transaction or sale took place; (2) that the corpus delictior 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 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. People of the Philippines v. Edgardo Fermin y Gregorio and Job Madayag, Jr. y Balderas, G.R. No. 179344, August 3, 2011.

Illegal recruitment and estafa. The conviction of Ochoa for estafa committed against three private complainants in Criminal Case Nos. 98-77301, 98-77302, and 98-77303 is affirmed.  The very same evidence proving Ochoa’s criminal liability for illegal recruitment also established her criminal liability for estafa.  It is settled that a person may be charged and convicted separately of illegal recruitment under Republic Act No. 8042 in relation to the Labor Code, and estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code.  People v. Cortez and Yabut states: “The offense of illegal recruitment is malum prohibitum where the criminal intent of the accused is not necessary for conviction, while estafa is malum in se where the criminal intent of the accused is crucial for conviction.  Conviction for offenses under the Labor Code does not bar conviction for offenses punishable by other laws.  Conversely, conviction for estafa under par. 2(a) of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code does not bar a conviction for illegal recruitment under the Labor Code.  It follows that one’s acquittal of the crime of estafa will not necessarily result in his acquittal of the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale, and vice versa.” People of the Philippines v. Rosario “Rose” Ochoa, G.R. No. 173792, August 31, 2011.

3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Absence of preliminary investigation waived. The absence of a proper preliminary investigation must be timely raised and must not have been waived.  This is to allow the trial court to hold the case in abeyance and conduct its own investigation or require the prosecutor to hold a reinvestigation, which, necessarily involves a re-examination and re-evaluation of the evidence already submitted by the complainant and the accused, as well as the initial finding of probable cause which led to the filing of the Informations after the requisite preliminary investigation.Here, it is conceded that Villarin raised the issue of lack of a preliminary investigation in his Motion for Reinvestigation.  When the Ombudsman denied the motion, he never raised this issue again.  It was only after the trial court rendered judgment against him that he once again assailed the conduct of the preliminary investigation in the Motion for Reconsideration.  Whatever argument Villarin may have regarding the alleged absence of a preliminary investigation has therefore been mooted.  By entering his plea, and actively participating in the trial, he is deemed to have waived his right to preliminary investigation.  Crisostomo Villarin and Aniano Latayada v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175289, August 31, 2011.

Alibi; requisites.  Alibi is indeed a good defense and could certainly exculpate a person accused of a crime.  However, this is true only if the accused’s alibi strictly meets the following requisites: (a) his presence at another place at the time of the commission of the crime; and (b) the physical impossibility of his presence at the scene of the crime. Here, neither Cleofe nor Leonardo was able to establish by clear and convincing evidence that not only was he somewhere else when Nelson was killed, but also that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime.  People of the Philippines v. Cleofe Baroquillo y Villanueva, et al, G.R. No. 184960, August 24, 2011.

Alibi; requisites.  Physical impossibility is the distance and the facility of access between the situs criminis and the place where he says he was when the crime was committed. Noting the distances between Bagong Silang, where Nelson was killed, and the respective locations of Leonardo and Cleofe at the time the crime was committed, given the relative proximity of the places, the availability of transportation, and the physical fitness of both accused to travel, it was not impossible for them to have traversed to and from the scene of the crime and their alleged locations that fateful evening of January 10, 2001. People of the Philippines v. Cleofe Baroquillo y Villanueva, et al, G.R. No. 184960, August 24, 2011.

Alibi; requisites.  The Supreme Court debunked accused-appellant’s defense of alibi and rejected his argument that his alibi should be given credence because it was corroborated by credible and disinterested witnesses. In People v. Estoya, the Supreme Court laid down the jurisprudential guidelines in assessing the proffered defense of alibi as follows: (a) alibis and denials are generally disfavored by the courts for being weak; (b) they cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused as the perpetrators of the crime; (c) for alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that they were somewhere else when the crime was committed, but also that it was physically impossible for them to be at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission; (d) alibi assumes significance or strength only when it is amply corroborated by credible and disinterested witnesses; (e) alibi is an issue of fact that hinges on the credibility of witnesses, and the assessment made by the trial court – unless patently and clearly inconsistent – must be accepted. Measured against the foregoing yardstick, accused-appellant’s defenses of alibi and denial cannot prosper. People of the Philippines v. Juanito Appattad, G.R. No. 193188, August 10, 2011.

Alibi; requisites.  Alibis and denials are inherently weak defenses. This is understandably so because said defenses can be easily fabricated by an accused in order to escape criminal liability. Likewise, it was stated in People v. Estoya that alibi and denial cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Notably, these defenses crumble in light of positive identification by truthful witnesses. An alibi is evidence negative in nature and self-serving, and, thus, cannot attain more credibility than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who testify on clear and positive evidence. In the present case, AAA positively identified accused-appellant in her testimony as the very perpetrator of the crime of rape committed against her. People of the Philippines v. Juanito Appattad, G.R. No. 193188, August 10, 2011.

Defense of denial. Denial, if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is negative and self-serving evidence which has far less evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.  Appellant’s bare denial cannot be accorded credence for lack of evidentiary support.  Appellant’s failure to produce Galope as a witness to corroborate her story is fatal to her cause. People of the Philippines v. Virginia Baby P. Montaner, G.R. No. 184053, August 31, 2011.

Evidence; conspiracy; quantum of proof. As a rule, conspiracy must be established with the same quantum of proof as the crime itself and must be shown as clearly as the commission of the crime. People of the Philippines v. Michael Bokingo and Reynante Col, G.R. No. 187536, August 10, 2011.

Evidence; credibility of witnesses.The trial court and the Court of Appeals found the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses regarding petitioner’s illegal sale and possession of shabu to be credible since they are consistent with the documentary and object evidence submitted by the prosecution.  When it comes to the credibility, the trial court’s assessment deserves great weight, and is even conclusive and binding, if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence.  The trial court is in the best position to evaluate testimonial evidence properly because it has the full opportunity to observe directly the witnesses’ deportment and manner of testifying.  This rule finds an even more stringent application where said findings are affirmed by the appellate court. Radito Aurelio Reyes v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 174980, August 31, 2011.

Evidence; credibility of witnesses. It must be emphasized that when the credibility of a witness is in issue, the findings of fact of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses and its assessment of the probative weight thereof, as well as its conclusions anchored on said findings are accorded high respect if not conclusive effect.  This is more true if such findings were affirmed by the appellate court, since it is settled that when the trial court’s findings have been affirmed by the appellate court, said findings are generally binding upon Supreme Court. People of the Philippines v. Rodel Lanuza y Bagaoisan, G.R. No. 188562, August 17, 2011.

Evidence; credibility of witnesses; inconsistencies in testimonies. The inconsistencies in private complainant’s testimony are not as serious or damaging. The Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Appeals that the purported inconsistencies in private complainant’s testimony pertain to details which are inconsequential to the credibility of his overall testimony. While there may be some inconsistencies in private complainant’s testimony, these incompatible declarations do not pertain to the essential elements of the crime of which the accused-appellant was convicted.  They refer only to minor matters and are inconsequential as they do not impair the credibility of the prosecution witness.  People of the Philippines v. Rodel Lanuza y Bagaoisan, G.R. No. 188562, August 17, 2011.

Evidence; credibility of witnesses; inconsistencies in testimonies.  In fact, inaccuracies may suggest that the witness is telling the truth and has not been rehearsed.  This is because a witness is not expected to remember every single detail of an incident with perfect or total recall. Questions on whether or not private complainant had actually seen accused-appellant load the shotgun with a bullet, or whether or not private complainant was already on board his motorcycle when he was shot by accused-appellant, would have no bearing on the fact that private complainant was shot by accused-appellant with the service shotgun turned-over by the former to the latter.  The Supreme Court stressed that accused-appellant himself admitted the fact of shooting, and only disputed any intent to kill private complainant.  The conclusion of the Regional Trial Court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court that the accused-appellant intended to kill private complainant was not based entirely on accused-appellant deliberately loading the shotgun, but also on the existence of motive on accused-appellant’s part, the location and severity of private complainant’s injury, and accused-appellant’s behavior immediately after the shooting. People of the Philippines v. Rodel Lanuza y Bagaoisan, G.R. No. 188562, August 17, 2011.

Evidence; presumption of innocence. In considering a criminal case, it is critical to start with the law’s own starting perspective on the status of the accused – in all criminal prosecutions, he is presumed innocent of the charged laid unless the contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt. The burden lies on the prosecution to overcome such presumption of innocence by presenting the quantum of evidence required.  To repeat, the prosecution must rest on its own merits and must not rely on the weakness of the defense.  And if the prosecution fails to meet the required amount of evidence, the defense may logically not even present evidence on its own behalf.  In which case, the presumption prevails and the accused should necessarily be acquitted. In this case, the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the two accused. The rule that high respect must be accorded the lower courts in their findings of facts cannot be misused to diminish the required evidence to overcome the presumption of innocence of the accused as guaranteed by the Constitution. People of the Philippines v. Edgardo Fermin y Gregorio and Job Madayag Jr. y Balderas,G.R. No. 179344, August 3, 2011.

Evidence; presumption of regularity of official duties vis-à-vis presumption of innocence. In convicting the appellant of the crime charged, both the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals relied on the evidentiary presumption that official duties have been regularly performed. However, this presumption is not conclusive and cannot, by itself, overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence. The presumption of regularity, it must be emphasized, obtains only when there is no deviation from the regular performance of duty. Where the official act in question is irregular on its face, no presumption of regularity can arise. In the present case, the procedural lapses by the apprehending team in the handling of the seized items – from their failure to mark it immediately upon confiscation, to their failure to inventory and photograph it in the presence of the accused, or his representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the DOJ, and any elected public official, without offering any justifiable ground – effectively negated the presumption of regularity. People of the Philippines v. Jhon-Jhon Alejandro y Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 176350, August 10, 2011.

Evidence; proof of age in statutory rape; guidelines. In People v. Pruna, the Court set out the following guidelines in appreciating age, either as an element of the crime or as a qualifying circumstance: (a) the best evidence to prove the age of the offended party is an original or certified true copy of the certificate of live birth of such party; (b) in the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents such as baptismal certificate and school records which show the date of birth of the victim would suffice to prove age; (c) if the certificate of live birth or authentic document is shown to have been lost or destroyed or otherwise unavailable, the testimony, if clear and credible, of the victim’s mother or a member of the family either by affinity or consanguinity who is qualified to testify on matters respecting pedigree such as the exact age or date of birth of the offended party pursuant to Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence shall be sufficient under the following circumstances: [i] if the victim is alleged to be below 3 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 7 years old; [ii] if the victim is alleged to be below 7 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 12 years old; [iii] if the victim is alleged to be below 12 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 18 years old; (d)  in the absence of a certificate of live birth, authentic document, or the testimony of the victim’s mother or relatives concerning the victim’s age, the complainant’s testimony will suffice provided that it is expressly and clearly admitted by the accused; (e) it is the prosecution that has the burden of proving the age of the offended party and the failure of the accused to object to the testimonial evidence regarding age shall not be taken against him; (f) the trial court should always make a categorical finding as to the age of the victim. In the present case, the prosecution failed to present any certificate of live birth or any similar authentic document to prove the age of AAA when she was sexually violated.  Neither did the appellant expressly admit AAA’s age. In this case, the accused-appellant was found guilty of simple rape. People of the Philippines v. Terecio Funesto y Llospardas, G.R. No. 182237, August 3, 2011.

Evidence; rape. In reviewing the evidence in rape cases, the following considerations should be made: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility, it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. Nonetheless, it also bears stressing that rape is essentially committed in relative isolation or secrecy; thus, it is most often only the victim who can testify with regard to the fact of forced coitus. The prosecution’s evidence here established the guilt of accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. People of the Philippines v. Juanito Appattad, G.R. No. 193188. August 10, 2011.

Evidence; res inter alios acta rule.   Inasmuch as Bokingco’s extrajudicial confession is inadmissible against him, it is likewise inadmissible against Col, specifically where he implicated the latter as a cohort.  Under Section 28, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, the rights of a party cannot be prejudiced by an act, declaration or omission of another.  Res inter alios acta alteri nocere non debet.  Consequently, an extrajudicial confession is binding only on the confessant; it is not admissible against his or her co-accused, and is considered as hearsay against them.  People of the Philippines v. Michael Bokingo and Reynante Col, G.R. No. 187536, August 10, 2011.

Evidence; res inter alios acta rule; exception.  An exception to the res inter alios acta rule is an admission made by a conspirator.  Section 30, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides that the act or declaration of the conspirator relating to the conspiracy and during its existence may be given in evidence against the co-conspirator provided that the conspiracy is shown by evidence other than by such act or declaration.  Since there was no sufficient evidence to establish the existence of conspiracy, the extrajudicial confession has no probative value and is inadmissible in evidence against Col.  People of the Philippines v. Michael Bokingo and Reynante Col, G.R. No. 187536, August 10, 2011.

Evidence; statutory rape; elements. In People v. Orillosa, the Supreme Court held that in incestuous rape of a minor, actual force or intimidation need not be employed where the overpowering moral influence of the father would suffice. Thus, in order for the accused to be found guilty of the crime of statutory rape in this jurisdiction, only two (2) elements must concur: (1) that the offender had carnal knowledge of the victim; and (2) that the victim is below twelve (12) years old. In the present case, it is undisputed that the victim, AAA, was below twelve (12) years old when the crime was committed. A copy of AAA’s birth certificate to prove her age was duly presented in evidence by the prosecution, indicating that she was indeed born on October 14, 1994. Concomitantly, AAA was only seven (7) years old when the crime of rape was first committed against her in 2001, and was only nine (9) years old when the accused once again succeeded in committing the same crime in 2003. Also, it is undisputed that accused-appellant is the father of AAA, as stipulated by the parties during the pre-trial conference and as also indicated in AAA’s birth certificate. Thus, what only remains to be proved is the fact of carnal knowledge by the accused of the victim.

When AAA was called to the witness stand, she gave a detailed narration of how she was sexually molested by her father, which narration is difficult, if not improbable, for a 10-year-old girl to concoct. Verily, the prosecution has sufficiently established the foregoing element, thus proving that accused-appellant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three (3) counts of rape. People of the Philippines v. Juanito Appattad, G.R. No. 193188, August 10, 2011.

Non-appearance at the pre-trial conference; sanctions. Under Section 3, Rule 118 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, if the counsel for the accused or the prosecutor does not appear at the pre-trial conference and does not offer an acceptable excuse for his lack of cooperation, the court may impose proper sanctions or penalties. Pursuant to the foregoing provision, the court may sanction or penalize counsel for the accused if the following concur: (1) counsel does not appear at the pre-trial conference; and (2) counsel does not offer an acceptable excuse.  There is no cavil that petitioners failed to appear at the pre-trial conference in Davao City on April 27, 2006.  The crux of the matter in this case then is, did petitioners present an acceptable or valid excuse for said non-appearance? Under the circumstances, the Supreme Court ruled that petitioners failed to present an acceptable or valid excuse for their non-appearance during the pre-trial conference. The petitioners here were fined as a sanction of their non-appearance during the pre-trial conference. Atty. Emelia H. Garayblas and Atty. Renato G. Dela Cruz v. Hon. Gregory Ong, et al, G.R. No. 174507-30, August 3, 2011.

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

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