December 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select December 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1. REVISED PENAL CODE

Falsification of public documents; falsification of local budget preparation forms. To warrant the suspension of a public officer under section 13 of R.A. 3019, he must be charged with an offense (1) under R.A. 3019, or (2) under Title Seven, Book II of the RPC, or (3) involving fraud upon government or public funds or property. Admittedly, petitioner in this case was not charged under R.A. 3019. Neither was he charged under Title Seven, Book II of the RPC as the crime of falsification of public documents under Article 171 of the RPC is covered by Title Four, Book II thereof. The relevant question now is whether falsification of public documents is considered as fraud upon government or public funds or property. To address the issue, the Supreme Court (SC) cited Bustillo v. Sandiganbayan. Petitioner therein was charged with falsifying municipal vouchers which, as used in government, are official documents. He asserted the said offense does not involve “fraud or property”; hence, his suspension finds no basis in section 13 of R.A. 3019. In construing the term “fraud” as used in section 13 of R.A. 3019, the SC held in said case that the same is understood in its general sense, that is, referring to “an instance or an act of trickery or deceit especially when involving misrepresentation.” And since vouchers are official documents signifying a cash outflow from government coffers, falsification thereof invariably involves fraud upon public funds. In the same vein, the act imputed against petitioner constitutes fraud upon government or public funds. Hadjim Hashim Abdul v. Sandiganbayan (Fifth Division) and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 184496, December 2, 2013.

Kidnapping for ransom; elements. In proving the crime of kidnapping for ransom, the prosecution has to show that: (a) the accused was a private person; (b) he kidnapped or detained or in any manner deprived another of his or her liberty; (c) the kidnapping or detention was illegal; and (d) the victim was kidnapped or detained for ransom. All these were proven in the criminal case on review. The testimony of Alejandro and Marvelous sufficiently established the commission of the crime and the accused-appellants’ culpability. Maca was positively identified by Marvelous as one of the men who collared her, Marelie and Mae by the bedroom, tied them up and brought them to the mountains of Bagyangon. He was also identified as the one who left the group when they were on the mountains to buy food after Con-ui refused. Con-ui, on the other hand, was identified by Alejandro as the one who was addressed by one of the abductors with the statement, “why did it take you so long in coming back? We were already tired of waiting for you.” Con-ui was also identified by Marvelous as the one who took the key to the drawer, opened it and took the money in it. Their testimony also established the fact that they were deprived of their liberty when they were all hogtied and forcibly brought out of the house and into the mountains. That the deprivation of their liberty was for the purpose of extorting ransom was confirmed by Alejandro who testified that the abductors asked him for money and even let him off so he can come up with the P300,000.00 ransom. People of the Philippines v. Jonathan Con-U and Ramil Maca, G.R. No. 205442, December 11, 2013.

Libel; privileged communication. No libel was committed in this case. The Court of Appeals (CA) acquitted Muñoz of libel because his statement constitutes privileged communication. In libel, the existence of malice is essential as it is an element of the crime. The law presumes that every imputation is malicious; this is referred to as malice in law. There are few circumstances wherein malice in law is inapplicable. Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) states the instances when malice is not presumed. Jurisprudence supplements the enumeration in Article 354 of the RPC. Borjal v. CA and Guingguing v. CA hold that in order to justify a conviction in libel involving privileged communication, the prosecution must establish that the libelous statements were made or published with actual malice or malice in fact – the knowledge that the statement is false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true. Elizalde S. Co v. Ludolfo P. Muñoz Jr., G.R. No. 181986, December 4, 2013.

Libel; privileged communication. In this case, the Court of Appeals (CA) declared that the libelous remarks are privileged. The legal conclusion was arrived at from the fact that Co is a public figure, the subject matter of the libelous remarks was of public interest, and the context of Munoz’ statements were fair comments. Consequently, malice is no longer presumed and the prosecution has the burden of proving that Munoz acted with malice in fact. The CA found that the prosecution failed in this respect. Co assails the CA’s ruling by raising arguments that essentially require a review of the CA’s factual and legal findings. However, the Supreme Court cannot, through the present petition, review these findings without going against the requirements of Rule 45 with respect to factual matters, and without violating Munoz’ right against double jeopardy given that the acquittal is essentially anchored on questions of fact. Elizalde S. Co v. Ludolfo P. Muñoz Jr., G.R. No. 181986, December 4, 2013.

Qualified theft; elements.The elements of qualified theft punishable under Article 310 in relation to Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) are as follows: (1) there was a taking of personal property; (2) the said property belongs to another; (3) the taking was done without the consent of the owner; (4) the taking was done with intent to gain; (5) the taking was accomplished without violence or intimidation against person, or force upon things; and (6) the taking was done under any of the circumstances enumerated in Article 310 of the RPC, i.e., with grave abuse of confidence. Delia Ines Ringor v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 198904, December 11, 2013.

Qualified theft; elements.All elements for the felony of qualified theft under Article 310 in relation to Article 308 of the RPC are present in this case. As to the first element, the prosecution was able to establish that the petitioner, as part of her duty as sales clerk/agent of PCS, received the payment from LACS in the amount of P66,860.90 for the merchandise delivered to it and that she failed to remit the same to Ingan. The second, third and fifth elements of qualified theft were likewise established by the prosecution; that the amount paid by LACS, taken by the petitioner without authority and consent, belongs to PCS, and that the taking was accomplished without the use of violence or intimidation against persons, or force upon things, is not disputed. Anent the fourth element, intent to gain on the part of the petitioner was likewise established. Intent to gain or animus lucrandi is an internal act that is presumed from the unlawful taking by the offender of the thing subject of asportation. Intent to gain on the part of the petitioner is readily apparent from the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses. Particularly, Ibarra, Ingan’s brother, testified that the petitioner told him and his sister that she lost the money she collected from LACS. At first, the petitioner claimed that she was robbed. Later, she changed her story and claimed that she lost the money when she rode a mini-bus. Curiously, once Ingan discovered that her story did not check out, the petitioner no longer reported for work. The foregoing circumstances, coupled with the fact that the petitioner took the money paid by LACS and failed to remit the same to PCS, clearly evince intent to gain on the part of the petitioner. As regards the sixth element, the petitioner claims that the prosecution failed to show that there was grave abuse of confidence on her part. Grave abuse of confidence, as an element of the felony of qualified theft, must be the result of the relation by reason of dependence, guardianship, or vigilance, between the appellant and the offended party that might create a high degree of confidence between them which the appellant abused. The element of grave abuse of confidence is present in this case. Verily, the petitioner, as sales clerk/agent of PCS, is duty-bound to remit to Ingan the payments which she collected from the customers of PCS. She would not have been able to take the money paid by LACS if it were not for her position in PCS. In failing to remit to Ingan the money paid by LACS, the petitioner indubitably gravely abused the confidence reposed on her by PCS. Delia Ines Ringor v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 198904, December 11, 2013.

Rape; elements.For the charge of rape under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended, to prosper, the prosecution must prove that: (1) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) he accomplished this act through force, threat or intimidation, when she was deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or when she was under 12 years of age or was demented. In the present case, the prosecution established the elements of rape required under Article 266-A of the RPC. First, the appellant had carnal knowledge of the victim. AAA was straightforward when she testified that the appellant inserted his penis into her vagina. Her testimony was supported by Medico Legal Report No. M-257-01 dated April 29, 2001, reflecting the victim’s non-virgin physical state. It has been previously held that when the testimony of a rape victim is consistent with the medical findings, there is sufficient basis to conclude that there has been carnal knowledge. Second, the appellant employed threat, force and intimidation to satisfy his lust. AAA categorically testified that she resisted when the appellant pulled her inside his house. She also recalled that she cried when the appellant inserted his penis into her vagina. Nonetheless, she was helpless and afraid to make further noise because the appellant threatened to kill her. These facts sufficiently indicate that the appellant’s acts were against AAA’s will. People of the Philippines v. Rogelio Manicat y De Guzman, G.R. No. 205413, December 2, 2013.

Rape; rape charge doubtful only when the delay or inaction in revealing its commission is unreasonable and unexplained. Jurisprudence states that a rape charge becomes doubtful only when the delay or inaction in revealing its commission is unreasonable and unexplained. Those conditions do not obtain in the case at bar since, during the trial, AAA testified that she did not tell anyone in her boarding house about what happened to her right after the terrible encounter with appellant because she was afraid of her father. This candid statement from the victim not only discloses a plausible justification for the delay but it also further manifests her youth or immaturity which is a personal circumstance that has never prevented the Supreme Court from upholding the credibility of a witness. Instead, such a condition has been considered as a cornerstone of a testimony that is worthy of belief. People of the Philippines v. Dalton Laurian Jr. y Pugsot, G.R. No. 199868, December 11, 2013.

Rape; statutory rape; elements. Consented or unconsented sexual intercourse with a woman below 12 years of age is punishable as rape. As such, proof of force, threat, or intimidation is unnecessary in cases of statutory rape, they, not being elements of the crime. When the complainant is below 12 years old, the absence of free consent is conclusively presumed as the law supposes that a woman below this age does not possess discernment and is incapable of giving intelligent consent to the sexual act. In order to successfully convict an accused of statutory rape, the prosecution must prove the following: 1.The age of the complainant; 2.The identity of the accused; and 3.The carnal knowledge between the accused and the complainant. People of the Philippines v. Ferdinand Banzuela, G.R. No. 202060, December 11, 2013.

Rape; statutory rape; elements. The first element was established by the prosecution upon the presentation and submission to the court of a Certification from the Office of the Municipal Civil Registrar of Mandaluyong City dated August24, 2004 stating that AAA was born on September 10, 1996. Hence, she was only 6 years old when the rape was committed in February 2003. The second element was clearly satisfied when AAA positively and consistently identified Banzuela as her offender. As regards the third element, it is instructive to define “carnal knowledge” in the context it is used in the Revised Penal Code: ‘Carnal knowledge,’ unlike its ordinary connotation of sexual intercourse, does not necessarily require that the vagina be penetrated or that the hymen be ruptured. The crime of rape is deemed consummated even when the man’s penis merely enters the labia or lips of the female organ or, as once so said in a case, by the ‘mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis capable of consummating the sexual act. This element was proven when AAA detailed in open court how Banzuela forcefully inserted his sex organ into her genitalia in February 2003 and how she felt pain during her ordeal. People of the Philippines v. Ferdinand Banzuela, G.R. No. 202060, December 11, 2013.

2. SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; “in connection with a contract or transaction.”  In issuing the questioned resolution, the Sandiganbayan applied the restrictive meaning of the term transaction as used in section 3(b) of R.A. 3019 adopted in Soriano Jr. v. Sandiganbayan. In Soriano Jr., the Supreme Court (SC) pronounced that “the investigation conducted by the petitioner was not a contract. Neither was it a transaction because this term must be construed as analogous to the term which precedes it. A transaction, like a contract, is one which involves some consideration as in credit transactions and this element (consideration) is absent in the investigation conducted by the petitioner.” The State here argues that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion resulting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction for applying the interpretation of the term transaction in Soriano Jr. considering that the term transaction should be construed more liberally. The SC did not give credence to the State’s position. It held that it does not help the State any that the term transaction as used in section 3(b) of R.A. 3019 is susceptible of being interpreted both restrictively and liberally, considering that laws creating, defining or punishing crimes and laws imposing penalties and forfeitures are to be construed strictly against the State or against the party seeking to enforce them, and liberally against the party sought to be charged. Hence, the SC ruled that the Sandiganbayan did not arbitrarily, or whimsically, or capriciously quash the information for failing to properly state the fourth element of the violation of section 3(b) of R.A. 3019. People of the Philippines v. Hon. Sandiganbayan, First Division and Third Division Hernando Benito Perez, Rosario Perez, Ramon Arceo and Enest Escaler/People of the Philippines v. Hon. Sandiganbayan, First Division and Third Division Hernando Benito Perez, Rosario Perez, Ramon Arceo, Enest Escaler and Ramon Castillo Arceo, Jr., G.R. No. 188165/G.R. No. 189063, December 11, 2013.

Evidence; non-compliance of chain of custody rule does not necessarily void the seizure and custody of the dangerous drugs.  In this case, the Supreme Court found that the prosecution failed to prove the corpus delicti. As a result,the State was unable to discharge its basic duty of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Although the prosecution witnesses averred that the physical inventory of the seized items was recorded in the police blotter, it did not bother to present a copy of the same with the required signatures or submit some valid justification for the omission. What is more, both PO1 Tadeo and PO1 Viesca were uncertain regarding whether they photographed the seized items. In fact, they failed to produce any such photograph. This is either sloppy police work or utter refusal to comply with what is required of them. The prosecution should not have filed the case absent proof of compliance with what the law requires. The Supreme Court (SC) has of course held that non-compliance with the procedural safeguards provided in section 21 of R.A. 9165 and its IRR would not necessarily void the seizure and custody of the dangerous drugs for as long as there is a justifiable ground for it and the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved. Here, however, the buy-bust team did not bother to show that they “intended to comply with the procedure but where thwarted by some justifiable reason or consideration.” Accordingly, despite the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty, the SC stressed that the step-by-step procedure outlined under R.A. 9165 is a matter of substantive law, which cannot be simply brushed aside as a simple procedural technicality. Due to the gross disregard of the buy-bust team of the procedural safeguards mandated by section 21 of R.A. 9165 and its IRR, and its failure to give justifiable reasons for it, the SC, thus, concluded that the integrity and identity of the corpus delicti have been compromised. People of the Philippines v. Ferdinand Bautista y Sinaon, G.R. No. 198113, December 11, 2013.

Illegal possession of dangerous drugs; elements. In prosecuting a case for illegal possession of dangerous drugs under section 11, Article II of R.A. 9165, the following elements must concur: “(1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified as a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug.” All the elements in the prosecution for illegal possession of dangerous drugs were established in this case. First, the two plastic sachets containing shabu subject of the case for the illegal possession of drugs were found in appellant’s pocket after a search on his person was made following his arrest in flagrante delicto for the illegal sale of shabu. It must be remembered that a person lawfully arrested may be searched for anything which may have been used or constitute proof in the commission of an offense without a warrant. Second, appellant did not adduce evidence showing his legal authority to possess the shabu. Third, appellant’s act of allowing the poseur-buyer to choose one from among the three sachets and putting back into his pocket the two sachets of shabu not chosen clearly shows that he freely and consciously possessed the illegal drugs. Hence, appellant was correctly charged and convicted for illegal possession of shabu. People of the Philippines v. Jay Montevirgen y Ozaraga, G.R. No. 189840, December 11, 2013.

Illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs; buy-bust operation; elements.What determines if there was, indeed, a sale of dangerous drugs in a buy-bust operation is proof of the concurrence of all the elements of the offense, to wit: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor, which the prosecution has satisfactorily established. Here, the prosecution satisfactorily proved the illegal sale of dangerous drugs and presented in court the evidence of corpus delicti. PO1 Montefrio positively identified the appellant as the person who sold to him one plastic sachet of shabu worth P100 in a buy-bust operation conducted by the police officers in this case. PO1 Montefrio also identified in court the plastic sachet of shabu he bought from the appellant. The testimony of PO1 Montefrio was in turn corroborated by the testimony of PO3 Antonio, a member of the buy-bust team who also categorically pointed to the appellant as the person whom he saw PO1 Montefrio bought illegal drugs from. To further prove that a buy-bust operation was actually conducted, the prosecution also presented the testimony of P/Insp. Calabocal, the forensic chemist assigned to the case. P/Insp. Calabocal testified that he dusted the P100 bill buy-bust money with ultraviolet fluorescent powder prior to the conduct of the buy-bust operation. After the operation, he again examined the P100 bill buy-bust money, as well as the living persons of PO1 Montefrio and the appellant for the presence of ultraviolet fluorescent powder. He stated that he found traces of said powder on the hands of both PO1 Montefrio and the appellant, which in this case meant that the P100 buy-bust money was indeed passed on from PO1 Montefrio to the appellant. People of the Philippines v. Roselito Taculod y Elle, G.R. No. 198108, December 11, 2013.

Illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs; buy-bust operation; elements. For an accused to be convicted of illegal possession of prohibited or regulated drugs, the following elements must concur: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possesses the said drug. To prove the charge of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, PO1 Montefrio testified that when he bought shabu from the appellant, the latter took out from his pocket four plastic sachets. The appellant gave one sachet to PO1 Montefrio and put the rest back in his left pocket. After the arrest of the appellant, PO1 Montefrio relayed this information to PO3 Antonio and the latter ordered the appellant to empty the contents of his pocket. The appellant then brought out the three remaining plastic sachets of shabu, which PO3 Antonio marked accordingly. PO3 Antonio gave similar account of the events that led to the discovery and seizure of the three remaining plastic sachets of shabu. Both police officers also identified the said items in court. People of the Philippines v. Roselito Taculod y Elle, G.R. No. 198108, December 11, 2013

Illegal sale of shabu; elements.In every prosecution for the illegal sale of shabu, under section 5, Article II of RA 9165, the following elements must be proved: “(1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material in a 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 the corpus delicti” or the illicit drug in evidence. In this case, all the elements for the illegal sale of shabu were established. PO3 Ruiz, the poseur-buyer, positively identified appellant as the person he caught in flagrante delicto selling a white crystalline substance believed to be shabu in the entrapment operation conducted by the police and MADAC operatives. Upon receipt of the P200 buy-bust money, appellant handed to PO3 Ruiz the sachet containing 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance which later tested positive for shabu. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt by the seller of the marked money successfully consummated the buy-bust transaction.People of the Philippines v. Jay Montevirgen y Ozaraga, G.R. No. 189840, December 11, 2013.

Illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements; corpus delicti.  Illegal sale of prohibited drugs, like shabu, is committed upon the consummation of the sale transaction which happens at the moment the buyer receives the drug from the seller. If a police officer goes through the operation as a buyer, the crime is consummated when he makes an offer to buy that is accepted by the accused, and there is an ensuing exchange between them involving the delivery of the dangerous drugs to the police officer. In any case, the successful prosecution of the offense must be anchored on a proof beyond reasonable doubt of two elements, to wit: (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the identity of the object and the consideration of the sale; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and of the payment for the thing. What is material is the proof showing that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the thing sold as evidence of the corpus delicti. People of the Philippines v. Erlinda Mali y Quimno a.k.a. “Linda,” G.R. No. 206738, December 11, 2013.

Illegal sale of prohibited drugs; elements; corpus delicti.  The confluence of the above requisites is unmistakable from the testimony of the poseur-buyer herself, PO1 Montuno, who positively testified that the illegal sale actually took place when she gave the P100 marked money to the accused-appellant in exchange for the shabu. The straightforward testimony of PO1 Montuno about the details of her transaction with the accused-appellant passed the “objective” test in buy-bust operations. It is clear from her narration that the following elements occurred: the initial contact between the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, the promise or payment of the consideration and the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale. People of the Philippines v. Erlinda Mali y Quimno a.k.a. “Linda,” G.R. No. 206738, December 11, 2013.

Sexual abuse under R.A. 7610; elements. The recital of the ultimate facts and circumstances in the Information that was filed against Roallos clearly makes out a case for the offense of sexual abuse under section 5(b), Article III of R.A. 7610. The elements of sexual abuse under section 5(b), Article III of R.A. 7610 are as follows: 1. The accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct; 2. The said act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse; and 3. The child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age. The Information that was filed against Roallos alleged that he committed lascivious acts towards AAA, i.e., that he mashed the breasts and kissed the cheeks of the latter. It likewise alleged that AAA, at the time she was subjected to sexual abuse by Roallos, was only 15 years of age. Clearly, all the elements of sexual abuse under section 5(b), Article III of R.A. No. 7610 are set out in the Information that was filed against Roallos. Vivencio Roallos y Trillanes v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 198389, December 11, 2013.

3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Alibi. To counter the clear and categorical declarations of AAA that accused-appellant raped her, accused-appellant proffered the defense of denial and alibi, totally denying that he was at their house in when the rape happened. The Supreme Court had consistently held that for alibi to prosper, it is not enough to prove that the defendant was somewhere else when the crime was committed, but he must likewise demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time. This, accused-appellant failed to do. Although defense witness Guinonoy testified that he was with accused-appellant in Chapeh on March 10, 2001, he also acknowledged that the travel time of one to two hours from Chapeh to does not pose an insurmountable barrier for accused-appellant to actually take the trip from Chapeh to and back after committing the crime. Clearly, it was not physically impossible for accused-appellant to be present at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission. People of the Philippines v. Lino Paldo, G.R. No. 200515, December 11, 2013.

Certiorari; reglementary period to file certiorari; recognized exceptions. Section 4, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is explicit in stating that certiorari should be instituted within a period of 60 days from notice of the judgment, order or resolution sought to be assailed. While there are recognized exceptions to such strict observance, there should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to advance a reasonable or meritorious explanation for his/her failure to comply with the rules. In the case at bench, no convincing justification for the belated filing of the petition was advanced to warrant the relaxation of the Rules. Notably, the records show that the petition was filed only on August 12, 2013, or almost a month late from the due date which fell on July 16, 2013. To excuse this grave procedural lapse will not only be unfair to the other party, but it will also sanction a seeming rudimentary attempt to circumvent standing rules of procedure. Suffice it to say, the reasons proffered by the petitioner do not carry even a tinge of merit that would deserve leniency. The late filing of the petition was borne out of the petitioner’s failure to monitor incoming court processes that needed to be addressed by the office. Clearly, this is an admission of inefficiency, if not lack of zeal, on the part of an office tasked to effectively curb smuggling activities which rob the government of millions of revenue every year. The display of patent violations of even the elementary rules leads the Court to suspect that the case against Garcia and Vestidas Jr. was doomed by design from the start. The failure to present the certified true copies of documentary evidence; the failure to competently and properly identify the misdeclared goods; the failure to identify the accused in court; and, worse, the failure to file this petition on time challenging a judgment of acquittal, are tell-tale signs of a reluctant and subdued attitude in pursuing the case. This stance taken by the lawyers in government service rouses the Supreme Court’s vigilance against inefficiency in the administration of justice. Verily, the lawyers representing the offices under the executive branch should be reminded that they still remain as officers of the court from whom a high sense of competence and fervor is expected. People of the Philippines v. The Hon. Juanito C. Castaneda Jr., et al, G.R. No. 208290, December 11, 2013.

Civil liability of the accused; appeal of by private party.  The parties here have conflicting interpretations of the last paragraph of section 2, Rule 111 of the Rules of Court (ROC), which states: The extinction of the penal action does not carry with it extinction of the civil action. However, the civil action based on delict shall be deemed extinguished if there is a finding in a final judgment in the criminal action that the act or omission from which the civil liability may arise did not exist. Muñoz claims that the last paragraph of section 2, Rule 111 of the ROC applies only if the civil liability ex delicto is separately instituted or when the right to file it separately was properly reserved. In contrast, Co claims that Muñoz’ acquittal of the crime of libel did not extinguish the civil aspect of the case because Muñoz’ utterance of the libelous remarks remains undisputed. The Supreme Court rejected Muñoz’ claim. The last paragraph of section 2, Rule 111 of the ROC applies to civil actions to claim civil liability arising from the offense charged regardless if the action is instituted with or filed separately from the criminal action. Undoubtedly, section 2, Rule 111 of the ROC governs situations when the offended party opts to institute the civil action separately from the criminal action; hence, its title “When separate civil action is suspended.” Despite this wording, the last paragraph, by its terms, governs all claims for civil liability ex delicto. Elizalde S. Co v. Ludolfo P. Muñoz, Jr., G.R. No. 181986, December 4, 2013.

Criminal complaint;  crime charged determined by allegations in the complaint or information. The Supreme Court here held that Roallos’ claim that the Information filed against him is duplicitous as it charged him with the commission of two crimes is plainly untenable. The designation of the crime in the Information is clear – Roallos was charged with the crime of acts of lasciviousness in relation to section 5(b), Article III of R.A. 7610. The mention of the phrase “acts of lasciviousness” in the Information does not mean that Roallos was charged with the felony of acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC. The charge of acts of lasciviousness against Roallos is specifically delimited to that committed in relation to section 5(b), Article III of R.A. 7610. In any case, the real nature of the criminal charge is determined not from the caption or preamble of the information, or from the specification of the provision of law alleged to have been violated, which are mere conclusions of law, but by the actual recital of the facts in the complaint or information. Vivencio Roallos y Trillanes v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 198389, December 11, 2013.

Evidence; testimonies of rape victims given full weight and credit. Well-established is the rule that testimonies of rape victims, especially child victims, are given full weight and credit. In this case, the victim AAA was barely eight years old when raped by accused-appellant. In a litany of cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that when a woman, more so if she is a minor, says she has been raped, she says, in effect, all that is necessary to prove that rape was committed. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth. Courts usually give greater weight to the testimony of a girl who is a victim of sexual assault, especially a minor, particularly in cases of incestuous rape, because no woman would be willing to undergo a public trial and put up with the shame, humiliation and dishonor of exposing her own degradation were it not to condemn an injustice and to have the offender apprehended and punished. People of the Philippines v. Lino Paldo, G.R. No. 200515, December 11, 2013.

Ombudsman; Ombudsman can file appeal or certiorari from the Sandiganbayan to the Supreme Court. Respondents contend that the Office of the Ombudsman has no authority to file the petitions for certioraribecause only the Solicitor General could file the petitions in this Court pursuant to section 35, Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code as amended by E.O. 292. The Supreme Court found respondents’ contention grossly erroneous. That only the Solicitor General may represent the People on appeal or certiorariin the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings is the general rule, but the rule admits the exception concerning “all cases elevated to the Sandiganbayan and from the Sandiganbayan to the Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman, through its special prosecutor, shall represent the People of the Philippines, except in cases filed pursuant to E.O. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986.” More specifically, section 4(c) of R.A. 8249 authorizes the exception, viz: “c. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection with [E.O.] 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986.” Consequently, the filing of the petitions in these cases by the Office of the Ombudsman, through the Office of the Special Prosecutor, was authorized by law. People of the Philippines v. Hon. Sandiganbayan, First Division and Third Division Hernando Benito Perez, Rosario Perez, Ramon Arceo and Enest Escaler/People of the Philippines v. Hon. Sandiganbayan, First Division and Third Division Hernando Benito Perez, Rosario Perez, Ramon Arceo, Enest Escaler and Ramon Castillo Arceo, Jr., G.R. No. 188165/G.R. No. 189063, December 11, 2013.

Preliminary investigation; lack of timely objection. The Supreme Court here held that Roallos’ claim that he was denied due process since he was arrested without any warrant of arrest and that he was not afforded a preliminary investigation is untenable. Here, it is conceded that Villarin raised the issue of lack of a preliminary investigation in his Motion for Reinvestigation. However, when the Ombudsman denied the motion, he never raised this issue again. He accepted the Ombudsman’s verdict, entered a plea of not guilty during his arraignment and actively participated in the trial on the merits by attending the scheduled hearings, conducting cross-examinations and testifying on his own behalf. It was only after the trial court rendered judgment against him that he once again assailed the conduct of the preliminary investigation in the Motion for Reconsideration. Whatever argument Villarin may have regarding the alleged absence of a preliminary investigation has therefore been mooted. By entering his plea, and actively participating in the trial, he is deemed to have waived his right to preliminary investigation.It is undisputed that, at the time of his arraignment, Roallos did not raise any objection to the supposed illegality of his arrest and the lack of a proper preliminary investigation. Indeed, he actively participated in the proceedings before the Regional Trial Court (RTC). Thus, he is deemed to have waived any perceived irregularity in his arrest and has effectively submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the RTC. He is likewise deemed to have waived his right to preliminary investigation. Vivencio Roallos y Trillanes v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 198389, December 11, 2013.

Warrantless arrests; arrests in flagrante delicto. Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a “peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense.” This is an arrest in flagrante delicto. The overt act constituting the crime is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer. The circumstances here do not make out a case of arrest made in flagrante delicto, to wit: (1) The police officers claim that they were alerted when they saw two unidentified men suddenly rush out of 107 David Street, Pasay City. Since they suspected that a crime had been committed, the natural thing for them to do was to give chase to the jeep that the two fleeing men boarded, given that the officers were in a patrol car and a tricycle. Running after the fleeing suspects was the more urgent task but the officers instead gave priority to the house even when they heard no cry for help from it; (2) Admittedly, the police officers did not notice anything amiss going on in the house from the street where they stood. Indeed, even as they peeked through its partially opened door, they saw no activity that warranted their entering it. Clearly, no crime was plainly exposed to the view of the arresting officers that authorized the arrest of accused Antiquera without warrant under the above-mentioned rule. George Antiquera y Codes v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180661, December 11, 2013.

 (Lindy thanks Izabel F. Seriña  for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

 

 

 

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