February 2012 Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Autonomous Region; plebiscite requirement. Section 18, Article X of the Constitution provides that “the creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose.”  The Supreme Court interpreted this to mean that only amendments to, or revisions of, the Organic Act constitutionally-essential to the creation of autonomous regions – i.e., those aspects specifically mentioned in the Constitution which Congress must provide for in the Organic Act– require ratification through a plebiscite.   While it agrees with the petitioners’ underlying premise that sovereignty ultimately resides with the people, it disagrees that this legal reality necessitates compliance with the plebiscite requirement for all amendments to RA No. 9054. For if we were to go by the petitioners’ interpretation of Section 18, Article X of the Constitution that all amendments to the Organic Act have to undergo the plebiscite requirement before becoming effective, this would lead to impractical and illogical results – hampering the ARMM’s progress by impeding Congress from enacting laws that timely address problems as they arise in the region, as well as weighing down the ARMM government with the costs that unavoidably follow the holding of a plebiscite. Also, Sec. 3 of R.A. No. 10153 cannot be seen as changing the basic structure of the ARMM regional government. On the contrary, this provision clearly preserves the basic structure of the ARMM regional government when it recognizes the offices of the ARMM regional government and directs the OICs who shall temporarily assume these offices to “perform the functions pertaining to the said offices.” Datu Michael Abas Kida, etc., et al. vs. Senate of the Phil., etc., et al./Basari D. Mapupuno vs. Sixto Brillantes, etc., et al./Rep. Edcel C. Lagman vs. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., etc., et al./Almarin Centi Tillah, et al. vs. The Commission on Elections, etc., et al./Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis “Barok” Biraogo, G.R. No. 196271, February 28, 2012.

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy. The inconsistencies pointed out are inconsequential given the presence of conspiracy between the appellant and Olaso in killing the victim. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. The presence of conspiracy may be inferred from the circumstances where all the accused acted in concert at the time of the commission of the offense. Conspiracy is sufficiently established when the concerted acts show the same purpose or common design and are united in its execution.  Moreover, when there is conspiracy, it is not important who delivered the fatal blow since the act of one is considered the act of all. The overt acts of the appellant and Olaso showing their conspiracy to kill the victim are: (1) the appellant and Olaso flagged down the tricycle being driven by the victim; (2) the appellant seated himself at the back of the driver’s seat while Olaso went inside the tricycle; (3) the appellant and Olaso simultaneously assaulted the victim – the appellant embracing the victim while Olaso stabbed him; and (4) both men immediately fled the scene after the stabbing.  The above circumstances plainly show the common design and the unity of purpose between the appellant and Olaso in executing their plan to kill the victim.  People of the Philippines v. Rolly Angelio, G.R. No. 197540, February 27, 2012.

Estafa; elements. The offense of estafa, in general, is committed either by (a) abuse of confidence or (b) means of deceit. The acts constituting estafa committed with abuse of confidence are enumerated in item (1) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; item (2) of Article 315 enumerates estafa committed by means of deceit. Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa by abuse of confidence; the breach of confidence takes the place of fraud or deceit, which is a usual element in the other estafa. In this case, the charge against the petitioner and her subsequent conviction was for estafa committed by abuse of confidence. Thus, it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove deceit as this was not an element of the estafa that the petitioner was charged with. Carmina G. Brokmann v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 199150, February 6, 2012.

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June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected June 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Act of lasciviousness against a minor under the Revised Penal Code and R.A. 7610. Acts of lasciviousness as defined in Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code (“RPC”) 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. Pursuant to the foregoing provision, before an accused can be convicted of child abuse through lascivious conduct committed against a minor below 12 years of age, the requisites for acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC must be met in addition to the requisites for sexual abuse under Section 5 of R.A. 7610. To establish sexual abuse under Section 5, Article III of R.A. 7610, the following elements must be present: (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; (3) the child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age. Corollarily, Section 2(h) of the rules and regulations of R.A. No. 7610 defines “lascivious conduct” as “[t]he intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation, lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a person.”  People of the Philippines v. Ireno Bonaagua y Berce, G.R. No. 188897, June 6, 2011.

Act of lasciviousness of a minor under the Revised Penal Code and R.A. 7610. The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Court of Appeals (“CA”) that the accused was guilty of the crime of acts of lasciviousness under Section 5(b) of R.A. 7610. Undeniably, all the aforestated elements are present in Criminal Case No. 03-0255.  The accused committed the crime of lascivious acts by touching the  breasts and licking the vagina of AAA, who was 8 years old at the time as established by her birth certificate.  As correctly found by the CA, the accused is guilty of the crime of acts of lasciviousness under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610.  People of the Philippines v. Ireno Bonaagua y Berce, G.R. No. 188897, June 6, 2011.

Estafa; elements. In every prosecution for estafa under Article 315(2)(a) of the Revised Penal Code, the following elements must be present:  (a) that there must be a false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means; (b) that such false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (c) that the offended party must have relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means, that is, he was induced to part with his money or property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means; (d) that as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage. Elvira Lateo y Eleazar, et al v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161651, June 8, 2011.

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January 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected January 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bill of Rights; Rights under custodial investigation. As found by the Court of Appeals, (1) there is no evidence of compulsion or duress or violence on the person of Nagares; (2) Nagares did not complain to the officers administering the oath during the taking of his sworn statement; (3) he did not file any criminal or administrative complaint against his alleged malefactors for maltreatment; (4) no marks of violence were observed on his body; and (5) he did not have himself examined by a physician to support his claim. Moreover, appellant’s confession is replete with details, which, according to the SC, made it highly improbable that it was not voluntarily given. Further, the records show that Nagares was duly assisted by an effective and independent counsel during the custodial investigation in the NBI. As found by the Court of Appeals, after Nagares was informed of his constitutional rights, he was asked by Atty. Esmeralda E. Galang whether he accepts her as counsel. During the trial, Atty. Galang testified on the extent of her assistance. According to her, she thoroughly explained to Nagares his constitutional rights, advised him not to answer matters he did not know, and if he did not want to answer any question, he may inform Atty. Galang who would be the one to relay his refusal to the NBI agents. She was also present during the entire investigation. Thus, the SC held that there was no duress or violence imposed on the person of Nagares during the custodial investigation and that Nagares was duly assisted by an independent counsel during such investigation in the NBI. People of the Philippines vs. Rodolfo Capitle and Arutor Nagares, G.R. No. 175330, January 12, 2010.

Bill of Rights; Double jeopardy. As a rule, a judgment of acquittal cannot be reconsidered because it places the accused under double jeopardy. On occasions, however, a motion for reconsideration after an acquittal is possible.  But the grounds are exceptional and narrow as when the court that absolved the accused gravely abused its discretion, resulting in loss of jurisdiction, or when a mistrial has occurred. In any of such cases, the State may assail the decision by special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65. Here, although complainant Vizconde invoked the exceptions, he was not able to bring his pleas for reconsideration under such exceptions. Complainant Vizconde cited the decision in Galman v. Sandiganbayan as authority that the Court can set aside the acquittal of the accused in the present case.  But the Court observed that the government proved in Galman that the prosecution was deprived of due process since the judgment of acquittal in that case was “dictated, coerced and scripted.”  It was a sham trial.  In this case, however, Vizconde does not allege that the Court held a sham review of the decision of the CA.  He has made out no case that the Court held a phony deliberation such that the seven Justices who voted to acquit the accused, the four who dissented, and the four who inhibited themselves did not really go through the process. Antonio Lejano vs. People of the Philippines / People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, et al., G.R. No. 176389/G.R. No. 176864. January 18, 2011.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Conspiracy. When a homicide takes place by reason of or on the occasion of the robbery, all those who took part shall be guilty of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide, whether or not they actually participated in the killing, unless there is proof that there was an endeavor to prevent the killing. In this case, the records are bereft of any evidence to prove, or even remotely suggest, that appellant attempted to prevent the killing.  Therefore, the basic principle in conspiracy that the “act of one is the act of all” applies in this case.  People of the Philippines vs. Nonoy Ebet, G.R. No. 181635, November 15, 2010

Conspiracy. To be a conspirator, one need not participate in every detail of the execution; he need not even take part in every act or need not even know the exact part to be performed by the others in the execution of the conspiracy.  Each conspirator may be assigned separate and different tasks which may appear unrelated to one another but, in fact, constitute a whole collective effort to achieve their common criminal objective. Once conspiracy is shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators.  The precise extent or modality of participation of each of them becomes secondary, since all the conspirators are principals.  To exempt himself from criminal liability, a conspirator must have performed an overt act to dissociate or detach himself from the conspiracy to commit the felony and prevent the commission thereof. People of the Philippines vs. Nonoy Ebet, G.R. No. 181635, November 15, 2010

Qualified theft.  The Supreme Court upheld the appellant’s conviction for qualified theft. The position held by the appellant in St. John Memorial Park and Garden, as well as the special assignment given to her (appellant) by the land owners, were vested with trust and confidence. The appellant had custody of two bankbooks in which deposits of what she received were to be reflected.  Appellant’s failure to account for the subject funds which she was under obligation to deposit constitutes asportation with intent of gain, committed with grave abuse of the confidence reposed on her.  People of the Philippines vs. Rosalie Colilap Bañaga, G.R. No. 183699. November 24, 2010

Rape; penalty and damages. Under the second part of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, the death penalty shall be imposed when the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim. As shown by her Certificate of Live Birth, AAA was born on June 1, 1986; AAA also testified to this fact. Clearly, AAA was only eleven years old when the three rapes happened in September 1997. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeals was correct in reducing the death penalty to reclusion perpetua because the circumstance of relationship was not alleged in the complaints. None of the complaints alleged that the appellant was the stepfather of AAA. People of the Philippines vs. Arnel Macafe y Nabong, G.R. No. 185616, November 24, 2010

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

CRIMINAL LAW

Acts of lasciviousness; elements. Appellant’s acts of removing the towel wrapped in the body of AAA, laying her on the sofa and kissing, and touching her private parts do not exactly demonstrate the intent of appellant to have carnal knowledge of AAA on that particular date but merely constitute the elements of the crime of acts of lasciviousness as defined in the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Section 5, Article III of R.A. 7610, AAA, being a minor when the incident happened.  People vs. Alejandro Rellota y Tadeo, G.R. No. 168103, August 3, 2010.

Acts of lasciviousness; elements. The elements of the crime of acts lasciviousness are: (1) that the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness; (2) that it is done: (a) by using force and 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. Section 32, Article XIII, of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7610 or the Child Abuse Law defines lascivious conduct, as follows: “The intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation, lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a person.” People vs. Alejandro Rellota y Tadeo, G.R. No. 168103, August 3, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. As to the manner by which appellant killed the victim, there is no doubt that the same was attended by treachery. Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that an attack on a victim who has just wakened or who was roused from sleep is one attended by treachery because in such situation, the victim is in no position to put up any form of defense. There is treachery where the attack was sudden and unexpected, rendering the victim defenseless and ensuring the accomplishment of the assailant’s purpose without risk to himself. The essence of treachery is the swift and unexpected attack on an unsuspecting and unarmed victim who does not give the slightest provocation. In this case, it was evident that the victim was not aware that he would be attacked by appellant. He had just wakened when appellant stabbed him having been roused from his sleep by appellant’s act of kicking the door behind which the victim usually sleeps. It must also be pointed out that the victim was drunk when the attack happened, having been earlier engaged in a drinking spree with appellant, thus rendering him even more powerless to defend himself from appellant’s assault. Clearly, the victim’s guard was down when appellant stabbed him with the bolo. People vs. Charlie Nazareno y Melanios, G.R. No. 180915, August 9, 2010.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Court personnel; administrative complaint; effect of resignation. Respondent Nuñez has filed his resignation on September 5, 2008, which was subsequently accepted by the Court, subject to the usual clearance requirements and without prejudice to the continuation of the proceedings in the instant administrative case.  Nonetheless, the fact of his resignation and our approval thereof does not render moot the complaint against him.  Our jurisdiction over him is not lost by the mere fact that he resigned during the pendency of the case.  To deprive the Court of authority to pronounce his innocence or guilt of the charges is undoubtedly fraught with injustices and pregnant with dreadful and dangerous implications. What would prevent a corrupt and unscrupulous government employee from committing abuses and other condemnable acts knowing fully well that he would soon be beyond the pale of the law and immune to all administrative penalties?  Resignation should be used neither as an escape nor as an easy way out to evade administrative liability by court personnel facing administrative sanction. If only for reasons of public policy, the Court must assert and maintain its jurisdiction over members of the judiciary and other officials under its supervision and control for acts performed in office which are inimical to the service and prejudicial to the interests of litigants and the general public. If innocent, respondent official merits vindication of his name and integrity as he leaves the government which he served well and faithfully; if guilty, he deserves to receive the corresponding censure and a penalty proper and imposable under the situation.  Judge Delia P. Noel-Bertulfo, Municipal Trial Court, Palompon, Leyte vs. Fyndee P. Nuñez, Court Aide, Municipal Trial Court, Palompon, Leyte, A.M. No. P-10-2758, February 2, 2010.

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