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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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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January 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

Criminal law

1.     Revised Penal Code

Malicious prosecution; elements. To entitle petitioners to damages for malicious prosecution, they needed to prove the following elements: (1) that the respondent had caused their prosecution; (2) that the criminal action ended in their acquittal; (3) that, in bringing the action, the respondent had no probable cause; and (4) that it was impelled by legal malice—an improper or a sinister motive. The burden in suits for malicious prosecution is being able to prove the complainant’s deliberate initiation of a criminal action knowing the charge to be false and groundless. Here, the complainant did not concoct from thin air the criminal charge for theft of electricity against petitioners. It filed the case based on the result of an investigation carried out at petitioner’s premises which indicated a tampering of the electric meter. It is not enough to say that, since the Supreme Court sustained the Secretary of Justice’s finding that no probable cause for electricity theft existed against petitioners, a case for malicious prosecution already exists against the respondent. Limanch-O Hotel and Leasing Corporation, et al. vs. City of Olongapo, et al., G.R. No. 185121, January 18, 2010.

Murder; exemplary damages. The Supreme Court modified appellant’s conviction for attempted murder and awarded P25,000 exemplary damages to the victim since the qualifying circumstance of treachery was proven even though this qualifying circumstance was not alleged in the information. If an aggravating circumstance, either qualifying or generic, accompanies the crime, an award of P25,000 as exemplary damages is justified under Article 2230 of the Civil Code. This serves as deterrent to serious wrong doings, and as vindication for undue sufferings and wanton invasion of the rights of an injured person or punishment for those guilty of outrageous conduct. Ronnie Sumbillo, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 167464, January 21, 2010.

Rape; defense. The victim’s failure to shout for help does not vitiate the credibility of her account as she was only 10 years old at the time of the rape and, thus, inexperienced in the ways of the world. Minors could be easily intimidated and cowed into silence even by the mildest threat against their lives. Although an older person may have shouted for help under the same circumstances, the young victim in the instant case might have been overcome by fear and was not able to shout for help. Indeed, AAA declared in open court that she was afraid when asked why she failed to shout when accused-appellant pulled down her underwear. Be that as it may, the absence of struggle or an outcry from the victim is immaterial to the rape of a child below 12 years of age. The law presumes that such a victim, on account of her tender age, does not and cannot have a will of her own. The People of the Philippines vs. Manuel BagosG.R. No. 177152, January 6, 2010.

Rape; defense. The sweetheart defense of the accused is shallow, if not, incredulous. For a young mother, to initiate sexual intercourse with a liquor-smelling man and then suggest eloping with him, thus leaving her two minor children behind, is contrary to the common nature and experience of man. No woman would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and thereafter pervert herself by being subjected to a public trial if she was not motivated solely by the desire to have the culprit apprehended. People of the Philippines vs. Christopher De Jesus, G.R. No. 181591, January 21, 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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June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law, Legal/Judicial Ethics and Criminal Law

Here are selected June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on  remedial law, legal/judicial ethics and criminal law.

Remedial Law

Actions;  quasi in rem. The petition for cancellation of entries annotated at the back of OCT No. 40287 ought to have been directed against specific persons: namely, the heirs of Juan Soriano as appearing in Entry No. 20102 and, indubitably, against their successors-in-interest who have acquired different portions of the property over the years because it is in the nature of an action quasi in rem. Accordingly, the Salazars should have impleaded as party defendants the heirs of Juan Soriano and/or Vicenta Macaraeg as well as those claiming ownership over the property under their names because they are indispensable parties. This was not done in this case. Since no indispensable party was  ever impleaded by the Salazars in their petition for cancellation of entry filed before Branch 63 of the RTC of Tarlac, herein petitioners are not bound by the dispositions of the said court. Consequently, the judgment or order of the said court never even acquired finality. Zenaida Acosta, et al. vs. Trinidad Salazar, et al., G.R. No. 161034.  June 30, 2009

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