Here are select November 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:
1. REVISED PENAL CODE
Proximate cause; definition. The Supreme Court rejected the argument of petitioners that the Court of Appeals failed to consider in its entirety the testimony of the doctor who performed the autopsy. What really needs to be proven in a case when the victim dies is the proximate cause of his death. Proximate cause has been defined as “that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.” The autopsy report indicated that the cause of the victim’s death is multiple organ failure. According to Dr. Wilson Moll Lee, the doctor who conducted the autopsy, it can be surmised that multiple organ failure was secondary to a long standing infection secondary to a stab wound which the victim allegedly sustained. Thus, it can be concluded that without the stab wounds, the victim could not have been afflicted with an infection which later on caused multiple organ failure that caused his death. The offender is criminally liable for the death of the victim if his delictual act caused, accelerated or contributed to the death of the victim. Rodolfo Belbis Jr. y Competente and Alberto Brucales v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181052, November 14, 2012.
Rape; qualifying circumstances; concurrence of minority and relationship. Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, the concurrence of minority and relationship qualifies the crime of rape. To warrant the imposition of the death penalty, however, both the minority and the relationship must be alleged in the Information and proved during the trial. In the instant case, both circumstances were properly alleged in the Informations and proved during trial. The Informations alleged that AAA was 15 years old when the crimes were committed. Her minority was established not only by her Certificate of Live Birth but also by her testimony that she was born on November 6, 1985. Anent AAA’s relationship with appellant, the Informations sufficiently alleged that AAA is appellant’s daughter. This fact was likewise openly admitted by the appellant and further bolstered by the said Certificate of Live Birth indicating appellant as AAA’s father. Moreover, the relationship between appellant and AAA became the subject of admission during the pre-trial conference. Hence, pursuant to the said article, the presence of the above special qualifying circumstances increases the penalty to death. In view, however, of the passage of R.A. No. 9346 proscribing the imposition of death penalty, the proper penalty imposable on appellant, in lieu of death and pursuant to Section 2 thereof, is reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines v. Enerio Ending y Onyong, G.R. No. 183827, November 12, 2012.
Rape; rupture of hymen not an element. The Supreme Court gave no credence to the claim of accused-appellant that the crime of rape was negated by the medical findings of an intact hymen or absence of lacerations in the vagina of AAA. Hymenal rupture, vaginal laceration or genital injury is not indispensable because the same is not an element of the crime of rape. “An intact hymen does not negate a finding that the victim was raped.” Here, the finding of reddish discoloration of the hymen of AAA during her medical examination and the intense pain she felt in her vagina during and after the sexual assault sufficiently corroborated her testimony that she was raped. People of the Philippines v. Benjamin Soria y Gomez, G.R. No. 179031, November 14, 2012.
Rape; minority of victim must be proved independently. With respect to minority, the Information described AAA as a 7-year old daughter of appellant. While this also became the subject of stipulation during the pre-trial conference, the same is insufficient evidence of AAA’s age. Her minority must be “proved conclusively and indubitably as the crime itself.”
There must be independent evidence proving the age of the victim, other than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses and the absence of denial by the accused. Documents such as her original or duly certified birth certificate, baptismal certificate or school records would suffice as competent evidence of her age. Here, there was nothing on record to prove the minority of AAA other than her testimony, appellant’s absence of denial, and their pre-trial stipulation. The prosecution also failed to establish that the documents referred to above were lost, destroyed, unavailable or otherwise totally absent. Philippines v. Benjamin Soria y Gomez, G.R. No. 179031, November 14, 2012.
Rape; elements of qualified rape. The Supreme Court held that both the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals (“CA”) correctly found the following elements of qualified rape, as defined in the relevant provisions of the Revised Penal Code to concur: (1) that the victim is a female over 12 years but under 18 years of age; (2) that the offender is a parent, ascendant, stepparent, guardian or relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim; and (3) that the offender has carnal knowledge of the victim either through force, threat or intimidation; or when she is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious; or by means of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority. People of the Philippines v. Neil B. Colorado, G.R. No. 200792, November 14, 2012.
Rape; elements of qualified rape. The age of the victim at the time of the crime’s commission is undisputed. During the pre-trial, the parties agreed on the existence of AAA’s Certificate of Live Birth, a “certified true/xerox copy” of which forms part of the records and provides that AAA was born on October 10, 1990. AAA was then only 12 years old in December 2002, a significant fact that was sufficiently alleged in the Information. As to the second element, there is no dispute that Colorado is a full-blood brother of AAA, as this was also among the parties’ stipulated facts during the case’s pre-trial. The grounds now being raised by Colorado to justify his exoneration delve mainly on the alleged absence of the crime’s third element. He denies AAA’s claim that he had ravished her, raising the defense of alibi and the alleged doubt and suspicion that should be ascribed to AAA’s accusations. On this matter, settled is the rule that the findings of the trial court on the credibility of a witness deserve great weight, given the clear advantage of a trial judge in the appreciation of testimonial evidence. The SC has repeatedly recognized that the trial court is in the best position to assess the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies, because of its unique opportunity to observe the witnesses first hand and to note their demeanor, conduct, and attitude under gruelling examination. These are significant factors in evaluating the sincerity of witnesses, in the process of unearthing the truth. The rule finds even more stringent application where the said findings are sustained by the CA. Thus, except for compelling reasons, the SC is doctrinally bound by the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses. The SC then took due consideration of the trial court’s findings of fact, its assessment of AAA’s credibility, her testimony and the manner by which her statements were relayed. Given the foregoing, the SC ruled that the CA did not err in affirming the trial court’s conviction of Colorado. People of the Philippines v. Neil B. Colorado, G.R. No. 200792, November 14, 2012.
Rape; insanity as a defense. Under Article 800 of the Civil Code, the presumption is that every human is sane. Anyone who pleads the exempting circumstance of insanity bears the burden of proving it with clear and convincing evidence. It is in the nature of confession and avoidance. An accused invoking insanity admits to have committed the crime but claims that he or she is not guilty because of insanity. The testimony or proof of an accused’s insanity must, however, relate to the time immediately preceding or simultaneous with the commission of the offense with which he is charged. In the case at bench, the defense failed to overcome the presumption of sanity. Accused Isla exactly knew that what he was doing was evil so much so that he had to employ cunning means, by discreetly closing the windows and the door of the house and by resorting to threats and violence, to ensure the consummation of his dastardly deed. The fact that he scampered away after AAA was able to take the knife from him would only show that he fully understood that he committed a crime for which he could be held liable. If Isla had become insane after the commission of the crime, such fact does not alter the situation and the Supreme Court’s ruling is the same. His defense still fails considering that he was not insane during the commission of the acts charged. People of the Philippines v. Edwin Isla y Rossell, G.R. No. 199875, November 21, 2012.
Robbery; elements. To constitute robbery, the following elements must be established: (1) The subject is personal property belonging to another; (2) There is unlawful taking of that property; (3) The taking is with the intent to gain; and (4) There is violence against or intimidation of any person or use of force upon things. Admittedly, the subject 10th floor unit is owned by the corporation and served as the family residence prior to the death of petitioner and respondents’ parents. The 10th floor unit, including the personal properties inside, is the subject of estate proceedings pending in another court and is, therefore, involved in the disputed claims among the siblings (petitioner and respondents). Respondents admitted that armed with a board resolution authorizing them to break open the door lock system of said unit and to install a new door lock system, they went up to the subject unit to implement said resolution. The said corporate action was arrived at because petitioner had allegedly prevented prospective buyers from conducting ocular inspection. Petitioner, however, claims that on December 16, 1999 and sometime in January 2000, respondents brought out from the unit 34 boxes containing her personal belongings worth more than P10 million. The Supreme Court said that it cannot fathom why petitioner did not immediately report the first incident and waited for yet another incident after more or less one month. If the value involved is what she claims to be, it is contrary to human nature to just keep silent and not immediately protect her right. Her general statement that she was intimidated by Benito who was known to be capable of inflicting bodily harm cannot excuse her inaction. Petitioner, therefore, failed to establish that there was unlawful taking. Assuming that respondents indeed took said boxes containing personal belongings, said properties were taken under claim of ownership which negates the element of intent to gain. Lily Sy v. Hon. Secretary of Justice Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, Benito Fernandez Go, Berthold Lim, Jennifer Sy, Glenn Ben Tiak Sy and Merry Sy, G.R. No. 171579, November 14, 2012.
Robbery; elements. Taking, as an element of robbery, means depriving the offended party of ownership of the thing taken with the character of permanency. The taking should not be under a claim of ownership. Thus, one who takes the property openly and avowedly under claim of title offered in good faith is not guilty of robbery even though the claim of ownership is untenable. The intent to gain cannot be established by direct evidence being an internal act. It must, therefore, be deduced from the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense. In this case, it was shown that respondents believed in good faith that they and the corporation own not only the subject unit but also the properties found inside. If at all, they took them openly and avowedly under that claim of ownership. This is bolstered by the fact that at the time of the alleged incident, petitioner had been staying in another unit because the electric service in the 10th floor was disconnected. Therefore, respondents should not be held liable for the alleged unlawful act absent a felonious intent. Lily Sy v. Hon. Secretary of Justice Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, Benito Fernandez Go, Berthold Lim, Jennifer Sy, Glenn Ben Tiak Sy and Merry Sy, G.R. No. 171579, November 14, 2012.
Self-defense; requisites. By invoking self-defense, accused Joel needed to prove by clear and convincing evidence the following requisites: (a) unlawful aggression; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (c) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. Here, the testimonies of Dolor and Enrique, accepted as credible by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, show that accused Joel, not Clarence, was the armed aggressor. Enrique saw Joel draw a knife from his waist and proceed to stab Clarence. Indeed, both witnesses testified that it was Clarence who was trying to put up a futile defense against Joel’s continued thrusts. The location of the wounds on the victim’s body corroborates such testimonies. For his part, accused Joel did not bother to offer any corroborative evidence, such as a medical report establishing the wounds he allegedly sustained in his struggle to seize Clarence’s knife from him or someone who saw those wounds around the time they were supposedly inflicted. Thus, the Supreme Court found Joel’s claim of self-defense to be hallow. People of the Philippines v. Joel Artajo y Alimangohan, G.R. No. 198050, November 14, 2012.
Technical malversation; elements. The crime of technical malversation as penalized under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code has three elements: a) that the offender is an accountable public officer; b) that he applies public funds or property under his administration to some public use; and c) that the public use for which such funds or property were applied is different from the purpose for which they were originally appropriated by law or ordinance. Accused Ysidoro claims that he could not be held liable for the offense under its third element because the four sacks of rice and two boxes of sardines he gave the Core Shelter Assistance Program (“CSAP”) beneficiaries were not appropriated by law or ordinance for a specific purpose. But the evidence shows that on November 8, 2000 the Sangguniang Bayan of Leyte enacted Resolution 00-133 appropriating the annual general fund for 2001. This appropriation was based on the executive budget which allocated P100,000.00 for the Supplemental Feeding Program (“SFP”) and P113,957.64 for the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services which covers the CSAP housing projects. The creation of the two items shows the Sanggunian’s intention to appropriate separate funds for SFP and the CSAP in the annual budget. Since the municipality bought the subject goods using SFP funds, then those goods should be used for SFP’s needs, observing the rules prescribed for identifying the qualified beneficiaries of its feeding programs. Ysidoro here disregarded the guidelines when he approved the distribution of the goods to those providing free labor for the rebuilding of their own homes. This is technical malversation. Arnold James M. Ysidoro v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 192330, November 14, 2012.
Technical malversation; mala prohibita. Ysidoro insists that he acted in good faith when he diverted the food intended for those suffering from malnutrition to the beneficiaries of reconstruction projects affecting the homes of victims of calamities since, first, the idea of using the Supplemental Feeding Program (“SFP”) goods for the Core Shelter Assistance Program (“CSAP”) beneficiaries came, not from him, but from Garcia and Polinio; and, second, he consulted the accounting department if the goods could be distributed to those beneficiaries. Having no criminal intent, he argues that he cannot be convicted of the crime of technical malversation. But criminal intent is not an element of technical malversation. The law punishes the act of diverting public property earmarked by law or ordinance for a particular public purpose to another public purpose. The offense is mala prohibita, meaning that the prohibited act is not inherently immoral but becomes a criminal offense because positive law forbids its commission based on considerations of public policy, order, and convenience. It is the commission of an act as defined by the law, and not the character or effect thereof that determines whether or not the provision has been violated. Hence, malice or criminal intent is completely irrelevant. Arnold James M. Ysidoro v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 192330, November 14, 2012.
Treachery. Anent the finding of treachery by the Regional Trial Court, the Supreme Court (“SC”) agreed that appellant’s act of suddenly stabbing Wilson as he was about to leave constituted the qualifying circumstance of treachery. As the SC previously ruled, treachery is present 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. Here, appellant caught Wilson by surprise when he suddenly embraced him and proceeded immediately to plunge a knife to his chest. The swift turn of events did not allow Wilson to defend himself, in effect, assuring appellant that he complete the crime without risk to his own person. People of the Philippines v.Marcial M. Malicdem, G.R. No. 184601, November 12, 2012.
Treachery. As to the issue of treachery, the Supreme Court (“SC”) found it difficult in concurring with the findings of the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals that accused Joel resorted to treachery in killing Clarence. There is treachery, according to Article 14, paragraph 16 of the Revised Penal Code, when the offender employs means, methods, or forms in attacking his victim which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make. Here, Dolor’s testimony contains nothing that hints upon treachery being employed. She did not see how the attack began. As she went outside and looked, accused Joel was already attacking his father. Quite curiously, what she further saw was that his father was trying to “fight back,” not just trying to parry Joel’s blows, indicating that the latter had not employed means that would eliminate any risk to him arising from the defense which Clarence might make. If he employed treachery, Joel could very well have aimed his first blow to immediately disable Clarence. On the other hand, Enrique, a neighbor, testified that he saw Clarence and Joel come out of the back door of the house together. Clearly then Joel did not lie in ambush. Since they came out together, Clarence must have perceived the attack for he even tried to keep his grip on his assailant after it started. And the evidence is clear that Joel did not purposely stab Clarence on the back. Enrique testified that it was only when Clarence fell to the ground flat on his face that Joel sat astride on him and stabbed him on the back. Those back wounds were not treacherously delivered at the beginning with the victim having no premonition of their coming. For the above reasons, the SC concluded that, although Joel killed Clarence, the killing was not accompanied by the qualifying circumstance of treachery. Accused Joel is guilty only of homicide. People of the Philippines v. Joel Artajo y Alimangohan, G.R. No. 198050, November 14, 2012.
Voluntary surrender; requisites. As to the claim of petitioners that they are entitled to the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender, the Supreme Court ruled that the same does not deserve merit. For voluntary surrender to be appreciated, the following requisites should be present: (1) the offender has not been actually arrested; (2) the offender surrendered himself to a person in authority or the latter’s agent; and (3) the surrender was voluntary. The essence of voluntary surrender is spontaneity and the intent of the accused to give himself up and submit himself to the authorities either because he acknowledges his guilt or he wishes to save the authorities the trouble and expense that may be incurred for his search and capture. Without these elements, and where the clear reasons for the supposed surrender are the inevitability of arrest and the need to ensure his safety, the surrender is not spontaneous and, therefore, cannot be characterized as “voluntary surrender” to serve as a mitigating circumstance. In the present case, when the petitioners reported the incident and allegedly surrendered the bladed weapon used in the stabbing, such cannot be considered as voluntary surrender within the contemplation of the law. Besides, there was no spontaneity, because they only surrendered after a warrant of their arrest had already been issued. Rodolfo Belbis, Jr. y Competente and Alberto Brucales v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181052, November 14, 2012.
2. SPECIAL PENAL LAWS
Dangerous Drugs Act; buy-bust operation. Accused Robelo asserts that the alleged buy-bust operation is tainted with infirmity due to the absence of a prior surveillance or investigation. Moreover, per the testimony of PO2 Tubbali, accused did not say anything when the former was introduced to him as an interested buyer of shabu. Accused points out that it is contrary to human nature that the seller would say nothing to the buyer who is a complete stranger to him. The Supreme Court sustained the validity of the buy-bust operation. A buy-bust operation has been proven to be an effective mode of apprehending drug pushers. In this regard, police authorities are given wide latitude in employing their own ways of trapping or apprehending drug dealers in flagrante delicto. There is no prescribed method on how the operation is to be conducted. As ruled in People v. Garcia, the absence of a prior surveillance or test-buy does not affect the legality of the buy-bust operation as there is no textbook method of conducting the same. As long as the constitutional rights of the suspected drug dealer are not violated, the regularity of the operation will always be upheld. Furthermore, the law does not prescribe as an element of the crime that the vendor and the vendee be familiar with each other. As aptly held by the Court of Appeals in this case, peddlers of illicit drugs have been known with ever increasing casualness and recklessness to offer and sell their wares for the right price to anybody, be they strangers or not. People of the Philippines v. Joseph Robelo y Tungala, G.R. No. 184181, November 26, 2012.
Dangerous Drugs Act; evidence; possession. Accused Eyam was caught in possession of methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. He failed to show that he was authorized to possess the same. By his mere possession of the drug, there is already a prima facie evidence of knowledge, which he failed to rebut. Supreme Court sustained his conviction for the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drug, in violation of Section 11 of Article II of R.A. 9165 otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. People of the Philippines v. George Eyam y Watang, G.R. No. 184056, November 26, 2012.
Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession of drug paraphernalia; elements. The Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals convicted of Godofredo of illegal possession of drug paraphernalia. The elements of illegal possession of equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs under Section 12, Article II, R.A. No. 9165 are: (1) possession or control by the accused of any equipment, apparatus or other paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking, consuming, administering, injecting, ingesting, or introducing any dangerous drug into the body; and (2) such possession is not authorized by law. The prosecution here has convincingly established that Godofredo was in possession of drug paraphernalia such as aluminum foil, aluminium tooter and lighter, all of which were offered in evidence. The corresponding receipt and inventory of the seized shabu and other drug paraphernalia were likewise presented in evidence. Moreover, Police Superintendent Leonidas Diaz Castillo attested to the veracity of the contents of these documents. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the lower courts. People of the Philippines v. Godofredo Mariano y Feliciano and Allan Doringo y Gunan, G.R. No. 191193, November 14, 2012.
Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of drugs; elements. Under Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, the elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs are: (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti. All these elements were duly established by the prosecution in this case. Appellants were caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu during a buy-bust operation conducted by the buy-bust team. The poseur-buyer, PO1 Olleres, positively testified that the sale took place and that appellants sold the shabu. Simply put, Godofredo produced two (2) plastic sachets containing shabu and gave it to PO1 Olleres in exchange for P1,000.00. Also, Allan had offered and given two (2) more sachets containing shabu to PO3 Razo, who in turn, handed him P600.00. PO3 Razo corroborated the account of PO1 Olleres. The result of the laboratory examination confirmed the presence of methamphetamine hydrochloride on the white crystalline substances inside the four (4) plastic sachets confiscated from appellants. The marked money was presented in evidence. Thus, the delivery of the illicit drug to PO1 Olleres and PO3 Razo and the receipt by appellants of the marked money successfully consummated the buy-bust transaction. People of the Philippines v. Godofredo Mariano y Feliciano and Allan Doringo y Gunan, G.R. No. 191193, November 14, 2012.
3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Arrests; warrantless arrests. The Supreme Court found appellants’ insistence on the illegality of their warrantless arrest to be unmeritorious. Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court allows a warrantless arrest under any of the circumstances cited in the provision. In the instant case, the warrantless arrest was effected under the first mode or aptly termed as in flagrante delicto. PO1 Olleres and PO3 Razo personally witnessed and were in fact participants to the buy-bust operation. After laboratory examination, the white crystalline substances placed inside the four (4) separate plastic sachets were found positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. Under these circumstances, it is beyond doubt that appellants were arrested in flagrante delicto while committing a crime, in full view of the arresting team. People of the Philippines v. Godofredo Mariano y Feliciano and Allan Doringo y Gunan, G.R. No. 191193, November 14, 2012.
Determination of probable cause. At the outset, a perusal of the records of Criminal Case No. 02-199574 in People of the Philippines v. Benito Fernandez Go, et al., pending before the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”) where the Information for Robbery was filed, will show that on March 12, 2008, Presiding Judge Zenaida R. Daguna issued an Order granting the Motion to Withdraw Information filed by Assistant City Prosecutor Armando C. Velasco. The withdrawal of the information was based on the alleged failure of petitioner to take action on the Amended Decision issued by the Court of Appeals which, in effect, reversed and set aside the finding of probable cause, and in order for the case not to appear pending in the docket of the court. The propriety of the determination of probable cause is, however, the subject of this present petition. Besides, in allowing the withdrawal of the information, the RTC in fact did not make a determination of the existence of probable cause. Thus, the withdrawal of the information does not bar the Supreme Court (“SC”) from making a final determination of whether or not probable cause exists to warrant the filing of an Information for Robbery against respondents in order to write finis to the issue elevated before the SC. Lily Sy v. Hon. Secretary of Justice Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, Benito Fernandez Go, Berthold Lim, Jennifer Sy, Glenn Ben Tiak Sy and Merry Sy, G.R. No. 171579, November 14, 2012.
Determination of probable cause. Judge Untalan acted well within the exercise of his judicial discretion when he denied the Motion to Dismiss and/or Withdraw Information filed by the prosecution. His finding that there was probable cause to indict respondents for unfair competition, and that the findings of the DOJ would be better appreciated in the course of a trial, was based on his own evaluation of the evidence brought before him. It was an evaluation that was required of him as a judge. Crespo v. Mogul instructs in a very clear manner that once a complaint or information is filed in court, any disposition of the case as to its dismissal, or the conviction or acquittal of the accused, rests on the sound discretion of the said court, as it is the best and sole judge of what to do with the case before it. While the resolution of the prosecutorial arm is persuasive, it is not binding on the court. It may therefore grant or deny at its option a motion to dismiss or to withdraw the information based on its own assessment of the records of the preliminary investigation submitted to it, in the faithful exercise of judicial discretion and prerogative, and not out of subservience to the Prosecutor. Shirley F. Torres v. Imelda Perez and Rodrigo Perez / Shirley F. Torres vs. Imelda Perez and Rodrigo Perez, G.R. Nos. 188225 & 198728, November 28, 2012.
Evidence; credibility of victim’s testimony. The Supreme Court (“SC”), like the courts below, found that AAA was without doubt telling the truth when she declared that her father raped her on three separate occasions. She was consistent in her narration on how she was abused by her father in their own house, in the copra drier, and even in a nearby pasture land. After she was forced to lie down, appellant removed her clothes, went on top of her, inserted his penis into her vagina and threatened her with death if she would report the incidents. Hence, appellant’s attempt to discredit the testimony of AAA deserves no merit. When credibility is in issue, the SC generally defers to the findings of the trial court considering that it was in a better position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment during trial. Here, there is nothing from the records that impelled the SC to deviate from the findings and conclusions of the trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. People of the Philippines v. Enerio Ending y Onyong, G.R. No. 183827, November 12, 2012.
Evidence; credibility of victim’s testimony. Time and again, the Supreme Court (“SC”) has stated that, in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked or misconstrued cogent facts and circumstances which would alter a conviction, it generally defers to the trial court’s evaluation of the credibility of witnesses especially if such findings are affirmed by the Court of Appeals. This must be so since the trial courts are in a better position to decide the question of credibility, having heard the witnesses themselves and having observed first hand their deportment and manner of testifying under gruelling examination. Given the factual circumstances of the present case, the SC saw no need to depart from the foregoing rules. Appellant here failed to present proof of any showing that the trial court overlooked, misconstrued or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have affected the result of the case. Prosecution witnesses have in fact positively identified appellant to have stabbed the victim. People of the Philippines v. Marcial M. Malicdem, G.R. No. 184601, November 12, 2012.
Evidence; credibility of victim’s testimony. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals held that AAA was a credible witness. They ruled that her testimony deserved credence and is sufficient evidence that she was raped by appellant. The Supreme Court found no cogent reason to overturn these findings. It would be highly inconceivable for AAA to impute to her own father the crime of raping her unless the imputation is true. In fact, it takes a certain amount of psychological depravity for a young woman to concoct a story which would put her own father in jail for the rest of his remaining life and drag the rest of the family including herself to a lifetime of shame unless the imputation is true. When a rape victim’s testimony on the manner she was defiled is straightforward and candid, and is corroborated by the medical findings of the examining physician, as in this case, the same is sufficient to support a conviction for rape.” People of the Philippines v. Benjamin Soria y Gomez, G.R. No. 179031, November 14, 2012.
Evidence; denial and alibi. In assailing the Decision of the lower courts finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of rape, accused-appellant here proffers the defense of denial and alibi. The Supreme Court, however, did not give credence to his defense. As often stressed, “mere denial, if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, has no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value than the positive testimony of a rape victim.” In this case, appellant’s testimony, particularly his denial, was not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. Also, for his alibi to prosper, appellant must establish that he was not at the locus delicti at the time the offense was committed and that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission. Appellant failed to establish these elements. The fact that AAA was living with her grandparents did not preclude the possibility that appellant was present at the crime scenes during their commission. Appellant himself admitted that the distance between his residence and that of AAA’s grandparents is only approximately 7½ kilometers and which can be traversed by riding a pedicab in less than 30 minutes. In other words, it was not physically impossible for appellant to have been at the situs of the crimes during the dates when the separate acts of rape were committed. Moreover, it has been invariably ruled that alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused. Here, appellant was positively identified by AAA as the perpetrator of the crimes without showing any dubious reason or fiendish motive on her part to falsely charge him. People of the Philippines v. Enerio Ending y Onyong, G.R. No. 183827, November 12, 2012.
Evidence; factual findings of trial court accorded great respect. Accused Mangune asseverates that the lower courts should have acquitted him based on reasonable doubt as AAA’s testimony is not worthy of belief for having been fabricated. He supports such assertion by making much of the fact that AAA did not sustain any external physical marks, as shown by the medico-legal findings, despite her testimony that he slapped her many times on the face. This, Mangune insists, makes AAA’s testimony incredible. The Supreme Court (“SC”) cited People v. Paringit, where it declared that “not all blows leave marks.” Thus, the fact that the medico-legal officer found no signs of external injuries on AAA, especially on her face, which supposedly had been slapped several times, does not invalidate her statement that Mangune slapped her to silence her. Mangune’s attempt to discredit AAA’s testimony that he raped her on May 7, 2003 must ultimately fail as he has shown no solid grounds to impeach it. The Regional Trial Court (“RTC”), which had the opportunity to hear the testimonies live and observe the witnesses in person, found not only AAA credible, but her testimony as well. It even declared that AAA’s testimony alone can justify the conviction of Mangune. The foregoing were subscribed to by the Court of Appeals as well when it affirmed the RTC’s Decision in its entirety. The SC thus found no valid reason to depart from the time-honored doctrine that where the issue is one of credibility of witnesses, and in this case, their testimonies as well, the findings of the trial court are not to be disturbed unless the consideration of certain facts of substance and value, which have been plainly overlooked, might affect the result of the case. Mangune was therefore adjudged guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape. People of the Philippines v. William Mangune y Del Rosario, G.R. No. 186463. November 14, 2012.
Evidence; factual findings of trial court accorded great respect. The Supreme Court (“SC”) here found no cogent reason to disturb the factual findings of the Regional Trial Court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. It is well-settled that factual findings of the trial court, especially on the credibility of the rape victim, are accorded great weight and respect and will not be disturbed on appeal. In its assessment of the instant case, the SC was convinced that the testimony of XXX positively identifying Lansangan as her perpetrator is worthy of belief. The clear, consistent and spontaneous testimony of XXX unrelentingly established that Lansangan inserted his penis and his index finger into her vagina while she was in his custody. Being a child of tender years, her failure to resist or struggle while Lansangan molested her would all the more prove how she felt intimidated by her “Tatay.” Besides, in rape cases, physical resistance need not be established when intimidation is exercised upon the victim and the latter submits herself out of fear. People of the Philippines v. Victor Lansangan, G.R. No. 201587, November 14, 2012.
Information; aggravating and qualifying circumstances should be alleged. Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code prescribes the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death whenever the rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon. Although the information alleged the use by the accused of a deadly weapon (bolo) in the commission of the rape, the Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeals still correctly prescribed the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua because the information did not allege the attendance of any aggravating circumstances. With the intervening revision of the Rules of Criminal Procedure in order to now require the information to state the “acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense and the qualifying and aggravating circumstances xxx in ordinary and concise language and not necessarily in the language used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is being charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating circumstance and for the court to pronounce judgment,” the prosecution became precluded from establishing any act or circumstance not specifically alleged in the information if such act or circumstance would increase the penalty to the maximum period. People of the Philippines v. Rogelic Abrencillo, G.R. No. 183100, November 28, 2012.
Presumption of Innocence; presumption of regularity of performance of duties. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals favored the members of the buy-bust team with the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duty, mainly because the accused did not show that they had ill motive behind his entrapment. However, the Supreme Court ruled that presuming that the members of the buy-bust team regularly performed their duty was patently bereft of any factual and legal basis. It held that the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty could not prevail over the stronger presumption of innocence favoring the accused. Otherwise, the constitutional guarantee of the accused being presumed innocent would be held subordinate to a mere rule of evidence allocating the burden of evidence. Where, like here, the proof adduced against the accused has not even overcome the presumption of innocence, the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty could not be a factor to adjudge the accused guilty of the crime charged. Moreover, the regularity of the performance of their duty could not be properly presumed in favor of the policemen because the records were replete with indicia of their serious lapses. As a rule, a presumed fact like the regularity of performance by a police officer must be inferred only from an established basic fact, not plucked out from thin air. Where there is any hint of irregularity committed by the police officers in arresting the accused and thereafter, there can be no presumption of regularity of performance in their favor. People of the Philippines v. Louie Catalan y Dedala, G.R. No. 189330, November 28, 2012.
Sandiganbayan; jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction is conferred by law, not by the consent or acquiescence of any or all of the parties. In turn, the issue on whether a suit comes within the penumbra of a statutory conferment is determined by the allegations in the complaint, regardless of whether or not the suitor will be entitled to recover upon all or part of the claims asserted. The Supreme Court upheld the Sandiganbayan’s assumption of jurisdiction over the subject matter of Civil Case (“CC”) Nos. 0033-A and 0033-F. Judging from the allegations of the defendants’ illegal acts thereat made, it is fairly obvious that both CC Nos. 0033-A and CC 0033-F partake, in the context of EO Nos. 1, 2 and 14, series of 1986, the nature of ill-gotten wealth suits. Both deal with the recovery of sequestered shares, property or business enterprises claimed, as alleged in the corresponding basic complaints, to be ill-gotten assets of President Marcos, his cronies and nominees and acquired by taking undue advantage of relationships or influence and/or through or as a result of improper use, conversion or diversion of government funds or property. Recovery of these assets–– determined as shall hereinafter be discussed as prima facie ill-gotten–– falls within the unquestionable jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan under P.D. No. 1606, as amended by R.A. No. 7975 and E.O. No. 14, Series of 1986, which vests the Sandiganbayan with, among others, original jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases instituted pursuant to and in connection with E.O. Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A. Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. v. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180705, November 27, 2012.
(Lindy thanks Elaine B. De Los Santos for assisting in the preparation of this post.)