Dissension in the Court: December 2011

The following relates to select decisions promulgated by the High Court in December 2011 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente.

1.         Probation or Not? (Abad vs. Peralta and Villarama)

In the case of Arnel Colinares vs. People of the Philippines, Arnel Colinares was found guilty by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of frustrated homicide and sentenced him to suffer imprisonment from two years and four months of prision correccional, as minimum, to six years and one day of prision mayor, as maximum. Since the maximum probationable imprisonment under the law was only up to six years, Arnel did not qualify for probation.

Colinares appealed to the Court of Appeals invoking self-defense and, alternatively, seeking conviction for the lesser crime of attempted homicide with the consequent reduction of the penalty imposed on him.  However, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the RTC.

Acting on his Petition for Review, the Supreme Court, through Justice Roberto A. Abad, found Colinares guilty of committing only the lesser crime of attempted homicide with its imposable penalty of imprisonment of four months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to two years and four months of prision correccional, as maximum.  As a result, the Supreme Court held that since the maximum imposable penalty was now less than six years, Colinares may apply for probation upon remand of the case to the trial court.

Justice Diosadado M. Peralta took exception to this ruling of the majority, emphasizing that probation is not a right but a privilege.

Continue reading

Advertisements

June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Annulment of judgment; direct recourse to this remedy not allowed if other appropriate remedies are available.  Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court impose the conditions for the availment of the remedy of annulment of judgment, viz.:

Section 1. Coverage.- This Rule shall govern the annulment by the Court of Appeals of judgments or final orders and resolutions in civil actions of Regional Trial Courts for which the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner.

Section 2. Groundsfor annulment. – The annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.

Extrinsic fraud shall not be a valid ground if it was availed of, or could have been availed of, in a motion for new trial or petition for relief.

Section 1, Rule 47 provides that it does not allow a direct recourse to a petition for annulment of judgment if other appropriate remedies are available, such as a petition for new trial, appeal or a petition for relief.  If petitioner fails to avail of these remedies without sufficient justification, she cannot resort to the action for annulment of judgment under Rule 47, for otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence.

Continue reading

February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Actions; prescription/laches. Petitioners contend that it is error on the part of the CA to rule that their cause of action has been barred by prescription and laches. According to them, since the OCT from which ALI derived its title is void for want of a duly approved survey plan, their cause of action did not prescribe. However, as discussed above, the conclusion of the trial court that OCT No. 242 is void was not sufficiently borne out by the evidence on record. Verily, the premise upon which petitioners build their theory of imprescriptibility of their action did not exist.

In sum, we find no reason to disturb the CA’s finding that:  “As previously emphasized, OCT No. 242 of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest was issued on May 7, 1950, or forty-five (45) years before plaintiffs-appellees filed their complaint on March 10, 1995.  As such, it is the Court’s firmly held view that plaintiffs-appellees’ claim is barred not only by prescription, but also by laches.

Aside from the fact that OCT No. 242 had become incontrovertible after the lapse of one (1) year from the time a decree of registration was issued, any action for reconveyance that plaintiffs-appellees could have availed of is also barred.  Although plaintiffs-appellees’ complaint was for quieting of title, it is in essence an action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust, considering that plaintiffs-appellees were alleging in said complaint that there was a serious mistake, if not fraud, in the issuance of OCT No. 242 in favor of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest.  It is now well-settled that an action for reconveyance, which is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name, must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title, since such issuance operates as a constructive notice.  Since ALI’s title is traced to an OCT issued in 1950, the ten-year prescriptive period expired in 1960.

By laches is meant the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.  It does not involve mere lapse or passage of time, but is principally an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right, which has become under the circumstances inequitable or unfair to permit.  In the instant case, plaintiffs-appellees, as well as their predecessor-in-interest, have not shown that they have taken judicial steps to nullify OCT No. 242, from which ALI’s title was derived, for forty-five (45) years.  To allow them to do so now, and if successful, would be clearly unjust and inequitable to those who relied on the validity of said OCT, the innocent purchasers for value, who are protected by the precise provisions of P.D. 1529”. Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010.

Continue reading

Command responsibility for criminal acts of subordinates

Can a military commander be held liable for the criminal acts of his subordinates?

The Supreme Court touched on that issue in Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010. However, that case did not provide a venue for the Supreme Court to provide a definitive ruling on the matter.

The case involved a petition for a writ of amparo filed against the President, the Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), among others.  The petition was originally filed with the Supreme Court, which referred the case to the Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals eventually dropped the President as a respondent (based on presidential immunity from suit during her term).

The Court of Appeals also ordered the dismissal of the case against the AFP Chief and the PNP Chief. According to the Court of Appeals, AFP Chief Gen. Esperon and PNP Chief P/Dir. Gen. Razon were included as respondents on the theory that they, as commanders, were responsible for the unlawful acts allegedly committed by their subordinates against petitioners. According to the Court of Appeals, “the privilege of the writ of amparo must be denied as against Gen. Esperon and P/Dir. Gen. Razon for the simple reason that petitioners have not presented evidence showing that those who allegedly abducted and illegally detained Lourdes and later threatened her and her family were, in fact, members of the military or the police force.” The Court of Appeals hinted that the two generals would have been accountable for the abduction and threats if the actual malefactors were members of the AFP or PNP.

The Supreme Court discussed the current status of Philippine law regarding command responsibility for criminal acts of subordinates:

Continue reading

December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Appeal;  certiorari. The proper remedy of a party aggrieved by a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review under Rule 45, which is not similar to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. As provided in Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, decisions, final orders or resolutions of the Court of Appeals in any case, i.e., regardless of the nature of the action or proceedings involved, may be appealed to this Court by filing a petition for review, which would be but a continuation of the appellate process over the original case. On the other hand, a special civil action under Rule 65 is an independent action based on the specific grounds therein provided and, as a general rule, cannot be availed of as a substitute for the lost remedy of an ordinary appeal, including that under Rule 45.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Appeal; decision of RTC acting in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. In the case at bar, it is clear that when the case was appealed to the RTC, the latter took cognizance of the case in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, not its original jurisdiction. Hence, any further appeal from the RTC Decision must conform to the provisions of the Rules of Court dealing with said matter. It is apparent that petitioner has availed itself of the wrong remedy. Since the RTC tried the case in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, petitioner should have filed a petition for review under Rule 42 of the Rules of Court, instead of an ordinary appeal under Rule 41. The law is clear in this respect. Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Appeal;  failure to pay docket fees. The Order denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was silent as to the issue of the non-payment of docket fees; however, this Court deems that the RTC must have accepted the explanation given by respondent, otherwise, said court would have dismissed the appeal and reconsidered its decision. The failure to pay docket fees does not automatically result in the dismissal of an appeal, it being discretionary on the part of the appellate court to give it due course or not. This Court will then not interfere with matters addressed to the sound discretion of the RTC in the absence of proof that the exercise of such discretion was tainted with bias or prejudice, or made without due circumspection of the attendant circumstances of the case. Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Appeal; findings of fact. As a rule, the findings of fact of the trial court when affirmed by the CA are final and conclusive on, and cannot be reviewed on appeal by, this Court as long as they are borne out by the records or are based on substantial evidence. The Court is not a trier of facts, its jurisdiction being limited to reviewing only errors of law that may have been committed by the lower courts. Republic of the Philippines vs. Ignacio Leonor and Catalino RazonG.R. No. 161424, December 23, 2009.

Continue reading