June 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select June 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1. REVISED PENAL CODE

Estafa; elements. Entrenched in jurisprudence are the following essential elements of Estafa under Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code: (a) that money, goods or other personal properties are received by the offender in trust or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return, the same; (2) that there is a misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender or denial on his part of such receipt; (3) that such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and (4) that there is a demand made by the offended party on the offender. In this case, all these elements have been sufficiently established by the prosecution in this case. Andre L. D’Aigle v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 174181, June 27, 2012.

Estafa; misappropriation;Trust Receipts Law. In order that the respondents may be validly prosecuted for estafa under Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code, in relation with Section 13 of the Trust Receipts Law, the following elements must be established: (a) they received the subject goods in trust or under the obligation to sell the same and to remit the proceeds thereof to [the trustor], or to return the goods if not sold; (b) they misappropriated or converted the goods and/or the proceeds of the sale; (c) they performed such acts with abuse of confidence to the damage and prejudice of the entrustor; and (d) demand was made on them by [the trustor] for the remittance of the proceeds or the return of the unsold goods. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Lamberto C. Perez, et al., G.R. No. 166884, June 13, 2012.

Estafa; misappropriation;Trust Receipts Law.  In this case, no dishonesty or abuse of confidence existed in the handling of the construction materials. The misappropriation could have been committed should the entrustee fail to turn over the proceeds of the sale of the goods covered by the trust receipt transaction or fail to return the goods themselves. The respondents could not have failed to return the proceeds since their allegations that the clients of ACDC had not paid for the projects it had undertaken with them at the time the case was filed had never been questioned or denied by LBP. Land Bank of the Philippines v. Lamberto C. Perez, et al., G.R. No. 166884, June 13, 2012.

Justifying circumstance; lawful exercise of right. The availability of the justifying circumstance of fulfillment of duty or lawful exercise of a right or office under Article 11 (5) of the Revised Penal Code rests on proof that (a) the accused acted in the performance of his duty or in the lawful exercise of his right or office, and (b) the injury caused or the offense committed is the necessary consequence of the due performance of such duty or the lawful exercise of such right or office. The justification is based on the complete absence of intent and negligence on the part of the accused, inasmuch as guilt of a felony connotes that it was committed with criminal intent or with fault or negligence. Salvador Yapyuco y Enriquez v. Hon. Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines/Mario D. Reyes, Andres S. Reyes and Virgilio A. Manguerra/Gervacio B. Cunanan, Jr. and Ernesto Puno v. Honorable Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 120744-46/G.R. No. 122677/G.R. No. 122776.June 25, 2012

Justifying circumstance; lawful exercise of right. The Supreme Court found that the requisites for justification under Article 11 (5) of the Revised Penal Code do not obtain in this case. The undisputed presence of all the accused at the situs of the incident is a legitimate law enforcement operation. No objection is strong enough to defeat the claim that all of them – who were either police and barangay officers or CHDF members tasked with the maintenance of peace and order – were bound to, as they did, respond to information of a suspected rebel infiltration in the locality. While, it may certainly be argued that rebellion is a continuing offense, it is interesting that nothing in the evidence suggests that the accused were acting under an official order to open fire at or kill the suspects under any and all circumstances. Even more telling is the absence of reference to the victims having launched such aggression as would threaten the safety of any one of the accused, or having exhibited such defiance of authority that would have instigated the accused, particularly those armed, to embark on a violent attack with their firearms in self-defense. Salvador Yapyuco y Enriquez v. Hon. Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines/Mario D. Reyes, Andres S. Reyes and Virgilio A. Manguerra/Gervacio B. Cunanan, Jr. and Ernesto Puno v. Honorable Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 120744-46/G.R. No. 122677/G.R. No. 122776.June 25, 2012.

Malversation of public funds. Malversation of public funds is defined and penalized in Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, which reads: “ [a]ny public officer who, by reason of the duties of his office, is accountable for public funds or property, shall appropriate the same, or shall take or misappropriate or shall consent, or through abandonment or negligence, shall permit any other person to take such public funds or property, wholly or partially, or shall, otherwise, be guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property…” Under Article 217, a presumption was installed that upon demand by any duly authorized officer, the failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public funds or property – with which said officer is accountable – should be prima facie evidence that he had put such missing funds or properties to personal use. Cecilia U. Legrama v. Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 178626, June 13, 2012.

Malversation of public funds. In this case, after the government auditors discovered the shortage and informed petitioner of the same, petitioner failed to properly explain or justify the shortage that was subject to her accountability. Undoubtedly, all the elements of the crime are present in the case at bar. First, it is undisputed that petitioner was the municipal treasurer at the time material to this case; Second, it is the inherent function of petitioner, being the municipal treasurer, to take custody of and exercise proper management of the local government’s funds; Third, the parties have stipulated during the pre-trial of the case that petitioner received the subject amount as public funds and that petitioner is accountable for the same. Fourth, petitioner failed to rebut the prima facie presumption that she has put such missing funds to her personal use. Verily, in the crime of malversation of public funds, all that is necessary for conviction is proof that the accountable officer had received the public funds and that he failed to account for the said funds upon demand without offering sufficient explanation why there was a shortage. In fine, petitioner’s failure to present competent and credible evidence that would exculpate her and rebut the prima facie presumption of malversation clearly warranted a verdict of conviction. Cecilia U. Legrama v. Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 178626, June 13, 2012.

Murder; self defense. Self-defense as a justifying circumstance under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, implies the admission by the accused that he committed the acts which would have been criminal in character had it not been for the presence of circumstances whose legal consequences negate the commission of a crime. By invoking self-defense in this case, the appellant admitted that he shot the victim. With this admission, the burden of evidence shifted to the appellant to prove that he acted in accordance with the law. The appellant, in this regard, must satisfactorily prove the concurrence of the following requisites under the second paragraph of Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, to relieve him of any criminal liability: First, unlawful aggression; Second, reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; Third, lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending. In this case, the Supreme Court found that the appellant failed to discharge this burden. The existence of unlawful aggression is the basic requirement in a plea of self-defense. In other words, no self-defense can exist without unlawful aggression since there is no attack that the accused will have to prevent or repel. People of the Philippines v. Eduardo Gonzales, G.R. No. 195534, June 13, 2012.

Murder; self defense.  In this case, the requisite of unlawful aggression on the part of the victim is patently absent. The records fail to disclose any circumstance showing that the appellant’s life was in danger when he met the victim. What the evidence shows is that the victim was unarmed when he went to the house of the appellant. Likewise, there was also no evidence proving the gravity of the utterances and the actuations allegedly made by the victim that would have indicated his wrongful intent to injure the appellant. People of the Philippines v. Eduardo Gonzales, G.R. No. 195534, June 13, 2012.

Rape; mental retardation. On appeal, appellant argues that the prosecution failed to establish the mental state of AAA which is crucial to the charge that he raped a woman who is of the legal age but otherwise deprived of reason. In other words, he asserts that the prosecution was not able to prove that AAA suffers from mental retardation. The Supreme Court was not persuaded. In the case at bar, the undisputed expert testimony of Dr. Imelda Escuadra, a Medical Specialist II and officer-in-charge of the Women and Children Protection Unit at the Bicol Medical Center who personally conducted the psychiatric tests on AAA, clearly established that the victim is afflicted with mild mental retardation. She further testified that AAA was also suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that AAA possesses an IQ of 55 with a mental age equivalent to that of a normal 9 to 10-year-old person. People of the Philippines v. Marcial Bayrante y Boaquina, G.R. No. 188978, June 13, 2012.

Rape; minor. Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610 reads in part: “[t]he penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon…[t]hose who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subject to other sexual abuse….” Under Section 5 (b), Article III of RA 7610 in relation to RA 8353, if the victim of sexual abuse is below 12 years of age, the offender should not be prosecuted for sexual abuse but for statutory rape under Article 266-A(1)(d) of the Revised Penal Code and penalized with reclusion perpetua. On the other hand, if the victim is 12 years or older, the offender should be charged with either sexual abuse under Section 5(b) of RA 7610 or rape under Article 266-A (except paragraph 1[d]) of the Revised Penal Code. However, the offender cannot be accused of both crimes for the same act because his right against double jeopardy will be prejudiced. A person cannot be subjected twice to criminal liability for a single criminal act. Likewise, rape cannot be complexed with a violation of Section 5(b) of RA 7610. Under Section 48 of the Revised Penal Code (on complex crimes), a felony under the Revised Penal Code (such as rape) cannot be complexed with an offense penalized by a special law. People of the Philippines v. Jover Matias y Dela Fuente, G.R. No. 186469, June 13, 2012.

Rape; minor. In this case, a punctilious scrutiny of the records shows that AAA was born on April 23, 1991, which would make her 13 years old at the time of the commission of the offense on June 6, 2004. Thus, appellant can be prosecuted and convicted either under Sec. 5 (b), Article III of RA 7610 for sexual abuse, or under Article 266-A of the RPC, except for rape under paragraph 1(d). In this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of the appellant under Section 5 (b), Article III of Republic Act No. 7610. People of the Philippines v. Jover Matias y Dela Fuente, G.R. No. 186469, June 13, 2012.

Treachery; elements. The Supreme Court ruled that the qualifying circumstance of treachery was sufficiently established in this case. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof that tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from any defense that the offended party might make. The elements of treachery are as follows: (1) the employment of means of execution that gives the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate; and (2) the means of execution was deliberate or consciously adopted. This is the essence of treachery — a deliberate and sudden attack; affording the hapless, unarmed, and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or to escape. In treachery, what is decisive is that the attack was executed in such a manner as to make it impossible for the victim to retaliate. People of the Philippines v. Ruperto Dones a.k.a. Perto, G.R. No. 188329, June 20, 2012.

Treachery; elements. These elements were correctly found to be present in the intermediate appellate review. Although the accused was standing directly in front of the De Gala spouses, the victim Tersiro was preoccupied with crossing the prinsa when the accused started shooting. The Court of Appeals found that the accused had waited for that exact moment before repeatedly pulling the trigger. The suddenness and unexpectedness of the attack, considering that it was nighttime and the place was deserted, rendered both Melanie and Tersiro defenseless. There was no means of escape, as they were trapped in waist-high grass between the prinsa and the accused. It was apparent that accused-appellant sought cover in the darkness, waiting for the couple to return home. Even after Tersiro fell, the accused continued to pepper him with bullets, thus ensuring that the victim would not survive or retaliate. People of the Philippines v. Ruperto Dones a.k.a. Perto, G.R. No. 188329, June 20, 2012.

2.         SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

B.P. 22; prescription.  Under Section 1 of Act No. 3326 which is the law applicable to B.P. 22 cases, “[v]iolations penalized by special acts shall, unless otherwise provided in such acts, prescribe in accordance with the following rules:… after four years for those punished by imprisonment for more than one month, but less than two years.” Under Sction 2 of the same Act, “[t]he prescription shall be interrupted when proceedings are instituted against the guilty person, and shall begin to run again if the proceedings are dismissed for reasons not constituting jeopardy. Since B.P. 22 is a special law that imposes a penalty of imprisonment of not less than thirty (30) days but not more than one year or by a fine for its violation, it therefor prescribes in four (4) years in accordance with the aforecited law. The running of the prescriptive period, however, should be tolled upon the institution of proceedings against the guilty person. People of the Philippines v. Ma. Theresa Pangilinan, G.R. No. 152662, June 13, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody. In cases of illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the chain of custody over the dangerous drug must be shown to establish the corpus delicti. The dangerous drug itself, the shabu in this case, constitutes the very corpus delicti of the offense and in sustaining a conviction under R.A. 9165, the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti must definitely be shown to have been preserved. Under Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, which implements the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, “chain of custody” means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. People of the Philippines v. Gomer S. Climaco, G.R. No. 199403, June 13, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; chain of custody.  In this case, the “chain of custody” was not properly established. The prosecution did not explain why the markings of the plastic sachets containing the alleged drugs, which were submitted to be “TR-B” and “TR-R,” became “GSC-1” and “GSC-2” in the Chemistry Report, Index of Exhibits and Minutes of the Hearing. In fact, since the markings are different, the presumption is that the substance in the plastic sachets marked as “TR-B” and “TR-R” is different from the substance in the plastic sachets marked as “GSC-1” and “GSC-2.” There is no moral certainty that the substance taken from appellant is the same dangerous drug submitted to the laboratory and the trial court. People of the Philippines v. Gomer S. Climaco, G.R. No. 199403, June 13, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; illegal possession of dangerous drugs. In order to convict appellant for illegal possession of a dangerous drug, or the shabu in this case, the prosecution evidence must prove beyond reasonable doubt the following elements: (a) the appellant was in possession of an item or object that is identified to be a prohibited or dangerous drug; (b) such possession was not authorized by law; and (c) the appellant freely and consciously possessed the drug. In this case, the fact of possession by appellant of the bag containing the shabu was not established in the first place. In every criminal prosecution, the State must prove beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime charged and the complicity or participation of the accused. While a lone witness’ testimony is sufficient to convict an accused in certain instances, the testimony must be clear, consistent, and credible—qualities we cannot ascribe to this case. Jurisprudence is consistent that for testimonial evidence to be believed, it must both come from a credible witness and be credible in itself – tested by human experience, observation, common knowledge and accepted conduct that has evolved through the years. Clearly from the foregoing, the prosecution failed to establish by proof beyond reasonable doubt that appellant was indeed in possession of shabu, and that he freely and consciously possessed the same. People of the Philippines v. Zafra Maraorao y Macabalang, G.R. No. 174369, June 20, 2012.

Dangerous Drugs; procedural requirements. On appeal, the accused-appellants questioned the Court Appeals’ affirmation of their conviction by arguing that the arresting officers failed to comply with the requirements for the proper custody of seized dangerous drugs under R.A. 9165. They claim that the officers failed to conduct the following: (1) make a physical inventory of the seized items; (2) take photographs of the items; and (3) establish that a representative each from the media, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official had been contacted and was present during the marking of the items. In this case, the records are bereft of any indication that would show that the prosecution was able to establish the arresting officers’ compliance with the procedural safeguards under R.A. 9165. Neither do the records contain any physical inventory report or photograph of the confiscated items. None of the arresting officers testified that they had conducted a physical inventory or taken pictures of the items. Nor did they state that there was even any attempt to contact a representative from the media and the DOJ, and an elected public official. Nowhere can it be found that the marking of the items was done in the presence of any of the said third-party representatives. In all these major lapses, no one gave so much as an explanation of why the procedure was not followed, or whether there was a justifiable ground for failing to do so. The arresting officers and the prosecution simply did not bother discussing these matters. R.A. 9165 has a strict mandate for the arresting officers to comply with the afore-quoted procedural safeguards. The Supreme Court reversed the acquittal of the accused-appellants. People of the Philippines v. Joel Ancheta y Osan, et al, G.R. No. 197371, June 13, 2012.

Illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate; elements. To be convicted of the crime of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate, the following elements must occur: (a) the accused have no valid license or authority required by law to enable them to lawfully engage in the recruitment and placement of workers; (b) the accused engaged in this activity of recruitment and placement by actually recruiting, deploying and transporting; (c) illegal recruitment was committed by three persons conspiring and confederating with one another. People of the Philippines v. Nurfrashir Hashim y Saraban, et al. Bernadette Panscala, etc., G.R. No. 194255, June 13, 2012.

Illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate; elements. Accused-appellants posits that the prosecution failed to prove that there were more than two persons involved in the alleged crime of illegal recruitment for it to be qualified as syndicated illegal recruitment, since the trial court held only two of the accused liable for the crime. The Supreme Court however dismissed accused-appellants’ contention. In this case, the prosecution was able to establish that accused-appellants’ Bernadette and Franz were not the only ones who had conspired to bring the victims to Malaysia. It was also able to establish at the very least, through the credible testimonies of the witnesses, that (1) Jun and Macky were the escorts of the women to Malaysia; (2) a certain Tash was their financier; (3) a certain Bunso negotiated with Macky for the price the former would pay for the expenses incurred in transporting the victims to Malaysia; and (4) Mommy Cindy owned the prostitution house where the victims worked. The concerted efforts of all these persons resulted in the oppression of the victims. Clearly, it was established beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant, together with at least two other persons, came to an agreement to commit the felony and decided to commit it. The accused appellants were convicted of the crime of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate. People of the Philippines v. Nurfrashir Hashim y Saraban, et al. Bernadette Panscala, etc., G.R. No. 194255, June 13, 2012.

RA 3019; prescription.  Violations falling under Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 prescribe in fifteen (15) years as provided under Section 11 of R.A. 3019. Petitioner maintains that, although the charge against respondents was for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, its prosecution relates to its efforts to recover the ill-gotten wealth of former President Ferdinand Marcos and of his family and cronies. Section 15, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides that the right of the State to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials or employees is not barred by prescription, laches, or estoppel. But the Supreme Court has already settled in Presidential Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Committee on Behest Loans v. Desierto that Section 15, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution applies only to civil actions for recovery of ill-gotten wealth, not to criminal cases such as the complaint against respondents in OMB-0-90-2810. Thus, the prosecution of offenses arising from, relating or incident to, or involving ill-gotten wealth contemplated in Section 15, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution may be barred by prescription. Notably, Section 11 of R.A. 3019 now provides that the offenses committed under that law prescribes in 15 years. Republic of the Philippines v. Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 139930, June 26, 2012.

R.A. 3019;section 3(e) elements. Under Section 3 (e) of RA 3019, one can be charged with corrupt practices of public officer by “[c]ausing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions. The said crime has the following essential elements: (a) the accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions; (b) he must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence; and (c) his action caused any undue injury to any party, including the government, or gave any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions. People of the Philippines v. Aristeo E. Atienza, Rodrigo D. Manongson, Crispin M. Egarque, and the Hon. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 171671, June 18, 2012.

R.A. 3019;section 3(e) elements. As aptly concluded by the Sandiganbayan in the assailed resolution, the second element of the crime as charged was not sufficiently established by the prosecution. Manifest partiality and evident bad faith are modes that are separate and distinct from each other so that the existence of any of these two modes would be sufficient to satisfy the second element. However, manifest partiality was not present in this case. The evidence adduced did not show that accused-movants favored other persons who were similarly situated with the private complainant.       Eyewitness Alexander Singson categorically pointed accused Manongsong and Egarque as the persons who destroyed/removed the second fence. Private complainant lamented that he was not even given notice of their intent to destroy the fence. However, the same could not be considered evident bad faith as the prosecution evidence failed to show that the destruction was for a dishonest purpose, ill will or self-interest. People of the Philippines v. Aristeo E. Atienza, Rodrigo D. Manongson, Crispin M. Egarque, and the Hon. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 171671, June 18, 2012.

 3.         CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Certiorari; dismissal of appeal for failure to prosecute. The Supreme Court in this case dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by the petitioner under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court considering that it (Supreme Court) found no valid, justifiable reason for petitioner’s failure to file his appellant’s brief with the Court of Appeals that would warrant a reversal of the Court of Appeals Resolutions dated November 25, 2005 and May 17, 2006. To rule otherwise would make light of the Supreme Court’s extraordinary certiorari jurisdiction, which operates only upon a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the appellate tribunal. The certiorari jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is rigorously streamlined, such that Rule 65 only admits cases based on the specific grounds provided therein. The rule applies if there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. The independent action for certiorari will lie only if grave abuse of discretion is alleged and proven to exist. Grave abuse of discretion is the arbitrary or despotic exercise of power due to passion, prejudice or personal hostility; or the whimsical, arbitrary, or a capricious exercise of power that amounts to an evasion or a refusal to perform a positive duty enjoined by law or to act at all in contemplation of law. For an act to be struck down as having been done with grave abuse of discretion, the abuse of discretion must be patent and gross. The Supreme Court cannot tolerate any habitual failure to follow the procedural rules, which are indispensable for the orderly and speedy disposition of justice. In the present case, accused Lagua was given more time, not only to file his Appellant’s Brief, but also to secure new counsel to adequately prepare the appeal. The CA issued two Show Cause Orders and two Resolutions declaring the appeal as abandoned. Despite these issuances, his second Motion for Reconsideration was filed 18 days after his receipt of the second and final CA Resolution. This delay is indicative of sheer laxity and indifference on his part, for which he has lost the statutory right of appeal. Melchor L. Laguna v. The Hon. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 173390, June 27, 2012.

Dismissal; failure to prosecute. Under Section 3, Rule 17 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, the failure on the part of the plaintiff, without any justifiable cause, to comply with any order of the court or the Rules, or to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time, may result in the dismissal of the complaint either motu proprio or on motion by the defendant. The failure of a plaintiff to prosecute the action without any justifiable cause within a reasonable period of time will give rise to the presumption that he is no longer interested to obtain from the court the relief prayed for in his complaint; hence, the court is authorized to order the dismissal of the complaint on its own motion or on motion of the defendants. The presumption is not, by any means, conclusive because the plaintiff, on a motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal, may allege and establish a justifiable cause for such failure. The burden to show that there are compelling reasons that would make a dismissal of the case unjustified is on the petitioners. Eloisa Merchandising, Inc. and Trebel International, Inc. v. Banco De Oro Universal Bank and Engracio M. Escasisnas, Jr. in his capacity as Ex-Officio Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, G.R. No. 192716, June 13, 2012.

Dismissal; failure to prosecute. In this case, while there was no substantial prejudice caused to herein respondent, who has already consolidated the ownership of petitioners’ properties, secured new titles in its name and successfully implemented a writ of possession issued by another branch, there was neither patent abuse in the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint for the third time, the earlier two dismissals having been precipitated by petitioners’ non-appearance at the pre-trial conference. Contrary to petitioners’ assertion, the trial court did not find their offered excuses as meritorious or justifiable; the trial court in the exercise of discretion simply reinstated the case “in the interest of justice” but explicitly warned petitioners to be more circumspect in attending to the case. However, despite the trial court’s leniency and admonition, petitioners continued to exhibit laxity and inattention in attending to their case. Assuming domestic problems had beset petitioners’ counsel in the interregnum, with greater reason should he make proper coordination with the trial court to ensure his availability on the date to be chosen by the trial court for the long-delayed conduct of a pre-trial conference. Petitioners themselves did nothing to get the case moving for nine months and set the case anew for pre-trial even as BDO was already seeking their judicial ejectment with the implementation of the writ of possession issued by Branch 143. Such circumstance also belies their pretense that the parties were then still negotiating for a settlement. Eloisa Merchandising, Inc. and Trebel International, Inc. v. Banco De Oro Universal Bank and Engracio M. Escasisnas, Jr. in his capacity as Ex-Officio Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, G.R. No. 192716, June 13, 2012.

Evidence; alibi. In order for the defense of alibi to prosper, two requisites must concur: first, the appellant was at a different place at the time the crime was committed, and second, it was physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene at the time of its commission.” In this case, the second requisite is not met. Victor himself testified that the distance between Brgy. Macabug and the place where the rape occurred is just three to four kilometers and that the same can be traversed by land transportation in just a few minutes. Hence, it was not physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene at the time of the commission of the crime. Also, even if Victor’s alibi is corroborated by Alex, said defense is still unworthy of belief. Alex admitted that Victor was his employer and that he was testifying for Victor as he relied on him for livelihood. Denial and alibi are practically worthless against the positive identification made by the prosecution witnesses, especially by the rape victim.” Victor’s weak alibi cannot thus overcome “AAA’s” positive identification of him as her rapist. Victor Rondina v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 179059, June 13, 2012.

Evidence; credibility of witness. It is well entrenched in this jurisdiction that when the offended parties are young and immature girls, as in this case, courts are inclined to lend credence to their version of what transpired, considering not only their relative vulnerability, but also the shame and embarrassment to which they would be exposed if the matter about which they testified were not true. A young girl would not usually concoct a tale of defloration; publicly admit having been ravished and her honor tainted; allow the examination of her private parts; and undergo all the trouble and inconvenience, not to mention the trauma and scandal of a public trial, had she not in fact been raped and been truly moved to protect and preserve her honor, and motivated by the desire to obtain justice for the wicked acts committed against her. People of the Philippines v. Roger Tejero, G.R. No. 187744, June 20, 2012.

Evidence; credibility of witness. In this case, the Supreme Court gave credence to the testimony of AAA who was just 14 years old when she was raped. AAA’s delay in reporting the rapes does not undermine her credibility. In a long line of cases, the Supreme Court pronounced that the failure of the victim to immediately report the rape is not necessarily an indication of a fabricated charge. It is quite understandable how AAA’s tender age, AAA’s regard for Tejero as her stepfather, Tejero’s threat to kill AAA and her whole family, and Tejero’s physical proximity to AAA and her family (Tejero lives in the same house with AAA and her family) could all have easily convinced AAA that Tejero’s threat was real and discouraged AAA from immediately reporting the rapes to anyone. People of the Philippines v. Roger Tejero, G.R. No. 187744, June 20, 2012.

Evidence; credibility of witness. In reviewing rape cases, the Supreme Court is guided by the following principles: (1) an accusation for rape is easy to make, difficult to prove, and even more difficult to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime, where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with utmost caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. When the issue is the credibility of the victim, the trial court’s assessment is accorded with great weight. In fact, the trial court’s finding of facts is even conclusive and binding, if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence. The trial court had the full opportunity to observe directly the witnesses’ deportment and manner of testifying. It is in a better position than the appellate court to properly evaluate testimonial evidence. People of the Philippines vs. Ricardo Bosi y Danao, G.R. No. 193665, June 25, 2012.

Evidence; credibility of witness.  In the instant case, both the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals recognized the credibility and believability of AAA’s testimony. They both gave credence to the testimony of AAA who narrated her ordeal in a straightforward, convincing, and consistent manner, interrupted only by her convulsive sobbing. As correctly pointed out by the Regional Trial Court, defense witness Santiago’s testimony deserves scant consideration because negative evidence cannot prevail over the positive assertions of the private complainant. People of the Philippines vs. Ricardo Bosi y Danao, G.R. No. 193665, June 25, 2012.

Evidence; extrajudicial confession of co-accused. The extrajudicial confession or admission of one accused is admissible only against said accused, but is inadmissible against the other accused. But if the declarant or admitter repeats in court his extrajudicial admission, as Yapyuco did in this case, during the trial and the other accused is accorded the opportunity to cross-examine the admitter, the admission is admissible against both accused because then, it is transposed into a judicial admission. It is thus perplexing why, despite the extrajudicial statements of Cunanan, Puno and Yapyuco, as well as the latter’s testimony implicating the appellants in the incident, they still had chosen to waive their right to present evidence when, in fact, they could have shown detailed proof of their participation or non-participation in the offenses charged. Thus, the Supreme Court rejected appellants’ claim that they had been denied due process in this regard, as they opted not to testify and be cross-examined by the prosecution as to the truthfulness in their affidavits and, accordingly, disprove the inculpatory admissions of their co-accused. Salvador Yapyuco y Enriquez vs. Hon. Sandiganbayan and The People of the Philippines/Mario D. Reyes, Andres S. Reyes and Virgilio A. Manguerra/Gervacio B. Cunanan, Jr. and Ernesto Puno v. Honorable Sandiganbayan and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 120744-46/G.R. No. 122677/G.R. No. 122776.June 25, 2012.

Katarungan Pambarangay Law; barangay conciliation procedure a condition precedent. This is a complaint filed by petitioner Agbayani against respondent Genabe for slander. The Department of Justice found that that the complaint fails to state a cause of action on the ground of non-compliance with the provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991, on the Katarungang Pambarangay conciliation procedure. This finding was affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Undeniably, both petitioner Agbayani and respondent Genabe are residents of Las Piñas City and both work at the RTC, and the incident which is the subject matter of the case happened in their workplace. Agbayani’s complaint should have undergone the mandatory barangay conciliation for possible amicable settlement with respondent Genabe, pursuant to Sections 408 and 409 of R.A. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991. The compulsory process of barangay conciliation is a pre-condition for the filing of the complaint in court. Where the complaint (a) did not state that it is one of excepted cases, or (b) it did not allege prior availment of said conciliation process, or (c) did not have a certification that no conciliation had been reached by the parties, the case should be dismissed. Here, petitioner Agbayani failed to show that the instant case is not one of the cases that is covered by the application of the rule on mandatory barangay conciliation. Leticia B. Agbayani v. Court of Appeals, Department of Justice and Loida Marcelina J. Genabe, G.R. No. 183623, June 25, 2012.

Ombudsman; legal interest or standing to appeal. The threshold issue in this case is whether or not the Ombudsman has legal standing to file the instant petition for review on certiorari assailing the Court of Appeals ruling which reversed petitioner’s decision. The Supreme Court ruled that the Ombudsman has no legal standing to file the petition in this case. Citing National Appellate Board of the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) v. Mamauag, Mathay, Jr, v. Court of Appeals, Office of the Ombudsman v. Sison, Pleyto v. Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), the Supreme Court ruled that the government party that can appeal is not the disciplining authority or tribunal which previously heard the case and imposed the penalty of dismissal from the service. The government party appealing must be one that is prosecuting the administrative case against the respondent. Office of the Ombudsman v. Romeo A. Liggayu, G.R. No. 174297, June 20, 2012.

Ombudsman; legal interest or standing to appeal. In this case, it is the PCSO, through its then General Manager Golpeo, which filed the administrative case against respondent for the latter’s alleged act of dishonesty in falsifying the OR and sales invoice he submitted in the liquidation of his cash advance. Thus, it is the PCSO which is deemed the prosecuting government party which can appeal the CA decision exonerating respondent of the administrative charge. It is the PCSO which would stand to suffer, since the CA decision also ordered respondent’s reinstatement, thus, the former would be compelled to take back to its fold a perceived dishonest employee. Notwithstanding, the PCSO did not file any petition assailing the CA decision. Office of the Ombudsman v. Romeo A. Liggayu, G.R. No. 174297, June 20, 2012.

Probable cause; determination. The determination of probable cause for the filing of an information in court is an executive function which pertains at the first instance to the public prosecutor and then to the Secretary of Justice. As a rule, in the absence of any grave abuse of discretion, courts are not empowered to substitute their own judgment for that of the executive branch; the public prosecutor alone determines the sufficiency of evidence that will establish probable cause in filing a criminal information and courts will not interfere with his findings unless grave abuse of discretion can be shown. In this case, the Supreme Court found no error in the public prosecutor’s determination that no probable cause existed to justify the filing of a criminal complaint. Manila Electric Company, represented by Manolo C. Fernando v. Vicente Atilano, et al., G.R. No. 166758, June 27, 2012.

Rule 65; remedy against determination of probable cause. Contrary to respondents’ claim, Rule 65 provides the proper remedy to assail the DOJ’s determination of the presence or absence of probable cause instead of a petition for review under Rule 43. By weighing the evidence submitted by the parties in a preliminary investigation and by making an independent assessment thereof, an investigating prosecutor is, to that extent, performing functions of a quasi-judicial nature in the conduct of a preliminary investigation. However, since he does not make a determination of the rights of any party in the proceeding, or pronounce the respondent’s guilt or innocence (thus limiting his action to the determination of probable cause to file an information in court), an investigating prosecutor’s function still lacks the element of adjudication essential to an appeal under Rule 43. Additionally, there is a “compelling reason” to conclude that the DOJ’s exclusion from the enumeration of quasi-judicial agencies in Rule 43 of the Rules of Court is deliberate. However, the petitioner must allege and show that the DOJ acted with grave abuse of discretion in granting or denying the petition for review. PCGG Chairman Magdangal B. Elma and Presidential Commission on Good Government v. Reiner Jacobi, Crispin T. Reyes, et al., G.R. No. 155996, June 27, 2012.

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

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