September 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

Criminal Law

1. Revised Penal Code

Attempted rape; acts of lasciviousness. Insisting that there was no attempted rape, petitioner argues that AAA merely testified that he told her that they would have sexual intercourse, and that “this is not equivalent to carnal knowledge, or even an attempt to have carnal knowledge” since there is no showing that he had commenced or attempted to insert his penis into her sexual organ before she fled. Disagreeing with the accused, the Court ruled that while rape and acts of lasciviousness have the same nature, they are fundamentally different. For in rape, there is the intent to lie with a woman, whereas in acts of lasciviousness, this element is absent. Petitioner’s acts, as narrated by AAA, far from being mere obscene or lewd, indisputably show that he intended to have and was bent on consummating carnal knowledge of AAA. Jaren Tibong y Culla-ag vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 191000, September 15, 2010.

Complex Crime; penalty. ART. 48 of the Revised Penal Code provides that when a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period. Appellant’s single act of detonating an explosive device may quantitatively constitute a cluster of several separate and distinct offenses, yet these component criminal offenses should be considered only as a single crime in law on which a single penalty is imposed because the offender was impelled by a single criminal impulse which shows his lesser degree of perversity. Thus, applying the aforesaid provision of law, the maximum penalty for the most serious crime, which is murder, is death. Pursuant, however, to Republic Act No. 9346 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the appellate court properly reduced the penalty of death which it previously imposed upon the appellant to reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines vs. Reynaldo Barde, G.R. No. 183094, September 22, 2010.

Liability of accused; effect of death. The death of the accused during the pendency of his appeal with the Supreme Court totally extinguished his criminal liability. Such extinction is based on Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code. The death of the accused likewise extinguished the civil liability that was based exclusively on the crime for which the accused was convicted (i.e., ex delicto), because no final judgment of conviction was yet rendered by the time of his death. Only civil liability predicated on a source of obligation other than the delict survived the death of the accused, which the offended party can recover by means of a separate civil action. People of the Philippines vs.. Bringas Bunay y Dam-at, G.R. No. 171268, September 14, 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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July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

CRIMINAL LAW

1.     Revised Penal Code

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. In the killing of victims in this case, the trial court was correct in appreciating the aggravating circumstance of treachery. There is treachery when the attack is so sudden and unexpected that the victim had no opportunity either to avert the attack or to defend himself. Indeed, nothing can be more sudden and unexpected than when a father stabs to death his two young daughters while they were sound asleep and totally defenseless. People of the Philippines vs. Calonge y Verana, G.R. No. 182793, July 5, 2010.

Aggravating circumstance; treachery. The Court held that treachery can still be appreciated even though the victim was forewarned of the danger to his life because what is decisive is that the attack was executed in a manner that the victim was rendered defenseless and unable to retaliate. Although the victim knew that the accused held a grudge against him, he never had any inkling that he would actually be attacked that night. The way it was executed made it impossible for the victim to respond or defend himself. He just had no opportunity to repel the sudden attack, rendering him completely helpless. Accused, moreover, used a firearm to easily neutralize the victim, which was undeniably a swift and effective way to achieve his purpose. Lastly, but significantly, the accused aimed for the face of the victim ensuring that the bullet would penetrate it and damage his brain. These acts are distinctly indicative of the treacherous means employed by the accused to guarantee the consummation of his criminal plan. Thus, as treachery attended the killing of Loreto Cruz, such circumstance qualified the killing as murder, punishable under paragraph 1 of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. People of the Philippines vs. Pedro Ortiz, Jr. y Lopez, G.R. No. 188704, July 7, 2010.

Attempted homicide; civil liability; temperate damages. The Supreme Court modified the decision of the Court of Appeals with respect to the petitioner’s civil liability for being erroneous and contrary to prevailing jurisprudence. The Court of Appeals ordered actual damages to be paid in the amount of P3,858.50. In People v. Andres, the Supreme Court held that if the actual damages, proven by receipts during the trial, amount to less than P25,000.00, the victim shall be entitled to temperate damages in the amount of P25,000.00 in lieu of actual damages. The award of temperate damages is based on Article 2224 of the New Civil Code which states that temperate or moderate damages may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss was suffered but its amount cannot be proven with certainty. In this case, the victim is entitled to the award of P25,000.00 as temperate damages considering that the amount of actual damages is only P3,858.50. Actual damages should no longer be awarded. Giovani Serrano y Cervantes vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 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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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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May 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Legal/Judicial Ethics

Here are selected May 2009 decisions of the Supreme Court on criminal law and legal/judicial ethics.

Criminal Law

Dangerous Drugs Act; sale of illegal drugs. In order to successfully prosecute an accused for illegal sale of drugs, the prosecution must be able to prove the following elements: (1) identities of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale or had actually taken place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti.

Otherwise stated, in illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the elements 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. Similarly, in this case, the evidence of the corpus delicti must be established beyond doubt.

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