July 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

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

1. CRIMINAL LAW

Qualifying circumstance; treachery. The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the trial court that the qualifying circumstance of treachery attended the commission of the crime. Milan’s act of closing the door facilitated the commission of the crime, allowing Carandang to wait in ambush. The sudden gunshots when the police officers pushed the door open illustrate the intention of appellants and Carandang to prevent any chance for the police officers to defend themselves. Treachery is thus present in the case at bar, as what is decisive for this qualifying circumstance is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victims to defend themselves or to retaliate. People of the Philippines v. Restituto Carandang, et al, G.R. No. 175926, July 6, 2011.

 2. SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

 Dangerous drugs; chain of custody. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of the accused by ruling that the failure of the policemen to make a physical inventory and photograph the two plastic sachets containing the shabu subject of this case do not render the confiscated items inadmissible in evidence. Likewise, the failure of the policemen to mark the two plastic sachets containing shabu at the place of arrest does not render the confiscated items inadmissible in evidence. In People v. Resurreccion, G.R. No. 186380, 12 October 2009, 603 SCRA 510, it was held that “the failure of the policemen to immediately mark the confiscated items does not automatically impair the integrity of chain of custody.” Francisco Imson y Adriano vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 193003, July 13, 2011.

Dangerous drugs; chain of custody. The failure to strictly comply with Section 21(1), Article II of RA 9165 does not necessarily render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized or confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as these would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. The presumption is that the policemen performed their official duties regularly. In order to overcome this presumption, the accused must show that there was bad faith or improper motive on the part of the policemen, or that the confiscated items were tampered. In this case, the accused failed to do so. Francisco Imson y Adriano vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 193003, July 13, 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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July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor Law

Assumption of jurisdiction by Secretary of Labor; authority to decide on legality of dismissals arising from strike. The assumption of jurisdiction powers granted to the Labor Secretary under Article 263(g) is not limited to the grounds cited in the notice of strike or lockout that may have preceded the strike or lockout; nor is it limited to the incidents of the strike or lockout that in the meanwhile may have taken place.  As the term “assume jurisdiction” connotes, the intent of the law is to give the Labor Secretary full authority to resolve all matters within the dispute that gave rise to or which arose out of the strike or lockout, including cases over which the labor arbiter has exclusive jurisdiction.

In the present case, what the Labor Secretary refused to rule upon was the dismissal from employment of employees who violated the return to work order and participated in illegal acts during a strike. This was an issue that arose from the strike and was, in fact, submitted to the Labor Secretary, through the union’s motion for the issuance of an order for immediate reinstatement of the dismissed officers and the company’s opposition to the motion.  The dismissal issue was properly brought before the Labor Secretary and he was mistaken in ruling that the matter is legally within the exclusive jurisdiction of the labor arbiter to decide. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al. vs. Secretary of Department of Labor and Employment, et al./Triumph International (phils.), Inc. vs. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al., G.R. No. 167401, July 5, 2010.

Bargaining deadlock; award; findings of Secretary of Labor. Unless there is a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion, the Court cannot, and will not, interfere with the expertise of the Secretary of Labor. The award granted by the Labor Secretary in resolving the bargaining deadlock, drawn as they were from a close examination of the submissions of the parties, do not indicate any legal error, much less any grave abuse of discretion, and should not be disturbed. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al. vs. Secretary of Department of Labor and Employment, et al./Triumph International (phils.), Inc. vs. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al., G.R. No. 167401, July 5, 2010.

Dismissal of employees; just cause. Theft committed by an employee is a valid reason for his dismissal by the employer.  Although as a rule this Court leans over backwards to help workers and employees continue with their employment or to mitigate the penalties imposed on them, acts of dishonesty in the handling of company property, petitioner’s income in this case, are a different matter. Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort, Inc. vs. Nito Dual, G.R. No. 180660, July 20, 2010.

Dismissal of employees; requirements. The validity of an employee’s dismissal from service hinges on the satisfaction of the two substantive requirements for a lawful termination.  These are, first, whether the employee was accorded due process the basic components of which are the opportunity to be heard and to defend himself.  This is the procedural aspect.  And second, whether the dismissal is for any of the causes provided in the Labor Code of the Philippines.  This constitutes the substantive aspect. Erector Advertising Sign Group, Inc. and Arch Jimy C. Amoroto vs. Expedito Cloma, G.R. No. 167218, July 2, 2010.

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April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected April 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor Law

Dismissal; backwages. Article 279 of the Labor Code provides that “an employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.”

Thus, a number of cases holds that an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to two reliefs: backwages and reinstatement.  The two reliefs are separate and distinct. In instances where reinstatement is no longer feasible because of strained relations between the employee and the employer, separation pay is granted.  In effect, an illegally dismissed employee is entitled to either reinstatement, if viable, or separation pay if reinstatement is no longer viable, and backwages.

The normal consequences of respondents’ illegal dismissal, then, are reinstatement without loss of seniority rights, and payment of backwages computed from the time compensation was withheld up to the date of actual reinstatement.  Where reinstatement is no longer viable as an option, separation pay equivalent to one (1) month salary for every year of service should be awarded as an alternative.  The payment of separation pay is in addition to the payment of backwages.

Since reinstatement is no longer feasible in the present case, the award of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement is in order.  Petitioner’s prayer for the award of backwages is meritorious, it, and the award of separation pay not being mutually exclusive. Ferdinand A. Pangilinan vs. Wellmade Manufacturing Corporation, G.R. No. 187005, April 7, 2010.

Dismissal; backwages. Reprimand being the appropriate imposable penalty for respondent’s actuations from the very beginning, the Court finds that respondent was unfairly denied from reporting for work and earning his keep, thus, entitling him to the payment of backwages.

The Court is not unmindful of our previous pronouncements in similar cases involving suspension or dismissal from service, wherein the penalty imposed was reduced, but the award of backwages was denied.

Given the circumstances of the case, however, where the proper penalty should only be a reprimand, the Court finds the aforementioned cases to be inapplicable herein. On this note, the Court deems it proper to distinguish between the penalties of dismissal or suspension and reprimand and their respective effects on the grant or award of backwages. When an employee is dismissed or suspended it is but logical that since he is barred from reporting to work the same negates his right to be paid backwages. He has no opportunity to work during the period he was dismissed or suspended and, therefore, he has no salary to expect. However, the same does not hold true for an employee who is reprimanded. A reprimand usually carries a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely. Under normal circumstances, an employee who is reprimanded is never prevented from reporting to work. He continues to work despite the warning. Thus, in the case at bar, since respondent’s penalty should only be a reprimand, the Court deems it proper and equitable to affirm the Court of Appeals’ (CA’s) award of backwages.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor Law

Agency; principle of apparent authority. There is ample evidence that the hospital held out to the patient that the doctor was its agent. The two factors that determined apparent authority in this case were: first, the hospital’s implied manifestation to the patient which led the latter to conclude that the doctor was the hospital’s agent; and second, the patient’s reliance upon the conduct of the hospital and the doctor, consistent with ordinary care and prudence.

It is of record that the hospital required a “consent for hospital care” to be signed preparatory to the surgery of the patient. The form reads: “Permission is hereby given to the medical, nursing and laboratory staff of the Medical City General Hospital to perform such diagnostic procedures and to administer such medications and treatments as may be deemed necessary or advisable by the physicians of this hospital for and during the confinement of xxx.

By such statement, the hospital virtually reinforced the public impression that the doctor was a physician of its hospital, rather than one independently practicing in it; that the medications and treatments he prescribed were necessary and desirable; and that the hospital staff was prepared to carry them out. Professional Services, Inc. vs. The Court of Appeals, et al./Natividad (substituted by her children Marcelino Agana III, Enrique Agana, Jr. Emma Agana-Andaya, Jesus Agana and Raymund Agana and Errique Agana) vs. The Court of Appeals and Juan Fuentes Miguel Ampil vs. Natividad and Enrique Agana, G.R. Nos. 126297/G.R. No. 126467/G.R. No. 127590, February 2, 2010.

Compensable illness. Since cholecystolithiasis or gallstone has been excluded as a compensable illness under the applicable standard contract for Filipino seafarers that binds the seafarer and the vessel’s foreign owner, it was an error for the CA to treat such  illness as “work-related” and, therefore, compensable.  The standard contract precisely did not consider gallstone as compensable illness because the parties agreed, presumably based on medical science, that such affliction is not caused by working on board ocean-going vessels.

Nor is there any evidence to prove that the nature of the seafarer’s work on board a ship aggravated his illness.  No one knows if he had gallstone at the time he boarded the vessel.  By the nature of this illness, it is highly probable that he already had it when he boarded his assigned ship although it went undiagnosed because he had yet to experience its symptoms. Bandila Shipping, Inc. et al. vs. Marcos C. Abalos, G.R. No. 177100, February 22, 2010.

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June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected June 2009 decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court on political and related laws.

Constitutional Law

Immunity from suit. The rule that a state may not be sued without its consent is embodied in Section 3, Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution and has been an established principle that antedates the Constitution. It is a universally recognized principle of international law that exempts a state and its organs from the jurisdiction of another state. The principle is based on the very essence of sovereignty, and on the practical ground that there can be no legal right as against the authority that makes the law on which the right depends. It also rests on reasons of public policy — that public service would be hindered, and the public endangered, if the sovereign authority could be subjected to law suits at the instance of every citizen and, consequently, controlled in the uses and dispositions of the means required for the proper administration of the government.

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