September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code; elements. In order to constitute estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code, the act of postdating or issuing a check in payment of an obligation must be the efficient cause of the defraudation. This means that the offender must be able to obtain money or property from the offended party by reason of the issuance of the check, whether dated or postdated. In other words, the Prosecution must show that the person to whom the check was delivered would not have parted with his money or property were it not for the issuance of the check by the offender. The essential elements of this crime are the following: (a) a check is postdated or issued in payment of an obligation contracted at the time the check is issued; (b) lack or insufficiency of funds to cover the check; and (c) damage to the payee thereof. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

Estafa under Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code; what the law punishes is fraud or deceit, not the mere issuance of a worthless check. In this case, the Prosecution established that Ligaray had released the goods to Cañada because of the postdated check the latter had given to him; and that the check was dishonored when presented for payment because of the insufficiency of funds. In every criminal prosecution, however, the identity of the offender, like the crime itself, must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt. In that regard, the Prosecution did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that it was accused Wagas who had defrauded Ligaray by issuing the check. Firstly, Ligaray expressly admitted that he did not personally meet the person with whom he was transacting over the telephone. Even after the dishonor of the check, Ligaray did not personally see and meet whoever he had dealt with and to whom he had made the demand for payment, and that he had talked with him only over the telephone. Secondly, the check delivered to Ligaray was made payable to cash – this type of check was payable to the bearer and could be negotiated by mere delivery without the need of an indorsement. This rendered it highly probable that Wagas had issued the check not to Ligaray, but to somebody else like Cañada, his brother-in-law, who then negotiated it to Ligaray. Relevantly, Ligaray confirmed that he did not himself see or meet Wagas at the time of the transaction and thereafter, and expressly stated that the person who signed for and received the stocks of rice was Cañada.  It bears stressing that the accused, to be guilty of estafa as charged, must have used the check in order to defraud the complainant. What the law punishes is the fraud or deceit, not the mere issuance of the worthless check. Wagas could not be held guilty of estafa simply because he had issued the check used to defraud Ligaray. The proof of guilt must still clearly show that it had been Wagas as the drawer who had defrauded Ligaray by means of the check. Thus, considering that the circumstances of the identification of Wagas as the person who transacted on the rice did not preclude a reasonable possibility of mistake, the proof of guilt did not measure up to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt demanded in criminal cases. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

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January 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1.            REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy. Appellant questions the lower courts’ finding of conspiracy between her and co-accused. She claims that she merely accompanied Espiritu in going to the RFC Food Court and had nothing to do with the transaction. As a matter of fact, the shabu was not even found in or recovered from her possession. It just so happened that she was in the area during the delivery of the drugs. The argument did not persuade the Supreme Court. There is conspiracy if two or more persons agree to commit a felony and decide to commit it. Conspiracy must be proven on the same quantum of evidence as the felony subject of the agreement of the parties. Conspiracy may be proved by direct or circumstantial evidence consisting of acts, words, or conduct of the alleged conspirators before, during and after the commission of the felony to achieve a common design or purpose. The existence of conspiracy in this case was clearly established not only by the prosecution’s evidence but also by appellant’s very own testimony. As can be gleaned from appellant’s testimony as well as from the testimony of Carla as to what transpired during the actual buy-bust operation, appellant acted in common concert with her co-accused in the illegal sale of shabu. She cannot therefore isolate her act of merely accompanying Espiritu to the RFC Food Court or carrying the shabu since in conspiracy the act of one is the act of all. 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. People of the Philippines v. Simpresueta M. Seraspe, G.R. No. 180919, January 9, 2013.

Extinction of criminal liability and civil liability ex delicto upon death of accused. Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code provides that criminal liability is totally extinguished by the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment. It is also settled that “upon the death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction, the criminal action is extinguished inasmuch as there is no longer a defendant to stand as the accused; the civil action instituted therein for recovery of civil liability ex delicto is ipso facto extinguished, grounded as it is on the criminal.” While appellant Florencio died way back on February 7, 2007, the said information was not timely relayed to the Supreme Court (SC), such that the SC was unaware of the same when it rendered its December 14, 2011 Decision. It was only later that the SC was informed of Florencio’s death through the June 8, 2012 letter of the Officer-in-Charge of the New Bilibid Prison. Due to this development, it therefore became necessary for the SC to declare Florencio’s criminal liability, as well as his civil liability ex delicto, to have been extinguished by his death prior to final judgment. The judgment of conviction is thus set aside insofar as Florencio is concerned. People of the Philippines v. Florencio Agacer, et al, G.R. No. 177751, January 7, 2013.

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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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June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

Criminal Law

1. Revised Penal Code

Aggravating circumstance; evident premeditation. In order for evident premeditation to be appreciated, the following requisites must be proven: (1) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (2) an act manifestly indicating that the culprit has clung to his determination; and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the determination and execution, to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act and to allow his conscience to overcome the resolution of his will. In the instant case, appellant uttered the words “iyang mama na iyan, may araw din siya sa akin.” Even conceding that these utterances were in the form of a threat, it still cannot be presumed that at the time they were made, there was indeed a determination to kill and that appellants had indeed clung to that determination, planning and meditating on how to kill the victim. People of the Philippines vs. Jonel Falabrica Serenas, et al, G.R. No. 188124, June 29, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; evident premeditation. For evident premeditation to be considered, the following must be established: (1) the time when the accused determined (conceived) to commit the crime; (2) an overt act manifestly indicating that he clung to his determination to commit the crime (kill his victim); and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the decision to commit the crime and the execution thereof to allow the accused to reflect upon the consequences of his act. Premeditation presupposes a deliberate planning of the crime before executing it. The execution of the criminal act, in other words, must be preceded by cool thought and reflection. In this case, there was a showing of a plan or preparation to kill, or proof that the accused meditated and reflected upon his decision to execute the crime. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms which tend directly and specially to ensure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense, which the offended party might make. For treachery to be appreciated, two conditions must concur: (a) the employment of means, methods or manner of execution that would ensure the offender’s safety from any defense or retaliatory act on the part of the offended party; and (b) the offender’s deliberate or conscious choice of means, method or manner of execution. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. The essence of treachery is the sudden attack by an aggressor without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim, depriving the latter of any real chance to defend himself, thereby ensuring the commission of the crime without risk to the aggressor. Jurisprudence teaches that there is treachery when an adult person attacks and causes the death of a child of tender years. As the Supreme Court elucidated in People vs. Cabarrubias, the killing of a child is characterized by treachery even if the manner of assault is not shown. For, the weakness of the victim due to his tender years results in the absence of any danger to the accused. People of the Philippines vs. Albert Sanchez y Galera, G.R. No. 188610, June 29, 2010.

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November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law:

Revised Penal Code

Conspiracy;  elements. Under Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code, there is conspiracy when two or more persons agree to commit a felony and decided to commit it. Conspiracy exists where the participants perform specific acts that indicate unity of purpose in accomplishing the same unlawful object. The presence of conspiracy is implied where the separate acts committed, taken collectively, emanate from a concerted and associated action.

It is clear from the testimonies of Joselito and Marcos that appellants were of one mind in killing Pedro, as shown by their well-connected overt acts during the incident, to wit: (1) appellants altogether approached Pedro; (2) appellant Ausencio suddenly embraced and held the shoulders of Pedro; (3) appellants Romulo and Lutgardo went in front of Pedro; (3) appellant Romulo hit Pedro on the forehead with a ukulele; (4) appellant Lutgardo stabbed Pedro in the left part of the stomach; (5) appellant Ausencio pushed Pedro to the ground and told the latter, “You can go home now as you have already been stabbed”; and (6) appellants altogether fled the scene. No other logical conclusion would follow from appellants’ concerted action, except that they had a common purpose in accomplishing the same felonious act. Conspiracy having been established, appellants are liable as co-principals regardless of their participation.   People of the Philippines vs. Ausencio Comillo, Jr., et al.,  G.R. No. 186538, November 25, 2009.

Homicide; elements. The elements of homicide are as follows: (1) a person was killed; (2) the accused killed him without any justifying circumstance; (3) the accused had the intention to kill, which is presumed; and (4) the killing was not attended by any of the qualifying circumstances of murder, or by that of parricide or infanticide.

It bears stressing that in criminal cases, the prosecution is not required to show the guilt of the accused with absolute certainty. Only moral certainty is demanded, or that degree of proof which, to an unprejudiced mind, produces conviction. Rey A. Villamor vs. People of the Philippines, G.R .No. 182156. November 25, 2009

Murder; alibi. It is settled that for the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at some other place at the time of the commission of the crime, but also that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus delicti or within its immediate vicinity.  The People of the Philippines vs. Reynaldo Hernando y Aquino, G.R. No. 186493, November 25, 2009.

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October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law

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

Revised Penal Code

Estafa; complex crime. One of the essential elements of the complex crime of estafa with falsification of public document is that the untruthful statement, which the offender has made in a document, be a perversion of truth with the wrongful intent of injuring a third person. This key element of the falsification aspect of the crime is not here present because, as stated above, all the signatories to the settlement documents simply assumed, when they signed such documents, that these reflected what was right.

Although the Court has not found sufficient evidence to hold petitioners criminally liable for estafa through falsification of a public document, it finds them civilly liable for having unduly received more than their fair and legal share of Lorenzo’s estate at Brigida’s expense. Unfortunately, however, the trial court simply ordered petitioners, jointly and severally, to pay Brigida P3,922,004.76 by way of actual damages without stating its basis for arriving at this amount. The Court of Appeals itself adopted this figure also without explanation.  Dionisio Ignacio, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 182259, October 12, 2009.

Estafa; complex crime. Whenever a person carries out on a public, official, or commercial document any of the acts enumerated in Art. 171 of the RPC as a necessary means to perpetrate another crime, such as estafa or malversation, a complex crime is formed by the two crimes.

Under Art. 48 of the RPC, a complex crime refers to: (1) the commission of at least two grave or less grave felonies that must both (or all) be the result of a single act; or (2) one offense must be a necessary means for committing the other (or others).

The falsification of a public, official, or commercial document may be a means of committing estafa, because before the falsified document is actually utilized to defraud another, the crime of falsification has already been consummated, damage or intent to cause damage not being an element of the crime of falsification of public, official, or commercial document. In other words, the crime of falsification has already existed. Actually utilizing that falsified public, official, or commercial document to defraud another is estafa. But the damage is caused by the commission of estafa, not by the falsification of the document. Therefore, the falsification of the public, official, or commercial document is only a necessary means to commit estafa.

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