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ALMUETE v PEOPLE The judgment made in absencia remains valid.

There was no grave abuse of


March 12, 2013 || Del Castillo, J. discretion on the part of the RTC in promulgating the decision despite absence
of petitioner because petitioners absence was unjustifiable.

CATEGORY: Power of Supreme Court to suspend procedural rules 2. On modifying penalty imposed
DOCTRINE: The procedural rule that a final judgment can no longer be According to Sec 68 of PD705, the penalty to be imposed for violating its
altered has exceptions, and that is if substantial justice (matters of life, provisions follows that of Art 309 (Simple Theft) and 310 (Qualified Theft) of
liberty, or property) demands it. RPC. In the present case, RTC meted out the penalty found in Art 310 of RPC,
SUMMARY: Petitioners were convicted by the trial court for violating which is two degrees higher than those specified in Art 309. This is erroneous
PD705, and was meted the penalty of 18y2m21d to 40y. The Supreme considering that the penalty prescribed in Art 310 would apply only if any of
Court found this penalty erroneous because it does not conform with the the qualifying circumstances (committed by domestic servant; grave abuse of
penalty prescribed by the special law. Although a final judgment by the lower confidence; stolen property is motor vehicle, mail matter, large cattle;
court has already been promulgated, by virtue of substantial justice, the coconuts, etc) is present. None of these circumstances were present in the
Court modified the penalty to 6y-13y. instant case. Thus, penalty found in Art 309 should have been imposed.

Considering the circumstances and value of the timber involved, as well as the
PETITION FOR REVIEW ON CERTIORARI (RULE 45) ASSAILING application of Indeterminate Sentence Law, the correct penalty for the accused
RESOLUTION OF COURT OF APPEALS. should have been within the range of 2y4m1d to 6y of PM as minimum, to
11y8m1d of PM to 13y of RT as maximum.
FACTS
Petitioners Almuete, Ila, and Lloren were charged before the RTC for The Court is not unaware of the general rule that final judgments may no longer
violating PD 705 (Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines). On the scheduled be altered, amended, or modified, even if it meant to correct what is perceived
date of promulgation of judgment, the petitioners were not able to attend to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law and regardless of what court
(Almuete and Lloren were ill and Ila was not notified of the scheduled rendered it. BUT, the Court has suspended application of this rule based on
promulgation). As their absence were found to be inexcusable, RTC still certain recognized exceptions, such as if it is a matter of life, liberty, honor
promulgated judgment as scheduled, convicting them of the crime with the or property. Other elements that should also be considered are (a) existence
penalty of 18y2m21d of RT to 40y of RP. CA however acquitted the petitioners, of special or compelling circumstances, (b) merits of the case, (c) a cause not
which prompted the People of the Philippines to elevate the case to the SC. entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the
The Court reversed their acquittal. suspension of the rules, (d) a lack of any showing that the review sought is
merely frivolous and dilatory, and (e) the other party will not be unjustly
Petitioners filed a Motion for Repromulgation before the RTC but it was denied prejudiced thereby.
by the trial court. CA also denied the petition for certiorari by the petitioners.
Hence, this case before SC. In this case, the life and liberty of petitioner is involved. If his penalty of
imprisonment remains uncorrected, it would not be conformable with law and
ISSUE will be made to suffer a penalty outside the range prescribed by law.
1. W/N promulgation of judgment in absencia is allowed? YES Substantial justice demands that the Court suspend the Rules in this
2. W/N the penalty imposed may be modified? YES case.

RATIO PETITION DENIED.


1. On validity of promulgation of judgment in absencia RTC DECISION MODIFIED INSOFAR AS THE PENALTY OF
The practice of requiring convicts to appear before trial courts for IMPRISONMENT IS CONCERNED.
promulgation of judgment is no longer allowed under Admin Circ. No. 16-93. Penalty imposed modified to 6y of PC to 13y of RT.
The reason is to prevent unauthorized surplusage entailing unnecessary
expense and to prevent security problems.