October 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Jurisprudence

Here are select October 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and jurisprudence:

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy; concept; proof of conspiracy need not rest on direct evidence. Accused-appellants Dukilman, Ronas and Evad argue in their respective briefs that conspiracy, insofar as they were concerned, was not convincingly established. Dukilman hinges his argument on the fact that he was not one of those arrested during the rescue operation based on the testimony of Inspector Ouano. On the other hand, Ronas and Evad base their argument on the fact that they had no participation whatsoever in the negotiation for the ransom money. The Supreme Court held otherwise. Although Dukilman was not one of those apprehended at the cottage during the rescue operation, the testimony of Police Inspector Arnado sufficiently established that he was one of the four people apprehended when the police intercepted the Tamaraw FX at the Nichols Tollgate. Likewise, the testimony of Police Inspector Ouano sufficiently established that Ronas and Evad were two of those who were arrested during the rescue operation. It has been held that to be a conspirator, one need not participate in every detail of the execution; he need not even take part in every act or need not even know the exact part to be performed by the others in the execution of the conspiracy. Once conspiracy is shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators. Further, proof of the conspiracy need not rest on direct evidence, as the same may be inferred from the collective conduct of the parties before, during or after the commission of the crime indicating a common understanding among them with respect to the commission of the offense. The testimonies, when taken together, reveal the common purpose of the accused-appellants and how they were all united in its execution from beginning to end. There were testimonies proving that (1) before the incident, two of the accused-appellants kept coming back to the victim’s house; (2) during the kidnapping, accused-appellants changed shifts in guarding the victim; and (3) the accused appellants were those present when the ransom money was recovered and when the rescue operation was conducted. Seeing that conspiracy among Gambao, Karim, Dukilman, Abao, Udal, Mandao, Dilangalen, Macalinbol, Ronas and Evad was established beyond reasonable doubt based on the proffered evidence of the prosecution, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators. People of the Philippines v. Halil Gambao, et al, G.R. No. 172707, October 1, 2013.

Murder; treachery. The Supreme Court (SC) found that the qualifying circumstance of treachery was properly appreciated by the lower courts. 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 himself arising from the defense that the offended party might make. The SC has ruled that treachery is present when an assailant takes advantage of a situation in which the victim is asleep, unaware of the evil design, or has just awakened. It has been established by the prosecution, and even confirmed by the defense, that the victims were sleeping when they were shot. To be precise, it was Emeterio who was asleep when he was shot, considering that the women were able to cry for help before the rapid firing that silenced them. In any case, it was clear that the women were in no position to defend themselves, having been rudely awakened by the shooting of their companion. The fact that they shouted for help also showed their loss of hope in the face of what was coming – rapid gunfire from long firearms. Thus, it has been established that appellants killed Emeterio, Porferia and Analiza. Appreciating treachery as a qualifying circumstance, the crime is properly denominated as murder. People of the Philippines v. Ricardo Dearo, Paulino Luage and Wilfredo Toledo, G.R. No. 190862, October 9, 2013.

Rape; delay in reporting the crime. The failure of AAA to report her ordeal is not unique in her case. Many victims of rape would choose to suffer in silence rather than put the life of their loved ones in danger. It is well entrenched that delay in reporting rape cases does not by itself undermine the charge, where the delay is grounded in threats from the accused. Delay in revealing the commission of a crime such as rape does not necessarily render such charge unworthy of belief. This is because the victim may choose to keep quiet rather than expose her defilement to the harsh glare of public scrutiny. Only when the delay is unreasonable or unexplained may it work to discredit the complainant. People of the Philippines v. Florentino Galagar, Jr., G.R. No. 202842, October 9, 2013.

Rape; medical examination as corroborative evidence; the examining physician is expected to testify only on the fact that he examined the victim and on the results of the examination. The Supreme Court did not give credence to appellant’s imputation that the examining physician was unsure as to what caused “AAA’s” hymenal lacerations. It must be stressed that the examining physician was presented to testify only on the fact that he examined the victim and on the results of such examination. He is thus expected to testify on the nature, extent and location of the wounds. Dr. Arnulfo Imperial (Dr. Imperial) found, among others, that “AAA” suffered hymenal lacerations. This refers to the location and nature of the wounds suffered by the victim. Dr. Imperial could not be expected to establish the cause of such lacerations with particularity because he has no personal knowledge of how these hymenal lacerations were inflicted on “AAA.” He could only surmise that the lacerations could have been caused “by activities like cycling, horseback riding or the insertion of [a] hard object into the vagina of the victim such as the penis.” In any case, a medical examination is not even indispensable in prosecuting a rape charge. In fact, an accused’s conviction for rape may be anchored solely on the testimony of the victim. At best, the medical examination would only serve as corroborative evidence. People of the Philippines v. Marciano Cial y Lorena, G.R. No. 191362, October 9, 2013.

Rape; statutory rape; elements. Rape of a minor under 12 years of age is statutory rape. The elements of statutory rape are that: (a) the victim is a female under 12 years or is demented; and (b) the offender has carnal knowledge of the victim. Neither the use of force, threat or intimidation on the female, nor the female’s deprivation of reason or being otherwise unconscious, nor the employment on the female of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority is necessary to commit statutory rape. In statutory rape, there are only two elements that need to be established, to wit: 1) carnal knowledge or sexual intercourse; and 2) that the woman is below 12 years of age. In this case, the prosecution satisfactorily established the fact of carnal knowledge. It is likewise beyond dispute that “AAA” was only 11 years of age at the time she was raped. Her Certificate of Live Birth showed that she was born on November 26, 1992. The lower courts therefore correctly held appellant guilty of the crime of statutory rape and imposed upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines v. Rodolfo De Jesus y Mendoza, G.R. No. 190622, October 7, 2013.

2.            SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody; a 45% difference in the reported weight of the drugs from the time of the arrest to the time of the receipt by the laboratory for testing implies tampering of evidence. The Court of Appeals said that the chain of custody of the seized drugs does not appear to be unbroken. The Supreme Court (SC) held otherwise. The PDEA report to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, the booking sheet and arrest report, the Certificate of Inventory, and the laboratory examination request all put down the seized shabu as weighing 0.4 gram. The forensic chemist reported and testified, however, that the police actually submitted only 0.2204 gram of shabu for laboratory testing, short by 0.1796 gram from what the police inventoried. It therefore suffered a loss of 45% or nearly half of the original weight. The prosecution has three theories: only two chemists served the entire region giving rise to possible error; the police and the crime laboratory used different weighing scales; and the failure of the laboratory to take into account the weight of the sachet container. But these are mere speculations since none of those involved was willing to admit having committed weighing error. Speculations cannot overcome the concrete evidence that what was seized was not what was forensically tested. This implies tampering with the prosecution evidence. Hence, because of the compromised evidence, the SC did not affirm the conviction of Pornillos. People of the Philippines v. Jovi Pornillos y Hallare, G.R. No. 201109, October 2, 2013.

3.            CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Criminal case; when appeal is to be taken. Section 6, Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that an appeal must be taken within fifteen (15) days from promulgation of the judgment or from notice of the final order appealed from. In this case, the judgment convicting the petitioner of the crime of Estafa was promulgated on March 25, 2009. Instead of filing a notice of appeal within fifteen (15) days from the promulgation or notice of judgment, the petitioner filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) a motion to lift warrant of arrest and to reinstate bail bond three (3) months later. It was only in November 2010 or more than a year later since the RTC denied her motion that the petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals (CA) her motion to admit notice of appeal. At that point, her judgment of conviction has already attained finality and cannot be modified or set aside anymore in accordance with Section 7, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Thus, the CA did not commit any reversible error in denying the petitioner’s motion inasmuch as by the time the petitioner filed the same, the appellate court was already bereft of any jurisdiction to entertain the motion. Anita Ramirez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 197832, October 2, 2013.

(Lindy thanks Isabel F. Serina, Elaine B. de los Santos, and Vincent C. Juan for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

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