Here are selected November 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:
1. REVISED PENAL CODE
Malversation of public funds; elements.The elements of the crime of malversation of public funds are as follows: (a) that the offender is a public officer; (b) that he had the custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office; (c) that those funds or property were public funds or property for which he was accountable; and (d) that he appropriated, took, misappropriated or consented or, through abandonment or negligence, permitted another person to take them. In this case, all the elements are present and proven by the prosecution. With respect to the first three elements, it was established that petitioner was a revenue collection agent of the BIR. He was a public officer who had custody of public funds for which he was accountable. Anent the fourth element, such was established when the PNB confirmed that there was a discrepancy in the amounts actually received by the PNB and the amounts stated in the receipts reported by petitioner. Guillermo E. Cua v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 166847, November 16, 2011.
Rape; elements. Proof of hymenal laceration is not an element of rape. An intact hymen does not negate a finding that the victim was raped. Penetration of the penis by entry into the lips of the vagina, even without laceration of the hymen, is enough to constitute rape, and even the briefest of contact is deemed rape. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pangilinan y Crisostomo, G.R. No. 183090, November 14, 2011.
Rape; testimony of victim. In rape cases, the accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided it is credible, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. An examination of the records of this case shows no indication that the testimony of the private complainants should be viewed in a suspicious light. People of the Philippines v. Avelino Subesa y Moscardon, G.R. No. 193660, November 16, 2011.
Self-defense; elements. For the justifying circumstance of self-defense to be properly appreciated, the following elements must concur: (1) unlawful aggression; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. The most important among all the elements is unlawful aggression. Unlawful aggression must be proved first in order for self-defense to be successfully pleaded, whether complete or incomplete. There can be no self-defense unless there was unlawful aggression from the person injured or killed by the accused; otherwise, there is nothing to prevent or repel. People of the Philippines v. Edgar Concillado, G.R. No. 181204, November 28, 2011.
Self-defense; elements. There was no unlawful aggression on the part of Diosdado. The distance of the accused from the fence while he was urinating was about 1½ meters, while the victim was outside and in-between them was a bamboo fence about four feet high. With the height of the fence and his distance from the fence, unlawful aggression on the part of the victim was impossible. The victim could not have entered the yard of the accused. The dead body of Diosdado was found lying on the road about eight meters from the house of Edgar. However, no traces of blood could be found in the yard of the accused. Moreover, the disparity of the injuries sustained belies all pretensions of self-defense. Diosdado suffered a total of 26 incised, stab and bullet wounds. On the other hand, Edgar suffered only three superficial wounds. There being no unlawful aggression to speak of, Edgar’s theory of self-defense has no leg to stand on. Having failed to discharge his burden of proof, Edgar is criminally responsible for the death of Diosdado. People of the Philippines v. Edgar Concillado, G.R. No. 181204, November 28, 2011.
Self defense; elements. The elements of the plea of self-defense are: (a) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the unlawful aggression; and (c) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the accused in defending himself. In the nature of self-defense, the protagonists should be the accused and the victim. The established circumstances indicated that such did not happen here, for it was Talampas who had initiated the attack only against Eduardo; and that Ernesto had not been at any time a target of Talampas’ attack, he having only happened to be present at the scene of the attack. In reality, neither Eduardo nor Ernesto had committed any unlawful aggression against Talampas. Thus, Talampas was not repelling any unlawful aggression from the victim (Ernesto), thereby rendering his plea of self-defense unwarranted. Virgilio Talampas y Matic v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180219, November 23, 2011.
Self-defense; unlawful aggression; elements. Unlawful aggression on the part of the victim is the primordial element of the justifying circumstance of self-defense. Without unlawful aggression, there can be no justified killing in defense of oneself. The test for the presence of unlawful aggression under the circumstances is whether the aggression from the victim put in real peril the life or personal safety of the person defending himself; the peril must not be an imagined or imaginary threat. Accordingly, the accused must establish the concurrence of three elements of unlawful aggression, namely: (a) there must be a physical or material attack or assault; (b) the attack or assault must be actual, or, at least, imminent; and (c) the attack or assault must be unlawful. Here, Nugas did not credibly establish that Glen had first punched him and then reached for his clutch bag on the dashboard, making Nugas believe that he had a gun there. Nugas admitted not actually seeing if Glen had a gun in his clutch bag, and Nugas’ testimony about Glen punching him is improbable. Consequently, Nugas had absolutely no basis for pleading self-defense because he had not been subjected to either actual or imminent threat to his life. He had nothing to prevent or to repel considering that Glen committed no unlawful aggression towards him. People of the Philippines v. Melanio Nugas y Mapait, G.R. No. 172606, November 23, 2011.
2. SPECIAL PENAL LAWS
Dangerous Drugs Law; buy-bust operations. A buy-bust operation is far variant from an ordinary arrest; it is a form of entrapment which has repeatedly been accepted to be a valid means of arresting violators of the Dangerous Drugs Law. In a buy-bust operation, the violator is caught in flagrante delicto and the police officers conducting the operation are not only authorized, but duty-bound, to apprehend the violator and to search him for anything that may have been part of or used in the commission of the crime. Here, Police Officer (P0) 1 Michael Espares (Espares) and P03 Edilberto Sanchez (Sanchez), police officers of Pasig City, provided clear and detailed testimonies, and corroborated each other’s account of the entrapment or buy-bust operation their team conducted on August 5, 2003, during which, they caught accused-appellant in flagrante delicto or while in the commission of the offense of illegally selling dangerous drugs. People of the Philippines v. Edgar Cincillado, G.R. No. 184807, November 23, 2011.
Dangerous Drugs Law; buy-bust operations; chain of custody. In People v. Kamad, the Supreme Court enumerated the links that the prosecution must establish in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation to be as follows: first, the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turnover by the investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and fourth, the turnover and submission of the marked illegal drug seized from the forensic chemist to the court. These links in the chain of custody were not adequately established by the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the documentary records of the case. It is significant to note that the testimonies of poseur-buyer Catubay and his back-up, Esguerra, lack specifics on the post-seizure custody and handling of the subject narcotic substance. Although Catubay testified that he seized the small plastic sachet containing the suspected shabu from Salcena and brought it to the BSDO office, he never disclosed the identity of the person/s who had control and possession of the shabu at the time of its transportation to the police station. Neither did he claim that he retained possession until it reached the police station. Furthermore, the prosecution failed to supply vital details as to who marked the sachet, where and how the same was done, and who witnessed the marking. People of the Philippines v. Garet Salcena y Victorino, G.R. No. 192261, November 16, 2011.
Dangerous Drugs Law; buy-bust operations; objective test. In determining the credibility of prosecuting witnesses regarding the conduct of a legitimate buy-bust operation, the “objective” test as laid down in People v. De Guzman should be utilized, which in part reads: “We therefore stress that the ‘objective’ test in buy-bust operation demands that the details of the purported transaction must be clearly and adequately shown. This must start from the initial contact between the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer for purchase, the promise or payment of the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale. The manner by which the initial contact was made, whether or not through an informant, the offer to purchase the drug, the payment of the ‘buy-bust’ money, and the delivery of the illegal drug, whether to the informant alone or the police officer, must be the subject of strict scrutiny by courts to insure that law-abiding citizens are not unlawfully induced to commit an offense.” Applying this “objective” test, the Supreme Court is of the considered view that the prosecution failed to present a complete picture of the buy-bust operation highlighted by the disharmony and inconsistencies in its evidence. In this case, there are loose ends in the prosecution evidence, unsupported by coherent and rational amplification. People of the Philippines v. Garet Salcena y Victorino, G.R. No. 192261, November 16, 2011.
Dangerous Drugs Law; chain of custody; marking of seized items. In People v. Martinez, the Supreme Court ruled that the “marking” of the seized items, to truly ensure that they were the same items that enter the chain of custody and were eventually the ones offered in evidence, should be done (1) in the presence of the apprehended violator; and (2) immediately upon confiscation – in order to protect innocent persons from dubious and concocted searches and to shield the apprehending officers as well from harassment suits based on planting of evidence and on allegations of robbery or theft. People of the Philippines v. Garet Salcena y Victorino, G.R. No. 192261, November 16, 2011.
Dangerous Drugs Law; illegal sale of drugs. In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be duly established: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. The delivery of the illicit drug to the poseur-buyer and the receipt by the seller of the marked money successfully consummate the buy-bust transaction. What is material, therefore, is the proof that the transaction or sale transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti. Upon examination of the records of the instant case confirms the presence of all the required elements. The witness for the prosecution successfully proved that a buy-bust operation indeed took place, and the shabu subject of the sale was brought to and duly identified in court. PO1 Delos Santos positively identified the appellant as the person who sold to him one plastic sachet containing white crystalline substances in exchange for P200.00. The white crystalline substances contained in the seized plastic sachet were examined and confirmed to be shabu per Chemistry Report No. D-653-04 issued by the PNP Forensic Chemical Officer, P/Insp. Mariano. P/Insp. Mariano’s finding was approved by the Chief of the PNP’s Chemical Section, Police Senior Inspector Judycel Macapagal. Significantly, the appellant did not impute any ill motive on the part of PO1 Delos Santos that would lead the latter to falsely testify. People of the Philippines v. Asmad Bara y Asmad, G.R. No. 184808, November 14, 2011.
Dangerous Drugs Law; illegal sale of drugs. Only two elements are to be proven for the prosecution of illegal sale of regulated or prohibited drugs: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. Here, the prosecution had presented evidence that established both elements by the required quantum of proof, i.e., guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Legaspi was positively identified by the prosecution’s eyewitnesses as the person who sold to the poseur-buyer a heat-sealed plastic sachet containing a white crystalline substance. Her identity as the culprit cannot be doubted, having been caught in flagrante delicto in an entrapment operation conducted by the MSAT of Pasig City. Such positive identification prevails over Legaspi’s uncorroborated and weak defense of denial, and unsubstantiated and contradictory defense of instigation.The prosecution also succeeded in establishing with certainty and conclusiveness the corpus delicti of the crime. After Legaspi received the P200.00 from San Andres, the poseur-buyer, she reached into her pocket and handed him one heat-sealed plastic sachet containing shabu. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt by the seller of the marked money successfully consummated the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping officers and Legaspi. People of the Philippines v. Nenita Legaspi y Lucas, G.R. No. 173485, November 23, 2011.
Dangerous drugs; illegal sale of drugs; chain of custody. Proof beyond reasonable doubt demands that unwavering exactitude be observed in establishing the corpus delicti – the body of the crime whose core is the confiscated illicit drug. Hence, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in that it ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. People of the Philippines v. Garet Salcena y Victorino, G.R. No. 192261, November 16, 2011.
Trademark Infringement. To establish trademark infringement under R.A. 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code, the following elements must be shown: (1) the validity of plaintiff’s mark; (2) the plaintiff’s ownership of the mark; and (3) the use of the mark or its colorable imitation by the alleged infringer results in “likelihood of confusion.” Of these, it is the element of likelihood of confusion that is the gravamen of trademark infringement. Gemma Ong a.k.a. Ma. Theresa Gemma Catacutan v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 169440, November 23, 2011.
Trademark Infringement. A mark is valid if it is distinctive and not barred from registration. Once registered, not only the mark’s validity, but also the registrant’s ownership of the mark is prima facie presumed. The prosecution was able to establish that the trademark “Marlboro” was not only valid for being neither generic nor descriptive, it was also exclusively owned by PMPI, as evidenced by the certificates of registration issued by the Intellectual Property Office of the Department of Trade and Industry. Anent the element of confusion, the counterfeit cigarettes seized from Gemma’s possession were intended to confuse and deceive the public as to the origin of the cigarettes intended to be sold, as they not only bore PMPI’s mark, but they were also packaged almost exactly as PMPI’s products. Gemma Ong a.k.a. Ma. Theresa Gemma Catacutan v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 169440, November 23, 2011.
3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Alibi and denial. As his main defenses, appellant puts forward denial and alibi which has consistently been regarded as inherently weak defenses and must be rejected when the identity of the accused is satisfactorily and categorically established by the eyewitnesses to the offense, especially when such eyewitnesses have no ill motive to testify falsely. People of the Philippines v. Arnel Manjares, G.R. No. 185844, November 23, 2011.
Alibi and denial. In the instant case, the defense failed to show that the victim and sole eyewitness to the crimes of rape was motivated by ill will. Moreover, for the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at some other place at the time of the commission of the crime, but also that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus delicti or within its immediate vicinity. Appellant’s own categorical admission that he regularly went to the alleged boarding house of the victim and his two other children to give them their provisions for food and other expenses cast major doubt on his defense of alibi because, even if it were true, this only demonstrates that it was not physically impossible for appellant to be at the locus delicti when the victim was repeatedly raped. People of the Philippines v. Arnel Manjares, G.R. No. 185844, November 23, 2011.
Appeal. It is settled that in a criminal case, an appeal throws the whole case open for review, and it becomes the duty of the appellate court to correct such errors as may be found in the judgment appealed from, whether they are made the subject of assignment of errors or not. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pangilinan y Crisostomo, G.R. No. 183090, November 14, 2011.
Arrests; warrantless arrests. Under Section 5, Rule 113 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure, the following are the instances when a peace officer can effect a lawful warrantless arrest: (a) when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; (b) when an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and (c) when the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another. In cases falling under paragraphs (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a warrant shall be forthwith delivered to the nearest police station or jail and shall be proceeded against in accordance with section 7 of Rule 112 of the Rules. People of the Philippines v. PO1 Froilan L. Trestiza, G.R. No. 193833, November 16, 2011.
Evidence; crucial nature of testimony of victim in rape cases. In almost all cases of sexual abuse, the credibility of the victim’s testimony is crucial in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime where only the persons involved can testify as to its occurrence. In this case, the Supreme Court found no reason to disturb the findings of the Regional Trial Court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. People of the Philippines v. Avelino Subesa y Moscardon, G.R. No. 193660, November 16, 2011.
Evidence; trial court’s evaluation of witnesses highly respected on appeal. Time and again, it has been emphasized that the manner of assigning values to declarations of witnesses at the witness stand is best and most competently performed by the trial judge who has the unique and unmatched opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses and assess their credibility. In essence, when the question arises as to which of the conflicting versions of the prosecution and the defense is worthy of belief, the assessment of the trial court is generally given the highest degree of respect, if not finality. The assessment made by the trial court is even more enhanced when the Court of Appeals affirms the same, as in this case. The prosecution successfully proved beyond reasonable doubt the charges of rape and acts of lasciviousness against Subesa. All his four children positively identified him as their molester. People of the Philippines v. Avelino Subesa y Moscardon, G.R. No. 193660, November 16, 2011.
Petition for review on certiorari; when filed. Under the Rules of Court, a petition for review on certiorari must be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution appealed from, or of the denial of a motion for new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after notice of the judgment. In the instant case, the petition for review on certiorari was not filed on time. The petitioners alleged that they received a copy of the August 20, 2008 Decision of the Court of Appeals on February 10, 2009. Thus, the petitioners had only until February 25, 2009 to assail the August 20, 2008 Decision of the CA via a petition for review on certiorari. However, the petitioners were only able to file the instant petition on April 27, 2009. Clearly, the instant petition was filed out of time. People of the Philippines, Felix Florece, et al v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 187409, November 16, 2011.
(Lindy thanks Nuj Dumbrigue and Janette Ancog for their assistance in the preparation of this post.)