May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected May 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure

Anti-Graft; causing undue injury. The elements of the offense of causing undue injury under R.A. 3019, Sec. 3(e) are as follows: (1) that the accused are public officers or private persons charged in conspiracy with them; (2) that said public officers commit the prohibited acts during the performance of their official duties or in relation to their public positions; (3) that they caused undue injury to any party, whether the Government or a private party; (4) that such injury is caused by giving unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to such parties; and (5) that the public officers have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. In this case, only the first element was proven. The other elements were not. Thus, the presumption of regularity in the performance of one’s function remains unrebutted and enjoyed by petitioners. Anuncio C. Bustillo, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 160718, May 12, 2010

Arrest; estoppel. An accused is estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he fails to raise this issue or to move for the quashal of the information against him on this ground, which should be made before arraignment. In this case, the irregularity of the accused’s arrest was raised only in his appeal before the Court of Appeals. This is not allowed considering that he was already properly arraigned and even actively participated in the proceedings. He is therefore deemed to have waived this alleged defect when he submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court. People of the Philippines vs. Joseph Amper y Repaso, G.R. No. 172708, May 5, 2010.

Arrest; posting of bail. The erstwhile ruling of this Court was that posting of bail constitutes a waiver of any irregularity in the issuance of a warrant of arrest has already been superseded by Section 26, Rule 114 of the Revised Rule of Criminal Procedure.  The principle that the accused is precluded from questioning the legality of the arrest after arraignment is true only if he voluntarily enters his plea and participates during trial without previously invoking his objections thereto. Section 26, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure is a new one, intended to modify previous rulings of this Court that an application for bail or the admission to bail by the accused shall be considered as a waiver of his right to assail the warrant issued for his arrest on the legalities or irregularities thereon. The new rule has reverted to the ruling of this Court in People v. Red. The new rule is curative in nature because, precisely, it was designed to supply defects and curb evils in procedural rules. Thus, petitioners’ posting of bail bond should not be deemed as a waiver of their right to assail their arrest. Teodoro C. Borlongan, Jr. et al. vs. Magdaleno M. Peña, et al., G.R. No. 143591, May 5, 2010.

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March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected March 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

Criminal Law

1.     Revised Penal Code

Acts of lasciviousness; elements. The crime of Acts of Lasciviousness, as defined in Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code, has the following elements: (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. Salvador Flordeliz y Abenojar v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 186441, March 3, 2010.

Arson; categories. There are actually two categories of arson, namely: Destructive Arson under Article 320 of the Revised Penal Code and Simple Arson under Presidential Decree No. 1316. Said classification is based on the kind, character and location of the property burned, regardless of the value of the damage caused. Article 320 contemplates the malicious burning of structures, both public and private, hotels, buildings, edifices, trains, vessels, aircraft, factories and other military, government or commercial establishments by any person or group of persons.  On the other hand, Presidential Decree No. 1316 covers houses, dwellings, government buildings, farms, mills, plantations, railways, bus stations, airports, wharves and other industrial establishments. People of the Philippines v. Jessie Villegas Murcia, G.R. No. 182460, March 9, 2010.

Arson; evidence. In the prosecution for the crime of arson, proof of the crime charged is complete where the evidence establishes: (1) the corpus delicti, that is, a fire because of criminal agency; and (2) the identity of the defendant as the one responsible for the crime. In arson, the corpus delicti rule is satisfied by proof of the bare fact of the fire and of it having been intentionally caused. People of the Philippines v. Jessie Villegas Murcia,  G.R. No. 182460, March 9, 2010.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

Criminal Law

1.     Revised Penal Code

Criminal liability; exemption. Under Art. 332 of the Revised Penal Code, the relationship by affinity created between the husband and the blood relatives of his wife is not dissolved by the death of one spouse, thus ending the marriage which created such relationship by affinity. The Supreme Court upheld the continuing affinity view, which maintains that the relationship by affinity between the surviving spouse and the kindred of the deceased spouse continues even after the death of the deceased spouse, regardless of whether the marriage produced children or not.

The continuing affinity view was adopted by the Supreme Court in interpreting Art. 332 of the Revised Penal Code. First, Art. 332(1) is meant to be beneficial to relatives by affinity within the degree covered under the said provision. This view has been applied in the interpretation of laws in order to benefit step-relatives or in-laws. Second, Art. 332(1) is couched in a general language because the legislative intent is to make no distinction between the spouse of one’s living child and the surviving spouse of one’s deceased child can be drawn from it without doing violence to its language. Third, the continuing affinity view is more in accord with family solidarity and harmony as declared by the Constitution in Section 12, Art. II, and Section 1, Art. 15. Fourth, the fundamental principle of in dubio pro reo (when in doubt, rule for the accused) and rule of lenity, must be applied.  These principles call for the adoption of an interpretation which is more lenient. Since the basic purpose of Art. 332 is to preserve family harmony by providing an absolutory cause, the court should adopt the continuing affinity view. Intestate of Manolita Gonzales vda. De Carungcong, represented by Mediatrix Carungcong as Administratirix vs. People of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 181409, February 11, 2010.

Criminal liability; command responsibility. Gen. Esperon and P/Dir Gen. Razon were included in the case on the theory that they, as commanders, were responsible for the unlawful acts allegedly committed by their subordinates against petitioners. While in a qualified sense tenable, the dismissal by the Court of Appeals of the case against them is incorrect if viewed in the light of command responsibility.

“Command responsibility” in its simplest terms, means the “responsibility of commanders for crimes committed by subordinate members of the armed forces or other persons subject to their control in international wars or domestic conflict. In this sense, command responsibility is properly a form of criminal complicity.

The Hague Conventions of 1907 adopted the doctrine of command responsibility, and recently, this doctrine has been codified in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to which the Philippines is a signatory. Section 28 of the Statute imposes individual responsibility on military commanders for crimes committed by forces under their control. However, the country is not yet formally bound by the terms and provisions embodied in this treaty-statute, since the Senate has yet to extend concurrence in its ratification. Thus, while there are several pending bills on command responsibility, there is still no Philippine law that provides for criminal liability under that doctrine.

It may be plausibly contended that command responsibility, as legal basis for criminal liability, may be made applicable to this jurisdiction on the theory that the command responsibility doctrine now constitutes a principle in international law in accordance with the incorporation clause of the Constitution. Still it would be inappropriate to apply to these proceedings this doctrine, as a form of criminal complicity through omission, if any, since the issue of criminal culpability is beyond the reach of a writ of amparo. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

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October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Action;  forum shopping. The essence of forum-shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment. Forum-shopping has been defined as the act of a party against whom an adverse judgment has been rendered in one forum, seeking and possibly getting a favorable opinion in another forum, other than by appeal or the special civil action of certiorari, or the institution of two or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause on the supposition that one or the other court would make a favorable disposition.

Although the factual antecedents of the cases brought before this Court are the same, they involve different issues. The petition for Mandamus with Injunction and Damages, docketed as Civil Case No. 13013, and raised before this Court as G.R. No. 177795, challenged respondents’ refusal to recognize petitioners’ appointments and to pay petitioners’ salaries, salary adjustments, and other emoluments. The petition only entailed the applications for the issuance of a writ of mandamus and for the award of damages. The present case docketed as G.R. No. 181559, on the other hand, involves the merits of petitioners’ appeal from theinvalidation and revocation of their appointments by the CSC-Field Office, which was affirmed by the CSC-Regional Office, CSC en banc, and the Court of Appeals.  Leah M. Nazareno, et al. vs. City of Dumaguete, et al.,  G.R. No. 181559, October 2, 2009.

Action; forum shopping. The essence of forum shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment. This is not the case with respect to the ejectment suit vis-à-vis the action for damages.  Manuel Luis S. Sanchez vs. Republic of the Philippines, Represented by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports,  G.R. No. 172885, October 9, 2009.

Action;  lis pendens. The filing of a notice of lis pendens has a two-fold effect: (1) to keep the subject matter of the litigation within the power of the court until the entry of the final judgment in order to prevent the final judgment from being defeated by successive alienations; and (2) to bind a purchaser, bona fide or not, of the land subject of the litigation to the judgment or decree that the court will promulgate subsequently.

While the trial court has an inherent power to cancel a notice of lis pendens, such power is to be exercised within the express confines of the law. As provided in Section 14, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a notice of lis pendens may be cancelled on two grounds: (1) when the annotation was for the purpose of molesting the title of the adverse party, or (2) when the annotation is not necessary to protect the title of the party who caused it to be recorded.  Heirs of Jose Sy Bang, Heirs of Julian Sy and Oscar Sy vs. Rolando Sy, et al./Iluminada Tan, et al. vs. Bartolome Sy, et al,  G.R. No. 114217G.R. No. 150979. October 13, 2009

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October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bail.  Section 13, Article III of the Constitution provides that “All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law.”

Section 4 of Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended, thus provides that all persons in custody shall, before conviction by a regional trial court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, be admitted to bail as a matter of right.

The exercise by the trial court of its discretionary power to grant bail to an accused charged with a capital offense thus depends on whether the evidence of guilt is strong.  The People of the Philippines vs. Luis Plaza y Bucalon, G.R. No. 176933, October 2, 2009.

Civil Service Commission; powers. The Commission, as the central personnel agency of the government, has statutory authority to establish rules and regulations to promote efficiency and professionalism in the civil service. Presidential Decree No. 807, or the Civil Service Decree of the Philippines, provides for the powers of the Commission, including the power to issue rules and regulations and to review appointments. Leah M. Nazareno, et al. vs. City of Dumaguete, et al., G.R. No. 181559, October 2, 2009.

Commission on Audit;  powers. Under Commonwealth Act No. 327, as amended by P.D. No. 1445, the COA, as one of the three independent constitutional commissions, is specifically vested with the power, authority and duty to examine, audit and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property owned or held in trust by the government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations. To ensure the effective discharge of its functions, it is vested with ample powers, subject to constitutional limitations, to define the scope of its audit and examination and establish the techniques and methods required therefor, to promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations, including those for the prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures or uses of government funds and properties.

Clearly, the matter of allowing or disallowing a money claim against petitioner is within the primary power of the COA to decide. This no doubt includes money claims arising from the implementation of R.A. No. 6758. Respondents’ claim against petitioner, although it has already been validated by the trial court’s final decision, likewise belongs to that class of claims; hence, it must first be filed with the COA before execution could proceed. And from the decision therein, the aggrieved party is afforded a remedy by elevating the matter to this Court via a petition for certiorari in accordance with Section 1 Rule XI, of the COA Rules of Procedure.  National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation vs. Mario Abayari, et al., G.R. No. 166508, October 2, 2009.

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