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People v.

Gatward
February 7, 1997 | Regalado, J. | Rule-making Power
Digester: Santos, Ihna
SUMMARY: U Aung Win, after being caught for violating the
Dangerous Drug Act by importing heroin into the Philippines,
provided information that helped the authorities catch Gatward, a
drug courier from Bangkok who is connected with U Aung Wins
contact in Thailand. U Aung Win pleaded guilty and was sentenced
to 25 years or reclusion perpetue, while Gatward was sentenced to
35 years of reclusion perpetua. Gatward filed an appeal, only to
withdraw it afterwards. SC modified RTCs decision and sentenced
the 2 accused to serve the penalty of reclusion perpetua in its
entire duration and full extent.
DOCTRINE: When the lower and appellate courts erroneously
interpreted the law in deciding a case before it, the SC may
change the basic rule as applied to that particular case so as not to
let the case remain uncorrected.
FACTS:
U Aung Win was charged and convicted with violating RA 6425
(Dangerous Drugs Act) for importing and bringing into the
Philippines 5,579.80 grams of heroin. Nigel Gatward was also
charged the same for transporting 5237.70 grams of heroin.
U Aung Win was caught in NAIA after arriving from Bangkok,
Thailand. He had his luggage inspected then proceeded to the
conveyor to retrieve another baggage, but never came back.
The Customs Examiner became alarmed by this and subjected
the luggage under x-ray and found the powdery substance of
heroin. Thereafter, the Customs Police were alerted and U
Aung Win was caught the next day at the check-in counter
trying to depart.
Gatward was caught with the help of U Aung Wins information
during his investigation. He was found bound for Amsterdam
and already on the plane but was off-loaded in time. His
baggage, however, was not unloaded as it would delay the
flight. The baggage was returned on the returning flight,
subjected to x-ray examination where two envelopes of heroin
were found.
U Aung Win pleaded guilty and was sentenced by the RTC to
25 years of reclusion perpetua and P1M, taking into account
the mitigating circumstance of voluntary plea of guilty.
Gatward was sentenced to 35 years of reclusion perpetua and
P5M. It rationalized the penallty under RA 6425 (reclusion

perpetua to death) as divisible into three periods. 20 years and


1 day to 30 years as minimum, 30 years and one day to 40
years as medium, and death as maximum.
Gatward filed an appeal. During its pendency and while
awaiting the filing of appellants brief, the Court received a
mimeographed Urgent Motion to Withdraw Appeal. It was
signed by appellant, but not by counsel. The Court denied the
motion for lack of merit. The pleading of appellant was
unauthorized, and the Court does not discuss or transmit
notices of judicial action except to counsel of the parties.

RULING: RTC decision modified, both accused sentenced to


serve the penalty of reclusion perpetua in its entire duration and
full extent.
WON the Supreme Court erred in not accepting the appeal
NO.

The basic rule is that, in appeals taken from the RTC to either
the CA or SC, the same may be withdrawn and allowed to be
retracted by the trial court before the records of the case are
forwarded to the appellate court. Once the records are
brought to the appellate court, only the latter may act on the
motion for withdrawal of appeal. In the Supreme Court, the
discontinuance of appeals before the filing of the appellees
brief is generally permitted. Where the death penalty is
imposed, the review shall proceed notwithstanding withdrawal
of the appeal as the review is automatic and this the Court can
dow without the benefit or arguments filed by the appellant.

In the case at bar, however, the denial of the motion to


withdraw his appeal by herein appellant is not only justified
but is necessary since the trial court had imposed a penalty
based on an erroneous interpretation of the governing law
thereon. The trial court had, by considering reclusion
perpetua as a divisible penalty, imposed an unauthorized
penalty on both accused which would remain uncorrected if
the appeal had been allowed to be withdrawn.

NOTES:
Issue on ISL and divisibility of sentences not in digest. Not
important to CRIMPRO.