January 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select January 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippine on criminal law and procedure:

1. Revised Penal Code

Acts of lasciviousness; elements. The elements of acts of lasciviousness under Art. 336 of the Revised Penal Code are as follows: (1) That the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness; (2) That it is done under any of the following circumstances: a. By using force or intimidation; or b. When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; or c. When the offended party is under 12 years of age; and (3) That the offended party is another person of either sex. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Complex crime of carnapping with homicide; when present; proof required. To prove the special complex crime of carnapping with homicide, there must be proof not only of the essential elements of carnapping, but also that it was the original criminal design of the culprit and the killing was perpetrated in the course of the commission of the carnapping or on the occasion thereof. The appellate court correctly observed that the killing of Jesus cannot qualify the carnapping into a special complex crime because the carnapping was merely an afterthought when the victim’s death was already fait accompli. Thus, appellant is guilty only of simple carnapping. People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana, G.R. No. 201092, January 15, 2014.

Damages; when awarded when death occurs due to a crime. It is enshrined in jurisprudence that when death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5) temperate damages. There being no aggravating circumstance since abuse of superior strength is absorbed in the qualifying circumstance of treachery, the award of P75,000.00 as moral damages should be decreased to P50,000.00. Such an amount is granted even in the absence of proof of mental and emotional suffering of the victim’s heirs. Pursuant to current jurisprudence, the award of civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 and exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00 is correct. The amount of actual damages duly proven in court in the sum of P60,100.00 is likewise upheld. Finally, the Supreme Court imposed interest at the rate of 6% per annum on all damages from the date of finality of this ruling until fully paid. People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana, G.R. No. 201092, January 15, 2014.

Homicide; guilt beyond reasonable doubt; non-identification and non-presentation of the weapon. The non-identification and non-presentation of the weapon actually used in the killing did not diminish the merit of the conviction primarily because other competent evidence and the testimonies of witnesses had directly and positively identified and incriminated Ricardo as the assailant of Lino. Hence, the establishment beyond reasonable doubt of Ricardo’s guilt for the homicide did not require the production of the weapon used in the killing as evidence in court, for in arriving at its findings on the culpability of Ricardo the trial court clearly looked at, considered and appreciated the entirety of the record and the evidence. For sure, the weapon actually used was not indispensable considering that the finding of guilt was based on other evidence proving his commission of the crime. Ricardo Medina, Jr. y Oriel v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161308, January 15, 2014.

 Justifying circumstance; defense of a relative; requisites. In order that defense of a relative is to be appreciated in favor of accused Ricardo, the following requisites must concur, namely: (1) unlawful aggression by the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the aggression; and (3) in case the provocation was given by the person attacked, that the person making the defense took no part in the provocation. Like in self-defense, it is the accused who carries the burden to prove convincingly the attendance and concurrence of these requisites because his invocation of this defense amounts to an admission of having inflicted the fatal injury on the victim. Ricardo Medina, Jr. y Oriel v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161308, January 15, 2014.

Murder; elements. To be convicted of murder, the following must be established: (1) a person was killed; (2) the accused killed him; (3) the killing was with the attendance of any of the qualifying circumstances under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code; and (4) the killing neither constitutes parricide nor infanticide. People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana, G.R. No. 201092, January 15, 2014.

Personal property; concept of. In Laurel v. Abrogar, the Supreme Court (SC) reviewed the existing laws and jurisprudence on the generally accepted concept of personal property in civil law as “anything susceptible of appropriation.” It includes ownership of telephone services, which are protected by the penal provisions on theft. SC therein upheld the Amended Information charging the petitioner with the crime of theft against PLDT inasmuch as the allegation was that the former was engaged in international simple resale (ISR) or “the unauthorized routing and completing of international long distance calls using lines, cables, antennae, and/or air wave frequency and connecting these calls directly to the local or domestic exchange facilities of the country where destined.” SC reasoned that since PLDT encodes, augments, enhances, decodes and transmits telephone calls using its complex communications infrastructure and facilities, the use of these communications facilities without its consent constitutes theft, which is the unlawful taking of telephone services and business. SC then concluded that the business of providing telecommunications and telephone services is personal property under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code, and that the act of engaging in ISR is an act of “subtraction” penalized under said article. Furthermore, toll bypass operations could not have been accomplished without the installation of telecommunications equipment to the PLDT telephone lines. World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

Qualifying circumstance; treachery; when present. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack by the aggressor on an unsuspecting victim, depriving him of any real chance to defend himself. Even when the victim was forewarned of the danger to his person, treachery may still be appreciated since what is decisive is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or to retaliate. Records disclose that Jesus was stabbed by the group on the lateral part of his body while he was under the impression that they were simply leaving the place where they had a shabu session. Judicial notice can be taken that when the tricycle driver is seated on the motorcycle, his head is usually higher or at the level of the roof of the side car which leaves his torso exposed to the passengers who are seated in the side car. Hence, there was no way for Jesus to even be forewarned of the intended stabbing of his body both from the people seated in the side car and those seated behind him. Thus, the trial court’s finding of treachery was affirmed. People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana, G.R. No. 201092, January 15, 2014.

Rape; failure of the victim to shout or seek help do not negate rape. AAA’s delay in reporting the incidents to her mother or the proper authorities is insignificant and does not affect the veracity of her charges. It should be remembered that accused Pareja threatened to kill her if she told anyone of the incidents. The failure of complainant to disclose her defilement without loss of time to persons close to her or to report the matter to the authorities does not perforce warrant the conclusion that she was not sexually molested and that her charges against the accused are all baseless, untrue and fabricated. Delay in prosecuting the offense is not an indication of a fabricated charge. Many victims of rape never complain or file criminal charges against the rapists. They prefer to bear the ignominy and pain, rather than reveal their shame to the world or risk the offenders’ making good their threats to kill or hurt their victims. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Rape; lust is no respecter of time or place, and rape defies constraints of time and space. The courts take judicial notice of the interesting fact that among poor couples with big families living in small quarters, copulation does not seem to be a problem despite the presence of other persons around them. Considering the cramped space and meager room for privacy, couples perhaps have gotten used to quick and less disturbing modes of sexual congresses which elude the attention of family members; otherwise, under the circumstances, it would be almost impossible to copulate with them around even when asleep. It is also not impossible nor incredible for the family members to be in deep slumber and not be awakened while the sexual assault is being committed. One may also suppose that growing children sleep more soundly than grown-ups and are not easily awakened by adult exertions and suspirations in the night. There is no merit in appellant’s contention that there can be no rape in a room where other people are present. There is no rule that rape can be committed only in seclusion. The Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that “lust is no respecter of time and place,” and rape can be committed in even the unlikeliest of places. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Rape; testimonies of child victims are given full weight and credit. It is settled jurisprudence that testimonies of child victims are given full weight and credit, because when a woman, more so if she is a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was committed. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity. Here, AAA’s testimony is not only consistent and straightforward, but is further corroborated by other evidence. People of the Philippines v. Roel Vergara y Clavero, G.R. No. 199226, January 15, 2014.

Rape; two modes of committing rape. The enactment of Republic Act No. 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, revolutionized the concept of rape with the recognition of sexual violence on “sex-related” orifices other than a woman’s organ is included in the crime of rape; and the crime’s expansion to cover gender-free rape. The transformation mainly consisted of the reclassification of rape as a crime against persons and the introduction of rape by ‘sexual assault’ as differentiated from the traditional ‘rape through carnal knowledge’ or ‘rape through sexual intercourse. Thus, under the new provision, rape can be committed in two ways: 1. Article 266-A paragraph 1 refers to Rape through sexual intercourse, also known as “organ rape” or “penile rape.” The central element in rape through sexual intercourse is carnal knowledge, which must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. 2. Article 266-A paragraph 2 refers to rape by sexual assault, also called “instrument or object rape,” or “gender-free rape.” It must be attended by any of the circumstances enumerated in subparagraphs (a) to (d) of paragraph 1. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Statutory rape; elements. Rape under Article 266-A(1)(d) is termed statutory rape as it departs from the usual modes of committing rape. What the law punishes in statutory rape is carnal knowledge of a woman below twelve (12) years old. Thus, force, intimidation and physical evidence of injury are not relevant considerations; the only subject of inquiry is the age of the woman and whether carnal knowledge took place. The law presumes that the victim does not and cannot have a will of her own on account of her tender years; the child’s consent is immaterial because of her presumed incapacity to discern good from evil. In the case at bar, the prosecution was able to establish beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant had carnal knowledge of AAA in the afternoon of September 12, 2004, when AAA was just nine years old. People of the Philippines v. Roel Vergara y Clavero, G.R. No. 199226, January 15, 2014.

Theft; elements. For theft to be committed in this case, the following elements must be shown to exist: (1) the taking by petitioners (2) of PLDT’s personal property (3) with intent to gain (4) without the consent of PLDT (5) accomplished without the use of violence against or intimidation of persons or the use of force upon things. Here, petitioners WWC and Cherryll Yu only take issue with categorizing the earnings and business as personal properties of PLDT. However, in Laurel v. Abrogar, the Supreme Court has already held that the use of PLDT’s communications facilities without its consent constitutes theft of its telephone services and business. World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

 2. Special Penal Laws

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody; lapses in the strict compliance with the requirements of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 must be explained in terms of their justifiable grounds. The Supreme Court recognized that under varied field conditions the strict compliance with the requirements of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 may not always be possible, and it ruled that under the implementing guidelines of the said Section “non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.” SC added that the prosecution bears the burden of proving “justifiable cause.” In the present case, the prosecution did not bother to offer an explanation for why an inventory and photograph of the seized evidence was not made either in the place of seizure and arrest or at the police station, as required by the Implementing Rules in case of warrantless arrests, or why the marking of the seized item was not made at the place of seizure in the presence of Beran. Indeed, the very identity of the subject shabu cannot be established with certainty by the testimony alone of P03 Sia since the rules insist upon independent proof of its identity, such as the immediate marking thereof upon seizure. People of the Philippines v. Joselito Beran y Zapanta, G.R. No. 203028, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody; mandatory nature. The chain of custody rule requires that there be testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the object seized was picked up to the time it was offered in evidence, in such a way that every person who touched it would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the possession of the witness, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. People of the Philippines v. Joselito Beran y Zapanta, G.R. No. 203028, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody; marking of evidence in seizures covered by search warrants distinguished from marking of evidence in warrantless seizures such as a buy-bust operation. Concerning the marking of evidence seized in a buy-bust operation or under a search warrant, vis-a-vis the physical inventory and photograph, it must be noted that there are distinctions as to time and place under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165. Thus, whereas in seizures covered by search warrants, the physical inventory and photograph must be conducted in the place of the search warrant, in warrantless seizures such as a buy-bust operation the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the nearest police station or office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, consistent with the “chain of custody” rule. It needs no elaboration that the immediate marking of the item seized in a buy-bust operation in the presence of the accused is indispensable to establish its identity in court. Here, none of the buy-bust team attested that they saw P03 Sia take custody of the confiscated shabu, and later mark the sachet at the DAID-WPD office. Even granting that P03 Sia did mark the same sachet at the precinct, breaks in the chain of custody had already taken place, first, when he confiscated it from Beran without anyone observing him do so and without marking the subject sachet at the place of apprehension, and then as he was transporting it to the precinct, thus casting serious doubt upon the value of the said links to prove the corpus delicti. Moreover, the records also show that P03 Sia submitted the sachet to the laboratory only on the next day, without explaining how he preserved his exclusive custody thereof overnight. People of the Philippines v. Joselito Beran y Zapanta, G.R. No. 203028, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody rule; when relaxed. There are occasions when the chain of custody rule is relaxed such as when the marking of the seized items immediately after seizure and confiscation is allowed to be undertaken at the police station rather than at the place of arrest for as long as it is done in the presence of an accused in illegal drugs cases. However, even a less-than-stringent application of the requirement would not suffice to sustain the conviction in this case. There was no categorical statement from any of the prosecution witnesses that markings were made, much less immediately upon confiscation of the seized items. There was also no showing that markings were made in the presence of the accused in this case. Lito Lopez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 188653. January 29, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody rule; links to be established. The links that must be established in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation are: first, the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turnover by the investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and fourth, the turnover and submission of the marked illegal drug seized from the forensic chemist to the court. Lito Lopez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 188653. January 29, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession of drugs; elements. The elements of illegal possession of drugs are: (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 possessed the said drug. P/Insp. Fajardo testified as to the recovery from the appellant of another 12 pieces of plastic sachets of shabu. After the latter was arrested, P/Insp. Fajardo stated that PO2 Trambulo conducted a body search on the appellant. This search resulted to the confiscation of 12 more plastic sachets, the contents of which also tested positive for shabu. The testimony of P/Insp. Fajardo was amply corroborated by PO2 Trambulo, whose own account dovetailed the former’s narration of events. Both police officers also identified in court the twelve plastic sachets of shabu that were confiscated from the appellant. People of the Philippines v. Donald Vasquez y Sandigan, G.R. No. 200304, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession of drugs; penalties. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, there being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance in this case, the imposable penalty on the appellant should be the indeterminate sentence of six months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four years and two months of prision correccional, as maximum. The penalty imposed by the Court of Appeals, thus, falls within the range of the proper imposable penalty. No fine was imposed considering that in Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, a fine can be imposed as a conjunctive penalty only if the penalty is reclusion perpetua to death. People of the Philippines v. Donald Vasquez y Sandigan, G.R. No. 200304, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of drugs; elements. To secure a conviction for the crime of illegal sale of regulated or prohibited drugs, the following elements should be satisfactorily proven: (1) the identity of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. As held in People v. Chua Tan Lee, in a prosecution of illegal sale of drugs, what is material is proof that the accused peddled illicit drugs, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti. In the case at bar, the testimonies of P/Insp. Fajardo and PO2 Trambulo established that a buy-bust operation was legitimately carried out in the wee hours of April 3, 1998 to entrap the appellant. P/Insp. Fajardo, the poseur-buyer, positively identified the appellant as the one who sold to her six plastic bags of shabu that were contained in a big brown envelope for the price of P250,000.00. She likewise identified the six plastic bags of shabu, which contained the markings she placed thereon after the same were seized from the appellant. When subjected to laboratory examination, the white crystalline powder contained in the plastic bags tested positive for shabu. People of the Philippines v. Donald Vasquez y Sandigan, G.R. No. 200304, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale of drugs; penalties. Article 6363 of the Revised Penal Code mandates that when the law prescribes a penalty composed of two indivisible penalties and there are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the crime, the lesser penalty shall be applied. Thus, in this case, considering that no mitigating or aggravating circumstances attended the appellant’s violation of Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the trial court’s imposition of reclusion perpetua. The P5,000,000.00 fine imposed by the trial court on the appellant is also in accord with Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended. People of the Philippines v. Donald Vasquez y Sandigan, G.R. No. 200304, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale or possession of drugs; the evidence of the corpus delicti must be independently established beyond reasonable doubt. It is well-settled that in the prosecution of cases involving the illegal sale or illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the evidence of the corpus delicti, which is the dangerous drug itself, must be independently established beyond reasonable doubt. In People v. Pagaduan, the Supreme Court ruled that proof beyond reasonable doubt in criminal prosecution for the sale of illegal drugs demands that unwavering exactitude be observed in establishing the corpus delicti, the body of the crime whose core is the confiscated illicit drug. The prosecution must establish by records or testimony the continuous whereabouts of the exhibit, from the time it came into the possession of the police officers until it was tested in the laboratory to determine its composition, and all the way to the time it is offered in evidence. In the instant case, from the testimony of P03 Sia it is clear that the apprehending operatives did not, immediately after seizure and confiscation of the illegal item, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused, his representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice, and an elected public official, notwithstanding that they were supposed to have been conducting a planned sting operation. Worse, the prosecution did not bother to explain why they failed to observe them, although they knew these procedures were intended to preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the item seized. Moreover, none of the other witnesses of the prosecution could corroborate the culpatory narrative of P03 Sia at any of its material points to create the successive links in the custody of the seized drug. People of the Philippines v. Joselito Beran y Zapanta, G.R. No. 203028, January 15, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs; chain of custody; corpus delicti. In both cases of illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the prosecution must show the chain of custody over the dangerous drug in order to establish the corpus delicti, which is the dangerous drug itself. The chain of custody rule comes into play as a mode of authenticating the seized illegal drug as evidence. It includes testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness’ possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same. Indeed, it is from the testimony of every witness who handled the evidence from which a reliable assurance can be derived that the evidence presented in court is one and the same as that seized from the accused. This step initiates the process of protecting innocent persons from dubious and concocted searches, and of protecting as well the apprehending officers from harassment suits based on planting of evidence and on allegations of robbery or theft. Lito Lopez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 188653. January 29, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs; chain of custody; effect of failure to mark. Failure of the authorities to immediately mark the seized drugs raises reasonable doubt on the authenticity of the corpus delicti and suffices to rebut the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties. Failure to mark the drugs immediately after they were seized from the accused casts doubt on the prosecution evidence, warranting acquittal on reasonable doubt. The Chemistry Report, containing a description of the items seized, does not show or make any mention of any markings made on all the items seized. As a matter of fact, during the trial, PO3 Desuasido seemingly could not readily identify the plastic sachets he allegedly seized inside petitioner’s house. The conflicting testimonies of the police officers and lack of evidence lead to a reasonable conclusion that no markings were actually made on the seized items. Lito Lopez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 188653. January 29, 2014.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs; chain of custody; marking. The rule requires that the marking of the seized items should be done in the presence of the apprehended violator and immediately upon confiscation to ensure that they are the same items that enter the chain and are eventually the ones offered in evidence. Marking after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link, thus it is vital that the seized contraband is immediately marked because succeeding handlers of the specimens will use the markings as reference. The marking of the evidence serves to separate the marked evidence from the corpus of all other similar or related evidence from the time they are seized from the accused until they are disposed at the end of criminal proceedings, obviating switching, “planting,” or contamination of evidence. Lito Lopez v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 188653. January 29, 2014.

 3. Criminal Procedure

Acquittal; two kinds; different effects on the civil liability of the accused. The law recognizes two kinds of acquittal, with different effects on the civil liability of the accused. First is an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the act or omission complained of. This instance closes the door to civil liability, for a person who has been found to be not the perpetrator of any act or omission cannot and can never be held liable for such act or omission. There being no delict, civil liability ex delicto is out of the question, and the civil action, if any, which may be instituted must be based on grounds other than the delict complained of. This is the situation contemplated in Rule 111 of the Rules of Court. The second instance is an acquittal based on reasonable doubt on the guilt of the accused. In this case, even if the guilt of the accused has not been satisfactorily established, he is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by preponderance of evidence only. The acquittal of an accused does not prevent a judgment from still being rendered against him on the civil aspect of the criminal case unless the court finds and declares that the fact from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. Dr. Encarnacion C. Lumantas v. Hanz Calapiz, represented by his parents, Hilario Calapiz, Jr. and Helita Calapiz, G.R. No. 163753. January 15, 2014.

Alibi. For alibi to prosper, accused-appellant must not only prove that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed, he must also convincingly demonstrate the physical impossibility of his presence at the locus criminis at the time of the incident. In the present case, however, accused-appellant himself admitted that his place of work was less than a kilometer or a mere 30-minute walk away from his house, where AAA was raped. Given the short distance between these two places, it was not physically impossible for accused-appellant, in the afternoon of September 12, 2004, to have left his work for a short while to go home and commit the rape of AAA. People of the Philippines v. Roel Vergara y Clavero, G.R. No. 199226, January 15, 2014.

Alibi; positive identification prevails over alibi. The Supreme Court has consistently assigned less probative weight to a defense of alibi when it is corroborated by friends and relatives since it has established in jurisprudence that, in order for corroboration to be credible, the same must be offered preferably by disinterested witnesses. Clearly, due to his friendship with appellant, Maglaque cannot be considered as a disinterested witness. Nevertheless, it is jurisprudentially settled that positive identification prevails over alibi since the latter can easily be fabricated and is inherently unreliable. It is likewise settled that where there is nothing to indicate that a witness for the prosecution was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that he was not so actuated and his testimony is entitled to full faith and credit. In the case at bar, no allegation was made nor proven to show that Jefferson had any ill motive to falsely testify against appellant. People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana, G.R. No. 201092, January 15, 2014.

Civil liability; preponderant evidence of negligence. The petitioner’s contention that he could not be held civilly liable because there was no proof of his negligence deserves scant consideration. The failure of the Prosecution to prove his criminal negligence with moral certainty did not forbid a finding against him that there was preponderant evidence of his negligence to hold him civilly liable. With the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals (CA) both finding that Hanz had sustained the injurious trauma from the hands of the petitioner on the occasion of or incidental to the circumcision, and that the trauma could have been avoided, the Supreme Court (SC) had to concur with their uniform findings. Every person is entitled to the physical integrity of his body. Although the courts have long advocated the view that any physical injury, like the loss or diminution of the use of any part of one’s body, is not equatable to a pecuniary loss, and is not susceptible of exact monetary estimation, civil damages should be assessed once that integrity has been violated. The assessment is but an imperfect estimation of the true value of one’s body. The usual practice is to award moral damages for the physical injuries sustained. In Hanz’s case, the undesirable outcome of the circumcision performed by the petitioner forced the young child to endure several other procedures on his penis in order to repair his damaged urethra. Surely, his physical and moral sufferings properly warranted the amount of P50,000.00 awarded as moral damages. Dr. Encarnacion C. Lumantas v. Hanz Calapiz, represented by his parents, Hilario Calapiz, Jr. and Helita Calapiz, G.R. No. 163753. January 15, 2014.

Denial and alibi. The defense of alibi should be considered with suspicion and always received with caution, not only because it is inherently weak and unreliable, but also because it is easily fabricated. Denial and alibi constitute self-serving negative evidence which cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the positive declaration of a credible witness. AAA’s positive testimony that she was sexually ravished by accused-appellant, coupled with the appalling fact that she got pregnant at her tender age, certainly deserve more credence and greater evidentiary weight than that of accused-appellant’s uncorroborated defenses. People of the Philippines v. Roel Vergara y Clavero, G.R. No. 199226, January 15, 2014.

Denial and improper motive. Accused Pareja sought to escape liability by denying the charges against him, coupled with the attribution of ill motive against AAA. He claims that AAA filed these cases against him because she was angry that he caused her parents’ separation. Pareja added that these cases were initiated by AAA’s father, as revenge against him. AAA’s credibility cannot be diminished or tainted by such imputation of ill motives. It is highly unthinkable for the victim to falsely accuse her father solely by reason of ill motives or grudge. It is settled jurisprudence that testimonies of child-victims are given full weight and credit, since when a woman or a girl-child says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Evidence; credibility of witnesses; determination of. Verily, the issue of credibility, when it is decisive of the guilt or innocence of the accused, is determined by the conformity of the conflicting claims and recollections of the witnesses to common experience and to the observation of mankind as probable under the circumstances. It has been appropriately emphasized that there is no test of the truth of human testimony, except its conformity to the human knowledge, observation, and experience. Whatever is repugnant to these belongs to the miraculous and is outside of judicial cognizance. Ricardo Medina, Jr. y Oriel v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161308, January 15, 2014.

Evidence; testimony of a single witnesses; when sufficient. Furthermore, settled is the rule that the testimony of a single witness may be sufficient to produce a conviction, if the same appears to be trustworthy and reliable. If credible and convincing, that alone would be sufficient to convict the accused. No law or rule requires the corroboration of the testimony of a single witness in a rape case. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Evidence; testimony of witnesses; assessment of the credibility of witnesses is a domain best left to the trial court judge; exceptions. The recognized rule in this jurisdiction is that the “assessment of the credibility of witnesses is a domain best left to the trial court judge because of his unique opportunity to observe their deportment and demeanor on the witness stand; a vantage point denied appellate courts-and when his findings have been affirmed by the Court of Appeals, these are generally binding and conclusive upon this Court.” While there are recognized exceptions to the rule, this Court has found no substantial reason to overturn the identical conclusions of the trial and appellate courts on the matter of AAA’s credibility. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

 Evidence; testimony of witnesses; guidelines to determine credibility. In People v. Sanchez, the Supreme Court (SC) enumerated the guidelines to determine the credibility of witnesses as follows: First, SC gives the highest respect to the Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) evaluation of the testimony of the witnesses, considering its unique position in directly observing the demeanor of a witness on the stand. From its vantage point, the RTC is in the best position to determine the truthfulness of witnesses. Second, absent any substantial reason which would justify the reversal of the RTC’s assessments and conclusions, the reviewing court is generally bound by the lower court’s findings, particularly when no significant facts and circumstances, affecting the outcome of the case, are shown to have been overlooked or disregarded. And third, the rule is even more stringently applied if the Court of Appeals concurred with the RTC. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Evidence; testimony of witnesses; inaccuracies and inconsistencies in a rape victim’s testimony are generally expected. Since human memory is fickle and prone to the stresses of emotions, accuracy in a testimonial account has never been used as a standard in testing the credibility of a witness. The inconsistencies mentioned by accused Pareja are trivial and non-consequential matters that merely caused AAA confusion when she was being questioned. The inconsistency regarding the year of the December incident is not even a matter pertaining to AAA’s ordeal. The date and time of the commission of the crime of rape becomes important only when it creates serious doubt as to the commission of the rape itself or the sufficiency of the evidence for purposes of conviction. In other words, the “date of the commission of the rape becomes relevant only when the accuracy and truthfulness of the complainant’s narration practically hinge on the date of the commission of the crime.” Moreover, the date of the commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Evidence; testimony of witnesses; police officers are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner, unless there be evidence to the contrary. Credence shall be given to the narration of the incident by prosecution witnesses especially so when they are police officers who are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner, unless there be evidence to the contrary.” In the instant case, the appellant failed to ascribe, much less satisfactorily prove, any improper motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses as to why they would falsely incriminate him. The appellant himself even testified that, not only did he not have any misunderstanding with P/Insp. Fajardo and PO2 Trambulo prior to his arrest, he in fact did not know them at all. In the absence of evidence of such ill motive, none is presumed to exist. People of the Philippines v. Donald Vasquez y Sandigan, G.R. No. 200304, January 15, 2014.

General warrant; concept of. A general warrant is defined as “(a) search or arrest warrant that is not particular as to the person to be arrested or the property to be seized.” It is one that allows the “seizure of one thing under a warrant describing another” and gives the officer executing the warrant the discretion over which items to take. World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

Illegal warrantless arrest; when objection to must be made. Any objection, defect or irregularity attending an arrest must be made before the accused enters his plea on arraignment. Having failed to move for the quashing of the information against them before their arraignment, appellants are now estopped from questioning the legality of their arrest. Any irregularity was cured upon their voluntary submission to the trial court’s jurisdiction.” Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that the appellant was caught in flagrante delicto of selling illegal drugs to an undercover police officer in a buy-bust operation. His arrest, thus, falls within the ambit of Section 5(a), Rule 11354 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure when an arrest made without warrant is deemed lawful. People of the Philippines v. Donald Vasquez y Sandigan, G.R. No. 200304, January 15, 2014.

Illegal warrantless searches and seizures; exceptions. Warrantless searches and seizures have long been deemed permissible by jurisprudence in instances of (1) search of moving vehicles, (2) seizure in plain view, (3) customs searches, (4) waiver or consented searches, (5) stop and frisk situations (Terry search), and (6) search incidental to a lawful arrest. The last includes a valid warrantless arrest, for, while as a rule, an arrest is considered legitimate if effected with a valid warrant of arrest, the Rules of Court recognize permissible warrantless arrest, to wit: (1) arrest in flagrante delicto, (2) arrest effected in hot pursuit, and (3) arrest of escaped prisoners. People of the Philippines v. Donald Vasquez y Sandigan, G.R. No. 200304, January 15, 2014.

Information; right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; when violated. The peculiar designation of time in the Information clearly violates Sec. 11, Rule 110, of the Rules Court which requires that the time of the commission of the offense must be alleged as near to the actual date as the information or complaint will permit. More importantly, it runs afoul of the constitutionally protected right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. The Information is not sufficiently explicit and certain as to time to inform accused-appellant of the date on which the criminal act is alleged to have been committed. The phrase “on or about the year 1992” encompasses not only the twelve (12) months of 1992 but includes the years prior and subsequent to 1992, e.g., 1991 and 1993, for which accused-appellant has to virtually account for his whereabouts. Hence, the failure of the prosecution to allege with particularity the date of the commission of the offense and, worse, its failure to prove during the trial the date of the commission of the offense as alleged in the Information, deprived accused-appellant of his right to intelligently prepare for his defense and convincingly refute the charges against him. People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

Probable cause; a trial judge’s finding of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant is accorded respect by  reviewing courts. When a finding of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant is made by a trial judge, the finding is accorded respect by reviewing courts. It is presumed that a judicial function has been regularly performed, absent a showing to the contrary. A magistrate’s determination of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant is paid great deference by a reviewing court, as long as there was substantial basis for that determination. Substantial basis means that the questions of the examining judge brought out such facts and circumstances as would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed, and the objects in connection with the offense sought to be seized are in the place sought to be searched. World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

Probable cause; definition of. In the issuance of a search warrant, probable cause requires “such facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonably prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and the objects sought in connection with that offense are in the place to be searched.” There is no exact test for the determination of probable cause in the issuance of search warrants. It is a matter wholly dependent on the finding of trial judges in the process of exercising their judicial function. They determine probable cause based on “evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and that it was committed” by the offender. World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

Search warrant; nature of. Petitioners contend that PLDT had no personality to question the quashal of the search warrants without the conformity of the public prosecutor. They argue that it violated Section 5, Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, which states the general rule that the public prosecutor has direction and control of the prosecution of all criminal actions commenced by a complaint or information. However, a search warrant is obtained, not by the filing of a complaint or an information, but by the filing of an application therefor. Clearly then, an application for a search warrant is not a criminal action. Accordingly, Supreme Court sustained the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the conformity of the public prosecutor is not necessary before an aggrieved party moves for reconsideration of an order granting a motion to quash search warrants. World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

Search warrant; the requirement of particularity in the description of things. Petitioners claim that the subject search warrants were in the nature of general warrants because the descriptions therein of the objects to be seized are so broad and all-encompassing as to give the implementing officers wide discretion over which articles to seize. On the other hand, PLDT claims that a search warrant already fulfils the requirement of particularity of description when it is as specific as the circumstances will ordinarily allow. The Supreme Court (SC) has been mindful of the difficulty faced by law enforcement officers in describing the items to be searched, especially when these items are technical in nature, and when the extent of the illegal operation is largely unknown to them. Furthermore, SC also had occasion to rule that the particularity of the description of the place to be searched and the things to be seized is required “wherever and whenever it is feasible.” A search warrant need not describe the items to be seized in precise and minute detail. The warrant is valid when it enables the police officers to readily identify the properties to be seized and leaves them with no discretion regarding the articles to be seized. In this case, considering that items that looked like “innocuous goods” were being used to pursue an illegal operation that amounts to theft, law enforcement officers would be hard put to secure a search warrant if they were required to pinpoint items with one hundred percent precision. The police should not be hindered in the performance of their duties, which are difficult enough of performance under the best of conditions, by superficial adherence to technicality or farfetched judicial interference.” World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

Search warrant; when order quashing a search warrant can be the proper subject of an appeal. An application for a search warrant is a judicial process conducted either as an incident in a main criminal case already filed in court or in anticipation of one yet to be filed. Whether the criminal case (of which the search warrant is an incident) has already been filed before the trial court is significant for the purpose of determining the proper remedy from a grant or denial of a motion to quash a search warrant. Where the search warrant is issued as an incident in a pending criminal case, the quashal of a search warrant is merely interlocutory. There is still “something more to be done in the said criminal case, i.e., the determination of the guilt of the accused therein.” In contrast, where a search warrant is applied for and issued in anticipation of a criminal case yet to be filed, the order quashing the warrant (and denial of a motion for reconsideration of the grant) ends the judicial process. There is nothing more to be done thereafter. Here, the applications for search warrants were instituted as principal proceedings and not as incidents to pending criminal actions. When the search warrants issued were subsequently quashed by the Regional Trial Court, there was nothing left to be done by the trial court. Thus, the quashal of the search warrants were final orders, not interlocutory, and an appeal may be properly taken therefrom. World Wide Web Corporation, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et al./Planet Internet Corporation v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,G.R. Nos. 161106/161266, January 13, 2014.

Variance doctrine; when applicable. When there is a variance between the offense charged in the complaint or information and that proved, and the offense as charged is included in or necessarily includes the offense proved, the accused shall be convicted of the offense proved which is included in the offense charged, or of the offense charged which is included in the offense proved. An offense charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or information, constitute the latter. And an offense charged is necessarily included in the offense proved, when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.People of the Philippines v. Bernabe Pareja y Cruz, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014.

(Lindy thanks Elaine B. De los Santos  for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

 

 

 

 

 

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