October 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Abuse of superior strength.  The aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength is considered whenever there is a notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor that is plainly and obviously advantageous to the aggressor and purposely selected or taken advantage of to facilitate the commission of the crime.  It is taken into account whenever the aggressor purposely used excessive force that is out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked. In this case, as personally witnessed by AAA, appellant struck Jennifer in the head with a lead pipe then stabbed her repeatedly until she was dead.  Clearly, the manner by which appellant had brutally slain Jennifer with a lethal weapon, by first hitting her in the head with a lead pipe to render her defenseless and vulnerable before stabbing her repeatedly, unmistakably showed that appellant intentionally used excessive force out of proportion to the means of defense available to his unarmed victim.  As aptly observed by the appellate court: it has long been established that an attack made by a man with a deadly weapon upon an unarmed and defenseless woman constitutes the circumstance of abuse of that superiority which his sex and the weapon used in the act afforded him and from which the woman was unable to defend herself.  Unlike in treachery, where the victim is not given the opportunity to defend himself or repel the aggression, taking advantage of superior strength does not mean that the victim was completely defenseless.   Abuse of superiority is determined by the excess of the aggressor’s natural strength over that of the victim, considering the momentary position of both and the employment of means weakening the defense, although not annulling it. People of the Philippines v. Conrado Laog y Ramin, G.R. No. 178321, October 5, 2011.

Extinction of Criminal Liability; death.  Olaco’s death on February 17, 2010, during the pendency of her appeal, extinguished not only her criminal liability for qualified theft committed against private complainant Ruben Vinluan, but also her civil liability, particularly the award for actual damages, solely arising from or based on said crime. According to Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code, criminal liability is totally extinguished: “By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment.”   Since, Olaco’s appeal was still pending and no final judgment had been rendered against her at the time of her death, it is already unnecessary to rule on her appeal.  Whether or not Olaco was guilty of the crime charged had become irrelevant because even assuming that Olaco did incur criminal liability and civil liability ex delicto, these were totally extinguished by her death, following Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code and the guidelines laid down in People v. Bayotas. People of the Philippines v. Juliet Olaco y Poler, G.R. No. 197042, October 17, 2011.

Kidnapping; elements.  For the successful prosecution of Kidnapping under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 7659, the following elements must concur: (1) the offender is a private individual; (2) he kidnaps or detains another, or in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3) the act of detention or kidnapping is 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.  People of the Philippines v. Jerry Jacalne, G.R. No. 16855, October 3, 2011.

Malicious mischief; elements.  The elements of the crime of malicious mischief under Article 327 of the Revised Penal Code are: (1) that the offender deliberately caused damage to the property of another; (2) that such act does not constitute arson or other crimes involving destruction; (3) that the act of damaging another’s property be committed merely for the sake of damaging it. Robert Taguinod v. People of the Philippines,  G.R. No. 185833, October 12, 2011.

Malversation; elements.  The following elements are essential for conviction in malversation cases: (1) the offender is a public officer; (2) he had custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office; (3) those funds or property were public funds or property for which he was accountable; and (4) he appropriated, took, misappropriated or consented or, through abandonment or negligence, permitted another person to take them. All the foregoing elements were satisfactorily established by the prosecution in this case.  Petitioners have not rebutted the legal presumption that, with the Disbursing Officer’s (Haron) failure to account for the illegally withdrawn amounts covered by the subject checks when demanded by the COA, they misappropriated and used the said funds for their personal benefit. Zacaria A. Candao, et al v. People of the Philippines and Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 186659-710, October 19, 2011.

Parricide; elements. The crime of Parricide under Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code is committed when: (1) a person is killed; (2) the deceased is killed by the accused; (3) the deceased is the father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or a legitimate other ascendant or other descendant, or the legitimate spouse of accused. People of the Philippines v. Noel T. Sales, G.R. No. 177218, October 3, 2011.

Qualified theft; penalty. People v. Mercado established that the appropriate penalty for Qualified Theft is reclusion perpetua based on Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code which provides that “[t]he crime of [qualified] theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in [Art. 309].” The values of the property here are PhP 308,200, PhP 688,750, PhP 1,213,900 and PhP 68,500.  Based on Article 309 of the RPC, if the value of the items exceeds P22,000.00, the basic penalty is prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods to be imposed in the maximum period, which is 8 years, 8 months and 1 day to 10 years of prision mayor. In order to determine the additional years of imprisonment, following People v. Mercado, PhP 22,000 is deducted from each amount and each difference should then be divided by PhP 10,000, disregarding any amount less than PhP 10,000.  This means 28 years, 66 years, 119 years and 4 years, respectively, should be added to the basic penalty.  But the imposable penalty for simple theft should not exceed a total of 20 years.  Therefore, had accused-appellant committed simple theft, the penalty for each of Criminal Case Nos. 9034, 9115 and 9117 would be 20 years of reclusion temporal; while Criminal Case No. 9130 would be from 8 years, 8 months and 1 day of prision mayor, as minimum, to 14 years of reclusion temporal, as maximum, before the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law.  However, as the penalty for Qualified Theft is two degrees higher, the correct imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua for each count. Considering that accused-appellant is convicted of four (4) counts of Qualified Theft with corresponding four penalties of reclusion perpetua, Article 70 of the RPC on successive service of sentences shall apply.  Article 70 pertinently provides that “the maximum duration of the convict’s sentence shall not be more than threefold the length of time corresponding to the most severe of the penalties imposed upon him.  No other penalty to which he may be liable shall be inflicted after the sum total of those imposed equals the said maximum period.  Such maximum period shall in no case exceed forty years.”  Applying said rule, despite the four penalties of reclusion perpetua for four counts of Qualified Theft, accused-appellant shall suffer imprisonment for a period not exceeding 40 years. People of the Philippines v. Bernard G. Mirto, G.R. No. 193479, October 19, 2011.

Rape; damages. The Supreme Court rectified the judgment of the Court of Appeals with respect to the civil liability imposed on the accused for the crime of rape. The civil indemnity of P75,000.00 and moral damages of P50,000.00 for each of the two counts of rape, with nothing said about exemplary damages. Was held to be inadequate in the face of the prevailing law and jurisprudence.

Rape; damages. Civil indemnity is mandatory upon a finding of the fact of rape; it is distinct from and should not be denominated as moral damages, which are based on different jural foundations and assessed by the court in the exercise of its discretion. In contrast, moral damages are granted to the victim in rape in such amount as the court shall deem just and reasonable without the necessity of pleading or proof. Indeed, the fact that the victim suffered the trauma of mental, physical and psychological sufferings that constituted the bases for moral damages is too obvious to still require the recital of such sufferings by the victim at the trial; the trial court itself assumes and acknowledges her agony as a gauge of her credibility. To expect and to require her to still provide the proof of her pains and sufferings is to demand that she render a very superfluous testimonial charade. Exemplary damages, which are intended to serve as deterrents to serious wrongdoings and as a vindication of undue sufferings and wanton invasion of the rights of an injured, or as a punishment for those guilty of outrageous conduct, are awarded under Article 2230 of the Civil Code when the crime is committed with one or more aggravating circumstances. People of the Philippines v. Patricio Taguibuya, G.R. No. 180497, October 5, 2011.

Rape; damages.  In People v. Catubig, the Supreme Court held that the term aggravating circumstances as used by the Civil Code should be understood in its broad or generic sense, not in the sense of prescribing a heavier punishment on the offender; hence, the ordinary or qualifying nature of an aggravating circumstance should be a distinction that was of consequence only to the criminal, as contrasted from the civil liability, thereby entitling the offended party or victim to an award of exemplary damages regardless of whether the aggravating circumstance was ordinary or qualifying. Being the victim of two counts of qualified rape, AAA, a minor and the daughter of the accused, was entitled to recover for each count of rape the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages (due to the attendance of the qualifying circumstances of minority of AAA and the relationship between her and the accused). The quantifications accord with jurisprudence. People of the Philippines v. Patricio Taguibuya, G.R. No. 180497, October 5, 2011.

Rape; damages.  In crimes, interest may be adjudicated in a proper case as part of the damages in the discretion of the court. The Supreme Court considered it proper to impose interest on the civil indemnities, moral damages and exemplary damages being awarded in this case, considering that there has been delay in the recovery. The imposition was also declared to be also a natural and probable consequence of the acts of the accused complained of.  The interest imposed is the legal rate of 6% per annum reckoned from the finality of this judgment. People of the Philippines v. Patricio Taguibuya, G.R. No. 180497, October 5, 2011.

Rape; mental retardate.  Carnal knowledge of a mental retardate is rape under paragraph 1 of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 8353 because a mental retardate is not capable of giving her consent to a sexual act. Proof of force or intimidation is not necessary, it being sufficient for the State to establish, one, the sexual congress between the accused and the victim, and, two, the mental retardation of the victim. It should no longer be debatable that rape of a mental retardate falls under paragraph 1(b) of Article 266-A because the provision refers to a rape of a female “deprived of reason,” a phrase that refers to mental abnormality, deficiency or retardation. People of the Philippines v. Charlie Butiong, G.R. No. 168932, October 19, 2011.

Rape; mental retardate. Who is a mental retardate within the context of the phrase “deprived of reason” used in the Revised Penal Code? People v. Dalandas, on mental retardation and its various levels, states: “Mental retardation is a chronic condition present from birth or early childhood and characterized by impaired intellectual functioning measured by standardized tests. It manifests itself in impaired adaptation to the daily demands of the individual’s own social environment. Commonly, a mental retardate exhibits a slow rate of maturation, physical and/or psychological, as well as impaired learning capacity.” The degrees of mental retardation according to their level of intellectual function are illustrated, thus: Level I – profound, IQ range below 20; Level II – severe, IQ range 20-35; Level III – moderate, IQ range 36-52; Level IV – mild; IQ range 53-68. Considering the findings of psychologist De Guzman to the effect that AAA had the mental age of a six- to seven-year old, an age equated with imbecility under the old classification, her mental age was even lower than that of a borderline mental deficiency within the context of that term as characterized in People v. Dalandas. Butiong’s carnal knowledge of AAA amounted to rape of a person deprived of reason. The ability of the female to give rational consent to carnal intercourse determines if carnal knowledge of a mental retardate like AAA is rape.People of the Philippines v. Charlie Butiong, G.R. No. 168932, October 19, 2011.

Treachery; elements.  There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make.  The essence of treachery is that the attack comes without a warning and in a swift, deliberate, and unexpected manner, affording the hapless, unarmed, and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape.  For treachery to be considered, two elements must concur:  (1)  the employment of means of execution that gives the persons attacked no opportunity to defend themselves or retaliate; and (2) the means of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted.The qualifying circumstance of treachery attended the commission of the crime in this case. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals correctly appreciated the qualifying aggravating circumstance of treachery. The prosecution established that the appellant suddenly stabbed the victim from behind thereby giving him no opportunity to resist the attack or defend himself. People of the Philippines v. Angelino Yanson, G.R. No. 179195, October 3, 2011.

 2.         SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

Dangerous Drugs Act; buy-bust operations. Various irregularities in the conduct of the buy-bust operation and the processing of the evidence in the present case have left the case against the accused too weak to overcome the presumption of innocence in his favor. The first irregularity attaches to the Pre-Operation Report/Coordination Sheet, which is intended to show the coordination between the PDEA and the police. Second, the actual marked money was likewise not presented in evidence since SPO1 Mora could no longer locate the marked money after he probably turned it over to the Investigator who photocopied it. Third, the police officer did not comply with the procedure for seizure of evidence under Section 21 of RA No. 9165 and its corresponding Implementing Rules without giving any reasonable excuse for the lapse. Fourth, the prosecution failed to establish the “chain of custody” of the seized item.  Fifth, the presumption that the police officers regularly performed their duty cannot, standing alone, defeat the presumption of innocence of the accused. In view of these irregularities in the buy-bust operation and the processing of the evidence, SPO1 Mora’s word cannot be given more weight than that of the accused. People of the Philippines v. Roberto Martin y Castano, G.R. No. 193234, October 19, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession of drugs; elements. For a prosecution for illegal possession of a dangerous drug to prosper, it must be shown that (a) the accused was in possession of an item or an object identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug; (b) such possession is not authorized by law; and (c) the accused was freely and consciously aware of being in possession of the drug. Based on the evidence presented by the prosecution, it was proven that all the elements for illegal possession of dangerous drugs are present in this case.  PO3 Mario Flores, during the search in the house of petitioner, found six (6) sachets of marijuana and three (3) sachets of shabu, both classified in law as dangerous drugs, on top of a padlocked cabinet underneath the stairs.  Raul David v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181861, October 17, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of drugs; elements.  In the crime of sale of dangerous drugs, the prosecution must be able to successfully prove the following elements:  (1) identities of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. Similarly, it is essential that the transaction or sale be proved to have actually taken place coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti which means the “actual commission by someone of the particular crime charged.” People of the Philippines v. Edwin Ulat y Aguinaldo @ Pudong, G.R. No. 180504, October 5, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; special courts for drug cases. Under RA 9165, the Congress empowered the Supreme Court with the full discretion to designate special courts to hear, try and decide drug cases. It was precisely in the exercise of this discretionary power that the powers of the executive judge were included in Chap. V, Sec. 9 of A.M. No. 03-8-02-SC vis-à-vis Sec. 5(5) of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution. Thus, in cases of inhibition or disqualification, the executive judge is mandated to assign the drug case to a regular court in the following order: first, to the pairing judge of the special court where the case was originally assigned; and, second, if the pairing judge is likewise disqualified or has inhibited himself, then to another regular court through a raffle. Under these exceptional circumstances, the Supreme Court designated the regular court, ipso facto, as a special court – but only for that particular case.  Being a “designated special court,” it is likewise bound to follow the relevant rules in trying and deciding the drug case pursuant to RA 9165. People of the Philippines v. Hon. Jose D. Azarraga, et al, G.R. Nos.187117 and 187127, October 12, 2011.

Illegal recruitment; elements. Section 6 of RA 8042 defines illegal recruitment, as “any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers and includes referring, contact services, promising or advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-licensee or non-holder of authority contemplated under Article 13(f) of the Labor Code of the Philippines. Illegal recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another. People of the Philippines v. Hadja Jarma Lalli, et al, G.R. No. 195419, October 12, 2011.

Ombudsman; Supreme Court’s review of Ombudsman’s grant of immunity.  An immunity statute does not, and cannot, rule out a review by the Supreme Court of the Ombudsman’s exercise of discretion. Like all other officials under our constitutional scheme of government, all their acts must adhere to the Constitution. The parameters of the Supreme Court, however, are narrow.  In the first place, what the Supreme Court reviews are executive acts of a constitutionally independent Ombudsman.  Also, the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. Since the determination of the requirements under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court is highly factual in nature, the Court must thus generally defer to the judgment of the Ombudsman who is in a better position (than the Sandiganbayan or the defense) to know the relative strength and/or weakness of the evidence presently in his possession and the kind, tenor and source of testimony he needs to enable him to prove his case.   It should not be forgotten, too, that the grant of immunity effectively but conditionally results in the extinction of the criminal liability the accused-witnesses might have incurred, as defined in the terms of the grant.  This point is no less important as the grant directly affects the individual and enforces his right against self-incrimination. These dynamics should be a constant reminder to the Supreme Court to tread softly, but not any less critically, in its review of the Ombudsman’s grant of immunity. The Supreme Court’s room for intervention only occurs when a clear and grave abuse of the exercise of discretion is shown.  Erdito Quarto v. The Hon. Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, et al, G.R. No. 169042, October 5, 2011.

3.         CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 

Alibi.  Alibi, as a defense, is inherently weak and crumbles in light of positive identification by truthful witnesses.  Denial is negative and self-serving and cannot be given greater evidentiary weight over the testimony of a credible witness who positively testified that the appellant was at the locus criminis and was the last person seen with the victim. In this case, Jose unequivocally testified that he saw the appellant at the vicinity of Caran-caran on October 9, 2000, the day of the murder.  More importantly, Jose testified that he saw the appellant, together with four (4) other men, walking with Resuelo Sr. – while the latter was hog-tied – on the day of the murder.  Jose’s testimony not only establishes a strong circumstance to establish the appellant’s culpability – since the victim was last seen with the appellant and his companions – but also strongly negates the appellant’s alibi that he was not in Caran-caran at the time of the murder.  In this case, the appellant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and clearly merits the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided by law. People of the Philippines v. Edwin Villamor, et al,  G.R. No. 187497, October 12, 2011.

Conspiracy.   Conspiracy is the common design to commit a felony.  Conspiracy which determines criminal culpability need not entail a close personal association or at least an acquaintance between or among the participants to a crime.  It need not be shown that the parties actually came together and agreed in express terms to enter into and pursue a common design.  The assent of the minds may be and, from the secrecy of the crime, usually inferred from proof of facts and circumstances which, taken together, indicate that they are parts of some complete whole as ruled in People v. Mateo Jr.  Here, it can be deduced from petitioner and his co-accused’s collective conduct, viewed in its totality, that there was a common design, concerted action and concurrence of sentiments in bringing about the crime committed. Ho Wai Pang v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 176229, October 19, 2011.

Credibility of witnesses; findings of trial court respected.   The findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are entitled to the highest respect and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which would have affected the result of the case.  The trial court has the singular opportunity to observe the witnesses through the different indicators of truthfulness or falsehood, such as the angry flush of an insisted assertion or the sudden pallor of a discovered lie or the tremulous mutter of a reluctant answer or the forthright tone of a ready reply; or the furtive glance, the blush of conscious shame, the hesitation, the sincere or the flippant or sneering tone, the heat, the calmness, the yawn, the sigh, the candor or lack of it; the scant or full realization of the solemnity of an oath, the carriage and mien. People of the Philippines v. Jerry Jacalne, G.R. No. 168552, October 3, 2011.

Credibility of witnesses; findings of trial court respected.  The settled rule is that the trial court’s conclusions on the credibility of witnesses in rape cases are generally accorded great weight and respect, and at times even finality, unless there appear in the record certain facts or circumstances of weight and value which the lower court overlooked or misappreciated and which, if properly considered, would alter the result of the case. Since the trial judge had the direct and singular opportunity to observe the facial expression, gesture and tone of voice of the complaining witnesses while testifying, it was truly competent and in the best position to assess whether the witness was telling the truth.  People of the Philippines v. Marciano Dollano Jr., G.R. No. 188851, October 19, 2011.

Credibility of witnesses; findings of trial court respected. It has been held that in a prosecution for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Law, a case becomes a contest of credibility of witnesses and their testimonies. Since it was the trial court that had the opportunity to observe the witnesses’ demeanor and deportment while testifying, the rule is that the trial court’s assessment of their credibility is entitled to great respect, and even finality, unless facts of weight and substance bearing on the elements of the crime have been overlooked, misapprehended or misapplied. Here, while accused-appellant was not conclusively shown to have contradicted himself as regards the time when the plastic sachet was shown to him by the police, the perception of the trial court on the matter has to be relied upon. The court a quo cites this as only one of several material inconsistencies and incredible statements made by accused-appellant during the trial. In fine, there is no sufficient basis to reverse the ruling of the Court of Appeals affirming the trial court’s conviction of accused-appellant for violation of Section 5 of RA 9165. People of the Philippines v. Ricardo Mondejar y Bocarili, G.R. No. 193185, October 12, 2011.

Credibility of witnesses; recantation of private complainants in rape case insufficient.  In this case, the trial and appellate courts gave credence to the testimonies of AAA and BBB when they were presented as witnesses for the prosecution. They found that their clear narration of how the offenses were committed and their categorical statement that appellant committed them, are sufficient to warrant the conviction of the appellant for four counts of rape. The recantation of both private complainants are insufficient to warrant the reversal of appellant’s conviction. People of the Philippines v. Marciano Dollano Jr., G.R. No. 188851, October 19, 2011.

Demurrer to evidence; when not equivalent to an acquittal. As a general rule, an order granting the accused’s demurrer to evidence amounts to an acquittal. There are certain exceptions, however, as when the grant thereof would not violate the constitutional proscription on double jeopardy. When there is a finding that there was grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in dismissing a criminal case by granting the accused’s demurrer to evidence, its judgment is considered void. Hon. Judge Jesus B. Mupas, et al v. People of the Philippines, thru its duly authorized representative, the Legal Service, DSWD, Quezon City, et al, G.R. No. 189365, October 12, 2011.

Demurrer to evidence; when not equivalent to an acquittal. In this case, the Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Appeal’s disquisition that the lower court’s grant of the demurrer to evidence of petitioner Zafra was attended by grave abuse of discretion. The prosecution’s evidence was prima facie sufficient to prove the criminal charges filed against her for her inexcusable negligence, subject to the defense that she may present in the course of a full-blown trial. The lower court improperly examined the prosecution’s evidence in light of only one mode of committing the crimes charged; that is, through positive acts. The appellate court correctly concluded that the crime of malversation may be committed either through a positive act of misappropriation of public funds or passively through negligence by allowing another to commit such misappropriation. In the instant case, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Court of Appeals that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion when it granted the accused’s demurrer to evidence, as such, the Supreme Court deem the trial court’s consequent order of acquittal void. Hon. Judge Jesus B. Mupas, et al v. People of the Philippines, thru its duly authorized representative, the Legal Service, DSWD, Quezon City, et al, G.R. No. 189365, October 12, 2011.

Demurrer to evidence; Office of the Solicitor General. The acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case against him can only be appealed by the Solicitor General acting on behalf of the State.  The private complainant or the offended party may question such acquittal or dismissal only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned. People v. Santiago states: “It is well-settled that in criminal cases where the offended party is the State, the interest of the private complainant or the private offended party is limited to the civil liability. Thus, in the prosecution of the offense, the complainant’s role is limited to that of a witness for the prosecution. If a criminal case is dismissed by the trial court or if there is an acquittal, an appeal therefrom on the criminal aspect may be undertaken only by the State through the Solicitor General. . . . The private offended party or complainant may not take such appeal. However, the said offended party or complainant may appeal the civil aspect despite the acquittal of the accused.” Benjamin Bangayan, Jr. v. Sally Go Bangayan/Resally De AsisDelfin v. Sally Go Bangayan, G.R. No. 172777/G.R. No. 172792, October 19, 2011.

Demurrer to evidence; Office of the Solicitor General. A perusal of the petition for certiorari filed by Sally Go before the CA discloses that she sought reconsideration of the criminal aspect of the case.  Specifically, she prayed for the reversal of the trial court’s order granting petitioners’ demurrer to evidence and the conduct of a full blown trial of the criminal case.  It is apparent that her only desire was to appeal the dismissal of the criminal case against the petitioners.  Because bigamy is a criminal offense, only the OSG is authorized to prosecute the case on appeal.  Benjamin Bangayan, Jr. v. Sally Go Bangayan/Resally De AsisDelfin v. Sally Go Bangayan, G.R. No. 172777/G.R. No. 172792, October 19, 2011.

Mandamus; proper remedy when individuals arbitrarily excluded from informationMandamus is the proper remedy to compel the performance of a ministerial duty imposed by law upon the respondent. In matters involving the exercise of judgment and discretion, mandamus may only be resorted to, to compel the respondent to take action; it cannot be used to direct the manner or the particular way discretion is to be exercised. In the exercise of his investigatory and prosecutorial powers, the Ombudsman is generally no different from an ordinary prosecutor in determining who must be charged.  He also enjoys the same latitude of discretion in determining what constitutes sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause (that must be established for the filing of an information in court) and the degree of participation of those involved or the lack thereof. His findings and conclusions on these matters are not ordinarily subject to review by the courts except when he gravely abuses his discretion, i.e., when his action amounts to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or when he acts outside the contemplation of law. If, on the basis of the same evidence, the Ombudsman arbitrarily excludes from an indictment some individuals while impleading all others, the remedy of mandamus lies since he is duty-bound, as a rule, to include in the information all persons who appear responsible for the offense involved.  Erdito Quarto v. The Hon. Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, et al, G.R. No. 169042, October 5, 2011.

Positive Identification of perpetrator. When is identification of the perpetrator of a crime positive and reliable enough for establishing the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt? The identification of a malefactor, to be positive and sufficient for conviction, does not always require direct evidence from an eyewitness; otherwise, no conviction will be possible in crimes where there are no eyewitnesses. Indeed, trustworthy circumstantial evidence can equally confirm the identification and overcome the constitutionally presumed innocence of the accused. Thus, the Supreme Court has distinguished two types of positive identification in People v. Gallarde, to wit: (a) that by direct evidence, through an eyewitness to the very commission of the act; and (b) that by circumstantial evidence, such as where the accused is last seen with the victim immediately before or after the crime. People of the Philippines v. Delfin Caliso, G.R. No. 183830, October 19, 2011.

Positive Identification of perpetrator.  Amegable asserted that she was familiar with Caliso because she had seen him pass by in her barangay several times prior to the killing. Such assertion indicates that she was obviously assuming that the killer was no other than Caliso. As matters stand, therefore, Caliso’s conviction hangs by a single thread of evidence, the direct evidence of Amegable’s identification of him as the perpetrator of the killing. But that single thread was thin, and cannot stand sincere scrutiny. Her identification of Caliso as the perpetrator did not have unassailable reliability, the only means by which it might be said to be positive and sufficient.  People of the Philippines v. Delfin Caliso, G.R. No. 183830, October 19, 2011.

Positive Identification of perpetrator.  The test to determine the moral certainty of an identification is its imperviousness to skepticism on account of its distinctiveness. To achieve such distinctiveness, the identification evidence should encompass unique physical features or characteristics, like the face, the voice, the dentures, the distinguishing marks or tattoos on the body, fingerprints, DNA, or any other physical facts that set the individual apart from the rest of humanity.  A witness’ familiarity with the accused, although accepted as basis for a positive identification, does not always pass the test of moral certainty due to the possibility of mistake.  People of the Philippines v. Delfin Caliso, G.R. No. 183830, October 19, 2011.

Positive Identification of perpetrator.  A positive identification which is categorical and consistent and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter prevails over a denial which, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence is negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law. They cannot be given greater evidentiary value over the testimony of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters. In this case, Beatriz Raguirag positively identified the accused as the one who had shot her husband. She was firm and consistent throughout her testimony. The Supreme Court did not see any ill motive on her part in testifying against her own relative regarding the death of her husband. Thus, there is no reason to question her credibility as a witness. On the other hand, the accused miserably failed to satisfy the requirements for an alibi to be considered plausible. Republic of the Philippines v. Arnold T. Agcanas, G.R. No. 174476, October 11, 2011.

Promulgation of judgment; presence of accused mandatory. Perjury is not a light felony or offense contemplated by Rule 120, Sec. 6. It was therefore mandatory for petitioner to be present at the promulgation of the judgment. Despite notice, however, petitioner was absent when the MTCC promulgated its judgment on 25 August 2009. Pursuant to Rule 120, Sec. 6, it is only when the accused is convicted of a light offense that a promulgation may be pronounced in the presence of his counsel or representative. In case the accused failed to appear on the scheduled date of promulgation despite notice, and the failure to appear was without justifiable cause, the accused shall lose all the remedies available in the Rules against the judgment. One such remedy was the motion for reconsideration of the judgment of the MTCC filed by petitioner on 28 August 2009. Absent a motion for leave to avail of the remedies against the judgment, the MTCC should not have entertained petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. Thus, petitioner had only 15 days from 25 August 2009 or until 9 September 2009 to file his motion for probation. The motion for probation filed on 5 November 2009 was filed out of time. Anselmo De Leon Cuyo v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 192164, October 12, 2011.

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

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