Here are select December 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:
1. REVISED PENAL CODE
Rape; Pruna Guidelines. In this case, the prosecution may have been unable to present AAA’s birth certificate or other authentic document such as a baptismal certificate during trial in accordance with the formulated set of guidelines in People v. Pruna in appreciating age either as an element of the crime or as a qualifying circumstance in rape cases. However, that failure to present relevant evidence did not deter the Supreme Court from upholding that qualified rape was indeed committed by the accused Padigos because he himself admitted, in his counter-affidavit which formed part of the evidence for the defense and the contents of which he later affirmed in his testimony in open court, that AAA was below 7 years old around the time of the rape incident. In the Court’s view, this admission from accused, taken with the testimony of the victim, sufficiently proved the victim’s minority. People of the Philippines v. Edgar Padigos, G.R. No. 181202, December 5, 2012.
Rape; resistance. Accused Estoya attempts to raise doubts in victim AAA’s testimony by questioning the latter’s failure to offer tenacious resistance during the supposed sexual assault. The Supreme Court held that the law does not impose upon a rape victim the burden of proving resistance. Physical resistance need not be established in rape when intimidation is exercised upon the victim and she submits herself against her will to the rapist’s lust because of fear for life and personal safety. In the case at bar, AAA was only 14 years of age at the time of the rape, and at such a tender age, she could not be expected to put up resistance as would be expected from a mature woman. Also, Estoya had threatened AAA that he would stab her with a knife if she resisted. People of the Philippines v. Radby Estoya y Mateo, G.R. No. 200531, December 5, 2012.
2. SPECIAL PENAL LAWS
Trust Receipts Law; liability of corporate agents. Section 13 of the Trust Receipts Law explicitly provides that if the violation or offense is committed by a corporation, as in this case, the penalty provided for under the law shall be imposed upon the directors, officers, employees or other officials or person responsible for the offense, without prejudice to the civil liabilities arising from the criminal offense. In this case, petitioner Crisologo was acquitted of the charge for violation of the Trust Receipts Law in relation to Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the RPC. As such, he is relieved of the corporate criminal liability as well as the corresponding civil liability arising therefrom. However, as correctly found by the trial court and the Court of Appeals (“CA”), he may still be held liable for the trust receipts and letters of credit transactions he had entered into in behalf of Novachem. Settled is the rule that debts incurred by directors, officers, and employees acting as corporate agents are not their direct liability but of the corporation they represent, except if they contractually agree/stipulate or assume to be personally liable for the corporation’s debts, as in this case. The trial court and the CA adjudged petitioner personally and solidarily liable with Novachem for those obligations secured by the subject trust receipts, which he signed the guarantee clauses therein in his personal capacity and even waived the benefit of excussion. Ildefonso S. Crisologo v. People of the Philippines and China Banking Corporation, G.R. No. 199481, December 3, 2012.
3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Evidence; credibility of victim’s testimony. Accused’s appeal is hinged principally on the credibility of the victim’s testimony. He insists that AAA’s testimony is not credible because she allegedly failed to give a straightforward and consistent narration of the events surrounding the incidents at issue. He maintains that AAA’s testimony is not worthy of belief because it allegedly lacked details as to how the crimes of rape and acts of lasciviousness were actually committed. The Supreme Court (“SC”) ruled that when the credibility of the victim is at issue, it gives great weight to the trial court’s assessment. The trial court’s finding of facts is even conclusive and binding if it is not shown to be tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence. The wisdom behind this rule is that the trial court had the full opportunity to observe directly the witnesses’ deportment and manner of testifying, thus, it is in a better position than the appellate court to properly evaluate testimonial evidence. In the case at bar, both the trial court and the Court of Appeals categorically held that AAA is a credible witness and that her testimony deserves full faith and belief. In spite of the brevity of her testimony, the trial court considered the same as delivered in a clear and straightforward manner that is devoid of any pretense or equivocation. Moreover, SC has repeatedly stressed that no young girl would concoct a sordid tale of so serious a crime as rape at the hands of her own father, undergo medical examination, then subject herself to the stigma and embarrassment of a public trial, if her motive was other than a fervent desire to seek justice. People of the Philippines v. Edgar Padigos, G.R. No. 181202, December 5, 2012.
Jurisdiction; voluntary submission. As a rule, one who seeks an affirmative relief is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. Filing pleadings seeking affirmative relief constitutes voluntary appearance, and the consequent jurisdiction of one’s person to the jurisdiction of the court. Thus, by filing several motions before the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”) seeking the dismissal of the criminal case, respondent Alamil voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the RTC. Furthermore, custody of the law is not required for the adjudication of reliefs other than an application for bail. Dante LA. Jimenez, etc. v. Hon. Edwin Sorongon, etc., et al, G.R. No. 178607, December 5, 2012.
Rule 45; only questions of law reviewed. Accused Josue seeks the review of his case through a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, where only questions of law shall be addressed by the Supreme Court (“SC”), barring any question that pertains to factual issues on the crime’s commission. The general rule is that questions of fact are not reviewable in petitions for review under Rule 45, subject only to certain exceptions as when the trial court’s judgment is not supported by sufficient evidence or is premised on a misapprehension of facts. Upon review, the SC has determined that the present case does not fall under any of the exceptions. In resolving the present petition, SC then defer to the factual findings made by the trial court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals (“CA”), when the case was brought before it on appeal. The SC has, after all, consistently ruled that the task of assigning values to the testimonies of witnesses and weighing their credibility is best left to the trial court which forms first-hand impressions as witnesses testify before it. Factual findings of the trial court as regards its assessment of the witnesses’ credibility are entitled to great weight and respect by the SC, particularly when affirmed by the CA, and will not be disturbed absent any showing that the trial court overlooked certain facts and circumstances which could substantially affect the outcome of the case. Ramon Josue y Gonzales v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 199579, December 10, 2012.
(Lindy thanks Elaine B. De Los Santos for assisting in the preparation of this post.)