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RIGHT TO BAIL

G.R. No. 148571 September 24, 2002

GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,


Represented by the Philippine Department of Justice, petitioner,
vs.
HON. GUILLERMO PURGANAN, Presiding Judge Regional Trial Court of Manila and
MARC JIMENEZ a.k.a. MARCIO BATACAN CRESPO, respondent

DECISION

PANGANIBAN, J.:

In extradition proceedings, are prospective extraditees entitled to notice and


hearing before warrants for their arrest can be issued? Equally important, are they
entitled to the right to bail and provisional liberty while the extradition proceedings
are pending? In general, the answer to these two novel questions is "No." The
explanation of and the reasons for, as well as the exceptions to, this rule are laid
out in this Decision.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, seeking to
void and set aside the Orders dated May 23, 2001 1 and July 3, 2001 2 issued by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 42. 3 The first assailed Order set for
hearing petitioner’s application for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of
Respondent Mark B. Jimenez.

The second challenged Order, on the other hand, directed the issuance of a
warrant, but at the same time granted bail to Jimenez. The dispositive portion of
the Order reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the [Court] finds probable cause
against respondent Mark Jimenez. Accordingly let a Warrant for the arrest
of the respondent be issued. Consequently and taking into consideration
Section 9, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, this Court
fixes the reasonable amount of bail for respondent’s temporary liberty at
ONE MILLION PESOS (Php 1,000,000.00), the same to be paid in cash.

Furthermore respondent is directed to immediately surrender to this Court


his passport and the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation is likewise
directed to include the name of the respondent in its Hold Departure List." 4

Essentially, the Petition prays for the lifting of the bail Order, the cancellation of the
bond, and the taking of Jimenez into legal custody.

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The Facts

This Petition is really a sequel to GR No. 139465 entitled Secretary of Justice v. Ralph
C. Lantion. 5

Pursuant to the existing RP-US Extradition Treaty, 6 the United States Government,
through diplomatic channels, sent to the Philippine Government Note Verbale No.
0522 dated June 16, 1999, supplemented by Note Nos. 0597, 0720 and 0809 and
accompanied by duly authenticated documents requesting the extradition of
Mark B. Jimenez, also known as Mario Batacan Crespo. Upon receipt of the Notes
and documents, the secretary of foreign affairs (SFA) transmitted them to the
secretary of justice (SOJ) for appropriate action, pursuant to Section 5 of
Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1069, also known as the Extradition Law.

Upon learning of the request for his extradition, Jimenez sought and was granted a
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by the RTC of Manila, Branch 25. 7 The TRO
prohibited the Department of Justice (DOJ) from filing with the RTC a petition for
his extradition. The validity of the TRO was, however, assailed by the SOJ in a
Petition before this Court in the said GR No. 139465. Initially, the Court -- by a vote
of 9-6 -- dismissed the Petition. The SOJ was ordered to furnish private respondent
copies of the extradition request and its supporting papers and to grant the latter
a reasonable period within which to file a comment and supporting evidence. 8

Acting on the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the SOJ, this Court issued its
October 17, 2000 Resolution. 9 By an identical vote of 9-6 -- after three justices
changed their votes -- it reconsidered and reversed its earlier Decision. It held that
private respondent was bereft of the right to notice and hearing during the
evaluation stage of the extradition process. This Resolution has become final and
executory.

Finding no more legal obstacle, the Government of the United States of America,
represented by the Philippine DOJ, filed with the RTC on May 18, 2001, the
appropriate Petition for Extradition which was docketed as Extradition Case No.
01192061. The Petition alleged, inter alia, that Jimenez was the subject of an arrest
warrant issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
on April 15, 1999. The warrant had been issued in connection with the following
charges in Indictment No. 99-00281 CR-SEITZ: (1) conspiracy to defraud the United
States and to commit certain offenses in violation of Title 18 US Code Section 371;
(2) tax evasion, in violation of Title 26 US Code Section 7201; (3) wire fraud, in
violation of Title 18 US Code Sections 1343 and 2; (4) false statements, in violation of
Title 18 US Code Sections 1001 and 2; and (5) illegal campaign contributions, in
violation of Title 2 US Code Sections 441b, 441f and 437g(d) and Title 18 US Code
Section 2. In order to prevent the flight of Jimenez, the Petition prayed for the
issuance of an order for his "immediate arrest" pursuant to Section 6 of PD No. 1069.

Before the RTC could act on the Petition, Respondent Jimenez filed before it an
"Urgent Manifestation/Ex-Parte Motion," 10 which prayed that petitioner’s
application for an arrest warrant be set for hearing.

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In its assailed May 23, 2001 Order, the RTC granted the Motion of Jimenez and set
the case for hearing on June 5, 2001. In that hearing, petitioner manifested its
reservations on the procedure adopted by the trial court allowing the accused in
an extradition case to be heard prior to the issuance of a warrant of arrest.

After the hearing, the court a quo required the parties to submit their respective
memoranda. In his Memorandum, Jimenez sought an alternative prayer: that in
case a warrant should issue, he be allowed to post bail in the amount of P100,000.

The alternative prayer of Jimenez was also set for hearing on June 15, 2001.
Thereafter, the court below issued its questioned July 3, 2001 Order, directing the
issuance of a warrant for his arrest and fixing bail for his temporary liberty at one
million pesos in cash. 11 After he had surrendered his passport and posted the
required cash bond, Jimenez was granted provisional liberty via the challenged
Order dated July 4, 2001. 12

Hence, this Petition. 13

Issues

Petitioner presents the following issues for the consideration of this Court:

I.

The public respondent acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with


grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in
adopting a procedure of first hearing a potential extraditee before issuing
an arrest warrant under Section 6 of PD No. 1069.

II.

The public respondent acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with


grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in
granting the prayer for bail and in allowing Jimenez to go on provisional
liberty because:

‘1. An extradition court has no power to authorize bail, in the


absence of any law that provides for such power.

‘2. Section 13, Article III (right to bail clause) of the 1987 Philippine
Constitution and Section 4, Rule 114 (Bail) of the Rules of Court, as
amended, which [were] relied upon, cannot be used as bases for
allowing bail in extradition proceedings.

‘3. The presumption is against bail in extradition proceedings or


proceedings leading to extradition.

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‘4. On the assumption that bail is available in extradition
proceedings or proceedings leading to extradition, bail is not a
matter of right but only of discretion upon clear showing by the
applicant of the existence of special circumstances.

‘5. Assuming that bail is a matter of discretion in extradition


proceedings, the public respondent received no evidence of
‘special circumstances’ which may justify release on bail.

‘6. The risk that Jimenez will flee is high, and no special
circumstance exists that will engender a well-founded belief that
he will not flee.

‘7. The conditions attached to the grant of bail are ineffectual


and do not ensure compliance by the Philippines with its
obligations under the RP-US Extradition Treaty.

‘8. The Court of Appeals Resolution promulgated on May 10, 2001


in the case entitled ‘Eduardo T. Rodriguez et al. vs. The Hon.
Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 17, Manila,’ CA-G.R. SP No. 64589,
relied upon by the public respondent in granting bail, had been
recalled before the issuance of the subject bail orders.’" 14

In sum, the substantive questions that this Court will address are: (1) whether
Jimenez is entitled to notice and hearing before a warrant for his arrest can be
issued, and (2) whether he is entitled to bail and to provisional liberty while the
extradition proceedings are pending. Preliminarily, we shall take up the alleged
prematurity of the Petition for Certiorari arising from petitioner’s failure to file a
Motion for Reconsideration in the RTC and to seek relief in the Court of Appeals
(CA), instead of in this Court. 15 We shall also preliminarily discuss five extradition
postulates that will guide us in disposing of the substantive issues.

The Court’s Ruling

The Petition is meritorious.

Preliminary Matters

Alleged Prematurity of Present Petition

Petitioner submits the following justifications for not filing a Motion for
Reconsideration in the Extradition Court: "(1) the issues were fully considered by
such court after requiring the parties to submit their respective memoranda and
position papers on the matter and thus, the filing of a reconsideration motion
would serve no useful purpose; (2) the assailed orders are a patent nullity, absent
factual and legal basis therefor; and (3) the need for relief is extremely urgent, as

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the passage of sufficient time would give Jimenez ample opportunity to escape
and avoid extradition; and (4) the issues raised are purely of law." 16

For resorting directly to this Court instead of the CA, petitioner submits the following
reasons: "(1) even if the petition is lodged with the Court of Appeals and such
appellate court takes cognizance of the issues and decides them, the parties
would still bring the matter to this Honorable Court to have the issues resolved
once and for all [and] to have a binding precedent that all lower courts ought to
follow; (2) the Honorable Court of Appeals had in one case 17ruled on the issue by
disallowing bail but the court below refused to recognize the decision as a judicial
guide and all other courts might likewise adopt the same attitude of refusal; and
(3) there are pending issues on bail both in the extradition courts and the Court of
Appeals, which, unless guided by the decision that this Honorable Court will render
in this case, would resolve to grant bail in favor of the potential extraditees and
would give them opportunity to flee and thus, cause adverse effect on the ability
of the Philippines to comply with its obligations under existing extradition treaties." 18

As a general rule, a petition for certiorari before a higher court will not prosper
unless the inferior court has been given, through a motion for reconsideration, a
chance to correct the errors imputed to it. This rule, though, has certain
exceptions: (1) when the issue raised is purely of law, (2) when public interest is
involved, or (3) in case of urgency. 19 As a fourth exception, the Court has also
ruled that the filing of a motion for reconsideration before availment of the remedy
of certiorari is not a sine qua non, when the questions raised are the same as those
that have already been squarely argued and exhaustively passed upon by the
lower court. 20 Aside from being of this nature, the issues in the present case also
involve pure questions of law that are of public interest. Hence, a motion for
reconsideration may be dispensed with.

Likewise, this Court has allowed a direct invocation of its original jurisdiction to issue
writs of certiorari when there are special and important reasons therefor. 21 In
Fortich v. Corona 22 we stated:

[T]he Supreme Court has the full discretionary power to take cognizance
of the petition filed directly [before] it if compelling reasons, or the nature
and importance of the issues raised, warrant. This has been the judicial
policy to be observed and which has been reiterated in subsequent
cases, namely: Uy vs. Contreras, et. al., Torres vs. Arranz, Bercero vs. De
Guzman, and, Advincula vs. Legaspi, et. al. As we have further stated in
Cuaresma:

‘x x x. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court’s original


jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there
are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and
specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. x x x.’

Pursuant to said judicial policy, we resolve to take primary jurisdiction over


the present petition in the interest of speedy justice and to avoid future

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litigations so as to promptly put an end to the present controversy which,
as correctly observed by petitioners, has sparked national interest
because of the magnitude of the problem created by the issuance of the
assailed resolution. Moreover, x x x requiring the petitioners to file their
petition first with the Court of Appeals would only result in a waste of time
and money.

That the Court has the power to set aside its own rules in the higher interests of
justice is well-entrenched in our jurisprudence. We reiterate what we said in Piczon
vs. Court of Appeals: 23

‘Be it remembered that rules of procedure are but mere tools designed to
facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which
would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote
substantial justice, must always be avoided. Time and again, this Court has
suspended its own rules and excepted a particular case from their
operation whenever the higher interests of justice so require. In the instant
petition, we forego a lengthy disquisition of the proper procedure that
should have been taken by the parties involved and proceed directly to
the merits of the case.’

In a number of other exceptional cases, 24 we held as follows:

This Court has original jurisdiction, concurrent with that of Regional Trial
Courts and the Court of Appeals, over petitions for certiorari, prohibition,
mandamus, quo warranto and habeas corpus, and we entertain direct
resort to us in cases where special and important reasons or exceptional
and compelling circumstances justify the same."

In the interest of justice and to settle once and for all the important issue of bail in
extradition proceedings, we deem it best to take cognizance of the present case.
Such proceedings constitute a matter of first impression over which there is, as yet,
no local jurisprudence to guide lower courts.

Five Postulates of Extradition

The substantive issues raised in this case require an interpretation or construction of


the treaty and the law on extradition. A cardinal rule in the interpretation of a
treaty or a law is to ascertain and give effect to its intent. 25Since PD 1069 is
intended as a guide for the implementation of extradition treaties to which the
Philippines is a signatory, 26 understanding certain postulates of extradition will aid
us in properly deciding the issues raised here.

1. Extradition Is a Major Instrument for the Suppression of Crime.

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First, extradition treaties are entered into for the purpose of suppressing
crime 27 by facilitating the arrest and the custodial transfer 28 of a
fugitive 29 from one state to the other.

With the advent of easier and faster means of international travel, the
flight of affluent criminals from one country to another for the purpose of
committing crime and evading prosecution has become more frequent.
Accordingly, governments are adjusting their methods of dealing with
criminals and crimes that transcend international boundaries.

Today, "a majority of nations in the world community have come to look
upon extradition as the major effective instrument of international co-
operation in the suppression of crime." 30 It is the only regular system that
has been devised to return fugitives to the jurisdiction of a court
competent to try them in accordance with municipal and international
law. 31

An important practical effect x x x of the recognition of the


principle that criminals should be restored to a jurisdiction
competent to try and punish them is that the number of criminals
seeking refuge abroad will be reduced. For to the extent that
efficient means of detection and the threat of punishment play a
significant role in the deterrence of crime within the territorial limits
of a State, so the existence of effective extradition arrangements
and the consequent certainty of return to the locus delicti
commissi play a corresponding role in the deterrence of flight
abroad in order to escape the consequence of crime. x x x. From
an absence of extradition arrangements flight abroad by the
ingenious criminal receives direct encouragement and thus
indirectly does the commission of crime itself." 32

In Secretary v. Lantion 33 we explained:

The Philippines also has a national interest to help in suppressing crimes


and one way to do it is to facilitate the extradition of persons covered by
treaties duly entered [into] by our government. More and more, crimes are
becoming the concern of one world. Laws involving crimes and crime
prevention are undergoing universalization. One manifest purpose of this
trend towards globalization is to deny easy refuge to a criminal whose
activities threaten the peace and progress of civilized countries. It is to the
great interest of the Philippines to be part of this irreversible movement in
light of its vulnerability to crimes, especially transnational crimes."

Indeed, in this era of globalization, easier and faster international travel, and an
expanding ring of international crimes and criminals, we cannot afford to be an
isolationist state. We need to cooperate with other states in order to improve our
chances of suppressing crime in our own country.

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2. The Requesting State Will Accord Due Process to the Accused

Second, an extradition treaty presupposes that both parties thereto have


examined, and that both accept and trust, each other’s legal system and judicial
process. 34 More pointedly, our duly authorized representative’s signature on an
extradition treaty signifies our confidence in the capacity and the willingness of the
other state to protect the basic rights of the person sought to be extradited. 35 That
signature signifies our full faith that the accused will be given, upon extradition to
the requesting state, all relevant and basic rights in the criminal proceedings that
will take place therein; otherwise, the treaty would not have been signed, or would
have been directly attacked for its unconstitutionality.

3. The Proceedings Are Sui Generis

Third, as pointed out in Secretary of Justice v. Lantion, 36 extradition proceedings


are not criminal in nature. In criminal proceedings, the constitutional rights of the
accused are at fore; in extradition which is sui generis -- in a class by itself -- they
are not.

An extradition [proceeding] is sui generis. It is not a criminal proceeding


which will call into operation all the rights of an accused as guaranteed
by the Bill of Rights. To begin with, the process of extradition does not
involve the determination of the guilt or innocence of an accused. His guilt
or innocence will be adjudged in the court of the state where he will be
extradited. Hence, as a rule, constitutional rights that are only relevant to
determine the guilt or innocence of an accused cannot be invoked by an
extraditee x x x.

There are other differences between an extradition proceeding and a


criminal proceeding. An extradition proceeding is summary in nature while
criminal proceedings involve a full-blown trial. In contradistinction to a
criminal proceeding, the rules of evidence in an extradition proceeding
allow admission of evidence under less stringent standards. In terms of the
quantum of evidence to be satisfied, a criminal case requires proof
beyond reasonable doubt for conviction while a fugitive may be ordered
extradited ‘upon showing of the existence of a prima facie case.’ Finally,
unlike in a criminal case where judgment becomes executory upon being
rendered final, in an extradition proceeding, our courts may adjudge an
individual extraditable but the President has the final discretion to
extradite him. The United States adheres to a similar practice whereby the
Secretary of State exercises wide discretion in balancing the equities of
the case and the demands of the nation’s foreign relations before making
the ultimate decision to extradite."

Given the foregoing, it is evident that the extradition court is not called upon to
ascertain the guilt or the innocence of the person sought to be extradited. 37 Such
determination during the extradition proceedings will only result in needless
duplication and delay. Extradition is merely a measure of international judicial

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assistance through which a person charged with or convicted of a crime is
restored to a jurisdiction with the best claim to try that person. It is not part of the
function of the assisting authorities to enter into questions that are the prerogative
of that jurisdiction. 38The ultimate purpose of extradition proceedings in court is only
to determine whether the extradition request complies with the Extradition Treaty,
and whether the person sought is extraditable. 39

4. Compliance Shall Be in Good Faith.

Fourth, our executive branch of government voluntarily entered into the Extradition
Treaty, and our legislative branch ratified it. Hence, the Treaty carries the
presumption that its implementation will serve the national interest.

Fulfilling our obligations under the Extradition Treaty promotes comity 40 with the
requesting state. On the other hand, failure to fulfill our obligations thereunder
paints a bad image of our country before the world community. Such failure
would discourage other states from entering into treaties with us, particularly an
extradition treaty that hinges on reciprocity. 41

Verily, we are bound by pacta sunt servanda to comply in good faith with our
obligations under the Treaty. 42 This principle requires that we deliver the accused
to the requesting country if the conditions precedent to extradition, as set forth in
the Treaty, are satisfied. In other words, "[t]he demanding government, when it has
done all that the treaty and the law require it to do, is entitled to the delivery of the
accused on the issue of the proper warrant, and the other government is under
obligation to make the surrender." 43 Accordingly, the Philippines must be ready
and in a position to deliver the accused, should it be found proper.

5. There Is an Underlying Risk of Flight

Fifth, persons to be extradited are presumed to be flight risks. This prima facie
presumption finds reinforcement in the experience 44 of the executive branch:
nothing short of confinement can ensure that the accused will not flee the
jurisdiction of the requested state in order to thwart their extradition to the
requesting state.

The present extradition case further validates the premise that persons sought to
be extradited have a propensity to flee. Indeed, extradition hearings would not
even begin, if only the accused were willing to submit to trial in the requesting
country. 45 Prior acts of herein respondent -- (1) leaving the requesting state right
before the conclusion of his indictment proceedings there; and (2) remaining in
the requested state despite learning that the requesting state is seeking his return
and that the crimes he is charged with are bailable -- eloquently speak of his
aversion to the processes in the requesting state, as well as his predisposition to
avoid them at all cost. These circumstances point to an ever-present, underlying
high risk of flight. He has demonstrated that he has the capacity and the will to

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flee. Having fled once, what is there to stop him, given sufficient opportunity, from
fleeing a second time?

First Substantive Issue:

Is Respondent Entitled to Notice and Hearing


Before the Issuance of a Warrant of Arrest?

Petitioner contends that the procedure adopted by the RTC --informing the
accused, a fugitive from justice, that an Extradition Petition has been filed against
him, and that petitioner is seeking his arrest -- gives him notice to escape and to
avoid extradition. Moreover, petitioner pleads that such procedure may set a
dangerous precedent, in that those sought to be extradited -- including terrorists,
mass murderers and war criminals -- may invoke it in future extradition cases.

On the other hand, Respondent Jimenez argues that he should not be hurriedly
and arbitrarily deprived of his constitutional right to liberty without due process. He
further asserts that there is as yet no specific law or rule setting forth the procedure
prior to the issuance of a warrant of arrest, after the petition for extradition has
been filed in court; ergo, the formulation of that procedure is within the discretion
of the presiding judge.

Both parties cite Section 6 of PD 1069 in support of their arguments. It states:

SEC. 6. Issuance of Summons; Temporary Arrest; Hearing, Service of


Notices.- (1) Immediately upon receipt of the petition, the presiding judge
of the court shall, as soon as practicable, summon the accused to appear
and to answer the petition on the day and hour fixed in the order. [H]e
may issue a warrant for the immediate arrest of the accused which may
be served any where within the Philippines if it appears to the presiding
judge that the immediate arrest and temporary detention of the accused
will best serve the ends of justice. Upon receipt of the answer, or should
the accused after having received the summons fail to answer within the
time fixed, the presiding judge shall hear the case or set another date for
the hearing thereof.

(2) The order and notice as well as a copy of the warrant of arrest, if
issued, shall be promptly served each upon the accused and the attorney
having charge of the case." (Emphasis ours)

Does this provision sanction RTC Judge Purganan’s act of immediately setting for
hearing the issuance of a warrant of arrest? We rule in the negative.

1. On the Basis of the Extradition Law

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It is significant to note that Section 6 of PD 1069, our Extradition Law, uses the word
"immediate" to qualify the arrest of the accused. This qualification would be
rendered nugatory by setting for hearing the issuance of the arrest warrant.
Hearing entails sending notices to the opposing parties, 46 receiving facts and
arguments 47 from them, 48and giving them time to prepare and present such facts
and arguments. Arrest subsequent to a hearing can no longer be considered
"immediate." The law could not have intended the word as a mere superfluity but,
on the whole, as a means of imparting a sense of urgency and swiftness in the
determination of whether a warrant of arrest should be issued.

By using the phrase "if it appears," the law further conveys that accuracy is not as
important as speed at such early stage. The trial court is not expected to make an
exhaustive determination to ferret out the true and actual situation, immediately
upon the filing of the petition. From the knowledge and the material then
available to it, the court is expected merely to get a good first impression -- a
prima facie finding -- sufficient to make a speedy initial determination as regards
the arrest and detention of the accused.

Attached to the Petition for Extradition, with a Certificate of Authentication among


others, were the following: (1) Annex H, the Affidavit executed on May 26, 1999 by
Mr. Michael E. Savage -- trial attorney in the Campaign Financing Task Force of the
Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice; (2) Annexes H to G, evidentiary
Appendices of various exhibits that constituted evidence of the crimes charged in
the Indictment, with Exhibits 1 to 120 (duly authenticated exhibits that constituted
evidence of the crimes charged in the Indictment); (3) Annex BB, the Exhibit I
"Appendix of Witness [excerpts] Statements Referenced in the Affidavit of Angela
Byers" and enclosed Statements in two volumes; (4) Annex GG, the Exhibit J "Table
of Contents for Supplemental Evidentiary Appendix" with enclosed Exhibits 121 to
132; and (5) Annex MM, the Exhibit L "Appendix of Witness [excerpts] Statements
Referenced in the Affidavit of Betty Steward" and enclosed Statements in two
volumes. 49

It is evident that respondent judge could have already gotten an impression from
these records adequate for him to make an initial determination of whether the
accused was someone who should immediately be arrested in order to "best serve
the ends of justice." He could have determined whether such facts and
circumstances existed as would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent person to
believe that the extradition request was prima facie meritorious. In point of fact, he
actually concluded from these supporting documents that "probable cause" did
exist. In the second questioned Order, he stated:

In the instant petition, the documents sent by the US Government in


support of [its] request for extradition of herein respondent are enough to
convince the Court of the existence of probable cause to proceed with
the hearing against the extraditee." 50

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We stress that the prima facie existence of probable cause for hearing the petition
and, a priori, for issuing an arrest warrant was already evident from the Petition
itself and its supporting documents. Hence, after having already determined
therefrom that a prima facie finding did exist, respondent judge gravely abused his
discretion when he set the matter for hearing upon motion of Jimenez. 51

Moreover, the law specifies that the court sets a hearing upon receipt of the
answer or upon failure of the accused to answer after receiving the summons. In
connection with the matter of immediate arrest, however, the word "hearing" is
notably absent from the provision. Evidently, had the holding of a hearing at that
stage been intended, the law could have easily so provided. It also bears
emphasizing at this point that extradition proceedings are summary 52 in nature.
Hence, the silence of the Law and the Treaty leans to the more reasonable
interpretation that there is no intention to punctuate with a hearing every little step
in the entire proceedings.

It is taken for granted that the contracting parties intend something


reasonable and something not inconsistent with generally recognized
principles of International Law, nor with previous treaty obligations towards
third States. If, therefore, the meaning of a treaty is ambiguous, the
reasonable meaning is to be preferred to the unreasonable, the more
reasonable to the less reasonable x x x ." 53

Verily, as argued by petitioner, sending to persons sought to be extradited a notice


of the request for their arrest and setting it for hearing at some future date would
give them ample opportunity to prepare and execute an escape. Neither the
Treaty nor the Law could have intended that consequence, for the very purpose
of both would have been defeated by the escape of the accused from the
requested state.

2. On the Basis of the Constitution

Even Section 2 of Article III of our Constitution, which is invoked by Jimenez, does
not require a notice or a hearing before the issuance of a warrant of arrest. It
provides:

Sec. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,


papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of
whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search
warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be
determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or
affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and
particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things
to be seized."

To determine probable cause for the issuance of arrest warrants, the Constitution
itself requires only the examination -- under oath or affirmation -- of complainants

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and the witnesses they may produce. There is no requirement to notify and hear
the accused before the issuance of warrants of arrest.

In Ho v. People 54 and in all the cases cited therein, never was a judge required to
go to the extent of conducting a hearing just for the purpose of personally
determining probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. All we required
was that the "judge must have sufficient supporting documents upon which to
make his independent judgment, or at the very least, upon which to verify the
findings of the prosecutor as to the existence of probable cause." 55

In Webb v. De Leon, 56 the Court categorically stated that a judge was not
supposed to conduct a hearing before issuing a warrant of arrest:

Again, we stress that before issuing warrants of arrest, judges merely


determine personally the probability, not the certainty of guilt of an
accused. In doing so, judges do not conduct a de novo hearing to
determine the existence of probable cause. They just personally review
the initial determination of the prosecutor finding a probable cause to see
if it is supported by substantial evidence."

At most, in cases of clear insufficiency of evidence on record, judges merely


further examine complainants and their witnesses. 57 In the present case, validating
the act of respondent judge and instituting the practice of hearing the accused
and his witnesses at this early stage would be discordant with the rationale for the
entire system. If the accused were allowed to be heard and necessarily to present
evidence during the prima facie determination for the issuance of a warrant of
arrest, what would stop him from presenting his entire plethora of defenses at this
stage -- if he so desires -- in his effort to negate a prima facie finding? Such a
procedure could convert the determination of a prima facie case into a full-blown
trial of the entire proceedings and possibly make trial of the main case superfluous.
This scenario is also anathema to the summary nature of extraditions.

That the case under consideration is an extradition and not a criminal action is not
sufficient to justify the adoption of a set of procedures more protective of the
accused. If a different procedure were called for at all, a more restrictive one --
not the opposite -- would be justified in view of respondent’s demonstrated
predisposition to flee.

Since this is a matter of first impression, we deem it wise to restate the proper
procedure:

Upon receipt of a petition for extradition and its supporting documents, the judge
must study them and make, as soon as possible, a prima facie finding whether (a)
they are sufficient in form and substance, (b) they show compliance with the
Extradition Treaty and Law, and (c) the person sought is extraditable. At his
discretion, the judge may require the submission of further documentation or may
personally examine the affiants and witnesses of the petitioner. If, in spite of this

13
study and examination, no prima facie finding 58 is possible, the petition may be
dismissed at the discretion of the judge.

On the other hand, if the presence of a prima facie case is determined, then the
magistrate must immediately issue a warrant for the arrest of the extraditee, who is
at the same time summoned to answer the petition and to appear at scheduled
summary hearings. Prior to the issuance of the warrant, the judge must not inform
or notify the potential extraditee of the pendency of the petition, lest the latter be
given the opportunity to escape and frustrate the proceedings. In our opinion, the
foregoing procedure will "best serve the ends of justice" in extradition cases.

Second Substantive Issue:

Is Respondent ntitled to Bail?

Article III, Section 13 of the Constitution, is worded as follows:

Art. III, Sec. 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable
by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before
conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on
recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall not be
impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is
suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required."

Respondent Mark B. Jimenez maintains that this constitutional provision secures the
right to bail of all persons, including those sought to be extradited. Supposedly, the
only exceptions are the ones charged with offenses punishable with reclusion
perpetua, when evidence of guilt is strong. He also alleges the relevance to the
present case of Section 4 59 of Rule 114 of the Rules of Court which, insofar as
practicable and consistent with the summary nature of extradition proceedings,
shall also apply according to Section 9 of PD 1069.

On the other hand, petitioner claims that there is no provision in the Philippine
Constitution granting the right to bail to a person who is the subject of an
extradition request and arrest warrant.

Extradition Different from Ordinary Criminal Proceedings

We agree with petitioner. As suggested by the use of the word "conviction," the
constitutional provision on bail quoted above, as well as Section 4 of Rule 114 of
the Rules of Court, applies only when a person has been arrested and detained for
violation of Philippine criminal laws. It does not apply to extradition proceedings,
because extradition courts do not render judgments of conviction or acquittal.

Moreover, the constitutional right to bail "flows from the presumption of innocence
in favor of every accused who should not be subjected to the loss of freedom as

14
thereafter he would be entitled to acquittal, unless his guilt be proved beyond
reasonable doubt." 60 It follows that the constitutional provision on bail will not apply
to a case like extradition, where the presumption of innocence is not at issue.

The provision in the Constitution stating that the "right to bail shall not be impaired
even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended" does not
detract from the rule that the constitutional right to bail is available only in criminal
proceedings. It must be noted that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of
habeas corpus finds application "only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or
offenses inherent in or directly connected with invasion." 61 Hence, the second
sentence in the constitutional provision on bail merely emphasizes the right to bail
in criminal proceedings for the aforementioned offenses. It cannot be taken to
mean that the right is available even in extradition proceedings that are not
criminal in nature.

That the offenses for which Jimenez is sought to be extradited are bailable in the
United States is not an argument to grant him one in the present case. To stress,
extradition proceedings are separate and distinct from the trial for the offenses for
which he is charged. He should apply for bail before the courts trying the criminal
cases against him, not before the extradition court.

No Violation of Due Process

Respondent Jimenez cites the foreign case Paretti 62 in arguing that,


constitutionally, "[n]o one shall be deprived of x x x liberty x x x without due process
of law."

Contrary to his contention, his detention prior to the conclusion of the extradition
proceedings does not amount to a violation of his right to due process. We iterate
the familiar doctrine that the essence of due process is the opportunity to be
heard 63 but, at the same time, point out that the doctrine does not always call for
a prior opportunity to be heard. 64 Where the circumstances -- such as those
present in an extradition case -- call for it, a subsequent opportunity to be heard is
enough. 65 In the present case, respondent will be given full opportunity to be
heard subsequently, when the extradition court hears the Petition for Extradition.
Hence, there is no violation of his right to due process and fundamental fairness.

Contrary to the contention of Jimenez, we find no arbitrariness, either, in the


immediate deprivation of his liberty prior to his being heard. That his arrest and
detention will not be arbitrary is sufficiently ensured by (1) the DOJ’s filing in court
the Petition with its supporting documents after a determination that the
extradition request meets the requirements of the law and the relevant treaty; (2)
the extradition judge’s independent prima facie determination that his arrest will
best serve the ends of justice before the issuance of a warrant for his arrest; and (3)
his opportunity, once he is under the court’s custody, to apply for bail as an
exception to the no-initial-bail rule.

15
It is also worth noting that before the US government requested the extradition of
respondent, proceedings had already been conducted in that country. But
because he left the jurisdiction of the requesting state before those proceedings
could be completed, it was hindered from continuing with the due processes
prescribed under its laws. His invocation of due process now has thus become
hollow. He already had that opportunity in the requesting state; yet, instead of
taking it, he ran away.

In this light, would it be proper and just for the government to increase the risk of
violating its treaty obligations in order to accord Respondent Jimenez his personal
liberty in the span of time that it takes to resolve the Petition for Extradition? His
supposed immediate deprivation of liberty without the due process that he had
previously shunned pales against the government’s interest in fulfilling its Extradition
Treaty obligations and in cooperating with the world community in the suppression
of crime. Indeed, "[c]onstitutional liberties do not exist in a vacuum; the due
process rights accorded to individuals must be carefully balanced against exigent
and palpable government interests." 66

Too, we cannot allow our country to be a haven for fugitives, cowards and
weaklings who, instead of facing the consequences of their actions, choose to run
and hide. Hence, it would not be good policy to increase the risk of violating our
treaty obligations if, through overprotection or excessively liberal treatment,
persons sought to be extradited are able to evade arrest or escape from our
custody. In the absence of any provision -- in the Constitution, the law or the treaty
-- expressly guaranteeing the right to bail in extradition proceedings, adopting the
practice of not granting them bail, as a general rule, would be a step towards
deterring fugitives from coming to the Philippines to hide from or evade their
prosecutors.1âwphi1.nêt

The denial of bail as a matter of course in extradition cases falls into place with
and gives life to Article 14 67 of the Treaty, since this practice would encourage the
accused to voluntarily surrender to the requesting state to cut short their detention
here. Likewise, their detention pending the resolution of extradition proceedings
would fall into place with the emphasis of the Extradition Law on the summary
nature of extradition cases and the need for their speedy disposition.

Exceptions to the No Bail Rule

The rule, we repeat, is that bail is not a matter of right in extradition cases.
However, the judiciary has the constitutional duty to curb grave abuse of
discretion 68 and tyranny, as well as the power to promulgate rules to protect and
enforce constitutional rights. 69 Furthermore, we believe that the right to due
process is broad enough to include the grant of basic fairness to extraditees.
Indeed, the right to due process extends to the "life, liberty or property" of every
person. It is "dynamic and resilient, adaptable to every situation calling for its
application." 70

16
Accordingly and to best serve the ends of justice, we believe and so hold that,
after a potential extraditee has been arrested or placed under the custody of the
law, bail may be applied for and granted as an exception, only upon a clear and
convincing showing (1) that, once granted bail, the applicant will not be a flight
risk or a danger to the community; and (2) that there exist special, humanitarian
and compelling circumstances 71 including, as a matter of reciprocity, those cited
by the highest court in the requesting state when it grants provisional liberty in
extradition cases therein.

Since this exception has no express or specific statutory basis, and since it is
derived essentially from general principles of justice and fairness, the applicant
bears the burden of proving the above two-tiered requirement with clarity,
precision and emphatic forcefulness. The Court realizes that extradition is basically
an executive, not a judicial, responsibility arising from the presidential power to
conduct foreign relations. In its barest concept, it partakes of the nature of police
assistance amongst states, which is not normally a judicial prerogative. Hence, any
intrusion by the courts into the exercise of this power should be characterized by
caution, so that the vital international and bilateral interests of our country will not
be unreasonably impeded or compromised. In short, while this Court is ever
protective of "the sporting idea of fair play," it also recognizes the limits of its own
prerogatives and the need to fulfill international obligations.

Along this line, Jimenez contends that there are special circumstances that are
compelling enough for the Court to grant his request for provisional release on bail.
We have carefully examined these circumstances and shall now discuss them.

1. Alleged Disenfranchisement

While his extradition was pending, Respondent Jimenez was elected as a member
of the House of Representatives. On that basis, he claims that his detention will
disenfranchise his Manila district of 600,000 residents. We are not persuaded. In
People v. Jalosjos, 72 the Court has already debunked the disenfranchisement
argument when it ruled thus:

When the voters of his district elected the accused-appellant to Congress,


they did so with full awareness of the limitations on his freedom of action.
They did so with the knowledge that he could achieve only such
legislative results which he could accomplish within the confines of prison.
To give a more drastic illustration, if voters elect a person with full
knowledge that he is suffering from a terminal illness, they do so knowing
that at any time, he may no longer serve his full term in office.

In the ultimate analysis, the issue before us boils down to a question of


constitutional equal protection.

The Constitution guarantees: ‘x x x nor shall any person be denied the


equal protection of laws.’ This simply means that all persons similarly

17
situated shall be treated alike both in rights enjoyed and responsibilities
imposed. The organs of government may not show any undue favoritism
or hostility to any person. Neither partiality nor prejudice shall be displayed.

Does being an elective official result in a substantial distinction that allows


different treatment? Is being a Congressman a substantial differentiation
which removes the accused-appellant as a prisoner from the same class
as all persons validly confined under law?

The performance of legitimate and even essential duties by public officers


has never been an excuse to free a person validly [from] prison. The duties
imposed by the ‘mandate of the people’ are multifarious. The accused-
appellant asserts that the duty to legislate ranks highest in the hierarchy of
government. The accused-appellant is only one of 250 members of the
House of Representatives, not to mention the 24 members of the Senate,
charged with the duties of legislation. Congress continues to function well
in the physical absence of one or a few of its members. Depending on the
exigency of Government that has to be addressed, the President or the
Supreme Court can also be deemed the highest for that particular duty.
The importance of a function depends on the need for its exercise. The
duty of a mother to nurse her infant is most compelling under the law of
nature. A doctor with unique skills has the duty to save the lives of those
with a particular affliction. An elective governor has to serve provincial
constituents. A police officer must maintain peace and order. Never has
the call of a particular duty lifted a prisoner into a different classification
from those others who are validly restrained by law.

A strict scrutiny of classifications is essential lest[,] wittingly or otherwise,


insidious discriminations are made in favor of or against groups or types of
individuals.

The Court cannot validate badges of inequality. The necessities imposed


by public welfare may justify exercise of government authority to regulate
even if thereby certain groups may plausibly assert that their interests are
disregarded.

We, therefore, find that election to the position of Congressman is not a


reasonable classification in criminal law enforcement. The functions and
duties of the office are not substantial distinctions which lift him from the
class of prisoners interrupted in their freedom and restricted in liberty of
movement. Lawful arrest and confinement are germane to the purposes
of the law and apply to all those belonging to the same class." 73

It must be noted that even before private respondent ran for and won a
congressional seat in Manila, it was already of public knowledge that the United
States was requesting his extradition. Hence, his constituents were or should have
been prepared for the consequences of the extradition case against their
representative, including his detention pending the final resolution of the case.

18
Premises considered and in line with Jalosjos, we are constrained to rule against his
claim that his election to public office is by itself a compelling reason to grant him
bail.

2. Anticipated Delay

Respondent Jimenez further contends that because the extradition proceedings


are lengthy, it would be unfair to confine him during the pendency of the case.
Again we are not convinced. We must emphasize that extradition cases are
summary in nature. They are resorted to merely to determine whether the
extradition petition and its annexes conform to the Extradition Treaty, not to
determine guilt or innocence. Neither is it, as a rule, intended to address issues
relevant to the constitutional rights available to the accused in a criminal action.

We are not overruling the possibility that petitioner may, in bad faith, unduly delay
the proceedings. This is quite another matter that is not at issue here. Thus, any
further discussion of this point would be merely anticipatory and academic.

However, if the delay is due to maneuverings of respondent, with all the more
reason would the grant of bail not be justified. Giving premium to delay by
considering it as a special circumstance for the grant of bail would be tantamount
to giving him the power to grant bail to himself. It would also encourage him to
stretch out and unreasonably delay the extradition proceedings even more. This
we cannot allow.

3. Not a Flight Risk?

Jimenez further claims that he is not a flight risk. To support this claim, he stresses
that he learned of the extradition request in June 1999; yet, he has not fled the
country. True, he has not actually fled during the preliminary stages of the request
for his extradition. Yet, this fact cannot be taken to mean that he will not flee as
the process moves forward to its conclusion, as he hears the footsteps of the
requesting government inching closer and closer. That he has not yet fled from the
Philippines cannot be taken to mean that he will stand his ground and still be
within reach of our government if and when it matters; that is, upon the resolution
of the Petition for Extradition.

In any event, it is settled that bail may be applied for and granted by the trial court
at anytime after the applicant has been taken into custody and prior to judgment,
even after bail has been previously denied. In the present case, the extradition
court may continue hearing evidence on the application for bail, which may be
granted in accordance with the guidelines in this Decision.

Brief Refutation of Dissents

The proposal to remand this case to the extradition court, we believe, is totally
unnecessary; in fact, it is a cop-out. The parties -- in particular, Respondent

19
Jimenez -- have been given more than sufficient opportunity both by the trial court
and this Court to discuss fully and exhaustively private respondent’s claim to bail.
As already stated, the RTC set for hearing not only petitioner’s application for an
arrest warrant, but also private respondent’s prayer for temporary liberty.
Thereafter required by the RTC were memoranda on the arrest, then position
papers on the application for bail, both of which were separately filed by the
parties.

This Court has meticulously pored over the Petition, the Comment, the Reply, the
lengthy Memoranda and the Position Papers of both parties. Additionally, it has
patiently heard them in Oral Arguments, a procedure not normally observed in the
great majority of cases in this Tribunal. Moreover, after the Memos had been
submitted, the parties -- particularly the potential extraditee -- have bombarded
this Court with additional pleadings -- entitled "Manifestations" by both parties and
"Counter-Manifestation" by private respondent -- in which the main topic was Mr.
Jimenez’s plea for bail.

A remand would mean that this long, tedious process would be repeated in its
entirety. The trial court would again hear factual and evidentiary matters. Be it
noted, however, that, in all his voluminous pleadings and verbal propositions,
private respondent has not asked for a remand. Evidently, even he realizes that
there is absolutely no need to rehear factual matters. Indeed, the inadequacy lies
not in the factual presentation of Mr. Jimenez. Rather, it lies in his legal arguments.
Remanding the case will not solve this utter lack of persuasion and strength in his
legal reasoning.

In short, this Court -- as shown by this Decision and the spirited Concurring,
Separate and Dissenting Opinions written by the learned justices themselves -- has
exhaustively deliberated and carefully passed upon all relevant questions in this
case. Thus, a remand will not serve any useful purpose; it will only further delay
these already very delayed proceedings, 74 which our Extradition Law requires to
be summary in character. What we need now is prudent and deliberate speed,
not unnecessary and convoluted delay. What is needed is a firm decision on the
merits, not a circuitous cop-out.

Then, there is also the suggestion that this Court is allegedly "disregarding basic
freedoms when a case is one of extradition." We believe that this charge is not only
baseless, but also unfair. Suffice it to say that, in its length and breath, this Decision
has taken special cognizance of the rights to due process and fundamental
fairness of potential extraditees.

Summation

As we draw to a close, it is now time to summarize and stress these ten points:

1. The ultimate purpose of extradition proceedings is to determine whether


the request expressed in the petition, supported by its annexes and the

20
evidence that may be adduced during the hearing of the petition,
complies with the Extradition Treaty and Law; and whether the person
sought is extraditable. The proceedings are intended merely to assist the
requesting state in bringing the accused -- or the fugitive who has illegally
escaped -- back to its territory, so that the criminal process may proceed
therein.

2. By entering into an extradition treaty, the Philippines is deemed to have


reposed its trust in the reliability or soundness of the legal and judicial
system of its treaty partner, as well as in the ability and the willingness of
the latter to grant basic rights to the accused in the pending criminal case
therein.

3. By nature then, extradition proceedings are not equivalent to a criminal


case in which guilt or innocence is determined. Consequently, an
extradition case is not one in which the constitutional rights of the accused
are necessarily available. It is more akin, if at all, to a court’s request to
police authorities for the arrest of the accused who is at large or has
escaped detention or jumped bail. Having once escaped the jurisdiction
of the requesting state, the reasonable prima facie presumption is that the
person would escape again if given the opportunity.

4. Immediately upon receipt of the petition for extradition and its


supporting documents, the judge shall make a prima facie finding
whether the petition is sufficient in form and substance, whether it
complies with the Extradition Treaty and Law, and whether the person
sought is extraditable. The magistrate has discretion to require the
petitioner to submit further documentation, or to personally examine the
affiants or witnesses. If convinced that a prima facie case exists, the judge
immediately issues a warrant for the arrest of the potential extraditee and
summons him or her to answer and to appear at scheduled hearings on
the petition.

5. After being taken into custody, potential extraditees may apply for bail.
Since the applicants have a history of absconding, they have the burden
of showing that (a) there is no flight risk and no danger to the community;
and (b) there exist special, humanitarian or compelling circumstances. The
grounds used by the highest court in the requesting state for the grant of
bail therein may be considered, under the principle of reciprocity as a
special circumstance. In extradition cases, bail is not a matter of right; it is
subject to judicial discretion in the context of the peculiar facts of each
case.

6. Potential extraditees are entitled to the rights to due process and to


fundamental fairness. Due process does not always call for a prior
opportunity to be heard. A subsequent opportunity is sufficient due to the
flight risk involved. Indeed, available during the hearings on the petition

21
and the answer is the full chance to be heard and to enjoy fundamental
fairness that is compatible with the summary nature of extradition.

7. This Court will always remain a protector of human rights, a bastion of


liberty, a bulwark of democracy and the conscience of society. But it is
also well aware of the limitations of its authority and of the need for
respect for the prerogatives of the other co-equal and co-independent
organs of government.

8. We realize that extradition is essentially an executive, not a judicial,


responsibility arising out of the presidential power to conduct foreign
relations and to implement treaties. Thus, the Executive Department of
government has broad discretion in its duty and power of implementation.

9. On the other hand, courts merely perform oversight functions and


exercise review authority to prevent or excise grave abuse and tyranny.
They should not allow contortions, delays and "over-due process" every
little step of the way, lest these summary extradition proceedings become
not only inutile but also sources of international embarrassment due to our
inability to comply in good faith with a treaty partner’s simple request to
return a fugitive. Worse, our country should not be converted into a
dubious haven where fugitives and escapees can unreasonably delay,
mummify, mock, frustrate, checkmate and defeat the quest for bilateral
justice and international cooperation.

10. At bottom, extradition proceedings should be conducted with all


deliberate speed to determine compliance with the Extradition Treaty and
Law; and, while safeguarding basic individual rights, to avoid the legalistic
contortions, delays and technicalities that may negate that purpose.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The assailed RTC Order dated May 23, 2001 is
hereby declared NULL and VOID, while the challenged Order dated July 3, 2001 is
SET ASIDE insofar as it granted bail to Respondent Mark Jimenez. The bail bond
posted by private respondent is CANCELLED. The Regional Trial Court of Manila is
directed to conduct the extradition proceedings before it, with all deliberate
speed pursuant to the spirit and the letter of our Extradition Treaty with the United
States as well as our Extradition Law. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

22
G.R. No. 134504 March 17, 2000

JOSELITO V. NARCISO, petitioner,


vs.
FLOR MARIE STA. ROMANA-CRUZ, respondent.

PANGANIBAN, J.:

When the penalty prescribed by law is death, reclusion perpetua or life


imprisonment, a hearing must be conducted by the trial judge before bail can be
granted to the accused. Absent such hearing, the order granting bail is void for
having been issued with grave abuse of discretion. In parricide, the accused
cannot be considered an offended party just because he was married to the
deceased. In the interest of justice and in view of the peculiar circumstances of
this case, the sister of the victim may be deemed to be an "offended party";
hence, she has the legal personality to challenge the void order of the trial court.

The Case

We invoke the foregoing principles in rejecting the Petition for Review


on Certiorari before us, assailing the February 26, 1998 Decision 1 and the June 29,
1998 Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA), 2 which reversed and set aside the
Order of Executive Judge Pedro T. Santiago of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Quezon City, Branch 101, in Criminal Case No. Q-91-24179 entitled "People of the
Philippines v. Joselito V. Narciso."

The dispositive portion of the challenged CA Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is hereby GRANTED and the order
granting bail is annulled and set aside. 3

The assailed Resolution, on the other hand, denied petitioner's Motion for
Reconsideration.

The full text of the August 3, 1992 RTC Order, which the Court of Appeals annulled
and set aside, reads as follows:

Accused who is present filed thru counsel a Motion to Allow Accused


Joselito V. Narciso to Post Bail.

Considering that the Presiding Judge of Branch 83 who is hearing this case
is on leave and the Pairing Judge Honorable Salvador Ceguerra is no
longer within the premises, there being no objection by the City Prosecutor
Candido Rivera to the accused posting a cashbond of P150,000.00, the
undersigned in his capacity as Executive Judge hereby approves the
same. 4

23
The Facts of the Case

The undisputed antecedents of the case were summarized by the Court of


Appeals as follows:

1) After conducting a preliminary investigation on the death of Corazon


Sta. Romana-Narciso, wife of Joselito Narciso, Asst. City Prosecutor Myrna
Dimaranan Vidal of Quezon City recommended and thereafter filed, the
information for parricide against Joselito Narciso on November 13, 1991,
with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, docketed therein as Criminal
Case No. Q-91-24179.

2) Joselito Narciso thereafter asked for a review of the prosecutor's


resolution [before] the Department of Justice (DOJ) which was however
denied. Joselito Narciso moved for reconsideration, which was still denied
by the DOJ.

3) Failing before DOJ, the accused on February 6, 1992, filed in Criminal


Case No. Q-91-24179 an "Omnibus Motion for Reinvestigation and to Lift
the Warrant of Arrest". The Motion was granted and the case was set for
reinvestigation by another prosecutor.

4) Assistant Prosecutor Lydia A. Navarro, to whom the case was assigned


for reinvestigation, found no reason to disturb the findings of the previous
prosecutor and recommended the remand of the case to the court for
arraignment and trial.

5) On August 3, 1992, accused filed an "Urgent Ex-Parte (Ex Abundanti


Cautela) to Allow Accused Joselito Narciso to Post Bail". The Public
Prosecutor registered no objection and said motion was granted on the
same day, allowing accused to post bail at P150,000.00.

6) On August 14, 1992, the private prosecutor representing private


complainant Flor Marie Sta. Romana-Cruz, a sister of accused's deceased
wife, filed an "Urgent Motion to Lift Order Allowing Accused To Post Bail".

7) Accused objected to the aforesaid urgent motion by filing a "Motion to


Expunge 1) Notice of Appearance of the Private Prosecutor and the 2)
Urgent Motion to Lift Order Allowing Accused to Post Bail".

8) Arraignment was conducted on September 14, 1992 and the case was
set for hearing on November 9, 16, 23, December 2, 9, 1992, January 6, 13,
20, 27, 1993, February 3, 7, 10 and 24 1993.

9) On October 15, 1992, private complainant through counsel filed her


opposition to the motion to expunge [filed by] accused.

24
10). On November 3, 1992 private complainant moved for the
postponement of the trials set on November 9, 16 and 23 and the
subsequent hearings thereon pending the resolution of their "Urgent
Motion to Lift Order Allowing Accused To Post Bail".

11) On November 9, 1992, the court issued the first assailed order stating
therein to wit:

ORDER

Counsel for the accused, upon being informed of the motion for
postponement dated November 3, 1992 filed by the private
complainant, through counsel, offered no objection to the
cancellation of today's trial but not the trial set on November 16,
23 and December 2 and 9, 1992 for the reason that the trial can
proceed independently of the pending "Urgent Motion to Lift
Order Allowing the Accused to Post Bail".

WHEREFORE, the trial set for today is hereby cancelled and re-set
on November 16, 1992 at 10:30 o'clock in the morning, as
previously scheduled.

SO ORDERED.

12) On November 16, 1992, the court cancelled the hearing upon motion
of the public prosecutor because no prosecution witness was available.

13) [I]n the hearing of November 23, 1992, the private prosecutor again
moved for postponement because of the pendency of his "Motion to Lift
Order Allowing Accused to Post Bail". On the same date, the court issued
the second assailed order which reads:

ORDER

On motion of the Asst. City Prosecutor, for the reason that there is
no showing in the record that the private complainant was duly
notified, hence, there is no available witness this morning, the trial
set for today is hereby cancelled and reset on December 2 and 9,
1992 both at 10:30 o'clock in the morning, as previously
scheduled.

Let a subpoena be issued to complainant Corazon [sic] Sta.


Romana-Narciso, the same to be served personally by the Deputy
Sheriff/Process server of this Court.

The accused is notified of this Order in open court.

25
SO ORDERED.

Not obtaining any resolution on her "Motion To Lift Order Allowing Accused
to Post Bail", private complainant filed this petition [before the CA].

As earlier mentioned, the Court of Appeals granted private respondent's Petition


for Certiorari. Hence, this recourse to us via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. 5

The Issues

Petitioner imputes to the Court of Appeals this alleged error:

The Respondent Court of Appeals has erroneously decided


questions of substance, in a manner not in accord with law, the
Rules of Court and applicable jurisprudence, as exemplified in the
decisions of this Honorable Court, when it reversed and set aside
the order of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City which granted
the petitioner his constitutional right to bail, considering the
absence of strong evidence or proof of his guilt, and more
especially when the public prosecutors, who have direct control
of the proceedings and after assessment of the evidence, have
themselves recommended the grant of bail. 6

Respondent, on the other hand, poses the following issues: 7

Whether or not the Respondent Court of Appeals correctly ruled


that the Order of the Regional Trial Court which granted bail to
the petitioner is substantially and procedurally infirm
notwithstanding the absence of any opposition from the public
prosecutor.

Whether or not the private respondent has the legal personality to


intervene in the present criminal case.

To resolve this case, the Court believes that two issues must be taken up;
namely, (1) the validity of the grant of bail and (2) private respondent's
standing to file the Petition before the CA.

The Court's Ruling

The Petition is devoid of merit.

26
First Issue:

Validity of the Grant of Bail

Sec. 13, Article III of the Constitution, provides: "All persons, except those charged
with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong,
shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on
recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall not be impaired
even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. Excessive bail
shall not be required." Furthermore, Section 7, Article 114 of the Rules of Court, as
amended, also provides: "No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense
punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, when evidence of guilt is
strong, shall be admitted to bail regardless of the stage of the criminal
prosecution."

Although petitioner was charged with parricide which is punishable with reclusion
perpetua, he argued before the CA that he was entitled to bail because the
evidence of his guilt was not strong. He contended that the prosecutor's
conformity to his Motion for Bail was tantamount to a finding that the prosecution
evidence against him was not strong.

The Court of Appeals ruled, however, that there was no basis for such finding, since
no hearing had been conducted on the application for bail — summary or
otherwise. The appellate court found that only ten minutes had elapsed between
the filing of the Motion by the accused and the Order granting bail, a lapse of
time that could not be deemed sufficient for the trial court to receive and
evaluate any evidence. We agree with the CA.

Stressing in Basco v. Rapatalo 8 that the judge had the duty to determine whether
the evidence of guilt was strong, the Court held:

When the grant of bail is discretionary, the prosecution has the burden of
showing that the evidence of guilt against the accused is strong. However,
the determination of whether or not the evidence of guilt is strong, being a
matter of judicial discretion, remains with the judge. "This discretion by the
very nature of things, may rightly be exercised only after the evidence is
submitted to the court at the hearing. Since the discretion is directed to
the weight of the evidence and since evidence cannot properly be
weighed if not duly exhibited or produced before the court, it is obvious
that a proper exercise of judicial discretion requires that the evidence of
guilt be submitted to the court, the petitioner having the right of cross
examination and to introduce his own evidence in rebuttal."

Consequently, in the application for bail of a person charged with a


capital offense punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life
imprisonment, a hearing, whether summary or otherwise in the discretion
of the court, must actually be conducted to determine whether or not the

27
evidence of guilt against the accused is strong. "A summary hearing
means such brief and speedy method of receiving and considering the
evidence of guilt as is practicable and consistent with the purpose of
hearing which is merely to determine the weight of evidence for the
purposes of bail. On such hearing, the court does not sit to try the merits or
to enter into any nice inquiry as to the weight that ought to be allowed to
the evidence for or against the accused, nor will it speculate on the
outcome of the trial or on what further evidence may be therein offered
and admitted. The course of inquiry may be left to the discretion of the
court which may confine itself to receiving such evidence as has
reference to substantial matters, avoiding unnecessary thoroughness in
the examination and cross examination." If a party is denied the
opportunity to be heard, there would be a violation of procedural due
process. (Emphasis supplied.)

Jurisprudence is replete with decisions compelling judges to conduct the required


hearings in bail applications, in which the accused stands charged with a capital
offense. The absence of objection from the prosecution is never a basis for the
grant of bail in such cases, for the judge has no right to presume that the
prosecutor knows what he is doing on account of familiarity with the case. "Said
reasoning is tantamount to ceding to the prosecutor the duty of exercising judicial
discretion to determine whether the guilt of the accused is strong. Judicial
discretion is the domain of the judge before whom the petition for provisional
liberty will be decided. The mandated duty to exercise discretion has never been
reposed upon the prosecutor. 9

Imposed in Baylon v. Sison 10 was this mandatory duty to conduct a hearing


despite the prosecution's refusal to adduce evidence in opposition to the
application to grant and fix bail. We quote below the pertinent portion of the
Decision therein:

The importance of a hearing has been emphasized in not a few cases


wherein the Court ruled that even if the prosecution refuses to adduce
evidence or fails to interpose an objection to the motion for bail, it is still
mandatory for the court to conduct a hearing or ask searching questions
from which it may infer the strength of the evidence of guilt, or the lack of
it, against the accused.

In Gimeno v. Arcueno Sr., 11 the Court also held:

The grant of bail is a matter of right except in cases involving capital


offenses when the matter is left to the sound discretion of the court. That
discretion lies, not in the determination whether or not a hearing should be
held but in the appreciation and evaluation of the prosecution's evidence
of guilt against the accused. . . . A hearing is plainly indispensable before
a judge can aptly be said to be in a position to determine whether the
evidence for the prosecution is weak or strong.

28
And in Concerned Citizens v. Elma, 12 the Court ruled:

It is true that the weight of the evidence adduced is addressed to the


sound discretion of the court. However, such discretion may only be
exercised after the hearing called to ascertain the degree of guilt of the
accused for the purpose of determining whether or not he should be
granted liberty.

Basco v. Rapatalo 13 summarized several cases 14 that emphasized the mandatory


character of a hearing in a petition for bail in a capital case. It enunciated the
following duties of the trial judge in such petition.

(1) Notify the prosecutor of the hearing of the application for bail or
require him to submit his recommendation (Section 18, Rule 114 of the
Rules of Court as amended;

(2) Conduct a hearing of the application for bail regardless of whether or


not the prosecution refuses to present evidence to show that the guilt of
the accused is strong for the purpose of enabling the court to exercise its
sound discretion (Sections 7 and 8, supra);

(3) Decide whether the evidence of guilt of the accused is strong based
on the summary of evidence of the prosecution (Baylon v. Sison, supra);

(4) If the guilt of the accused is not strong, discharge the accused upon
the approval of the bailbond. (Section 19, supra). Otherwise, petition
should be denied.

The Court added: "The above-enumerated procedure should now leave no room
for doubt as to the duties of the trial judge in cases of bail applications. So basic
and fundamental is it to conduct a hearing in connection with the grant of bail in
the proper cases that it would amount to judicial apostasy for any member of the
judiciary to disclaim knowledge or awareness thereof."

Additionally, the court's grant or refuse of bail must contain a summary of the
evidence for the prosecution, on the basis of which should be formulated the
judge's own conclusion on whether such evidence is strong enough to indicate the
guilt of the accused. The summary thereof is considered an aspect of procedural
due process for both the prosecution and the defense; its absence will invalidate
the grant or the denial of the application for bail. 15

Clearly, the grant of bail by Executive Judge Santiago was laced with grave abuse
of discretion and the Court of Appeals was correct in reversing him.

Second Issue:

29
Respondent's Standing to File the Petition

Petitioner attacks respondent's legal standing to file the Petition


for Certiorari before the appellate court, maintaining that only the public
prosecutor or the solicitor general may challenge the assailed Order. He
invokes People v.Dacudao 16 which ruled:

. . . A private prosecutor in a criminal case has no authority to act for the


People of the Philippines before this Court. It is the Government's counsel,
the Solicitor General who appears in criminal cases or incidents before the
Supreme Court. At the very least, the Provincial Fiscal himself, with the
conformity of the Solicitor General, should have raised the issue (of
whether or not the prosecution was deprived of procedural due process
on account of the grant of bail to the accused without any hearing on the
motion for bail) before us, instead of the private prosecutor with the
conformity of the Assistant Provincial Fiscal of Cebu.

He also cites Republic v. Partisala 17 which held as follows:

We make it known that only the Solicitor General can bring or defend
actions on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. Henceforth actions
filed in the name of the Republic of the Philippines if not initiated by the
Solicitor General will be summarily dismissed.

Citing the "ends of substantial justice," People v. Calo, 18 however, provided an


exception to the above doctrines in this manner:

While the rule is, as held by the Court of Appeals, only the Solicitor General
may bring or defend actions on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines,
or represent the People or the State in criminal proceedings pending in this
Court and the Court of Appeals (Republic vs. Partisala, 118 SCRA 320
[1982]), the ends of substantial justice would be better served, and the
issues in this action could be determined in a more just, speedy and
inexpensive manner, by entertaining the petition at bar. As an offended
party in a criminal case, private petitioner has sufficient personality and a
valid grievance against Judge Adao's order granting bail to the alleged
murderers of his (private petitioner's) father.

In Paredes vs. Gopengco, 29 SCRA 688 (1969), this Court ruled that the
offended parties in criminal cases have sufficient interest and personality
as "person(s) aggrieved" to file the special civil action of prohibition
and certiorari under Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 65 in line with the underlying
spirit of the liberal construction of the Rules of Court in order to promote
their object, thus:

Furthermore, as offended parties in the pending criminal case


before petitioner judge, it cannot be gainsaid that respondents

30
have sufficient interest and personality as "person(s) aggrieved" by
petitioner judge's ruling on his non-disqualification to file the
special civil action under sections 1 and 2 of Rule 65. Recently, in
line with the underlying spirit of a liberal construction of the Rules
of Court in order to promote their object, as against the literal
interpretation of Rule 110, section 2, we held, overruling the
implication of an earlier case, that a widow possesses the right as
an offended party to file a criminal complaint for the murder of
her deceased husband. (Id., p. 699)

The ends of substantial justice indeed require the affirmation of the appellate
court's ruling on this point. Clearly, the assailed Order of Judge Santiago was issued
in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. A void order is no
order at all. 19 It cannot confer any right or be the source of any relief. This Court is
not merely a court of law; it is likewise a court of justice.

To rule otherwise would leave the private respondent without any recourse to
rectify the public injustice brought about by the trial court's Order, leaving her with
only the standing to file administrative charges for ignorance of the law against
the judge and the prosecutor. A party cannot be left without recourse to address
a substantive issue in law.

Moreover, we agree with the Office of the Solicitor General that "it is too late in the
day for the petitioner to challenge the legal personality of private respondent
considering that it was never disputed by [him] during the preliminary investigation
of the case, in his appeal to the Department of Justice and during the
reinvestigation of the case." 20

Corollary to the question of standing, petitioner submits that even if the exception
were made to apply, private respondent is not an "offended party" who is granted
the right to challenge the assailed RTC Order. He maintains that only the
compulsory heirs of the deceased, who are the accused himself and his minor
child, may file the instant action. We disagree.

It should be remembered that the crime charged against the private respondent is
parricide; hence, the accused cannot be regarded as an offended party. That
would be a contradiction in terms and an absurdity in fact. Nor can one expect
the minor child to think and to act for himself. Hence, we rule that in view of the
peculiar circumstances of this case, the sister of the deceased is a proper party-
litigant who is akin to the "offended party," she being a closer relative of the
deceased. There is no closer kin who may be expected to take up the cudgels of
justice for the deceased.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs
against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

31
G.R. Nos. 99289-90 January 27, 1993

MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO, petitioner,


vs.
CONRADO M. VASQUEZ, Ombudsman; GUALBERTO J. DE LA LLANA, Special
Prosecutor; SANDIGANBAYAN and REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF
MANILA, respondents.

REGALADO, J.:

Filed directly with the Court, ostensibly as an incident in the present special civil
action, is petitioner's so-called "Motion to Restrain the Sandiganbayan from
Enforcing its Hold Departure Order with Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary
Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction, with Motion to Set Pending
Incident for Hearing." Despite the impropriety of the mode adopted in elevating
the issue to us, as will hereinafter be discussed, we will disregard the procedural
gaffe in the interest of an early resolution hereof.

The chronology of events preceding the instant motion is best summarized to


readily provide a clear understanding and perspective of our disposition of this
matter, thus:

1. On May 13, 1991, an information dated May 9, 1991 and docketed as Criminal
Case No. 16698 was filed against petitioner with the Sandiganbayan for alleged
violation of Section 3(e), Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft
and Corrupt Practices Act.

2. On May 14, 1991, an order of arrest was issued in said case against herein
petitioner by Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena of the Sandiganbayan, with
bail for the release of the accused fixed at P15,000.00. 1

3. On even date, petitioner filed an "Urgent Ex-parte Motion for Acceptance of


Cash Bail Bond for and in Behalf of Dr. Miriam Defensor-Santiago," 2 which
pertinently states in part:

3. As a result of the vehicular collision, she suffered extensive physical


injuries which required surgical intervention. As of this time, her injuries,
specifically in the jaw or gum area of the mouth, prevents her to speak
(sic) because of extreme pain. Further, she cannot for an extended
period be on her feet because she is still in physical pain. . . . .

4. On the other hand, the accused Miriam Defensor Santiago seeks


leave of this Honorable Court that she be considered as having placed
herself under the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, for purposes of the
required trial and other proceedings and further seeks leave of this
Honorable Court that the recommended bail bond of P15,000.00 that
she is posting in cash be accepted.

32
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that the bail
bond she is posting in the amount of P15,000.00 be duly accepted, and
that by this motion, she be considered as having placed herself under
the custody of this Honorable Court and dispensing of her personal
appearance for now until such time she will (sic) have recovered
sufficiently from her recent near fatal accident.

Further, on the above basis, it is also respectfully prayed that the warrant
for her arrest be immediately recalled.

4. Also on the same day, the Sandiganbayan issued a resolution 3 authorizing


petitioner to post a cash bond for her provisional liberty without need for her
physical appearance until June 5, 1991 at the latest, unless by that time her
condition does not yet permit her physical appearance before said court. On May
15, 1991, petitioner filed a cash bond in the amount of P15,000.00, aside from the
other legal fees.4

5. On May 21, 1991, respondent Ombudsman Conrado M. Vasquez filed with the
Sandiganbayan a manifestation "that accused Miriam Defensor-Santiago
appeared in his office in the second floor of the Old NAWASA Building located in
Arroceros Street, Ermita, Manila at around 3:30 o'clock in the afternoon of May 20,
1991. She was accompanied by a brother who represented himself to be Atty.
Arthur Defensor and a lady who is said to be a physician. She came and left
unaided, after staying for about fifteen minutes. 5

6. Acting on said manifestation, the Sandiganbayan issued a resolution also on


May 21, 1991, setting the arraignment of the accused for May 27, 1991, and setting
aside the court's resolution of May 14, 1991 which ordered her appearance before
the deputy clerk of the First Division of said court on or before June 5, 1991.6

7. In a motion dated May 22, 1991, petitioner asked that her cash bond be
cancelled and that she be allowed provisional liberty upon a recognizance. She
contended that for her to continue remaining under bail bond may imply to other
people that she has intentions of fleeing, an intention she would like to prove as
baseless.7

8. Likewise on May 24, 1991, petitioner filed with this Court a petition
for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction, and a subsequent
addendum thereto, seeking to enjoin the Sandiganbayan and the Regional Trial
Court of Manila from proceeding with Criminal Cases Nos. 12298 (for violation of
Section 3[e] of Republic Act No. 3019), 91-94555 (violation of Presidential Decree
No. 46), and 91-94897 (for libel), respectively. Consequently, a temporary
restraining order was issued by this Court on May 24, 1991, enjoining the
Sandiganbayan and the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 3, from proceeding
with the criminal cases pending before them. This Court, in issuing said order, took
into consideration the fact that according to petitioner, her arraignment, originally
set for June 5, 1991, was inexplicably advanced to May 27, 1991, hence the

33
advisability of conserving and affording her the opportunity to avail herself of any
remedial right to meet said contingency.

9. On May 27, 1991, the Sandiganbayan issued an order deferring: (a) the
arraignment of petitioner until further advice from the Supreme Court; and (b) the
consideration of herein petitioner's motion to cancel her cash bond until further
initiative from her through counsel.8

10. On January 18, 1992, this Court rendered a decision dismissing the petition
for certiorari and lifting and setting aside the temporary restraining order previously
issued. 9 The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner was eventually denied
with finality in this Court's resolution dated September 10, 1992.

11. Meanwhile, in a resolution adopted on July 6, 1992, the Sandiganbayan issued


a hold departure order against petitioner which reads as follows:

Considering the information in media to the effect that accused


Santiago intends to leave the country soon for an extended stay abroad
for study purposes, considering the recent decision of the Supreme Court
dismissing her petition promulgated on January 13, 1992, although the
same is still subject of a Motion for Reconsideration from the accused,
considering that the accused has not yet been arraigned, nor that she
has not (sic) even posted bail the same having been by reason of her
earlier claim of being seriously indisposed, all of which were overtaken by
a restraining order issued by the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 99289 and
No. 99290 dated May 24, 1991, the accused is ordered not to leave the
country and the Commission on Immigration and Deportation is ordered
not to allow the departure of the accused unless authorized from (sic)
this Court.10

The hold departure order was issued by reason of the announcement made by
petitioner, which was widely publicized in both print and broadcast media, that
she would be leaving for the United States to accept a fellowship supposedly
offered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Petitioner likewise disclosed that she would be addressing Filipino communities in
the United States in line with her crusade against election fraud and other aspects
of graft and corruption.

In the instant motion submitted for our resolution, petitioner argues that:

1. The Sandiganbayan acted without or in excess of jurisdiction and with


grave abuse of discretion in issuing the hold departure order considering
that it had not acquired jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner.

2. The Sandiganbayan blatantly disregarded basic principles of judicial


comity and due deference owing to a superior tribunal when it issued

34
the hold departure order despite the pendency of petitioner's motion for
reconsideration with this Honorable Court.

3. The right to due process of law, the right to travel and the right to
freedom of speech are preferred, pre-eminent rights enshrined not only
in the Constitution but also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
which can be validly impaired only under stringent criteria which do not
obtain in the instant case.

4. The hold departure order in the instant case was issued under
disturbing circumstances which suggest political harassment and
persecution.

5. On the basis of petitioner's creditable career in the bench and bar


and her characteristic transparency and candor, there is no reasonable
ground to fear that petitioner will surreptitiously flee the country to evade
judicial processes.11

I. Petitioner initially postulates that respondent court never acquired jurisdiction


over her person considering that she has neither been arrested nor has she
voluntarily surrendered, aside from the fact that she has not validly posted bail
since she never personally appeared before said court. We reject her thesis for
being factually and legally untenable.

It has been held that where after the filing of the complaint or information a
warrant for the arrest of the accused is issued by the trial court and the accused
either voluntarily submitted himself to the court or was duly arrested, the court
thereby acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused.12 The voluntary
appearance of the accused, whereby the court acquires jurisdiction over his
person, is accomplished either by his pleading to the merits (such as by filing a
motion to quash or other pleadings requiring the exercise of the court's jurisdiction
thereover, appearing for arraignment, entering trial) or by filing bail. On the matter
of bail, since the same is intended to obtain the provisional liberty of the accused,
as a rule the same cannot be posted before custody of the accused has been
acquired by the judicial authorities either by his arrest or voluntary surrender. 13

In the case at bar, it becomes essential, therefore, to determine whether


respondent court acquired jurisdiction over the person of herein petitioner and,
correlatively, whether there was a valid posting of bail bond.

We find and so hold that petitioner is deemed to have voluntarily submitted herself
to the jurisdiction of respondent court upon the filing of her aforequoted
"Urgent Ex-parte Motion for Acceptance of Cash Bail Bond for and in behalf of Dr.
Miriam Defensor-Santiago" wherein she expressly sought leave "that she be
considered as having placed herself under the jurisdiction of (the Sandiganbayan)
for purposes of the required trial and other proceedings," and categorically
prayed "that the bail bond she is posting in the amount of P15,000.00 be duly

35
accepted" and that by said motion "she be considered as having placed herself
under the custody" of said court. Petitioner cannot now be heard to claim
otherwise for, by her own representations, she is effectively estopped from
asserting the contrary after she had earlier recognized the jurisdiction of the court
and caused it to exercise that jurisdiction over the aforestated pleadings she filed
therein.

It cannot be denied that petitioner has posted a cash bail bond of P15,000.00 for
her provisional release as evidenced by Official Receipt No. 4292925 dated May
15, 1991 and which is even attached as Annex C-2 to her own motion now under
consideration. This is further buttressed by the fact that petitioner thereafter also
filed a motion for the cancellation of said cash bond and for the court to allow her
provisional liberty upon the security of a recognizance. With the filing of the
foregoing motions, petitioner should accordingly and necessarily admit her
acquiescence to and acknowledgment of the propriety of the cash bond she
posted, instead of adopting a stance which ignores the injunction for candor and
sincerity in dealing with the courts of justice.

Petitioner would also like to make capital of the fact that she did not personally
appear before respondent court to file her cash bond, thereby rendering the
same ineffectual. Suffice it to say that in this case, it was petitioner herself, in her
motion for the acceptance of the cash bond, who requested respondent court to
dispense with her personal appearance until she shall have recovered sufficiently
from her vehicular accident. It is distressing that petitioner should now turn around
and fault respondent court for taking a compassionate stand on the matter and
accommodating her own request for acceptance of the cash bond posted in her
absence.

II. Petitioner argues that the Sandiganbayan disregarded the rule of judicial comity
when it issued the hold departure order despite the pendency of her motion for
reconsideration of the decision of this Court which dismissed her petition. She
claims that if the principle of judicial comity applies to prevent a court from
interfering with the proceedings undertaken by a coordinate court, with more
reason should it operate to prevent an inferior court, such as the Sandiganbayan,
from interfering with the instant case where a motion for reconsideration was still
pending before this Court. She contends further that the hold departure order
contravenes the temporary restraining order previously issued by this court
enjoining the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the criminal case pending
before it.

It will be remembered that the Court rendered a decision in the present case on
January 18, 1992 dismissing the petition for certiorari filed in this case and lifting and
setting aside the temporary restraining order it previously issued. It is petitioner's
submission that the filing of her motion for reconsideration stayed the lifting of the
temporary restraining order, hence respondent court continued to be enjoined
from acting on and proceeding with the case during the pendency of the motion
for reconsideration. We likewise reject this contention which is bereft of merit.

36
Section 4, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court provides that, unless otherwise ordered by
the court, a judgment in an action for injunction shall not be stayed after its
rendition and before an appeal is taken or during the pendency of an appeal.
And, the rule is that the execution of a judgment decreeing the dissolution of a writ
of preliminary injunction shall not be stayed before an appeal is taken or during
the pendency of an appeal,14 and we see no reason why the foregoing
considerations should not apply to a temporary restraining order. The rationale
therefor is that even in cases where an appeal is taken from a judgment dismissing
an action on the merits, the appeal does not suspend the judgment, hence the
general rule applies that a temporary injunction terminates automatically on the
dismissal of the action.15

It has similarly been held that an order of dissolution of an injunction may be


immediately effective, even though it is not final.16 A dismissal, discontinuance, or
non-suit of an action in which a restraining order or temporary injunction has been
granted operates as a dissolution of the restraining order or temporary
injunction17 and no formal order of dissolution is necessary to effect such
dissolution.18 Consequently, a special order of the court is necessary for the
reinstatement of an injunction.19 There must be a new exercise of .judicial power.20

The reason advanced in support of the general rule has long since been duly
explained, to wit:

. . . The court of this State, relying upon the last of the two clauses
quoted, held that an appeal from an order dissolving an injunction
continued the injunction in force. The evils which would result from such
a holding are forcibly pointed out by Judge Mitchell in a dissenting
opinion. He said: "Although a plaintiff's papers are so insufficient on their
face or so false in their allegations that if he should apply on notice for
an injunction, any court would, on a hearing, promptly refuse to grant
one, yet, if he can find anywhere in the State a judge or court
commissioner who will improvidently grant one ex parte, which the court
on the first and only hearing ever had dissolves, he can, by appealing
and filing a bond, make the ex parte injunction impervious to all judicial
interference until the appeal is determined in this court." . . . Such a result
is so unjust and so utterly inconsistent with all known rules of equity
practice that no court should adopt such a construction unless
absolutely shut up to it by the clear and unequivocal language of the
statute. . . . .21

This ruling has remained undisturbed over the decades and was reiterated in a
case squarely in point and of more recent vintage:

The SEC's orders dated June 27, 1989 and July 21, 1989 (directing the
secretary of UDMC to call a stockholders' meeting, etc.) are not
premature, despite the petitioners then pending motion for
reconsideration of the decision of the Court of Appeals. The lifting by the
Court of Appeals of its writ of preliminary injunction in C.A.-G.R. SP No.

37
17435 cleared the way for the implementation by the SEC's en
banc resolution in SEC EB Case No. 191. The SEC need not wait for the
Court of Appeals to resolve the petitioner's motion for reconsideration for
a judgment decreeing the dissolution of a preliminary injunction is
immediately executory. It shall not be stayed after its rendition and
before an appeal is taken or during the pendency of an appeal. . . . .22

On the bases of the foregoing pronouncements, there is no question that with the
dismissal of the petition for certiorari and the lifting of the restraining order, nothing
stood to hinder the Sandiganbayan from acting on and proceeding with the
criminal cases filed against herein petitioner. At any rate, as we have earlier
mentioned, the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner was denied with
finality in our resolution dated September 10, 1992.

Petitioner further posits, however, that the filing of the instant special civil action
for certiorari divested the Sandiganbayan of its jurisdiction over the case therein.
Whether generated by misconception or design, we shall address this proposition
which, in the first place, had no reason for being and should not hereafter be
advanced under like or similar procedural scenarios.

The original and special civil action filed with this Court is, for all intents and
purposes, an invocation for the exercise of its supervisory powers over the lower
courts. It does not have the effect of divesting the inferior courts of jurisdiction
validly acquired over the case pending before them. It is elementary that the
mere pendency of a special civil action for certiorari, commenced in relation to a
case pending before a lower court, does not even interrupt the course of the latter
when there is no writ of injunction restraining it.23 The inevitable conclusion is that
for as long as no writ of injunction or restraining order is issued in the special civil
action for certiorari, no impediment exists and there is nothing to prevent the lower
court from exercising its jurisdiction and proceeding with the case pending before
it. And, even if such injunctive writ or order is issued, the lower court nevertheless
continues to retain its jurisdiction over the principal action.

III. It is further submitted by petitioner that the hold departure order violates her
right to due process, right to travel and freedom of speech.

First, it is averred that the hold departure order was issued without notice and
hearing. Much is made by petitioner of the fact that there was no showing that a
motion to issue a hold departure order was filed by the prosecution and, instead,
the same was issued ex mero motu by the Sandiganbayan. Petitioner is in error.

Courts possess certain inherent powers which may be said to be implied from a
general grant of jurisdiction, in addition to those expressly conferred on
them.24 These inherent powers are such powers as are necessary for the ordinary
and efficient exercise of jurisdiction;25 or essential to the existence, dignity and
functions of the courts,26 as well as to the due administration of justice;27 or are
directly appropriate, convenient and suitable to the execution of their granted

38
powers;28 and include the power to maintain the court's jurisdiction and render it
effective in behalf of the litigants.29

Therefore, while a court may be expressly granted the incidental powers necessary
to effectuate its jurisdiction, a grant of jurisdiction, in the absence of prohibitive
legislation, implies the necessary and usual incidental powers essential to
effectuate it, and, subject to existing laws and constitutional provisions, every
regularly constituted court has the power to do all things that are reasonably
necessary for the administration of justice within the scope of its jurisdiction. Hence,
demands, matters, or questions ancillary or incidental to, or growing out of, the
main action, and coming within the above principles, may be taken cognizance
of by the court and determined, since such jurisdiction is in aid of its authority over
the principal matter, even though the court may thus be called on to consider
and decide matters which, as original causes of action, would not be within its
cognizance.

Furthermore, a court has the inherent power to make interlocutory orders


necessary to protect its jurisdiction.30 Such being the case, with more reason may a
party litigant be subjected to proper coercive measures where he disobeys a
proper order, or commits a fraud on the court or the opposing party, the result of
which is that the jurisdiction of the court would be ineffectual. What ought to be
done depends upon the particular circumstances. 31

Turning now to the case at bar, petitioner does not deny and, as a matter of fact,
even made a public statement that she had every intention of leaving the country
allegedly to pursue higher studies abroad. We uphold the course of action
adopted by the Sandiganbayan in taking judicial notice of such fact of petitioner's
plan to go abroad and in thereafter issuing sua sponte the hold departure order, in
justified consonance with our preceding disquisition. To reiterate, the hold
departure order is but an exercise of respondent court's inherent power to
preserve and to maintain the effectiveness of its jurisdiction over the case and the
person of the accused.

Second, petitioner asseverates that considering that she is leaving for abroad to
pursue further studies, there is no sufficient justification for the impairment of her
constitutional right to travel; and that under Section 6, Article III of the 1987
Constitution, the right to travel may be impaired only when so required in the
interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by
law.

It will be recalled that petitioner has posted bail which we have declared legally
valid and complete despite the absence of petitioner at the time of filing thereof,
by reason of the peculiar circumstances and grounds hereinbefore enunciated
and which warrant a relaxation of the aforecited doctrine in Feliciano. Perforce,
since under the obligations assumed by petitioner in her bail bond she holds herself
amenable at all times to the orders and processes of the court, she may legally be
prohibited from leaving the country during the pendency of the case. This was the

39
ruling we handed down in Manotoc, Jr. vs. Court of Appeals, et al.,32 to the effect
that:

A court has the power to prohibit a person admitted to bail from leaving
the Philippines. This is a necessary consequence of the nature and
function of a bail bond.

Rule 114, Section 1 of the Rules of Court defines bail as the security
required and given for the release of a person who is in custody of the
law, that he will appear before any court in which his appearance may
be required as stipulated in the bail bond or recognizance.

Its object is to relieve the accused of imprisonment and the state of the
burden of keeping him, pending the trial, and at the same time, to put
the accused as much under the power of the court as if he were in
custody of the proper officer, and to secure the appearance of the
accused so as to answer the call of the court and do what the law may
require of him.

The condition imposed upon petitioner to make himself available at all


times whenever the court requires his presence operates as a valid
restriction on his right to travel. As we have held in People vs. Uy Tuising,
61 Phil. 404 (1935):

. . . the result of the obligation assumed by appellee (surety) to


hold the accused amenable at all times to the orders and
processes of the lower court, was to prohibit said accused from
leaving the jurisdiction of the Philippines, because, otherwise, said
orders and processes will be nugatory, and inasmuch as the
jurisdiction of the courts from which they issued does not extend
beyond that of the Philippines they would have no binding force
outside of said jurisdiction.

Indeed, if the accused were allowed to leave the Philippines without


sufficient reason, he may be placed beyond the reach of the courts.

This was reiterated in a more recent case where we held:

Petitioner thus theorizes that under the 1987 Constitution, Courts can
impair the right to travel only on the grounds of "national security, public
safety, or public health."

The submission is not well taken.

Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution should be interpreted to


mean that while the liberty of travel may be impaired even without

40
Court Order, the appropriate executive officers or administrative
authorities are not armed with arbitrary discretion to impose limitations.
They can impose limits only on the basis of "national security, public
safety, or public health" and "as may be provided by law," a limitive
phrase which did not appear in the 1973 text (The Constitution, Bernas,
Joaquin, G., S.J., Vol. I, First Edition, 197, p. 263). Apparently, the
phraseology in the 1987 Constitution was a reaction to the ban on
international travel imposed under the previous regime when there was
a Travel Processing Center, which issued certificates of eligibility to travel
upon application of an interested party (See Salonga v. Hermoso &
Travel Processing Center, No. 53622, 25 April 1980, 97 SCRA 121).

Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution should by no means be


construed as delimiting the inherent power of the Courts to use all means
necessary to carry their orders into effect in criminal cases pending
before them. When by law jurisdiction is conferred on a Court or judicial
officer, all auxiliary writs, processes and other means necessary to carry it
into effect may be employed by such Court or officer (Rule 135, Section
6, Rules of Court).

. . . Holding an accused in a criminal case within the reach of the Courts


by preventing his departure from the Philippines must be considered as a
valid restriction on his right to travel so that he may be dealt with in
accordance with law. The offended party in any criminal proceeding is
the People of the Philippines. It is to their best interest that criminal
prosecutions should run their course and proceed to finality without
undue delay, with an accused holding himself amenable at all times to
Court Orders and processes.33

One final observation. We discern in the proceedings in this case a propensity on


the part of petitioner, and, for that matter, the same may be said of a number of
litigants who initiate recourses before us, to disregard the hierarchy of courts in our
judicial system by seeking relief directly from this Court despite the fact that the
same is available in the lower courts in the exercise of their original or concurrent
jurisdiction, or is even mandated bylaw to be sought therein. This practice must be
stopped, not only because of the imposition upon the precious time of this Court
but also because of the inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in
the adjudication of the case which often has to be remanded or referred to the
lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better
equipped to resolve the issues since this Court is not a trier of facts. We, therefore,
reiterate the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless
the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where
exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within
and calling for the exercise of our primary jurisdiction.

For the guidance of the bench and the bar, we elucidate that such policy
includes the matter of petitions or motions involving hold departure orders of the
trial or lower courts. Parties with pending cases therein should apply for permission

41
to leave the country from the very same courts which, in the first instance, are in
the best position to pass upon such applications and to impose the appropriate
conditions therefor since they are conversant with the facts of the cases and the
ramifications or implications thereof. Where, as in the present case, a hold
departure order has been issued ex parte or motu propio by said court, the party
concerned must first exhaust the appropriate remedies therein, through a motion
for reconsideration or other proper submissions, or by the filing of the requisite
application for travel abroad. Only where all the conditions and requirements for
the issuance of the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus
indubitably obtain against a disposition of the lower courts may our power of
supervision over said tribunals be invoked through the appropriate petition
assailing on jurisdictional or clearly valid grounds their actuations therein.

WHEREFORE, with respect to and acting on the motion now before us for
resolution, the same is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE

G.R. No. 132926 July 20, 2001

ELVIRA AGULLO, petitioner,


vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

BUENA, J.:

Charged with, tried and convicted in Criminal Case No. 13579 for malversation of
public funds, herein petitioner Elvira Agullo, erstwhile Disbursing Officer of the then
Ministry of Public Works and Highways (MPWH), Regional Office No. VIII,
Candahug, Palo, Leyte, now comes before the High Court to assail the
Decision1 of the Sandiganbayan promulgated on 16 March 1992, and its
Resolution dated 11 March 1998, denying petitioner’s motion for
reconsideration2 but reducing the penalty imposed on petitioner as follows:

"WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Elvira S. Agullo guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Malversation of Public Funds, defined
and penalized under Article 217, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code.
[There being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances, no
evidence having been adduced respecting partial or full restitution of the
amount malversed,] Considering the absence of any aggravating
circumstances and her full restitution by salary deduction, the accused
Elvira S. Agullo should be, as she is, hereby sentenced to the indeterminate
penalty of, from TEN (10) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION MAYOR, as

42
MINIMUM; to [EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS AND ONE (1) DAY
OF RECLUSION TEMPORAL] SEVENTEEN (17) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and
ONE (1) DAY of RECLUSION TEMPORAL, AS MAXIMUM, with the accessory
penalties of the law; to pay a fine in the sum of P26,404.26 without
subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; to suffer the penalty of
Perpetual Special Disqualification and to pay the costs." (Emphasis ours)

In an information3 dated 30 September 1988, herein petitioner was charged with


the crime of malversation of public funds, committed as follows:

"That on or about the period October 22, 1985 to July 14, 1986, inclusive or
within said dates in the Municipality of Palo, Province of Leyte, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, being then the disbursing officer of then Ministry of Public Works
and Highways, Regional Office No. VIII, Candahug, Palo, Leyte, charged
with the official custody of public funds thus paid, collected and received
by her in her official capacity, and by reason of which duties she is
accountable thereof, taking advantage of her official position, did then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, convert and
misappropriate for her own personal use and benefit the public funds she
had in her possession in the amount of Twenty Six Thousand Four Hundred
Four Pesos and 26/100 (P26,404.26), belonging to the government of the
Republic of the Philippines, to the damage and prejudice of the latter in
the aforestated amount.

"Contrary to law."

Upon arraignment, herein petitioner Agullo, assisted by counsel de officio Antonio


Manzano, pleaded not guilty4 to the charge, after which the Sandiganbayan
conducted a pre-trial on 11 February 1990 and issued the following Pre-Trial Order:5

"When this case was called for pre-trial, the accused personally and
through her counsel Atty. Antonio Manzano of the CLAO readily entered
into stipulations insofar as her official position in government as well as
the fact of audit of her accounts are concerned, including therewith the
admission that, in all respects the Cash Production Notice and the
Examination of her Cash and Accounts which the government marked as
Exhibit ‘A’ was faithful reproduction of the original, and insofar as the
contents thereof are concerned, are correct. The accused likewise
admitted that she had received a letter of demand, said letter dated July
14, 1986 marked as exhibit ‘B’. With this the accused stated that
her defense was premised on her having suffered a stroke on October 22,
1985 as a result of which the amount subject of the shortage found in her
audit had been lost.

"The accused also indicated that not only had she immediately replied to
the letter by various communications by her or in her behalf protesting the
withholding of various amounts due her by way of salaries on the premise

43
that the loss of the amount subject matter of the Information was not
chargeable to her as a personal liability. The accused has likewise
informed the Court that prior to the incident on October 22, 1985, she had
been audited on May 27, 1985 and, after the incident, on December 23,
1985 although she concedes she was also audited on July 14, 1986.

"Considering that all the documents necessary for the defense of the
accused are still to be organized, Atty. Manzano is given ten (10) days
from today within which to prepare a proposal for stipulations of facts and,
if that is not possible, at least a complete outline of his case together with
the marking of the documents he wishes to present which the prosecution
might not admit as to the substance thereof though the genuineness of
the documents presented might be conceded.

"With the above, the prosecution may now rest its case and the
presentation of the evidence for the defense may take place on April 5
and 6, and May 17 and 18, 1990, at 8:00 o’ clock in the morning and 2:00
o’ clock in the afternoon.

"The setting for tomorrow is cancelled.

"SO ORDERED." (Emphasis ours)

As borne by the records, the charge of malversation against petitioner germinated


from an audit conducted on 14 July 1986 by Ignacio Gerez, Auditing Examiner III,
as a result of which a P26,404.26 cash shortage was discovered on petitioner’s
accountability. On the same date, Gerez informed petitioner of said finding of
cash shortage and required the latter, through a letter of demand,6 to "produce
immediately the missing funds." Further, petitioner was required to submit within 72
hours from receipt a written explanation of the cash shortage.

In a letter7 dated 25 August 1986, addressed to the Resident Auditor of the MPWH,
petitioner complied with the directive by explaining that the cash shortage was, in
effect, due to a "fortuitous event" where the amount could have been
stolen/taken by somebody on the day she suffered a stroke on 22 October 1985,
near the corner of Juan Luna Street and Imelda Avenue, Tacloban City.

In the course of the pre-trial, petitioner Agullo conceded the fact of audit and
admitted8 the findings in the Report of Cash Examination and the facts set forth in
the Letter of Demand. In effect, she admitted the fact of shortage in the amount
stated in the Information. Notwithstanding, petitioner Agullo, at all stages of the
criminal indictment, persistently professed her innocence of the charge and
categorically denied having malversed or converted the public funds in question
for her own personal use or benefit.9

With petitioner’s admission of the fact of cash shortage, the prosecution then
rested its case.10 For its part, the defense, in its bid to overturn the presumption of

44
malversation and shatter the prima facie evidence of conversion, offered the
testimony of the following witnesses: petitioner Elvira Agullo; Rene Briones Austero,
Cashier III of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Region VIII;
and Engracia Camposano-Camaoy, Barangay Captain of Hinabuyan, Dagame,
Leyte.

During trial, the defense offered to present the testimony of witness Austero for the
purpose of proving that an amount equal to P26,722.0511 was withheld from the
salary and other compensation of petitioner Agullo. Further, the defense offered
the testimony of witness Barangay Captain Camaoy for the purpose of establishing
that "the accused suffered a heart attack (stroke) on October 22, 1985; that on
June 30, 1986, the accused informed her that the accused lost the money for
which she (was being) subjected to criminal prosecution x x x; and that between
October 22, 1985 and June 30, 1986, there had been no demand upon the
accused to produce the money for which she was declared short."12

Additionally, the defense presented the following documentary evidence,13 all of


which were admitted by the Sandiganbayan:

"Exhibit ‘1’ – Letter dated 25 August 1986 by accused to the Resident


Auditor MPWH, Regional Office No. 8, Candahug, Palo, Leyte;

"Exhibit ‘2’ – Letter dated 22 August 1987 by accused to Engr. Alfredo P.


Torres, Regional Director;

"Exhibit ‘3’ – Medical Certificate dated 05 August 1986, issued by Dr. Juan
T. Abando, M.D., St. Paul’s Hospital, Tacloban City;

"Exhibit ‘3-A’ – Verified Medical Certificate dated 19 January 1986, issued


by Dr. Juan Abando, notarized on page 02;

"Exhibit ‘4’ – Letter dated 26 December 1986 by accused to the Regional


Director;

"Exhibit ‘5’ – Letter dated 19 February 1987 to the Regional Director by Atty.
Eric T. De Veyra;

"Exhibit ‘6’ – Letter dated 15 April 1987 by accused to the Regional


Director;

"Exhibit ‘7’ – Letter dated 01 September 1987 of Director Alfredo Torres of


DPWH to the Regional Director COA;

"Exhibit ‘8’ – Letter of Accused dated 26 November 1987;

"Exhibit ‘9’ – Affidavit of accused Elvira Agullo;

45
"Exhibit ‘10’ – Affidavit of witness Engracia Camaoy;

"Exhibit ‘11’ – Letter-Request dated 04 May 1988 of accused to the


Regional Director;

"Exhibit ‘12’ – Certification by Mauricio Pacatang;

"Exhibit ‘13’ – Protest of accused against the appointment of Sylvia de la


Rosa;

"Exhibit ‘14’ – Letter dated 25 February 1987 to the Manager, Employees


Compensation Department, GSIS, Metro Manila;

"Exhibit ‘15’ – Initial Approval of the Employees Compensation


Department, GSIS;

"Exhibit ‘16’ – Hospitalization Claim for payment of accused;

"Exhibit ‘17’ – Report of Injury signed and approved by Pablo P. Burgos,


Regional Engineering Coordinator and Head of Office;

"Exhibit ‘18’ – Certification issued by PNB Tacloban, thru its Asst. Manager
B.L. Telmo;

"Exhibit ‘19’ – Memorandum to accused dated 02 April 1984;

"Exhibit ‘20’ – Memorandum dated 05 May 1990."

At the witness stand, petitioner Agullo unrelentingly maintained her innocence and
vehemently denied the accusation against her. Thus, according to petitioner, in
the morning of 21 October 1985, she reported for work and prepared an inventory
of her cash accountability14 as Disbursing Officer15 of the MPWH Regional Office,
Candahug, Palo, Leyte. On the same day, petitioner received around thirteen (13)
checks in the form of cash advances in her name totaling P26,076.87,16 which
amount represented salaries of MPWH officials and employees.

Around 1:30 PM, petitioner, together with Benjamin Veridiano, driver of MPWH
Finance and Management Division, proceeded to the Philippine National Bank
(PNB) Tacloban City Branch, on board the MPWH official vehicle, to encash the
aforesaid checks. Upon encashment of the checks, petitioner then put the money
inside a PNB envelope which she further placed in her bag. From the PNB,
petitioner-- who boarded the official vehicle driven by Veridiano for the purpose of
proceeding further to the MPWH Regional Office—felt dizziness, chest pain and
nausea. As a result of her condition, petitioner Agullo requested driver Veridiano to
drop her off at petitioner’s residence located at 109 Juan Luna Street-- about half
a kilometer away from the PNB.17

46
In the morning of the following day, 22 October 1985, petitioner – upon realizing
that it was then the third-week payday of the month, and burdened with the
thought that she failed to give the salary of the permanent employees – strove to
report for work despite her weak physical condition. Petitioner Agullo testified that
she left her residence alone and brought with her the bag containing the money
which she encashed the previous day from the PNB.18

Upon leaving the house with the money inside her bag, she walked the stretch of
Juan Luna Street and was able to reach almost the corner of Juan Luna and
Imelda Avenue19 a distance of around 50 meters away from her residence20 when
she was stricken with deep chest pain21 and experienced dizziness; her vision
blurred and "the right part of (her) body (became) heavy" to the point that she
"could not move anymore." At this point, she collapsed and lost consciousness.22

In the afternoon of the same day, she found herself in a hospital bed of St. Paul’s
Hospital located about a block away from petitioner’s residence. Upon inquiry, she
was informed that a certain Metro Tacloban Aide by the name of Teresa Lorenzo
came to her rescue when she fainted, assisted in rushing her to the hospital, and
informed her family about Agullo’s dire condition and the unfortunate event that
befell her.23 Petitioner was confined in St. Paul’s Hospital for over a week – from 22
October 1985 to 01 November 198524 - under the care of her attending physician,
Dr. Juan Abando, who issued the corresponding Medical Certificate pregnant with
the following findings:

"X X X Hypertension complicated with Cerebro Vascular Accident (CVA),


Rt. Hemiparesis and Urinary Infection.

"Condition started apparently 20 hrs. before admission as moderate


headache and dizziness, associated with blurring of vision and nausea.
Fifteen hrs. prior to admission, she felt weakness of her right half of her
body and slurring of speech. Had history of high blood pressure taken last
April 1985. B/P= 190/120. On admission B/P= was 230/120; PR= 83/min.; RR=
20/min.

"Pertinent findings: conscious, coherent, slurred speech, rt. Hemiplegia.

"Diagnosis: = Malignant hypertension.

= CVA with Right Hemiplegia.

= Urinary Tract Infection."

As to petitioner’s medical history and physical condition after her stroke, the
Sandiganbayan, in its decision, observed from the records:

47
"X X X In the past, the accused had likewise suffered a stroke and had
undergone medical treatment. A medical certificate, marked as Exhibits
"3" and "3-A", attest(s) to the fact that she had a history of high blood
pressure and had been undergoing treatment for the said malady. Since
her sudden breakdown on October 22, 1985, the right part of her body
became paralyzed and her speech has been impaired. She was advised
by her doctor to undergo physical therapy and to take medicine
regularly. She was advised not to report for work during such time that she
was under recuperation. Only on February 2, 1986 did she start to report
for work, although at irregular intervals, until the date of the audit, July 14,
1986."

Striking down the defense as "incredible and without basis," the Sandiganbayan
rendered its assailed decision, convicting petitioner Agullo of the crime of
malversation of public funds, ratiocinating principally that "no evidence has been
presented linking the loss of the government funds with the alleged sudden heart
attack of the accused (herein petitioner)."

We do not agree.

By and large, the pieces of evidence presented against petitioner in this case do
not fulfill the test of moral certainty and may not be deemed sufficient to support a
conviction.25 Records reveal that evidence for the prosecution consisted solely of
the Report of Cash Examination,26 dated 14 July 1986, which was presented by the
prosecution to prove the cash shortage in the amount of P26,404.26, on petitioner
Agullo’s accountability as Disbursing Officer of the then MPWH. Likewise, the
prosecution presented the Letter of Demand27 dated 14 July 1986 signed by
Auditing Examiner III Ignacio Gerez.

Aside from the aforementioned documents, the prosecution opted not to present
a single witness to buttress its bid for conviction and relied merely on the prima
facie evidence of conversion or presumption of malversationunder Article 217,
paragraph (4) of the Revised Penal Code, to wit:

"ART. 217. Malversation of public funds or property—Presumption of


malversation—

X X X "The failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public


funds or property with which he is chargeable, upon demand by any duly
authorized officer, shall be prima facie evidence that he has put such
missing funds or property to personal uses."

Stated otherwise, the evidence for the prosecution, upon which the
Sandiganbayan riveted its judgment of conviction, was limited to documents to
wit, the Report of Cash Examination and Letter of Demand. As could be readily
gleaned from the assailed decision, the verdict adjudging herein petitioner guilty
of the crime of malversation was anchored solely on the presumption provided

48
under Article 217, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, which prima
facie evidence, in turn, was rooted loosely on the documentary evidence
presented by the prosecution, to wit; the Report of Cash Examination and Letter of
Demand—pieces of evidence which the defense concededly admitted, but
which, to our mind, do not suffice to convict the petitioner beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime charged.

Thus, in a string of categorical pronouncements, this Court has consistently and


emphatically ruled that the presumption of conversion incarnated in Article 217,
paragraph (4) of the Revised Penal Code is — by its very nature — rebuttable. To
put it differently, the presumption under the law is not conclusive but disputable
by satisfactory evidence to the effect that the accused did not utilize the public
funds or property for his personal use, gain or benefit.

Accordingly, if the accused is able to present adequate evidence that can nullify
any likelihood that he had put the funds or property to personal use, then that
presumption would be at an end and the prima facie case is effectively negated.
This Court has repeatedly said that when the absence of funds is not due to the
personal use thereof by the accused, the presumption is completely destroyed; in
fact, the presumption is never deemed to have existed at all.28

Applying the foregoing principle, the prosecution in the instant case upon whose
burden, as in Diaz vs. Sandiganbayan,29 was laden the task of establishing by proof
beyond reasonable doubt that petitioner had committed the offense charged,
mainly relied on the statutory presumption aforesaid and failed to present any
substantial piece of evidence to indicate that petitioner had used the funds for
personal gain.

Worth noting is that the Sandiganbayan, in its impugned decision, admitted


that "conversion or the placing of malversed government funds to personal uses
has, indeed, not been proven in the case at bar.30" Perhapsrealizing such gaping
hole, the Sandiganbayan nonetheless leaped into the conclusion, albeit
erroneous, that herein petitioner was just the same guilty of malversation invoking
the prima facie evidence stated in Article 217, paragraph (4) of the Revised Penal
Code.

On this score, the rule of general application is that the factual findings of the
Sandiganbayan are conclusive on this court. However, such rule admits of settled
exceptions, among others: (1) the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on
speculation, surmise and conjectures; (2) the inference made is manifestly
mistaken; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on
misapprehension of facts; and (5) the findings of fact of the Sandiganbayan are
premised on a want of evidence and are contradicted by evidence on record.31

On this matter, the Sandiganbayan’s conclusion that "there is no evidence to show


that the accused was then carrying the sum of P26,404.26 in her person when she
allegedly collapsed at Juan Luna Street, Tacloban City," is to say the least, without
factual basis and not duly supported by evidence. On the stark contrary, the

49
records are extant, as petitioner Agullo, in fact, testified on the witness stand that
she had the money with her when she suffered a stroke and collapsed on the
streets of Tacloban City on 22 October 1985. Records likewise reveal that the
amount of P327.39, which is the difference between P26,404.26 32 and
P26,076.87,33 represents the salary of Mr. Alcober, Jr., Administrative Officer of the
DPWH in Candahug, who made a telephone call to petitioner for the latter to
bring the sum of P327.39, together with the payroll.

In the case before us, the Sandiganbayan undoubtedly disregarded or overlooked


certain evidence of substance which, to a large extent, bear considerable weight
in the adjudication of petitioner’s guilt or the affirmation of her constitutional right
to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Upon thorough scrutiny of the evidence adduced by both prosecution and


defense, we hold that petitioner Agullo has satisfactorily overcome and rebutted
by competent proof, the prima facie evidence of conversion so as to exonerate
her from the charge of malversation. To this end, petitioner presented evidence
that satisfactorily prove that not a single centavo of the missing funds was used for
her own personal benefit or gain.

True enough, the evidence adduced by the defense reveals sufficient


circumstances to establish the strongest degree of probability that the public funds
subject of the criminal indictment for malversation was lost during that fateful day
of 22 October 1985, where petitioner Agullo suffered a stroke on the streets of
Tacloban City as she was then on her way to the MPWH Regional Office.

In fact, the records though insensate, clearly reveal that the prosecution admitted
that petitioner suffered a stroke on the streets of Tacloban on 22 October 1985. As
to the prosecution’s allegation that no evidence exists regarding loss of the public
funds, this postulation is belied by the records as petitioner herself testified on the
stand that she had the money subject of inquiry when she collapsed and lost
consciousness as a result of the stroke.

To us, this circumstance – coupled with the other peculiarities attendant in the
instant case and further considering the palpable failure of the prosecution to
adduce other evidence to clearly establish conversion – "suffice to make the mind
uneasy as to Agullo’s guilt, notwithstanding the prima facie evidence established
by law against herein petitioner, which by no means dispenses with the need of
proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt."34 After all, mere absence of funds is not
sufficient proof of conversion. Neither is the mere failure of the accused to turn
over the funds at any given time sufficient to make even a prima facie case.
Conversion must be affirmatively proved, either by direct evidence or by the
production of facts from which conversion necessarily follows.35

Truly, these serve as strong considerations that seriously impair the basis upon
which is founded the legal presumption of personal misappropriation of money or
property of accountable officers who fail to have forthcoming, such money or
property when so demanded by a duly authorized official.36 Verily, a finding

50
of prima facie evidence of accountability does not shatter the presumptive
innocence the accused enjoys because, before prima facieevidence arises,
"certain facts [have still to be] proved"; the trial court cannot depend alone on
such an evidence, because precisely, it is merely prima facie. It must still satisfy that
the accused is guilty—beyond reasonable doubt—of the offense charged. Neither
can it rely on the weak defense the latter may adduce.37

Notably, the Sandiganbayan, in convicting petitioner, obviously relied more on the


flaws and deficiencies in the evidence presented by the defense, not on the
strength and merit of the prosecution’s evidence.38 This course of action is
impermissible for the evidence of the prosecution clearly cannot sustain a
conviction "in an unprejudiced mind."39

All told, this Court, through the scholarly ponencia of Mr. Justice Isagani Cruz
in People vs. De Guzman,40 inked in vivid prose the premium accorded to the right
of an accused to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, to wit:

"The constitutional presumption of innocence is not an empty platitude


meant only to embellish the Bill of Rights. Its purpose is to balance the
scales in what would otherwise be an uneven contest between the lone
individual pitted against the People of the Philippines and all the resources
at their command. Its inexorable mandate is that, for all the authority and
influence of the prosecution, the accused must be acquitted and set free
if his guilt cannot be proved beyond the whisper of doubt."

Hence, in light of the satisfactory explanation proffered by the defense and in view
of the impotency of the prosecution’s evidence, petitioner’s constitutional right to
be presumed innocent necessarily thrives. Corollarily, the prima facie evidence of
conversion in the instant case, withers, so to speak, like a petrified twig wilted in the
scorching heat of the noonday sun.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is granted. ACCORDINGLY,


the decision of respondent Sandiganbayan dated 16 March 1992 and its
Resolution dated 18 March 1998, are hereby REVERSED and SETASIDE. Petitioner
Elvira Agullo is hereby ACQUITTED on grounds of reasonable doubt.

MOREOVER, the DPWH is hereby directed to refund petitioner the sum of Three
Hundred Seventeen Pesos and Seventy Nine Centavos (P317.79) representing the
amount overdeducted from petitioner’s salary, cost of living allowance and other
emoluments.1âwphi1.nêt

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 113804 January 16, 1998

51
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
SERGIO BATO and ABRAHAM BATO, accused,

ABRAHAM BATO, accused-appellant.

PANGANIBAN, J.:

In the absence of an eyewitness, the guilt of an accused may be established by


circumstantial evidence. Such evidence, however, must still pass the test of moral
certainty. When inadequate and uncorroborated, circumstantial evidence cannot
sustain a conviction. Specifically, where the state's evidence does not constitute
an unbroken chain leading beyond reasonable doubt to the guilt of the accused,
the constitutional presumption of innocence prevails and the accused is entitled
to an acquittal.

The Case

This postulate is applied by this Court in reversing the Decision of the Court of
Appeals 1 finding Sergio and Abraham Bato guilty of murder and sentencing them
to reclusion perpetua.

In an Information dated July 7, 1989, Leyte Provincial Prosecutor Joventino P. Isidro


charged the brothers Bato with murder allegedly committed as follows:

That on or about the 9th day of May, 1988 in the Municipality of


Pastrana, Province of Leyte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating
and mutually helping each other, with intent to kill, with treachery and
evident premeditation and taking advantage of superior strength, did
then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, stab
and wound one Ernesto Flores, Sr. with deadly weapons locally known as
"sundang" which the accused had provided themselves for the purpose,
thereby hitting and inflicting upon said Ernesto Flores, Sr. several wounds
on the different parts of his body which wounds caused his death.2

Contrary to law.

On January 15, 1990, the accused were arraigned in the Waray dialect which they
understood and spoke. Assisted by Counsel Benjamin Pore, both pleaded not
guilty.3 After due trial, the trial court 4 rendered a decision, 5 the dispositve portion
of which reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court finds each of the accused Abraham and Sergio,
both surnamed "Bato" GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Murder penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. With the

52
abolition of the capital punishment in the 1987 Constitution, the penalty
of Murder should now be Reclusion Temporal in its maximum period
to Reclusion Perpetua. In the absence of any modifying circumstances,
the penalty imposable is in its medium period or from EIGHTEEN (18)
YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY TO TWENTY (20) YEARS.

Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, they are each imposed the
penalty of TEN (10) YEARS AND ONE (1) DAY OF Prision Mayor as minimum
to EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of Reclusion
Temporal as maximum with all the accessory penalties provided by law,
to indemnify jointly and severally the heirs of the deceased Ernesto
Flores, Sr. in the sum of P50,000 and to pay the corresponding costs. 6

Both accused appealed to the Court of Appeals. On January 26, 1994, the said
Court promulgated the assailed Decision affirming their guilt and increasing the
penalty to reclusion perpetua in view of this Court's rulings in People vs. Benitez,
Jr. 7 and People vs. Muñoz 8. Pursuant to Section 13, Rule 124 of the Rules of
Court,9 the appellate court, instead of entering judgment, certified the case to the
Supreme Court in this wise:

WHEREFORE, since the crime for which the appellants were charged, tried
and convicted is Murder, the penalty provided for by law is reclusion
perpetua, within the power of the Supreme Court to review, revise,
reverse, modify or affirm on appeal or certiorari (sec. 5-(2)-(d), Art. 8,
1987 Const.), this criminal case is hereby certified to the Supreme
Court. 10

In a Resolution dated June 29, 1994, this Court First Division) informed the parties
that they may file additional briefs. Conformably, the parties complied with said
Resolution within the extended period granted them. 11

On July 28, 1994, during the pendency of the appeal, Sergio Bato died at the Leyte
Regional Prison due to cardio-respiratory arrest secondary to acute
beriberi. 12 Death before a final judgment extinguishes both the criminal and the
civil liability (ex delicto) of an accused. 13 Hence, this Decision pertains only to the
appeal of Abraham Bato.

The Facts

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution presented two witnesses, namely: Ernesto Flores, Jr., 14 son of the
victim, and Dr. Virisimo Opiniano 15 who conducted the autopsy. The prosecution's
version of the facts was summarized by the solicitor general as follows:

On May 9, 1988 at about three o'clock in the afternoon, Ernesto Flores, Jr.
together with his father Ernesto Flores, Sr., were going home from

53
Barangay Tingib, Pastrana, Leyte to San Agustin, Jaro, Leyte. While
passing by Barangay Hibucawan, they were called by the two
appellants, Abraham and Sergio, both surnamed Bato, to join them in a
drinking spree in the house of Paran Lescabo, which Ernesto, Sr.
accepted. Ernesto, Jr. sat about two (2) meters away from his father while
the latter joined appellants for two hours drinking tuba. When his father
was already drunk, appellants tied him (father) with his hands placed at
the back. Later, he saw appellants bring his father to somewhere else.
Seeing his father being held, he ran away, as he was afraid he would
also be taken by appellants (tsn, 6-18-90, pp. 3-10).

It was only the following morning that they found his father already dead
at the Binaha-an River, five kilometers away from the place where he last
saw him in the previous afternoon. He immediately reported the incident
to the Barangay Captain of Barangay Tingib. The latter informed the
police department about the incident. Many policemen responded and
the dead body of his father was brought to the Municipal Building of
Pastrana, Leyte (tsn, 6-18-0, pp. 10-11).

At the Municipal Building of Pastrana, Leyte, the Municipal Health Officer,


Dr. Virisimo Opiniano, conducted the autopsy on the body of the
deceased Ernesto Flores, Sr. He found that the deceased sustained five
hacking and seven stab wounds. The cause of death is shock, secondary
to a hacking and almost decapitating wound (Exhibit "A" and "B"). 16

Version of the Defense

On the other hand, the accused raised the defense of denial. They maintained that
their identification as the alleged perpetrators of Ernesto's murder was merely an
afterthought, necessitated by a dearth of strong evidence on the part of the
prosecution. They presented as witness Pfc. Benjamin Montanejos, 17 who affirmed
that the entry he made in the police blotter 18 did not mention the accused as
suspects in the crime. He further testified that it was the barangay captain who
reported the incident to the police, contradicting Ernesto Jr. who claimed that he
did so. 19

Ruling of the Trial and the Appellate Courts

The trial court ruled that the prosecution witness, Ernesto Jr., positively identified the
accused who invited him and his father for a drink. He witnessed how they tied the
hands of Ernesto Sr. before they took him away. That the police blotter failed to
state the names of the assailants did not negate appellant's participation in the
slaying. Further, the entry was based on the information relayed not by the witness
himself but by the barangay chairman, who had not witnessed the incident. 20 The
trial court further appreciated the aggravating circumstance of treachery.

54
The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the trial court and further declared that
the totality of the prosecution evidence "constitute[d] more than sufficient
incriminatory and inculpatory circumstances" to reach the conclusion that the
appellants killed the victim. The appellate court declared:

Ernesto's testimony is clear. He pointed to and positively identified


Abraham Bato and Sergio Bato as the persons who invited his father to
drink with them while he and his father passed by Barangay Hibucawan.
His father accepted the invitation and[,] with them for two hours[,] drank
tuba at the house of Lescabo. All the while, Ernesto sat there about two
meters away from his father. He saw his father drunk, and, under that
condition, also saw Abraham and Sergio tied [sic] his father's hand with a
rope and placed [sic] them at the back, then they brought him away
with them, to what direction, "I do not know because I ran as I was also
afraid" as "they might bring me also." He learned of his father's death on
the following day, that they found him at the Binaha-an River, about 5
kilometers away from the house of Paran Lescabo. Ernesto added on
cross-examination that after his father was taken by the duo, he went
homeward, arrived there at about 6:00 p.m., told the incident to his
mother, then they slept and that "it was only the following morning when
they look [sic] for his father"; that he and his mother reported the incident
to the Barangay Captain of Tingib, and together with barangay captain,
they found his father dead at the Binaha-an River, and then they
reported the incident to the police authorities. 21

Like the trial court, the appellate court found that Ernesto Jr. "positively identified"
the Bato brothers as the killers of his father could not have been mistaken, as he
had known them long before the commission of the offense, a fact not rebutted by
the defense.

The Court of Appeals further opined that it was a natural human behavior for
Ernesto Jr. to get frightened and to wait for daybreak before looking for his father
and reporting the incident to the authorities. The appellate court noted that it was
nighttime when Ernesto Jr. reached home, and that he did not know where to look
for his father.

Assignment of Errors

In their brief 22 before the Court of Appeals, the accused assigned the following
errors: 23

I. The lower court erred in finding that there was positive


identification of the accused-appellants.

II. The lower court erred in finding that accused-appellants


employed treachery in the commission of the offense.

55
In his additional brief 24 submitted before this Court, Appellant Abraham Bato
further contends that the appellate tribunal gravely erred in increasing to reclusion
perpetua the penalty imposed by the trial court.

This Court's Ruling

Pursuant to the doctrine that appeals involving reclusion perpetua are subject to a
review de novo, this Court pored over the entire records of both lower courts and
concluded, after careful deliberation, that the appellant is entitled to an acquittal.
The circumstantial evidence adduced by the prosecution fails to evoke moral
certainty that appellant is guilty.

Circumstantial Evidence Palpably Insufficient

The conviction of Appellant Abraham Bato is based on circumstantial evidence


gleaned from the sole testimony of the son of the deceased. True, in the absence
of direct proof, a conviction may be based on circumstantial evidence, 25 but to
warrant such conviction, the following requisites must concur: (1) there is more
than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are
proven; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a
conviction beyond reasonable doubt.26

Hence, it has been held that a judgment of conviction based on circumstantial


evidence can be upheld only if the circumstances proven constitute an unbroken
chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion, to the exclusion of any other,
that the accused are guilty. The circumstances proved must be concordant with
each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and, at the
same time, inconsistent with any hypothesis other than that of guilt. 27 As a
corollary to the constitutional precept that the accused is presumed innocent until
the contrary is proved, a conviction based on circumstantial evidence must
exclude each and every hypothesis consistent with his
innocence. 28

Prosecution's Main
Evidence Circumstantial

Aside from the doctor who conducted the post mortem examination on the
cadaver of the deceased, the only other witness for the prosecution was Ernesto
Jr., who testified mainly as follows:29

Q What happened since you said you were at Tingib at about 3:00
o'clock in the afternoon of May 9, 1988?

A When we passed by Hibucawon, they called my father for a drink.

Q This Brgy. Hibucawon belongs to what municipality?

56
A Jaro, Leyte.

PROSECUTOR DAGANDAN:

Q You said that they called your father, who is this "they" you referred
to?

A Abe Bato and Sergio Bato.

Q Where were Abraham Bato and Sergio Bato when they called your
father?

A They were drinking in the house of Paran.

Q Do you know the real name of this Paran?

A I only know him as Paran.

Q What is his family name?

A Loscabo.

Q Where is this house of Paran Loscabo located?

A Barangay Hibucawon, Jaro, Leyte.

Q In what manner was your father called by Abe Bato and Sergio
Bate?

A They called my father to a drink.

Q What did your father do?

A He approached Sergio Bato and Abe Bato, and he drank because


he was offered to drink.

Q Where were you when your father was called by Sergio Bato and
Abe Bato?

A I was near.

PROSECUTOR DAGANDAN:

57
Q Where were you when your father was called, at what distance
were you to your father?

A About two (2) meters (from the witness stand).

Q Did you come to know if there were other persons present aside
from your father and the two accused?

A Yes, but I do not know them.

Q Approximately, how many persons were present who were


gathered?

A They were many persons.

Q Approximately, how many?

A More than ten (10).

Q Since you said you were near your father when you approached
them, what did Abraham Bato and Sergio Bato got to do with your
father when your father approached them?

A They first offered my father a drink.

Q Whay drink was offered?

A Tuba.

Q Did your father accept the offer?

A Yes, ma'am.

Q For how long did he stay in that group?

A He stayed long.

Q How about you, where did you stay while your father was drinking?

A I was at a certain distance but I did not get near them.

Q At about what time did the drinking spree last?

A Two (2) hours.

58
Q After two hours, what happened, if any?

A When my father was already drank, they tied my father.

Q Who tied your father?

A Abe Bato and Sergio Bato.

Q With what object or material was your father tied?

A Rope.

Q How was your father tied with the rope?

A They tied him with a rope and both hands were placed at the back.

Q After that, what happened?

A They brought my father.

Q Who is this "they" who brought your father?

A Abe Bato and Sergio Bato.

Q How did you come to know that your father was brought
somewhere?

A I saw them bringing my father.

Q To what directions was your father brought?

A I do not know because I ran away as I was afraid.

Q Immediately before you ran away, where was your father.

A They were bringing and holding my father.

Q You said you were afraid, why were you afraid?

A I was afraid because they might bring me also.

Q Did you come to know what happened to your father?

59
A I learned the following day that my father died because they
brought him.

In sum, therefore, the witness established only the following circumstances


surrounding the crime: (1) that the Bato brothers invited the victim and his son for a
drink; (2) that after two hours of drinking, said brothers suddenly tied the hands of
the older Flores and took him away; and (3) that the following day, the body of the
victim, which sustained several hack and stab wounds, was recovered at the
Binaha-an River, about five kilometers away from where he was last seen by the
witness.

After a careful perusal of the evidence adduced by the prosecution, we believe


that appellant's authorship of the crime was not established beyond reasonable
doubt.

Lapses in the
Prosecution Evidence

Ernesto Jr. admitted that there was no enmity or bad blood between his father and
the accused. He further asserted that there was no altercation during the drinking
spree. Likewise, he made no statement that the Bato brothers, at the time, earned
any bladed weapon which could have been used in his father's murder. Moreover,
he did not see where the appellants brought his father after they had tied his
hands. More significantly, he failed to testify on how his father was killed, who,
killed him, or even when he was killed. These lacunae in the prosecution account
necessarily spawn doubts in the mind of a reasonable person. Because the
appellants tied the victim's hands, can it be inferred that they intended to kill him,
and actually killed him? Where did the accused take him? What happened
between the time the accused tied the victim and the following morning when his
lifeless body was found? There is absolutely no evidence of what transpired during
that interval. The prosecution, in effect, asked the courts merely to guess or to
surmise that the accused must have killed the victim during such interregnum. But
conjectures, surmises and suspicions cannot take the place of evidence,
particularly where — as in this case — contrary suspicions, surmises queries can
also be floated and believed.

It is also noteworthy that Ernesto Jr. did not attempt to attract the attention of other
people who were nearby at the time, or to seek their aid. Instead, he ran home
and related the events to his mother. Oddly, he hand his mother reacted not by
reporting the matter to the police, or even just to their barangay chairman, their
council members or their neighbors. They simply slept the night away!

Notwithstanding the presence of other persons who were nearby when the
appellants tied the hands of the victim, the prosecution failed to present any other
witnesses to corroborate Ernesto Jr.'s testimony. As it was, his testimony was grossly
insufficient and sorely in need of corroboration. It has been held that circumstantial
evidence which has not been adequately established, much less corroborated,
cannot by itself be the basis of conviction. 30

60
Comparable Cases

In People vs. Roluna, 31 the trial court's conviction of the appellant for kidnapping
with murder was based merely on the testimonies of two witnesses — one of whom
allegedly saw the appellant tie the hands of the victim before taking him away,
and the other purportedly saw the victim walking with hands tied and the
appellant following him. Declaring that the said circumstances were insufficient to
convict the appellant, this Court held that the "conviction of accused-appellant for
the serious crime of kidnapping with murder cannot be allowed to rest on the
vague and nebulous facts established by the prosecution. . . [T]he evidence
presented by the prosecution surrounding the events of that fateful day are grossly
insufficient to establish the alleged liability of accused-appellant for the death of
Moronia."

In People vs. Argawanon, 32 appellant therein was charged and convicted of


murder by the trial court. In acquitting the appellant, the Court explained:

Furthermore, if indeed the two (2) Castro brothers were watching the
cockfight when the alleged four (4) persons attacked Pat. Castro, it is
quite difficult to comprehend that, considering that he (witness) was
only six (6) meters away from his brother, nothing was done to him as
he was able to run and hide. It seems out of the ordinary that the
assailants, allegedly, two (2) of them armed with .45 caliber pistols
would let Jennis Castro (an eye witness to the killing) loose and not
put him out of the way. It is also quite unbelievable that despite his
said distance, he (Jennis Castro) was able to identify the accused-
appellant and was able to hear one of the assailants shout . . . .

In addition to the above extrajudicial statements of Jennis Castro, the


trial court considered the following circumstantial evidence in
convicting the appellant Lambujon, to with: his presence at the house
of one of the accused during the raid, the revolver of Pat. Castro
which was allegedly found in accused-appellant's possession during
the raid; positive testimony of Jennis Castro that the one who fired the
second shot was the one wearing a blue T-shirt. We do not agree with
the trial court's conclusion that the aforecited evidence are
corroborative of Jennis Castro's incriminating testimony against the
accused-appellant. Circumstantial evidence may be characterized
as that evidence which proves a fact or series of facts from which the
facts in issue may be established by inference. This Court cannot infer
from said evidence, the identity of the victim's assailant nor the actual
participation of the appellant Lambujon in the crime charged. 33

In People vs. Ragon, 34 there was no actual witness to the killing of a tricycle driver,
but appellant therein, with two others, was identified as the last passenger of the
victim before the cadaver was found hours later. Relying on purely circumstantial
evidence, the trial court convicted the appellant of murder. On appeal, this Court

61
acquitted him. Holding that there was no sufficient evidence to establish his actual
participation in the killing, we concluded:

Circumstantial evidence is akin to a tapestry made up of strands


which create a pattern when interwoven, and cannot be plucked out
and considered one strand at a time independently of the others. If
the picture does not point to the accused as the perpetrator of the
crime beyond a reasonable doubt, conviction based thereon will not
weather judicial scrutiny. A painstaking review of the records of this
case convinces us that the story pieced together by the trial court
from the evidence of the prosecution provides no moral certainty of
appellant's guilt. . . . 35

Presumption of Innocence
Not Overturned

In the instant case, the totality of the prosecution evidence does not constitute an
unbroken chain leading, beyond reasonable doubt, to the guilt of the accused.

The Constitution mandates that an accused shall be presumed innocent until the
contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt. 36 Where the state fails to meet the
quantum of proof required to overcome the constitutional presumption, the
accused is entitled to an acquittal, regardless of the weakness or even the
absence of his defense. 37 By constitutional fiat, the burden of proof is accordingly
vested in the prosecution. 38

In acquitting the herein appellant, this Court is not decreeing the did not
participate in the killing. It is merely ruling that the state failed to present sufficient
evidence to overturn the constitutional presumption of innocence.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED and the assailed Decision is hereby REVERSED
and SET ASIDE. Appellant Abraham Bato is ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt. His
RELEASE from confinement is immediately ORDERED, unless he is being detained for
some other legal cause. The director of prisons is DIRECTED to inform this Court,
within five days from receipt of this Decision, of the actual date the appellant is
released. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

62
G.R. No. 186498 March 26, 2010

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
RONALDO DE GUZMAN y DANZIL, Appellant.

NACHURA, J.:

Before this Court is an appeal by Ronaldo de Guzman y Danzil, accused in


Criminal Case No. V-1118, filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Villasis,
Pangasinan. He was charged with Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs, punishable
under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165.1 In a decision2 dated December 5, 2006, the
trial court found De Guzman guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
charged. His conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) in a
Decision3 dated June 26, 2008.

On June 10, 2003, a confidential informant reported De Guzman’s drug pushing


activities to Alcala, Pangasinan’s Chief of Police, Sotero Soriano, Jr. Soriano
immediately formed a team to conduct a buy-bust operation.4 After a short
briefing, the team proceeded to De Guzman’s house. Once there, the
confidential informant introduced appellant to Senior Police Officer (SPO)1 Daniel
Llanillo, who was designated as poseur-buyer. Llanillo tried to buy ₱200 worth of
shabu. He handed two marked ₱100 bills to De Guzman, and the latter, in turn,
gave him two heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing what was
suspected as shabu. Thereafter, Llanillo gave the prearranged signal to the rest of
the team. Appellant was arrested and frisked. The team recovered from De
Guzman two packs of empty transparent sachets, three disposable lighters, and
₱3,380.00 in cash, which included the marked money paid by SPO1 Llanillo. The
team then brought De Guzman to the police station in Alcala, Pangasinan.5

At the police station, De Guzman and the items seized during the buy-bust
operation were turned over to the police investigator, SPO3 Eduardo Yadao. SPO3
Yadao entered the incident in the police blotter. He then placed his initials on the
packets of suspected shabu, which were later submitted to the Philippine National
Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory in Urdaneta City.6 Confirmatory tests revealed that
the substance in the packets that appellant handed to SPO1 Llanillo was indeed
shabu.7

At the trial, appellant denied the charges against him. He claimed that, on the
morning of June 10, 2003, he was on the second floor of his house watching
television when he was informed by his wife that police officers were looking for
him. He claimed that SPO1 Llanillo informed him about a report that he (De
Guzman) was repacking shabu, which he denied. Thereafter, the police officers
frisked him and took the ₱3,000.00 from his pocket. The police officers also
searched the cabinet, where his television was, and found a lighter. Then, he was
handcuffed and brought to the police station.8

63
After trial, the RTC rendered a decision, finding De Guzman guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violating R.A. No. 9165. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment and to pay a fine of ₱500,000.00.9

De Guzman appealed his conviction to the CA, which affirmed the RTC decision in
toto.10

De Guzman now comes to this Court on a Petition for Review. He argues that the
prosecution failed to show that the police officers complied with the mandatory
procedures under R.A. No. 9165.11 In particular, he points to the fact that the seized
items were not marked immediately after his arrest; that the police officers failed to
make an inventory of the seized items in his presence or in the presence of his
counsel and of a representative from the media and from the Department of
Justice (DOJ); and that no photographs were taken of the seized items and of
appellant.12 Appellant also claims that the unbroken chain of custody of the
evidence was not established.13Further, appellant contends that the failure of the
police officers to enter the buy-bust operation in the police blotter before the said
operation, the lack of coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
(PDEA), and the failure to observe the requirements of R.A. No. 9165 have
effectively overturned the presumption of regularity in the performance of the
police officers’ duties.14

The findings of fact of the trial court are accorded great respect, even finality
when affirmed by the CA, in the absence of any clear showing that some facts
and circumstances of weight or substance that could have affected the result of
the case have been overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied.15

Although the question of whether the degree of proof has been met is largely left
for the trial courts to determine, an appeal throws the whole case open for
review.16 Thus, the factual findings of the trial court may be reversed if, by the
evidence or the lack of it, it appears that the trial court erred.17

A review of the records of this case reveals that circumstances warrant a reversal
of the trial court’s decision.

The Constitution mandates that an accused in a criminal case shall be presumed


innocent until the contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution is
laden with the burden to overcome such presumption of innocence by presenting
the quantum of evidence required.

Consequently, courts are required to put the prosecution evidence through the
crucible of a severe testing, and the constitutional right to presumption of
innocence requires them to take a more than casual consideration of every
circumstance or doubt favoring the innocence of the accused.18

64
When the circumstances are capable of two or more inferences, as in this case,
one of which is consistent with innocence and the other is compatible with guilt,
the presumption of innocence must prevail, and the court must acquit.19

The duty to prove the guilt of an accused is reposed in the State. Law enforcers
and public officers have the duty to preserve the chain of custody over the seized
drugs. This guarantee of the integrity of the evidence to be used against an
accused goes to the very heart of his fundamental rights.20

In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be
proven: (1) that the transaction or sale took place; (2) that the corpus delicti or the
illicit drug was presented as evidence; and (3) that the buyer and seller were
identified.21] What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took
place, coupled with the presentation in court of the prohibited or regulated drug.
The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt of the marked
money consummate the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping officers
and the accused.22 The presentation in court of the corpus delicti — the body or
the substance of the crime – establishes the fact that a crime has actually been
committed.231avvphi1

Contrary to De Guzman’s contention, the trial court correctly found that the buy-
bust transaction took place. The buyer (SPO1 Llanillo) and seller (De Guzman) were
both identified and the circumstances of how the purported sale of the illegal
drugs took place were clearly demonstrated. Thus, the prosecution successfully
established the first and third elements of the crime. However, there is a problem in
the prosecution’s effort to establish the integrity of the corpus delicti.

In a prosecution for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, the existence of the
dangerous drug is a condition sine qua non for conviction. The dangerous drug is
the very corpus delicti of the crime.24

The identity of the prohibited drug must be established with moral certainty. Apart
from showing that the elements of possession or sale are present, the fact that the
substance illegally possessed and sold in the first place is the same substance
offered in court as exhibit must likewise be established with the same degree of
certitude as that needed to sustain a guilty verdict.25 The corpus delicti should be
identified with unwavering exactitude.261avvphi1

The chain of custody requirement performs this function in that it ensures that
unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are
removed.27 Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 states:

Section 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered


Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and
Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. –
The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant
sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well

65
as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized
and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall,
immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph
the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items
were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory
and be given a copy thereof.

On the other hand, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165
provides:

SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered


Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and
Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. –
The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant
sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well
as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized
and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs
shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom
such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory
and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and
photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served;
or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending
officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided,
further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as
long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly
preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid
such seizures of and custody over said items.

The Court finds that the apprehending officers failed to comply with the guidelines
set under R.A. No. 9165 and its IRR.

SPO1 Llanillo himself admitted that the marking of the seized items was done in the
police station and not immediately after the buy-bust operation. He testified:

Q: What did you do after you said you bought ₱200.00 worth of shabu?

66
A: In return, he handed to me two (2) heat sealed transparent plastic
sachet containing a suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu),
sir.

Q: After that what did you do next?

A: The team made a frisking on [Ronaldo] de Guzman to see if there are


other things he is keeping in his body, sir.

Q: And what was the result of your frisking [Ronaldo] de Guzman?

A: We recovered from him 2 packs of empty transparent plastic sachets, 3


disposable lighters, sir.

Q: Aside from those items, what else did you recover from [Ronaldo] de
Guzman?

A: Money, sir, amounting to ₱3,380.00 including the marked money.

Q: What did you do with those things that you were able to confiscate
from [Ronaldo] de Guzman?

A: We brought it to the police station for investigation and the specimen


were (sic) brought to the crime laboratory for examination, sir.28

It is true that the IRR of R.A. No. 9165 provides that the physical inventory of the
seized items may be done at the nearest police station, if the same cannot be
done at the place where the items were seized. However, it must be emphasized
that the IRR also provides that "non-compliance with these requirements under
justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized
items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render
void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items."29

The failure to follow the procedure mandated under R.A. No. 9165 and its IRR must
be adequately explained. The justifiable ground for non-compliance must be
proven as a fact. The court cannot presume what these grounds are or that they
even exist.

Accordingly, non-compliance with the procedure shall not render void and invalid
the seizure and custody of the drugs only when: (1) such non-compliance is
attended by justifiable grounds; and (2) the integrity and the evidentiary value of
the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending team. There must be
proof that these two (2) requirements were met before such non-compliance may
be said to fall within the scope of the proviso.30

67
In this case, it was admitted that it was SPO3 Yadao, the assigned investigator,
who marked the seized items, and only upon seeing the items for the first time at
the police station. Moreover, there was no physical inventory made or
photographs of the seized items taken under the circumstances required by R.A.
No. 9165 and its IRR. There was also no mention that representatives from the
media and from the DOJ, and any elected official, were present during this
inventory. The prosecution never explained the reasons for these lapses. On cross-
examination, SPO1 Llanillo admitted:

Q: Do you know if your team or any member of your team issued an


Inventory receipt of those confiscated items?

A: I could not remember, sir.

Q: And you have not seen any, right?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Do you know if there were pictures taken on (sic) the confiscated


items?

A: I don’t know, sir.

Q: And you have not seen pictures taken?

A: Yes, sir.31

Thus, we find no justifiable ground for such non-compliance.

Readily apparent in the prosecution’s evidence, likewise, is a gaping hole in the


chain of custody of the seized illegal drugs. SPO3 Yadao, in his testimony, narrated
how the evidence was handled, thus:

Q: You did not place or put your initials on the buy-bust money, the 2
pieces of ₱100.00 bil (sic) that was used in the buy-bust operation, you did
not (sic)?

A: I did not maam (sic).

Q: Is it not that this is the standard operating procedure (SOP) as police


investigator that after your receipt of the specimens or items allegedly
confiscated in the buy-bust operation that you should place your initials
after you signed the same?

A: Unless there is a directive from our Chief of Police, maam (sic).

68
Q: So you are telling this Court that it is not your SOP, you should wait for
your Chief of Police to direct you to place your initials on the specimens
you received in the buy-bust operation, is that what you mean?

A: Yes, maam (sic).

Q: So you are telling us now that there was no instruction from your Chief
of Police in this particular case that you will place your initials on the 2
pieces of ₱100.00 bill, that’s why you did not put your initials thereof (sic), is
that what you mean?

A: Yes, maam (sic).

Q: Likewise, you did not place your initials on the transparent plastic
sachets, disposable lighters and the ₱3,380.00 that were allegedly
confiscated from the accused?

A: I was directed to place my initials before submitting it to the PNP Crime


Laboratory, Urdaneta City.

Q: So the directive in this particular case is only limited or focused on the


suspected plastic sachets containing shabu, is that what you mean?

A: Yes, maam (sic).

Q: But you submitted likewise to the PNP Crime Laboratory, Urdaneta City,
the empty transparent plastic sachets and disposable lighters, is it not, Mr.
Witness?

A: Yes maam (sic).

Q: For laboratory examination?

A: Yes, maam (sic).

Q: But there was no instruction from your Chief of Police to place your
initials on the specimens?

A: There was instruction maam (sic).

Q: But you did not place your initials on the disposable lighters and
transparent plastic sachets?

A: I don’t know if I put my initials on the disposables lighters maam (sic).

69
Q: You are now certain that you placed your initials on the suspected
shabu but you are not sure if you placed your initials on the transparent
plastic sachets and the disposable lighters?

A: Yes, maam (sic).

Q: What time on June 10, 2003 did you receive the specimens allegedly
confiscated from the accused?

A: On the same date maam.

Q: You earlier said that at around 10:35 a.m. you conducted a buy bust
operation and the specimens were turned over to you by your Chief of
Police. My question is, what time did your Chief of Police turn over to you
the specimens that were allegedly confiscated from the accused?

A: 2:00 p.m. when I recorded the incident in the police blotter.

Q: My question is, what time did the Chief of Police turn over to you the
alleged specimens or items?

A: 2:00 p.m. on June 10, 2003 and that was the time I immediately
recorded the incident in the police blotter.

Q: And you immediately prepared a request for laboratory examination?

A: Yes, maam (sic).

Q: What time did you finish preparing the request?

A: I can’t remember, maam (sic).

Q: You said that you immediately prepared it, how long did you prepare
that request for laboratory examination?

A: Until the following day because it was on the following day that the
specimens were submitted.

Q: What was submitted the following morning?

A: If I remember it right, it was on June 11, 2003 when we submitted and


received by (sic) the PNP Crime Laboratory and that was on June 11,
2003.32

70
The length of time that lapsed from the seizure of the items from De Guzman until
they were given to the investigating officer for marking is too long to be
inconsequential. The buy-bust operation took place at about 10:30 a.m. From the
accounts of SPO1 Llanillo and another member of the buy-bust team, SPO1
Romeo Manzano, De Guzman’s house was very near the police station and the
team could easily walk to it. Likewise, the transaction took place rather quickly and
appellant was brought to the police station immediately thereafter. All told, it
should not have taken 3 1/2 hours, or until 2:00 p.m., for the seized items to be
turned over to the investigating officer. There was no explanation why it took the
Chief of Police that long to turn over the seized items.

From the time SPO3 Yadao took custody of the seized items, it took yet more time
before the same were submitted to the PNP Crime Laboratory, and without any
clear explanation on who had custody in the meantime. This vacuum in the chain
of custody of the seized items cannot simply be brushed aside.

These circumstances cast a strong shadow of doubt on the identity and integrity of
the evidence presented before the court.

As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that


the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a
finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be.33 It would
include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was
picked up to the time it is offered in evidence, in such a way that every person
who touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received,
where it was and what happened to it while in the witness’ possession, the
condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to
the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions
taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and
no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the
same.34 Indeed, it is from the testimony of every witness who handled the
evidence that a reliable assurance can be derived that the evidence presented in
court and that seized from the accused are one and the same.35

While testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard, because it is
almost always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain of custody becomes
indispensable and essential when the item of real evidence is not distinctive and is
not readily identifiable, or when its condition at the time of testing or trial is critical,
or when a witness has failed to observe its uniqueness. The same standard likewise
obtains in case the evidence is susceptible to alteration, tampering,
contamination, and even substitution and exchange.36

A unique characteristic of narcotic substances is that they are not readily


identifiable as, in fact, they are subject to scientific analysis to determine their
composition and nature. The Court cannot simply close its eyes to the likelihood, or
at least to the possibility, that, at any point in the chain of custody, there could
have been tampering, alteration or substitution of substances from other cases—
by accident or otherwise—in which similar evidence was seized or in which similar

71
evidence was submitted for laboratory testing. Hence, in authenticating the same,
a standard more stringent than that applied to cases involving objects that are
readily identifiable must be applied, a more exacting standard that entails
establishing a chain of custody of the item with sufficient completeness, if only to
make it improbable that the original item has either been exchanged with another
or been contaminated or tampered with.37

Accordingly, the failure to establish, through convincing proof, that the integrity of
the seized items has been adequately preserved through an unbroken chain of
custody is enough to engender reasonable doubt on the guilt of an accused.
Reasonable doubt is that doubt engendered by an investigation of the whole
proof and an inability after such investigation to let the mind rest upon the
certainty of guilt. Absolute certainty of guilt is not demanded by the law to convict
a person charged with a crime, but moral certainty is required as to every
proposition of proof requisite to constitute the offense.38 A conviction cannot be
sustained if there is a persistent doubt on the identity of the drug.39

Indeed, the prosecution’s failure to prove that the specimen submitted for
laboratory examination was the same one allegedly seized from appellant is fatal
to the prosecution’s case.40

Finally, the prosecution cannot find solace in its invocation of the presumption of
regularity in the apprehending officers’ performance of official duty.

The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot by itself


overcome the presumption of innocence nor constitute proof beyond reasonable
doubt.41 Moreover, the failure to observe the proper procedure negates the
operation of the presumption of regularity accorded to police officers. As a
general rule, the testimonies of the police officers who apprehended the accused
are accorded full faith and credit because of the presumption that they have
performed their duties regularly. But when the performance of their duties is
tainted with failure to comply with the procedure and guidelines prescribed, the
presumption is effectively destroyed.42

Thus, even if the defense evidence is weak, the prosecution’s whole case still falls.
The evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own weight and cannot
be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense.43

WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, appellant RONALDO DE GUZMAN


y DANZIL is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged. The Director of the Bureau of
Prisons is ordered to cause the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of appellant from confinement,
unless he is being held for some other lawful cause, and to REPORT to this Court
compliance herewith within five (5) days from receipt of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.

72
RIGHT TO BE HEARD

G.R. No. L-32888 August 12, 1983

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ELOY MAGSI ET AL., defendants, TEODORO DEL ROSARIO, defendant- appellant.

MAKASIAR, J:

This is a mandatory review of a death sentence.

information dated January 10, 1968 filed with the Court of First Instance of La
Union, Second Judicial District, charged:

That on or about the 14th day of January, 1968 in the Municipality of San
Fernando, La Union, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, namely ELOY MAGSI, JUAN PONCE y
BILLON alias JOHNNY, PERFECTO ARCE alias PEPING, conspiring and
confederating with their fellow accused GERARDO FLORES alias GERRY,
OPRING OLAZO DORO DOE and PETER DOE, the latter four being still at
large, and mutually helping one another with intent to kill and with
treachery, while the said accused were armed with carbine pistols and
revolvers did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniusly enter the
house where JESUS GALLARDO and his family live and once inside the said
house, attack, assault and shoot one JESUS GALLARDO, inflicting upon the
said offended party JESUS GALLARDO multiple gunshot wounds on the
different parts of his body which caused the instantaneous death of the said
JESUS GALLARDO.

That the following aggravating circumstances were attendant in the


commission of the offense: (1) abuse of superior strength; (2) use of a motor
vehicle; (3) the offense was committed in the dwelling place of the
offended party; and (4) that the offense was committed by a band.

CONTRARY TO ARTICLE 248 in relation to Article 14 of the Revised Penal


Code. (p. 2, rec.).

"Doro Doe," subsequently Identified as Teodoro del Rosario, was arraigned


on October 19, 1970 and an unqualified plea of guilt was entered. The next
day, October 20, 1970, the court rendered its judgment, the dispositive part
of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds TEODORO DEL ROSARIO guilty beyond


reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER as charged in the information
and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of DEATH ... (pp. 4-5, rec.).

73
In his brief, defendant-appellant assailed the aforesaid decision and alleged that:

I. The Trial Court erred in imposing upon the accused the DEATH penalty son
a pleas of GUILTY without ascertaining that the accused fully understood the
charges against him and the character of the penalty that may be imposed
upon him notwithstanding his plea of guilty.

II. The Trial Court erred in not making inquiry as to the extent of the force
applied by Eloy Magsi and his companions upon the accused Teodoro del
Rosario, when they ordered him to kill Jesus Gallardo

III. The Trial Court erred in appointing as attorney de officio for the accused
a lawyer who is the "compared" of the person killed by said accused and
who, because of the special relationship with the deceased, reluctantly
discharged his duties as attorney de officio, after the Court had denied his
repeated petition to be relieved of his appointment as such (p. 46, rec.).

The Solicitor General recommended the affirmation of the decision, and refuted
the allegations of the defendant appellant, but said recommendation is negated
by the facts that actually transpired during the proceedings.

Records show that soon after defendant-appellant was apprehended on August


20, 1970, his arraignment was scheduled before the Criminal Circuit Court of San
Fernando, La Union, presided over by Judge Lino Anover

Altogether, this case was actually set and rescheduled for six (6) times, first of
which was on August 1, 1970. On that date, despite appointment by the court of
Atty. Mario Rivera as de officio counsel for the accused, hearing was re-set to
September 8, 1970 on motion of Atty. Rivera, who was prompted to ask for it
because of accused desire to be represented by a de parte counsel. Prior to the
next hearing, Atty. Rivera moved to withdraw as de officio counsel and it was
favorably acted on by the court on September 7, 1970. At the second hearing on
September 8, 1970, for failure of the de officio and de parte counsels to appear,
despite a second call of the case, the hearing was re-set for the next day and the
court appointed Atty. Dominador Cariaso de officio counsel for the accused. On
the third hearing date, neither the de parte nor the de officio counsel was in Court,
so Atty. Rivera was reappointed that day as de officio counsel for arraignment
purposes only. The accused del Rosario entered a plea of guilty but qualified it
with the allegation that he committed the crime out of fear of his co-accused Eloy
Magsi and the other coaccused. Hearing conducted that day showed, to wit:

Court — seems that nobody wants to defend you. They probably think that
you are guilty. "Del Rosario have not yet talked personally to the lawyer, ...
(p. 4, t.s.n., Sept. 9, 1970).

Court to Interpreter-Will you call Atty. Rivera? ... Atty. Rivera, do not be
afraid to assist the accused ... (To the accused): This is for arraignment only,

74
Do not expect Atty. Cariaso to come here and be your lawyer nor the top
bracket lawyers of Manila.

Del Rosario want to enter the plea of guilty (pp. 5-6, t.s.n., Sept. 9,1970).

Court ... ... All right, arrange the accused. (Interpreter Mariano Lete reads
the information before accused Teodoro del Rosario).

Interpreter Lete-The accused prays that before he pleads, he be given a


chance to say something in court.

Court — Can your lawyer not say that for you?

Atty. Rivera-Your Honor, he wants to manifest to the Court what I have


already manifested regarding the mitigating circumstance and the extent
of his participation (pp. 10-11, t.s.n., Sept. 9, 1970).

Accused's allegation of' duress prompted Atty. Rivera to move for the re- setting of
the case for the study and presentation of possible mitigating circumstances. The
case was accordingly re-set for September 14, 1970. On the fourth hearing date.
the presentation of mitigating circumstances was not held as scheduled, but de
officio counsel Atty. Cariaso's explanation regarding his close ties with the
deceased and his family was heard, and his motion to be relieved as counsel by
reason thereof, and be replaced by one who can attend to the defense of the
accused with candor, was denied by the court. however, per the note presented
to the Court by Atty. Cariaso presumably from Atty. Baterina, de parte counsel for
the accused, the contents of which sought the re-setting of the case for the first
week of October, the case was again re-set for October 6, 1970. The Court motu
proprio changed accused's plea of guilty to not guilty. At the fifth hearing, Atty.
Cariaso who appeared in court only after a warrant for his arrest was issued,
informed the Court that those interested in the conviction of the accused
opposed his appearance, as de officio counsel, and at the same time, also turned
over another note, the contents of which asked for another resetting. The Court
denied the motion of Atty. Cariaso to withdraw as counsel. but re-set the case for
October 19, 1970.

At the outset of the sixth hearing held on October 19, 1970. Atty. Cariaso outrightly
informed the Court that the accused was ready to enter an unqualified plea of
guilty. Hearing conducted that day showed. to wit:

Court — Witnesses for the prosecution?

Atty. Cariaso — Before we proceed, may I inform the Court that I have just
been conferring with the accused and he wants to be rearraigned because
the order of this Court the last tune 'is that his plea of guilty be disregarded
and a plea of not guilty was entered. Now he says he wants to be re-
arraigned and I believe he will not offer any qualifying circumstance,

75
Court — Let me see the record. Now he wants to be rearraigned

(Court issued an order.)

Court to accused — Your attorney informed the court that you are willing to
be re-arraigned and Chat this time you will enter an unqualified plea of
guilty is that true

Del Rosario admit,

Court — All right, rearraigned the accused.

Interpreter Lete-After reading the information the accused Del Rosario


pleaded guilty (pp. 311-33, t.s.n., October 19, 1970).

Based on accused's plea of guilty without any evidence for "he prosecution on
anyof the alleged aggravating circumstances nor -Accused's evidence on duress
the Court rendered its decision the next. day October 20, 97(),

Of The six hearing dates held relative to the case, accused at two instances entred
a qualified plea of guilty

Recorded proceedings at the first instance on September 9, 1970 reproduced


Previously showed that, de officiocounsel Atty. Rivera and accused were hardly
afforded by the Court any opportunity to discuss the case together, and the
qualified plea of guilty resulted from the Courts proddings rather than from
accused's spontaneous volition.

At the second i instance the Court knew accused's prior plea of was guilty be
alleged duress employed on him by the other accused. It behooved the Court to
allow the accused an opportunities qqqt present evidence on the alleged duress,
as well as discover for itself the reasons for accused change of mind regarding his
plea.

But more importantly, the Court could have complied, as it failed to do so the first
time, with its bounden duty to apprise and advise the accused of the seriousness
of the charges, the meaning of the qualifying and modifying circumstances, and
gravity of the penalty that may be imposed on him despite the plea of guilty, as
well as received prosecution's evidence on the alleged aggravating
circumstances attendant to the commission of the offense charged. But these
considerations notwithstanding, sans any evidence whatsoever from the
prosecution nor from the defense, after Atty. Cariaso's manifestation, and its trite
queries addressed to the accused whether he confirmed the same or not, the
Court proceeded to decide the case.

76
WE have consistently enjoined strict and substantial adherence to Our rulings in
cases where defendants are charged with capital offenses. Mere pro-
forma appointment of de officio counsel, who fails to genuinely protect the
interests of the accused, resetting of hearing by the court for alleged reception of
evidence when in fact none was conducted, perfunctory queries addressed to
the accused whether he understands the charges and the gravity of the penalty,
are not sufficient compliance with Our qqqinjunctions

On the appointment of reluctant de officio counsels, We have commented in the


case of People vs. Valera (43 SCRA 207-211), thus:

In the absence of an explanation why Atty. Ansaldo Jr. asked to be


released as counsel de officio as soon as he was appointed by the trial
court; why he failed to appear for the trial on July 2, 1968 when the court
ordered his arrest and on July 3, 1968 when the Court had to appoint
another (the third) counsel de officio and that when Ansaldo appeared on
July 16, 1968 he informed the Court that his client, upon his advice wished to
change his previous plea of not guilty to one of guilty, this Court is forced to
conclude that counsel was not disposed to discharge his duties as
counsel de officio and it was naive for the court to have proceeded to re-
arraign the accused with a counsel of such disposition and expect that the
rights of the accused would be amply protected...

In the case of People vs. Simeon (47 SCRA 141, 142), We brought to fore the court's
obligation to the accused, and We said:

The court a quo cannot plead ignorance of the injunction directed towards
trial judges to exercise the patience and circumspection in explaining the
meaning of the accusation and the full import of the plea of guilty to the
accused, who should likewise be granted all the chances to acquaint his
counsel de officio with his version of the incident and to conduct his own
investigation at the locale of the crime as much as practicable, more than
just examining the records of the case. This Court in numerous cases as early
as October 29, 1906 in U.S. vs. Talbanos (6 Phil. 541, 543) enunciated that
'while there is no law requiring it, yet in every case under the plea of guilty
where the penalty may be death, it is advisable for the court to call
witnesses for the purpose of establishing the guilt and the degree of
culpability of the defendant. This was reiterated over a year later on
December 21, 1907 in U.S vs. Rota et al. ( Phil. 426, 431) wherein this Court
added that 'in all cases, and especially in cases where the punishment to
be inflicted is severe, the Court should be sure that the defendant fully
understands the nature of the charges preferred against him and the
character of the punishment to be imposed before sentencing him...

Focusing attention on the trial court's duties to the accused, We have again said
in People vs. Domingo (55 SCRA 243-244):

77
WE enunciated times without number in Our injunctions addressed to the
trial courts that they should exercise solicitous care before sentencing the
accused on a plea of guilty especially in capital offenses by first insuring that
the accused fully understands the gravity of the offense, the severity of the
consequences attached thereto as well as the meaning and significance of
his plea of guilty; and that the prudent and proper thing to do in capital
cases is to take testimony, to assure the court that the accused has not
misunderstood the nature and effect of his plea of guilty (People vs.
Villafuerte, supra; People vs. Alamada L-34594-5, July 13, 1973; People vs.
Busa L-32047, June 25, 1973; People vs. Silvestre, L2-1821, June 22, 1973;
People vs. Simeon, L-33730, Sept. 28, 1972; People vs. Espina L-33028, June
20, 1972; People vs. Bulalake 106 Phil. 760: U.S. vs. Jamad, 37 Phil. 305.

WE continued to stress lengthily the same injunctions in the case of People vs.
Baluyut (L-32752-3, Jan. 31, 1977, 75 SCRA 153-55):

To start with, the court a quo did not even ascertain for itself whether the
accused completely understood the precise nature of the charge and the
meaning of the aggravating circumstances of nighttime, craft and abuse of
superior strength as having attended the commission of the crime, so as to
obviate any doubt as to the possibility that they have mis understood the
nature and gravity of the charge to which they were pleading guilty. The
trial court did not conduct a dialogue with the accused on their
educational attainment, especially considering that a cursory perusal of
their signatures on the statements they have to the Malolos Police Force
(Exhs. A, B and C) tends to show that they have very little or scanty
education. Moreover, from the transcript, We have noted that after the
arraignment, trial was held on three dates and on each day the accused
were assisted by three different counsel de officio. In the hearing of October
7, 1970-the day the decision under review was rendered the counsel de
officio who assisted the accused was designated by the trial court only after
the case was designated for trial, i.e., after the accused had informed the
trial court that they did not have a lawyer. Under these circumstances, it is
not unreasonable to assume that said counsel de officio proceeded to trial
without first fully investigating the facts of the case and that his interview
with the accused, even if it lasted for twenty (20) minutes as the record
insinuates, was not, and could not have been sufficient to enable him to
acquire a fairly good grasp, much less a comprehensive knowledge, of the
relevant facts of the case. Incidentally, under the Rules of this Court,
whenever an attorney de officio is employed or assigned by the court to
defend the accused at the trial, he shall be given a reasonable time to
consult with the accused and prepare his defense before proceeding
further in the case, which shall not be less than two (2) days in case oil trial
(Sec. 5, Rule 116, Revised Rules of Court). The record, incidentally, does not
show the existence of a 'good cause' to justify the trial court in shortening
the trial fixed by the Rules.

78
WE deeply lament this attitude of the court a quo. Be that as it may,
however, We only hope that hereafter trial courts would strictly comply with
the rigid standard set in the following cases of Apduhan, Arpa and Solacito,
all of which have invariably, consistently and firmly established and stressed
the duty of trial courts before accepting the plea of guilty of an accused to
a capital offense,

In the recent case of People vs. Regular (L-38674, Sept. 30, 1981, 108 SCRA 23, 32-
33), the injunction is reiterated:

At the outset, it must be stated that the plea of guilty by the two accused
were improvidently laid. During the arraignment, the trial judge did not
adhere strictly to the doctrine laid down in People vs.Apduhan (24 SCRA
798) where We postulated the guideline in cases where there is a plea of
guilty by the accused. In the instant cases under review, We observe that
the trial judge failed to explain fully to the two accused the meaning and
the far-reaching effect of their plea. It was not explained to them the
meaning of the term 'treachery,' an aggravating circumstance which
qualified the crime to murder and frustrated murder respectively. Neither did
the judge explain the terms 'evident premeditation' and 'recidivism,' both
aggravating circumstances alleged in the information which had legal
significance and consequences not ordinarily understandable to a layman.

The trial judge asked the appellants whether they were aware that the court
had no other alternative except to impose the capital punishment on them
without explaining why it had to be so. In People vs. Solacito (L-29209,
August 25, 1969, 29 SCRA 61), We had the occasion to say that, judges are
duty-bound to be extra solicitous in seeing to it that when an accused
pleads guilty, he understands fully the meaning of his plea and the import of
an inevitable conviction,

The desire to speed up the disposition of cases should not be effected at


the sacrifice of the basic rights of the accused (People vs. Simeon, 47 SCRA
141).

The conduct of the court a quo taken in the light of the foregoing decisions clearly
established the fact that it had been remiss in its duties to the herein accused, who
was convicted on an improvident plea of guilty.

WHEREFORE, THE JUDGMENT CONVICTING ACCUSED TEODORO DEL ROSARIO IS


HEREBY SET ASIDE AND THE CASE IS HEREBY REMANDED TO THE COURT A QUO FOR
REARRANGEMENT AND FURTHER PROCEEDINGS, NO COSTS.

79
G.R. No. 139180 July 31, 2001

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ROLANDO RIVERA, accused- appellant.

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a review pursuant to Rule 122, §10 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure of the
decision,1 dated June 22, 1999, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 49, Guagua,
Pampanga, finding accused-appellant Rolando Rivera guilty of rape and
sentencing him to suffer the penalty of death and to pay the offended party,
Erlanie Rivera, the sum of P75,000.00 as compensatory damages and P50,000.00 as
moral damages.

The information against accused-appellant charged—

That sometime in the month of March 1997, in barangay Santiago,


municipality of Lubao, province of Pampanga, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused ROLANDO
RIVERA, by means of violence, threat and intimidation, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, and maliciously succeeded in having
carnal knowledge [of] his 13 year old daughter, Erlanie D. Rivera, against
the latter’s will and without her consent.

Contrary to law.2

When the information was read to him in the local dialect (Pampango) during his
arraignment on September 30, 1997, accused-appellant, duly assisted by
counsel de oficio, pleaded not guilty to the crime charged,3 whereupon trial was
held.

The prosecution presented as its witnesses complainant Erlanie Rivera, her aunt,
Marietta Pagtalunan, and Dr. Demetria Barin, who conducted the physical
examination of complainant.

Complainant Erlanie Rivera testified that sometime in March 1997, her younger
sister, Zaira,4 was taken by their parents to the Escolastica Romero Memorial
Hospital in Lubao, Pampanga. Complainant’s mother stayed with her sister in the
hospital, but her father, herein accused-appellant, went back home to Santiago,
Lubao, Pampanga. At around 11 o’clock in the evening of the same day,
complainant was awakened as accused-appellant started kissing her and
fondling her breasts. Complainant tried to resist by kicking and pushing accused-
appellant, but her efforts were to no avail. Accused-appellant removed her shorts
and panty, touched her private parts, and then had sexual intercourse with her.
After he was through with her, accused-appellant told complainant not to tell
anyone what had happened or he would kill complainant’s mother and sister.

80
Hence, when her mother came home the following day, Erlanie did not tell her
what had happened because she was afraid of accused-appellant.

On April 9, 1997, however, Erlanie, in the presence of her mother, told her aunt,
Marietta Pagtalunan, and her grandmother, Maxima Payumo, that she had been
raped by accused-appellant. For this reason, she was referred to Dr. Barin for
physical examination. She also executed a sworn statement before the police of
Lubao, Pampanga.5

Erlanie testified that she became pregnant as a result of the rape committed
against her by accused-appellant, but the pregnancy was aborted.6 On cross-
examination, she said she was 13 years old at the time of her testimony, the
second child in the family. She said that her parents were not on good terms with
each other and that she knew that her father had a mistress. Atty. Mangalindan,
then defense counsel, questioned Erlanie about other supposed acts of
molestation committed by accused-appellant against her previous to the rape
subject of the present case, but, upon objection of the prosecution, the trial court
disallowed the question on the ground that it concerned matters not covered by
her direct examination.7

Erlanie testified that her mother, grandmother, aunt, and a certain Nora Baluyut
were present when she made her sworn statement before the police. She said that
her father raped her only once, sometime in March 1997. She could not remember
the exact date when she was raped by accused-appellant, but she did remember
that the same took place in March as her sister, Zaira, was hospitalized at the time.
When the rape occurred, her younger brother and sister were in their house
asleep. She did not tell her mother after the latter had returned home that she had
been raped by accused-appellant because she was afraid of her father who had
threatened her. After the rape, accused-appellant would only come home on
Sundays.8

Questioned further on cross-examination, Erlanie said that she gave her sworn
statement before the police and that her answers to questions asked during her
direct examination were freely given without coaching by anyone. She could
understand Tagalog, the language used in her sworn statement. She told the court
that she struggled against accused-appellant, kicking and pushing him, but she
was overpowered by her father. At that time, Erlanie’s younger sister, Corazon, was
lying beside her, but Erlanie did not shout even when her father succeeded in
penetrating her. Erlanie could not remember how long the sexual act took place,
but she felt something like urine come out of her father’s penis after he was
finished with her. Erlanie testified that she was 12 years old when she was raped by
her father.9

On re-direct examination, when asked about the discrepancy between her


testimony that her mother returned home only the day after the rape and her
statement in her affidavit that accused-appellant slept beside her mother after the
rape, Erlanie replied that she made a mistake as the incident narrated in her

81
affidavit referred to a different occasion when no rape was committed against her
by accused-appellant.10

The next witness for the prosecution was Marietta Pagtalunan, complainant’s aunt
and the sister of complainant’s mother, Evangeline. Marietta corroborated
Erlanie’s testimony that the latter told her sometime in April 1997 that she had been
raped by accused-appellant. Marietta said she took complainant to Dr. Barin, who
examined complainant.11

Dr. Demetria Barin was Chief Physician of the Escolastica Romero District Hospital.
Her findings are as follows:

P.E. FINDINGS:

- No signs of external Physical Injuries

I.E. FINDINGS:

HYMEN - healed laceration at 3:00 o’clock

VAGINA - Admits one finger with ease two fingers with difficulty

UTERUS - not enlarged

LMP - March 3, 1997

Pregnancy Test (+)12

Dr. Barin testified that on April 10, 1997, she examined complainant Erlanie Rivera
and found that the victim had an injury in the hymen at the 3 o’clock position
which could possibly have been caused by the insertion of a hard object, such as
a male organ. Dr. Barin testified that complainant Erlanie went back to see her on
May 2, 1997 because she suffered from vaginal bleeding indicative of a
threatened abortion. She said that she found that complainant was then
pregnant. Upon examination of the patient at that time, Dr. Barin found that
abortion had not yet taken place and prescribed medicines for the complainant.
Erlanie was subjected to another pregnancy test on May 13, 1997, but the result
was negative. Dr. Barin stated that the vaginal bleeding suffered by complainant
could have caused the abortion of the fetus.13

Thereafter, the defense presented its evidence. Accused-appellant, his sister,


Concepcion Sayo, and Natividad Pinlac, Records Officer of the Escolastica
Romero District Hospital, were presented as witnesses.

Accused-appellant denied that he raped Erlanie Rivera. He alleged that the rape
charge was filed against him because his wife, Evangeline, had a paramour and

82
resented him because he hurt her. He explained that he saw his wife talking with
another man in their house and beat her up on April 1, 1997 because he heard
that she had a lover. He also said that his wife was angry with him because he had
a mistress who stayed in their house for three weeks. He further stated that his
wife’s relatives were likewise angry with him because he caused the lot owned by
his father-in-law in Santiago, Lubao, Pampanga to be registered in his name. He
said that he was compelled to sign a waiver of his rights over the land owned by
his parents-in-law.14 The defense presented a letter to accused-appellant written
by his wife, who was asking him to sign a document so that she could attend to it
before he got out of prison.15

The defense also offered as evidence a document, designated as Waiver of


Rights,16 signed by accused-appellant, in which he acknowledged that he was a
tenant of a parcel of land and that he waived and voluntarily surrendered his right
over the said landholding to the "SMPCI," recommending that a certain Ponciano
Miguel be given the land to work on the same. The document was identified by
accused-appellant in open court. He said that Ponciano Miguel was a first cousin
of his wife and that he signed the document because his wife’s relatives promised
him that he would get out of prison after signing the document.17

Another witness for the defense was Concepcion Sayo, accused-appellant’s sister,
who testified that in March 1997, accused-appellant lived with her family in
Malawak, Bustos, Bulacan, to help her husband operate a fishpond. She said that
accused-appellant stayed in their house during the entire month of March, except
in March 19, 1997 when he stayed with their sister, Perla, in Tibagan, Bustos,
Bulacan.18

The last defense witness was Natividad Pinlac, Records Officer of the Escolastica
Romero District Hospital, who identified19 a certification, dated April 29, 1999, in
which it was stated that Zaira Rivera was confined at that hospital from March 1 to
March 2, 1997.20

On June 22, 1999, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of
which stated:

WHEREFORE, the court finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable


doubt of the crime of rape as charged. For having violated Article 335 of
the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act 7659, with the
attendant circumstances that the victim is under eighteen (18) years of
age and the offender is the father of the victim and absent any
circumstance that could mitigate the commission thereof, accused is
hereby sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of death by lethal
injection.

In line with established jurisprudence, said accused is also ordered to


indemnify the offended party Erlanie Rivera in the sum of P75,000.00 as
compensatory damages and P50,000.00 as moral damages.

83
SO ORDERED.21

Hence, this appeal. Accused-appellant contends that:

1. The lower court failed to observe the constitutional right of the Accused-
Appellant to due process and right to counsel;

2. The lower court failed to consider the evidence of the Accused-


Appellant.22

I. Accused-appellant invokes his right to due process of law. He claims that he was
denied the same because: (a) the trial judge disallowed his lawyer from cross-
examining Erlanie Rivera concerning the latter’s sworn statements on the ground
of irrelevance and immateriality; (b) the trial court denied the motion made by
accused-appellant’s counsel de oficio to postpone the cross-examination of Dr.
Barin, the examining physician, because of which the said counsel consequently
waived the cross-examination of Dr. Barin; (c) the judge propounded numerous
questions to accused-appellant during his cross-examination by the prosecutor;
and (d) the trial court’s decision was promulgated just one day after accused-
appellant submitted his memorandum.

Procedural due process simply means that a person must be heard before he is
condemned. The due process requirement is a part of a person’s basic rights, not
a mere formality that may be dispensed with or performed
perfunctorily.23 Considering both the evidence and the law applicable to this
case, we hold that accused-appellant has been accorded his right to due
process.

A. One basis for accused-appellant’s contention that he was denied due process
is the refusal of the trial judge to allow Atty. Mangalindan’s questions concerning
the other alleged acts of molestation committed by accused-appellant against
complainant. Accused-appellant argues that no legal ground exists for the trial
court’s ruling.

The transcript of stenographic notes concerning this incident shows the following:

ATTY. MANGALINDAN:

Q You mentioned in your testimony that you were molested by your


father since 1996.

COURT:

Are you referring to a chain of events because police station you


are referring is something there are two places this girl testified
that she was raped, you referred to us Acts of Lasciviousness and

84
she did not testified about that, that is another case with another
Court, we are only trying here a rape case that is only they you
never mention. Only on the matters that she testified (sic).

ATTY. MANGALINDAN:

But this is also related to the rape case your Honor because I will
confront it with another form of a question.

ATTY. MANGALINDAN:

Q Prior to this incident, were you molested by your father?

PROSECUTOR SANTOS:

Immaterial, your Honor, whatever acts w[ere] done by the


accused is not a subject of the case at bar.

COURT:

Let us confine [questioning] to the complaint at bar which is a


rape case.

ATTY. MANGALINDAN:

This is related to the incident because we are here your Honor to


prove, we are trying to discredit her testimony. We will just direct
our question touching on the direct examination.

COURT:

Only on the matters that she only testified that is only thing you
can cross-examine. Only matters testified which is only a rape
case let us not dwell the Court knows there are other cases Acts
of Lasciviousness pending in the lower Court at the proper Court
otherwise if I will allow you to ask questions on other matters
specially I know you are pinpointing the Acts of Lasciviousness you
are prolonging this case here (sic).

ATTY. MANGALINDAN:

I am trying to discredit the witness as one where the credibility as


witness here your Honor is very important. I stated before our main
cross-examination is the accused is not a plan in such case,
although I do sympathize (sic). We would like to propound

85
question that will discredit her as witness and a complainant not
with her testimony alone. Our center of cross-examination is to
discredit her as complaining witness that is why our question may
not be limited to be accepted under the rule of cross-examination
your Honor the cross-examination your Honor the cross-examiner is
not limited on the direct-testimony of the witness but he can
propound questions which may petition or destroy the credibility
of the witness that is our view point (sic).

PROSECUTOR SANTOS:

We cannot dispute the right of accused to discredit or to adopt


our credibility of our witness, but it should be done in the proper
way, not to ask immaterial questions which are not related.

ATTY. MANGALINDAN:

The rule for cross-examination insofar as to destroy the credibility


of the witness is not only limited to what the Honorable Fiscal we
came approach of so many cross-examinations goes allow your
Honor under the rules of Court insofar as this case is related to the
present case we are trying, this is very related because even the
witness I have transcript in my hand, testified not only the rape
case your Honor she had testified by direct-examination the
preparatory acts before the testimony of rape that she was been
molested early, finger of the father, this were testified through by
the witness, it is here direct-testimony it is not limited (sic).

PROSECUTOR SANTOS:

Prior to this incident were you molested by your father, obviously


your Honor the question is not relevant.

ATTY. MANGALINDAN:

Your Honor please I’m very disagreeable (sic), I have not with me
the transcript but I have read that you [can] ask questions
concerning the rape case.

COURT:

A question referring to events prior to the complaint at bar.24

The trial court later issued an order, dated December 9, 1997, the pertinent parts of
which provided:

86
After private complainant testified on direct-examination, counsel for
accused attempted to cross-examine her on matters relevant to the
complaint for Acts of Lasciviousness which was objected to by Asst.
Provincial Prosecutor Arturo G. Santos on the ground that private
complainant did not testify on that matter but limited her testimony on the
rape case only. Counsel for the accused argued that although that is
correct nonetheless because [of] the sworn statement executed by
private complainant identified by said witness in her direct examination
and marked as Exhibit "C" for the prosecution, he is at liberty to cross-
examine the witness on all matters stated in her sworn statement including
that portion touching on the acts of lasciviousness subject matter of
another case before another court.

The Court sustained the objection. Section 6, Rule 132, Revised Rules on
Evidence provides that "the witness may be cross-examined by the
adverse party as to any matters stated in the direct examination, or
connected therewith, with sufficient fullness and freedom to test his
accuracy and truthfulness and freedom from interest or bias or the
reverse, and to elicit all important facts bearing upon the issue."

The witness testified only on the rape case. She did not testify anything
about acts of lasciviousness committed upon her person. She may not
therefore be questioned on this matter because it is not connected with
her direct testimony or has any bearing upon the issue. To allow adverse
party to cross-examine the witness on the acts of lasciviousness which is
pending trial in another court and which the witness did not testify is
improper.

Questions concerning acts of lasciviousness will not in any way test the
accuracy and truthfulness and freedom from interest or bias or the
reverse. On the contrary such questions, if allowed, will unduly burden the
court with immaterial testimonies.25

In another order, dated January 13, 1998, the trial court gave accused-appellant’s
counsel 20 days within which to elevate its ruling to the appellate court.26 The
records reveal, however, that no such petition was filed by Atty. Mangalindan as
regards this particular matter.

The question, therefore, is whether the trial court correctly disallowed accused-
appellant’s counsel from questioning complainant as regards the other supposed
acts of lasciviousness contained in her sworn statement. On this point, Rule 132, §6
of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides:

Upon the termination of the direct examination, the witness may be cross-
examined by the adverse party as to any matters stated in the direct
examination, or connected therewith, with sufficient fullness and freedom
to test his accuracy and truthfulness and freedom from interest, bias or the
reverse and to elicit all important facts bearing upon the issue.

87
The right of a party to cross-examine a witness is embodied in Art. III, §14(2) of the
Constitution which provides that the accused shall have the right to meet the
witnesses face to face and in Rule 115, §1(f) of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure which states that, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have
the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him.27 The cross-
examination of a witness is essential to test his or her credibility, expose falsehoods
or half-truths, uncover the truth which rehearsed direct examination testimonies
may successfully suppress, and demonstrate inconsistencies in substantial matters
which create reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused and thus give
substance to the constitutional right of the accused to confront the witnesses
against him.28

The right of the accused to cross-examine a witness is, however, not without limits
but is subject to the rules on the admissibility and relevance of evidence. Thus,
in People v. Zheng Bai Hui,29 this Court upheld the ruling of the trial judge
disallowing the questions propounded by the accused’s counsel on the ability of
the arresting officer to distinguish between tawas and shabu without a laboratory
examination, the academic degree of his training instructor, and the officer’s
authorship of books on drug identity and analysis for being irrelevant, improper,
and impertinent.

In this case, accused-appellant’s counsel argued that his questions to Erlanie on


the other acts of lasciviousness supposedly committed by accused-appellant
against her were for the purpose of testing her credibility. There was, however, no
showing on his part how these questions had any bearing on complainant’s
credibility or on the truth of her claims. One is led to suspect that the purpose of
these questions was to confuse complainant into committing mistakes in her
answers during cross-examination that accused-appellant’s counsel could later
use to possibly put complainant’s credibility, not to mention her character, in
question.

Accused-appellant insists that his counsel should have been allowed to ask
questions in relation to the sworn statement executed by complainant. He cites
Rule 132, §17 of the Revised Rules of Evidence which provides that:

When part of an act, declaration, conversation, writing or record is given


in evidence by one party, the whole of the same subject matter may be
inquired into by the other.

Neither can this rule be invoked to justify the questioning of complainant which the
trial court did not allow. As the above provision states, this rule applies to parts of
"an act, declaration, conversation, writing or record" which is given in evidence.

Indeed, the records show that after Erlanie had finished with her direct
examination on November 25, 1997, the trial judge granted the motion made by
Atty. Anselmo Mangalindan, accused-appellant’s private counsel, to postpone
Erlanie Rivera’s cross-examination to allow him time to secure copies of the
transcript of stenographic notes of Erlanie’s testimony and thus enable him to fully

88
question complainant.30 Erlanie was first cross-examined on December 2, 1997, but
several postponements, namely, on January 13, 1998,31 February 10, 1998,32 March
12, 1998,33 March 31, 1998,34 April 7, 1998,35 May 12, 1998,36 May 26, 1998,37 May 28,
1998,38 and June 11, 1998,39 on Erlanie’s cross-examination took place because of
the failure of Atty. Mangalindan to appear on the said trial dates. Erlanie’s cross-
examination was continued on July 14, 1998 and July 23, 1998. Her cross-
examination by accused-appellant’s counsel was thorough and covered various
subjects, such as the nature of the relationship between her parents, who were
present during the execution of her sworn statement, whether the same had been
executed by her voluntarily, the date when she was raped by accused-appellant
the reason for her delay in reporting the rape committed by accused-appellant,
her understanding of Tagalog, who were with her in the house at the time of the
rape, the details surrounding the rape committed against her, and her age. It is
evident that accused-appellant and his counsel were given ample opportunity to
conduct the cross-examination of Erlanie Rivera in order to test her truthfulness.

B. The record shows that because accused-appellant’s private counsel was not
present when Dr. Barin testified, Atty. Eddie Bansil was appointed by the trial court
as accused-appellant’s counsel de oficio for that particular hearing. Atty. Bansil
moved for the postponement of the witness’ cross-examination, but the trial court
denied his request because, on the one hand, accused-appellant was a
detention prisoner and Dr. Barin was a very busy person, while, on the other hand,
Atty. Bansil had heard the testimony of the said witness. Atty. Bansil then decided
not to cross-examine Dr. Barin.40

Accused-appellant now contends that the trial judge denied the motion of Atty.
Bansil for postponement because he was biased against him. Accused-appellant
claims that the counsel de oficio was not familiar with the facts of his case and
was thus in no position to cross-examine Dr. Barin.

While the Constitution recognizes the accused’s right to competent and


independent counsel of his own choice, his option to secure the services of a
private counsel is not absolute. For considering the State’s and the offended
party’s right to speedy and adequate justice, the court may restrict the accused’s
option to retain a private counsel if the accused insists on an attorney he cannot
afford, or if the chosen counsel is not a member of the bar, or if the attorney
declines to represent the accused for a valid reason.41

The trial court appointed Atty. Bansil a counsel de oficio to represent accused-
appellant on October 6, 1998 because his regular counsel, Atty. Anselmo
Mangalindan, was absent without any explanation. Atty. Mangalindan had
previously been granted several postponements. As this Court ruled in another
case:

. . . Courts are not required to wait indefinitely the pleasure and


convenience of the accused as they are also mandated to promote the
speedy and orderly administration of justice. Nor should they
countenance such an obvious trifling with the rules. Indeed, public policy

89
requires that the trial continue as scheduled, considering that appellant
was adequately represented by counsels who were not shown to be
negligent, incompetent or otherwise unable to represent him.42

Atty. Bansil was present and heard the testimony of Dr. Barin, the prosecution
witness, on that day. Dr. Barin’s testimony on direct examination was simple,
containing primarily a discussion of her findings on the hymenal laceration
sustained by complainant. Her testimony did not require considerable study and
extraordinary preparation on the part of defense counsel for the purpose of cross-
examination. It seems Atty. Bansil no longer found it necessary to cross-examine Dr.
Barin.

Moreover, beyond stating that Dr. Barin was a vital witness, accused-appellant has
not indicated what questions his counsel wanted to ask from Dr. Barin. It may well
be that these questions do not exist at all and that the importance given by
accused-appellant to counsel de oficio’s failure to cross-examine the witness is
exaggerated. Indeed, a medical examination of the victim, together with the
medical certificate, is merely corroborative and is not an indispensable element of
rape.43 The primordial issue in this case remains to be whether the complainant’s
testimony, not Dr. Barin’s, established beyond reasonable doubt the crime of rape.

C. Accused-appellant likewise points to the trial judge’s questions propounded to


him during his cross-examination as an indication of the latter’s partiality for the
prosecution.

We find no merit in this contention. Where the trial court is judge both of the law
and of the facts, it is oftentimes necessary in the due and faithful administration of
justice for the presiding judge to re-examine a witness so that his judgment, when
rendered, may rest upon a full and clear understanding of the facts.44 Our reading
of the transcript of stenographic notes in this case shows that the trial judge merely
wanted to clarify certain points relating to the defense of accused-appellant and
not to establish his guilt. It is a judge’s prerogative to ask questions to ferret out the
truth.45 It cannot be taken against him if the questions he propounds reveals
certain truths which, in turn, tend to destroy the theory of one party.46 As this Court
held:

In any case, a severe examination by a trial judge of some of the witness


for the defense in an effort to develop the truth and to get at the real
facts affords no justification for a charge that he has assisted the
prosecution with an evident desire to secure a conviction, or that he had
intimidated the witnesses for the defense. The trial judge must be
accorded a reasonable leeway in putting such questions to witnesses as
may be essential to elicit relevant facts to make the record speak the
truth. Trial judges in this jurisdiction are judges of both the law and the
facts, and they would be negligent in the performance of their duties if
they permitted a miscarriage of justice as a result of a failure to propound
a proper question to a witness which might develop some material
bearing upon the outcome. In the exercise of sound discretion, he may

90
put such question to the witness as will enable him to formulate a sound
opinion as to the ability or the willingness of the witness to tell the truth. A
judge may examine or cross-examine a witness. He may propound
clarificatory questions to test the credibility of the witness and to extract
the truth. He may seek to draw out relevant and material testimony
though that testimony may tend to support or rebut the position taken by
one or the other party. . .47

D. We also find no merit in accused-appellant’s argument that he was denied due


process considering the speed with which the trial court rendered judgment
against him, which judgment was promulgated one day after he filed his
memorandum.

The decision rendered by the trial court gives a clear account of the facts and the
law on which it is based. It discusses in full the court’s findings on the credibility of
both the prosecution and defense witnesses and its evaluation of the evidence of
both parties. What we said in the analogous case of People v. Mercado48 applies
to this case:

. . . A review of the trial court’s decision shows that its findings were based
on the records of this case and the transcripts of stenographic notes
during the trial. The speed with which the trial court disposed of the case
cannot thus be attributed to the injudicious performance of its function.
Indeed, a judge is not supposed to study a case only after all the pertinent
pleadings have been filed. It is a mark of diligence and devotion to duty
that a judge studies a case long before the deadline set for the
promulgation of his decision has arrived. The one-day period between the
filing of accused-appellants’ memorandum and the promulgation of the
decision was sufficient time to consider their arguments and to
incorporate these in the decision. As long as the trial judge does not
sacrifice the orderly administration of justice in favor of a speedy but
reckless disposition of a case, he cannot be taken to task for rendering his
decision with due dispatch. . .

II. Coming now to the merits of this case, we find that the evidence proves beyond
reasonable doubt the guilt of accused-appellant. In reviewing rape cases, we
have been guided by the following principles: (a) An accusation for rape is easy to
make, difficult to prove, and even more difficult to disprove; (b) In view of the
intrinsic nature of the crime, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized
with extreme caution; and (c) The evidence for the prosecution must stand on its
own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the
defense.49

A. Well-settled is the rule that the lone testimony of a rape victim, by itself, is
sufficient to warrant a judgment of conviction if found to be credible. It has
likewise been established that when a woman declares that she has been raped
she says in effect all that is necessary to mean that she has been raped, and
where her testimony passes the test of credibility the accused can be convicted

91
on the basis thereof. This is because from the nature of the offense, the sole
evidence that can usually be offered to establish the guilt of the accused is the
complainant’s testimony.50

Considering complainant’s tender age, her shy demeanor, and manner of


testifying in court, the trial court found Erlanie’s testimony to be straightforward,
natural, and convincing and accorded the same full faith and credit.51

Complainant told the court how she was awakened because accused-appellant
kissed her and fondled her breasts. She narrated that she tried to resist accused-
appellant’s advances by pushing and kicking him, but the latter succeeded in
ravishing her. She told of how her father threatened to kill her mother and her
siblings if she reported the incident. Despite the lengthy cross-examination of
accused-appellant’s counsel, she remained firm and steadfast in her story of how
she was raped by her father. Her narration not only rings true and sincere but is
consistent and unshaken on its material points. Complainant’s testimony is fully
corroborated by the medical findings of Dr. Barin who examined complainant
shortly after she had been raped. She found complainant to have suffered a
hymenal laceration at the 3 o’clock position which could have been caused by
the penetration of a hard object, such as a male organ.

Complainant’s failure to remember the date of the commission of the rape cannot
be taken against her. The exact date when complainant was sexually abused is
not an essential element of the crime of rape.52 Nor does the fact that
complainant was sleeping beside her sister when the rape occurred detract from
her credibility. The possibility of rape is not negated by the fact that the presence
of even the whole family of the accused inside the same room produced the
possibility of discovery. For rape to be committed, it is not necessary for the place
to be ideal, for rapists respect neither time nor place for carrying out their evil
designs.53

In sum, accused-appellant failed to show any reason why this Court should
disbelieve complainant’s testimony. Indeed, the gravity of filing a case for
incestuous rape is of such a nature that a daughter’s accusation must be taken
seriously. It is against human experience for a girl to fabricate a story which would
drag herself and her family to a lifetime of dishonor, unless it is the truth. More so
when her charge could mean the execution of her own father, as in this case. 54

Accused-appellant’s counsel on cross-examination made much of the


discrepancy between complainant’s sworn statement where she stated that
accused-appellant slept beside her mother after the rape55 and her testimony that
her mother returned home from the hospital only the day after the rape took
place.56 It must be pointed out, however, that discrepancies between a witness’
affidavit and his testimony in open court does not necessarily impair his credibility.
Affidavits, which are taken ex parte, are often incomplete or inaccurate for lack of
or absence of searching inquiries by the investigating officer.57

92
Moreover, whether accused-appellant slept alone or with complainant’s mother
after committing the rape of complainant is of no moment as it is a minor point
that does not reflect on the commission of the crime itself. The rule is that
discrepancies and inconsistencies on minor matters neither impair the essential
integrity of the prosecution evidence as a whole nor reflect on the witness’
honesty. Such inconsistencies may in fact strengthen rather than weaken the
credibility of the witness as they erase any suspicion of rehearsed testimony.58

Accused-appellant contends that complainant could not have been raped on


March 1 or 2, 1997, the dates when her sister Zaira was hospitalized, because she
had her last menstrual period on March 3, 1998 and thus she could not have
gotten pregnant as a result of the rape. He argues that a woman who had her
monthly period cannot be impregnated as a result of sexual intercourse five days
before or five days after her last menstruation.59

Accused-appellant does not, however, cite any legal or medical authority for his
thesis, except what he claims to be common knowledge. On the other hand, we
have previously held that it is hard to ascertain the exact date of fertilization
inasmuch as more than two weeks is considered to be the life span of the
spermatozoa in the vaginal canal.60 Hence, even granting that complainant could
not have been impregnated by accused-appellant during the period alleged by
him, it remains possible for complainant to have gotten pregnant afterwards. More
importantly, it must be emphasized that pregnancy is not an element of the crime
of rape and is, therefore, totally immaterial to the question of accused-appellant’s
guilt.61 In other words, accused-appellant being the cause of complainant’s
pregnancy is a non-issue in the prosecution of the crime of rape. What should not
be lost sight of is the fact that complainant’s testimony constitutes proof beyond
reasonable doubt that accused-appellant had carnal knowledge of her without
her consent, and such fully established the crime of rape.

B. Accused-appellant imputes ill motive on the part of complainant’s mother and


her relatives for bringing charges against him. He claims that complainant’s
mother resented the fact that he used to beat her up out of jealousy and that he
had several paramours in the past. He further asserts that his wife’s relatives were
angry with him because of the land which he caused to be registered in his name
to the prejudice of the latter.

This allegation is without merit. Accused-appellant makes it appear that


complainant’s mother was responsible for the filing of this case against him. This is
not so. For that matter, his wife did not testify against him. It was his daughter,
complainant, alone who denounced him in court.

Accused-appellant’s claim that the motivation for the filing of this case was the
animosity of his wife’s relatives towards him caused by his land-grabbing of their
land is likewise without any basis. It may be that his wife’s relatives took advantage
of his incarceration and made him sign his waiver of rights over the land.62 But this
does not necessarily mean they conspired to persecute him. It is noteworthy that
accused-appellant never claimed that the document which he signed (Exh. 3)

93
existed before the filing of the criminal complaint against him or that his wife’s
relatives fabricated the charge against him because of his failure to sign the same.

Indeed, what accused-appellant’s defense cannot explain is the hymenal


laceration sustained by complainant or the steadfastness she has exhibited in
pursuing the charge against her own father. It is doubtful that complainant would
let herself be embroiled in a petty family dispute in exchange for her honor and
dignity. We cannot believe that a young girl, like complainant, would invent a
sordid tale of sexual abuse by accused-appellant unless it was the truth.63 Where
there is no evidence to show a doubtful reason or improper motive why a
prosecution witness should testify against the accused or falsely implicate him in a
crime, her testimony is trustworthy.64

Accused-appellant also raises the defense of denial and alibi. But the bare denial
of accused-appellant cannot overcome the positive declarations of complainant.
Denial, when unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, constitutes
negative self-serving evidence which deserves no greater evidentiary value than
the testimony of a credible witness who testified on affirmative matters.65

Accused-appellant’s sister, Concepcion Sayo, testified that accused-appellant


lived with her family in Bulacan at the time of the rape. No other witness not
related to accused-appellant, however, was called to corroborate her claim. We
have already held that the defense of alibi cannot prosper if it is established
mainly by the accused and his relatives, and not by credible persons. It is not
improbable that these witnesses would freely perjure themselves for the sake of
their loved ones.66 Accused-appellant’s defense thus fails to convince this Court.

C. The foregoing discussion notwithstanding, we think that the imposition of the


death penalty by the trial court is erroneous. It is settled that to justify the imposition
of the death penalty, both the relationship of the victim and her age must be
alleged and proved.67 Thus, in People v. Javier,68 where the victim was alleged to
be 16 years old at the time of the commission of the rapes, it was held:

. . . Although the victim’s age was not contested by the defense, proof of
age of the victim is particularly necessary in this case considering that the
victim’s age which was then 16 years old is just two years less than the
majority age of 18. In this age of modernism, there is hardly any difference
between a 16-year old girl and an 18-year old one insofar as physical
features and attributes are concerned. A physically developed 16-year
old lass may be mistaken for an 18-year old young woman, in the same
manner that a frail and young-looking 18-year old lady may pass as a 16-
year old minor. Thus, it is in this context that independent proof of the
actual age of a rape victim becomes vital and essential so as to remove
an iota of doubt that the victim is indeed under 18 years of age as to fall
under the qualifying circumstances enumerated in Republic Act No. 7659.
In a criminal prosecution especially of cases involving the extreme penalty
of death, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt of every
fact necessary to constitute the crime with which an accused is charged

94
must be established by the prosecution in order for said penalty to be
upheld.

A duly certified certificate of live birth showing complainant’s age, or some other
official document on record, such as a school record, has been recognized as
competent evidence.69

In this case, although complainant’s minority has been alleged in the information,
no independent evidence was presented by the prosecution to prove the same.
Complainant did not even state her age at the time of the rape during direct
examination; it was only during her cross-examination when she stated that she
was 12 years old at the time she was raped by her father.70

Nor was her birth certificate or baptismal certificate or any school record
presented by the prosecution to prove the age of Erlanie at the time of the rape.
Not even her mother, whose testimony could have been sufficient to prove the
age of complainant,71 testified in this case. What was relied upon by the trial court
was that fact that the age of the victim was undisputed by the defense.72 It also
took judicial notice of the victim’s minority on account of her appearance. 73

We do not agree with this conclusion. The trial court can only take judicial notice
of the victim’s minority when the latter is, for example, 10 years old or below.
Otherwise, the prosecution has the burden of proving the victim’s age at the time
of the rape and the absence of denial on the part of accused-appellant does not
excuse the prosecution from discharging its burden.74 In a similar case, People v.
Tundag,75 in which the trial court took judicial notice of the minority of the victim
who was alleged to be 13 years old, we ruled:

In this case, judicial notice of the age of the victim is improper, despite the
defense counsel’s admission, thereof acceding to the prosecution’s
motion. As required by Section 3 of Rule 129, as to any other matters such
as age, a hearing is required before courts can take judicial notice of such
fact. Generally, the age of the victim may be proven by the birth or
baptismal certificate of the victim, or in the absence thereof, upon
showing that said documents were lost or destroyed, by other
documentary or oral evidence sufficient for the purpose.

The prosecution having failed to present evidence as to complainant’s age,


accused-appellant can be convicted only of simple rape, for which the penalty
is reclusion perpetua.

Consequently, the award of civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 made by


the trial court cannot be sustained. Such amount can only be awarded if the
crime of rape was effectively qualified by any of the circumstances under which
the death penalty is authorized by the applicable amendatory
laws.76 Accordingly, the civil indemnity awarded to complainant must be reduced
to P50,000.00 in consonance with current rulings.77

95
The award of moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 to complainant is
correct. Moral damages is awarded in rape cases without need of showing that
the victim suffered from mental, physical, and psychological trauma as these are
too obvious to require recital by the victim during trial.78

In addition to the damages given by the trial court, exemplary damages in the
amount of P25,000.00 should likewise be awarded in favor of complainant.
Accused-appellant being the father of complainant, such relationship can be
appreciated as a generic aggravating circumstance warranting the award of
exemplary damages. In rapes committed by fathers against their daughters, such
award may be imposed to serve as a deterrent to other parents similarly disposed
to commit the same crime.79

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 49, Guagua,
Pampanga, finding accused-appellant guilty of the crime of rape is AFFIRMED with
the modification that accused-appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua and to pay complainant Erlanie Rivera the amount of
P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P25,000.00 as
exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 138335 May 20, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
OSCAR ALCANZADO, appellant.

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court assailing the decision1dated April 5, 1999 issued by the Regional Trial Court
(Branch 66) of Makati City (RTC for brevity) in Criminal Case No. 98-1634, the
dispositive portion of which reads:

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered finding


accused OSCAR ALCANZADO y ORQUEZA GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt of MURDER, with the qualifying circumstance of treachery, and the
Court hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua
and to pay the heirs of the unidentified victim the sum of ₱50,000.00 as
moral damages.

SO ORDERED.

96
Makati City, Metro Manila, April 5, 1999.2

However, a careful examination of the records reveals that the assailed decision
will have to be set aside and the records remanded back to the RTC for reception
of evidence for the defense.

Appellant pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on July 30, 1998. Trial on the
merits ensued. The prosecution rested its case on October 13, 1998. 3 Upon motion
of appellant, the RTC issued an Order dated November 10, 1998 allowing
appellant to file a demurrer to evidence.4 On November 19, 1998, appellant filed
his Demurrer to Evidence5 which was opposed by the prosecution.6 On April 22,
1999, the RTC promulgated herein assailed decision convicting appellant. 7

The RTC committed a very serious error in promulgating a decision after denying
the demurrer to evidence filed by appellant upon prior leave of court, without first
giving appellant the opportunity to present his evidence.

Section 15, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 15. Demurrer to evidence. – After the prosecution has rested its case,
the court may dismiss the case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence:
(1) on its own initiative after giving the prosecution an opportunity to be
heard; or (2) on motion of the accused filed with prior leave of court.

If the court denies the motion for dismissal, the accused may adduce evidence in
his defense. When the accused filed such motion to dismiss without express leave
of court, he waives the right to present evidence and submits the case for
judgment on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution.

Contrary to the RTC’s assertion in its decision that the demurrer to evidence was
denied,8 the records of the case do not reveal that there was any prior order
denying appellant’s demurrer to evidence before the rendition of the assailed
judgment. Evidently, the trial court violated the aforequoted provisions of Section
15, Rule 119. Appellant had filed a motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence
which was granted by the RTC and therefore upon denial of his demurrer, if
indeed it was denied, the trial court should have given appellant the opportunity
to present his evidence. Equally astonishing is the fact that appellant’s counsel did
not raise said irregularity as an issue in the RTC or in this Court. In effect, appellant
has not been accorded due process.

Due to the procedural unfairness and complete miscarriage of justice in the


handling of the proceedings in the RTC,9 a remand of the case for reception of
defense evidence is warranted. The constitutional right of the accused to be
heard on his defense has been violated.10

So that appellant may be spared from further delay, the Court deems it necessary
to treat the herein assailed judgment as a mere resolution denying the demurrer to

97
evidence and ascertain whether the RTC has committed grave abuse of
discretion in not granting the same.

The RTC made the following findings of fact and law, viz:

In brief, the evidence for the prosecution show that on the early morning
of June 17, 1998, the Barangay Tanods of Bel-Air, while on duty, which is
adjacent to TGIF American Bar, heard two (2) shots; when they
investigated they found a dead body of the victim with two (2) gunshot
wounds inside the storeroom of TGIF being guarded by the accused. The
accused, who was the security guard of the TGIF, surrendered his service
firearm (Exhibit "D") to policeman Bagon which was found to have
spent two (2) spent shells. The ballistic report states that the two (2) spent
shells were fired from the gun surrendered by the accused to policeman
Bagon.

The accused opted to file demurrer to evidence which was denied by the
Court, instead of testifying and could have explained what really
happened and why he surrendered his service firearm.

The Court finds the presence of a qualifying circumstance of treachery,


when the accused fired at the victim one on his shoulder and another at
his head in close range (TSN dated October 13, 1998, p. 36).11

There was no eye-witness to the shooting incident. The RTC relied principally on the
admission of appellant to the police officer that he shot the unknown victim when
he surrendered his service firearm.

In his demurrer to evidence, appellant pointed out the following:

I. There is no evidence that the firearm marked and offered as Exhibit D


belonged or was assigned to the accused.

II. There is no evidence that the accused had recently fired a gun in the
early morning of June 17, 1998.

III. There is no evidence that the firearm marked and offered as Exhibit D
was the same firearm that killed the unknown victim in this case.

IV. There is reasonable doubt that the body examined by the medico-
legal witness was the same body recovered from the scene of the killing.

V. The extrajudicial admission made by the accused to the police officer


and his alleged voluntary surrender of the .38 caliber revolver cannot be
admitted in evidence against the accused for having been obtained in
violation of his constitutional rights.

98
VI. Without any admission on the part of the accused or an unbroken
chain of incriminating circumstances, the accused is entitled to acquittal
since the prosecution failed to prove his culpability for the death of the
unknown victim here beyond a reasonable doubt.12

Considering that the first four items as above enumerated involve questions of
fact, the Court will not pre-empt the RTC in rendering its findings of fact after it shall
have received the defense evidence as well as rebuttal and sur-rebuttal
evidence, if parties find it necessary.

However, the Court is constrained to resolve the question arising from the fifth and
sixth claims of appellant, which is: Whether or not the admission made by
appellant to the police officer is admissible in evidence. It is the only link that would
positively connect appellant to the shooting of the victim, for the service gun may
belong to him and it may have been used in the shooting of the victim, but the
missing link is the ascertainment of whether he was the one who shot the victim.
Without the testimony of the police officer that appellant had verbally
acknowledged to him having shot the victim, the herein-before quoted
circumstantial evidence enumerated by the RTC do not support the conviction of
appellant beyond reasonable doubt.

Section 12 (1) and (3), Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides:

Section 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an
offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and
to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own
choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be
provided with one. The rights cannot be waived except in writing and in
the presence of counsel.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or the


preceding section shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

The rights of the accused as provided therein may be invoked only when a person
is under "custodial investigation" or is "in custody investigation" 13 which has "been
defined as the "questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person
has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any
significant way" [People vs. Caguioa, G.R. No. L-38975, January 17, 1980, 95 SCRA
2, 9 citing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436].14

SPO1 Rolando Bagon, the police officer of Precinct 9, Makati City, who responded
to the report of the shooting incident, testified as follows:

Q: What time did you arrive there at TGI Friday’s Restaurant?

A: When we arrived there it was at around 5:15 to 6:00.

99
Q: A.M.?

A: June 17, Sir.

Q: When you arrived there, what did you do, Mr. Witness?

A: The barangay tanod present at that time pointed to us and turned over
to us the alleged suspect who is the security guard of the said
establishment then we went to the security guard and he voluntarily
surrendered himself to us, together with the firearm, a .38 caliber.

Q: What did he tell you when he surrendered and gave to you his .38
caliber Mr. Witness?

WITNESS:

A: That he allegedly hold (sic) a robber inside "while stealing" according to


him a cash register of the bar and some assorted goods.

COURT:

Q: Who told you that?

WITNESS:

A: The security guard, the alleged suspect Sir.

FISCAL FLORES:

Q: What else did he tell you?

A: Nothing Sir, he fired his gun at the victim.

FISCAL FLORES:

Q: After the said accused surrendered himself and his firearm, what else
did you do at the said bar?

A: Sir, we invited him to our precinct to shed light or to answer what he


committed.15 (Emphasis supplied).

and, on his cross-examination, he testified as follows:

100
Q: Is it not true that when the accused Oscar Alcanzado in this case
approached you, he was not evasive and that he voluntarily turned over
the firearm and his person to you?

A: Yes, Sir.16

The cross-examination of homicide investigator PO2 Rio S. Bucalan who


proceeded to the shooting incident, revealed the following:

Q: Mr. Witness, when you arrived at the scene of the incident in


questioned in this case, is it correct to say that you conducted the
investigation right there and then?

Witness:

A: Yes sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

And at that scene at that time was the accused in this case, Osca
Alcanzado, is that correct?

Witness:

Yes sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

Mr. Witness, isn’t it also true that at that time you conducted an
investigation you spoke with the accused in this case?

Witness:

Yes sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

And when you spoke to the accused, did you tell him about his right to
remain silent and his right to counsel?

Witness:

He is not still turn-over to me by the police officer.

101
...

Atty. Alikpala:

Mr. Witness, so at that time that you conducted your investigation, you
spoke to the accused?

Witness:

Yes sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

And did you tell him about his right to remain silent and his right to
counsel?

Witness:

In fact I don’t know that he is the accused during my initial inquiry.

Atty. Alikpala:

But you knew that he was a Security Guard?

Witness:

Yes sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

And so could you tell us what happened when you talked to him?

Witness:

During the initial inquiry he claimed that . . . . he verbally claimed that he


shot the victim because of self-defense.

COURT:

He claimed that he shot the victim?

Witness:

Yes, Your Honor.

102
Atty. Alikpala:

And this was in the course of your investigation, correct?

Witness:

Yes sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

And the accused in this case, did not execute any written waiver of his
right to remain silent, is that correct?

Witness:

No sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

And also the accused in this case did not execute any written waiver of his
right to counsel, is that correct?

Witness:

No sir.

COURT:

What do you mean no?

Witness:

He did not execute, sir.

Atty. Alikpala:

And it is also correct that the time he was talking to you there was no
lawyer present assisting the accused, is that correct?

Witness:

Yes sir.17

103
Under the above circumstances, the Court finds that while the admission made by
appellant to PO2 Bucalan may not be admitted in evidence considering that the
alleged verbal admission made by appellant before him as homicide investigator
was made without appellant being informed of his right to remain silent and right
to counsel and after appellant had been established as the suspect by the police
officers who had arrived at the scene of the crime before PO2 Bucalan came.

However, the Court cannot disregard the testimony of SPO1 Bagon who, together
with his co-police officers, responded to the call of the barangay tanod and
immediately upon his arrival, appellant spontaneously told him that he had shot
the victim. This particular admission was made when appellant has not been taken
into custody by the police officers and therefore admissible in evidence. The
constitutional procedures on custodial investigation do not apply to a
spontaneous statement not elicited through questioning by the authorities but
given in an ordinary manner whereby the accused readily admitted having
committed the crime.18

Consequently, for purposes of determining whether the demurrer to evidence


should have been granted, the connection between the service gun and
appellant as the perpetrator of the shooting, without any countervailing evidence,
had been sufficiently established. Thus, the RTC did not commit any grave abuse
of discretion in denying the demurrer to evidence BUT it committed grave abuse of
discretion in outrightly convicting appellant of the crime of murder and sentencing
him to suffer reclusion perpetua when appellant has not been given the
opportunity to adduce evidence in his defense, pursuant to Section 15, Rule 119 of
the Rules of Court.

Further, the attendant justifying, mitigating or aggravating circumstance such as


self-defense, treachery and voluntary surrender could only be ascertained fully
after the defense evidence, rebuttal and sur-rebuttal, if any, shall have been
adduced and evaluated by the RTC in the rendition of its judgment on the case.

Had Presiding Judge Rosario, Jr. not compulsorily retired from the Judiciary, he
could have been admonished to be more circumspect in the performance of his
duties.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision dated April 5, 1999 of the
Regional Trial Court (Branch 66), Makati City is SET ASIDE for being null and void. Let
the records of Criminal Case No. 98-1634 be remanded to said trial court for
reception of defense evidence and further proceedings. The presiding judge is
directed to conduct the trial of the case and render judgment thereon with
immediate dispatch.

SO ORDERED.

104
RIGHT TO BE INFORMED

G.R. No. 127845 March 10, 2000

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff and appellee,


vs.
LODRIGO BAYYA, defendant and appellant.

PURISIMA, J.:

For automatic review here is a judgment handed down by Branch 16 1 of the


Regional Trial Court in Ilagan, Isabela, finding appellant Lodrigo 2 Bayya guilty of
incestuous rape and sentencing him to the ultimate penalty of DEATH.

Filed on October 9, 1995 by Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Pacifico Paas and


docketed as Criminal Case No. 2467, the accusatory portion of the Information
indicting appellant, alleges:

That on or about the year 1994 and for sometimes (sic) thereafter in the
municipality of Burgos, province of Isabela, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused armed with a knife,
did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force,
intimidation and with lewd designs, have carnal knowledge with his own
daughter ROSIE S. BAYYA for several times against the latters (sic) will and
consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 3

After appellant pleaded Not Guilty upon arraignment on Nov. 22, 1995 4 , trial
ensued.

From the decision of Nov. 15, 1996 under review, it can be gleaned that:

This is a case of a father raping his own daughter, a minor, aged 12 when
she was first sexually assaulted up to July 12, 1995, the last molestation
having done on her on said date (sic).

. . . it appears that Rosie Bayya, a minor, revealed to her aunt, Trinidad


Garcia, her horrible tale at the hands of her father, the accused herein, six
(6) days after the last sexual assault on her when Rosie was asked by her to
baby-sit for another aunt of hers at Santiago, Isabela. She was compelled
to reveal what befell her when she was informed that her father asked her
to go back home but never wanted to (sic), knowing that her father
would continue raping her. She told her aunt Trining that she does not like
to go home because her father used to have sexual intercourse with her.

105
With the revelation made by Rosie Bayya, her aunt Trining went back to
Malasin, Burgos, Isabela to inform Melquiades Bayya, Rosie’s granduncle
who in turn informed a certain Major Turingan of the PNP what the
accused did to his daughter (sic). The girl was brought to the PNP station
of Burgos to give her statement which she did where she divulged what
her father did to her.

The gist of her testimony in court is that sometime in 1994 when she was still
12 years old, her father, the accused, forced her at the point of a knife to
have sexual intercourse with her in the family house at Malasin, Burgos,
Isabela. Being afraid as he threatened her, the accused succeeded in
undressing the young daughter and he inserted his penis into her vagina.
She felt pain as a result and just kept to herself what her father did fearing
that her father would make good his threats if she squealed on him. She
just cried helplessly.

The first sexual molestation happened at an unholy hour at noon time (sic)
when her mother and the rest of the siblings were out, her mother working
in the field at the time. Her father repeated this bestial act in their house
about twice a week when her mother was not at home; at times only a
sister six years of age was present but probably did not know what her
father was doing to her elder sister. Then later, he used her four (4) times a
month and the last that she remembered was on July 12, 1995. After she
was advised to file a complaint at her behest, she was brought to the PNP
station at Burgos to continue and wind up her ordeal with a physical
examination of her by a public physician, Dr. Elvie 5 Amurao of the Roxas
District Hospital at Roxas, a nearby town of Burgos.

Dr. Amurao found old lacerations compatible with the claim of the
complainant that she was raped months before her examination. 6

Appellant and his wife, Cecilia Bayya, took the witness stand for the defense.

Appellant unhesitatingly admitted having carnal knowledge of his daughter, Rosie


Bayya, twice but theorized that he was "out of his mind" 7 when he did the
lecherous acts on her. He traced his criminal behavior to a childhood that was
neglected and forlorn in the mountains of Isabela, let alone the maltreatment
endured in the hands of his very own parents.8

On the other hand, Cecilia Bayya, mother of the victim and wife of appellant,
manifested on the witness stand her "neutral" stance 9 in the case. Nonetheless, she
disclosed that she had forgiven her husband for his salacious conduct since they
are poor and she cannot eke out a living without appellant as breadwinner. 10

Finding the facts established by the evidence falling squarely under Article 335 of
the Revised Penal Code as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, the lower court,

106
after trial on the merits, rendered a judgment of conviction, sentencing appellant
to suffer the ultimate penalty of DEATH, disposing thus:

WHEREFORE, finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the


offense charged, the court hereby sentences the accused LODRIGO
BAYYA to suffer the supreme penalty of death without award to any form
of damages for obvious reasons.

SO ORDERED. 11

At the outset, it bears stressing that having admitted authorship of the offense
charged, appellant does not dispute the trial court’s finding of guilt. However,
appellant questions the penalty imposed below, contending that since the
information made no reference to Republic Act No. 7659, it was a reversible error
to convict thereunder. And because the only penal provision relied upon by the
prosecution is Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, he could only be sentenced
to the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua in accordance therewith.

Therefore, the only issue raised by appellant is whether there was a transgression of
his right to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him, in view
of the fact that the Information is silent about the applicability of R.A. No. 7659.

While departing from appellant's strained reasoning, the Court nonetheless agrees
with and adopts his submission that the trial court erred in imposing the capital
punishment on him.

A careful perusal of the Information indicting appellant reveals a crucial omission


in its averments of the minority of the victim, Rosie S. Bayya.

Instructive in this regard is Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

Sec. 6. Sufficiency of complaint or information. — A complaint or


information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the
designation of the offense by the statute; the acts or omissions
complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended
party; the approximate time of the commission of the offense, and the
place wherein the offense was committed.

When an offense is committed by more than one person, all of them shall
be included in the complaint or information.

The purpose of the above-quoted rule is to inform the accused of the nature and
cause of the accusation against him, a right guaranteed by no less than the
fundamental law of the land. 12 Elaborating on the defendant’s right to be
informed, the Court held in Pecho vs. People 13 that the objectives of this right are:

107
1. To furnish the accused with such a description of the charge against
him as will enable him to make the defense;

2. To avail himself of his conviction or acquittal for protection against a


further prosecution for the same cause; and

3. To inform the court of the facts alleged, so that it may decide whether
they are sufficient in law to support a conviction, if one should be had.

It is thus imperative that the Information filed with the trial court be complete — to
the end that the accused may suitably prepare his defense. Corollary to this, an
indictment must fully state the elements of the specific offense alleged to have
been committed as it is the recital of the essentials of a crime which delineates the
nature and cause of accusation against the accused.14

The Court held recently that to sustain a conviction under Article 335 of the
Revised Penal Code as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, the prosecution must
allege and prove the basic elements of: 1) sexual congress; 2) with a woman; 3) by
force and without consent, and in order to warrant the imposition of the death
penalty, the additional elements that 4) the victim is under 18 years of age at the
time of the rape; and 5) the offender is a parent (whether legitimate, illegitimate or
adopted) of the victim. 15

In the case under scrutiny, the information does not allege the minority of the
victim, Rosie S. Bayya, although the same was proven during the trial as borne by
the records. The omission is not merely formal in nature since doctrinally, an
accused cannot be held liable for more than what he is indicted for. It matters not
how conclusive and convincing the evidence of guilt may be, but an accused
cannot be convicted of any offense, not charged in the Complaint or information
on which he is tried or therein necessarily included. He has a right to be informed
of the nature of the offense with which he is charged before he is put on trial. To
convict an accused of an offense higher than that charged in the Complaint or
information on which he is tried would constitute unauthorized denial of that
right. 16

The Information under consideration charges nothing more than simple rape
defined and penalized in the first and second paragraphs of Article 335 of the
Revised Penal Code, that is — having carnal knowledge of a woman by means of
force and intimidation and against her will. The additional allegation that the
offender is a parent of the offended party can only be deemed a generic
aggravating circumstance. The failure of the prosecution to allege the age of the
victim has effectively removed the crime from the ambit of Section 11 of Republic
Act No. 7659 prescribing the death penalty "when the victim is under eighteen (18)
years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian,
relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-
law spouse of the parent of the victim".

108
Previously, this Court had occasion to hold that the death penalty may be
imposed only If the information alleges and the evidence has proven both the age
of the victim and her relationship to the offender. 17 This theory of "concurring
allegations" finds support in the earlier case of People vs. Ramos 18 where the Court
enunciated that the concurrence of the minority of the victim and her relationship
with the offender gives a different character to the rape defined in the first part of
Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, having, as it does, the effect of raising the
imposable penalty for rape from reclusion perpetua to the higher and supreme
penalty of DEATH.

The Court explained in Ramos that relationship and minority must be alleged jointly
if the death penalty is sought to be imposed because the same partakes of the
nature of a special qualifying circumstance which has the effect of increasing the
prescribed penalty by degrees. When either one of the said circumstances is
omitted or lacking, that which is pleaded in the information and proven by the
evidence may be considered merely as a generic aggravating circumstance in
accordance with the general principles of criminal law. But since the penalty for
simple rape under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code is the single indivisible
penalty of reclusion perpetua, the generic aggravating circumstance cannot
effectively augment the criminal liability of appellant, it being required that the
single indivisible penalty prescribed by law is to be applied regardless of any
modifying circumstance in attendance.

Since the appellant had been informed of the elements of simple rape under the
information indicting him and nothing more, he could only be convicted of simple
rape and sentenced to reclusion perpetua as prescribed by law. 19

In conclusion, the Court also takes note of the fact that the trial court failed to
award an indemnity ex delicto to the victim pursuant to Article 100 20 in relation to
Article 104 21 of the Revised Penal Code. In line with prevailing jurisprudence, moral
damages should also be awarded to the victim in such amount as the court
deems just 22 . The award of exemplary damages is also indicated considering that
the relationship between the offender and the victim aggravates the crime of
rape, such as in the present case.

WHEREFORE, the judgment of conviction under review is AFFIRMED with the


MODIFICATION that appellant LODRIGO BAYYA is adjudged guilty of simple rape
and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is further ordered
to pay the victim, ROSIE S. BAYYA, P50,000.00 as indemnity ex delicto, apart from
P50,000.00 as moral damages and P 25,000.00 as exemplary damages. Costs
against the appellant.

SO ORDERED.

109
G.R. No. 104399 March 20, 1995

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ANTONIO ALVARADO Y GALON, accused-appellant.

BELLOSILLO, J.

ANTONIO ALVARADO Y GALON was found guilty by the Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City, Br. 103, of violating Sec. 15, Art. III, of R.A. 6425 as amended,1 for
selling 3.7 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug
commonly known as shabu.2

Culled from the uncorroborated testimony of Pat. Jaime Gregorio the evidence for
the prosecution tends to establish that on 7 February 1991, acting on the report of
a confidential informant, a buy-bust team of the Special Task Force Unit, Quezon
City Anti-Drug Abuse Council, was organized composed of Pat. Jaime Gregorio,
Pfc. Jaime Santos and Pat. Placido Domingo to track down a certain Vicente "Itik"
Galon at No. 10 Sta. Gertrudes St., Project 8, Quezon City. The report was that
arrangements were already made with Galon's "aides," Antonio "Boy" Alvarado
(herein appellant) and Manuel "Butch" Sevilla, for the purchase of shabu. Marked
bills amounting to P2,100.00 were brought by the team to be used in the
operation.3

At the given address, with the rest of the team positioned some distance away,
Pat. Gregorio (as poseur-buyer) and his informant talked with "Butch" Sevilla and
told him that they wanted to buy shabu. After telling the duo to wait at the front
door of the house Sevilla left. A little later, Antonio Alvarado appeared and told
them that what they wanted to buy was merely entrusted to him by "Itik." The two
were again asked to wait. After a few minutes Alvarado reappeared with three (3)
plastic bags of shabu which he handed over to Pat. Gregorio who in turn paid
accused-appellant with the marked bills but who immediately gestured to his
fellow officers the pre-arranged signal to indicate the completion of the
transaction. Accused-appellant and Manuel "Butch" Sevilla were then arrested
and brought to the office of the Quezon City Anti-Drug Abuse Council.4 A
laboratory examination conducted on the merchandise yielded positive results for
methamphetamine hydrochloride.5

The version of the defense is different. According to accused-appellant, on 7


February 1991 he was inside his residence when he heard the sound of a motor
vehicle stopping suddenly in front. Then he noticed at least four (4)
plainclothesmen armed with rifles alight from the vehicle and rushing towards his
house. Before entering the men shouted that they were conducting a raid while
one of them fired two warning shots in the air. Once inside they introduced
themselves as police officers and started hollering the name "Itik," rounding up all
the occupants of the house and ordering them to lie face downwards.6 However,
after searching the premises and realizing that "Itik" and a certain "Lino" they were
looking for were nowhere to be found in the premises, the raiding team

110
announced that they would take all those present to the office of the Quezon City
Anti-Drug Abuse Council for formal investigation.

At this juncture accused-appellant asked why they were being arrested and
whether the raiding team had any warrant to conduct the search. Instead of
answering, one of the arresting officers showed him a plastic bag
containing shabu allegedly taken from the premises and reiterated that all those
present would be brought to the police station. Later accused-appellant
discovered that "Itik" was Vicente Galon, a tenant occupying a room on the
second floor of his house,7 Virginia Alvarado, mother of appellant, together with
Manuel Sevilla corroborated the testimony of Antonio.8

On the basis of the report of the buy-bust team, accused-appellant Antonio


Alvarado and Manuel Sevilla were charged before the court a quo for
selling shabu in violation of Sec. 15 of The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972.9

On 24 July 1991, in a decision anchored principally on the uncorroborated


testimony of Pat. Gregorio, the court a quo ruled that the evidence presented by
the prosecution sufficiently established the guilt of accused-appellant beyond
reasonable doubt and that he should suffer the penalty of "reclusion perpetua and
to pay a fine of twenty-five thousand pesos (P25,000.00)." 10

Manuel Sevilla was absolved from all liability on the ground that his participation in
the negotiation and sale of the regulated drug was not properly established. 11

Antonio Alvarado is now before us reasserting his innocence.

This Court concedes that the testimony of a poseur-buyer may suffice


to convict an accused provided that such testimony be both clear and
convincing. 12 In such case it is essential only that the witness be able to recount
and relate the actual events that transpired which justified the arrest of the
accused. Thus it is imperative that the witness declares that there was a
negotiation for the purchase of the drug and that the pusher sold and delivered
the drug in view of some material consideration which in most cases takes the form
of marked peso bills. Once these facts are clearly established through the
testimony of a credible witness, the guilt of the accused can be deemed
established with moral certainty. However, the assessment of the trial court
regarding the credibility of a witness can be set aside if it is shown that certain
facts of substance have been overlooked or circumstances of significance which
may affect the result of the case have been arbitrarily disregarded. 13

In the case at bench, the adjudication of the court a quo regarding the
sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution to prove the guilt of
herein accused-appellant is specious. The lone testimony of Pat. Gregorio to prove
the fact of entrapment is not without material contradictions. There is a significant
discrepancy in his testimony regarding the fact of payment of the marked bills.

111
Pat. Gregorio in his direct examination categorically stated that it was to accused-
appellant Antonio Alvarado that he handed the marked money. Thus —

Q What about the money you were carrying with you?

A It was in my possession at that time.

Q What happened next after you waited?

A The suspect by the name of alias Boy Alvarado came down from
the house and told me that (the) stuff was entrusted to
one alias Tony.14

Q What happened when he told you that?

A I told him that I am (sic) the one intending to buy the stuff, so he
took the stuff upstairs and then came down again and bringing with
him the shabu I am (sic) intending to buy and he handed it to me.

Q How many plastic bags?

A Three.

Q What did you do with the money?

A I gave him the money. I gave him the buy-bust money. 15

Thus it is apparent from the direct testimony of Pat. Gregorio that he gave
the buy-bust money to Antonio Alvarado. However during his cross-
examination Pat. Gregorio admitted negotiating with and handing over the
marked bills to Manuel "Butch " Sevilla, and not to Antonio —

Q In this affidavit, Paragraph 5, you stated and I quote that at the


doorsteps of house No. 10, Sta. Gertudes, "I met alias Butch, the
runner of alias Tony whom I was introduced by my informant
as shabu user and he said he is (sic) intending it (sic) to purchase the
drug, at this juncture, alias Butch ask (sic) how much and then
demanding for the payment and I drew from my pocket the early
mark(ed) money and gave the same after receiving the mark(ed)
money and told us to wait and then went inside the house," end of
quote. Is (sic) this statement . . . prepare(d) by you?

A Yes sir.

Q And this is your statement?

112
A Yes sir. 16

In the case at bench, the conviction of accused-appellant is based primarily on


the uncorroborated testimony of Pat. Gregorio regarding the circumstances of the
entrapment. From the aforequoted portions of such testimony, he claimed on
direct examination that he met Manuel Sevilla by the doorsteps and informed the
latter that he wanted to buy shabu, and that Manuel in turn asked him to wait and
then proceeded to the second floor of the house. According further to Pat.
Gregorio, after a while Antonio Alvarado appeared, negotiated for the sale of the
drug and received the buy-bust money. 17 However, during his cross-examination,
Pat. Gregorio reaffirmed what he stated in his affidavit that he met Manuel Sevilla
in front of the house, negotiated with him for the purchase of the shabu, handed
the marked bills after which he was asked by Manuel to wait. Afterwards it was
Antonio Alvarado who handed over the shabu to him. 18

With respect to this material contradiction, we are baffled as to how the court a
quo could have arrived at the conclusion that what Pat. Gregorio stated on direct
examination was more believable than what he stated in his affidavit and which
he reaffirmed on cross-examination. It is indeed perplexing that the court a
quo adjudged accused-appellant guilty while absolving Manuel Sevilla from all
criminal liability. The trial court just concluded that Manuel's participation in the
unlawful sale was not well-established 19 which conclusion, however, was based
merely on the direct testimony of Pat. Gregorio that it was with accused-appellant
that he negotiated the sale of shabu and to whom he handed the marked money
without taking into consideration that it directly contradicted his statements on
cross-examination that it was with Sevilla that the negotiation was effected. If the
assertions of Pat. Gregorio were given the proper attention by the court a
quo then it could not have failed to observe that different versions were given by
the principal witness for the state.

The records also reveal other instances when Pat. Gregorio directly contradicted
himself. In his affidavit of 10 February 1991 he stated —

5. . . . Butch asked how much shabu I am (sic) intending to buy . . .


demanded for the payment . . . and after receiving the marked money, told
us to wait and then went inside the house.

6. That after a few minutes, alias Butch came out with a male companion
whom he introduced to me as Tony. After learning that I am (sic) the
purchaser of shabu, alias Tony drew from his pocket three (3) self-heat
transparent plastic bags and gave the same to me . . .

7. That my co-STFU operatives upon seeing my signal quickly made their


approach to effect the arrest of the two (2) suspected drug pushers.20

It is obvious from the foregoing that Pat. Gregorio unequivocally claims to have
purchased the drug from both Manuel and Antonio. A cursory reading of the

113
transcript of his direct testimony however reveals that Pat. Gregorio claimed in
open court that he acquired and paid for the drug only from accused-
appellant. 21

Finally, Pat. Gregorio again contradicted himself when asked as to whom the buy-
bust operation was directed. In open court he admitted that the mission was to
entrap a certain Vicente "Itik" Galon. According to him, he purchased the shabu
from Alvarado because the latter claimed that the drug was merely entrusted to
him by "Itik." 22 However, in his affidavit, he alleged that his confidential informant
reported to him that it was only "the tandem of alias Tony (Alvarado) and Butch
(Sevilla) (who) were conspiringly engaged in selling shabu at Project 8 . . ." 23

Although the general rule is that contradictions and discrepancies between the
testimony of a witness and his statements in an affidavit do not necessarily
discredit him, this rule is not without exception, as when the omission in the affidavit
refers to a very important detail of the incident that one relating the incident as an
eyewitness would not be expected to fail to mention, or when the narration in the
sworn statement substantially contradicts the testimony in court. 24 The
contradictory statements of Pat. Jaime Gregorio, the lone police witness in this
case, cast doubt on the accuracy and veracity of his testimony which was
principally relied upon by the trial court in convicting accused-appellant.

We are disturbed by the fact that Pat. Gregorio who acted as poseur-buyer in the
alleged buy-bust operation could not even give an accurate account, that is, one
free from material and serious contradictions, of the actual transaction that
transpired in his very presence. His testimony given a little over two (2) months after
the buy-bust operation is irreconcilable with his affidavit executed three (3) days
after the incident. 25 Considering that his testimony was the only evidence
presented to prove the alleged illegal sale, it ought to have been scrutinized more
carefully and accepted with extreme caution by the court a quo. Admittedly, an
affidavit does not purport to contain a complete compendium of the details of an
event and may contain discrepancies with statements made on the witness
stand. 26 However, unexplained disparities between a previously executed sworn
statement of a witness and his testimonial declarations regarding the participation
of an accused in a crime erode the veracity of his account thereon. 27 Indeed
where there are weighty discrepancies on material points between a police
officer's testimony regarding the transaction and his affidavit, the fact of
entrapment cannot be established with moral certitude. 28 In this case we cannot
ignore the fact that the guilt of accused-appellant was adjudged on the basis of
such a defective testimony and that the conflicting accounts are of material and
substantial importance since they involve the very acts of negotiation and drug-
sale complained of as felonious.

Consequently, we hold that the uncorroborated account given by Pat. Gregorio


of the alleged sale does not justify the conviction of accused-appellant. It is
doctrinal that the prosecution has the burden of proving the guilt of the accused
beyond reasonable doubt. 29 In this case, the prosecution has failed to overcome
the constitutional presumption of innocence of the accused. The evidence relied

114
upon by the prosecution falls short of the quantum of proof required for a
conviction. Although the testimony of a police officer should ordinarily be
accorded faith and credence still it cannot prevail over the constitutional
presumption of innocence that an accused enjoys, particularly in cases where the
testimony of the law officer concerned is ambiguous and vacillating hence
unpersuasive, as in the instant case.

We emphasize that the penalty prescribed under Sec. 15, Art. III, of R.A. 6425,
before the effectivity of R.A. 7659, 30was life imprisonment and not reclusion
perpetua. 31 In this case the court a quo also erred in imposing the penalty
of reclusion perpetua instead of life imprisonment since these are two (2) distinct
penalties which are not interchangeable. Life imprisonment does not carry with it
the accessory penalties provided in the Revised Penal Code and does not appear
to have any definite extent or duration unlike reclusion perpetua.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the court a quo declaring accused-appellant


ANTONIO ALVARADO Y GALON guilty of violating Sec. 15, Art. III, of R.A. 6425, as
amended, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant is ACQUITTED on
reasonable doubt and ordered immediately released from custody unless held for
some other lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 154182 December 17, 2004

EDGAR Y. TEVES and TERESITA Z. TEVES, petitioners,


vs.
THE SANDIGANBAYAN, respondent.

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.

The pivotal issue in this petition is whether a public official charged with violation of
Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-
Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for unlawful intervention, in his official capacity, in
the issuance of a license in favor of a business enterprise in which he has a
pecuniary interestmay be convicted, together with his spouse, of violation of that
same provision premised on his mere possession of such interest.

Edgar Y. Teves, former Mayor of Valencia, Negros Oriental, and his wife Teresita Z.
Teves seeks to annul and set aside the 16 July 2002 Decision 1 of the
Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 2337 convicting them of violation of Section
3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law for possessing direct pecuniary interest in the Valencia
Cockpit and Recreation Center in Valencia.

115
The indictment reads:2

The undersigned Special Prosecution Officer II, Office of the Special


Prosecutor, hereby accuses EDGAR Y. TEVES and TERESITA TEVES of
violation of Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the
Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, committed as follows:

That on or about February 4, 1992, and sometime subsequent


thereto, in Valencia, Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Edgar Y. Teves, a
public officer, being then the Municipal Mayor of Valencia,
Negros Oriental, committing the crime-herein charged in relation
to, while in the performance and taking advantage of his official
functions, and conspiring and confederating with his wife, herein
accused Teresita Teves, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
criminally cause the issuance of the appropriate business
permit/license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation
Center in favor of one Daniel Teves, said accused Edgar Y.
Teveshaving a direct financial or pecuniary interest therein
considering the fact that said cockpit arena is actually owned
and operated by him and accused Teresita Teves.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Upon their arraignment on 12 May 1997, the petitioners pleaded "not guilty." Pre-
trial and trial were thereafter set.

The petitioners and the prosecution agreed on the authenticity of the


prosecution’s documentary evidence. Thus, the prosecution dispensed with the
testimonies of witnesses and formally offered its documentary evidence marked as
Exhibits "A" to "V."3

On 23 February 1998, the petitioners filed their Comment/Objections to the


evidence offered by the prosecution and moved for leave of court to file a
demurrer to evidence.4 On 29 July 1998, the Sandiganbayan admitted Exhibits "A"
to "S" of the prosecution’s evidence but rejected Exhibits "T," "U," and "V." 5 It also
denied petitioners’ demurrer to evidence,6 as well as their motion for
reconsideration.7 This notwithstanding, the petitioners filed a Manifestation that
they were, nonetheless, dispensing with the presentation of witnesses because the
evidence on record are inadequate to support their conviction.

On 16 July 2002, the Sandiganbayan promulgated a decision 8 (1) convicting


petitioners Edgar and Teresita Teves of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft
Law; (2) imposing upon them an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of nine
years and twenty-one days as minimum to twelve years as maximum; and (3)
ordering the confiscation of all their rights, interests, and participation in the assets
and properties of the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation Center in favor of the

116
Government, as well as perpetual disqualification from public office.9 The
conviction was anchored on the finding that the petitioners possessed pecuniary
interest in the said business enterprise on the grounds that (a) nothing on record
appears that Mayor Teves divested himself of his pecuniary interest in said cockpit;
(b) as of April 1992, Teresita Teves was of record the "owner/licensee" of the
cockpit; and (c) since Mayor Teves and Teresita remained married to each other
from 1983 until 1992, their property relations as husband and wife, in the absence
of evidence to the contrary, was that of the conjugal partnership of gains. Hence,
the cockpit is a conjugal property over which the petitioners have pecuniary
interest. This pecuniary interest is prohibited under Section 89(2) of R.A. No. 7160,
otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991, and thus falls
under the prohibited acts penalized in Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law.

The Sandiganbayan, however, absolved the petitioners of the charge of causing


the issuance of a business permit or license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and
Recreation Center on or about 4 February 1992 for not being well-founded.

On 26 August 2002, the petitioners filed the instant petition for review
on certiorari10 seeking to annul and set aside the 16 July 2002 Decision of the
Sandiganbayan.

At first, we denied the petition for failure of the petitioners to sufficiently show that
the Sandiganbayan committed any reversible error in the challenged decision as
to warrant the exercise by this Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction.11 But
upon petitioners’ motion for reconsideration,12 we reinstated the petition.13

The petitioners assert that the Sandiganbayan committed serious and palpable
errors in convicting them. In the first place, the charge was for alleged unlawful
intervention of Mayor Teves in his official capacity in the issuance of a cockpit
license in violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law. But they were convicted
of having a direct financial or pecuniary interest in the Valencia Cockpit and
Recreation Center prohibited under Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991, which is
essentially different from the offense with which they were charged. Thus, the
petitioners insist that their constitutional right to be informed of the nature and
cause of the accusation against them was transgressed because they were never
apprised at any stage of the proceedings in the Sandiganbayan that they were
being charged with, and arraigned and tried for, violation of the LGC of 1991.
The variance doctrine invoked by the respondent is but a rule of procedural law
that should not prevail over their constitutionally-guaranteed right to be informed
of the nature and cause of accusation against them.

Second, according to the petitioners, their alleged prohibited pecuniary interest in


the Valencia Cockpit in 1992 was not proved. The Sandiganbayan presumed that
since Mayor Teves was the cockpit operator and licensee in 1989, said interest
continued to exist until 1992. It also presumed that the cockpit was the conjugal
property of Mayor Teves and his wife, and that their pecuniary interest thereof was
direct. But under the regime of conjugal partnership of gains, any interest thereon
is at most inchoate and indirect.

117
Also assigned as glaring error is the conviction of Teresita Teves, who is not a public
officer. In the information, only Mayor Teves was accused of "having a direct
financial or pecuniary interest in the operation of the Valencia Cockpit and
Recreation Center in Negros Oriental." His wife was merely charged as a co-
conspirator of her husband’s alleged act of "while in the performance and taking
advantage of his official functions, … willfully, unlawfully and criminally caus[ing]
the issuance of the appropriate business permit/license to operate" the said
cockpit arena. Teresita Teves could not be convicted because conspiracy was not
established. Besides, the Sandiganbayan had already absolved the petitioners of
this offense.

On the other hand, the Sandiganbayan, through the Office of the Special
Prosecutor (OSP), insists that the uncontroverted documentary evidence proved
that petitioner Edgar Teves had direct pecuniary interest over the cockpit in
question as early as 26 September 1983. That interest continued even though he
transferred the management thereof to his wife Teresita Teves in 1992, since their
property relations were governed by the conjugal partnership of gains. The
existence of that prohibited interest is by itself a criminal offense under Section
89(2) of the LGC of 1991. It is necessarily included in the offense charged against
the petitioners, i.e., for violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law, which
proscribes the possession of a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in
any business, contract, or transaction in connection with which the person
possessing the financial interest intervenes in his official capacity, or in which he is
prohibited by the Constitution or any law from having any interest. The use of the
conjunctive word "or" demonstrates the alternative mode or nature of the manner
of execution of the final element of the violation of the provision. Although the
information may have alleged only one of the modalities of committing the
offense, the other mode is deemed included in the accusation to allow proof
thereof. There was, therefore, no violation of the constitutional right of the accused
to be informed of the nature or cause of the accusation against them in view of
the variance doctrine, which finds statutory support in Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 120
of the Rules of Court.

The petition is not totally devoid of merit.

Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law provides:

Section 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. – In addition to acts or


omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following
shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby
declared to be unlawful:

(h) Directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in


any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he
intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is

118
prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any
interest.

The essential elements set out in the afore-quoted legislative definition of the crime
of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law are as follows:

1. The accused is a public officer;

2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business,


contract, or transaction;

3. He either

a. intervenes or takes part in his official capacity in connection


with such interest; or

b. is prohibited from having such interest by the Constitution or by


any law.

There are, therefore, two modes by which a public officer who has a direct or
indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract, or transaction may
violate Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law. The first mode is if in connection with his
pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction, the public officer
intervenes or takes part in his official capacity. The second mode is when he is
prohibited from having such interest by the Constitution or any law.

We quote herein the Sandiganbayan’s declaration regarding petitioners’


culpability anent the first mode:

…[T]hat portion of the Information which seeks to indict the spouses Teves
for his causing the issuance of a business permit/license to operate the
Valencia cockpit on or about February 4, 1992 is not well-founded.

… Mayor Edgar Teves could not have issued a permit to operate the
cockpit in the year 1992 because as of January 1, 1992 the license could
be issued only by the Sangguniang Bayan. He may have issued the permit
or license in 1991 or even before that when he legally could, but that is not
the charge. The charge is for acts committed in 1992.14 [Emphasis
supplied].

The Sandiganbayan found that the charge against Mayor Teves for causing the
issuance of the business permit or license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and
Recreation Center is "not well-founded." This it based, and rightly so, on the
additional finding that only the Sangguniang Bayan could have issued a permit to
operate the Valencia Cockpit in the year 1992. Indeed, under Section 447(3) 15 of
the LGC of 1991, which took effect on 1 January 1992, it is the Sangguniang Bayan

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that has the authority to issue a license for the establishment, operation, and
maintenance of cockpits. Unlike in the old LGC, Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, wherein
the municipal mayor was the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Bayan,16 under
the LGC of 1991, the mayor is not so anymore and is not even a member of the
Sangguniang Bayan. Hence, Mayor Teves could not have intervened or taken part
in his official capacity in the issuance of a cockpit license during the material time,
as alleged in the information, because he was not a member of the Sangguniang
Bayan.17

A fortiori, there is no legal basis to convict Teresita Teves as a co-conspirator in the


absence of a finding that Mayor Teves himself is guilty of the offense charged. In
short, the Sandiganbayan correctly absolved the petitioners of the charge based
on the first mode. And there is no need to belabor this point.

The Sandiganbayan, however, convicted the petitioners of violation of Section


3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law based on the second mode. It reasoned that the
evidence overwhelmingly evinces that Mayor Teves had a pecuniary interest in
the Valencia Cockpit, which is prohibited under Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991.

The information accuses petitioner Edgar Teves, then Municipal Mayor of Valencia,
Negros Oriental, of causing, "while in the performance and taking advantage of
his official functions, and conspiring and confederating with his wife … the
issuance of the appropriate business permit/license to operate the Valencia
Cockpit and Recreation Center in favor of one Daniel Teves." The last part of the
dispositive portion of the information states that "said accused Edgar Y.
Teves having a direct financial or pecuniary interest therein considering the fact
that said cockpit arena is actually owned and operated by him and
accused Teresita Teves."

A careful reading of the information reveals that the afore-quoted last part thereof
is merely an allegation of the second element of the crime, which is, that he has a
direct or indirect "financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or
transaction." Not by any stretch of imagination can it be discerned or construed
that the afore-quoted last part of the information charges the petitioners with the
second mode by which Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law may be violated.
Hence, we agree with the petitioners that the charge was for unlawful intervention
in the issuance of the license to operate the Valencia Cockpit. There was no
charge for possession of pecuniary interest prohibited by law.

However, the evidence for the prosecution has established that petitioner Edgar
Teves, then mayor of Valencia, Negros Oriental,18 owned the cockpit in question. In
his sworn application for registration of cockpit filed on 26 September 198319 with
the Philippine Gamefowl Commission, Cubao, Quezon City, as well as in his
renewal application dated 6 January 198920 he stated that he is the owner and
manager of the said cockpit. Absent any evidence that he divested himself of his
ownership over the cockpit, his ownership thereof is rightly to be presumed
because a thing once proved to exist continues as long as is usual with things of
that nature.21 His affidavit22 dated 27 September 1990 declaring that effective

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January 1990 he "turned over the management of the cockpit to Mrs. Teresita Z.
Teves for the reason that [he] could no longer devote a full time as manager of
the said entity due to other work pressure" is not sufficient proof that he divested
himself of his ownership over the cockpit. Only the management of the cockpit
was transferred to Teresita Teves effective January 1990. Being the owner of the
cockpit, his interest over it was direct.

Even if the ownership of petitioner Edgar Teves over the cockpit were transferred
to his wife, still he would have a direct interest thereon because, as correctly held
by respondent Sandiganbayan, they remained married to each other from 1983
up to 1992, and as such their property relation can be presumed to be that of
conjugal partnership of gains in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Article
160 of the Civil Code provides that all property of the marriage is presumed to
belong to the conjugal partnership unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to
the husband or to the wife. And Section 143 of the Civil Code declares all the
property of the conjugal partnership of gains to be owned in common by the
husband and wife. Hence, his interest in the Valencia Cockpit is direct and is,
therefore, prohibited under Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991, which reads:

Section 89. Prohibited Business and Pecuniary Interest. – (a) It shall be


unlawful for any local government official or employee, directly or
indirectly, to:

(2) Hold such interests in any cockpit or other games licensed by


a local government unit…. [Emphasis supplied].

The offense proved, therefore, is the second mode of violation of Section 3(h) of
the Anti-Graft Law, which is possession of a prohibited interest. But can the
petitioners be convicted thereof, considering that it was not charged in the
information?

The answer is in the affirmative in view of the variance doctrine embodied in


Section 4, in relation to Section 5, Rule 120, Rules of Criminal Procedure, which both
read:

Sec. 4. Judgment in case of variance between allegation and proof. –


When there is a variance between the offense charged in the complaint
or information and that proved, and the offense as charged is included in
or necessarily includes the offense proved, the accused shall be
convicted of the offense proved which is included in the offense charged,
or of the offense charged which is included in the offense proved.

Sec. 5. When an offense includes or is included in another. – An offense


charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the
essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint

121
or information, constitutes the latter. And an offense charged is necessarily
included in the offense proved when the essential ingredients of the
former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.

The elements of the offense charged in this case, which is unlawful intervention in
the issuance of a cockpit license in violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law,
are

1. The accused is a public officer;

2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business,


contract, or transaction, whether or not prohibited by law; and

3. He intervenes or takes part in his official capacity in connection with


such interest.

On the other hand, the essential ingredients of the offense proved, which is
possession of prohibited interest in violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law,
are as follows:

1. The accused is a public officer;

2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business,


contract or transaction; and

3. He is prohibited from having such interest by the Constitution or any law.

It is clear that the essential ingredients of the offense proved constitute or form part
of those constituting the offense charged. Put differently, the first and second
elements of the offense charged, as alleged in the information, constitute the
offense proved. Hence, the offense proved is necessarily included in the offense
charged, or the offense charged necessarily includes the offense proved.
The variance doctrine thus finds application to this case, thereby warranting the
conviction of petitioner Edgar Teves for the offense proved.

The next question we have to grapple with is under what law should petitioner
Edgar Teves be punished. It must be observed that Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft
Law is a general provision, it being applicable to all prohibited interests; while
Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991 is a special provision, as it specifically treats of
interest in a cockpit. Notably, the two statutes provide for different penalties. The
Anti-Graft Law, particularly Section 9, provides as follows:

SEC. 9. Penalties for violations. – (a) Any public official or private person
committing any of the unlawful acts or omissions enumerated in Sections
3, 4, 5, and 6 of this Act shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than
six years and one month nor more than fifteen years, perpetual

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disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of
the Government of any prohibited interest….

On the other hand, Section 514 of the LGC of 1991 prescribes a lighter penalty;
thus:

SECTION 514. Engaging in Prohibited Business Transactions or Possessing


Illegal Pecuniary Interest. – Any local official and any person or persons
dealing with him who violate the prohibitions provided in Section 89 of
Book I hereof shall be punished with imprisonment for six months and one
day to six years, or a fine of not less than Three thousand pesos (P3,000.00)
nor more than Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00), or both such
imprisonment and fine at the discretion of the court.

It is a rule of statutory construction that where one statute deals with a subject in
general terms, and another deals with a part of the same subject in a more
detailed way, the two should be harmonized if possible; but if there is any conflict,
the latter shall prevail regardless of whether it was passed prior to the general
statute.23 Or where two statutes are of contrary tenor or of different dates but are
of equal theoretical application to a particular case, the one designed therefor
specially should prevail over the other.24

Conformably with these rules, the LGC of 1991, which specifically prohibits local
officials from possessing pecuniary interest in a cockpit licensed by the local
government unit and which, in itself, prescribes the punishment for violation
thereof, is paramount to the Anti-Graft Law, which penalizes possession of
prohibited interest in a general manner. Moreover, the latter took effect on 17
August 1960, while the former became effective on 1 January 1991. Being the
earlier statute, the Anti-Graft Law has to yield to the LGC of 1991, which is the later
expression of legislative will.25

In the imposition on petitioner Edgar Teves of the penalty provided in the LGC of
1991, we take judicial notice of the fact that under the old LGC, mere possession
of pecuniary interest in a cockpit was not among the prohibitions enumerated in
Section 4126 thereof. Such possession became unlawful or prohibited only upon the
advent of the LGC of 1991, which took effect on 1 January 1992. Petitioner Edgar
Teves stands charged with an offense in connection with his prohibited interest
committed on or about 4 February 1992, shortly after the maiden appearance of
the prohibition. Presumably, he was not yet very much aware of the prohibition.
Although ignorance thereof would not excuse him from criminal liability, such
would justify the imposition of the lighter penalty of a fine of P10,000 under Section
514 of the LGC of 1991.

Petitioner Teresita Teves must, however, be acquitted. The charge against her is
conspiracy in causing "the issuance of the appropriate business permit/license to
operate the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation Center." For this charge, she was
acquitted. But as discussed earlier, that charge also includes conspiracy in the
possession of prohibited interest.

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Conspiracy must be established separately from the crime itself and must meet the
same degree of proof, i.e., proof beyond reasonable doubt. While conspiracy
need not be established by direct evidence, for it may be inferred from the
conduct of the accused before, during, and after the commission of the crime, all
taken together, the evidence must reasonably be strong enough to show
community of criminal design.27

Certainly, there is no conspiracy in just being married to an erring spouse.28 For a


spouse or any person to be a party to a conspiracy as to be liable for the acts of
the others, it is essential that there be intentional participation in the transaction
with a view to the furtherance of the common design. Except when he is the
mastermind in a conspiracy, it is necessary that a conspirator should have
performed some overt act as a direct or indirect contribution in the execution of
the crime planned to be committed. The overt act must consist of active
participation in the actual commission of the crime itself or of moral assistance to
his co-conspirators.29

Section 4(b) of the Anti-Graft Law, the provision which applies to private
individuals, states:

SEC. 4. Prohibitions on private individuals. – …

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to induce or


cause any public official to commit any of the offenses defined in
Section 3 hereof.

We find no sufficient evidence that petitioner Teresita Teves conspired with, or


knowingly induced or caused, her husband to commit the second mode of
violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law.

As early as 1983, Edgar Teves was already the owner of the Valencia Cockpit.
Since then until 31 December 1991, possession by a local official of pecuniary
interest in a cockpit was not yet prohibited. It was before the effectivity of the LGC
of 1991, or on January 1990, that he transferred the management of the cockpit to
his wife Teresita. In accordance therewith it was Teresita who thereafter applied for
the renewal of the cockpit registration. Thus, in her sworn applications for renewal
of the registration of the cockpit in question dated 28 January 199030 and 18
February 1991,31 she stated that she is the Owner/Licensee and Operator/Manager
of the said cockpit. In her renewal application dated 6 January 1992,32 she referred
to herself as the Owner/Licensee of the cockpit. Likewise in the separate Lists of
Duly Licensed Personnel for Calendar Years 199133 and 1992,34 which she submitted
on 22 February 1991 and 17 February 1992, respectively, in compliance with the
requirement of the Philippine Gamefowl Commission for the renewal of the cockpit
registration, she signed her name as Operator/Licensee.

The acts of petitioner Teresita Teves can hardly pass as acts in furtherance of a
conspiracy to commit the violation of the Anti-Graft Law that would render her

124
equally liable as her husband. If ever she did those acts, it was because she herself
was an owner of the cockpit. Not being a public official, she was not prohibited
from holding an interest in cockpit. Prudence, however, dictates that she too
should have divested herself of her ownership over the cockpit upon the effectivity
of the LGC of 1991; otherwise, as stated earlier, considering her property relation
with her husband, her ownership would result in vesting direct prohibited interest
upon her husband.

In criminal cases, conviction must rest on a moral certainty of guilt.35 The burden of
proof is upon the prosecution to establish each and every element of the crime
and that the accused is either responsible for its commission or has conspired with
the malefactor. Since no conspiracy was proved, the acquittal of petitioner
Teresita Teves is, therefore, in order.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the 16 July 2002 Decision of the Sandiganbayan,


First Division, in Criminal Case No. 2337 is hereby MODIFIED in that (1) EDGAR Y.
TEVES is convicted of violation of Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-
Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for possession of pecuniary or financial interest in
a cockpit, which is prohibited under Section 89(2) of the Local Government Code
of 1991, and is sentenced to pay a fine of P10,000; and (2) TERESITA Z. TEVES is
hereby ACQUITTED of such offense.

Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-


Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Azcuna, Chico-
Nazario, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Callejo, Sr., J., on leave, but left his oath of concurrence with the dissent of J. Tinga.
Tinga, J., dissenting opinion.

DISSENTING OPINION

TINGA, J.:

It is imperative for this Court as guardian of the people’s fundamental liberties, to


redeem persons inflicted with the classic Kafkaesque nightmare – conviction for a
crime the indictment for which the accused has no knowledge of. I sense that the
majority recognizes, albeit tacitly, the absurdity of the convictions challenged in
this petition. Thus the proposed quantum downgrading of the penalty of accused
Edgardo Teves (Teves) from imprisonment of at least nine years, imposed by the
Sandiganbayan, to a mere fine. However, I submit that Teves should be

125
extenuated not as a matter of grace, but as a matter of right in consonance with
the Constitution.

My submission is ultimately premised on constitutional considerations – that Teves


cannot be convicted of the present charges against him without violating his
constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation
against him.1 Furthermore, the punishment of Teves for a crime of which he was
neither legally nor actually informed constitutes a violation of the constitutional
right to due process of law.2 While the variance doctrine is a rule of long-standing,
its mechanical application cannot supplant the Bill of Rights which occupies a
position of primacy within our fundamental law.3 I believe that the variance
between the offense charged to Teves, on one hand, and the offense of which
the majority intends to convict him, on the other, is material and prejudicial
enough so as to affect his substantial rights as an accused.4

In particular, the Information filed against Teves is deficient for the purpose of
convicting him, as charged, of violating Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt
Practices Act, or for violating Section 89(b) of the Local Government Code, as is
the wont of the majority.

The offense of which Teves is charged is defined under Section 3(h) of the Anti-
Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,5which states:

Section 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. – In addition to acts or


omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following
shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby
declared to be unlawful:

(h) Directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any


business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or
takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the
Constitution or by any law from having any interest.

As the majority correctly points out, there are two modes by which a public officer
who has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract
or transaction may violate Section 3(h). The first is where the public officer, in
connection with his financial or pecuniary interest in a business, contract or
transaction, intervenes or takes part in his official capacity (First Mode). The second
is where the public officer possesses such financial or pecuniary interest and said
possession is prohibited by the Constitution or of any other law (Second Mode).

The Information clearly charges the Teves spouses with violating Section 3(h)
through the First Mode:

The undersigned Special Prosecution Officer II, Office of the Special


Prosecutor, hereby accuses EDGAR Y. TEVES and TERESITA TEVES of

126
violation of Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the
Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, committed as follows:

That on or about February 4, 1992, and sometime subsequent


thereto, in Valencia, Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Edgar Y. Teves, a
public officer, being then the Municipal Mayor of Valencia,
Negros Oriental, commiting the crime herein charged in relation
to, while in the performance and taking advantage of his official
functions, and conspiring and confederating with his wife, herein
accuse[d] Teresita Teves, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and criminally cause the issuance of the appropriate business
permit/license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation
Center in favor of one Daniel Teves, said accused Edgar Y. Teves
having a direct or pecuniary interest therein considering the fact
that said cockpit arena is actually owned and operated by him
and accused Teresita Teves.

CONTRARY TO LAW.6

The Sandiganbayan found that Teves could not have caused the issuance of the
permit to operate the cockpit in 1992, as alleged in the Information. Hence, the
offense through the First Mode for which Teves was charged was not proved. Still,
the Sandiganbayan found the Teves spouses guilty of violating Section 3(h),
through the Second Mode, although it was not at all alleged in the Information. In
justifying the conviction, the Sandiganbayan merely noted that the fact of Teves’
pecuniary interest in the cockpit was unrebutted,7 and that Section 89(b) of the
Local Government Code barred Teves from holding an interest in a cockpit. The
Sandiganbayan was silent as to why the Teves spouses were convicted of an
offense different from that charged in the Information.

The ponencia fills in the blank, contending that conviction can be had by
applying the "variance doctrine" encapsulated in Sections 4 and 5, Rule 120 of the
Rules of Criminal Procedure. According to the majority, the offense proved the
violation of Section 3(h) through holding the prohibited pecuniary interest, is
necessarily included in the offense charged¾the violation of Section 3(h) through
intervening/taking part in an official capacity in connection with a financial or
pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction. However, the majority
would prefer to convict Teves instead and fine him Ten Thousand Pesos
(P10,000.00) for violating Section 89(b) of the Local Government Code, the law
which specifically prohibits Teves from maintaining an interest in a cockpit. The
deviation is sought to be justified by noting that Section 89(b) of the Local
Government Code is more specific in application than the general proscription
under Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, a law which
happens to antecede the Local Government Code. The ponencia would also do
away with a sentence of imprisonment, imposing instead a fine as earlier adverted
to.

127
That an accused cannot be convicted of an offense not charged or included in
the information is based upon the right to be informed of the true nature and
cause of the accusation against him.8 This right was long ago established in English
law, and is expressly guaranteed under Section 14(2), Article III of the Constitution.
This right requires that the offense be charged with clearness and all necessary
certainty to inform the accused of the crime of which he stands charged, in
sufficient detail to enable him to prepare a defense.9 The peculiarities attaching to
the Information herein preclude his conviction of any offense other than violation
of Section 3(h) through the First Mode.

Second Mode Not Necessarily Included in First Mode

With due respect, I find unacceptable the general proposition that the Second
Mode of violating Section 3(h) is necessarily included in the First Mode.

Under Section 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the offense charged
necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the essential elements or
ingredients of the former constitute the latter. Thus, it should be established that
the Second Mode is constituted of the essential elements of the First Mode.

In analyzing the question, the majority makes the following pronouncement:

The elements of the offense charged in this case, which is unlawful


intervention in the issuance of a cockpit license in violation of Section 3(h)
of the Anti-Graft Law, are

1. The accused is a public officer;

2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any


business, contract or transaction, whether or not prohibited by
law; and

3. He intervenes or takes part in his official capacity in connection


with such interest.

On the other hand, the essential ingredients of the offense proved, which
is possession of prohibited interest in violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-
Graft Law, are as follows:

1. The accused is a public officer;

2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any


business, contract or transaction; and

3. He is prohibited from having such interest by the Constitution or


any law.

128
It is clear that the essential ingredients of the offense proved constitute or
form part of those constituting the offense charged. Put differently, the first
and second elements of the offense charged, as alleged in the
information, constitute the offense proved. Hence, the offense proved is
necessarily included in the offense charged, or the offense charged
necessarily includes the offense proved. The variance doctrine thus finds
application to this case, thereby warranting the conviction of petitioner
Edgar Teves for the offense proved.10

The essential common ingredient appreciated by the majority is clearly the


existence of "direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest." Yet the element of
"financial or pecuniary interest" contemplated under the Second Mode is one
prohibited by law, a qualification not present in the First Mode.

Under the First Mode, the element considered is simply that the public official
maintains a financial or pecuniary interest, whether or not prohibited by law. This
contrasts to the Second Mode, wherein such interest is particularly qualified as one
prohibited by the Constitution or by any other statute. Thus, while the pecuniary
interest of a town mayor who possesses an ownership share in a real estate firm
may be cause for liability under the First Mode if the other requisites thereof
concur, it is not cause for liability under the Second Mode as such ownership is not
prohibited either by the Constitution or by any other law.

It should be taken into the account that the proper application of the variance
doctrine ordinarily does not run afoul of the Constitution because it is expected
that the accused has been given the opportunity to defend himself/herself not
only of the offense charged, but also of the offense eventually proven. This is
because the essential elements of the offense proved are already necessarily
included in the offense charged.11 For the variance doctrine to apply, there must
be a commonality of elements within the offense charged and offense proved, to
the extent that an Information detailing the offense charged can be deemed as
well as an Information detailing the offense proven.

Hence, the threshold question should be whether violation of Section 3(h) through
the Second Mode is necessarily included in a violation of Section 3(h) through
the First Mode. An affirmative answer is precluded by the difference in the nature
of the pecuniary interest that respectively lie at the core of the two modes.

Information Deficient To Sustain Conviction for Any Crime Other than the First
Mode of Violation of Section 3(h)

An even more crucial reason why Teves should be acquitted pertains to the
particular Information charged against him.

In relation to Teves’s pecuniary interest in the cockpit, all the Information alleges is
that Teves had a direct financial or pecuniary interest in the cockpit. It does not
allege that such pecuniary interest violates either the Constitution or any other

129
law. It does not even state that maintaining the pecuniary interest in the cockpit is
in itself unlawful. Moreover, it does not make any reference to Section 89(b) of the
Local Government Code, more so of the fact that such pecuniary interest is
prohibited under the said statute.

Even the majority concedes that the Information does not charge the Teves
spouses with violating the Second Mode. The ponencia notes that:

"[n]ot by any stretch of imagination can it be discerned or construed that


the afore-quoted last part of the information charges the petitioners with
the second mode by which Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law may be
violated. Hence, we agree with the petitioners that the charge was for
unlawful intervention in the issuance of the license to operate the
Valencia Cockpit. There was no charge for possession of pecuniary
interest prohibited by law."12

In short, the Information does not give any indication that the Office of the Special
Prosecutor, which had lodged the charge sheet, was genuinely aware that the
fact of Teves’s ownership of the cockpit actually constitutes a violation of a law, or
any law for that matter. But before the Court chalks it up as a lucky break for the
government, it should first examine whether Teves’s constitutional rights as an
accused would be impaired if he were found guilty of a charge on the basis of
an Information clearly predicated on a different ground.

Clearly, the Information is sufficient to convict Teves for the First Mode of violating
Section 3(h), had the evidence warranted conviction. It amply informs Teves of
that particular charge to the extent that he could adequately prepare a defense
in his behalf. However, would the same Information similarly suffice to have
allowed Teves to defend himself against a charge that maintaining the
financial/pecuniary interest in the cockpit is itself illegal? Clearly, it would not and I
so maintain.

Our holding in Esguerra v. People13 is in point. The accused was charged with
estafa under Article 315, paragraph 1-b of the Revised Penal Code, which pertains
to misappropriating personal property received by the offender reposed with trust
to preserve or deliver it to another. However, while the Court of Appeals found that
Esguerra could not be held liable for Estafa under Article 315, paragraph 1-b, he
still could be held responsible for violation of the same Article, but under
paragraph 3(2-a), which pertains to false pretenses or fraudulent acts committed
by making misrepresentations as to his identity or status. 14 The Court reversed the
conviction, noting that:

It is undisputed that the information contains no allegation of


misrepresentation, bad faith or false pretenses, essential element in the
crime of which appellant was found guilty by the Court of Appeals. This is
so, evidently, because, as already stated, the fiscal and the private
prosecutor avowedly were prosecuting the accused for the crime of
misappropriation and conversion committed with unfaithfulness and

130
abuse of confidence for which the appellant went to trial and was
convicted by the lower court. It is true the information states that "the
accused, upon representations (not misrepresentations) that the accused
had copras ready for delivery to it, took and received" the sum
of P4,400.00. Nowhere does it appear in the information that these
"representations" were false or fraudulent, or that the accused had no
such copra at the time he allegedly made such "representations." The
falsity or fraudulentness of the pretense or representation or act being the
very constitutive element of the offense, allegation to that effect, either in
the words of the law or in any other language of similar import, must be
made in the information if the right of the accused to be informed of the
nature and cause of the accusation against him is to be preserved.xxx15

In the case at bar, the constitutive element of the Second Mode for violating
Section 3(h) is the possession of a pecuniary interest that the public officer is
prohibited from having by law. Necessarily then, the Information should spell out
which law prohibits such financial or pecuniary interest if conviction could be had
based on the possession of such interest. Such fact would be critical in order to
afford the accused the opportunity to prepare an intelligent defense. Had
the Information notified Teves of his possible culpability hinging on Section 89(b) of
the Local Government Code, Teves would have had the chance to study the
provision and prepare accordingly. There are several avenues the defense could
have pursued, such as an examination of relevant jurisprudential precedents
regarding Section 89(b) or of its legislative history. Teves could have even
conducted a contextual analysis of Section 89(b) in relation to the rest of the Local
Government Code or of other statutes. Indeed, the validity itself of Section 89(b)
could be fair game for judicial review, and it would be understood if Teves had
pursued that line of argument, considering that the invalidity of the provision would
equate to his absolution from criminal charges that may arise from Section 89(b).

But the simple fact remains that Teves could not have pursued these plausible
defenses because Section 89(b) was not put in issue by the Information. Had he
raised any matter relating to Section 89(b) during trial, these would have been
deemed irrelevant as it bears no relation to the charge at hand. Indeed, the
prosecution made no effort to demonstrate that Teves’s interest in the cockpit was
illegal under Section 89(b), as can be gleaned from the documentary evidence
submitted16 on the basis of which judgment was rendered.17 Instead, intensive
efforts were exerted by the prosecution to establish that Teves, in his official
capacity, had caused the issuance of a license on or about 4 February 1992 to
operate the cockpit in question. Confronted with the culpable acts alleged in
the Information, Teves accordingly devoted his own defense to disprove the
allegation that he had indeed issued the licenses for the operation of the cockpit.
There is no indication that during the trial, the parties or the Sandiganbayan dwelt
on the aspect that a municipal mayor may not hold an interest in a cockpit under
Section 89(b), which is understandable considering that the Information itself does
not proffer aspect as an issue.

131
Yet the Sandiganbayan anyway based its finding of guilt on Section 89(b), in
relation to the Second Mode, despite the fact that the aspect had not been
raised, much more the accused afforded the opportunity to offer a defense
against such claim. It would be simplistic to justify the finding by pointing out that
the accused had anyway admitted the facts that constitute a violation of Section
89(b). Even if the questions of fact are settled, the accused remains entitled to
raise a question of law on the scope and reach, if not validity, of Section 89(b).

I am not arguing that Section 89(b) is invalid, but I am defending Teves’s putative
right to argue in such manner, or to be allowed the opportunity to raise any
similarly-oriented arguments pertaining to the provision. It may run counterintuitive
to sustain a legal doctrine that extenuates the penalty of the seemingly or
obviously guilty, but precisely our Constitution is a document that is not necessarily
attuned to common sense if legal sense dictates otherwise. Thus, the Constitution
regards every criminally accused as innocent at the onset of trial, even an
accused who murders another person in front of live television cameras to the
horror of millions who witnessed the crime on their television sets. In such an
instance, everybody "knows" that the accused is guilty, yet a judicial trial still
becomes necessary to warrant for a conviction conformably to the dictates of
due process.18 It should be kept in mind that the question of guilt is not merely a
factual question of did he/she do it, such being the usual treatment in the court of
public opinion. In legal contemplation, it also requires a determination of several
possible legal questions such as "is he/she justified in committing the culpable
act;"19 "is he/she exempt from criminal liability despite committing the culpable
act;"20 or even whether the acts committed actually constitute an offense. It is thus
very possible that even if it has been factually established that the accused had
committed the acts constituting a crime, acquittal may still be legally ordained.

Therefore, it was not satisfactory on the part of the Sandiganbayan to have relied
merely on the uncontroverted fact that Teves had a financial or pecuniary interest
in the cockpit despite the prohibition under Section 89(b). That was not the charge
lodged in the Information, nor is it even necessarily included in the offense actually
alleged in the Information. The Anti-Graft Court’s conclusion of guilt is based on
a de novo finding which the accused had neither an opportunity to defend
against, nor even would have expected as a proper matter of inquiry considering
the silence of the Information or the trial proceedings on the question of Section
89(b).

Even more galling is that nowhere in the Information is it even alleged that
maintaining an interest in a cockpit is actually illegal. Not only is the charge sheet
silent as to which law was violated, but such fact of owning an interest in a cockpit
actually constitutes an offense. For that reason, I am confident that my view does
not run counter to the well settled ruling of the Court in U.S. v. Tolentino21 that
"where an offense may be committed in any several different modes, and the
offense is alleged to have been committed in two or modes specified, it is
sufficient to prove the offense committed in any one of them, provided that it be
such as to constitute the substantive offense."22 The Information was crafted in such
a way that only one particular offense was charged, and the alleged manner

132
through which such offense was committed did not constitute ground for
conviction for another offense.

There may have been stronger basis to uphold the conviction had
the Information alleged that the mere act of possession of the pecuniary interest in
the cockpit was in itself a violation of law, even if which law transgressed was not
denominated in the Information. At least in such a case, Teves would have been
put on guard that the legality of his ownership of the cockpit was a controversial
issue and thus prepared accordingly, even if it would have to entail his having to
research as to which law was actually violated by his ownership. But
the Information herein is not so formulated. It was evidently crafted by persons who
had no intention of putting into issue the illegality of Teves’ ownership of the
cockpit, but arguing instead that Teves illegally abused his office by issuing a
license in connection with such cockpit.

My submission to acquit Edgar Teves necessarily results in the acquittal of his wife,
Teresita. She is charged as a conspirator to the commission of her husband’s
felonious acts, and thus the exoneration of her husband should lead to a similar
result in her favor. This observation is made without disputing the finding of the
majority that there is no sufficient evidence that Teresita Teves conspired with her
husband to commit a violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law.

Perhaps there is some reluctance in acquitting a public official accused of


malfeasance in connection with the public office held. Such a result bolsters the
general government crusade against graft and corruption, and is usually popular
with the public at large. Still, the most vital essence of the democratic way of life is
the protection of the bedrock guarantees extended by the Constitution to all
persons regardless of rank. These rights cannot be bargained away, especially
when they stand as the sole barrier to the deprivation of one’s cherished right to
liberty. A due process violation cannot be obviated by the technical application
of a procedural rule.

I cannot join the Court in giving imprimatur to a conviction for a crime against
which the accused was deprived the opportunity to defend himself. I respectfully
DISSENT, and vote to ACQUIT Edgar and Teresita Teves.

RIGHT TO SPEEDY, IMPARTIAL AND PUBLIC TRIAL

Republic Act No. 8493 February 12, 1998

AN ACT TO ENSURE A SPEEDY TRIAL OF ALL CRIMINAL CASES BEFORE THE


SANDIGANBAYAN, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT,
MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT, AND MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL COURT, APPROPRIATING
FUNDS THEREFOR, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

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Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in
Congress assembled::

Section 1. Title. - This Act shall be known as the "Speedy Trial Act of 1998."

Section 2. Mandatory Pre-Trial in Criminal Cases. - In all cases cognizable by the


Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court,
Regional Trial Court, and the Sandiganbayan, the justice or judge shall, after
arraignment, order a pre-trial conference to consider the following:

(a) Plea bargaining;

(b) Stipulation of Facts;

(c) Marking for identification of evidence of parties;

(d) Waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence; and

(e) Such other matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial.

Section 3. Pre-Trial Agreement. - All agreements or admissions made or entered


into during the pre-trial conference shall be reduced to writing and signed by the
accused and counsel, otherwise the same shall not be used in evidence against
the accused. The agreements in relation to matters referred to in Section 2 hereof
is subject to the approval of the court: Provided, That the agreement on the plea
of the accused to a lesser offense may only be revised, modified, or annulled by
the court when the same is contrary to law, public morals, or public policy.

Section 4. Nonappearance at Pre-Trial Conference. - Where counsel for the


accused or the prosecutor does not appear at the pre-trial conference and does
not offer an acceptable excuse for his/her lack of cooperation, the pre-trial justice
or judge may impose proper sanctions or penalties.

Section 5. Pre-Trial Order. - After the pre-trial conference, the court shall issue an
order reciting the actions taken, the facts stipulated, and evidence marked. Such
order shall bind the parties, limit the trial to matters not disposed of and control the
course of action during the trial, unless modified by the court to prevent manifest
injustice.

Section 6. Time Limit for Trial. - In criminal cases involving persons charged of a
crime, except those subject to the Rules on Summary Procedure, or where the
penalty prescribed by law does not exceed six (6) months imprisonment, or a fine
of One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) or both, irrespective of other imposable
penalties, the justice or judge shall, after consultation with the public prosecutor
and the counsel for the accused, set the case for continuous trial on a weekly or
other short-term trial calendar at the earliest possible time so as to ensure speedy

134
trial. In no case shall the entire trial period exceed one hundred eighty (180) days
from the first day of trial, except as otherwise authorized by the Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court pursuant to Section 3, Rule 22 of the Rules of Court.

Section 7. Time Limit Between Filing of Information and Arraignment and Between
Arraignment and Trial. - The arraignment of an accused shall be held within thirty
(30) days from the filing of the information, or from the date the accused has
appeared before the justice, judge or court in which the charge is pending,
whichever date last occurs. Thereafter, where a plea of not guilty is entered, the
accused shall have at least fifteen (15) days to prepare for trial. Trial shall
commence within thirty (30) days from arraignment as fixed by the court.

If the accused pleads not guilty to the crime charged, he/she shall state whether
he/she interposes a negative or affirmative defense. A negative defense shall
require the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable
doubt, while an affirmative defense may modify the order of trial and require the
accused to prove such defense by clear and convincing evidence.

Section 8. Time Limit Following an Order for New Trial. - If the accused is to be tried
again following an order of a court for a new trial, the trial shall commence within
thirty (30) days from the date the order for a new trial becomes final, except that
the court retrying the case may extend such period but in any case shall not
exceed one hundred eighty (180) days from the date the order for a new trial
becomes final if unavailability of witnesses or other factors resulting from passage
of time shall make trial within thirty (30) days impractical.

Section 9. Extended Time Limit. - Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this


Act, for the first twelve-calendar-month period following its effectivity, the time limit
with respect to the period from arraignment to trial imposed by Section 7 of this
Act shall be one hundred eighty (180) days. For the second twelve-month period
the time limit shall be one hundred twenty (120) days, and for the third twelve-
month period the time limit with respect to the period from arraignment to trial
shall be eighty (80) days.

Section 10. Exclusions. - The following periods of delay shall be excluded in


computing the time within which trial must commence:

(a) Any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the
accused, including but not limited to the following:

(1) delay resulting from an examination of the accused, and


hearing on his/her mental competency, or physical incapacity;

(2) delay resulting from trials with respect to charges against the
accused;

(3) delay resulting from interlocutory appeals;

135
(4) delay resulting from hearings on pre-trial motions: Provided,
That the delay does not exceed thirty (30) days,

(5) delay resulting from orders of inhibition, or proceedings relating


to change of venue of cases or transfer from other courts;

(6) delay resulting from a finding of the existence of a valid


prejudicial question; and

(7) delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed


thirty (30) days, during which any proceeding concerning the
accused is actually under advisement.

(b) Any period of delay resulting from the absence or unavailability of the
accused or an essential witness.

For purposes of this subparagraph, an accused or an essential witness shall


be considered absent when his/her whereabouts are unknown and, in
addition, he/she is attempting to avoid apprehension or prosecution or
his/her whereabouts cannot be determined by due diligence. An
accused or an essential witness shall be considered unavailable whenever
his/her whereabouts are known but his/her presence for trial cannot be
obtained by due diligence or he/she resists appearing at or being
returned for trial.

(c) Any period of delay resulting from the fact that the accused is mentally
incompetent or physically unable to stand trial.

(d) If the information is dismissed upon motion of the prosecution and


thereafter a charge is filed against the accused for the same offense, or
any offense required to be joined with that offense, any period of delay
from the date the charge was dismissed to the date the time limitation
would commence to run as to the subsequent charge had there been no
previous charge.

(e) A reasonable period of delay when the accused is joined for trial with
a co-accused over whom the court has not acquired jurisdiction, or as to
whom the time for trial has not run and no motion for severance has been
granted.

(f) Any period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by any


justice or judge motu propio or on motion of the accused or his/her
counsel or at the request of the public prosecutor, if the justice or judge
granted such continuance on the basis of his/her findings that the ends of
justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the
public and the defendant in a speedy trial. No such period of delay
resulting from a continuance granted by the court in accordance with this

136
subparagraph shall be excludable under this section unless the court sets
forth, in the record of the case, either orally or in writing, its reasons for
finding that the ends of justice served by the granting of such continuance
outweigh the best interests of the public and the accused in a speedy
trial.

Section 11. Factors for Granting Continuance. - The factors, among others, which a
justice or judge shall consider in determining whether to grant a continuance
under subparagraph (f) of Section 10 of this Act are as follows:

(a) Whether the failure to grant such a continuance in the proceeding


would be likely to make a continuation of such proceeding impossible, or
result in a miscarriage of justice.

(b) Whether the case taken as a whole is so novel, so unusual and so


complex, due to the number of accused or the nature of the prosecution
or otherwise, that it is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation
within the periods of time established by this Act.

No continuance under subparagraph (f) of Section 10 shall be granted because of


general congestion of the court's calendar, or lack of diligent preparation or failure
to obtain available witnesses on the part of the public prosecutor.

Section 12. Public Attorney's Duties Where Accused is Imprisoned. - If the public
attorney knows that a person charged of a crime is preventively detained, either
because he/she is charged of a bailable crime and has no means to post bail, or is
charged of a non-bailable crime, or is serving a term of imprisonment in any penal
institution, the public attorney shall promptly:

(a) Undertake to obtain the presence of the prisoner for trial, or cause a
notice to be served on the person having custody of the prisoner
mandating such person to so advise the prisoner of his/her right to
demand trial.

(b) Upon receipt of a notice, the person having custody of the prisoner
shall promptly advise the prisoner of the charge and of his/her right to
demand trial. If at any time thereafter the prisoner informs the person
having custody that he/she demands trial, such person shall cause notice
to that effect to be sent promptly to the public attorney.

(c) Upon receipt of such notice, the public attorney shall promptly seek to
obtain the presence of the prisoner for trial.

(d) When the person having custody of the prisoner receives from the
public attorney a properly supported request for temporary custody of the
prisoner for trial, the prisoner shall be made available to that public
attorney.

137
Section 13. Remedy Where Accused is Not Brought to Trial Within the Time Limit. - If
an accused is not brought to trial within the time limit required by Section 7 of this
Act as extended by Section 9, the information shall be dismissed on motion of the
accused. The accused shall have the burden of proof of supporting such motion
but the prosecution shall have the burden of going forward with the evidence in
connection with the exclusion of time under Section 10 of this Act.

In determining whether to dismiss the case with or without prejudice, the court shall
consider, among other factors, the seriousness of the offense, the facts and
circumstances of the case which led to the dismissal, and the impact of a
reprosecution on the implementation of this Act and on the administration of
justice. Failure of the accused to move for dismissal prior to trial or entry of a plea
of guilty shall constitute a waiver of the right to dismissal under this section.

Section 14. Sanctions. - In any case in which counsel for the accused, the public
prosecution or public attorney:

(a) knowingly allows the case to be set for trial without disclosing the fact
that a necessary witness would be unavailable for trial;

(b) files a motion solely for the purpose of delay which he/she knows is
totally frivolous and without merit;

(c) makes a statement for the purpose of obtaining continuance which


he/she knows to be false and which is material to the granting of a
continuance; or

(d) otherwise willfully fails to proceed to trial without justification consistent


with the provisions of this Act, the court may, without prejudice to any
appropriate criminal and/or administrative charges to be instituted by the
proper party against the erring counsel if and when warranted, punish any
such counsel or attorney, as follows:

(1) in the case of a counsel privately retained in connection with


the defense of an accused, by imposing a fine not exceeding;
fifty percent (50%) of the compensation to which he/she is entitled
in connection with his/her defense of the accused;

(2) by imposing on any appointed counsel de officio or public


prosecutor a fine not exceeding Ten thousand pesos (10,000.00);
and

(3) by denying any defense counsel or public prosecutor the right


to practice before the court considering the case for a period not
exceeding thirty (30) days.

138
The authority to punish provided for by this section shall be in addition to
any other authority or power available to the court. The court shall follow
the procedures established in the Rules of Court in punishing any counsel
or public prosecutor pursuant to this section.

Section 15. Rules and Regulations. - The Supreme Court shall promulgate rules,
regulations, administrative orders and circulars which shall seek to accelerate the
disposition of criminal cases. The rules, regulations, administrative orders and
circulars formulated shall provide sanctions against justices and judges who willfully
fail to proceed to trial without justification consistent with the provisions of this Act.

Section 16. Funding. - For the effective implementation of the rules, regulations,
administrative orders and circulars promulgated under this Act, the amount of
Twenty million pesos (P20,000,000.00) annually shall be appropriated from the
allocation of the Supreme Court under the General Appropriations Act. Thereafter,
such additional amounts as may be necessary for its continued implementation
shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Section 17. Act Not a Bar to Speedy Trial Claim Under the Constitution. - No
provision of this Act shall be interpreted as a bar to any claim of denial of speedy
trial as required by Article III, Section 14(2) of the 1987 Constitution.

Section 18. Repealing Clause. - All laws, presidential decrees, executive orders,
rules and regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are
hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

Section 19. Separability Clause. - In case any provision of this Act is declared
unconstitutional, the other provisions shall remain in effect.

Section 20. Effectivity. - This Act shall take effect after fifteen (15) days following its
publication in the Official Gazette or in any newspaper of general circulation:
Provided, That Section 7 of this Act shall become effective after the expiration of
the aforementioned third-calendar-month period provided in Section 9 of this Act.

Approved: February 12, 1998

G.R. No. 146710-15 March 2, 2001

JOSEPH E. ESTRADA, petitioner,


vs.
ANIANO DESIERTO, in his capacity as Ombudsman, RAMON GONZALES,
VOLUNTEERS AGAINST CRIME AND CORRUPTION, GRAFT FREE PHILIPPINES
FOUNDATION, INC., LEONARD DE VERA, DENNIS FUNA, ROMEO CAPULONG and
ERNESTO B. FRANCISCO, JR., respondent.

139
----------------------------------------

G.R. No. 146738 March 2, 2001

JOSEPH E. ESTRADA, petitioner,


vs.
GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, respondent.

PUNO, J.:

On the line in the cases at bar is the office of the President. Petitioner Joseph
Ejercito Estrada alleges that he is the President on leave while respondent Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo claims she is the President. The warring personalities are
important enough but more transcendental are the constitutional issues
embedded on the parties' dispute. While the significant issues are many, the
jugular issue involves the relationship between the ruler and the ruled in a
democracy, Philippine style.

First, we take a view of the panorama of events that precipitated the crisis in the
office of the President.

In the May 11, 1998 elections, petitioner Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected
President while respondent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elected Vice-President.
Some ten (10) million Filipinos voted for the petitioner believing he would rescue
them from life's adversity. Both petitioner and the respondent were to serve a six-
year term commencing on June 30, 1998.

From the beginning of his term, however, petitioner was plagued by a plethora of
problems that slowly but surely eroded his popularity. His sharp descent from power
started on October 4, 2000. Ilocos Sur Governor, Luis "Chavit" Singson, a longtime
friend of the petitioner, went on air and accused the petitioner, his family and
friends of receiving millions of pesos from jueteng lords.1

The exposẻ immediately ignited reactions of rage. The next day, October 5, 2000,
Senator Teofisto Guingona, Jr., then the Senate Minority Leader, took the floor and
delivered a fiery privilege speech entitled "I Accuse." He accused the petitioner of
receiving some P220 million in jueteng money from Governor Singson from
November 1998 to August 2000. He also charged that the petitioner took from
Governor Singson P70 million on excise tax on cigarettes intended for Ilocos Sur.
The privilege speech was referred by then Senate President Franklin Drilon, to the
Blue Ribbon Committee (then headed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel) and the
Committee on Justice (then headed by Senator Renato Cayetano) for joint
investigation.2

The House of Representatives did no less. The House Committee on Public Order
and Security, then headed by Representative Roilo Golez, decided to investigate
the exposẻ of Governor Singson. On the other hand, Representatives Heherson

140
Alvarez, Ernesto Herrera and Michael Defensor spearheaded the move to
impeach the petitioner.

Calls for the resignation of the petitioner filled the air. On October 11, Archbishop
Jaime Cardinal Sin issued a pastoral statement in behalf of the Presbyteral Council
of the Archdiocese of Manila, asking petitioner to step down from the presidency
as he had lost the moral authority to govern.3 Two days later or on October 13, the
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines joined the cry for the resignation of
the petitioner.4 Four days later, or on October 17, former President Corazon C.
Aquino also demanded that the petitioner take the "supreme self-sacrifice" of
resignation.5 Former President Fidel Ramos also joined the chorus. Early on, or on
October 12, respondent Arroyo resigned as Secretary of the Department of Social
Welfare and Services6 and later asked for petitioner's resignation.7 However,
petitioner strenuously held on to his office and refused to resign.

The heat was on. On November 1, four (4) senior economic advisers, members of
the Council of Senior Economic Advisers, resigned. They were Jaime Augusto Zobel
de Ayala, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, former Senator Vicente Paterno and
Washington Sycip.8 On November 2, Secretary Mar Roxas II also resigned from the
Department of Trade and Industry.9 On November 3, Senate President Franklin
Drilon, and House Speaker Manuel Villar, together with some 47 representatives
defected from the ruling coalition, Lapian ng Masang Pilipino.10

The month of November ended with a big bang. In a tumultuous session on


November 13, House Speaker Villar transmitted the Articles of
Impeachment11 signed by 115 representatives, or more than 1/3 of all the
members of the House of Representatives to the Senate. This caused political
convulsions in both houses of Congress. Senator Drilon was replaced by Senator
Pimentel as Senate President. Speaker Villar was unseated by Representative
Fuentebella.12 On November 20, the Senate formally opened the impeachment
trial of the petitioner. Twenty-one (21) senators took their oath as judges with
Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., presiding.13

The political temperature rose despite the cold December. On December 7, the
impeachment trial started.14 The battle royale was fought by some of the marquee
names in the legal profession. Standing as prosecutors were then House Minority
Floor Leader Feliciano Belmonte and Representatives Joker Arroyo, Wigberto
Tañada, Sergio Apostol, Raul Gonzales, Oscar Moreno, Salacnib Baterina, Roan
Libarios, Oscar Rodriguez, Clavel Martinez and Antonio Nachura. They were
assisted by a battery of private prosecutors led by now Secretary of Justice
Hernando Perez and now Solicitor General Simeon Marcelo. Serving as defense
counsel were former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, former Solicitor General and
Secretary of Justice Estelito P. Mendoza, former City Fiscal of Manila Jose
Flaminiano, former Deputy Speaker of the House Raul Daza, Atty. Siegfried Fortun
and his brother, Atty. Raymund Fortun. The day to day trial was covered by live TV
and during its course enjoyed the highest viewing rating. Its high and low points
were the constant conversational piece of the chattering classes. The dramatic
point of the December hearings was the testimony of Clarissa Ocampo, senior vice

141
president of Equitable-PCI Bank. She testified that she was one foot away from
petitioner Estrada when he affixed the signature "Jose Velarde" on documents
involving a P500 million investment agreement with their bank on February 4,
2000.15

After the testimony of Ocampo, the impeachment trial was adjourned in the spirit
of Christmas. When it resumed on January 2, 2001, more bombshells were
exploded by the prosecution. On January 11, Atty. Edgardo Espiritu who served as
petitioner's Secretary of Finance took the witness stand. He alleged that the
petitioner jointly owned BW Resources Corporation with Mr. Dante Tan who was
facing charges of insider trading.16 Then came the fateful day of January 16, when
by a vote of 11-1017 the senator-judges ruled against the opening of the second
envelope which allegedly contained evidence showing that petitioner held P3.3
billion in a secret bank account under the name "Jose Velarde." The public and
private prosecutors walked out in protest of the ruling. In disgust, Senator Pimentel
resigned as Senate President.18 The ruling made at 10:00 p.m. was met by a
spontaneous outburst of anger that hit the streets of the metropolis. By midnight,
thousands had assembled at the EDSA Shrine and speeches full of sulphur were
delivered against the petitioner and the eleven (11) senators.

On January 17, the public prosecutors submitted a letter to Speaker Fuentebella


tendering their collective resignation. They also filed their Manifestation of
Withdrawal of Appearance with the impeachment tribunal.19Senator Raul Roco
quickly moved for the indefinite postponement of the impeachment proceedings
until the House of Representatives shall have resolved the issue of resignation of the
public prosecutors. Chief Justice Davide granted the motion.20

January 18 saw the high velocity intensification of the call for petitioner's
resignation. A 10-kilometer line of people holding lighted candles formed a human
chain from the Ninoy Aquino Monument on Ayala Avenue in Makati City to the
EDSA Shrine to symbolize the people's solidarity in demanding petitioner's
resignation. Students and teachers walked out of their classes in Metro Manila to
show their concordance. Speakers in the continuing rallies at the EDSA Shrine, all
masters of the physics of persuasion, attracted more and more people.21

On January 19, the fall from power of the petitioner appeared inevitable. At 1:20
p.m., the petitioner informed Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara that General
Angelo Reyes, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, had defected.
At 2:30 p.m., petitioner agreed to the holding of a snap election for President
where he would not be a candidate. It did not diffuse the growing crisis. At 3:00
p.m., Secretary of National Defense Orlando Mercado and General Reyes,
together with the chiefs of all the armed services went to the EDSA Shrine. 22 In the
presence of former Presidents Aquino and Ramos and hundreds of thousands of
cheering demonstrators, General Reyes declared that "on behalf of Your Armed
Forces, the 130,000 strong members of the Armed Forces, we wish to announce
that we are withdrawing our support to this government."23 A little later, PNP Chief,
Director General Panfilo Lacson and the major service commanders gave a similar
stunning announcement.24 Some Cabinet secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant

142
secretaries, and bureau chiefs quickly resigned from their posts.25 Rallies for the
resignation of the petitioner exploded in various parts of the country. To stem the
tide of rage, petitioner announced he was ordering his lawyers to agree to the
opening of the highly controversial second envelope.26There was no turning back
the tide. The tide had become a tsunami.

January 20 turned to be the day of surrender. At 12:20 a.m., the first round of
negotiations for the peaceful and orderly transfer of power started at
Malacañang'' Mabini Hall, Office of the Executive Secretary. Secretary Edgardo
Angara, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Ramon Bagatsing, Political Adviser
Angelito Banayo, Asst. Secretary Boying Remulla, and Atty. Macel Fernandez,
head of the Presidential Management Staff, negotiated for the petitioner.
Respondent Arroyo was represented by now Executive Secretary Renato de Villa,
now Secretary of Finance Alberto Romulo and now Secretary of Justice Hernando
Perez.27 Outside the palace, there was a brief encounter at Mendiola between pro
and anti-Estrada protesters which resulted in stone-throwing and caused minor
injuries. The negotiations consumed all morning until the news broke out that Chief
Justice Davide would administer the oath to respondent Arroyo at high noon at
the EDSA Shrine.

At about 12:00 noon, Chief Justice Davide administered the oath to respondent
Arroyo as President of the Philippines.28 At 2:30 p.m., petitioner and his family
hurriedly left Malacañang Palace.29 He issued the following press statement: 30

"20 January 2001

STATEMENT FROM

PRESIDENT JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA

At twelve o'clock noon today, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo


took her oath as President of the Republic of the Philippines. While along
with many other legal minds of our country, I have strong and serious
doubts about the legality and constitutionality of her proclamation as
President, I do not wish to be a factor that will prevent the restoration of
unity and order in our civil society.

It is for this reason that I now leave Malacañang Palace, the seat of the
presidency of this country, for the sake of peace and in order to begin the
healing process of our nation. I leave the Palace of our people with
gratitude for the opportunities given to me for service to our people. I will
not shirk from any future challenges that may come ahead in the same
service of our country.

I call on all my supporters and followers to join me in to promotion of a


constructive national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity.

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May the Almighty bless our country and beloved people.

MABUHAY!

(Sgd.) JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA"

It also appears that on the same day, January 20, 2001, he signed the following
letter:31

"Sir:

By virtue of the provisions of Section 11, Article VII of the Constitution, I am


hereby transmitting this declaration that I am unable to exercise the
powers and duties of my office. By operation of law and the Constitution,
the Vice-President shall be the Acting President.

(Sgd.) JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA"

A copy of the letter was sent to former Speaker Fuentebella at 8:30 a.m. on
January 20.23 Another copy was transmitted to Senate President Pimentel on the
same day although it was received only at 9:00 p.m.33

On January 22, the Monday after taking her oath, respondent Arroyo immediately
discharged the powers the duties of the Presidency. On the same day, this Court
issued the following Resolution in Administrative Matter No. 01-1-05-SC, to wit:

"A.M. No. 01-1-05-SC — In re: Request of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-


Arroyo to Take her Oath of Office as President of the Republic of the
Philippines before the Chief Justice — Acting on the urgent request of Vice
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be sworn in as President of the
Republic of the Philippines, addressed to the Chief Justice and confirmed
by a letter to the Court, dated January 20, 2001, which request was
treated as an administrative matter, the court Resolve unanimously to
confirm the authority given by the twelve (12) members of the Court then
present to the Chief Justice on January 20, 2001 to administer the oath of
office of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President of the
Philippines, at noon of January 20, 2001.1âwphi1.nêt

This resolution is without prejudice to the disposition of any justiciable case


that may be filed by a proper party."

Respondent Arroyo appointed members of her Cabinet as well as ambassadors


and special envoys.34 Recognition of respondent Arroyo's government by foreign
governments swiftly followed. On January 23, in a reception or vin d' honneur at
Malacañang, led by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Papal Nuncio Antonio
Franco, more than a hundred foreign diplomats recognized the government of

144
respondent Arroyo.35 US President George W. Bush gave the respondent a
telephone call from the White House conveying US recognition of her
government.36

On January 24, Representative Feliciano Belmonte was elected new Speaker of


the House of Representatives.37The House then passed Resolution No. 175
"expressing the full support of the House of Representatives to the administration of
Her Excellency, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines."38 It also
approved Resolution No. 176 "expressing the support of the House of
Representatives to the assumption into office by Vice President Gloria Macapagal-
Arroyo as President of the Republic of the Philippines, extending its congratulations
and expressing its support for her administration as a partner in the attainment of
the nation's goals under the Constitution."39

On January 26, the respondent signed into law the Solid Waste Management
Act.40 A few days later, she also signed into law the Political Advertising ban and
Fair Election Practices Act.41

On February 6, respondent Arroyo nominated Senator Teofisto Guingona, Jr., as


her Vice President.42 The next day, February 7, the Senate adopted Resolution No.
82 confirming the nomination of Senator Guingona, Jr.43Senators Miriam Defensor-
Santiago, Juan Ponce Enrile, and John Osmena voted "yes" with reservations, citing
as reason therefor the pending challenge on the legitimacy of respondent Arroyo's
presidency before the Supreme Court. Senators Teresa Aquino-Oreta and Robert
Barbers were absent.44 The House of Representatives also approved Senator
Guingona's nomination in Resolution No. 178.45 Senator Guingona, Jr. took his oath
as Vice President two (2) days later.46

On February 7, the Senate passed Resolution No. 83 declaring that the


impeachment court is functus officio and has been terminated.47 Senator Miriam
Defensor-Santiago stated "for the record" that she voted against the closure of the
impeachment court on the grounds that the Senate had failed to decide on the
impeachment case and that the resolution left open the question of whether
Estrada was still qualified to run for another elective post.48

Meanwhile, in a survey conducted by Pulse Asia, President Arroyo's public


acceptance rating jacked up from 16% on January 20, 2001 to 38% on January 26,
2001.49 In another survey conducted by the ABS-CBN/SWS from February 2-7, 2001,
results showed that 61% of the Filipinos nationwide accepted President Arroyo as
replacement of petitioner Estrada. The survey also revealed that President Arroyo is
accepted by 60% in Metro Manila, by also 60% in the balance of Luzon, by 71% in
the Visayas, and 55% in Mindanao. Her trust rating increased to 52%. Her
presidency is accepted by majorities in all social classes: 58% in the ABC or middle-
to-upper classes, 64% in the D or mass class, and 54% among the E's or very poor
class.50

After his fall from the pedestal of power, the petitioner's legal problems appeared
in clusters. Several cases previously filed against him in the Office of the

145
Ombudsman were set in motion. These are: (1) OMB Case No. 0-00-1629, filed by
Ramon A. Gonzales on October 23, 2000 for bribery and graft and corruption; (2)
OMB Case No. 0-00-1754 filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption on
November 17, 2000 for plunder, forfeiture, graft and corruption, bribery, perjury,
serious misconduct, violation of the Code of Conduct for Government Employees,
etc; (3) OMB Case No. 0-00-1755 filed by the Graft Free Philippines Foundation, Inc.
on November 24, 2000 for plunder, forfeiture, graft and corruption, bribery, perjury,
serious misconduct; (4) OMB Case No. 0-00-1756 filed by Romeo Capulong, et al.,
on November 28, 2000 for malversation of public funds, illegal use of public funds
and property, plunder, etc.; (5) OMB Case No. 0-00-1757 filed by Leonard de Vera,
et al., on November 28, 2000 for bribery, plunder, indirect bribery, violation of PD
1602, PD 1829, PD 46, and RA 7080; and (6) OMB Case No. 0-00-1758 filed by
Ernesto B. Francisco, Jr. on December 4, 2000 for plunder, graft and corruption.

A special panel of investigators was forthwith created by the respondent


Ombudsman to investigate the charges against the petitioner. It is chaired by
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Margarito P. Gervasio with the following as
members, viz: Director Andrew Amuyutan, Prosecutor Pelayo Apostol, Atty. Jose de
Jesus and Atty. Emmanuel Laureso. On January 22, the panel issued an Order
directing the petitioner to file his counter-affidavit and the affidavits of his witnesses
as well as other supporting documents in answer to the aforementioned
complaints against him.

Thus, the stage for the cases at bar was set. On February 5, petitioner filed with this
Court GR No. 146710-15, a petition for prohibition with a prayer for a writ of
preliminary injunction. It sought to enjoin the respondent Ombudsman from
"conducting any further proceedings in Case Nos. OMB 0-00-1629, 1754, 1755,
1756, 1757 and 1758 or in any other criminal complaint that may be filed in his
office, until after the term of petitioner as President is over and only if legally
warranted." Thru another counsel, petitioner, on February 6, filed GR No. 146738 for
Quo Warranto. He prayed for judgment "confirming petitioner to be the lawful and
incumbent President of the Republic of the Philippines temporarily unable to
discharge the duties of his office, and declaring respondent to have taken her
oath as and to be holding the Office of the President, only in an acting capacity
pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution." Acting on GR Nos. 146710-15, the
Court, on the same day, February 6, required the respondents "to comment
thereon within a non-extendible period expiring on 12 February 2001." On February
13, the Court ordered the consolidation of GR Nos. 146710-15 and GR No. 146738
and the filing of the respondents' comments "on or before 8:00 a.m. of February
15."

On February 15, the consolidated cases were orally argued in a four-hour hearing.
Before the hearing, Chief Justice Davide, Jr.51 and Associate Justice Artemio
Panganiban52 recused themselves on motion of petitioner's counsel, former
Senator Rene A. Saguisag. They debunked the charge of counsel Saguisag that
they have "compromised themselves by indicating that they have thrown their
weight on one side" but nonetheless inhibited themselves. Thereafter, the parties

146
were given the short period of five (5) days to file their memoranda and two (2)
days to submit their simultaneous replies.

In a resolution dated February 20, acting on the urgent motion for copies of
resolution and press statement for "Gag Order" on respondent Ombudsman filed
by counsel for petitioner in G.R. No. 146738, the Court resolved:

"(1) to inform the parties that the Court did not issue a resolution on
January 20, 2001 declaring the office of the President vacant and that
neither did the Chief Justice issue a press statement justifying the alleged
resolution;

(2) to order the parties and especially their counsel who are officers of the
Court under pain of being cited for contempt to refrain from making any
comment or discussing in public the merits of the cases at bar while they
are still pending decision by the Court, and

(3) to issue a 30-day status quo order effective immediately enjoining the
respondent Ombudsman from resolving or deciding the criminal cases
pending investigation in his office against petitioner, Joseph E. Estrada and
subject of the cases at bar, it appearing from news reports that the
respondent Ombudsman may immediately resolve the cases against
petitioner Joseph E. Estrada seven (7) days after the hearing held on
February 15, 2001, which action will make the cases at bar moot and
academic."53

The parties filed their replies on February 24. On this date, the cases at bar were
deemed submitted for decision.

The bedrock issues for resolution of this Court are:

Whether the petitions present a justiciable controversy.

II

Assuming that the petitions present a justiciable controversy, whether


petitioner Estrada is a President on leave while respondent Arroyo is an
Acting President.

III

Whether conviction in the impeachment proceedings is a condition


precedent for the criminal prosecution of petitioner Estrada. In the

147
negative and on the assumption that petitioner is still President, whether
he is immune from criminal prosecution.

IV

Whether the prosecution of petitioner Estrada should be enjoined on the


ground of prejudicial publicity.

We shall discuss the issues in seriatim.

Whether or not the cases

At bar involve a political question

Private respondents54 raise the threshold issue that the cases at bar pose a political
question, and hence, are beyond the jurisdiction of this Court to decide. They
contend that shorn of its embroideries, the cases at bar assail the "legitimacy of
the Arroyo administration." They stress that respondent Arroyo ascended the
presidency through people power; that she has already taken her oath as the
14th President of the Republic; that she has exercised the powers of the presidency
and that she has been recognized by foreign governments. They submit that these
realities on ground constitute the political thicket, which the Court cannot enter.

We reject private respondents' submission. To be sure, courts here and abroad,


have tried to lift the shroud on political question but its exact latitude still splits the
best of legal minds. Developed by the courts in the 20th century, the political
question doctrine which rests on the principle of separation of powers and on
prudential considerations, continue to be refined in the mills of constitutional
law.55 In the United States, the most authoritative guidelines to determine whether
a question is political were spelled out by Mr. Justice Brennan in the 1962 case
or Baker v. Carr,56 viz:

"x x x Prominent on the surface of any case held to involve a political


question is found a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of
the issue to a coordinate political department or a lack of judicially
discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it, or the
impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind
clearly for non-judicial discretion; or the impossibility of a court's
undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect
due coordinate branches of government; or an unusual need for
unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; or the
potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by
various departments on question. Unless one of these formulations is
inextricable from the case at bar, there should be no dismissal for non

148
justiciability on the ground of a political question's presence. The doctrine
of which we treat is one of 'political questions', not of 'political cases'."

In the Philippine setting, this Court has been continuously confronted with cases
calling for a firmer delineation of the inner and outer perimeters of a political
question.57 Our leading case is Tanada v. Cuenco,58 where this Court, through
former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, held that political questions refer "to
those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in
their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been
delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government. It is
concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality of a particular
measure." To a great degree, the 1987 Constitution has narrowed the reach of the
political question doctrine when it expanded the power of judicial review of this
court not only to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally
demandable and enforceable but also to determine whether or not there has
been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the
part of any branch or instrumentality of government.59 Heretofore, the judiciary has
focused on the "thou shalt not's" of the Constitution directed against the exercise
of its jurisdiction.60With the new provision, however, courts are given a greater
prerogative to determine what it can do to prevent grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
instrumentality of government. Clearly, the new provision did not just grant the
Court power of doing nothing. In sync and symmetry with this intent are other
provisions of the 1987 Constitution trimming the so called political thicket.
Prominent of these provisions is section 18 of Article VII which empowers this Court
in limpid language to "x x x review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any
citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the
suspension of the privilege of the writ (of habeas corpus) or the extension thereof x
x x."

Respondents rely on the case of Lawyers League for a Better Philippines and/or
Oliver A. Lozano v. President Corazon C. Aquino, et al.61 and related cases62 to
support their thesis that since the cases at bar involve the legitimacy of the
government of respondent Arroyo, ergo, they present a political question. A more
cerebral reading of the cited cases will show that they are inapplicable. In the
cited cases, we held that the government of former President Aquino was the
result of a successful revolution by the sovereign people, albeit a peaceful one.
No less than the Freedom Constitution63 declared that the Aquino government was
installed through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people "in defiance
of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, as amended." In is familiar learning that
the legitimacy of a government sired by a successful revolution by people power is
beyond judicial scrutiny for that government automatically orbits out of the
constitutional loop. In checkered contrast, the government of respondent Arroyo is
not revolutionary in character. The oath that she took at the EDSA Shrine is the oath
under the 1987 Constitution.64 In her oath, she categorically swore to preserve and
defend the 1987 Constitution. Indeed, she has stressed that she is discharging the
powers of the presidency under the authority of the 1987 Constitution.

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In fine, the legal distinction between EDSA People Power I EDSA People Power II is
clear. EDSA I involves the exercise of the people power of
revolution which overthrew the whole government. EDSA II is an exercise of people
power of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to petition the government
for redress of grievances which only affected the office of the President. EDSA I is
extra constitutional and the legitimacy of the new government that resulted from it
cannot be the subject of judicial review, but EDSA II is intra constitutional and the
resignation of the sitting President that it caused and the succession of the Vice
President as President are subject to judicial review. EDSA I presented a political
question; EDSA II involves legal questions. A brief discourse on freedom of speech
and of the freedom of assembly to petition the government for redress of
grievance which are the cutting edge of EDSA People Power II is not inappropriate.

Freedom of speech and the right of assembly are treasured by Filipinos. Denial of
these rights was one of the reasons of our 1898 revolution against Spain. Our
national hero, Jose P. Rizal, raised the clarion call for the recognition of freedom of
the press of the Filipinos and included it as among "the reforms sine quibus
non."65 The Malolos Constitution, which is the work of the revolutionary Congress in
1898, provided in its Bill of Rights that Filipinos shall not be deprived (1) of the right
to freely express his ideas or opinions, orally or in writing, through the use of the
press or other similar means; (2) of the right of association for purposes of human
life and which are not contrary to public means; and (3) of the right to send
petitions to the authorities, individually or collectively." These fundamental rights
were preserved when the United States acquired jurisdiction over the Philippines. In
the Instruction to the Second Philippine Commission of April 7, 1900 issued by
President McKinley, it is specifically provided "that no law shall be passed abridging
the freedom of speech or of the press or of the rights of the people to peaceably
assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances." The guaranty
was carried over in the Philippine Bill, the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902 and the
Jones Law, the Act of Congress of August 29, 1966.66

Thence on, the guaranty was set in stone in our 1935 Constitution,67 and
the 197368 Constitution. These rights are now safely ensconced in section 4, Article
III of the 1987 Constitution, viz:

"Sec. 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of


expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances."

The indispensability of the people's freedom of speech and of assembly to


democracy is now self-evident. The reasons are well put by Emerson: first, freedom
of expression is essential as a means of assuring individual fulfillment; second, it is
an essential process for advancing knowledge and discovering truth; third, it is
essential to provide for participation in decision-making by all members of society;
and fourth, it is a method of achieving a more adaptable and hence, a more
stable community of maintaining the precarious balance between healthy
cleavage and necessary consensus."69 In this sense, freedom of speech and of
assembly provides a framework in which the "conflict necessary to the progress of

150
a society can take place without destroying the society."70In Hague v. Committee
for Industrial Organization,71 this function of free speech and assembly was echoed
in the amicus curiae filed by the Bill of Rights Committee of the American Bar
Association which emphasized that "the basis of the right of assembly is the
substitution of the expression of opinion and belief by talk rather than force; and
this means talk for all and by all."72 In the relatively recent case of Subayco v.
Sandiganbayan,73 this Court similar stressed that "… it should be clear even to
those with intellectual deficits that when the sovereign people assemble to petition
for redress of grievances, all should listen. For in a democracy, it is the people who
count; those who are deaf to their grievances are ciphers."

Needless to state, the cases at bar pose legal and not political questions. The
principal issues for resolution require the proper interpretation of certain provisions
in the 1987 Constitution, notably section 1 of Article II,74 and section 875 of Article
VII, and the allocation of governmental powers under section 1176 of Article VII. The
issues likewise call for a ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from suit. They
also involve the correct calibration of the right of petitioner against prejudicial
publicity. As early as the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison,77 the doctrine has been
laid down that "it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department
to say what the law is . . ." Thus, respondent's in vocation of the doctrine of political
question is but a foray in the dark.

II

Whether or not the petitioner


Resigned as President

We now slide to the second issue. None of the parties considered this issue as
posing a political question. Indeed, it involves a legal question whose factual
ingredient is determinable from the records of the case and by resort to judicial
notice. Petitioner denies he resigned as President or that he suffers from a
permanent disability. Hence, he submits that the office of the President was not
vacant when respondent Arroyo took her oath as President.

The issue brings under the microscope the meaning of section 8, Article VII of the
Constitution which provides:

"Sec. 8. In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office or


resignation of the President, the Vice President shall become the President
to serve the unexpired term. In case of death, permanent disability,
removal from office, or resignation of both the President and Vice
President, the President of the Senate or, in case of his inability, the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall then act as President until
the President or Vice President shall have been elected and qualified.

The issue then is whether the petitioner resigned as President or should be


considered resigned as of January 20, 2001 when respondent took her oath as the

151
14th President of the Public. Resignation is not a high level legal abstraction. It is a
factual question and its elements are beyond quibble: there must be an intent to
resign and the intent must be coupled by acts of relinquishment.78 The validity of a
resignation is not government by any formal requirement as to form. It can be oral.
It can be written. It can be express. It can be implied. As long as the resignation is
clear, it must be given legal effect.

In the cases at bar, the facts show that petitioner did not write any formal letter of
resignation before he evacuated Malacañang Palace in the afternoon of January
20, 2001 after the oath-taking of respondent Arroyo. Consequently, whether or not
petitioner resigned has to be determined from his act and omissions before, during
and after January 20, 2001 or by the totality of prior, contemporaneous and
posterior facts and circumstantial evidence bearing a material relevance on the
issue.

Using this totality test, we hold that petitioner resigned as President.

To appreciate the public pressure that led to the resignation of the petitioner, it is
important to follow the succession of events after the exposẻ of Governor Singson.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigated. The more detailed revelations of
petitioner's alleged misgovernance in the Blue Ribbon investigation spiked the
hate against him. The Articles of Impeachment filed in the House of
Representatives which initially was given a near cipher chance of succeeding
snowballed. In express speed, it gained the signatures of 115 representatives or
more than 1/3 of the House of Representatives. Soon, petitioner's powerful political
allies began deserting him. Respondent Arroyo quit as Secretary of Social Welfare.
Senate President Drilon and former Speaker Villar defected with 47 representatives
in tow. Then, his respected senior economic advisers resigned together with his
Secretary of Trade and Industry.

As the political isolation of the petitioner worsened, the people's call for his
resignation intensified. The call reached a new crescendo when the eleven (11)
members of the impeachment tribunal refused to open the second envelope. It
sent the people to paroxysms of outrage. Before the night of January 16 was over,
the EDSA Shrine was swarming with people crying for redress of their grievance.
Their number grew exponentially. Rallies and demonstration quickly spread to the
countryside like a brush fire.

As events approached January 20, we can have an authoritative window on


the state of mind of the petitioner. The window is provided in the "Final Days of
Joseph Ejercito Estrada," the diary of Executive Secretary Angara serialized in
the Philippine Daily Inquirer.79 The Angara Diary reveals that in the morning of
January 19, petitioner's loyal advisers were worried about the swelling of the crowd
at EDSA, hence, they decided to create an ad hoc committee to handle it. Their
worry would worsen. At 1:20 p.m., petitioner pulled Secretary Angara into his small
office at the presidential residence and exclaimed: "Ed, seryoso na ito. Kumalas na
si Angelo (Reyes) (Ed, this is serious. Angelo has defected.)" 80 An hour later or at
2:30 p.m., the petitioner decided to call for a snap presidential election and

152
stressed he would not be a candidate. The proposal for a snap election for
president in May where he would not be a candidate is an indicium that petitioner
had intended to give up the presidency even at that time. At 3:00 p.m., General
Reyes joined the sea of EDSA demonstrators demanding the resignation of the
petitioner and dramatically announced the AFP's withdrawal of support from the
petitioner and their pledge of support to respondent Arroyo. The seismic shift of
support left petitioner weak as a president. According to Secretary Angara, he
asked Senator Pimentel to advise petitioner to consider the option of "dignified exit
or resignation."81 Petitioner did not disagree but listened intently.82 The sky was
falling fast on the petitioner. At 9:30 p.m., Senator Pimentel repeated to the
petitioner the urgency of making a graceful and dignified exit. He gave the
proposal a sweetener by saying that petitioner would be allowed to go abroad
with enough funds to support him and his family.83 Significantly, the petitioner
expressed no objection to the suggestion for a graceful and dignified exit but said
he would never leave the country.84 At 10:00 p.m., petitioner revealed to Secretary
Angara, "Ed, Angie (Reyes) guaranteed that I would have five days to a week in
the palace."85 This is proof that petitioner had reconciled himself to the reality that
he had to resign. His mind was already concerned with the five-day grace period
he could stay in the palace. It was a matter of time.

The pressure continued piling up. By 11:00 p.m., former President Ramos called up
Secretary Angara and requested, "Ed, magtulungan tayo para magkaroon tayo
ng (let's cooperate to ensure a) peaceful and orderly transfer of power."86 There
was no defiance to the request. Secretary Angara readily agreed. Again, we note
that at this stage, the problem was already about a peaceful and orderly transfer
of power. The resignation of the petitioner was implied.

The first negotiation for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power immediately
started at 12:20 a.m. of January 20, that fateful Saturday. The negotiation was
limited to three (3) points: (1) the transition period of five days after the petitioner's
resignation; (2) the guarantee of the safety of the petitioner and his family, and (3)
the agreement to open the second envelope to vindicate the name of the
petitioner.87 Again, we note that the resignation of petitioner was not a disputed
point. The petitioner cannot feign ignorance of this fact. According to Secretary
Angara, at 2:30 a.m., he briefed the petitioner on the three points and the
following entry in the Angara Diary shows the reaction of the petitioner, viz:

I explain what happened during the first round of negotiations.


The President immediately stresses that he just wants the five-day period
promised by Reyes, as well as to open the second envelope to clear his
name.

If the envelope is opened, on Monday, he says, he will leave by Monday.

The President says. "Pagod na pagod na ako. Ayoko na masyado nang


masakit. Pagod na ako sa red tape, bureaucracy, intriga. (I am very tired.
I don't want any more of this – it's too painful. I'm tired of the red tape, the
bureaucracy, the intrigue.)

153
I just want to clear my name, then I will go."88

Again, this is high grade evidence that the petitioner has resigned. The intent to
resign is clear when he said "x x x Ayoko na masyado nang masakit." "Ayoko na"
are words of resignation.

The second round of negotiation resumed at 7:30 a.m. According to the Angara
Diary, the following happened:

"Opposition's deal

7:30 a.m. – Rene arrives with Bert Romulo and (Ms. Macapagal's
spokesperson) Rene Corona. For this round, I am accompanied by
Dondon Bagatsing and Macel.

Rene pulls out a document titled "Negotiating Points." It reads:

'1. The President shall sign a resignation document within the day, 20
January 2001, that will be effective on Wednesday, 24 January 2001, on
which day the Vice President will assume the Presidency of the Republic of
the Philippines.

2. Beginning to day, 20 January 2001, the transition process for the


assumption of the new administration shall commence, and persons
designated by the Vice President to various positions and offices of the
government shall start their orientation activities in coordination with the
incumbent officials concerned.

3. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police
shall function under the Vice President as national military and police
authority effective immediately.

4. The Armed Forced of the Philippines, through its Chief of Staff, shall
guarantee the security of the President and his family as approved by the
national military and police authority (Vice President).

5. It is to be noted that the Senate will open the second envelope in


connection with the alleged savings account of the President in the
Equitable PCI Bank in accordance with the rules of the Senate, pursuant to
the request to the Senate President.

Our deal

We bring out, too, our discussion draft which reads:

154
The undersigned parties, for and in behalf of their respective principals,
agree and undertake as follows:

'1. A transition will occur and take place on Wednesday, 24 January 2001,
at which time President Joseph Ejercito Estrada will turn over the
presidency to Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

'2. In return, President Estrada and his families are guaranteed security and
safety of their person and property throughout their natural lifetimes.
Likewise, President Estrada and his families are guarantee freedom from
persecution or retaliation from government and the private sector
throughout their natural lifetimes.

This commitment shall be guaranteed by the Armed Forces of the


Philippines (AFP) through the Chief of Staff, as approved by the national
military and police authorities – Vice President (Macapagal).

'3. Both parties shall endeavor to ensure that the Senate sitting as an
impeachment court will authorize the opening of the second envelope in
the impeachment trial as proof that the subject savings account does not
belong to President Estrada.

'4. During the five-day transition period between 20 January 2001 and 24
January 2001 (the 'Transition Period"), the incoming Cabinet members shall
receive an appropriate briefing from the outgoing Cabinet officials as part
of the orientation program.

During the Transition Period, the AFP and the Philippine National Police
(PNP) shall function Vice President (Macapagal) as national military and
police authorities.

Both parties hereto agree that the AFP chief of staff and PNP director
general shall obtain all the necessary signatures as affixed to this
agreement and insure faithful implementation and observance thereof.

Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo shall issue a public statement in


the form and tenor provided for in "Annex A" heretofore attached to this
agreement."89

The second round of negotiation cements the reading that the petitioner has
resigned. It will be noted that during this second round of negotiation, the
resignation of the petitioner was again treated as a given fact. The only unsettled
points at that time were the measures to be undertaken by the parties during and
after the transition period.

155
According to Secretary Angara, the draft agreement, which was premised on the
resignation of the petitioner was further refined. It was then, signed by their side
and he was ready to fax it to General Reyes and Senator Pimentel to await the
signature of the United Opposition. However, the signing by the party of the
respondent Arroyo was aborted by her oath-taking. The Angara diary narrates the
fateful events, viz;90

11:00 a.m. – Between General Reyes and myself, there is a firm agreement
on the five points to effect a peaceful transition. I can hear the general
clearing all these points with a group he is with. I hear voices in the
background.

Agreement.

The agreement starts: 1. The President shall resign today, 20 January 2001,
which resignation shall be effective on 24 January 2001, on which day the
Vice President will assume the presidency of the Republic of the
Philippines.

The rest of the agreement follows:

2. The transition process for the assumption of the new administration shall
commence on 20 January 2001, wherein persons designated by the Vice
President to various government positions shall start orientation activities
with incumbent officials.

'3. The Armed Forces of the Philippines through its Chief of Staff, shall
guarantee the safety and security of the President and his families
throughout their natural lifetimes as approved by the national military and
police authority – Vice President.

'4. The AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall function under
the Vice President as national military and police authorities.

'5. Both parties request the impeachment court to open the second
envelope in the impeachment trial, the contents of which shall be offered
as proof that the subject savings account does not belong to the
President.

The Vice President shall issue a public statement in the form and tenor
provided for in Annex "B" heretofore attached to this agreement.

11:20 a.m. – I am all set to fax General Reyes and Nene Pimentel our
agreement, signed by our side and awaiting the signature of the United
opposition.

156
And then it happens. General Reyes calls me to say that the Supreme
Court has decided that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is President and will be
sworn in at 12 noon.

'Bakit hindi naman kayo nakahintay? Paano na ang agreement (why


couldn't you wait? What about the agreement)?' I asked.

Reyes answered: 'Wala na, sir (it's over, sir).'

I ask him: Di yung transition period, moot and academic na?'

And General Reyes answers: ' Oo nga, I delete na natin, sir (yes, we're
deleting the part).'

Contrary to subsequent reports, I do not react and say that there was a
double cross.

But I immediately instruct Macel to delete the first provision on resignation


since this matter is already moot and academic. Within moments, Macel
erases the first provision and faxes the documents, which have been
signed by myself, Dondon and Macel, to Nene Pimentel and General
Reyes.

I direct Demaree Ravel to rush the original document to General Reyes for
the signatures of the other side, as it is important that the provisions on
security, at least, should be respected.

I then advise the President that the Supreme Court has ruled that Chief
Justice Davide will administer the oath to Gloria at 12 noon.

The President is too stunned for words:

Final meal

12 noon – Gloria takes her oath as president of the Republic of the


Philippines.

12:20 p.m. – The PSG distributes firearms to some people inside the
compound.

The president is having his final meal at the presidential Residence with the
few friends and Cabinet members who have gathered.

By this time, demonstrators have already broken down the first line of
defense at Mendiola. Only the PSG is there to protect the Palace, since

157
the police and military have already withdrawn their support for the
President.

1 p.m. – The President's personal staff is rushing to pack as many of the


Estrada family's personal possessions as they can.

During lunch, Ronnie Puno mentions that the president needs to release a
final statement before leaving Malacañang.

The statement reads: At twelve o'clock noon today, Vice President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo took her oath as President of the Republic of the
Philippines. While along with many other legal minds of our country, I have
strong and serious doubts about the legality and constitutionality of her
proclamation as President, I do not wish to be a factor that will prevent the
restoration of unity and order in our civil society.

It is for this reason that I now leave Malacañang Palace, the seat of the
presidency of this country, for the sake of peace and in order to begin the
healing process of our nation. I leave the Palace of our people with
gratitude for the opportunities given to me for service to our people. I will
not shirk from any future challenges that may come ahead in the same
service of our country.

I call on all my supporters and followers to join me in the promotion of a


constructive national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity.

May the Almighty bless our country and our beloved people.

MABUHAY!"'

It was curtain time for the petitioner.

In sum, we hold that the resignation of the petitioner cannot be doubted. It was
confirmed by his leaving Malacañang. In the press release containing his final
statement, (1) he acknowledged the oath-taking of the respondent as President of
the Republic albeit with reservation about its legality; (2) he emphasized he was
leaving the Palace, the seat of the presidency, for the sake of peace and in order
to begin the healing process of our nation. He did not say he was leaving the
Palace due to any kind inability and that he was going to re-assume the
presidency as soon as the disability disappears: (3) he expressed his gratitude to
the people for the opportunity to serve them. Without doubt, he was referring to
the past opportunity given him to serve the people as President (4) he assured that
he will not shirk from any future challenge that may come ahead in the same
service of our country. Petitioner's reference is to a future challenge after
occupying the office of the president which he has given up; and (5) he called on
his supporters to join him in the promotion of a constructive national spirit of
reconciliation and solidarity. Certainly, the national spirit of reconciliation and

158
solidarity could not be attained if he did not give up the presidency. The press
release was petitioner's valedictory, his final act of farewell. His presidency is now in
the part tense.

It is, however, urged that the petitioner did not resign but only took a temporary
leave dated January 20, 2001 of the petitioner sent to Senate President Pimentel
and Speaker Fuentebella is cited. Again, we refer to the said letter, viz:

"Sir.

By virtue of the provisions of Section II, Article VII of the Constitution, I am


hereby transmitting this declaration that I am unable to exercise the
powers and duties of my office. By operation of law and the Constitution,
the Vice President shall be the Acting president.

(Sgd.) Joseph Ejercito Estrada"

To say the least, the above letter is wrapped in mystery.91 The pleadings filed by
the petitioner in the cases at bar did not discuss, may even intimate, the
circumstances that led to its preparation. Neither did the counsel of the petitioner
reveal to the Court these circumstances during the oral argument. It strikes the
Court as strange that the letter, despite its legal value, was never referred to by the
petitioner during the week-long crisis. To be sure, there was not the slightest hint of
its existence when he issued his final press release. It was all too easy for him to tell
the Filipino people in his press release that he was temporarily unable to govern
and that he was leaving the reins of government to respondent Arroyo for the time
bearing. Under any circumstance, however, the mysterious letter cannot negate
the resignation of the petitioner. If it was prepared before the press release of the
petitioner clearly as a later act. If, however, it was prepared after the press
released, still, it commands scant legal significance. Petitioner's resignation from
the presidency cannot be the subject of a changing caprice nor of a whimsical
will especially if the resignation is the result of his reputation by the people. There is
another reason why this Court cannot given any legal significance to petitioner's
letter and this shall be discussed in issue number III of this Decision.

After petitioner contended that as a matter of fact he did not resign, he also
argues that he could not resign as a matter of law. He relies on section 12 of RA
No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which
allegedly prohibits his resignation, viz:

"Sec. 12. No public officer shall be allowed to resign or retire pending an


investigation, criminals or administrative, or pending a prosecution against
him, for any offense under this Act or under the provisions of the Revised
Penal Code on bribery."

A reading of the legislative history of RA No. 3019 will hardly provide any comfort to
the petitioner. RA No. 3019 originated form Senate Bill No. 293. The original draft of

159
the bill, when it was submitted to the Senate, did not contain a provision similar to
section 12 of the law as it now stands. However, in his sponsorship speech, Senator
Arturo Tolentino, the author of the bill, "reserved to propose during the period of
amendments the inclusion of a provision to the effect that no public official who is
under prosecution for any act of graft or corruption, or is under administrative
investigation, shall be allowed to voluntarily resign or retire."92 During the period of
amendments, the following provision was inserted as section 15:

"Sec. 15. Termination of office – No public official shall be allowed to resign


or retire pending an investigation, criminal or administrative, or pending a
prosecution against him, for any offense under the Act or under the
provisions of the Revised Penal Code on bribery.

The separation or cessation of a public official form office shall not be a


bar to his prosecution under this Act for an offense committed during his
incumbency."93

The bill was vetoed by then President Carlos P. Garcia who questioned the legality
of the second paragraph of the provision and insisted that the President's immunity
should extend after his tenure.

Senate Bill No. 571, which was substantially similar Senate Bill No. 293, was
thereafter passed. Section 15 above became section 13 under the new bill, but
the deliberations on this particular provision mainly focused on the immunity of the
President, which was one of the reasons for the veto of the original bill. There was
hardly any debate on the prohibition against the resignation or retirement of a
public official with pending criminal and administrative cases against him. Be that
as it may, the intent of the law ought to be obvious. It is to prevent the act of
resignation or retirement from being used by a public official as a protective shield
to stop the investigation of a pending criminal or administrative case against him
and to prevent his prosecution under the Anti-Graft Law or prosecution for bribery
under the Revised Penal Code. To be sure, no person can be compelled to render
service for that would be a violation of his constitutional right.94 A public official has
the right not to serve if he really wants to retire or resign. Nevertheless, if at the time
he resigns or retires, a public official is facing administrative or criminal investigation
or prosecution, such resignation or retirement will not cause the dismissal of the
criminal or administrative proceedings against him. He cannot use his resignation
or retirement to avoid prosecution.

There is another reason why petitioner's contention should be rejected. In the


cases at bar, the records show that when petitioner resigned on January 20, 2001,
the cases filed against him before the Ombudsman were OMB Case Nos. 0-00-
1629, 0-00-1755, 0-00-1756, 0-00-1757 and 0-00-1758. While these cases have been
filed, the respondent Ombudsman refrained from conducting the preliminary
investigation of the petitioner for the reason that as the sitting President then,
petitioner was immune from suit. Technically, the said cases cannot be considered
as pending for the Ombudsman lacked jurisdiction to act on them. Section 12 of
RA No. 3019 cannot therefore be invoked by the petitioner for it contemplates of

160
cases whose investigation or prosecution do not suffer from any insuperable legal
obstacle like the immunity from suit of a sitting President.

Petitioner contends that the impeachment proceeding is an administrative


investigation that, under section 12 of RA 3019, bars him from resigning. We hold
otherwise. The exact nature of an impeachment proceeding is debatable. But
even assuming arguendo that it is an administrative proceeding, it can not be
considered pending at the time petitioner resigned because the process already
broke down when a majority of the senator-judges voted against the opening of
the second envelope, the public and private prosecutors walked out, the public
prosecutors filed their Manifestation of Withdrawal of Appearance, and the
proceedings were postponed indefinitely. There was, in effect, no impeachment
case pending against petitioner when he resigned.

III

Whether or not the petitioner Is only temporarily unable to Act as President.

We shall now tackle the contention of the petitioner that he is merely temporarily
unable to perform the powers and duties of the presidency, and hence is a
President on leave. As aforestated, the inability claim is contained in the January
20, 2001 letter of petitioner sent on the same day to Senate President Pimentel and
Speaker Fuentebella.

Petitioner postulates that respondent Arroyo as Vice President has no power to


adjudge the inability of the petitioner to discharge the powers and duties of the
presidency. His significant submittal is that "Congress has the ultimate authority
under the Constitution to determine whether the President is incapable of
performing his functions in the manner provided for in section 11 of article VII." 95 This
contention is the centerpiece of petitioner's stance that he is a President on leave
and respondent Arroyo is only an Acting President.

An examination of section 11, Article VII is in order. It provides:

"SEC. 11. Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate
and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration
that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until
he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers
and duties shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.

Whenever a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet transmit to the


President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of
Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to
discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall
immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting
President.

161
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President of the Senate and
to the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that
no inability exists, he shall reassume the powers and duties of his office.
Meanwhile, should a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet transmit
within five days to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the
House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is
unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Congress shall
decide the issue. For that purpose, the Congress shall convene, if it is not in
session, within forty-eight hours, in accordance with its rules and without
need of call.

If the Congress, within ten days after receipt of the last written declaration,
or, if not in session, within twelve days after it is required to assemble,
determines by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, voting separately, that the
President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the
Vice-President shall act as President; otherwise, the President shall
continue exercising the powers and duties of his office."

That is the law. Now, the operative facts:

1. Petitioner, on January 20, 2001, sent the above letter claiming


inability to the Senate President and Speaker of the House;
2. Unaware of the letter, respondent Arroyo took her oath of office
as President on January 20, 2001 at about 12:30 p.m.;
3. Despite receipt of the letter, the House of Representatives passed
on January 24, 2001 House Resolution No. 175;96

On the same date, the House of the Representatives passed House Resolution No.
17697 which states:

"RESOLUTION EXPRESSING THE SUPPORT OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES


TO THE ASSUMPTION INTO OFFICE BY VICE PRESIDENT GLORIA
MACAPAGAL-ARROYO AS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,
EXTENDING ITS CONGRATULATIONS AND EXPRESSING ITS SUPPORT FOR HER
ADMINISTRATION AS A PARTNER IN THE ATTAINMENT OF THE NATION'S
GOALS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION

WHEREAS, as a consequence of the people's loss of confidence on the


ability of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to effectively govern, the
Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and
majority of his cabinet had withdrawn support from him;

WHEREAS, upon authority of an en banc resolution of the Supreme Court,


Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as President of the
Philippines on 20 January 2001 before Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.;

162
WHEREAS, immediately thereafter, members of the international
community had extended their recognition to Her Excellency, Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo as President of the Republic of the Philippines;

WHEREAS, Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has


espoused a policy of national healing and reconciliation with justice for
the purpose of national unity and development;

WHEREAS, it is axiomatic that the obligations of the government cannot be


achieved if it is divided, thus by reason of the constitutional duty of the
House of Representatives as an institution and that of the individual
members thereof of fealty to the supreme will of the people, the House of
Representatives must ensure to the people a stable, continuing
government and therefore must remove all obstacles to the attainment
thereof;

WHEREAS, it is a concomitant duty of the House of Representatives to exert


all efforts to unify the nation, to eliminate fractious tension, to heal social
and political wounds, and to be an instrument of national reconciliation
and solidarity as it is a direct representative of the various segments of the
whole nation;

WHEREAS, without surrending its independence, it is vital for the attainment


of all the foregoing, for the House of Representatives to extend its support
and collaboration to the administration of Her Excellency, President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, and to be a constructive partner in nation-building,
the national interest demanding no less: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives, To express its support to the


assumption into office by Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as
President of the Republic of the Philippines, to extend its congratulations
and to express its support for her administration as a partner in the
attainment of the Nation's goals under the Constitution.

Adopted,

(Sgd.) FELICIANO BELMONTE JR.


Speaker

This Resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives on January


24, 2001.

(Sgd.) ROBERTO P. NAZARENO


Secretary General"

163
On February 7, 2001, the House of the Representatives passed House Resolution
No. 17898 which states:

"RESOLUTION CONFIRMING PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO'S


NOMINATION OF SENATOR TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR. AS VICE PRESIDENT
OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

WHEREAS, there is a vacancy in the Office of the Vice President due to the
assumption to the Presidency of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;

WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 9, Article VII of the Constitution, the


President in the event of such vacancy shall nominate a Vice President
from among the members of the Senate and the House of
Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority
vote of all members of both Houses voting separately;

WHEREAS, Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has


nominated Senate Minority Leader Teofisto T. Guingona Jr., to the position
of Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines;

WHEREAS, Senator Teofisto T. Guingona Jr., is a public servant endowed


with integrity, competence and courage; who has served the Filipino
people with dedicated responsibility and patriotism;

WHEREAS, Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. possesses sterling qualities of


true statesmanship, having served the government in various capacities,
among others, as Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Chairman of
the Commission on Audit, Executive Secretary, Secretary of Justice,
Senator of the Philippines – qualities which merit his nomination to the
position of Vice President of the Republic: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved as it is hereby resolved by the House of Representatives, That the


House of Representatives confirms the nomination of Senator Teofisto T.
Guingona, Jr. as the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines.

Adopted,

(Sgd.) FELICIANO BELMONTE JR.


Speaker

This Resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives on February


7, 2001.

(Sgd.) ROBERTO P. NAZARENO


Secretary General"

164
(4) Also, despite receipt of petitioner's letter claiming inability, some twelve
(12) members of the Senate signed the following:

"RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, the recent transition in government offers the nation an


opportunity for meaningful change and challenge;

WHEREAS, to attain desired changes and overcome awesome challenges


the nation needs unity of purpose and resolve cohesive resolute (sic) will;

WHEREAS, the Senate of the Philippines has been the forum for vital
legislative measures in unity despite diversities in perspectives;

WHEREFORE, we recognize and express support to the new government of


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and resolve to discharge and
overcome the nation's challenges." 99

On February 7, the Senate also passed Senate Resolution No. 82100 which
states:

"RESOLUTION CONFIRMING PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO'S


NOMINATION OF SEM. TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR. AS VICE PRESIDENT OF
THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

WHEREAS, there is vacancy in the Office of the Vice President due to the
assumption to the Presidency of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;

WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 9 Article VII of the Constitution, the President


in the event of such vacancy shall nominate a Vice President from among
the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall
assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all members of
both Houses voting separately;

WHEREAS, Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has


nominated Senate Minority Leader Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. to the position
of Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines;

WHEREAS, Sen. Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. is a public servant endowed with


integrity, competence and courage; who has served the Filipino people
with dedicated responsibility and patriotism;

WHEREAS, Sen. Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. possesses sterling qualities of true


statemanship, having served the government in various capacities,
among others, as Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Chairman of
the Commission on Audit, Executive Secretary, Secretary of Justice,

165
Senator of the land - which qualities merit his nomination to the position of
Vice President of the Republic: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, as it is hereby resolved, That the Senate confirm the nomination


of Sen. Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. as Vice President of the Republic of the
Philippines.

Adopted,

(Sgd.) AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL JR.


President of the Senate

This Resolution was adopted by the Senate on February 7, 2001.

(Sgd.) LUTGARDO B. BARBO


Secretary of the Senate"

On the same date, February 7, the Senate likewise passed Senate


Resolution No. 83101 which states:

"RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING THAT THE IMPEACHMENT COURT IS FUNCTUS


OFFICIO

Resolved, as it is hereby resolved. That the Senate recognize that the


Impeachment Court is functus officioand has been terminated.

Resolved, further, That the Journals of the Impeachment Court on


Monday, January 15, Tuesday, January 16 and Wednesday, January 17,
2001 be considered approved.

Resolved, further, That the records of the Impeachment Court including


the "second envelope" be transferred to the Archives of the Senate for
proper safekeeping and preservation in accordance with the Rules of the
Senate. Disposition and retrieval thereof shall be made only upon written
approval of the Senate president.

Resolved, finally. That all parties concerned be furnished copies of this


Resolution.

Adopted,

(Sgd.) AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL, JR.


President of the Senate

This Resolution was adopted by the Senate on February 7, 2001.

166
(Sgd.) LUTGARDO B. BARBO
Secretary of the Senate"

(5) On February 8, the Senate also passed Resolution No. 84 "certifying to the
existence of vacancy in the Senate and calling on the COMELEC to fill up such
vacancy through election to be held simultaneously with the regular election on
May 14, 2001 and the Senatorial candidate garnering the thirteenth (13 th) highest
number of votes shall serve only for the unexpired term of Senator Teofisto T.
Guingona, Jr.'

(6) Both houses of Congress started sending bills to be signed into law by
respondent Arroyo as President.

(7) Despite the lapse of time and still without any functioning Cabinet, without any
recognition from any sector of government, and without any support from the
Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, the petitioner
continues to claim that his inability to govern is only momentary.

What leaps to the eye from these irrefutable facts is that both houses of Congress
have recognized respondent Arroyo as the President. Implicitly clear in that
recognition is the premise that the inability of petitioner Estrada. Is no longer
temporary. Congress has clearly rejected petitioner's claim of inability.

The question is whether this Court has jurisdiction to review the claim of temporary
inability of petitioner Estrada and thereafter revise the decision of both Houses of
Congress recognizing respondent Arroyo as president of the Philippines.
Following Tañada v. Cuenco,102 we hold that this Court cannot exercise its judicial
power or this is an issue "in regard to which full discretionary authority has been
delegated to the Legislative xxx branch of the government." Or to use the
language in Baker vs. Carr,103 there is a "textually demonstrable or a lack of
judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it." Clearly, the
Court cannot pass upon petitioner's claim of inability to discharge the power and
duties of the presidency. The question is political in nature and addressed solely to
Congress by constitutional fiat. It is a political issue, which cannot be decided by
this Court without transgressing the principle of separation of powers.

In fine, even if the petitioner can prove that he did not resign, still, he cannot
successfully claim that he is a President on leave on the ground that he is merely
unable to govern temporarily. That claim has been laid to rest by Congress and the
decision that respondent Arroyo is the de jure, president made by a co-equal
branch of government cannot be reviewed by this Court.

IV

Whether or not the petitioner enjoys immunity from suit.

Assuming he enjoys immunity, the extent of the immunity

167
Petitioner Estrada makes two submissions: first, the cases filed against him before
the respondent Ombudsman should be prohibited because he has not been
convicted in the impeachment proceedings against him; and second, he
enjoys immunity from all kinds of suit, whether criminal or civil.

Before resolving petitioner's contentions, a revisit of our legal history executive


immunity will be most enlightening. The doctrine of executive immunity in this
jurisdiction emerged as a case law. In the 1910 case of Forbes, etc. vs. Chuoco
Tiaco and Crosfield,104 the respondent Tiaco, a Chinese citizen, sued petitioner W.
Cameron Forbes, Governor-General of the Philippine Islands. J.E. Harding and C.R.
Trowbridge, Chief of Police and Chief of the Secret Service of the City of Manila,
respectively, for damages for allegedly conspiring to deport him to China. In
granting a writ of prohibition, this Court, speaking thru Mr. Justice Johnson, held:

" The principle of nonliability, as herein enunciated, does not mean that
the judiciary has no authority to touch the acts of the Governor-General;
that he may, under cover of his office, do what he will, unimpeded and
unrestrained. Such a construction would mean that tyranny, under the
guise of the execution of the law, could walk defiantly abroad, destroying
rights of person and of property, wholly free from interference of courts or
legislatures. This does not mean, either that a person injured by the
executive authority by an act unjustifiable under the law has n remedy,
but must submit in silence. On the contrary, it means, simply, that the
governors-general, like the judges if the courts and the members of the
Legislature, may not be personally mulcted in civil damages for the
consequences of an act executed in the performance of his official
duties. The judiciary has full power to, and will, when the mater is properly
presented to it and the occasion justly warrants it, declare an act of the
Governor-General illegal and void and place as nearly as possible in
status quo any person who has been deprived his liberty or his property by
such act. This remedy is assured to every person, however humble or of
whatever country, when his personal or property rights have been
invaded, even by the highest authority of the state. The thing which the
judiciary can not do is mulct the Governor-General personally in damages
which result from the performance of his official duty, any more than it can
a member of the Philippine Commission of the Philippine Assembly. Public
policy forbids it.

Neither does this principle of nonliability mean that the chief executive
may not be personally sued at all in relation to acts which he claims to
perform as such official. On the contrary, it clearly appears from the
discussion heretofore had, particularly that portion which touched the
liability of judges and drew an analogy between such liability and that of
the Governor-General, that the latter is liable when he acts in a case so
plainly outside of his power and authority that he can not be said to have
exercised discretion in determining whether or not he had the right to act.
What is held here is that he will be protected from personal liability for
damages not only when he acts within his authority, but also when he is

168
without authority, provided he actually used discretion and judgement,
that is, the judicial faculty, in determining whether he had authority to act
or not. In other words, in determining the question of his authority. If he
decide wrongly, he is still protected provided the question of his authority
was one over which two men, reasonably qualified for that position, might
honestly differ; but he s not protected if the lack of authority to act is so
plain that two such men could not honestly differ over its determination. In
such case, be acts, not as Governor-General but as a private individual,
and as such must answer for the consequences of his act."

Mr. Justice Johnson underscored the consequences if the Chief Executive was not
granted immunity from suit, viz"xxx. Action upon important matters of state
delayed; the time and substance of the chief executive spent in wrangling
litigation; disrespect engendered for the person of one of the highest officials of
the state and for the office he occupies; a tendency to unrest and disorder
resulting in a way, in distrust as to the integrity of government itself." 105

Our 1935 Constitution took effect but it did not contain any specific provision on
executive immunity. Then came the tumult of the martial law years under the late
President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the 1973 Constitution was born. In 1981, it was
amended and one of the amendments involved executive immunity. Section 17,
Article VII stated:

"The President shall be immune from suit during his tenure. Thereafter, no
suit whatsoever shall lie for official acts done by him or by others pursuant
to his specific orders during his tenure.

The immunities herein provided shall apply to the incumbent President


referred to in Article XVII of this Constitution.

In his second Vicente G. Sinco professional Chair lecture entitled, "Presidential


Immunity and All The King's Men: The Law of Privilege As a Defense To Actions For
Damages,"106 petitioner's learned counsel, former Dean of the UP College of Law,
Atty. Pacificao Agabin, brightened the modifications effected by this
constitutional amendment on the existing law on executive privilege. To quote his
disquisition:

"In the Philippines, though, we sought to do the Americans one better by


enlarging and fortifying the absolute immunity concept. First, we extended
it to shield the President not only form civil claims but also from criminal
cases and other claims. Second, we enlarged its scope so that it would
cover even acts of the President outside the scope of official duties. And
third, we broadened its coverage so as to include not only the President
but also other persons, be they government officials or private individuals,
who acted upon orders of the President. It can be said that at that point
most of us were suffering from AIDS (or absolute immunity defense
syndrome)."

169
The Opposition in the then Batasan Pambansa sought the repeal of this Marcosian
concept of executive immunity in the 1973 Constitution. The move was led by
them Member of Parliament, now Secretary of Finance, Alberto Romulo, who
argued that the after incumbency immunity granted to President Marcos violated
the principle that a public office is a public trust. He denounced the immunity as a
return to the anachronism "the king can do no wrong."107 The effort failed.

The 1973 Constitution ceased to exist when President Marcos was ousted from
office by the People Power revolution in 1986. When the 1987 Constitution was
crafted, its framers did not reenact the executive immunity provision of the 1973
Constitution. The following explanation was given by delegate J. Bernas vis:108

"Mr. Suarez. Thank you.

The last question is with reference to the Committee's omitting in the draft
proposal the immunity provision for the President. I agree with
Commissioner Nolledo that the Committee did very well in striking out
second sentence, at the very least, of the original provision on immunity
from suit under the 1973 Constitution. But would the Committee members
not agree to a restoration of at least the first sentence that the President
shall be immune from suit during his tenure, considering that if we do not
provide him that kind of an immunity, he might be spending all his time
facing litigation's, as the President-in-exile in Hawaii is now facing
litigation's almost daily?

Fr. Bernas. The reason for the omission is that we consider it understood in
present jurisprudence that during his tenure he is immune from suit.

Mr. Suarez. So there is no need to express it here.

Fr. Bernas. There is no need. It was that way before. The only innovation
made by the 1973 Constitution was to make that explicit and to add other
things.

Mr. Suarez. On that understanding, I will not press for any more query,
Madam President.

I think the Commissioner for the clarifications."

We shall now rule on the contentions of petitioner in the light of this history. We
reject his argument that he cannot be prosecuted for the reason that he must first
be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. The impeachment trial of
petitioner Estrada was aborted by the walkout of the prosecutors and by the
events that led to his loss of the presidency. Indeed, on February 7, 2001, the
Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 83 "Recognizing that the Impeachment
Court is Functus Officio."109 Since, the Impeachment Court is now functus officio, it
is untenable for petitioner to demand that he should first be impeached and then

170
convicted before he can be prosecuted. The plea if granted, would put a
perpetual bar against his prosecution. Such a submission has nothing to commend
itself for it will place him in a better situation than a non-sitting President who has
not been subjected to impeachment proceedings and yet can be the object of a
criminal prosecution. To be sure, the debates in the Constitutional Commission
make it clear that when impeachment proceedings have become moot due to
the resignation of the President, the proper criminal and civil cases may already
be filed against him, viz:110

"xxx

Mr. Aquino. On another point, if an impeachment proceeding has been


filed against the President, for example, and the President resigns before
judgement of conviction has been rendered by the impeachment court
or by the body, how does it affect the impeachment proceeding? Will it
be necessarily dropped?

Mr. Romulo. If we decide the purpose of impeachment to remove one


from office, then his resignation would render the case moot and
academic. However, as the provision says, the criminal and civil aspects of
it may continue in the ordinary courts."

This is in accord with our ruling In Re: Saturnino Bermudez 111 that 'incumbent
Presidents are immune from suit or from being brought to court during the period
of their incumbency and tenure" but not beyond. Considering the peculiar
circumstance that the impeachment process against the petitioner has been
aborted and thereafter he lost the presidency, petitioner Estrada cannot demand
as a condition sine qua non to his criminal prosecution before the Ombudsman
that he be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. His reliance on the case
of Lecaroz vs. Sandiganbayan112 and related cases113 are inapropos for they have
a different factual milieu.

We now come to the scope of immunity that can be claimed by petitioner as a


non-sitting President. The cases filed against petitioner Estrada are criminal in
character. They involve plunder, bribery and graft and corruption. By no stretch of
the imagination can these crimes, especially plunder which carries the death
penalty, be covered by the alleged mantle of immunity of a non-sitting president.
Petitioner cannot cite any decision of this Court licensing the President to commit
criminal acts and wrapping him with post-tenure immunity from liability. It will be
anomalous to hold that immunity is an inoculation from liability for unlawful acts
and conditions. The rule is that unlawful acts of public officials are not acts of the
State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such but stands in the same
footing as any trespasser.114

Indeed, critical reading of current literature on executive immunity will reveal a


judicial disinclination to expand the privilege especially when it impedes the
search for truth or impairs the vindication of a right. In the 1974 case of US v.
Nixon,115 US President Richard Nixon, a sitting President, was subpoenaed to

171
produce certain recordings and documents relating to his conversations with aids
and advisers. Seven advisers of President Nixon's associates were facing charges of
conspiracy to obstruct Justice and other offenses, which were committed in a
burglary of the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington's Watergate
Hotel during the 972 presidential campaign. President Nixon himself was named an
unindicted co-conspirator. President Nixon moved to quash the subpoena on the
ground, among others, that the President was not subject to judicial process and
that he should first be impeached and removed from office before he could be
made amenable to judicial proceedings. The claim was rejected by the US
Supreme Court. It concluded that "when the ground for asserting privilege as to
subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the
generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental
demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice." In the
1982 case of Nixon v. Fitzgerald,116 the US Supreme Court further held that the
immunity of the president from civil damages covers only "official acts." Recently,
the US Supreme Court had the occasion to reiterate this doctrine in the case of
Clinton v. Jones117 where it held that the US President's immunity from suits for
money damages arising out of their official acts is inapplicable to unofficial
conduct.

There are more reasons not to be sympathetic to appeals to stretch the scope of
executive immunity in our jurisdiction. One of the great themes of the 1987
Constitution is that a public office is a public trust.118 It declared as a state policy
that "the State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take
positive and effective measures against graft and corruptio." 119 it ordained that
"public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people,
serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency act with
patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives."120 It set the rule that 'the right of the
State to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials or employees,
from them or from their nominees or transferees, shall not be barred by
prescription, latches or estoppel."121 It maintained the Sandiganbayan as an anti-
graft court.122 It created the office of the Ombudsman and endowed it with
enormous powers, among which is to "investigate on its own, or on complaint by
any person, any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency,
when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust improper or
inefficient."123 The Office of the Ombudsman was also given fiscal
autonomy.124 These constitutional policies will be devalued if we sustain petitioner's
claim that a non-sitting president enjoys immunity from suit for criminal acts
committed during his incumbency.

Whether or not the prosecution of petitioner

Estrada should be enjoined due to prejudicial publicity

Petitioner also contends that the respondent Ombudsman should be stopped from
conducting the investigation of the cases filed against him due to the barrage of

172
prejudicial publicity on his guilt. He submits that the respondent Ombudsman has
developed bias and is all set file the criminal cases violation of his right to due
process.

There are two (2) principal legal and philosophical schools of thought on how to
deal with the rain of unrestrained publicity during the investigation and trial of high
profile cases.125 The British approach the problem with the presumption that
publicity will prejudice a jury. Thus, English courts readily stay and stop criminal trials
when the right of an accused to fair trial suffers a threat.126 The American
approach is different. US courts assume a skeptical approach about the potential
effect of pervasive publicity on the right of an accused to a fair trial. They have
developed different strains of tests to resolve this issue, i.e., substantial; probability
of irreparable harm, strong likelihood, clear and present danger, etc.

This is not the first time the issue of trial by publicity has been raised in this Court to
stop the trials or annul convictions in high profile criminal cases.127 In People vs.
Teehankee, Jr.,128 later reiterated in the case of Larranaga vs. court of Appeals, et
al.,129 we laid down the doctrine that:

"We cannot sustain appellant's claim that he was denied the right to
impartial trial due to prejudicial publicity. It is true that the print and
broadcast media gave the case at bar pervasive publicity, just like all high
profile and high stake criminal trials. Then and now, we rule that the right
of an accused to a fair trial is not incompatible to a free press. To be sure,
responsible reporting enhances accused's right to a fair trial for, as well
pointed out, a responsible press has always been regarded as the criminal
field xxx. The press does not simply publish information about trials but
guards against the miscarriage of justice by subjecting the police,
prosecutors, and judicial processes to extensive public scrutiny and
criticism.

Pervasive publicity is not per se prejudicial to the right of an accused to


fair trial. The mere fact that the trial of appellant was given a day-to-day,
gavel-to-gavel coverage does not by itself prove that the publicity so
permeated the mind of the trial judge and impaired his impartiality. For
one, it is impossible to seal the minds of members of the bench from pre-
trial and other off-court publicity of sensational criminal cases. The state of
the art of our communication system brings news as they happen straight
to our breakfast tables and right to our bedrooms. These news form part of
our everyday menu of the facts and fictions of life. For another, our idea of
a fair and impartial judge is not that of a hermit who is out of touch with
the world. We have not installed the jury system whose members are
overly protected from publicity lest they lose there impartially. xxx xxx xxx.
Our judges are learned in the law and trained to disregard off-court
evidence and on-camera performances of parties to litigation. Their mere
exposure to publications and publicity stunts does not per se fatally infect
their impartiality.

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At best, appellant can only conjure possibility of prejudice on the part of
the trial judge due to the barrage of publicity that characterized the
investigation and trial of the case. In Martelino, et al. v. Alejandro, et al.,
we rejected this standard of possibility of prejudice and adopted the test
of actual prejudice as we ruled that to warrant a finding of prejudicial
publicity, there must be allegation and proof that the judges have been
unduly influenced, not simply that they might be, by the barrage of
publicity. In the case at a bar, the records do not show that the trial judge
developed actual bias against appellants as a consequence of the
extensive media coverage of the pre-trial and trial of his case. The totality
of circumstances of the case does not prove that the trial judge acquired
a fixed opinion as a result of prejudicial publicity, which is incapable of
change even by evidence presented during the trial. Appellant has the
burden to prove this actual bias and he has not discharged the burden.'

We expounded further on this doctrine in the subsequent case of Webb vs. Hon.
Raul de Leon, etc.130 and its companion cases, viz:

"Again petitioners raise the effect of prejudicial publicity on their right to


due process while undergoing preliminary investigation. We find no
procedural impediment to its early invocation considering the substantial
risk to their liberty while undergoing a preliminary investigation.

The democratic settings, media coverage of trials of sensational cases


cannot be avoided and oftentimes, its excessiveness has been
aggravated by kinetic developments in the telecommunications industry.
For sure, few cases can match the high volume and high velocity of
publicity that attended the preliminary investigation of the case at bar.
Our daily diet of facts and fiction about the case continues unabated
even today. Commentators still bombard the public with views not too
many of which are sober and sublime. Indeed, even the principal actors in
the case – the NBI, the respondents, their lawyers and their sympathizers
have participated in this media blitz. The possibility of media abuses and
their threat to a fair trial notwithstanding, criminal trials cannot be
completely closed to the press and public. In the seminal case of
Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, it was

a. The historical evidence of the evolution of the criminal trial in


Anglo-American justice demonstrates conclusively that at the
time this Nation's organic laws were adopted, criminal trials both
here and in England had long been presumptively open, thus
giving assurance that the proceedings were conducted fairly to
all concerned and discouraging perjury, the misconduct of
participants, or decisions based on secret bias or partiality. In
addition, the significant community therapeutic value of public
trials was recognized when a shocking crime occurs a community
reaction of outrage and public protest often follows, and
thereafter the open processes of justice serve an important

174
prophylactic purpose, providing an outlet for community concern,
hostility and emotion. To work effectively, it is important that
society's criminal process satisfy the appearance of justice,' Offutt
v. United States, 348 US 11, 14, 99 L ED 11, 75 S Ct 11, which can
best be provided by allowing people to observe such process.
From this unbroken, uncontradicted history, supported by reasons
as valid today as in centuries past, it must be concluded that a
presumption of openness inheres in the very nature of a criminal
trial under this Nation's system of justice, Cf., e,g., Levine v. United
States, 362 US 610, 4 L Ed 2d 989, 80 S Ct 1038.
b. The freedoms of speech. Press and assembly, expressly
guaranteed by the First Amendment, share a common core
purpose of assuring freedom of communication on matters
relating to the functioning of government. In guaranteeing
freedom such as those of speech and press, the First Amendment
can be read as protecting the right of everyone to attend trials so
as give meaning to those explicit guarantees; the First
Amendment right to receive information and ideas means, in the
context of trials, that the guarantees of speech and press,
standing alone, prohibit government from summarily closing
courtroom doors which had long been open to the public at the
time the First Amendment was adopted. Moreover, the right of
assembly is also relevant, having been regarded not only as an
independent right but also as a catalyst to augment the free
exercise of the other First Amendment rights with which the
draftsmen deliberately linked it. A trial courtroom is a public place
where the people generally and representatives of the media
have a right to be present, and where their presence historically
has been thought to enhance the integrity and quality of what
takes place.
c. Even though the Constitution contains no provision which be its
terms guarantees to the public the right to attend criminal trials,
various fundamental rights, not expressly guaranteed, have been
recognized as indispensable to the enjoyment of enumerated
rights. The right to attend criminal trial is implicit in the guarantees
of the First Amendment: without the freedom to attend such trials,
which people have exercised for centuries, important aspects of
freedom of speech and of the press be eviscerated.

Be that as it may, we recognize that pervasive and prejudicial publicity


under certain circumstances can deprive an accused of his due process
right to fair trial. Thus, in Martelino, et al. vs. Alejandro, et al., we held that
to warrant a finding of prejudicial publicity there must be allegation and
proof that the judges have been unduly influenced, not simply that they
might be, by the barrage of publicity. In the case at bar, we find nothing
in the records that will prove that the tone and content of the publicity
that attended the investigation of petitioners fatally infected the fairness
and impartiality of the DOJ Panel. Petitioners cannot just rely on the
subliminal effects of publicity on the sense of fairness of the DOJ Panel, for

175
these are basically unbeknown and beyond knowing. To be sure, the DOJ
Panel is composed of an Assistant Chief State Prosecutor and Senior State
Prosecutors. Their long experience in criminal investigation is a factor to
consider in determining whether they can easily be blinded by the klieg
lights of publicity. Indeed, their 26-page Resolution carries no indubitable
indicia of bias for it does not appear that they considered any extra-
record evidence except evidence properly adduced by the parties. The
length of time the investigation was conducted despite its summary
nature and the generosity with which they accommodated the discovery
motions of petitioners speak well of their fairness. At no instance, we note,
did petitioners seek the disqualification of any member of the DOJ Panel
on the ground of bias resulting from their bombardment of prejudicial
publicity." (emphasis supplied)

Applying the above ruling, we hold that there is not enough evidence to warrant
this Court to enjoin the preliminary investigation of the petitioner by the respondent
Ombudsman. Petitioner needs to offer more than hostile headlines to discharge his
burden of proof.131 He needs to show more weighty social science evidence to
successfully prove the impaired capacity of a judge to render a bias-free decision.
Well to note, the cases against the petitioner are still undergoing preliminary
investigation by a special panel of prosecutors in the office of the respondent
Ombudsman. No allegation whatsoever has been made by the petitioner that the
minds of the members of this special panel have already been infected by bias
because of the pervasive prejudicial publicity against him. Indeed, the special
panel has yet to come out with its findings and the Court cannot second guess
whether its recommendation will be unfavorable to the petitioner.1âwphi1.nêt

The records show that petitioner has instead charged respondent Ombudsman
himself with bias. To quote petitioner's submission, the respondent Ombudsman
"has been influenced by the barrage of slanted news reports, and he has buckled
to the threats and pressures directed at him by the mobs."132 News reports have
also been quoted to establish that the respondent Ombudsman has already
prejudged the cases of the petitioner133 and it is postulated that the prosecutors
investigating the petitioner will be influenced by this bias of their superior.

Again, we hold that the evidence proffered by the petitioner is insubstantial. The
accuracy of the news reports referred to by the petitioner cannot be the subject
of judicial notice by this Court especially in light of the denials of the respondent
Ombudsman as to his alleged prejudice and the presumption of good faith and
regularity in the performance of official duty to which he is entitled. Nor can we
adopt the theory of derivative prejudice of petitioner, i.e., that the prejudice of
respondent Ombudsman flows to his subordinates. In truth, our Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, give investigation prosecutors the independence to make
their own findings and recommendations albeit they are reviewable by their
superiors.134 They can be reversed but they can not be compelled cases which
they believe deserve dismissal. In other words, investigating prosecutors should not
be treated like unthinking slot machines. Moreover, if the respondent Ombudsman
resolves to file the cases against the petitioner and the latter believes that the

176
findings of probable cause against him is the result of bias, he still has the remedy
of assailing it before the proper court.

VI.

Epilogue

A word of caution to the "hooting throng." The cases against the petitioner will now
acquire a different dimension and then move to a new stage - - - the Office of the
Ombudsman. Predictably, the call from the majority for instant justice will hit a
higher decibel while the gnashing of teeth of the minority will be more threatening.
It is the sacred duty of the respondent Ombudsman to balance the right of the
State to prosecute the guilty and the right of an accused to a fair investigation
and trial which has been categorized as the "most fundamental of all
freedoms."135To be sure, the duty of a prosecutor is more to do justice and less to
prosecute. His is the obligation to insure that the preliminary investigation of the
petitioner shall have a circus-free atmosphere. He has to provide the restraint
against what Lord Bryce calls "the impatient vehemence of the majority." Rights in
a democracy are not decided by the mob whose judgment is dictated by rage
and not by reason. Nor are rights necessarily resolved by the power of number for
in a democracy, the dogmatism of the majority is not and should never be the
definition of the rule of law. If democracy has proved to be the best form of
government, it is because it has respected the right of the minority to convince the
majority that it is wrong. Tolerance of multiformity of thoughts, however offensive
they may be, is the key to man's progress from the cave to civilization. Let us not
throw away that key just to pander to some people's prejudice.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petitions of Joseph Ejercito Estrada challenging the


respondent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the de jure 14th President of the Republic
are DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC, June 14, 2011

RE: PETITION FOR RADIO AND TELEVISION COVERAGE OF THE MULTIPLE MURDER
CASES AGAINST MAGUINDANAO GOVERNOR ZALDY AMPATUAN, ET AL.,

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

A.M. No. 10-11-6-SC

177
RE: PETITION FOR THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PRESENT COURT HANDLING THE TRIAL OF
THE MASSACRE OF 57 PERSONS, INCLUDING 32 JOURNALISTS, IN AMPATUAN,
MAGUINDANAO INTO A SPECIAL COURT HANDLING THIS CASE ALONE FOR THE
PURPOSE OF ACHIEVING GENUINE SPEEDY TRIAL and FOR THE SETTING UP OF
VIDEOCAM AND MONITOR JUST OUTSIDE THE COURT FOR JOURNALISTS TO COVER
AND FOR THE PEOPLE TO WITNESS THE "TRIAL OF THE DECADE" TO MAKE IT TRULY
PUBLIC AND IMPARTIAL AS COMMANDED BY THE CONSTITUTION,

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

A.M. No. 10-11-7-SC

RE: LETTER OF PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. AQUINO III FOR THE LIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF
THE MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE TRIAL.

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

On November 23, 2009, 57 people including 32 journalists and media practitioners


were killed while on their way to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao. Touted as the
worst election-related violence and the most brutal killing of journalists in recent
history, the tragic incident which came to be known as the "Maguindanao
Massacre" spawned charges for 57 counts of murder and an additional charge of
rebellion against 197 accused, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. Q-09-162148-72, Q-
09-162216-31, Q-10-162652-66, and Q-10-163766, commonly entitled People v. Datu
Andal Ampatuan, Jr., et al. Following the transfer of venue and the reraffling of the
cases, the cases are being tried by Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Branch
221 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City inside Camp Bagong Diwa in
Taguig City.

Almost a year later or on November 19, 2010, the National Union of Journalists of
the Philippines (NUJP), ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, GMA Network, Inc.,
relatives of the victims,1 individual journalists2 from various media entities, and
members of the academe3 filed a petition before this Court praying that live
television and radio coverage of the trial in these criminal cases be allowed,
recording devices (e.g., still cameras, tape recorders) be permitted inside the
courtroom to assist the working journalists, and reasonable guidelines be
formulated to govern the broadcast coverage and the use of devices.4 The Court
docketed the petition as A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC.

In a related move, the National Press Club of the Philippines5 (NPC) and Alyansa
ng Filipinong Mamamahayag6(AFIMA) filed on November 22, 2010 a petition
praying that the Court constitute Branch 221 of RTC-Quezon City as a special court
to focus only on the Maguindanao Massacre trial to relieve it of all other pending
cases and assigned duties, and allow the installation inside the courtroom of a
sufficient number of video cameras that shall beam the audio and video signals to
the television monitors outside the court.7 The Court docketed the petition as A.M.
No. 10-11-6-SC.

178
President Benigno S. Aquino III, by letter of November 22, 20108 addressed to Chief
Justice Renato Corona, came out "in support of those who have petitioned [this
Court] to permit television and radio broadcast of the trial." The President
expressed "earnest hope that [this Court] will, within the many considerations that
enter into such a historic deliberation, attend to this petition with the dispatch,
dispassion and humaneness, such a petition merits."9The Court docketed the
matter as A.M. No. 10-11-7-SC.

By separate Resolutions of November 23, 2010,10 the Court consolidated A.M. No.
10-11-7-SC with A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC. The Court shall treat in a separate Resolution
A.M. No. 10-11-6-SC.

Meanwhile, various groups11 also sent to the Chief Justice their respective
resolutions and statements bearing on these matters.

The principal accused in the cases, Andal Ampatuan, Jr. (Ampatuan), filed a
Consolidated Comment of December 6, 2010 in A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC and A.M. No.
10-11-7-SC. The President, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), and
NUJP, et al. filed their respective Reply of January 18, 2011 and January 20, 2011.
Ampatuan also filed a Rejoinder of March 9, 2011.

On Broadcasting the Trial of the Maguindanao Massacre Cases

Petitioners seek the lifting of the absolute ban on live television and radio
coverage of court proceedings. They principally urge the Court to revisit
the 1991 ruling in Re: Live TV and Radio Coverage of the Hearing of President
Corazon C. Aquino’s Libel Case12 and the 2001 ruling in Re: Request Radio-TV
Coverage of the Trial in the Sandiganbayan of the Plunder Cases Against the
Former President Joseph E. Estrada13 which rulings, they contend, violate the
doctrine that proposed restrictions on constitutional rights are to be narrowly
construed and outright prohibition cannot stand when regulation is a viable
alternative.

Petitioners state that the trial of the Maguindanao Massacre cases has attracted
intense media coverage due to the gruesomeness of the crime, prominence of
the accused, and the number of media personnel killed. They inform that reporters
are being frisked and searched for cameras, recorders, and cellular devices upon
entry, and that under strict orders of the trial court against live broadcast
coverage, the number of media practitioners allowed inside the courtroom has
been limited to one reporter for each media institution.

The record shows that NUJP Vice-Chairperson Jose Jaime Espina, by January 12,
2010 letter14 to Judge Solis-Reyes, requested a dialogue to discuss concerns over
media coverage of the proceedings of the Maguindanao Massacre cases. Judge
Solis-Reyes replied, however, that "matters concerning media coverage should be
brought to the Court’s attention through appropriate motion."15 Hence, the
present petitions which assert the exercise of the freedom of the press, right to

179
information, right to a fair and public trial, right to assembly and to petition the
government for redress of grievances, right of free access to courts, and freedom
of association, subject to regulations to be issued by the Court.

The Court partially GRANTS pro hac vice petitioners’ prayer for a live broadcast of
the trial court proceedings, subject to the guidelines which shall be enumerated
shortly.

Putt’s Law16 states that "technology is dominated by two types of people: those
who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they
do not understand." Indeed, members of this Court cannot strip their judicial robe
and don the experts’ gown, so to speak, in a pretense to foresee and fathom all
serious prejudices or risks from the use of technology inside the courtroom.

A decade after Estrada and a score after Aquino, the Court is once again faced
with the same task of striking that delicate balance between seemingly
competing yet certainly complementary rights.

The indication of "serious risks" posed by live media coverage to the accused’s
right to due process, left unexplained and unexplored in the era obtaining
in Aquino and Estrada, has left a blow to the exercise of press freedom and the
right to public information.lawphil

The rationale for an outright total prohibition was shrouded, as it is now, inside the
comfortable cocoon of a feared speculation which no scientific study in the
Philippine setting confirms, and which fear, if any, may be dealt with by safeguards
and safety nets under existing rules and exacting regulations.

In this day and age, it is about time to craft a win-win situation that
shall not compromise rights in the criminal administration of justice, sacrifice press
freedom and allied rights, and interfere with the integrity, dignity and solemnity of
judicial proceedings. Compliance with regulations, not curtailment of a right,
provides a workable solution to the concerns raised in these administrative matters,
while, at the same time, maintaining the same underlying principles upheld in the
two previous cases.

The basic principle upheld in Aquino is firm ─ "[a] trial of any kind or in any court is a
matter of serious importance to all concerned and should not be treated as a
means of entertainment[, and t]o so treat it deprives the court of the dignity which
pertains to it and departs from the orderly and serious quest for truth for which our
judicial proceedings are formulated." The observation that "[m]assive intrusion of
representatives of the news media into the trial itself can so alter and destroy the
constitutionally necessary atmosphere and decorum" stands.

The Court concluded in Aquino:

180
Considering the prejudice it poses to the defendant's right to due process as well
as to the fair and orderly administration of justice, and considering further that the
freedom of the press and the right of the people to information may be served
and satisfied by less distracting, degrading and prejudicial means, live radio and
television coverage of court proceedings shall not be allowed. Video footages of
court hearings for news purposes shall be restricted and limited to shots of the
courtroom, the judicial officers, the parties and their counsel taken prior to the
commencement of official proceedings. No video shots or photographs shall be
permitted during the trial proper.

Accordingly, in order to protect the parties' right to due process, to prevent the
distraction of the participants in the proceedings and in the last analysis, to avoid
miscarriage of justice, the Court resolved to PROHlBIT live radio and television
coverage of court proceedings. Video footage of court hearings for news
purposes shall be limited and restricted as above indicated.17

The Court had another unique opportunity in Estrada to revisit the question of live
radio and television coverage of court proceedings in a criminal case. It held that
"[t]he propriety of granting or denying the instant petition involve[s] the weighing
out of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and the right to public
information, on the one hand, and the fundamental rights of the accused, on the
other hand, along with the constitutional power of a court to control its
proceedings in ensuring a fair and impartial trial." The Court disposed:

The Court is not all that unmindful of recent technological and scientific advances
but to chance forthwith the life or liberty of any person in a hasty bid to use and
apply them, even before ample safety nets are provided and the concerns
heretofore expressed are aptly addressed, is a price too high to pay.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.18

In resolving the motion for reconsideration, the Court in Estrada, by Resolution of


September 13, 2001, provided a glimmer of hope when it ordered the audio-visual
recording of the trial for documentary purposes, under the following conditions:

x x x (a) the trial shall be recorded in its entirety, excepting such portions thereof as
the Sandiganbayan may determine should not be held public under Rule 119, §21
of the Rules of Criminal Procedure; (b) cameras shall be installed inconspicuously
inside the courtroom and the movement of TV crews shall be regulated consistent
with the dignity and solemnity of the proceedings; (c) the audio-visual recordings
shall be made for documentary purposes only and shall be made without
comment except such annotations of scenes depicted therein as may be
necessary to explain them; (d) the live broadcast of the recordings before the
Sandiganbayan shall have rendered its decision in all the cases against the former
President shall be prohibited under pain of contempt of court and other sanctions

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in case of violations of the prohibition; (e) to ensure that the conditions are
observed, the audio-visual recording of the proceedings shall be made under the
supervision and control of the Sandiganbayan or its Division concerned and shall
be made pursuant to rules promulgated by it; and (f) simultaneously with the
release of the audio-visual recordings for public broadcast, the original thereof
shall be deposited in the National Museum and the Records Management and
Archives Office for preservation and exhibition in accordance with law.19

Petitioners note that the 1965 case of Estes v.


Texas20 which Aquino and Estrada heavily cited, was borne out of the dynamics of
a jury system, where the considerations for the possible infringement of the
impartiality of a jury, whose members are not necessarily schooled in the law, are
different from that of a judge who is versed with the rules of evidence. To
petitioners, Estes also does not represent the most contemporary position of the
United States in the wake of latest jurisprudence21 and statistical figures revealing
that as of 2007 all 50 states, except the District of Columbia, allow television
coverage with varying degrees of openness.

Other jurisdictions welcome the idea of media coverage. Almost all the
proceedings of United Kingdom’s Supreme Court are filmed, and sometimes
broadcast.22 The International Criminal Court broadcasts its proceedings via video
streaming in the internet.23

On the media coverage’s influence on judges, counsels and witnesses, petitioners


point out that Aquino and Estrada, like Estes, lack empirical evidence to support
the sustained conclusion. They point out errors of generalization where the
conclusion has been mostly supported by studies on American attitudes, as there
has been no authoritative study on the particular matter dealing with Filipinos.

Respecting the possible influence of media coverage on the impartiality of trial


court judges, petitioners correctly explain that prejudicial publicity insofar as it
undermines the right to a fair trial must pass the "totality of circumstances" test,
applied in People v. Teehankee, Jr.24 and Estrada v. Desierto,25 that the right of an
accused to a fair trial is not incompatible to a free press, that pervasive publicity is
not per se prejudicial to the right of an accused to a fair trial, and that there must
be allegation and proof of the impaired capacity of a judge to render a bias-free
decision. Mere fear of possible undue influence is not tantamount to actual
prejudice resulting in the deprivation of the right to a fair trial.

Moreover, an aggrieved party has ample legal remedies. He may challenge the
validity of an adverse judgment arising from a proceeding that transgressed a
constitutional right. As pointed out by petitioners, an aggrieved party may early on
move for a change of venue, for continuance until the prejudice from publicity is
abated, for disqualification of the judge, and for closure of portions of the trial
when necessary. The trial court may likewise exercise its power of contempt and
issue gag orders.

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One apparent circumstance that sets the Maguindanao Massacre cases apart
from the earlier cases is the impossibility of accommodating even the parties to the
cases – the private complainants/families of the victims and other witnesses –
inside the courtroom. On public trial, Estrada basically discusses:

An accused has a right to a public trial but it is a right that belongs to him, more
than anyone else, where his life or liberty can be held critically in balance. A public
trial aims to ensure that he is fairly dealt with and would not be unjustly
condemned and that his rights are not compromised in secrete conclaves of long
ago. A public trial is not synonymous with publicized trial; it only implies that the
court doors must be open to those who wish to come, sit in the available seats,
conduct themselves with decorum and observe the trial process. In the
constitutional sense, a courtroom should have enough facilities for a reasonable
number of the public to observe the proceedings, not too small as to render the
openness negligible and not too large as to distract the trial participants from their
proper functions, who shall then be totally free to report what they have observed
during the proceedings.26 (underscoring supplied)

Even before considering what is a "reasonable number of the public" who may
observe the proceedings, the peculiarity of the subject criminal cases is that the
proceedings already necessarily entail the presence of hundreds of families. It
cannot be gainsaid that the families of the 57 victims and of the 197 accused
have as much interest, beyond mere curiosity, to attend or monitor the
proceedings as those of the impleaded parties or trial participants. It bears noting
at this juncture that the prosecution and the defense have listed more than 200
witnesses each.

The impossibility of holding such judicial proceedings in a courtroom that will


accommodate all the interested parties, whether private complainants or
accused, is unfortunate enough. What more if the right itself commands that a
reasonable number of the general public be allowed to witness the proceeding as
it takes place inside the courtroom. Technology tends to provide the only solution
to break the inherent limitations of the courtroom, to satisfy the imperative of
a transparent, open and public trial.

In so allowing pro hac vice the live broadcasting by radio and television of the
Maguindanao Massacre cases, the Court lays down the following guidelines
toward addressing the concerns mentioned in Aquino and Estrada:

(a) An audio-visual recording of the Maguindanao massacre cases may


be made both for documentary purposes and for transmittal to live radio
and television broadcasting.

(b) Media entities must file with the trial court a letter of application,
manifesting that they intend to broadcast the audio-visual recording of
the proceedings and that they have the necessary technological
equipment and technical plan to carry out the same, with an undertaking

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that they will faithfully comply with the guidelines and regulations and
cover the entire remaining proceedings until promulgation of judgment.

No selective or partial coverage shall be allowed. No media entity shall be


allowed to broadcast the proceedings without an application duly
approved by the trial court.

(c) A single fixed compact camera shall be installed inconspicuously


inside the courtroom to provide a single wide-angle full-view of the sala of
the trial court. No panning and zooming shall be allowed to avoid unduly
highlighting or downplaying incidents in the proceedings. The camera and
the necessary equipment shall be operated and controlled only by a duly
designated official or employee of the Supreme Court. The camera
equipment should not produce or beam any distracting sound or light
rays. Signal lights or signs showing the equipment is operating should not
be visible. A limited number of microphones and the least installation of
wiring, if not wireless technology, must be unobtrusively located in places
indicated by the trial court.

The Public Information Office and the Office of the Court Administrator
shall coordinate and assist the trial court on the physical set-up of the
camera and equipment.

(d) The transmittal of the audio-visual recording from inside the courtroom
to the media entities shall be conducted in such a way that the least
physical disturbance shall be ensured in keeping with the dignity and
solemnity of the proceedings and the exclusivity of the access to the
media entities.

The hardware for establishing an interconnection or link with the camera


equipment monitoring the proceedings shall be for the account of the
media entities, which should employ technology that can (i) avoid the
cumbersome snaking cables inside the courtroom, (ii) minimize the
unnecessary ingress or egress of technicians, and (iii) preclude undue
commotion in case of technical glitches.

If the premises outside the courtroom lack space for the set-up of the
media entities’ facilities, the media entities shall access the audio-visual
recording either via wireless technology accessible even from outside the
court premises or from one common web broadcasting platform from
which streaming can be accessed or derived to feed the images and
sounds.

At all times, exclusive access by the media entities to the real-time audio-
visual recording should be protected or encrypted.

184
(e) The broadcasting of the proceedings for a particular day must be
continuous and in its entirety, excepting such portions thereof where Sec.
21 of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court27 applies, and where the trial court
excludes, upon motion, prospective witnesses from the courtroom, in
instances where, inter alia, there are unresolved identification issues or
there are issues which involve the security of the witnesses and the integrity
of their testimony (e.g., the dovetailing of corroborative testimonies is
material, minority of the witness).

The trial court may, with the consent of the parties, order only the
pixelization of the image of the witness or mute the audio output, or both.

(f) To provide a faithful and complete broadcast of the proceedings, no


commercial break or any other gap shall be allowed until the day’s
proceedings are adjourned, except during the period of recess called by
the trial court and during portions of the proceedings wherein the public is
ordered excluded.1avvphi1

(g) To avoid overriding or superimposing the audio output from the on-
going proceedings, the proceedings shall be broadcast without any
voice-overs, except brief annotations of scenes depicted therein as may
be necessary to explain them at the start or at the end of the scene. Any
commentary shall observe the sub judice rule and be subject to the
contempt power of the court;

(h) No repeat airing of the audio-visual recording shall be allowed until


after the finality of judgment, except brief footages and still images
derived from or cartographic sketches of scenes based on the recording,
only for news purposes, which shall likewise observe the sub judice rule
and be subject to the contempt power of the court;

(i) The original audio-recording shall be deposited in the National Museum


and the Records Management and Archives Office for preservation and
exhibition in accordance with law.

(j) The audio-visual recording of the proceedings shall be made under the
supervision and control of the trial court which may issue supplementary
directives, as the exigency requires, including the suspension or revocation
of the grant of application by the media entities.

(k) The Court shall create a special committee which shall forthwith study,
design and recommend appropriate arrangements, implementing
regulations, and administrative matters referred to it by the Court
concerning the live broadcast of the proceedings pro hac vice, in
accordance with the above-outlined guidelines. The Special Committee
shall also report and recommend on the feasibility, availability and
affordability of the latest technology that would meet the herein

185
requirements. It may conduct consultations with resource persons and
experts in the field of information and communication technology.

(l) All other present directives in the conduct of the proceedings of the trial
court (i.e., prohibition on recording devices such as still cameras, tape
recorders; and allowable number of media practitioners inside the
courtroom) shall be observed in addition to these guidelines.

Indeed, the Court cannot gloss over what advances technology has to offer in
distilling the abstract discussion of key constitutional precepts into the workable
context. Technology per se has always been neutral. It is the use and regulation
thereof that need fine-tuning. Law and technology can work to the advantage
and furtherance of the various rights herein involved, within the contours of
defined guidelines.

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing disquisition, the Court PARTIALLY GRANTS PRO
HAC VICE the request for live broadcast by television and radio of the trial court
proceedings of the Maguindanao Massacre cases, subject to the guidelines
herein outlined.

SO ORDERED.

RIGHT TO MEET THE WITNESSES FACE TO FACE

G.R. No. 143561 June 6, 2001

JONATHAN D. CARIAGA, petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and DAVAO LIGHT and POWER
CO., respondents.

GONZAGA-REYES, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking the reversal of the decision1 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 13363 entitled People v. Jonathan Cariaga,
promulgated on April 24, 1995 affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court of
Davao City, Branch 11,2 which convicted petitioner Jonathan Cariaga of the
crime of Qualified Theft.

In an amended Information3 dated October 3, 1989, petitioner was charged with


qualified theft as follows:

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"That sometime during the period from October, 1988 to January, 1989, in
the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-mentioned accused, being then an employee of Davao
Light & Power Co. Inc., Davao City, and as such has access to the said
company, with intent to gain, with grave abuse of confidence and
without the knowledge and consent of the owner thereof, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away
electrical equipment, supplies and materials totaling P7,038.96 belonging
to Davao Light & Power Company, to the damage and prejudice of the
said company, in the aforesaid amount of P7,038.96.

Contrary to law."

The factual background of this case as summarized by the trial court and adopted
by the Court of Appeals is as follows:

"Luis Miguel Aboitiz, employed at the time of the incident in question and
for sometime prior thereto as Systems Analyst of the Davao Light & Power
Company, Inc. (DLPC), whose duty was to devise systems, procedures or
controls to promote efficiency, prevent losses due to waste, pilferage or
theft of company property, etc., received reports that some private
electricians were engaged in the clandestine sale of DLPC materials and
supplies. He initiated a covert operation with the following objectives: (1)
ascertain how DLPC materials were being stolen, the frequency of the
thefts, who were perpetrating the thefts; and (2) `catch' at least one (1)
DLPC employee that may be involved.

In October, 1988, he sought the assistance of Sgt. Fermin Villasis, Chief,


Theft & Robbery Section, San Pedro Patrol Station, Davao METRODISCOM.
He also hired one Florencio Siton, a welder by occupation and a Civilian
Home Defense Forces (CHDF) member, as his undercover agent under the
pseudonym 'Canuto Duran', an 'electrician from Kabakan, Cotabato.'

'Canuto Duran' struck an acquaintance with one Ricardo Cariaga, a


private electrician, at the Miguel Store, situated in front of the DLPC office
along Ponciano Reyes (now Bangoy) Street, Davao City. He told Ricardo
that his boss ordered him to buy electrical materials to be brought to
Diwalwal, a gold panning area in Monkayo, Davao (formerly Davao del
Norte).

Ricardo offered to supply 'Canuto Duran' with electrical materials, saying


that he has a cousin from whom he can procure the same. 'Canuto'
purchased small electrical wires which, according to Ricardo, came from
his cousin, Jonathan Cariaga, nicknamed Totoy.

On November 17, 1988, Ricardo introduced 'Canuto' to Jonathan at


Miguel Store. It turned out that Jonathan was the assigned driver of DLPC

187
Service Truck 'S-143' assigned to Work Gang 'Venus'. 'Canuto' inquired from
Jonathan if he could supply him with two (2) 15 KVA transformers.
Jonathan replied that he could for P16,000. 'Canuto' placed an order for
the transformers. The deal did not materialize, however, as 'Canuto's' boss
(Miguel Aboitiz) who would provide the funds happened to be out of
town. Jonathan appeared piqued. To appease him, 'Canuto' assured him
that they shall continue their 'business' relationship. Not long after, he
placed an order for a lightning arrester. Ricardo, Jonathan and 'Canuto'
agreed to meet at the corner of Jacinto and Arellano Streets.

Jonathan got DLPC Truck 'S-143' which was inside the DLPC Compound at
Ponciano Reyes Street and drove it to the designated meeting place,
leaving 'Canuto' and Ricardo at Miguel Store. After a while, Ricardo and
'Canuto' followed. On the way, 'Canuto gave Ricardo P1,800. At the
meeting place, Ricardo gave the money to Jonathan, after which the
latter got a lightning arrester (Exh. M) from his truck's toolbox and handed
it to Ricardo, who, in turn gave it to 'Canuto'.

On January 23, 1989, Ricardo accompanied 'Canuto' to Jonathan's house


at Doña Pilar Village, Sasa, Davao City, to get a roll of Electrical Wire No. 2
(300 meters long) valued P5,010 (Exh. J) and 2 lightning arresters with
cutout, valued P1,185.75 each, or P2,371.50 for both (Exhs. I and I-1) from
Jonathan. 'Canuto' paid P2,500.00 only for the items. He gave the money
to Ricardo; Ricardo, in turn, gave it to Jonathan.

Siton's undercover work came to an abrupt end on February 1, 1989 when


members of Sgt. Villasis' team 'apprehended' 'Canuto' and turned him
over, including the electrical wires that he previously purchased from
Jonathan through Ricardo, to the San Pedro Patrol Station. The team was
unable to arrest Ricardo as he had already left when the team arrived at
his house. 'Canuto Duran' 'confessed' in order to persuade Ricardo – and
the others who were involved – to likewise come out with the truth. Thus,
when Ricardo and Sergio Jamero appeared at the San Pedro Patrol
Station on the invitation of the police, they confessed to their crimes (Exhs.
A and G, respectively).

Ricardo revealed that he acted as a fence for his cousin, Jonathan


Cariaga and 'Canuto Duran' on November 27, 1988 and again on January
23, 1989; that the items that 'Canuto Duran' bought from Jonathan, thru
him, were DLPC properties.

Jamero also confessed that Ricardo was his fence in disposing of DLPC
electrical materials that he pilfered but the items were not sold to 'Canuto
Duran' but to someone else.

The recitals of Ricardo and Jamero in their sworn statements are


substantially corroborated by entries in the Daily Record of Events (blotter)

188
of the San Pedro Patrol Station (Exhs. B, B-1; C, C-1; D, D-1; E, E-1; and F, F-
1).

The accused was also invited to the San Pedro Patrol Station but,
according to Sgt. Villasis, he refused to give a statement.

The prosecution was unable to present Ricardo as its witness as the


subpoena could not be personally served upon him as according to his
wife, Antonieta Cariaga, he was in Sultan Kudarat and the date of his
return to Davao City was not certain (Exhs. Y, Y-1).

Acting on the extrajudicial confessions of the suspects, the reports of Siton


to the police and the bust, the team under Sgt. Villasis recovered the
following items:

1. 1 pc. Lightning Arrester MEW Valve Type V (Exh. "I");

2. 1 pc. Lightning Arrester MEW Valve Type (Exh. "I-1");

3. 1 pc. Lightning Arrester MEW Thorex Type (unmarked);

4. 1 pc. Fuse Cut-out S&C Brand with Bracket (unmarked);

5. 1 pc. Fuse Cut-out with Fuse Holder, AB Chance (Exh. "M");

6. 1 roll (330 meters) Aluminum Wire No. 8 (Exh. "K");

7. 1 roll (300 meters) Aluminum Wire No. 2 (Exh. "J");

8. 1 roll (36 coils) Aluminum Wire No. 6; ) One of these

9. 1 roll (74 coils) Aluminum Wire No. 8; ) rolls is

10. 1 roll (41 coils) Aluminum Wire No. 2; ) marked Exh.

11. 1 set bracket for cut-out. ) "AA"

Sgt. Villasis testified that Exh. "U" and Exh. "AA" were the wires recovered
from Siton during the bust while the rest, particularly Exhs. "I" and "I-1" "J"
and "M" were recovered at Roselo Toledo's house where Siton ("Canuto
Duran") brought them; x x x."4

According to the trial court, "the prosecution's evidence considered as a whole is


strong, clear and convincing. The statements in the extrajudicial confessions of
Ricardo Cariaga (Exhs. A; O,O-1) implicative of the accused as the source of the

189
stolen articles, corroborated by Siton's testimony and the police records (Exhs. D to
F-2, inclusive) are formidable compared to the mere puny denial of the accused."

In due course, the trial court on November 18, 1991, rendered judgment, the
decretal portion reading:

"WHEREFORE, the Court finds accused Jonathan Cariaga guilty beyond


reasonable doubt of theft, qualified by grave abuse of confidence, under
Article 310, in relation to Article 309, par. 2, of the Revised Penal Code, as
charged, aggravated by the use of motor vehicle which is not offset by
any mitigating circumstance. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law,
he is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty ranging from TEN (10)
Years, EIGHT (8) MONTHS AND ONE (1) DAY, of prision mayor, as minimum,
to EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS, TWO (2) MONTHS AND TWENTY ONE (21) DAYS
of reclusion temporal, as maximum; and to pay the costs.

No civil indemnity is awarded to DLPC, the private complainant, as the


items stolen were recovered. The return to DLPC of all the items recovered
by the police is ordered.

SO ORDERED."5

On appeal by Jonathan Cariaga, the Court of Appeals affirmed on April 24, 1995,
the decision of the trial court. The Court of Appeals reasoned out that the sworn
statement of Ricardo Cariaga who did not testify in open court during the criminal
proceedings against petitioner is admissible in evidence and properly considered
by the trial court as this was annexed as part of DLPC's position paper submitted to
the National Labor Relations Commission in Case No. RAB-11-05-00308-89, a
complaint filed by the accused for illegal dismissal, as an exception to the hearsay
rule under Section 47, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court. The Court of Appeals
likewise upheld the credibility of Siton's testimony which corroborated that of
Ricardo Cariaga's sworn statement.

Hence, the instant petition raising the following errors:

"I The trial court erred in admitting in evidence the sworn statement of
Ricardo Cariaga without him taking the witness stand since it violates the
fundamental right of the accused to meet the witnesses against him face
to face. Hence, Ricardo Cariaga's sworn statement is not admissible under
Section 1(f), Rule 115 of the Revised Rules of Court for failure of the
prosecution to comply with the strict requirements of said rule, to wit:

a] Ricardo Cariaga did not orally testify in the labor case;

b] Inability to testify must be for a grave cause almost amounting


to death and the prosecution must exhaust all available remedies
to secure the presence of its witnesses at the trial;

190
c] That the former proceeding must also be criminal in nature.

II. The appellate court erred in holding that the lone testimony of the
prosecution's alleged eyewitness who is a paid witness and whose
testimony was admittedly corrected or revised on the witness stand and
which materially and significantly varies with his previous sworn statement
on very vital and pivotal details is sufficient to prove the guilt of the
accused beyond reasonable doubt.

III.The appellate court erred in failing to appreciate the reasonable doubt


engendered by the exculpatory statements of the superiors of the
accused in favor of the latter."6

In his first assignment of error, petitioner argues that the sworn statement of Ricardo
Cariaga who was not presented in court is inadmissible. The prosecution presented
in evidence as Exh. P-2, Ricardo Cariaga's sworn statement which was attached as
Annex "8-A" to DLPC's position paper in the labor case filed by Jonathan Cariaga
against the latter for illegal dismissal. The trial court admitted the same in evidence
despite the timely objection of the defense counsel; and the Court of Appeals
upheld the admission thereof citing as basis, Section 47, Rule 130 of the Rules on
Evidence and Section 1(f), Rule 115 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure.

Section 47 of Rule 130 reads:

SEC. 47. Testimony or deposition at a former proceeding. – The testimony


or deposition of a witness deceased or unable to testify, given in a former
case or proceeding, judicial or administrative, involving the same parties
and subject matter, may be given in evidence against the adverse party
who had the opportunity to cross-examine him.

More specific however is the rule prescribed in Rule 115, Section 1(f) of the Rules of
Court in respect of the admissibility in evidence in a criminal case of the previous
testimony of unavailable witnesses which reads:

Section 1. Rights of accused at the trial. – In all criminal prosecutions, the


accused shall be entitled:

f) To confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him at the trial.


Either party may utilize as part of its evidence the testimony of a witness
who is deceased, out of or can not with due diligence be found in the
Philippines, unavailable or otherwise unable to testify, given in another
case or proceeding, judicial or administrative, involving the same parties
and subject matter, the adverse party having had the opportunity to
cross-examine him;

In Toledo, Jr. vs. People,7 this Court emphasized that "the preconditions set forth in
Section 47, Rule 130 for the admission of testimony given by a witness out of court

191
must be strictly complied with and that there is more reason to adopt such a strict
rule in the case of Section 1(f) of Rule 115, for apart from being a rule of evidence
with additional specific requisites to those prescribed by Section 47, more
importantly, said provision is an implementing translation of the constitutional right
of an accused person "to meet the witnesses (against him) face to face." In Tan vs.
Court of Appeals,8 it was ruled that "'unable to testify' or for that matter
'unavailability', does not cover the case of witnesses who were subpoenaed but
did not appear. It may refer to inability proceeding from a grave cause, almost
amounting to death, as when the witness is old and has lost the power of speech.
It does not refer to tampering of witnesses."

The threshold question then is the admissibility of the sworn statement of Ricardo
Cariaga which was attached to DLPC's position paper in the labor case filed by
Jonathan Cariaga against it for illegal dismissal.

The records reveal that witness Ricardo Cariaga was subpoenaed only once and
did not appear to testify in the criminal case against petitioner. Concededly, this
witness was not deceased or out of the Philippines. In fact, the private prosecutor
informed the court that he is in Sultan Kudarat,9 and previously, his wife informed
the sheriff that he was in Sultan Kudarat which is in Cotabato, a mere four hours
drive from Davao City. Against this backdrop, can this witness be categorized as
one that cannot be found despite due diligence, unavailable or unable to testify.
We are inclined to rule in the negative and reverse the Court of Appeals on this
point.

It must be emphasized that this rule is strictly complied with in criminal cases,
hence, "mere sending of subpoena and failure to appear is not sufficient to prove
inability to testify. The Court must exercise its coercive power to arrest."10 In the
instant case, no efforts were exerted to have the witness arrested which is a
remedy available to a party-litigant in instances where witnesses who are duly
subpoenaed fail to appear. On this score alone, the sworn statement of Ricardo
Cariaga should not have been admitted as evidence for the prosecution, and we
shall no longer delve into the other aspects of this rule.

In his second assignment of error, petitioner assails the testimony of prosecution


witness Florencio Siton alias "Canuto Duran", the undercover agent, as not credible
because it is allegedly inconsistent in very material and pivotal details from the
sworn statement he made at the police station and that he is admitted by the
prosecution to be a paid witness. According to petitioner, Siton's testimony was
overhauled and corrected to meet the crisis created by eyewitness Ricardo
Cariaga's non-appearance in court. Petitioner argues further that Siton had
thousands of reasons to vary or exaggerate or pervert the truth in his testimony
because he admitted that he was given by DLPC through Mr. Aboitiz, a 15 KVA
transformer worth P15,000.00 to P18, 000.00 and he also admitted on cross-
examination that "after the hearing he (Mr. Aboitiz) will hire me as an employee or
that he will give me privilege."

192
He alleges that Siton never mentioned in his sworn statement that he bought
anything directly from petitioner and only stated that the latter was around when
he bought some wires and lightning arresters from Bondying and Bebing Tumali,
and then claimed on the witness stand that he had direct dealings with petitioner.
Siton also failed to state in his sworn statement that he went to the house of
petitioner to purchase DLPC materials; and he mentioned therein that the
arrangement was that the materials will be delivered three days after payment,
but in his testimony, the materials were delivered upon payment.

As we have so frequently ruled, the trial judge who sees and hears witnesses testify
has exceptional opportunities to form a correct conclusion as to the degree of
credit which should be accorded their testimonies.11 Next, the rule has also always
been that the contradictions between the contents of an affiant's affidavit and his
testimony on the witness stand do not always militate against the witness'
credibility because we have long taken judicial notice that affidavits, which are
usually taken ex parte, are often incomplete and inaccurate.12 Indeed, a sworn
statement taken ex parte is generally considered to be inferior to a testimony
given in open court as the latter is subject to the test of cross examination.13

We have carefully gone over the records and evidence in this case and we are
persuaded that Siton's testimony in court deserves credence. We further find the
same sufficient for conviction. Siton was consistent and straightforward in his
testimony and had not been shaken by the lengthy and exhaustive cross-
examination by the defense counsel. Having thoroughly convinced the trial and
appellate courts as well as this Court of the truth of his testimony, we do not see
how he could have fabricated the entire story. The fact that he stated on direct
examination that he "corrected" his statement and that he was offered
compensation for his undercover work does not necessarily discredit him. There is
no rule of evidence to the effect that omission of certain particulars in a sworn
statement would estop an affiant from making an elaboration thereof or from
correcting inaccuracies during the trial. It appears that he was paid for his services
rendered as an undercover agent and not for purposes of concocting a story and
imputing a crime as that made out in the information. Similarly, the alleged
inaccuracies in the testimony of Siton in open court relating to such minute details
as whether the petitioner's house was two-stories high and located in a corner are
too negligible to consider.

Finally, we reject petitioner's claim that the testimonies of three witnesses for the
prosecution, namely, Sauro, Saligan and Aboitiz, engendered reasonable doubt
sufficient to exculpate him. He points out that "Rodolfo Sauro, gang crew
supervisor of petitioner testified that he has not reported any missing materials in
the truck driven by the petitioner; that Luis Aboitiz testified that he asked Estelito
Saligan to conduct investigation if there were materials missing `but the latter
came out with the report that he could not find any missing materials'; and that
Estelito Saligan, head of Materials Management Department of the DLPC
confirmed on cross-examination that there were no properties lost or missing."

193
However, a more accurate reading of the testimonies of the said witnesses reveals
that Rodolfo Sauro14 testified that petitioner is permanently assigned as driver to
the S-143 truck; that he is in charge of all the equipment and supplies stored in the
truck; that there were always reserve materials kept in the truck for emergency
operations during the night and that he trusted him that these materials were
being used for emergencies.15 He also testified that he took Jonathan's word that
the reserve materials were used for emergencies because he found him
trustworthy.16 On the other hand, Engr. Estelito Saligan was recalled to the witness
stand to clarify Mr. Aboitiz's statement that "he was ordered to make inventories
and that he did not find any missing." He clarified that he only inventoried the
materials inside the warehouse which are within his jurisdiction, but he did not
conduct inventory of materials or properties already in the possession of the
operations department17 of which petitioner belonged to. In sum, nothing in the
cited testimonies confirm petitioner's insistence that there were no stolen electrical
supplies and materials from DLPC.

In fine, we are satisfied that the participation of the petitioner in the commission of
the crime at bar was well established by the testimony of witness Siton. In the
determination of the sufficiency of evidence, what matters is not the number of
witnesses but their credibility and the nature and quality of their testimonies.18 It is
axiomatic that witnesses are weighed, not numbered and the testimony of only
one witness, if credible and positive and if it satisfies the court beyond reasonable
doubt, is sufficient to convict. The inadmissibility of Ricardo Cariaga's sworn
statement as discussed above will not exculpate him.

The defense, verily, anchors itself on the bare denial of petitioner of the specific
acts imputed by the prosecution against him. Certainly, this negative assertion
cannot prevail over the unimpeached testimony of the prosecution witness,
Florencio Siton alias "Canuto Duran" describing in sufficient detail the active
participation of petitioner in the commission of the crime charged. As aptly
observed by the trial court:

"The accused's defense consisted of a general denial; that the items


alleged by the prosecution as having been pilfered from DLPC were
available in any store selling electrical supplies. Despite having been
positively pointed to as the person who sold small electrical wires, lightning
arresters and a roll of Electrical Wire No. 2 that were pilfered from DLPC to
"Canuto Duran" (Siton), thru Ricardo Cariaga, he did not categorically
deny the imputation: he merely declared that he did not know Siton (he
did not say that he did not know "Canuto Duran") nor did he say that he
did not sell anything to "Canuto Duran" thru Ricardo Cariaga. As a rule,
positive testimony as to a particular fact, uncontradicted by anyone,
should control the decision of the court (Ko Tieck vs. People, L-48535-36,
Dec. 21, 1991)."

We note that the information alleged that petitioner was an employee of DLPC;
that he had access to the electrical supplies of said company; and that with grave
abuse of confidence, he stole electrical materials belonging to DLPC. The

194
prosecution established that petitioner who was permanently assigned as driver of
Truck "S-143" had charge of all the DLPC equipment and supplies kept in his
vehicle, including lightning arresters, cut-out and wires, which were generally used
for the installation of transformers and power lines; and specifically stored therein
for emergency operations at night when the stockroom is closed. While the mere
circumstance that the petitioner is an employee or laborer of DLPC does not
suffice to create the relation of confidence and intimacy that the law requires to
designate the crime as qualified theft, it has been held that access to the place
where the taking took place or access to the stolen items changes the complexion
of the crime committed to that of qualified theft.19 Thus, theft by a truck driver who
takes the load of his truck belonging to his employer is guilty of qualified theft 20as
was proven in this case. The trial court correctly considered petitioner's use of a
motor vehicle in the commission of the crime as a generic aggravating
circumstance thus raising the penalty to its maximum.21 While the aggravating
circumstance of "by means of motor vehicle" was not alleged in the information,
there is evidence that the same was employed to facilitate the commission of the
crime. A generic aggravating circumstance may be proved even if not
alleged.22 The theft could not have been effected without the aid of the motor
vehicle,23 as proven by the prosecution, the service truck was used in storing and
then transporting the stolen electrical materials to the place where they were
sold.1âwphi1.nêt

We now come to the correctness of the penalty imposed. The trial court meted on
petitioner an indeterminate penalty ranging from ten (10) years, eight (8) months
and one (1) day, of prision mayor, as minimum, to eighteen (18) years, two (2)
months and twenty one (21) days of reclusion temporal as maximum. Since the
value of the electrical materials is P7,038.96, the imposable penalty for the felony
of theft is prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods in accordance
with Article 309, paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code.24 However, under Article
310 of the Revised Penal Code,25 the crime of qualified theft is punished by the
penalties next higher by two (2) degrees than that specified in Article 309 of the
Revised Penal Code. Under Article 25 of the Revised Penal Code, two (2) degrees
higher than prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods is prision
mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its minimum period which is
ten (10) years and one (1) day to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months.
Considering there is one generic aggravating circumstance, the penalty should
be reclusion temporal in its minimum period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence
Law, the correct penalty is eight (8) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day
of prision mayor as minimum to thirteen (13) years, one (1) month and eleven (11)
days of reclusion temporal as maximum.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 24, 1995 is hereby
AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the penalty is reduced to EIGHT (8) years,
EIGHT (8) months and ONE (1) day of prisionmayor as minimum to THIRTEEN (13)
years, ONE (1) month and ELEVEN (11) days of reclusion temporal as maximum.

SO ORDERED.

195
G.R. No. 137348 June 21, 2004

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
WILLIAM ONG y LI and CHING DE MING @ ROBERT TIU, appellants.

PUNO, J.:

"… the allowance of the privilege to withhold evidence that is demonstrably


relevant in a criminal trial would cut deeply into the guarantee of due process of
law and gravely impair the basic function of the courts." 1

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger

The case at bar involves the clash of two classic values - - - the need for the State
to stop crimes and preserve the peace against the right of an individual to
confront material witnesses to establish his innocence. In balancing the two values,
we shall scrutinize and set the parameters that ought to guide prosecution when
to disclose the identity of confidential informers.

On July 27, 1998 accused William Ong y Li and Ching De Ming @ Robert Tiu were
charged with violation of Section 15, Article III, in relation to Section 2, Article I, of
Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise known as The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as
amended. The Information2 reads:

That on or about the 24th day of July, 1998 in Quezon City, Philippines, the
said accused, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually
helping each other not having been authorized by law to sell, dispense,
deliver, transport or distribute any regulated drug, did then and there
willfully and unlawfully sell or offer for sale 980.50 grams of Methyl
Amphetamine Hydrochloride, which is a regulated drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Upon arraignment, the two (2) accused, who are Chinese nationals, pled not
guilty. The records do not show whether they had sufficient knowledge of the
English language. Their trial proceeded. In the course of the trial, the two (2)
accused were given the services of a Chinese interpreter.

The prosecution, through the testimony of SPO1 Rodolfo S. Gonzales, sought to


establish that on July 23, 1998 at around 5:00 P.M., a confidential informant (CI) of
the Special Operations Division (SOD), PNP Narcotics Group, reported to Chief
Inspector Albert Ignatius D. Ferro about the alleged illicit drug activities of a certain
William Ong and an unidentified Chinese male partner. After an evaluation of the
confidential information, Chief Inspector Ferro decided to conduct a buy-bust

196
operation. He constituted a team of eight (8) with Police Inspector Medel N. Poñe
as team leader, SPO1 Gonzales as poseur-buyer and the rest as back-up support.

According to SPO1 Gonzales, the CI called up the alleged pusher, placed an


order for one (1) kilo of shabu and agreed to a ₱600,000.00 consideration. The CI
likewise agreed to meet with his contact on July 24, 1998 at 6th Street corner
Gilmore Avenue, New Manila, Quezon City, between 4:00 and 5:00 A.M. The
boodle money was prepared consisting of six (6) bundles of cut bond paper with a
marked ₱1,000.00 peso bill on top of each bundle.

On July 24, 2004 at 3:00 A.M., the CI received a call from the drug dealer changing
the meeting time between 2:00 and 3:00 P.M. on the same day. The team,
together with the CI, proceeded to the meeting place and arrived there at
around 1:30 P.M. The CI rode with SPO1 Gonzales. They parked their car along 6th
Street corner Gilmore Avenue. The rest of the team posted themselves at their
back and their right side.

A little while, accused Ong approached their car. The CI introduced him to SPO1
Gonzales who told accused Ong in broken Tagalog to get in the car. When Ong
inquired about the money in payment of the shabu, SPO1 Gonzales showed him
the slightly opened plastic bag containing the boodle money. SPO1 Gonzales then
demanded to see the shabu. Accused Ong excused himself, went out of the car,
walked a few steps and then waved his right hand to somebody. While accused
Ong was walking back to the car, SPO1 Gonzales and the CI saw a green Toyota
Corolla coming. The Corolla parked in front of their car and a Chinese-looking
male, later identified as accused Ching De Ming @ Robert Tiu alighted,
approached accused Ong and handed to him a gift-wrapped package. SPO1
Gonzales opened it and inside was one (1) sealed plastic bag with a white
crystalline substance. After its inspection, accused Ong demanded for its
payment. SPO1 Gonzales gave to accused Ong the boodle money placed in a
"W. Brown" plastic bag. Thereafter, SPO1 Gonzales signaled his back-up team by
turning on the hazard lights of the car. SPO1 Gonzales himself arrested accused
Ong while the CI and the back-up agents arrested accused De Ming.

The officers brought the two (2) accused to their office where the corresponding
booking sheets and arrest report were prepared. The plastic bag containing the
white crystalline substance was referred to the PNP Crime Laboratory for
examination. The two (2) accused were subjected to a physical and mental
examination as required. They were found to be free from any external signs of
trauma.

Police Inspector Grace M. Eustaquio, Forensic Chemist, PNP Crime Laboratory,


testified that the specimen she examined had a net weight of 980.50 grams and
manifested "positive results for methyl amphetamine hydrochloride" 3 or what is
commonly known as shabu, a regulated drug. Her testimony was supported by her
Physical Sciences Report.4

197
Appellants denied the story of the prosecution. Accused William Ong, a Chinese
citizen from the People’s Republic of China, claimed that he came to the
Philippines in 1997 to look for a job. Upon the recommendation of a friend, he was
able to work in a pancit canton factory in Quezon City. In June 1998, he stopped
working at the factory and hunted for another job. Two (2) weeks prior to his arrest,
accused Ong was introduced by his friend Kian Ling to Ong Sin for a possible job
as technician in a bihon factory owned by Ong Sin.

On July 22, 1998, Ong Sin called up and set a meeting with accused Ong at the
Tayuman branch of Jollibee the next day. While waiting at Jollibee, accused Ong
received a call from Ong Sin that he could not personally meet him. Instead, his
two (2) co-workers would meet accused Ong as instructed. Subsequently, two (2)
men answering to Ong Sin’s description approached accused Ong. He joined
them inside a yellow car. When they reached a certain place, the driver reached
for his cellular phone and called up someone. After a brief conversation, the driver
handed the phone to him. Ong Sin was on the line and informed him that the
driver would accompany him to the bihonfactory. The driver got out of the car
and accused Ong followed him. After walking two (2) blocks, the driver picked up
something from the place. They returned to the car. Suddenly, the companion of
the driver poked a gun at him. He was arrested, blindfolded and brought to an
undisclosed place. Several hours later, he was taken to the police station. There he
met the other accused Ching De Ming for the first time. He maintained innocence
to the crime charged.

On his part, accused Ching De Ming testified that he is a legitimate businessman


engaged in the RTW business. He claimed that he gets his products from Baclaran
and sells them to customers in the cities of Naga and Daet in Bicol.

On July 23, 1998 at around 4:30 and 5:00 P.M., while waiting inside his car for his
girlfriend and her mother who just went in a townhouse at 8th Street, New Manila,
Quezon City, he was approached by persons unknown to him. They asked him
what he was doing there. One of them went to the car parked at his back,
ordered somebody inside to get out and take a good look at him. The person
pointed at him saying "maybe he is the one." He was then dragged out of his car
and brought to the other car. They took his clutch bag. They blindfolded and
brought him to a place. After a few hours, at Camp Crame, Quezon City, they
removed his blindfold. He denied knowing accused Ong and the charge of
conspiring with him to deliver shabu in New Manila, Quezon City.

Avelina Cardoz, the mother of his girlfriend, and a divine healer, corroborated his
story. She testified that she requested accused De Ming to drive her to a
townhouse at 8th Street, New Manila, to cure a patient. She declared that the
officers of the People’s Journal publication could attest to her profession. She
asked accused De Ming to wait for her and her daughter inside his car. When they
returned to the car, accused De Ming was nowhere to be found. They saw him
next at the Quezon City Jail.

198
On November 18, 1998 the trial court convicted appellants as charged and
imposed on them the penalty of death. It likewise ordered each of them to pay a
fine of P1 million pesos.5

The case is with us on automatic review. Appellants insist on their innocence. They
claim that their guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

We agree.

Rule 116, Section 1 (a) of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended,
provides:

SECTION 1. Arraignment and plea; how made.-

(a) The accused must be arraigned before the court where the
complaint or information was filed or assigned for trial. The
arraignment shall be made in open court by the judge or clerk
by furnishing the accused with a copy of the complaint or
information, reading the same in the language or dialect known
to him, and asking him whether he pleads guilty or not guilty. The
prosecution may call at the trial witnesses other than those
named in the complaint or information. (Underscoring and
emphasis supplied.)

The arraignment of appellants violates the above rule. Appellants are Chinese
nationals. Their Certificate of Arraignment6 states that they were informed of the
accusations against them. It does not, however, indicate whether the Information
was read in the language or dialect known to them. It merely states:

This 4th day of Aug., 1998, the undersigns (sic) states:

That, in open court, and in the presence of Trial Prosecutor Ruben


Catubay, the following accused William Ong and Ching De Ming
AKA Robert Tiu was/were called and, having been informed of the
nature of the accusation filed against him/her/them, furnishing
him/her/them a copy of the complaint or information with the list
of witnesses, the said accused in answer to the question of the
Court, pleaded Not Guilty to the crime as charged.

TO WHICH I CERTIFY.

Sgd. Mary Ruth Milo-Ferrer

Branch Clerk of Court

199
Sgd. William Ong

ACCUSED WILLIAM ONG

Sgd. Ching de Ming

ACCUSED CHING DE MING @ ROBERT TIU

Neither does the August 4, 1998 Order of Judge Diosdado M.


Peralta of RTC-Br. 95, Quezon City, disclose compliance with the
rule on arraignment. It merely stated in part that "[w]hen both
accused William Ong y Li and Ching De Ming @ Robert Tiu were
arraigned, assisted by counsel de parte, both accused entered a
plea of not guilty."7

From the records, it is clear that appellants only knew the Chinese language. Thus,
the services of a Chinese interpreter were used in investigating appellants. SPO1
Rodolfo S. Gonzales revealed in his testimony, viz:8

Q: Now, is it not a fact that you had the difficulty of investigating the two
accused because of communication problem from your informant?

A: We did not encounter such problem when we investigated them sir. We


also asked question and we have another Chinese who was arrested who
can speak Tagalog and we used that Chinese man to translate for us and
for them if the questions are difficult to understand, sir.

Q: Now that Chinese interpreter that is also an accused?

A: Yes sir.9

After arraignment and in the course of the trial, the lower court had to secure the
services of a certain Richard Ng Lee as Chinese interpreter. This appears in
the Order of August 28, 1998 of Judge Peralta, viz:

Considering that the counsel of the two (2) accused has still a lot of
questions to ask on cross-examination x x x x From hereon, Mr. Richard Ng
Lee, a businessman and a part time interpreter, is hereby designated by
the Court as interpreter in this case considering that there is no official
interpreter of the Court who is knowledgeable in the Chinese language or
any Chinese dialect whatsoever. The appointment of Mr. Richard Ng Lee is
without the objection of counsel of the accused and the public
prosecutor and considering that the court is convinced that he indeed
possesses the qualifications of an interpreter of a Chinese language or any
other Chinese dialect known and spoken by the two (2)
accused.10(Emphasis supplied.)

200
What leaps from the records of the case is the inability of appellants to fully or
sufficiently comprehend any other language than Chinese and any of its dialect.
Despite this inability, however, the appellants were arraigned on an Information
written in the English language.

We again emphasize that the requirement that the information should be read in a
language or dialect known to the accused is mandatory. It must be strictly
complied with as it is intended to protect the constitutional right of the accused to
be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. The
constitutional protection is part of due process. Failure to observe the rules
necessarily nullifies the arraignment.11

II

More important than the invalid arraignment of the appellants, we find that the
prosecution evidence failed to prove that appellants willfully and unlawfully sold
or offered to sell shabu.

Appellants’ conviction is based on the lone testimony of SPO1 Gonzales. He was


the designated poseur-buyer in the team formed for the buy-bust operation. But a
careful reading of his testimony will reveal that he was not privy to the sale
transaction that transpired between the CI and appellant William Ong, the alleged
pusher. It is beyond contention that a contract of sale is perfected upon a
meeting of the minds of the parties on the object and its price.12 Not all elements
of the sale were established by the testimony of SPO1 Gonzales, viz:

PROSECUTOR to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: After you have prepared the boodle money and you had made the
proper marking which you presented before this Honorable Court, what
happen?

A: Out CI make a couple of call and he contacted William Ong thru a


broken tagalog conversation.

Q: When your CI contacted with William Ong in broken tagalog?

A: I have a conversation with William Ong in broken tagalog the deal of


one kilo gram of shabu was initially closed.

Q: When you say "closed", what do you mean by that?

A: They agreed to the sale of the shabu.

ATTY. TRINIDAD (counsel of accused) to the COURT

201
We object to the line of questioning, Your Honor that would be hearsay.

COURT:

I think what you were asking is what happened he said it was the CI who
talked.

PROSECUTOR to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: So after that, do you know what happen?

A: The CI informed us that the price of that shabu which we’re supposed to
buy from them amounts to 600,000.00 pesos, ma’am.

Q: Where did you come to know about this information that the amount is
already 600,000.00 pesos?

ATTY. TRINIDAD to the COURT

Already answered, Your Honor.

COURT:

In other words what he say is that, there was a telephone conversation but
he has no personal knowledge. Your question then was what happened.

PROSECUTOR to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: After the CI informed you that the price of the shabu is 600,000.00
pesos?

A: We prepared this boodle money and the 6,000 by our Chief SOD.

COURT to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: After the informant told you that there was an agreement to sell
600,000.00 pesos and that you have already prepared the boodle money
as you have stated, what happened after that?

A: The CI told us that the transaction is 600,000.00 pesos and venue is at


6th Street, corner Gilmore Avenue, New Manila, Quezon City, between 4
o’clock to 5 o’clock in the morning of July 24, 1998, ma’am.

Q: So when the CI informed you that they will meet at 6th Street, New
Manila, Quezon City, what transpired next?

202
A: On or about 3 o’clock in the morning William Ong made a call to our CI
informing him that the sale of the delivery of shabu was reset to another
time.13

PROSECUTOR to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: And when you were informed that there was a resetting of this deal?

COURT to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: How did you come to know that there was a resetting because he has
no participation in the conversation and it was the CI according to him
and the alleged poseur-buyer.

A: The CI told our Chief Deputy.

ATTY. TRINIDAD to the COURT

That would be hearsay, Your Honor, and that would be a double hearsay.

COURT

Put on record that the counsel manifested that his answer is again hearsay
and that a double hearsay evidence.

PROSECUTOR to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: And what did the CI do?

A: The CI informed us that the time will be at about 2 to 3 o’clock in the


afternoon of that same day and the place.14

It is abundantly clear that it was the CI who made the initial contact, albeit only
through the telephone, with the pusher. The CI was likewise the one who closed
the deal with appellant Ong as to the quantity of shabu to be purchased and its
price. He also set the venue and time of the meeting when the sale would take
place. The Joint Affidavit of Arrest 15 executed by SPO1 Gonzales, PO2 Elmer N.
Sarampote and PO1 Noli Jingo G. Rivel fortifies these facts, viz:

That after couple of calls made by our CI, suspect WILLIAM ONG was
finally contacted on or about 9:30 in the evening of July 23, 1998 and
through a broken Tagalog conversation, a drug deal/sale was initially
closed in the agreed amount of six hundred thousand pesos
(P600,000.00) and the agreed venue is at the corner of 6th Street and
Gilmore Avenue, New Manila, Quezon City between 4:00 and 5:00 o’clock

203
in the morning of July 24, 1998 through "Kaliwaan or Abutan" (Cash upon
Delivery);

That said information was relayed to our Deputy Chief, who upon learning
said report, immediately grouped and briefed the team for the said
operation;

That on or about 3:00 o’clock in the morning of July 24, 1998, WILLIAM
ONG made a call to our CIinforming him (CI) to reset the time of the drug
deal/sale of one (1) kilogram of SHABU and it was scheduled again
between 2:00 to 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon of same date and same
place;

It is therefore understandable that in his account of his meeting with appellant


William Ong, SPO1 Gonzales made no reference to any further discussion of the
price and the quantity of the shabu. When they met, they just proceeded with the
exchange of money and shabu, viz:

PROSECUTOR to SPO1 GONZALES

Q: And when you were there stationed at the venue at 6th Street, New
Manila, Quezon City, what happened?

A: I and the CI parked our car at 6th Street corner Gilmore Avenue and
then we saw William Ong emerged from Gilmore Avenue and
approached me and our CI, ma’am.16

Q: And when he approached you what did you do if any?

A: Our CI introduced me to William Ong as an interested buyer of one kilo


gram of shabu and afterwards I asked William Ong in broken tagalog to
get inside the car.17

Q: And while inside the car, what happened next?

A: While inside the car William Ong asked me about the payment of the
stuff and I got the paper bag and slightly opened. So that I get the plastic
bag and show to William Ong the boodle money.

Q: When you showed the boodle money to William Ong what did he do if
there was any?

A: He looked at it, ma’am.

Q: And when he looked at it what happened next?

204
A: I told him that I should look at the stuff before I give the money.

Q: What stuff are you referring to?

A: The shabu, ma’am.

Q: And what did you do after expecting the boodle money or the bag
where the boodle money was placed, if there was any?

A: He excused himself and alighted from our car and told me to wait for
his companion.

Q: And where you able to wait for that male companion he is referring to?

A: He walked a distance and waved at his companion as if somebody will


come to him.

Q: How did he do that?

A: (put on record that the witness when answering the question he stood
up and then used his right hand in waving as if he is calling for somebody)

Q: When William Ong waved his right hand to his companion what
happened?

A: William Ong walked towards to me and suddenly a green Toyota


appeared and parked in front of our car.

Q: When a green Toyota corolla was parked in front of the car, what
happened next?

A: Chinese looking male person alighted from the car and he went to
William Ong and handed to William Ong something that was gift
wrapped.18

Q: When that thing was handed to William Ong which identified in Court
and which was marked, what did William Ong do?

A: William Ong took it from Ching De Ming, ma’am.

Q: When this Exhibit was given to by William Ong what did you do in
return?

205
A: I opened that something which was gift wrapped and I saw one sealed
plastic bag containing white crystalline substance suspected to be a
shabu.19

Q: When you saw this Exhibit C-2 crystalline substance which was opened
according to you. What did you do?

A: The companion of William Ong demanded to me the money and I


gave to him the boodle money.

Q: When you gave the boodle money to him, what did he do if any these
person who secured the money?

A: He took the money inside the bag.20

Since only the CI had personal knowledge of the offer to purchase shabu, the
acceptance of the offer and the consideration for the offer, we hold that SPO1
Gonzales is, in effect, not the "poseur-buyer" but merely the deliveryman. His
testimony therefore on material points of the sale of shabu is hearsay and standing
alone cannot be the basis of the conviction of the appellants.21

III

We further hold that the prosecution failed to establish its claim of entrapment.

A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment, which in recent years has been


accepted as a valid means of arresting violators of the Dangerous Drugs Law.22 It is
commonly employed by police officers as an effective way of apprehending law
offenders in the act of committing a crime.23 In a buy-bust operation, the idea to
commit a crime originates from the offender, without anybody inducing or
prodding him to commit the offense.24 Its opposite is instigation or inducement,
wherein the police or its agent lures the accused into committing the offense in
order to prosecute him.25 Instigation is deemed contrary to public policy and
considered an absolutory cause.26

To determine whether there was a valid entrapment or whether proper


procedures were undertaken in effecting the buy-bust operation, it is incumbent
upon the courts to make sure that the details of the operation are clearly and
adequately laid out through relevant, material and competent evidence. For, the
courts could not merely rely on but must apply with studied restraint the
presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty by law enforcement
agents. This presumption should not by itself prevail over the presumption of
innocence and the constitutionally protected rights of the individual.27 It is the duty
of courts to preserve the purity of their own temple from the prostitution of the
criminal law through lawless enforcement.28 Courts should not allow themselves to
be used as instruments of abuse and injustice lest innocent persons are made to
suffer the unusually severe penalties for drug offenses.29

206
In People v. Doria,30 we stressed the "objective" test in buy-bust operations. We
ruled that in such operations, the prosecution must present a complete
picture detailing the transaction, which "must start from the initial contact between
the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, the promise or payment of
the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the illegal
drug subject of the sale.31 We emphasized that the manner by which the initial
contact was made, the offer to purchase the drug, the payment of the 'buy-bust'
money, and the delivery of the illegal drug must be the subject of strict scrutiny by
courts to insure that law-abiding citizens are not unlawfully induced to commit an
offense."32

In the case at bar, the prosecution evidence about the buy-bust operation is
incomplete. The confidential informant who had sole knowledge of how the
alleged illegal sale of shabu started and how it was perfected was not presented
as a witness. His testimony was given instead by SPO1 Gonzales who had no
personal knowledge of the same. On this score, SPO1 Gonzales’ testimony is
hearsay and possesses no probative value unless it can be shown that the same
falls within the exception to the hearsay rule.33 To impart probative value to these
hearsay statements and convict the appellant solely on this basis would be to
render nugatory his constitutional right to confront the witness against him, in this
case the informant, and to examine him for his truthfulness.34 As the prosecution
failed to prove all the material details of the buy-bust operation, its claim that
there was a valid entrapment of the appellants must fail.

IV

The Court is sharply aware of the compelling considerations why confidential


informants are usually not presented by the prosecution. One is the need to hide
their identity and preserve their invaluable service to the police.35 Another is the
necessity to protect them from being objects or targets of revenge by the criminals
they implicate once they become known. All these considerations, however, have
to be balanced with the right of an accused to a fair trial.

The ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Roviaro v. U.S.36 on informer’s privilege is
instructive. In said case, the principal issue on certiorari is whether the United States
District Court committed reversible error when it allowed the Government not to
disclose the identity of an undercover employee who had played a material
part in bringing about the possession of certain drugs by the accused, had been
present with the accused at the occurrence of the alleged crime, and might be
a material witness to whether the accused knowingly transported the drugs as
charged.37 The Court, through Mr. Justice Burton, granted certiorari in order to pass
upon the propriety of disclosure of the informer’s identity.

Mr. Justice Burton explained that what is usually referred to as the informer’s
privilege is in reality the Government’s privilege to withhold from disclosure the
identity of persons who furnish information of violations of law to officers charged
with enforcement of that law.38 The purpose of the privilege is the furtherance and
protection of the public interest in effective law enforcement. The privilege

207
recognizes the obligation of citizens to communicate their knowledge of the
commission of crimes to law-enforcement officials and, by preserving their
anonymity, encourages them to perform that obligation.

It was held that the scope of the privilege is limited by its underlying purpose. Thus,
where the disclosure of the contents of the communication will not tend to reveal
the identity of an informer, the contents are not privileged.39Likewise, once the
identity of the informer has been disclosed to those who would have cause to
resent the communication, the privilege is no longer applicable.40

A further limitation on the applicability of the privilege, which arises from the
fundamental requirements of fairness was emphasized. Where the disclosure of an
informer’s identity, or the contents of his communication, is relevant and helpful to
the defense of an accused, or is essential to a fair determination of a cause, the
privilege must give way.41 In these situations, the trial court may require disclosure
and dismiss the action if the Government withholds the information.42

In sum, there is no fixed rule with respect to disclosure of the identity of an informer.
The problem has to be resolved on a case to case basis and calls
for balancing the state interest in protecting people from crimes against the
individual’s right to prepare his defense. The balance must be adjusted by giving
due weight to the following factors, among others: (1) the crime charged, (2) the
possible defenses, (3) the possible significance of the informer’s testimony, and (4)
other relevant factors.43

In the case at bar, the crime charged against the appellants is capital in
character and can result in the imposition of the death penalty. They have foisted
the defense of instigation which is in sharp contrast to the claim of entrapment by
the prosecution. The prosecution has to prove all the material elements of the
alleged sale of shabu and the resulting buy-bust operation. Where the testimony of
the informer is indispensable, it should be disclosed. The liberty and the life of a
person enjoy high importance in our scale of values. It cannot be diminished
except by a value of higher significance.

Moreover, the mishandling and transfer of custody of the alleged confiscated


methyl amphetamine hydrochloride or shabu further shattered the case of the
prosecution. There is no crime of illegal sale of regulated drug when there is a
nagging doubt on whether the substance confiscated was the same specimen
examined and established to be regulated drug.

After the arrest of the appellants, the records show that the substance allegedly
taken from them was submitted to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination
upon request of the Chief of the SOD Narcotics Group, Quezon City.44Police
Inspector Grace M. Eustaquio, Forensic Chemist, PNP Crime Laboratory, testified
that the qualitative examination she conducted manifested "positive results for

208
methyl amphetamine hydrochloride" with net weight of 980.50 grams.45 This is not in
dispute. The issue is whether the substance examined was the same as that
allegedly confiscated from appellants.

The Joint Affidavit of Arrest46 merely states that the evidence confiscated was
submitted to the "PNP Crime Laboratory Group for qualitative examination." SPO1
Gonzales testified on direct examination that:

Q: When you arrested them according to you, what other steps did you
take if any?

A: We brought them to our office and we requested the crime laboratory


Camp Crame to test the suspected shabu that we recovered from both of
them.47

On cross-examination, the defense only got this statement from SPO1 Gonzales
regarding the evidence allegedly confiscated:

Q: And you immediately brought him to your office at Camp Aguinaldo?

A: After we gathered the evidences we turned them over to our office,


sir.48

Clearly, there was no reference to the person who submitted it to the PNP Crime
Laboratory for examination. It is the Memorandum-Request for Laboratory
Examination49 which indicates that a certain SPO4 Castro submitted the specimen
for examination. However, the rest of the records of the case failed to show the
role of SPO4 Castro in the buy-bust operation, if any. In the Joint Affidavit of Arrest,
the only participants in the operation were enumerated as SPO1 Gonzales as the
poseur-buyer, Police Inspector Medel M. Poñe as the team leader with PO2 Elmer
N. Sarampote and PO1 Noli Jingo G. Rivel as back-up support.50 Other members of
the team who acted as perimeter security were not identified. In fact, when SPO1
Gonzales was asked during the trial as to their identities, he was only able to name
another member of the team:

Q: When you say "team," who compose the team?

A: I and more or less eight (8) person, ma’am.

Q: Can you name the member of the team?

A: Our team led by Inspector Medel Poñe, I myself, PO2 Elmer Sarampote,
PO1 Noli Jingo G. Rivel, SPO3 Ronaldo Sayson, and I can not remember
the others, ma’am.51

209
These are questions which cannot be met with a lockjaw. Since SPO4 Castro
appears not to be a part of the buy-bust team, how and when did he52 get hold of
the specimen examined by Police Inspector Eustaquio? Who entrusted the
substance to him and requested him to submit it for examination? For how long
was he in possession of the evidence before he turned it over to the PNP Crime
Laboratory? Who else had access to the specimen from the time it was allegedly
taken from appellants when arrested? These questions should be answered
satisfactorily to determine whether the integrity of the evidence was compromised
in any way. Otherwise, the prosecution cannot maintain that it was able to prove
the guilt of the appellants beyond reasonable doubt.

VI

Finally, the denials and proffered explanations of appellants assume significance in


light of the insufficiency of evidence of the prosecution.

Appellant Ong testified that he was arrested on July 23, 1998 when he was
scheduled to meet with a certain Ong Sin for a possible job as technician in a
bihon factory. On his part, appellant De Ming claimed that when he was arrested
on July 23, 1998, he was in the area waiting for his girlfriend and her mother who
just went inside a townhouse at 8th Street, New Manila, Quezon City. His girlfriend’s
mother, Avelina Cardoz, confirmed his explanation. The prosecution tells a
different story, the uncorroborated story of SPO1 Gonzales that their team
entrapped the appellants in a buy-bust operation on July 24, 1998. Our minds rest
uneasy on the lone testimony of SPO1 Gonzales.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the court a quo is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellants
WILLIAM ONG y LI and CHING DE MING @ ROBERT TIU, are ACQUITTED of the crime
of violation of Section 15, Article III, in relation to Section 2, Article I of R.A. No. 6425,
otherwise known as The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended, and are
ordered immediately released from custody unless held for some other lawful
cause.

The Director of Prisons is DIRECTED to implement this decision immediately and to


inform this Court within five (5) days from receipt of this decision of the date the
appellants are actually released from confinement. Costs de officio.

SO ORDERED.

210
G.R. No. 171729 July 28, 2008

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
RICARDO BOHOL y CABRINO, Appellant.

QUISUMBING, J.:

On appeal is the Decision1 dated September 23, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01247 affirming the Decision2 dated March 7, 2003 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 35, in Criminal Cases Nos. 02-205461
and 02-205462. The RTC had convicted appellant Ricardo Bohol (Bohol) of
violating Sections 11 (3)3 and 5,4 Article II, respectively, of Republic Act No.
91655 also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

On August 7, 2002, two Informations6 were filed against Bohol before the RTC of
Manila, Branch 35, for violations of Rep. Act No. 9165.

In Criminal Case No. 02-205461, involving the violation of Section 11 (3), Article II of
Rep. Act No. 9165, the information reads as follows:

That on or about August 2, 2002, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said
accused, without being authorized by law to possess any dangerous drug, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his possession and under
his custody and control three (3) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets
containing white crystalline substance commonly known as "shabu" weighing zero
point zero four eight (0.048) gram, zero point zero three five (0.035) gram, and zero
point zero three five (0.035) gram, respectively, which, after a laboratory
examination, gave positive results for methylamphetamine (sic) hydrochloride, a
dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.7

In Criminal Case No. 02-205462, for violation of Section 5 of the same law, the
information reads as follows:

That on or about August 2, 2002, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said
accused, without being authorized by law to sell, administer, deliver, transport or
distribute any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
knowingly sell or attempt to sell, or offer for sale for ₱100.00 and deliver to PO2
Ferdinand Estrada, a poseur buyer, one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet
containing white crystalline substance commonly known as "shabu" weighing zero
point zero five four (0.054) gram, which substance, after a qualitative examination,
gave positive results for methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a dangerous
drug.

211
CONTRARY TO LAW.8

The antecedent facts in these cases are as follows.

On August 2, 2002, at around 8:30 p.m., a confidential informant came to the


police station and tipped P/Sr. Insp. Jessie Nitullano that a certain Ricardo Bohol is
engaged in illegal drug trade in Isla Puting Bato, Tondo, Manila. P/Sr. Insp. Nitullano
then formed a team of six police operatives to verify the informant’s tip, and, if
found positive, to launch then and there a buy-bust entrapment of Bohol. PO2
Ferdinand Estrada was assigned to act as poseur buyer, and he was provided with
a marked ₱100-bill as buy-bust money.

Between 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. of the same day, the team proceeded to the site
of their operation. Guided by the informant, PO2 Estrada proceeded to the house
of Bohol, whom they saw standing beside the stairs of his house. Following a short
introduction, PO2 Estrada and the informant told Bohol of their purpose. Bohol
asked, "How much?" to which PO2 Estrada replied, "Piso lang" (meaning ₱100
worth of shabu) and handed to the former the marked ₱100-bill. In turn, Bohol
gave PO2 Estrada a plastic sachet containing white crystalline granules which the
latter suspected to be shabu. The illicit transaction having been consummated,
PO2 Estrada gave to his companions their pre-arranged signal. Emerging from their
hiding places, PO2 Luisito Gutierrez and his companions arrested Bohol. PO2
Gutierrez frisked Bohol and recovered from him the buy-bust money and three
plastic sachets containing similar white crystalline granules suspected to be shabu.

Consequently, the police officers brought Bohol to the police station and the
confiscated four plastic sachets of white crystalline substance were subjected to
laboratory examination. The specimens were confirmed to be methamphetamine
hydrochloride, commonly known as shabu.

Upon arraignment, Bohol entered a plea of "not guilty" to both charges. Thereafter,
trial on the merits ensued.

On March 7, 2003, the trial court rendered the assailed Decision, the dispositive
portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered:

(1) In Criminal Case No. 02-205461, pronouncing accused RICARDO


BOHOL y CABRINO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of possession of a
total of 0.118 gram of [methamphetamine] hydrochloride without
authority of law, penalized under Section 11 (3) of Republic Act No. 9165,
and sentencing the said accused to the indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment from twelve (12) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to
fifteen (15) years, as maximum, and to pay a fine of ₱300,000.00, plus the
costs.

212
(2) In Criminal Case No. 02-205462, pronouncing the same accused
RICARDO BOHOL y CABRINO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of selling
0.054 gram of [methamphetamine] hydrochloride without authority of law,
penalized under Section 5 of the same Republic Act No. 9165, and
sentencing the said accused to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of
₱5,000,000.00, plus the costs.

In the service of his sentence in Criminal Case No. 02-205461, the time during which
the accused had been under preventive imprisonment should be credited in his
favor provided that he had agreed voluntarily in writing to abide with the same
disciplinary rules imposed on convicted prisoner. Otherwise, he should be credited
with four-fifths (4/5) only of the time he had been under preventive imprisonment.

Exhibits B and B-1, consisting of four sachets of shabu, are ordered forfeited and
confiscated in favor of the Government. Within ten (10) days following the
promulgation of this judgment, the Branch Clerk of this Court is ordered to turn
over, under proper receipt, the drug involved in this case to the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for proper disposal.

SO ORDERED.9

Since one of the penalties imposed by the trial court is life imprisonment, the cases
were forwarded to this Court for automatic review. On June 15, 2005, this Court
transferred the cases to the Court of Appeals for intermediate review pursuant to
this Court’s decision in People v. Mateo.10

In a Decision dated September 23, 2005, the Court of Appeals denied the appeal
and affirmed the decision of the trial court with modification, so that the penalty in
Criminal Case No. 02-205461 should be imprisonment for 12 years, as minimum, to
14 years, 8 months and 1 day, as maximum. Bohol’s Motion for Reconsideration
was likewise denied by the appellate court. Thus, Bohol filed a notice of appeal.

By Resolution11 dated June 14, 2006, this Court required the parties to file their
respective supplemental briefs if they so desire. Bohol and the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG), however, manifested that they are adopting their briefs
before the appellate court. Hence, we shall resolve the instant appeal on the basis
of the arguments of the parties in said briefs.

In his appellant’s brief, Bohol assigns the following errors:

I.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THE ACCUSED-


APPELLANT’S SEARCH AND ARREST AS ILLEGAL.

II.

213
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-
APPELLANT OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE FAILURE OF THE
PROSECUTION TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.12

Simply stated, the issues are: (1) whether Bohol’s arrest and the search on his
person were illegal; and (2) whether the trial court erred in convicting Bohol
despite the absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

On the first issue, Bohol claims that his arrest was illegal since he could not have
committed, nor was he about to commit, a crime as he was peacefully sleeping
when he was arrested without a warrant. Consequently, the search conducted by
the police officers was not incidental to a lawful warrantless arrest, and the
confiscated shabuobtained from the search was inadmissible as evidence against
him.

For the appellee, the OSG maintains that the arrest of Bohol as well as the search
on his person is legal. The OSG stresses that the search made on the person of
Bohol was incidental to a lawful arrest which was made when he was caught
in flagrante delicto. Further, the OSG maintains that at the time of Bohol’s arrest,
the police officers had probable cause to suspect that a crime had been
committed since they had received a tip from a confidential informant of the
existence of illegal drug trade in the said place.

Bohol’s arguments are bereft of merit.

The arrest of Bohol is legal. The Constitution proscribes unreasonable arrests and
provides in the Bill of Rights that no arrest, search and seizure can be made without
a valid warrant issued by competent judicial authority.13However, it is a settled
exception to the rule that an arrest made after an entrapment operation does not
require a warrant. Such warrantless arrest is considered reasonable and valid
under Rule 113, Section 5(a) of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, which
states:

Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful.–A peace officer or a private person
may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually
committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;

In the present case, the arresting officers were justified in arresting Bohol as he had
just committed a crime when he sold the shabu to PO2 Estrada. A buy-bust
operation is a form of entrapment which has repeatedly been accepted to be a
valid means of arresting violators of the Dangerous Drugs Law.

Considering the legality of Bohol’s warrantless arrest, the subsequent warrantless


search that resulted in the seizure of the shabu found in his person is likewise valid.
In a legitimate warrantless arrest, the arresting police officers are authorized to

214
search and seize from the offender (1) any dangerous weapons and (2) the things
which may be used as proof of the commission of the offense.14 The constitutional
proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain
exceptions. This Court has ruled that the following instances constitute valid
warrantless searches and seizures: (1) search incident to a lawful arrest; (2) search
of a moving motor vehicle; (3) search in violation of customs laws; (4) seizure of the
evidence in plain view; (5) search when the accused himself waives his right
against unreasonable searches and seizures; (6) stop and frisk; and (7) exigent and
emergency circumstances.15

As to the second issue, Bohol contends that the prosecution failed to establish his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He faults the trial court for giving full faith and
credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. He asserts that the only
reason why he was arrested was because he was the overseer of a "video-
carrera". The police officers filed the illegal drug trade and possession against him
because they failed to find any evidence to have him tried for overseeing a
"video-carrera" place. Lastly, he laments the failure of the prosecution to present
the confidential informant as a witness during the trial, thereby preventing him
from confronting said witness directly.

The OSG counters that the prosecution established Bohol’s guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. The police officers who testified against Bohol were not shown
to have been actuated by improper motives, nor were they shown not properly
performing their duty. Thus, their affirmative testimony proving Bohol’s culpability
must be respected and must perforce prevail. Moreover, the findings of the trial
court on the issue of credibility of witnesses are generally not disturbed by the
appellate court and this Court, since it is the trial court that had the opportunity to
appraise firsthand the demeanor of the witness.

We agree with the OSG. This Court discerns no improper motive on the part of the
police officers that would impel them to fabricate a story and falsely implicate
Bohol in such a serious offense. In the absence of any evidence of the policemen’s
improper motive, their testimony is worthy of full faith and credit. Also, courts
generally give full faith and credit to officers of the law, for they are presumed to
have performed their duties in a regular manner. Accordingly, in entrapment
cases, credence is given to the narration of an incident by prosecution witnesses
who are officers of the law and presumed to have performed their duties in a
regular manner in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the
contrary.16

Moreover, we find no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the trial court. The
settled rule is that the evaluation of the testimonies of witnesses by the trial court is
entitled to the highest respect because such court has the direct opportunity to
observe the witnesses’ demeanor and manner of testifying and thus, is in a better
position to assess their credibility.17

Lastly, as ruled by the appellate court, Bohol cannot insist on the presentation of
the informant. During trial, the informant’s presence is not a requisite in the

215
prosecution of drug cases. The appellate court held that police authorities rarely, if
ever, remove the cloak of confidentiality with which they surround their poseur-
buyers and informers since their usefulness will be over the moment they are
presented in court. Further, what is material to the prosecution for the illegal sale of
dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place,
coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti. Both requirements
were sufficiently proven in this case. The police officers were able to testify
positively and categorically that the transaction or sale actually took place. The
subject shabu was likewise positively identified by the prosecution when presented
in court. Hence, we agree that Bohol’s guilt has been established by the
prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

Finally, the modification made by the Court of Appeals in the penalty imposed by
the RTC in Criminal Case No. 02-205461 ought to be deleted. Section 1 of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law18 provides that when the offense is punished by a
law other than the Revised Penal Code, "the court shall sentence the accused to
an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the
maximum fixed by law and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum term
prescribed by the same." Hence, the penalty originally imposed by the RTC of
imprisonment from 12 years and 1 day, as minimum, to 15 years as maximum, and
to pay a fine of ₱300,000 is correct and must be sustained.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated September 23, 2005 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01247 is hereby AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION, so that the original penalty imposed in the Decision dated March
7, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 35, in Criminal Case No. 02-
205461 as well as No. 02-205462 is SUSTAINED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

RIGHT TO COMPULSORY PROCESS

G.R. No. 128280 April 4, 2001

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ALICIA A. CHUA, accused-appellant.

PARDO, J.:

Accused Alicia Chua has appealed from the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court,
Manila, Branch V finding her guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal recruitment
committed in large scale and sentencing her to life imprisonment and a fine of

216
P100,000.00, and eight (8) counts of estafa sentencing her to various penalties
therefor.

On October 05, 1993, Assistant City Prosecutor Leocadio H. Ramos, Jr. of Manila
filed with the Regional Trial Court, Manila an information 2 against accused Alicia A.
Chua reading as follows:

Crim. Case No. 93-127418:

"That in or about and during the period comprised between October


29, 1992 and January 19, 1993, inclusive, in the City of Manila,
Philippines, the said accused, representing herself to have the
capacity to contract, enlist and transport Filipino workers for
employment abroad, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, for a fee,
recruit and promise employment/job placement abroad to the
following persons, namely: DOMINGO F. TERCENIO, MARTIN B.
BERMEJO, EVANGELINE F. GAVINA, DANTE F. BALUIS, EDUARD V.
ESTILLER, EDGAR B. ABONAL, VIOLETA F. REGALADO, GLORIA J.
RICAFRENTE and LONITO F. BALUIS, without first having secured the
required license or authority from the Department of Labor.

"Contrary to law."3

On the same date, the same prosecutor filed with the Regional Trial Court, Manila
nine (9) other informations against the accused for estafa:

Crim. Case No. 93-127419:

"The undersigned accuses ALICIA A. CHUA of the crime of estafa,


committed as follows: That on or about October 29, 1992, in the City
of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously defraud DOMINGO F. TERCENIO in the
following manner, to wit: the said accused, by means of false
manifestations and fraudulent representation which she made to said
DOMINGO F. TERCENIO to the effect that she had the power and
capacity to recruit and employ said DOMINGO F. TERCENIO and
could facilitate the processing of the pertinent papers if given the
necessary amount to meet the requirements thereof and by-means
of other similar deceits, induced and succeeded in inducing said
DOMINGO F. TERCENIO to give and deliver, as in fact he gave and
delivered to said accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the strength
of said manifestations and representations, said accused well
knowing that the same were false and fraudulent and were made
solely to obtain as in fact she did obtain the amount of P15,000.00
which amount once in her possession with intent to defraud, willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and
converted to her own personal use and benefit, to the damage and

217
prejudice of said DOMINGO F. TERCENIO in the aforesaid amount of
P15,000.00 Philippine Currency.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."4

Crim. Case No. 93-127420:

"That on or about November 21, 1992, in the City of Manila,


Philippines, the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously defraud MARTIN B. BERMEJO in the following manner,
to wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representation which he/they/she made to said MARTIN B.
BERMEJO to the effect that she had the power and capacity to
recruit and employ MARTIN BERMEJO in Taiwan and could facilitate
the processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary amount
to meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other similar
deceits, induced and succeeded in inducing said MARTIN B.
BERMEJO to give and deliver, as in fact he gave and delivered to
said accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the strength of said
manifestations and representations, said accused well knowing that
the same were false and fraudulent and were made solely to obtain,
as in fact she did obtain the amount of P15,000.00 which amount
once in her possession with intent to defraud, wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and converted to her own
personal use and benefit to the damage and prejudice of said
MARTIN B. BERMEJO in the aforesaid amount of P15,000.00, Philippine
Currency.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."5

Crim. Case No. 93-127421:

"That on or about November 6, 1992, in the City of Manila, Philippines,


the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously defraud EVANGELINE F. GAVINA in the following manner,
to wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representation which he/they/she made to said
EVANGELINE F. GAVINA to the effect that she had the power and
capacity to recruit and employ EVANGELINE F. GAVINA and could
facilitate the processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary
amount to meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other
similar deceits induced and succeeded in inducing said EVANGELINE
F. GAVINA to give and deliver, as in fact she gave and delivered to
said accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the strength of said
manifestations and representations, said accused well knowing that
the same were false and fraudulent and were made solely, to obtain,
as in fact she did obtain the amount of P15,000.00 which amount
once in her possession with intent to defraud, wilfully, unlawfully and

218
feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and converted to her own
personal use and benefit to the damage and prejudice of said
EVANGELINE P. GAVINA in the aforesaid amount of P15,000.00,
Philippine Currency.1âwphi1.nêt

"CONTRARY TO LAW."6

Crim. Case No. 93-127422:

"That on or about December 10, 1992, in the City of Manila,


Philippines, the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously defraud DANTE F. BALUIS in the following manner, to
wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representation which he/they/she made to said DANTE F.
BALUIS to the effect that she had the power and capacity to recruit
and employ DANTE F. BALUIS in Taiwan and could facilitate the
processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary amount to
meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other similar deceits,
induced and succeeded in inducing said DANTE F. BALUIS to give
and deliver, as in fact he gave and delivered to said accused the
amount of P11,000.00 on the strength of said manifestations and
representations, said accused well knowing that the same were false
and fraudulent and were made solely to obtain, as in fact she did
obtain the amount of P11,000.00 which amount once in her
possession with intent to defraud, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously
misappropriated, misapplied and converted to her own personal use
and benefit to the damage and prejudice of said DANTE G. BALUIS in
the aforesaid amount of P11,000.00, Philippine Currency.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."7

Crim. Case No. 93-127423:

"That on or about November 24, 1992, in the City of Manila,


Philippines, the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously defraud EDUARD V. ESTILLER in the following manner,
to wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representation which he/she/they made to said EDUARD
V. ESTILLER to the effect that she had the power and capacity to
recruit and employ EDUARD V.' ESTILLER in Taiwan and could facilitate
the processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary amount
to meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other similar
deceits, induced and succeeded in inducing said EDUARD V. ESTILLER
to give and deliver, as in fact he/she/they gave and delivered to said
accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the strength of said
manifestations and representations, said accused well knowing that
the same were false and fraudulent and were made solely, to obtain,
as in fact she did obtain the amount of P15,000.00 which amount

219
once in her possession, with intent to defraud, wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and converted to her own
personal use and benefit to the damage and prejudice of said
EDUARD V. ESTILLER, in the aforesaid amount P15,000.00 Philippine
Currency.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."8

Crim. Case No. 93-127424:

"That on or about December 11, 1992, in the City of Manila,


Philippines, the said accused, did then and therein wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously defraud EDGAR B. ABONAL in the following manner,
to wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representation which he/she/they made to said EDGAR B.
ABONAL to the effect that she had the power and capacity to recruit
and employ EDGAR B. ABONAL in Taiwan and could facilitate the
processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary amount to
meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other similar deceits,
induced and succeeded in inducing said EDGAR B. ABONAL to give
and deliver, as in fact he/she/they gave and delivered to said
accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the strength of said
manifestations and representations, said accused well knowing that
the same were false and fraudulent and were made solely, to obtain,
as in fact she did obtain the amount of P15,000.00 which amount
once in her possession with intent to defraud, wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and converted to her own
personal use and benefit to the damage and prejudice of said
EDGAR B. ABONAL in the aforesaid amount P15,000.00 Philippine
Currency.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."9

Crim. Case No. 93-127425:

"That on or about, December 10, 1992, in the City of Manila,


Philippines, the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously defraud VIOLETA F. REGALADO in the following
manner, to wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations
and fraudulent representation which he/she/they made to said
VIOLETA F. REGALADO to the effect that she had the power and
capacity to recruit and employ VIOLETA F. REGALADO in Taiwan and
could facilitate the processing of the pertinent papers if given the
necessary amount to meet the requirements thereof, and by means
of other similar deceits, induced and succeeded in inducing said
VIOLETA F. REGALADO to give and deliver, as in fact he/she/they
gave and delivered to said accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the
strength of said manifestations and representations, said accused

220
well knowing that the same were false and fraudulent and were
made solely, to obtain, as in fact she did obtain the amount of
P15,000.00 which amount once in her possession, with intent to
defraud, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously misappropriated,
misapplied and converted to her own personal use and benefit to
the damage and prejudice of said VIOLETA F. REGALADO in the
aforesaid amount P15,000.00 Philippine Currency.

"Contrary to law."10

Crim. Case No. 93-127426:

"That on or about January 19, 1993, in the City of Manila, Philippines,


the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously defraud GLORIA J. RICAFRENTE in the following manner, to
wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representation which he/she/they made to said GLORIA J.
RICAFRENTE to the effect that she had the power and capacity to
recruit and employ GLORIA J. RICAFRENTE in Taiwan and could
facilitate the processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary
amount to meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other
similar deceits, induced and succeeded in inducing said GLORIA J.
RICAFRENTE to give and deliver, as in fact he/she/they gave and
delivered to said accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the strength
of said manifestations and representations, said accused well
knowing that the same were false and fraudulent and were made
solely, to obtain, as in fact she did obtain the amount of P15,000.00
which amount once in her possession, with intent to defraud, wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and
converted to her own personal use and benefit, to the damage and
prejudice of said GLORIA J. RICAFRENTE in the aforesaid amount of
P15,000.00, Philippine Currency.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."11

Crim. Case No. 93-127427:

"That on or about October 29, 1992, in the City of Manila, Philippines,


the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously defraud LONITO F. BALUIS in the following manner, to wit:
the said accused, by means of false manifestations and fraudulent
representation which he/she/they made to said LONITO F. BALUIS to
the effect that she had the power and capacity to recruit and
employ LONITO F. BALUIS in Taiwan and could facilitate the
processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary amount to
meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other similar deceits,
induced and succeeded in inducing said LONITO F. BALUIS to give
and deliver, as in fact he/she/they gave and delivered to said

221
accused the amount of P15,000.00 on the strength of said
manifestations and representations, said accused well knowing that
the same were false and fraudulent and were made solely, to obtain,
as in fact she did obtain the amount of P15,000.00 which amount
once in her possession, with intent to defraud, wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and converted to her own
personal use and benefit to the damage and prejudice of said
LONITO F. BALUIS in the aforesaid amount P15,000.00, Philippine
Currency.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."12

On November 8, 1993, the trial court arraigned the accused. She pleaded not
guilty to each case.13 Trial ensued. The cases were consolidated and tried jointly.

The facts are as follows:

In September 1992, accused. Chua received a facsimile message from Harmony


Electronics Company in Taiwan.14The message was written in Chinese characters
except for the names of To-ong Zenon Tumenlaco and Tercenio Domingo
Fornaliza. Harmony asked her to call up To-ong and Tercenio and tell them that
they were needed in Taiwan. Accused Chua contacted To-ong and told him the
message.15

In October 1992, To-ong and Tercenio went to the office of accused Chua, and
the latter told them that she could send them to Taiwan upon payment of a
placement fee of P15,000.00 each. She also asked them to secure NBI clearances
and medical certificates.16 On October 29, 1992, Tercenio, together with private
complainant Lonito Baluis, went back to the office of accused Chua and
submitted the requirements. Tercenio and Lonito Baluis paid P15,000.00 each for
which they were issued a receipt bearing the name Man Tai Trading and General
Services with accused Chua's signature.17

Accused Chua assured Tercenio and Lonito Baluis that they would be able to
leave for Taiwan soon. Three months passed, but they were not deployed.
Tercenio became apprehensive and told accused Chua that he would withdraw
his application and ask for refund of the placement fee. Accused Chua
repeatedly promised that she would give back the money to him, but she never
did. After a few more months, Tercenio could not anymore locate accused
Chua.18

Accused Chua used the same modus operandi on the other private
complainants. After requiring each complainant to pay a placement fee of
P15,000.00 each, to secure NBI clearances and to undergo medical examinations,
she would go in hiding.

222
In time, complainants inquired from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency
(POEA) about accused Chua's activities. The POEA issued a certification that
accused Chua was not licensed to recruit persons/workers for overseas
employment.19

On October 3, 1995, the trial court promulgated a decision, the dispositive portion
20 of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, Alicia A. Chua is hereby found:

"1) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Illegal Recruitment


committed in large scale in Criminal Case No. 93-127418 and is therefore
sentenced to serve a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of
P100,000.00;

"2) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127419 and is sentenced to serve indeterminate sentence of four
(4) years of prision correccional maximum, as minimum to six (6) years and
eight (8) months of Prision Mayor minimum as maximum, and to pay the
complainant the sum of P15,000.00 plus legal interest from the filing of the
case until fully paid;

"3) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127420 and is sentenced to serve an indeterminate sentence of
four (4) years of prision correccional maximum as minimum to six (6) years
and eight (8) months of prision mayor minimum as maximum, and to pay
the complainant the sum of P15,500.00 plus legal interest from the filing of
the case until fully paid;

"4) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127421 and is sentenced to serve an indeterminate sentence of
four (4) years of prision correccional maximum as minimum to six (6) years
and eight (8) months of prision mayor minimum as maximum, and to pay
the complainant the sum of P15,500.00 plus legal interest from the filing of
the case until fully paid;

"5) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127422 and is therefore sentenced to serve an indeterminate
sentence of six (6) months of Arresto Mayor maximum, as minimum to two
(2) years and eleven (11) months of prision correccional medium, as
maximum, and to pay the complainant the sum of P11,500.00 plus legal
interest from the filing of the case until fully paid;

"6) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127423 and is therefore sentenced to serve an indeterminate
sentence of four (4) years of prision correccional maximum, as minimum to
six (6) years and eight (8) months of prision mayor minimum, as maximum

223
and to pay the complainant the sum of P15,500.00 plus legal interest from
the filing of the case until fully paid;

"7) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127425 and is therefore sentenced to serve an indeterminate
sentence of four (4) years of prision correccional maximum, as minimum to
six (6) years and eight (8) months of prision mayor minimum as maximum,
and to pay the complainant the sum of P14,500.00 plus legal interest from
the filing of the case until fully paid;

"8) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127426 and is therefore sentenced to serve indeterminate sentence
of four (4) years of prision correccional maximum, as minimum to six (6)
years and eight (8) months of prision mayor minimum as maximum, and to
pay the complainant the sum of P14,500.00 plus legal interest from the
filing of the case until fully paid;

"9) Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa in Criminal Case
No. 93-127427 and is sentenced to serve indeterminate sentence of four
(4) years of prision correccional maximum, as minimum to six (6) years and
eight (8) months of prision mayor minimum as maximum, and to pay the
complainant the sum of P15,000.00 plus legal interest from the filing of the
case until fully paid.

"As earlier stated, Criminal Case No. 93-127424 is dismissed for failure of the
prosecution to adduce evidence.

"SO ORDERED.

"Manila, September 20, 1995.

"(Sgd.) ZEUS C. ABROGAR


"Judge."

Hence, this appeal.21

In her brief, accused-appellant anchors her defense on the approval of her


application for a license to recruit on April 13, 1993, which, according to her,
rendered her a genuine holder of authority. She also claimed that she was denied
her constitutional right to compulsory process.22

On the other hand, the Solicitor General contends that appellant was a non-
licensee and had no authority to recruit anyone for overseas employment, and
that she failed to proffer any compelling reason to justify her request for the
production of POEA records.23

224
We find the appeal devoid of merit.

Appellant interposes the defense that the approval of her application for a service
contractor's authority on April 13, 1993 should be given a retroactive effect as to
make all her previous recruitment activities valid. However, this issue was not raised
in the trial court. She cannot now be allowed to raise it for the first time on appeal
without offending basic rules of fair play, justice and due process.24

The records show that the license was not issued due to her failure to comply with
post-licensing requirements.25 It is the issuance of the license which makes the
holder thereof authorized to perform recruitment activities. The law specifically
provides that "every license shall be valid for at least two (2) years from the date of
issuance unless sooner cancelled or revoked by the Secretary.26

Appellant herself admitted that she had no authority to recruit private


complainants. thus:

ATTY. MONTERO (to witness):

Q: Now what was the reply of Harmony Electronics Company when


you questioned them about the use of your company?

A: They wrote back to me and they told me that "never mind, we only
need Cenon To-ong and Domingo Tersenio." But I told them that I am not
in the position to employ these people because I am not a licensed
agency for that matter and they said that "I would just send you an
authority and show this to the pertaining government agency who could
at least send these two people."

Q: So what did you do after that?

A: I told them to send me something if I can do the way out of it, I will
ask anybody from my colleagues to do the hiring of these people.

Q: Did you ask anybody from your colleagues to do the hiring of these
two?

A: I did but Alcamojar was not also licensed.

Q: So what happened after that?

A: I told Cenon because Cenon is much better to understand that, he


looked for one company who could just or whom I can transfer the
authority that the Harmony Electronics would be sending me, so I will just
transfer the authority to any agency who could send them back to
Taiwan.27

225
Appellant cannot now claim that she was a genuine holder of authority from the
Secretary of Labor and Employment to recruit factory workers for Harmony
Electronics Company based in Taiwan.

As to her claim of denial of the constitutional right to compulsory process, we find


the same to be without merit.

The 1973 and 1987 Constitutions expanded the right to compulsory process which
now includes the right to secure the production of evidence in one's behalf. 28 By
analogy, U.S. vs. Ramirez29 which laid down the requisites for compelling the
attendance of witnesses, may be applied to this expanded concept. Thus, the
movant must show: (a) that the evidence is really material; (b) that he is not guilty
of neglect in previously obtaining the production of such evidence; (c) that the
evidence will be available at the time desired; and (d) that no similar evidence
could be obtained.

In the case at bar, the trial court correctly denied appellant's motion for the
production of the records which were the basis in issuing the POEA Certification
dated February 3, 1994,30 as the same would not in any way alter the undisputed
fact that appellant was not issued a license until then.31

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the appealed decision in toto, with costs against
appellant.

SO ORDERED.

RIGHT AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION

G.R. No. 109775 November 14, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
JOSE ENCARNACION MALIMIT alias "MANOLO", accused-appellant.

FRANCISCO, J.:

Appellant Jose Encarnacion Malimit, charged with 1 and convicted of the special
complex crime of robbery with homicide, 2 was meted by the trial court 3 the
penalty of reclusion perpetua. He was also ordered to indemnify the heirs of
Onofre Malaki the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) without subsidiary
imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the cost. 4

226
In this appeal, appellant asks for his acquittal alleging that the trial court
committed the following errors, to wit:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE UNRELIABLE


TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES ON THEIR ALLEGED
IDENTIFICATION OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT AS THE PERPETRATOR OF
THE CRIME DESPITE THE FACT (SIC) THEY REVEALED THEIR ALLEGED
"KNOWLEDGE" OF TH6E CRIME MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS AFTER THE
INCIDENT.

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING AS EVIDENCE THE WALLET AND


ITS CONTENTS ALTHOUGH THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH LEAD TO ITS
PRODUCTION WAS OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL
RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED.

III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT


DESPITE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT. 5

The following is the recital of facts as summarized by the appellee in its Brief, and
duly supported by the evidence on record:

On April 15, 1991, around 8:00 o'clock in the evening, [Onofre] Malaki
was attending to his store. Malaki's houseboy Edilberto Batin, on the
other hand, was busy cooking chicken for supper at the kitchen
located at the back of the store (TSN, June 19, 199 (sic), p. 14).

Soon thereafter, Florencio Rondon, a farmer, arrived at the store of


Malaki. Rondon was to purchase chemical for his rice farm (TSN, May
22, 1992, p. 19). Rondon came from his house, approximately one
hundred and fifty (150) meters distant from Malaki's store (Ibid., p. 24).

Meanwhile, Batin had just finished cooking and from the kitchen, he
proceeded directly to the store to ask his employer (Malaki) if supper
is to be prepared. As Batin stepped inside the store, he was taken
aback when he saw appellant coming out of the store with a bolo
(TSN, June 9, 1992, p. 14), while his boss, bathed in his own blood, was
sprawled on the floor "struggling for his life" (hovering between life
and death) (Ibid.).

227
Rondon, who was outside and barely five (5) meters away from the
store, also saw appellant Jose Malimit (or "Manolo") rushing out
through the front door of Malaki's store with a blood-stained bolo
(TSN, May 22, 1992, p. 29). Aided by the illumination coming from a
pressure lamp ("petromax") inside the store, Rondon clearly
recognized Malimit (Ibid., p. 22).

Batin immediately went out of the store to seek help. Outside the
store, he met Rondon (TSN, June 9, 1992, p. 15). After a brief
conversation, both Batin and Rondon rushed to the nearby house of
Malaki's brother-in-law Eutiquio Beloy and informed Beloy of the tragic
incident which befell Malaki. Batin, along with Beloy, went back to
the store. Inside, they saw the lifeless body of Malaki in a pool of
blood lying prostrate at the floor. Beloy readily noticed that the store's
drawer was opened and ransacked and the wallet of Malaki was
missing from his pocket (Ibid., pp. 16-17). 6

In his first assignment of error, appellant questions the credibility of prosecution


witnesses Florencio Rondon and Edilberto Batin by pointing out their alleged delay
in revealing what they knew about the incident. He posits that while the crime took
place on April 15, 1991, it was only on September 17, 1991 when these witnesses
tagged him as the culprit.

We find these contentions bereft of merit. Appellant haphazardly concluded that


Rondon and Batin implicated the appellant to this gruesome crime only on
September 17, 1991. The aforementioned date however, was merely the
date 7 when Rondon and Batin executed their respective affidavits, 8 narrating
that they saw the appellant on the night of April 15, 1991 carrying a bolo stained
with blood and rushing out of Malaki's store. As to appellant's claim of delay,
suffice it to state that extant from the records are ample testimonial evidence
negating appellant's protestation, to wit: (1) after having discovered the
commission of the crime, Rondon and Batin immediately looked for Eutiquio Beloy,
Malaki's brother-in-law, and informed him that appellant was the only person they
saw running away from the crime scene; 9 (2) Beloy and Batin reported the crime
with the CAFGU detachment in their barangay where Batin declared that it was
appellant who robbed Malaki on that fateful night; 10 and (3) Batin again made a
similar statement later at the Silago Police Station.11

Next, appellant derided the non-presentation by the prosecution of the police


blotter which could prove if appellant was indeed implicated right away by Batin
to the crime.12 We do not believe, however, that it was necessary for the
prosecution to present as evidence a copy of the aforementioned police blotter.
Neither was its non-presentation in court fatal to the prosecution's case. Entries in
the police blotter are merely corroborative evidence of the uncontroverted
testimony of Batin that he identified the appellant as the perpetrator of the crime
before the Silago police. As such, its presentation as evidence is not
indispensable. 13 Besides, if appellant believed that he was not identified therein,
then he should have secured a copy thereof from the Silago Police Station and

228
utilized the same as controverting evidence to impeach Batin's credibility as
witness. 14 Having failed to do so, appellant cannot now pass the blame on the
prosecution for something which appellant himself should have done.

Even assuming arguendo that Rondon and Batin identified the appellant only on
September 15, 1991, or after the lapse of five months from commission of the
crime, this fact alone does not render their testimony less credible. The non-
disclosure by the witness to the police officers of appellant's identity immediately
after the occurrence of the crime is not entirely against human experience. 15 In
fact the natural reticence of most people to get involved in criminal prosecutions
against immediate neighbors, as in this case, 16 is of judicial notice. 17 At any rate,
the consistent teaching of our jurisprudence is that the findings of the trial court
with regard to the credibility of witnesses are given weight and the highest degree
of respect by the appellate court. 18 This is the established rule of evidence, as the
matter of assigning values to the testimony of witnesses is a function best
performed by the trial court which can weigh said testimony in the light of the
witness" demeanor, conduct and attitude at the
trial. 19 And although the rule admits of certain exceptions, namely: (1) when
patent inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses are ignored by the trial court,
or (2) when the conclusions arrived at are clearly unsupported by the
evidence, 20 we found none in this case.

In his second assignment of error, appellant asseverates that the admission as


evidence of Malaki's wallet 21together with its contents, viz., (1) Malaki's residence
certificate; 22 (2) his identification card;23 and (3) bunch of keys, 24 violates his right
against self-incrimination. 25 Likewise, appellant sought for their exclusion because
during the custodial investigation, wherein he pointed to the investigating
policemen the place where he hid Malaki's wallet, he was not informed of his
constitutional rights.

We are not persuaded. The right against self-incrimination guaranteed under our
fundamental law finds no application in this case. This right, as put by Mr. Justice
Holmes in Holt vs. United States, 26 ". . . is a prohibition of the use of physical or moral
compulsion, to extort communications from him . . ." It is simply a prohibition
against legal process to extract from the [accused]'s own lips, against his will,
admission of his guilt. 27 It does not apply to the instant case where the evidence
sought to be excluded is not an incriminating statement but an object evidence.
Wigmore, discussing the question now before us in his treatise on evidence, thus,
said:

If, in other words (the rule) created inviolability not only for his
[physical control of his] own vocal utterances, but also for his physical
control in whatever form exercise, then, it would be possible for a
guilty person to shut himself up in his house, with all the tools and
indicia of his crime, and defy the authority of the law to employ in
evidence anything that might be obtained by forcibly overthrowing
his possession and compelling the surrender of the evidential articles
— a clear reduction ad absurdum. In other words, it is not merely

229
compulsion that is the kernel of the privilege, . . . but testimonial
compulsion 28

Neither are we prepared to order the exclusion of the questioned pieces of


evidence pursuant to the provision of the Constitution under Article III, Section
12, viz:

(1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense


shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to
have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own
choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must
be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in
writing and in the presence of counsel.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Sec. 17


hereof, shall be inadmissible in evidence against him. (Emphasis ours.)

These are the so-called "Miranda rights" so oftenly disregarded by our men in
uniform. However, infractions thereof render inadmissible only the
extrajudicial confession or admission made during custodial investigation. The
admissibility of other evidence, provided they are relevant to the issue and is not
otherwise excluded by law or rules, 29 is not affected even if obtained or taken in
the course of custodial investigation. Concededly, appellant was not informed of
his right to remain silent and to have his own counsel by the investigating
policemen during the custodial investigation. Neither did he execute a written
waiver of these rights in accordance with the constitutional prescriptions.
Nevertheless, these constitutional short-cuts do not affect the admissibility of
Malaki's wallet, identification card, residence certificate and keys for the purpose
of establishing other facts relevant to the crime. Thus, the wallet is admissible to
establish the fact that it was the very wallet taken from Malaki on the night of the
robbery. The identification card, residence certificate and keys found inside the
wallet, on the other hand, are admissible to prove that the wallet really belongs to
Malaki. Furthermore, even assuming arguendo that these pieces of evidence are
inadmissible, the same will not detract from appellant's culpability considering the
existence of other evidence and circumstances establishing appellant's identity
and guilt as perpetrator of the crime charged.

We, now come to appellant's third assignment of error where he demurs on the
prosecution's evidence, contending that they are insufficient to sustain his
conviction.

Our close scrutiny of the record reveals otherwise. Time and again, we ruled that
there can be a verdict of conviction based on circumstantial evidence when the
circumstances proved form an unbroken chain which leads to a fair and
reasonable conclusion pinpointing the accused, to the exclusion of all the others,
as the perpetrator of the crime. 30In order that circumstantial evidence may be
sufficient to convict, the same must comply with these essential requisites, viz., (a)
there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are

230
derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to
produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. 31 In this case, there were at
least five (5) circumstances constituting an unbroken chain of events which by
their "concordant combination and cumulative effect", satisfy the requirements for
the conviction of the appellant, 32specifically: (1) appellant was seen by Rondon
and Batin, whose credibilities were untarnished, holding a bolo in his right hand
and rushing out of Malaki's store seconds prior to their discovery of the crime; 33 (2)
Malaki sustained multiple stab wounds 34 and he died of "cardiac arrest, secondary
to severe external hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds", 35 (3) witness Elmer
Ladica saw the appellant on August 6, 1991, accompanied by some policemen,
retrieve Malaki's wallet underneath a stone at the seashore in Barangay
Hingatungan; 36 (4) appellant himself admitted in his testimony that on August 6,
1991, he accompanied several policemen to the seashore where he hid Malaki's
wallet; 37 and (5) appellant's flight and his subsequent disappearance from
Hingatungan immediately after the incident. 38

On the other hand, appellant's version of the story does not inspire belief. He
maintains that on that fateful night he was in his house together with his wife. He
claims that they had just arrived from a gambling spree allegedly in the house of a
certain Maui Petalcorin. Surprisingly, however, the defense did not bother to call
appellant's wife to the witness stand to corroborate appellant's alibi. Neither did it
present as witness Maui Petalcorin, or any other person who may have seen the
appellant in the said place, if only to provide a semblance of truth to this assertion.
As the defense of alibi is weak in view of the positive identification of the appellant
by the prosecution witnesses, 39 it becomes weaker because of the unexplained
failure of the defense to present any corroboration. 40 Furthermore, proof that
appellant was in his house when the crime was committed is not enough.
Appellant must likewise demonstrate that he could not have been physically
present at the place of the crime or in its vicinity, at the time of its commission. 41 In
this case, appellant himself admitted that his house was just about eighty (80)
meters away from the house of
Malaki. 42 It was, therefore, not impossible for him to have been physically present
at the place of the commission of the crime, as in fact, no evidence to negate this
possibility was ever adduced by him at the trial.

Appellant's insistence that he merely found Malaki's wallet by chance while


gathering shells along the seashore, and that he feared being implicated in the
crime for which reason he hid the wallet underneath a stone, hardly inspires belief.
We are at a loss, just as the trial court was, as to why appellant should fear being
implicated in the crime if indeed he merely found Malaki's wallet by chance. No
inference can be drawn from appellant's purported apprehension other than the
logical conclusion that appellant had knowledge of the crime. Besides, proof that
appellant is in possession of a stolen property gives rise to a valid presumption that
he stole the same. 43

In fine, as the killing of Malaki took place on the occasion of robbery, appellant
was correctly convicted by the trial court of the special complex crime of robbery

231
with homicide, defined and penalized under Article 294, paragraph 1 of the
Revised Penal Code.

WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment of conviction is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 125687 December 9, 1999

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
DELFIN RONDERO, accused-appellant.

PER CURIAM:

When an accused appeals from the judgment of the trial court, he waives the
constitutional safeguard against double jeopardy and throws the whole case
open for review of the appellate court, which is then called to render such
judgment as law and justice dictate, whether favorable or unfavorable. 1 With this
precept in mind, this Court as the ultimate dispenser of justice, will not hesitate to
render the proper imposable penalty, whenever it sees fit, even the supreme
penalty of death.

Before us is an appeal from a decision rendered by the Regional Trial Court of


Dagupan City, Branch 41, sentencing herein accused-appellant Delfin Rondero y
Sigua to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for the crime of homicide.

The facts of the case are as follows:

On the evening of March 25, 1994, Mardy Doria came home late from a barrio
fiesta. When he noticed that his nine year old sister, Mylene, was not around, he
woke up his parents to inquire about his sister's whereabouts. Realizing that Mylene
was missing, their father, Maximo Doria, sought the help of a neighbor, Barangay
Kagawad Andong Rondero to search for Mylene. Maximo and Andong went to
the house of a Barangay Captain to ask for assistance and also requested their
other neighbors in Pugaro, Dagupan to look for Mylene.

The group began searching for Mylene at around 1:00 o'clock in the morning of
March 26, 1994. They scoured the campus of Pugaro Elementary School and the
seashore in vain. They even returned to the school and inspected every classroom
but to no avail. Tired and distraught, Maximo started on his way home. When he
was about five (5) meters away from his house, Maximo, who was then carrying a
flashlight, saw herein accused-appellant Delfin Rondero pumping the artesian well

232
about one (1) meter away. Accused-appellant had an ice pick clenched in his
mouth and was washing his bloodied hands. 2

Maximo hastily returned to the school and told Kagawad Andong what he saw
without, however, revealing that the person he saw was the latter's own
son. 3 Maximo and Andong continued their search for Mylene but after failing to
find her, the two men decided to go home. After some time, a restless Maximo
began to search anew for her daughter. He again sought the help of Andong and
the barangay secretary. The group returned to Pugaro Elementary School where
they found Mylene's lifeless body lying on a cemented pavement near the
canteen. 4 Her right hand was raised above her head, which was severely bashed,
and her fractured left hand was behind her back. She was naked from the waist
down and had several contusions and abrasions on different parts of her body.
Tightly gripped in her right hand were some hair strands. A blue rubber slipper with
a tiny leaf painted in red was found beside her body while the other slipper was
found behind her back.

Half an hour later, five (5) policemen arrived at the scene and conducted a spot
investigation. They found a pair of shorts 5 under Mylene's buttocks, which Maximo
identified as hers. Thereafter, Maximo led the policemen to the artesian well where
he had seen accused-appellant earlier washing his hands. The policemen found
that the artesian well was spattered with blood. 6 After the investigation, the
policemen, together with Maximo, went back to their headquarters in Dagupan
City. There, Maximo disclosed that before they found Mylene's body, he saw
accused-appellant washing his bloodstained hands at the artesian well. 7 Acting
on this lead, the policemen returned to Pugaro and arrested accused-appellant.

An autopsy of the body of the victim conducted by the Assistant City Health
Officer of Dagupan City, Dr. Tomas G. Cornel, revealed the following injuries:

EXTERNAL FINDINGS

1. Contusion hematoma, anterior chest wall, along the


midclavicular line, level of the 2nd intercostal space, right.

2. Contusion hematoma, along the parasternal line, level of the


1st intercostal space, left.

3. Contusion hematoma, posterior aspect, shoulder, left.

4. Contusion hematoma, anterior axillary line, level of the 3rd


intercostal space, left.

5. Contusion hematoma, anterior aspect, neck.

6. Contusion hematoma, lower jaw, mid portion.

233
7. Contusion hematoma, periorbital, right.

8. Lacerated wound, 1" x 1/2" x 1/2", maxillary area, right.

9. Contusion hematoma, temporal area, left.

10. Contusion hematoma, mid frontal area.

11. Lacerated wound 1/2" x 1/4" x 1/4", frontal area, left.

12. Contusion hematoma, occipital area, right.

13. Abrasion, medial anterior aspect, elbow, left.

14. Abrasion, lateral aspect, buttock, right.

15. Abrasion, antero lateral aspect, iliac crest, right.

16. Contusion hematoma, upper lip.

17. Avulsion, upper central and lateral incisors.

18. Fresh laceration of the hymen at 1:00 o'clock, 6:00 o'clock


and 9:00 o'clock position. Fresh laceration of the labia minora
at 6:00 o'clock and 9:00 o'clock position.

INTERNAL FINDINGS

Massive intracranial hemorrhage with brain tissue injury. Fracture of the


right occipital bone.

Note:

Vaginal smear was done at the Gov. Teofilo Sison Memorial Prov'l Hosp.
laboratory and the result showed no sperm cell seen. (March 26, 1994)

Cause of death: Cardio Respiratory Arrest

Due to: Massive Intracranial Hemorrhage Traumatic 8

For Mylene's burial, her parents spent P5,043.00 during her wake, 9 P9,000.00 for
funeral expenses 10 and P850.00 for church services and entombment. 11

234
On March 28, 1994, the hair strands which were found on the victim's right hand
and at the scene of the crime, together with hair specimens taken from the victim
and accused-appellant, were sent to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for
laboratory examination. 12

Meanwhile, on March 30, 1994, accused-appellant was formally charged with the
special complex crime of rape with homicide in an information which reads:

The undersigned 4th Assistant City Prosecutor accuses DELFIN


RONDERO y Sigua, of Pugaro District, Dagupan City, of the crime of
RAPE WITH HOMICIDE, committed as follows:

That on or about the 26th day of March, 1994, in the city of


Dagupan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused DELFIN
RONDERO y Sigua, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully,
criminally and forcibly have carnal knowledge with one
MYLENE J. DORIA, a 9-year old girl, against her will and consent,
and thereafter, with intent to kill, criminally and unlawfully
employed violence against her person, thereby causing the
death of said MYLENE J. DORIA, as evidenced by the Autopsy
Report issued by Dr. Tomas G. Cornel, Asst. City Health Officer,
this city, to the damage and prejudice of the legal heirs of said
deceased, MYLENE J. DORIA in the amount of not less than
FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00), Philippine currency, and
other consequential damages.

Contrary to Article 335 in relation to Article 249 of the Revised Penal


Code.

Accused-appellant pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. In the meantime, the


NBI sent a fax message to the Dagupan City Police Station saying that it could not
conduct an examination on the hair strands because the proper comparative
specimens were not given. The NBI suggested that hair strands be pulled, not cut,
from the suspect and from the victim on the four regions of their heads so that all
parts of the hair strands, from root to tip, may be presented. 13 Thereupon,
accused-appellant, who executed a "waiver of detention" including a waiver of
the provisions of Section 12, Article III of the Constitution on the rights of the
accused during custodial investigation, 14was allegedly convinced by a certain
Major Wendy Ocampo to give sample hair strands. Another police officer went to
the Doria's residence to get hair samples from Mylene, who had not yet been
interred. The hair strands taken from accused-appellant and the victim were later
indorsed to the NBI for laboratory testing. 15 Comparative micro-physical
examination on the specimens showed that the hair strands found on the right
hand of the victim had similar characteristics to those of accused-appellant's,
while the hair specimen taken from the crime scene showed similar characteristics
to those of the victim's. 16 Alicia P. Liberato, the NBI Senior Forensic Chemist who

235
conducted the microscopic examination on the hair samples, later reiterated the
aforesaid findings in court. 17

At the trial, Dr. Cornel, the physician who conducted the autopsy on Mylene at
around 9:30 o'clock in the morning of March 26, 1994, testified that the victim's
death probably occurred before 11:00 o'clock in the evening of March 25, 1994
judging from the rigidity of her lower and upper extremities. He explained that the
contusions and hematoma found on Mylene's body were possibly caused by a
blunt instrument, a clenched fist or a piece of wood. 18 The lacerated wounds on
her face may have been caused by a bladed instrument, not necessarily sharp, or
by hitting her head on a concrete wall with jagged edges. The abrasions on her
elbow, right buttock and upper hip may have been caused by a rough object
that came in contact with her skin. 19 Dr. Cornel also explained that the victim's
upper and lateral incisors may have been avulsed by a sudden blow in the mouth
using a blunt instrument, stone or wood. He added that the fresh hymenal
lacerations at 1:00 o'clock, 6:00 o'clock and 9:00 o'clock positions and the fresh
laceration of the labia minora at 6:00 o'clock and 9:00 o'clock positions could
have been caused either by sexual intercourse or by an object forcibly inserted in
Mylene's vagina. 20

Accused-appellant resolved not to testify at the trial, opting instead to present his
wife and his father as witnesses to account for his whereabouts on the night of the
gruesome incident.

Christine Gonzales, wife of accused-appellant, testified that on March 25, 1994, at


around 7:00 o'clock in the evening, she had a quarrel with her husband. Accused-
appellant was then slightly drunk and apparently irked when supper was not yet
ready. He slapped his wife and shouted invectives at her, causing a disturbance in
the neighborhood and prompting his father, who lived just a house away, to
intervene. When accused-appellant refused to be pacified, his father hit him in the
nose, mouth and different parts of the body. 21 His father left accused-appellant
profusely bleeding. Accused-appellant then changed his blood-stained clothes
and went to bed with his wife. It was a little after 8:00 o'clock in the evening.

Christine woke up the next day at around 7:00 o'clock in the morning. She washed
some clothes including the blood-stained ones her husband wore the night before.
After doing the laundry, she went out to pay her father a visit. On her way back
home, Christine was informed by a child that her husband was arrested by the
police. Christine rushed home and found some policemen taking the newly
washed undershirt and short pants of accused-appellant from the clothesline. The
policemen brought Christine with them to the police headquarters for questioning.
When asked about the blood on her husband's clothes, Christine told them about
their quarrel the night before. 22

Accused-appellant's father, Leonardo Rondero, corroborated Christine's story. He


testified that on the night in question, at around 7:00 o'clock in the evening, he
was resting at home, located only a house away from his son's, when he heard the
latter having a heated discussion with Christine. Embarrassed at the scene that his

236
son was creating at such an hour, Leonardo went to the couple's house to pacify
the slightly inebriated accused-appellant. Accused-appellant ignored his father
and continued shouting at his wife. Leonardo then hit him several times causing his
nose and mouth to bleed profusely that it stained his sando and short pants.
Startled at the injuries that his son sustained, Leonardo went home. Early the next
morning, March 26, 1994, at around 1:30 o'clock, Leonardo was awakened by his
neighbor, Maximo Doria, who sought his assistance to search for his missing nine-
year old daughter Mylene. Leonardo willingly obliged. Thus, Maximo, Leonardo
and the barangay secretary searched the nearby houses for hours but failed to
find Mylene. 23

On October 13, 1995, the trial court rendered judgment 24 convicting accused-
appellant of the crime of murder and sentencing him to death. The dispositive
portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE:

For the crime you had wilfully and deliberately committed, this court
finds you guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder
defined and punished by Section 6 of Republic Act No. 7659, in
relation to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, together with all its
attendant aggravating circumstances without any mitigating
circumstance of whatever nature.

You, Delfin Rondero, are hereby therefore sentenced to die by


electrocution pursuant to Article 81 of Republic Act No. 7659, for your
heinous crime as charged in the information as a punishment and as
an example to future offenders.

You are hereby further ordered to indemnify the heirs of the victim by
paying to them an amount of P60,000.00 for the loss of life of Mylene
J. Doria; P15,000.00 for consequential damages and P100,000.00 as
moral damages.

May God have mercy on your soul.

SO ORDERED. 25

Accused-appellant moved for reconsideration. On November 10, 1995, the trial


court issued an order modifying its earlier decision, convicting accused-appellant
of the crime of homicide and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua instead, on the ground that under Section 10 of Republic Act. No. 7610,
otherwise known as the "Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse,
Exploitation and Discrimination Act," the penalty for homicide is reclusion
perpetua when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age. 26

In this appeal, accused-appellant raises the following assignment of errors:

237
I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING ACCUSED-APPELLANT
GUILTY OF THE CRIME OF MURDER AMENDED TO HOMICIDE
AND SENTENCING HIM TO SUFFER LIFE IMPRISONMENT (sic) AND
TO INDEMNIFY THE AGGRIEVED PARTY IN THE AMOUNT OF
P175,000.00 BASED ONLY ON CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.

II. THE LOWER COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN


CONVICTING THE ACCUSED OF HOMICIDE.

III. THE LOWER COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN FINDING


ACCUSED GUILTY TO (sic) THE CRIME OF HOMICIDE DESPITE
ILLEGAL ARREST AND ILLEGAL DETENTION OF ACCUSED-
APPELLANT. 27

The appeal has no merit.

Accused-appellant argues that the circumstantial evidence presented by the


prosecution is not strong enough to sustain his conviction, asserting that Maximo
Doria's testimony that he saw him about a meter away washing his bloodied hands
at an artesian well was highly improbable inasmuch as it was dark at that time.
Accused-appellant also considered it strange that when Maximo saw him, he did
not bother to ask if he had seen Mylene. Finally, accused-appellant alleges that
the slippers presented in court as evidence are not the same ones which were
recovered at the scene of the crime since the pictures presented in court did not
show the leaf painted in red on the left slipper.

Sec. 4, Rule 133 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:

Sec. 4. Circumstantial evidence, when sufficient. — Circumstantial


evidence is sufficient for conviction if:

(a) There is more than one circumstances;

(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are
proven; and

(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as


to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

Circumstantial evidence is that evidence which proves a fact or series of facts


from which the facts in issue may be established by inference. 28 Such evidence is
founded on experience and observed facts and coincidences establishing a
connection between the known and proven facts and the facts sought to be
proved. 29 Circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction in criminal cases
when there is more than one circumstance, derived from facts duly given and the
combination of all is such as to produce conviction beyond reasonable doubt. The

238
test for accepting circumstantial evidence as proof of guilt beyond reasonable
doubt is: the series of circumstances duly proved must be consistent with each
other and that each and every circumstance must be consistent with the
accused's guilt and inconsistent with his innocence.

In the case at bar, the prosecution avers that there are several circumstances
availing which, when pieced together, point to accused-appellant as the author
of the gruesome crime committed on the night of March 25, 1994, to wit:

1. A few hours after the victim's probable time of death,


Maximo saw accused-appellant, with an ice pick
clenched in his mouth, washing his bloodied hands at an
artesian well. 30

2 A pair of slippers which Maximo identified as belonging


to accused-appellant was found at the scene of the
crime. One was found beside the victim's body while the
other was under her buttocks. 31 Maximo positively
pointed to accused-appellant as the owner of the pair
of slippers because of a distinguishing mark of the
painting of a red leaf on the left slipper. Maximo said
accused-appellant used to frequent their house wearing
the same pair of slippers for over a year. 32

3. The hair strands which were found on Mylene's right


hand and the hair strands taken from accused-
appellant were shown to have similar characteristics
when subjected to microscopic
examination. 33

4. Accused-appellant's undershirt and short pants which


he wore on the night of March 25, 1994 had bloodstains.
His wife admitted having washed the undershirt and
short pants in the early morning of March 26, 1994. 34

Contrary to the allegations of accused-appellant, the evidence presented by the


prosecution is sufficient to sustain his conviction. Maximo stated on the witness
stand that he was able to identify accused-appellant because he focused his
flashlight on him while he was washing his bloodstained hands at an artesian well
located only a meter away from where Maximo was standing. 35 Maximo
considered it wise not to talk to accused-appellant because at that time he had
an ice pick clenched in his mouth and looked slightly drunk. As to the allegation
that the slippers presented in court were not the same ones recovered at the
scene of the crime, suffice it to say that the photographs taken of the crime scene
were not focused only on the pair of slippers; hence, the red leaf may be too
minuscule to be noticed. In any case, the pair of slippers shown in the photographs
corroborate the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses that a pair of rubber
slippers were indeed recovered at the scene.

239
It might not be amiss to note that Maximo was not shown to have had any motive
to impute so grave a wrong on accused-appellant. Prior to the incident, accused-
appellant used to frequent Maximo's house for a visit. 36 On the night of the
incident, Maximo even sought the help of accused-appellant's father to search for
Mylene.

On the other hand, the testimonies of the witnesses for the defense are
incredulous, to say the least. Leonardo Rondero, accused-appellant's father,
testified that he mauled his son in an effort to pacify him during a heated
altercation with his wife, Christine. Leonardo said that he felt embarrassed
because his son was shouting invectives at Christine and was causing a scene in
the neighborhood so he hit the accused-appellant several times. Leonardo's
curious way of pacifying his son resulted in bodily injuries on the latter. Strangely,
despite his sustained injuries and profuse bleeding, accused-appellant and his wife
just went to sleep after Leonardo left. 37 We find it unnatural that a father, a
barangay kagawad, would repeatedly hit his son in an effort to pacify him in the
middle of a marital spat. We find it even more unnatural that one who was
bleeding profusely would act so insouciant as to just go to sleep without attending
to his injuries.

Accused-appellant alleges that while in the custody of police officers, some hair
strands were taken from him without his consent and submitted to the NBI for
investigation, in violation of his right against self incrimination. Aside from executing
a waiver of the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, accused-
appellant executed a waiver of the provisions of Article III, Section 12 of the
Constitution regarding the rights of an accused during custodial investigation. 38 It
appears, however, that the waivers were executed by the accused without the
assistance of a counsel of his own choice.

The use of evidence against the accused obtained by virtue of his testimony or
admission without the assistance of counsel while under custodial investigation is
proscribed under Sections 12 and 17, Article III of the Constitution, to wit:

Sec. 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of
an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain
silent and to have competent and independent counsel
preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the
services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights
cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of
counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other


means which vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret
detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms
of detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission in violation of this or Section 17


hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

240
Sec. 17. No person shall he compelled to be a witness against
himself.

The aforesaid rules are set forth in the Constitution as a recognition of the fact that
the psychological if not physical atmosphere of custodial investigations in the
absence of procedural safeguards is inherently coercive in nature. However, to
paraphrase Justice Sanchez in the case of Chavez vs. Court of
Appeals, 39 "Compulsion does not necessarily connote the use of violence; it may
be the product of unintentional statements. Pressure which operates to overbear
his will, disable him from making a free and rational choice or impair his capacity
for making rational judgment would be sufficient. So is moral coercion tending to
force testimony from the unwilling lips of the defendant." Needless to say, the
above-mentioned provisions are an affirmation that "coercion can be mental as
well as physical and that the blood of the accused is not the only hallmark of an
unconstitutional inquisition." 40

It bears emphasis, however, that under the above-quoted provisions, what is


actually proscribed is the use of physical or moral compulsion to extort
communication from the accused-appellant and not the inclusion of his body in
evidence when it may be material. For instance, substance emitted from the body
of the accused may be received as evidence in prosecution for acts of
lasciviousness 41 and morphine forced out of the mouth of the accused may also
be used as evidence against him. 42 Consequently, although accused-appellant
insists that hair samples were forcibly taken from him and submitted to the NBI for
forensic examination, the hair samples may be admitted in evidence against him,
for what is proscribed is the use of testimonial compulsion or any evidence
communicative in nature acquired from the accused under duress.

On the other hand, the blood-stained undershirt and short pants taken from the
accused are inadmissible in evidence. They were taken without the proper search
warrant from the police officers. Accused-appellant's wife testified that the police
officers, after arresting her husband in their house, took the garments from the
clothesline without proper authority. 43 This was never rebutted by the prosecution.
Under the libertarian exclusionary rule known as the "fruit of the poisonous tree,"
evidence illegally obtained by the state should not be used to gain other
evidence because the illegally obtained evidence taints all evidence
subsequently obtained. Simply put, accused-appellant's garments, having been
seized in violation of his constitutional right against illegal searches and seizure, are
inadmissible in court as evidence.

Nevertheless, even without the admission of the bloodied garments of the


accused as corroborative evidence, the circumstances obtaining against
accused-appellant are sufficient to establish his guilt.

Having disposed of the foregoing, we now come to the issue of whether accused-
appellant should be convicted of the special complex crime of rape with
homicide.

241
It is a jurisprudential rule that an appeal throws a whole case to review and it
becomes the duty of the appellate court to correct such error as may be found in
the judgment appealed from whether they are made the subject of assigned
errors or not. 44

The trial court dismissed the charge of rape holding that it has not been
adequately proven due to the absence of spermatozoa in the victim's private
part. It is well settled that the absence of spermatozoa in the victim's private part
does not negate the commission of rape for the simple reason that the mere
touching of the pudenda by the male organ is already considered as
consummated rape. Mylene Doria was naked from waist down when she was
found. Her private organ had hymenal lacerations at 1:00 o'clock, 6:00 o'clock and
9:00 o'clock positions. There were fresh lacerations in the labia minora at 6:00
o'clock and 9:00 o'clock positions as well. The trial judge even noted that "it can be
conclusively deduced that her sex organ was subjected to a humiliating
punishment." While the examining physician speculated that the lacerations could
have been caused by a piece of wood or rounded object, he did not rule out the
possibility of forcible sexual intercourse.

The presence of physical injuries on the victim strongly indicates the employment
of force on her person. Contusion was found on Mylene's face, arms and thighs. In
rape cases, when a woman is forcibly made to lie down, she will utilize her elbow
as the fulcrum so that abrasions will be observed. In an attempt to stand, the
victim will flex her neck forward. The offender will then push her head backwards,
causing hematoma at the region of the occiput. To prevent penetration of the
male organ, she will try to flex her thighs and the offender will give a strong blow to
the inner aspects of both thighs so that the victim will be compelled to straighten
them. 45

As aptly observed by the Solicitor General, aside from the hymenal lacerations, the
examining physician testified that Mylene sustained abrasions on her left elbow,
right buttock and right upper hip and contusion hematoma at the occipital
area, i.e., back part of the head, right side. 46 Indeed, the physical evidence
indubitably tells a harrowing crime committed against nine-year old Mylene Doria
in a manner that no words can sufficiently describe.

Anent accused-appellant's third assignment of error, it might be true that accused-


appellant's warrantless arrest was not lawful. The police officers who arrested him
had no personal knowledge of facts indicating that he was the perpetrator of the
crime just committed. His warrantless arrest was not based on a personal
knowledge of the police officers indicating facts that he has committed the
gruesome crime but solely on Maximo's suspicion that he was involved in the
slaying of Mylene since he was seen washing his bloodied hands in the early
morning of March 26, 1994. 47 Nevertheless, it is hornbook knowledge that any
irregularity attending the arrest of an accused is deemed waived when, instead of
quashing the information for lack of jurisdiction over his person, the accused
voluntarily submits himself to the court by entering a plea of guilty or not guilty
during the arraignment and participating in the proceedings.

242
Finally, we reiterate that when an accused appeals from the sentence of the trial
court, he waives the constitutional safeguard against double jeopardy and throws
the whole case open to the review of the appellate court, which is then called to
render judgment as the law and justice dictate, whether favorable or unfavorable,
and whether they are made the subject of assigned errors or not. This precept
should be borne in mind by every lawyer of an accused who unwittingly takes the
risk involved when he decides to appeal his sentence.

Accused-appellant's guilt having been established beyond reasonable doubt for


the rape and brutal slaying of Mylene Doria, this Court has no other recourse but to
impose the penalty of death upon accused-appellant Delfin Rondero y Sigua.
Under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No.
7659, "when by reason or on occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the
penalty shall be death." At this juncture, it should be stated that four justices of the
court have continued to maintain the unconstitutionality of R.A. No. 7659 insofar as
it prescribes the death penalty; nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the
majority to the effect that this law is constitutional and that the death penalty can
be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.

The award of P50,000.00 as indemnity to the heirs of the victim is increased to


P75,000.00 in line with our ruling in People vs. Mahinay. 48 The award of moral
damages in the sum of P100,000.00 is reduced to P50,000.00. Further, accused-
appellant is ordered to pay the sum of P15,000.00 as consequential damages.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 41, Dagupan City
finding accused-appellant Delfin Rondero y Sigua guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of the crime of homicide is MODIFIED. Accused-appellant Delfin Rondero y Sigua is
found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charge of special complex crime of
rape with homicide committed against Mylene J. Doria and is accordingly
sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH. He is also ordered to pay the
heirs of the victim the sum of P75,000.00 by way of civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as
moral damages and P15,000.00 as consequential damages.

In accordance with Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659, amending Article 83 of


the Revised Penal Code, upon finality of this decision, let the records of this case
be forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of pardoning
power.

SO ORDERED.

243
[G.R. No. 109242. January 26, 1999]

LITO C. MARCELO, petitioner, vs. THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN (First Division) and
the PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari filed by Lito Marcelo from a decision of
the Sandiganbayan (First Division)[1] convicting him and two others of qualified theft.
The information against them alleges

That on or about February 17, 1989, in the Municipality of Makati, Metro Manila,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused,
ARNOLD PASICOLAN, a public officer, being then an Emergency Laborer assigned
as bag opener at the printed matters section of Makati Central Post Office, and
taking advantage of his official position by having access to the mail matters in
conspiracy with accused RONNIE S. ROMERO and LITO MARCELO, both private
individuals, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously with grave abuse
of confidence, and with intent of gain and without the consent of the owners
thereof, take, steal and carry away from the Central Post office of Makati one bag
containing assorted mail matters some of them containing U.S. Dollar Bills in the
aggregate amount of $500, or its peso equivalent in the amount of P11,000.00,
Philippine Currency, to the damage and prejudice of the different addressee (sic)
or the government in the aforesaid mentioned (sic) amount.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

The facts established during the trial show the following:

On February 10, 1989, Jacinto Merete, a letter carrier in the Makati Central Post
Office, disclosed to his chief, Projecto Tumagan, the existence of a group
responsible for the pilferage of mail matter in the post office. [2] Among those
mentioned by Merete were Arnold Pasicolan, an emergency laborer assigned as a
bag opener in the Printed Matters Section, and Redentor Aguinaldo, a mail sorter of
the Makati Post Office. Merete likewise described the modus operandi of the group.

For this reason, Tumagan sought the aid of the National Bureau of Investigation
(NBI) in apprehending the group responsible for mail pilferage in the Makati Post
Office.

On February 17, 1989, NBI Director Salvador Ranin dispatched NBI agents to
Legaspi Village following a report that the group would stage a theft of mail matter
on that day. Tumagan accompanied a team of NBI agents composed of Senior
Agent Arles Vela and two other agents in a private car. They arrived at Legaspi
Village at about 1:00 p.m. They stayed at the corner of Adelantado and Gamboa
Streets, while two other teams of NBI agents waited at Amorsolo Street, near the
Esguerra Building.[3]

At 2:00 p.m., a postal delivery jeep, driven by one Henry Orindai, was parked
in front of the Esguerra Building on Adelantado Street.[4] Esguerra Building is located

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between Adelantado and Amorsolo Streets. Adelantado and Amorsolo Streets are
parallel to each other. The passengers of the postal delivery jeep were Arnold
Pasicolan, Jacinto Merete, and the driver, Henry Orindai.[5] Pasicolan alighted from
the jeep bringing with him a mail bag. Merete stayed inside the jeep. Pasicolan then
passed through an alley between Esguerra and Montepino Buildings going towards
Amorsolo St.[6] Montepino Building is adjacent to Esguerra Building. The two are
separated by the alley. Upon reaching Amorsolo St., Pasicolan gave the mail bag
to two persons, who were later identified as Ronnie Romero and petitioner Lito
Marcelo. The latter transferred the contents of the mail bag (i.e., assorted mail
matter) to a travelling bag. The two then secured the bag to the back of their
motorcycle.[7]

Meanwhile, the NBI team led by agent Vela, upon seeing Pasicolan going
towards Amorsolo St., moved their car and started towards Amorsolo St. They were
just in time to see Pasicolan handing over the mail bag to Marcelo and Romero.[8] At
that point, Atty. Sacaguing and Arles Vela arrested the two accused.

Unaware of the arrest of Romero and Marcelo, Pasicolan went back to the
postal delivery jeep and proceeded toward Pasay Road. The NBI agents followed
the postal delivery jeep, overtook it, and arrested Pasicolan.[9]

The NBI agents brought Pasicolan, Marcelo, and Romero to their headquarters.
They also brought along with them the motorcycle of Romero and Marcelo and the
bag of unsorted mail found in their possession.[10] On their way to the NBI
headquarters, they passed by the Makati Central Post Office, intending to arrest
another suspect, Redentor Aguinaldo. However, they were not able to find him
there.[11]

The unsorted mail seized from Marcelo and Romero consisted of 622
letters.[12] The names of the addressees were listed. They were subsequently notified
by the Bureau of Posts to claim their letters.Many of them, after proper identification,
were able to claim their letters. Some letters contained money.

Romero, Marcelo, and Pasicolan were asked to affix their signatures on the
envelopes of the letters. They did so in the presence of the members of the NBI
Administrative and Investigative Staff and the people transacting business with the
NBI at that time. According to Director Ranin, they required the accused to do this
in order to identify the letters as the very same letters confiscated from them. [13]

NBI Director Ranin allegedly saw US dollar bills in various denominations of 20,
50, and 100 dollars.[14] Vela and the other NBI agents stated in their affidavits that
there were dollar bills in the letters which, if converted to Philippine pesos, at the
then exchange rate of P22 to US $1, were worth P11,000.00.[15] The addressees
agreed to leave the envelopes of the letters with the NBI. Those letters which were
not claimed were opened in court in the presence of the counsel for the defense.
The letters were found to contain three (3) one dollar bills, one (1) five dollar bill, one
(1) twenty dollar bill, a check for twenty-five dollars, and fifty (50) Saudi Arabian
riyals.[16]

Arnold Pasicolan, Ronnie Romero, and herein petitioner Lito Marcelo were
charged with infidelity in the custody of documents. The case was later withdrawn
and another information for qualified theft was filed before the Sandiganbayan.

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On March 8, 1993, the Sandiganbayan found all the accused guilty beyond
reasonable doubt as principals of the crime of qualified theft. The dispositive portion
of its decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the three accused, Arnold Pasicolan y Mabazza,
Ronnie Romero y Santos, and Lito Mercado [should be Marcelo] y Cruz, guilty, as
principals, beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of qualified theft defined in
Article 310, in conjunction with Articles 308 and 309, of the Revised Penal
Code. Accordingly, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law and considering
the aggravating circumstances of taking advantage of public position, the Court
imposes upon Arnold Pasicolan y Mabazza the penalty ranging from EIGHT (8)
years, EIGHT (8) months, and ONE (1) day of Prision mayor, as minimum, to THIRTEEN
(13) YEARS, ONE (1) month, and ELEVEN (11) days of reclusion temporal, as
maximum. Applying again the Indeterminate Sentence Law and there being no
aggravating nor mitigating circumstances, the Court imposes upon Ronnie
Romero y Santos and Lito Marcelo y Cruz, the penalty ranging from SEVEN (7)
YEARS, four (4) months, and ONE (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to eleven
(11) years, SIX (6) months, and TWENTY-ONE (21) days of prision mayor, as
maximum.

Hence, the instant petition for review on certiorari based on the following
assignment of errors:

(1) Respondent Honorable Court had wrongly made the crucial finding
against petitioner that he has committed the act charged in
conspiracy with each other.

(2) Respondent Honorable Court erred in admitting as evidence of


petitioners guilt the letters signed by the accused during custodial
investigation without the assistance of counsel, in utter disregard of his
constitutional right.

First. Petitioner says that since the subject of the alleged pilferage was mail
matter, only a government employee may be held guilty of qualified theft unless a
private individual was shown to have been in conspiracy with him. He contends that
since he is not a government employee, then he cannot be charged or held guilty
of the crime as there is no proof that he conspired with a postal employee. The
petitioner argues that there is no evidence to prove that he was at any time in
conspiracy with the members of the syndicate inside the post office. In fact,
petitioner points out, Jacinto Merete, Projecto Tumagan, and his co-accused Arnold
Pasicolan were one in saying that it was their first time to see him and Romero on
February 17, 1989. Likewise, in the meeting allegedly conducted by the members of
the syndicate, he and Romero were not around nor were their names
mentioned. Petitioner says that although he and Romero knew each other, it was
only on February 17, 1989 that they saw each other again in order to see a movie.

We cannot understand petitioners theory that, as the subject of the pilferage


was mail matter, only a government employee, presumably of the postal service,
can be held liable of qualified theft. What makes the theft of mail matter qualified
is the fact that the subject thereof is mail matter, regardless of whether the offender

246
is a postal employee or a private individual. This much is clear from Art. 310 of the
Revised Penal Code which provides:

Qualified theft. The crime of theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by
two degrees than those respectively specified in the next preceding article, if
committed by a domestic servant, or with grave abuse of confidence, or if the
property stolen is motor vehicle, mail matter or large cattle or consists of coconuts
taken from the premises of a plantation, fish taken from a fishpond or fishery or if
property is taken on the occasion of fire, earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption,
or any other calamity, vehicular accident or civil disturbance.

Thus, as long as the thing stolen is one of those enumerated in Art. 310, the
crime is qualified theft. In this case, it is mail matter. Hence, it is not necessary that
petitioner be shown to have been inconspiracy with a government employee in
order to hold him liable for qualified theft.

Be that as it may, conspiracy was proven in this case. NBI agent Arles Vela
testified that petitioner was instrumental in transferring the contents of the mail bag
which Pasicolan handed to them to their travelling bag and that afterward
petitioner and his co-accused Romero tied the bag to their motorcycle.

Velas testimony was corroborated by Projecto Tumagan, who likewise testified


that Romero and Marcelo transferred the contents of the mail bag to their bags.
Although Tumagan said petitioner and Romero had two bags, thus contradicting
Velas testimony that petitioner and his co-accused had only one bag, the
inconsistency in the testimonies of these two prosecution witnesses is not really of
much importance. What is important is that Tumagan corroborated Velas testimony
that petitioner helped in putting the letters in their bag. The discrepancy could be
due to the fact that these two witnesses were inside a car and were at some
distance from the persons they were observing. At any rate, during the cross-
examination, Tumagan said that the contents of the mail bag were transferred to
one other bagimplying that there was really just one bag involved.[17] Moreover, the
defense should have confronted Tumagan with this inconsistency and asked him to
explain. For its failure to do so, the defense cannot for the first time raise the point in
this appeal.

Petitioner Marcelo showed no sign of surprise or hesitation when Pasicolan


handed the mail bag to him and Romero. It was apparent he was acting pursuant
to a prior agreement because when the mail bag was given to him, he got the bag
and he and Romero then transferred its contents to their travelling bag. Petitioner
acted in concert with Pasicolan and Romero, thus indicating he was in conspiracy
with them. As the Sandiganbayan said:

The accused appear to have committed the acts charged in conspiracy with
each other pursuant to a pre-conceived plan known to all of them to attain a
common goal. Thus, when the postal delivery jeep stopped near Esguerra Building
along Adelantado Street, Pasicolan alighted bringing with him a mail bag, passed
through an alley beside Esquerra Building, and upon reaching Amorsolo Street
handed over the mail bag to Romero and Marcelo who were waiting for

247
him. Upon receiving the mail bag they quickly opened it and transferred its
contents to a bag which Aguinaldo provided for the purpose. No words were
exchanged between Pasicolan, on the other hand, and Romero and Marcelo, on
the other, in effecting the delivery. Pasicolan did not ask if Romero and/or Marcelo
were the person or persons sent to receive the mail bag. These facts indicate that
the three accused already knew each other and were fully aware of what each
had to do. And when Romero and Marcelo were arrested for receiving the mail
bag, they said nothing to the NBI. Not even a whimper of protest was heard from
them. They appear resigned to their fate after having been caught red-handed.

Petitioner Marcelo claimed that he and Romero met on February 17, 1989 in
order to see a movie; that when Pasicolan handed four envelopes to Romero, he
was across the street buying cigarettes; and that when he joined Romero, a person
identifying himself as an NBI agent arrested them. Marcelo testified:[18]

ATTY. CRUZ

Q So you were asked by Ronnie Romero if you will be reporting for work at that
time?

A Yes, sir.

JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA

Q What time was this when you were asked by Ronnie Romero?

A 1:00 oclock in the afternoon.

ATTY. CRUZ

Q What was the reason why you were asked by Ronnie Romero?

A He wanted me to go with him to see a movie.

Q Did he tell you at what place you will see a movie?

A No, sir.

Q What was your reply?

A I told him yes, I will go with you, anyway I have to go to my work at 10:00 oclock
in the evening.

....

Q What happened next Mr. Marcelo?

A Then I rode at the back of his motorcycle and we went straight to


Makati. Suddenly we stopped near a building and I asked him what we will
do there and he told me he was going to wait for somebody there.

....

ATTY. CRUZ

Q What was told to you when you reached there?

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WITNESS

A He told me he had to wait for somebody there and I told him to hurry up, I
thought you said we are going to see a movie, and he said, this will not take
long.

Q While at Taguig, were you informed by Ronnie Romero that you will be waiting
for somebody when you reached Makati?

A No, sir.

....

Q And what happened next?

A While we were there I told Ronnie Romero I had to buy cigarette from across
the street and after a while, about half an hour, Ronnie called me I saw
somebody handing him about four pieces of envelopes.

Q How would you describe that envelope?

A It was like the Manila envelope that we see being used by the elementary
grades.

Q Was there any distinguishing mark in this envelope?

A No, sir.

Q Were you able to see what was the contents of these envelopes?

A No, sir.

Q That person who handed the envelope to Ronnie, do you know him?

A I do not know him.

Q While that envelope was being handed to Ronnie, you mean to say you were
across the street?

A Yes, sir.

Q And so you crossed the street to reach Ronnie?

A Yes, sir.

Q When you crossed the street was the envelope still being handed or already
handed to Ronnie?

A It was already handed to him.

Q What happened next?

A After I crossed the street somebody shouted at us identifying himself as NBI, WE


are from the NBI, do not move.

The foregoing testimony is contrary to the testimony of Ronnie Romero. Romero


said that Redentor Aguinaldo, a mail sorter, had asked him to meet a person in

249
Makati who would give him an envelope to be delivered to an unidentified person
at the BF Homes Subdivision in Paraaque. Romeros version is as follows:[19]

ATTY. I. CRUZ:

Q And do you know a certain person by the name of Redentor Aguinaldo?

JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:

Q The accusation against you is that you conspired with your co-accused Arnold
Pasicolan and Lito Marcelo in stealing the articles and things stated in the
Information. Why do you say that you are not part of the conspiracy, what
do you mean by that statement?

A Because, sir, I do not know what was the contents of the envelope.

You can proceed now.

ATTY. I. CRUZ:

Q You mentioned of an envelope which you claim not to have known the
contents of the same. Who gave you the envelope?

A Arnold Pasicolan.

Q Do you know Arnold Pasicolan prior to and/or before February 17, 1989?

....

A No, sir.

ATTY. I. CRUZ:

Q When for the first time did you come to know Arnold Pasicolan?

A On February 17, sir.

Q When, where specifically did you come to know him?

A At the NBI office, sir.

Q Now...

JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:

Q February 17, 1989?

A Yes, Your Honor.

Proceed.

....

ATTY. I. CRUZ:

Q Do you know a certain Redentor Aguinaldo?

A Yes, sir.

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JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:

Q Tell us the circumstances under which you received this envelope?

A I received that envelope given to me by Arnold Pasicolan.

Q If you answer in monosyllable we will not understand. Alright, you tell your
story?

A Redentor Aguinaldo on February 17 told me that he is going to give me a


job. What I will do is get the envelope and bring it to a certain subdivision in
Las Pias and somebody will pick it up and pay me P100.00 for it.

Proceed.

ATTY. I. CRUZ:

Q Now, do you know the person to whom you are to deliver the envelope?

A No, sir.

Q Now, if you do now know the person to whom you will deliver the envelope.
JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:

You may not cross-examine, tell him to tell us facts.

ATTY. I. CRUZ:

Q Where specifically in the subdivision in Paraaque where you will deliver the
envelope?

A BF Homes.

JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:

Q To what particular person will you supposed to deliver it?

A I was just asked to go to that place and somebody will approach me.

Q To make your story more believable, BF Homes in Paraaque is a very big


subdivision. You enter that subdivision and there will be several persons
whom you can see there. How will the person know that you are carrying
an envelope for him. Where were you supposed to deliver it. If you cannot
explain that, we will not believe you?

A In that subdivision, there is a vacant place where there are no houses. It is


where I often go.

Q BF Homes subdivision in Paraaque has several vacant lots, how will you know
what vacant lot to proceed to?

A It was pointed to me by Aguinaldo.

Q So, Aguinaldo went with you in the morning of that same day and pointed to
you the place?

A In the morning of that same day and he pointed to me the place.

251
Second. The petitioner contends that the Sandiganbayan erred in admitting in
evidence the letters signed by him because he was asked to sign them during
custodial investigation without the assistance of counsel. The following provisions of
the Constitution are invoked by petitioner:

Article III, 12(1). - Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense
shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have
competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person
cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights
cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof


shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Petitioners counsel says that the signing of petitioners and his co-accuseds
names was not a mere mechanical act but one which required the use of
intelligence and therefore constitutes self-incrimination. Petitioners counsel
presumably has in mind the ruling in Beltran v. Samson[20] to the effect that the
prohibition against compelling a man to be a witness against himself extends to any
attempt to compel the accused to furnish a specimen of his handwriting for the
purpose of comparing it with the handwriting in a document in a prosecution for
falsification. Writing is something more than moving the body, or the hand, or the
fingers; writing is not a purely mechanical act because it requires the application of
intelligence and attention,[21] so it was held.

To be sure, the use of specimen handwriting in Beltran is different from the use
of petitioners signature in this case. In that case, the purpose was to show that the
specimen handwriting matched the handwriting in the document alleged to have
been falsified and thereby show that the accused was the author of the crime
(falsification) while in this case the purpose for securing the signature of petitioner
on the envelopes was merely to authenticate the envelopes as the ones seized from
him and Ronnie Romero. However, this purpose and petitioners signatures on the
envelope, when coupled with the testimony of prosecution witnesses that the
envelopes seized from petitioner were those given to him and Romero, undoubtedly
help establish the guilt of petitioner. Since these signatures are actually evidence of
admission obtained from petitioner and his co-accused under circumstances
contemplated in Art. III, 12(1) and 17 of the Constitution, they should be excluded.
For indeed, petitioner and his co-accused signed following their arrest. Hence, they
were at the time under custodial investigation, defined as questioning initiated by
law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise
deprived of his freedom of action in a significant way.[22] Under the Constitution,
among the rights of a person under custodial investigation is the right to have
competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice and if the person
cannot afford the services of counsel, that he must be provided with one.

However, the letters are themselves not inadmissible in evidence. The letters
were validly seized from petitioner and Romero as an incident of a valid arrest. A

252
ruling that petitioners admission that the letters in question were those seized from
him and his companion on February 17, 1989 is inadmissible in evidence does not
extend to the exclusion from evidence of the letters themselves. The letters can
stand on their own, being the fruits of a crime validly seized during a lawful arrest.
That these letters were the ones found in the possession of petitioner and his
companion and seized from them was shown by the testimonies of Vela and
Tumagan. Indeed, petitioner and his co-accused were not convicted solely on the
basis of the signatures found on the letters but on other evidence, notably the
testimonies of NBI agents and other prosecution witnesses.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Sandiganbayan is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 89914 November 20, 1991

JOSE F.S. BENGZON JR., ABELARDO TERMULO, JOSE MANTECON, VICENTE MILLS JR.,
LEONARDO GAMBOA, KURT BACHMANN JR., JOSE V.E. JIMENEZ, ERNESTO CALUYA,
AGERICO UNGSON, SUSAN ROXAS, ELVIE CASTILLO, and CYNTHIA SABIDO
LIMJAP, petitioners,
vs.
THE SENATE BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE AND ITS MEMBERS, represented by and
through the CHAIRMAN, HON. WIGBERTO TAÑADA, respondents, JOSE S.
SANDEJAS, intervenor.

PADILLA, J.:

This is a petition for prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary
restraining order and/or injuective relief, to enjoin the respondent Senate Blue
Ribbon committee from requiring the petitioners to testify and produce evidence
at its inquiry into the alleged sale of the equity of Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez to
the Lopa Group in thirty-six (36) or thirty-nine (39) corporations.

On 30 July 1987, the Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Presidential


Commission on Good Government (PCGG), assisted by the Solicitor General, filed
with the Sandiganbayan Civil Case No. 0035 (PCGG Case No. 35) entitled
"Republic of the Philippines vs. Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez, et al.", for
reconveyance, reversion, accounting, restitution and damages.

The complaint was amended several times by impleading new defendants and/or
amplifying the allegations therein. Under the Second Amended Complaint, 1 the
herein petitioners were impleaded as party defendants.

The complaint insofar as pertinent to herein petitioners, as defendants, alleges


among others that:

253
14. Defendants Benjamin (Kokoy) Romualdez and Juliette Gomez
Romualdez, acting by themselves and/or in unlawful concert with
Defendants Ferdinand E. Marcos and Imelda R. Marcos, and taking undue
advantage of their relationship, influence and connection with the latter
Defendant spouses, engaged in devices, schemes and strategems to
unjuestly enrigh themselves at the expense of Plaintiff and the Filipino
people, among others:

(a) Obatained, with the active collaboration of Defendants Sene J.


Gabaldon, Mario D. Camacho, Mamerto Nepomuceno, Carlos J.
Valdez, Cesar C. Zalamea and Francisco Tantuico, Atty. Jose
Bengzon, Jr. and his law partners, namely: Edilberto S. Narciso, Jr.,
Jose Vicente E. Jimenez, Amando V. Faustino, Jr., and Leonardo C.
Cruz; Jose S. Sandejas and his fellow senior managers of FMMC/PNI
Holdings groups of companies such as Leonardo Gamboa, Vicente T.
Mills, Jr., Jose M. Mantecon, Abelardo S. Termulo, Rex C. Drilon II and
Kurt Bachmann, Jr., control of some of the biggest business enterprises
in the Philippines, such as the Manila Corporation (MERALCO),
Benguet Consolidated and the Philippine Commercial International
Bank (PCI Bank) by employing devious financial schemes and
techniques calculated to require the massive infusion and
hemorrhage of government funds with minimum or negligible
"cashout" from Defendant Benjamin Romualdez...

(m) manipulated, with the support, assistance and collaboration of


Philgurantee officials led by chairman Cesar E.A. Virata and the
Senior managers of FMMC/PNI Holdings, Inc. led by Jose S. Sandejas,
Jr., Jose M. Mantecom and Kurt S. Bachmann, Jr., among others, the
formation of Erectors Holdings, Inc. without infusing additional capital
solely for the purpose of Erectors Incorporated with Philguarantee in
the amount of P527,387,440.71 with insufficient securities/collaterals
just to enable Erectors Inc, to appear viable and to borrow more
capitals, so much so that its obligation with Philgurantee has reached
a total of more than P2 Billion as of June 30, 1987.

(n) at the onset of the present Administration and/or within the week
following the February 1986 People's Revolution, in conspiracy with,
supoort, assistance and collaboration of the abovenamed lawyers of
the Bengzon Law Offices, or specifically Defendants Jose F.S.
Bengzon, Jr., V.E. Jimenez, Amando V. Faustino, Jr., and Edilberto S.
Narciso, Jr., manipulated, shcemed, and/or executed a series of
devices intended to conceal and place, and/or for the purpose of
concealing and placing, beyond the inquiry and jurisdiction of the
Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) herein
Defendant's individual and collective funds, properties, and assets
subject of and/or suited int he instant Complaint.

254
(o) manuevered, with the technical know-how and legalitic talents of
the FMMC senior manager and some of the Bengzon law partners,
such as Attys. Jose F.S. Bengzon, Jr., Edilberto S. Narciso, Jr., Amando
V. Faustino, Jose Vicente E. Jimenez and Leonardo C. Cruz, the
purported sale of defendant Benjamin Romualdez's interests in the (i)
Professional Managers, (ii) A & E International Corporation (A & E), (iii)
First Manila Managerment Corporation (FMMC), (iv) Philippine World
Travel Inc. (PWTI) and its subsidiaries consisting of 36 corporations in
all, to PNI Holdings, Inc. (wjose purported incorporations are all
members of Atty. Jose F.S. Bengzon's law firm) for only P5 million on
March 3, 1986 or three days after the creation of the Presidential
Commission on Good Government on February 28, 1986, for the sole
purpose of deceiving and preempting the Government, particularly
the PCGG, and making it appear that defendant Benjamin
Romualdez had already divested himself of his ownership of the same
when in truth and in fact, his interests are well intact and being
protected by Atty. Jose F.S. Bengzon, Jr. and some of his law partners,
together with the FMMC senior managers who still control and run the
affiars of said corporations, and in order to entice the PCGG to
approve the said fictitious sale, the above-named defendants
offered P20 million as "donation" to the Government;

(p) misused, with the connivance, support and technical assitance of


the Bengzon law firm represented by Atty. Jose F.S. Bengzon, Jr. as
legal counsel, together with defendants Cesar Zalamea, Antonio
Ozaeta, Mario D. Camacho amd Senen J. Gabaldon as members of
the Board of Directors of the Philippine Commercial International
bank (PCIB), the Meralco Pension Fund (Fund, for short) in the amount
of P25 million by cuasing it to be invested in the PCIB and through the
Bank's TSG, assigned to PCI Development and PCI Equity at 50%
each, the Fund's (a) 8,028.011 common shares in the Bank and (b)
"Deposit in Subscription" in the amount of P4,929.972.50 but of the
agreed consideration of P28 million for the said assignment, PCI
Development and PCI Equity were able to pay only P5,500.00
downpayment and the first amortization of P3,937,500.00 thus
prompting the Fund to rescind its assignment, and the consequent
reversion of the assigned brought the total shareholding of the Fund
to 11,470,555 voting shares or 36.8% of the voting stock of the PCIB,
and this development (which the defendants themselves
orchestrated or allowed to happen) was used by them as an excuse
for the unlawful dismantling or cancellation of the Fund's 10 million
shares for allegedly exceeding the 30-percent ceiling prescribed by
Section 12-B of the General Banking Act, although they know for a
fact that what the law declares as unlawful and void ab initio are the
subscriptions in excess of the 30% ceiling "to the extent of the excess
over any of the ceilings prescribed ..." and not the whole or entire
stockholding which they allowed to stay for six years (from June 30,
1980 to March 24, 1986);

255
(q) cleverly hid behind the veil of corporate entity, through the use of
the names and managerial expertise of the FMMC senior manager
and lawyers identified as Jose B. Sandejas, Leonardo Gamboa,
Vicente T. Mills, Abelardo S, Termulo, Edilberto S. Narciso, Jr., Jose M.
Mantecon, Rex C. Drilon II, Kurt Bachmann, Jr. together with the legal
talents of corporate lawyers, such as Attys. Jose F.S. Bengzon, Jr., Jose
V.E. Jimenez, Amando V. Faustino, Jr., and Leonardo C. Cruz, the ill-
gotten wealth of Benjamin T. Romualdez including, among others, the
6,229,177 shares in PCIB registered in the names of Trans Middle East
Phils. Equities, Inc. and Edilberto S. Narciso, Jr. which they refused to
surrender to PCGG despite their disclosure as they tried and continue
to exert efforts in getting hold of the same as well as the shares in
Benguet registered in the names of Palm Avenue Holdings and Palm
Avenue Realty Development Corp. purportedly to be applied as
payment for the claim of P70 million of a "merger company of the First
Manila Managerment Corp. group" supposedly owned by them
although the truth is that all the said firms are still beneficially owned
by defendants Benjamin Romualdez.

On 28 September 1988, petitioner (as defendants) filed their respective


answers. 2 Meanwhile, from 2 to 6 August 1988, conflicting reports on the
disposition by the PCGG of the "Romualdez corporations" were carried in
various metropolitan newspapers. Thus, one newspaper reported that the
Romuladez firms had not been sequestered because of the opposition of
certain PCGG officials who "had worked prviously as lawyers of the
Marcos crony firms." Another daily reported otherwise, while others
declared that on 3 March 1986, or shortly after the EDSA February 1986
revolution, the Romualdez companies" were sold for P5 million, without
PCGG approval, to a holding company controlled by Romualdez, and
that Ricardo Lopa, the President's brother-in-law, had effectively taken
over the firms, even pending negotiations for the purchase of the
corporations, for the same price of P5 million which was reportedly way
below the fair value of their assets. 3

On 13 September 1988, the Senate Minority Floor Leader, Hon. Juan Ponce Enrile delivered a speech "on a
matter of personal privilege" before the Senate on the alleged "take-over personal privilege" before the Senate
on the alleged "take-over of SOLOIL Incorporated, the flaship of the First Manila Management of Companies
(FMMC) by Ricardo Lopa" and called upon "the Senate to look into the possible violation of the law in the case,
particularly with regard to Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act." 4

On motion of Senator Orlando Mercado, the matter was referred by the Senate to the Committee on
Accountability of Public Officers (Blue Ribbon Committee). 5Thereafter,
the Senate Blue
Ribbon Committee started its investigation on the matter. Petitioners and
Ricardo Lopa were subpoenaed by the Committee to appear before it
and testify on "what they know" regarding the "sale of thirty-six (36)
corporations belonging to Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez."

256
At the hearing held on 23 May 1989, Ricardo Lopa declined to testify on
the ground that his testimony may "unduly prejudice" the defendants in
Civil Case No. 0035 before the Sandiganbayan. Petitioner Jose F.S.
Bengzon, Jr. likewise refused to testify involing his constitutional right to due
process, and averring that the publicity generated by respondents
Committee's inquiry could adversely affect his rights as well as those of the
other petitioners who are his co-defendants in Civil Case No. 0035 before
the Sandiganbayan.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, thereupon, suspended its inquiry and
directed the petitioners to file their memorandum on the constitutional
issues raised, after which, it issued a resolution 6 dated 5 June 1989
rejecting the petitioner's plea to be excused from testifying, and the
Committee voted to pursue and continue its investigation of the matter.
Senator Neptali Gonzales dissented. 7

Claiming that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is poied to subpoena them and required their attendance
and testimony in proceedings before the Committee, in excess of its jurisdiction and legislative purpose, in clear
and blatant disregard of their constitutional rights, and to their grave and irreparable damager, prejudice and
injury, and that there is no appeal nor any other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of
law, the petitioners filed the present petition for prohibition with a prayer for temporary restraning order and/or
injunctive relief.

Meanwhile, one of the defendants in Civil Case No. 0035 before the Sandiganbayan, Jose S. Sandejas, filed

which the Court granted in the resolution 9 of


with the Court of motion for intervention, 8

21 December 1989, and required the respondent Senate Blue Ribbon


Committee to comment on the petition in intervention. In compliance,
therewith, respondent Senate Blue Ribbon Committee filed its
comment 10 thereon.

Before discussing the issues raised by petitioner and intervenor, we will first
tackle the jurisdictional question raised by the respondent Committee.

In its comment, respondent Committee claims that this court cannot


properly inquire into the motives of the lawmakers in conducting legislative
investigations, much less cna it enjoin the Congress or any its regular and
special commitees — like what petitioners seek — from making inquiries in
aid of legislation, under the doctrine of separation of powers, which
obtaines in our present system of government.

The contention is untenable. In Angara vs. Electoral Commission, 11 the


Court held:

The separation of powers is a fundamental principle in our system


of government. It obtains not hrough express provision but by
actual division in our Constitution. Each department of the
government has exclusive cognizance of matters wihtin its

257
jurisdiction, and is supreme within its own sphere. But it does not
follow from the fact that the three powers are to be kept separate
and distinct that the Constitution intended them to be absolutely
unrestrained and independent of each other. The Constitution has
provided for an elaborate system of checks and balances to
secure coordination in the workings of the various departments of
the government...

But in the main, the Constitution has blocked out with deft strokes
and in bold lines, allotment of power to the executive, the
legislative and the judicial departments of the government. The
ovelapping and interlacing of funcstions and duties between the
several deaprtments, however, sometimes makes it hard to say
just where the political excitement, the great landmarks of the
Constitution are apt to be forgotten or marred, if not entirely
obliterated, in cases of conflict, the judicial departments is the
only constitutional organ which can be called upon to determine
the proper allocation of powers between the several departments
and among the integral or constituent units thereof.

The Constitution is a definition of the powers of government. Who


is to determine the nature, scope and extent of such powers? The
Constitution itself has provided for the instrumentality of the
judiciary as the rational way. And when the judiciary mediates to
allocate constitutional boundaries; it does not assert any
superiority over the other departments; it does not inr eality nullify
or invalidate an act of the legislature, but only asserts the solemn
and sacred obligation assigned to it by tyhe Constitution to
determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution
and to established for the parties in an actual controversy the
rights which that instrument secures and guarantess to them. This is
in thruth all that is involved in what is termed "judicial supremacy"
which properly is the power of judicial review under the
Constitution. Even the, this power of judicial review is limited to
actual cases and controversies to be exercised after full
opportunity of argument by the parties, and limited further to the
constitutional question raised or the very lis mota presented. Any
attempt at abstraction could only lead to dialectics and barren
legal questions and to sterile conclusions unrelated to actualities.
Narrowed as its function is in this manner, the judiciary does not
pass upon questions of wisdom, justice or expediency of
legislation. More thatn that, courts accord the presumption of
constitutionality to legislative enactments, not only because the
legislature is presumed to abide by the Constitution but also
becuase the judiciary in the determination of actual cases and
controversies must reflect the wisdom and justice of the people as
expressed through their representatives in the executive and
legislative departments of the government.

258
The "allocation of constituional boundaries" is a task that this Court must
perfomr under the Constitution. Moreowever, as held in a recent
case, 12 "(t)he political question doctrine neither interposes an obstacle to
judicial determination of the rival claims. The jurisdiction to delimit
constitutional boundaries has been given to this Court. It cannot abdicate
that obligation mandated by the 1987 Constitution, although said
provision by no means does away with kthe applicability of the principle in
appropriate cases." 13

The Court is thus of the considered view that it has jurisdiction over the present controversy for the purpose of
determining the scope and extent of the power of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct inquiries into
private affirs in purported aid of legislation.

Coming to the specific issues raised in this case, petitioners contend that (1) the Senate Blue Ribbon
Committee's inquiry has no valid legislative purpose, i.e., it is not done in aid of legislation; (2) the sale or
disposition of hte Romualdez corporations is a "purely private transaction" which is beyond the power of the
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to inquire into; and (3) the inquiry violates their right to due process.

The 1987 Constition expressly recognizes the power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of
legislation. 14 Thus, Section 21, Article VI thereof provides:

The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective


committee may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in
accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights
of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be
respected. 15

The power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is not, therefore, absolute or
unlimited. Its exercise is circumscribed by the afore-quoted provision of the Constitution. Thus, as provided
therein, the investigation must be "in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure"
and that "the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected." It follows then that
the rights of persons under the Bill of Rights must be respected, including the right to due process and the right
not to be compelled to testify against one's self.

The power to conduct formal inquiries or investigations in specifically provided for in Sec. 1 of the Senate Rules
of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation. Such inquiries may refer to the implementation or re-
examination of any law or in connection with any proposed legislation or the formulation of future legislation.
They may also extend to any and all matters vested by the Constitution in Congress and/or in the Seante alone.

the inquiry, to be within the jurisdiction


As held in Jean L. Arnault vs. Leon Nazareno, et al., 16

of the legislative body making it, must be material or necessary to the


exervise of a power in it vested by the Constitution, such as to legislate or
to expel a member.

259
Under Sec. 4 of the aforementioned Rules, the Senate may refer to any
committee or committees any speech or resolution filed by any Senator
which in tis judgment requires an appropriate inquiry in aid of legislation. In
order therefore to ascertain the character or nature of an inquiry, resort
must be had to the speech or resolution under which such an inquiry is
proposed to be made.

A perusal of the speech of Senator Enrile reveals that he (Senator Enrile)


made a statement which was published in various newspapers on 2
September 1988 accusing Mr. Ricardo "Baby" Lopa of "having taken over
the FMMC Group of Companies." As a consequence thereof, Mr. Lopa
wrote a letter to Senator Enrile on 4 September 1988 categorically denying
that he had "taken over " the FMMC Group of Companies; that former
PCGG Chairman Ramon Diaz himself categorically stated in a telecast
interview by Mr. Luis Beltran on Channel 7 on 31 August 1988 that there has
been no takeover by him (Lopa); and that theses repeated allegations of
a "takeover" on his (Lopa's) part of FMMC are baseless as they are
malicious.

The Lopa reply prompted Senator Enrile, during the session of the Senate
on 13 September 1988, to avail of the privilege hour, 17 so that he could
repond to the said Lopa letter, and also to vindicate his reputation as a
Member of the Senate of the Philippines, considering the claim of Mr. Lopa
that his (Enrile's) charges that he (Lopa) had taken over the FMMC Group
of Companies are "baseless" and "malicious." Thus, in his speech, 18Senator
Enrile said, among others, as follows:

Mr. President, I rise this afternnon on a matter of personal privilege;


the privilege being that I received, Mr. President, a letter dated
September 4, 1988, signed by Mr. ricardo A. Lopa, a.k.a. or Baby
Lopa, wherein he denied categorically that he has taken over the
First Manila Management Group of Companies which includes
SOLOIL Incorporated.

In answer to Mr. Lopa, I will quote pertinent portions from an


Official Memorandum to the Presidential Commission of Good
Government written and signed by former Governor, now
Congressman Jose Ramirez, in his capacity as head of the PCGG
Task Force for Region VIII. In his memorandum dated July 3, 1986,
then Governor Ramirez stated that when he and the members of
his task force sought to serve a sequestration order on the
management of SOLOIL in Tanauan, Leyte, management officials
assured him that relatives of the President of the Philippines were
personally discussing and representing SOLOIL so that the order of
sequestration would be lifted and that the new owner was Mr.
Ricardo A. Lopa.

I will quote the pertinent portions in the Ramire's memorandum.

260
The first paragraph of the memorandum reads as follows and I
quote, Mr. President:

"Our sequestration work of SOLOIL in Tanauan, Leyte was


not heeded by management because they said another
representation was being made to this Commission for the
ventual lifting of our sequestrationorder. They even
assured us that Mr. Ricardo Lopa and Peping
Cojunangco were personally discussing and representing
SOLOIL, so the order of sequestration will finally be lifted.
While we attempted to carry on our order, management
refused to cooperate and vehemently turned down our
request to make available to us the records of the
company. In fact it was obviously clear that they will meet
us with forcethe moment we insist on doing normally our
assigned task. In view of the impending threat, and to
avoid any untoward incident we decided to temporarily
suspend our work until there is a more categorical stand
of this Commission in view of the seemingly influential
represetation being made by SOLOIL for us not to
continue our work."

Another pertinent portion of the same memorandum is paragraph


five, which reads as follows, and I quote Mr. President:

"The President, Mr. Gamboa, this is, I understand, the


President of SOLOIL, and the Plant Superintendent, Mr.
Jimenez including their chief counsel, Atty. Mandong
Mendiola are now saying that there have been
divestment, and that the new owner is now Mr. Ricardo
Lopa who according to them, is the brother-in-law of the
President. They even went further by telling us that even
Peping Cojuangco who we know is the brother of her
excellency is also interested in the ownership and
management of SOLOIL. When he demanded for
supporting papers which will indicate aforesaid
divestment, Messrs. Gamboa, Jimenez and Mendiola
refused vehemently to submit these papers to us, instead
they said it will be submitted directly to this Commission.
To our mind their continuous dropping of names is not
good for this Commission and even to the President if our
dersire is to achieve respectability and stability of the
government."

The contents of the memorandum of then Governor and now


Congressman Jose Ramirez were personally confirmed by him in a
news interview last September 7, 1988.

261
Also relevant to this case, Mr. President, is a letter of Mr. Ricardo
Lopa himself in August 11, 1988 issue of the
newspaper Malaya headlined "On Alleged Takeover of
Romualdez Firms."

Mr. Lopa states in the last paragraph of the published letter and I
quote him:

12. As of this writing, the sales agreement is under review


by the PCGG solely to determine the appropriate price.
The sale of these companies and our prior rigtht to
requires them have never been at issue.

Perhaps I could not make it any clearer to Mr. Lopa that I was not
really making baseless and malicious statements.

Senator Enrile concluded his privilege speech in the following tenor:

Mr. President, it may be worthwhile for the Senate to look into the
possible violation of the law in the case particularly with regard to
Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,
Section 5 of which reads as follows and I quote:

Sec. 5. Prohibition on certain relatives. — It shall be


unlawful for the spouse or for nay relative, by
consanguinity or affinity, within the third civil degree, of
the President of the Philippines, the Vice-President of the
Philippines, the President of the Senate, or the Speaker of
the House of Representatives, to intervene directly or
indirectly, in any business, transaction, contract or
application with the Government: Provided, that this
section shall not apply to any person who prior to the
assumption of office of any of the above officials to
whom he is related, has been already dealing with the
Government along the same line of business, nor to any
transaction, contract or application filed by him for
approval of which is not discretionary on the part of the
officials concerned but depends upon compliance with
requisites provided by law, nor to any act lawfully
performed in an official capacity or in the exercise of a
profession.

Mr. President, I have done duty to this Senate and to myself. I


leave it to this august Body to make its own conclusion.

Verily, the speech of Senator Enrile contained no suggestion of


contemplated legislation; he merely called upon the Senate to look into a

262
possible violation of Sec. 5 of RA No. 3019, otherwise known as "The Anti-
Graft and Corrupt Practices Act." I other words, the purpose of the inquiry
to be conducted by respondent Blue Ribbon commitee was to find out
whether or not the relatives of President Aquino, particularly Mr. ricardo
Lopa, had violated the law in connection with the alleged sale of the 36
or 39 corporations belonging to Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez to the Lopaa
Group. There appears to be, therefore, no intended legislation involved.

The Court is also not impressed with the respondent Committee's


argument that the questioned inquiry is to be conducted pursuant to
Senate Resolution No. 212. The said resolution was introduced by Senator
Jose D. Lina in view of the representaions made by leaders of school
youth, community groups and youth of non-governmental organizations
to the Senate Committee on Youth and Sports Development, to look into
the charges against the PCGG filed by three (3) stockholders of Oriental
petroleum, i.e., that it has adopted a "get-rich-quick scheme" for its
nominee-directors in a sequestered oil exploration firm.The pertinent
portion of Senate Resolution No. 212 reads as follows:

WHEREAS, recent developments have shown that no less than the


Solicitor-General has stated that the PCGG Chairman and at least
three Commissioners should resign and that the agency should rid
itself of "ineptness, incompetence and corruption" and that the
Sandiganbayan has reportedly ordered the PCGG to answer
charges filed by three stockholders of Oriental Petroleum that it
has adopted a "get-rich-quick scheme" for its nominee-directors in
a sequestered oil exploration firm;

WHEREAS, leaders of school youth, community groups and youth


of non-governmental organization had made representations to
the Senate Committee on Youth and Sports Development to look
into the charges against the PCGG since said agency is a symbol
of the changes expected by the people when the EDSA
revolution took place and that the ill-gotten wealth to be
recovered will fund priority projects which will benefit our people
such as CARP, free education in the elementary and secondary
levels reforestration, and employment generation for rural and
urban workers;

WHEREAS, the government and the present leadeship must


demonstrate in their public and private lives integrity, honor and
efficient management of government services lest our youth
become disillusioned and lose hope and return to an Idelogy and
form of government which is repugnant to true freedom,
democratic participation and human rights: Now, therefore, be it.

Resolved by the Senate, That the activities of the Presidential


Commission on Good Government be investigated by the

263
appropriate Committee in connection with the implementation of
Section 26, Article XVIII of the Constitution. 19

Thus, the inquiry under Senate Resolution No. 212 is to look into the charges against the PCGG filed by the three
(3) stockholders of Oriental Petroleum in connection with the implementation of Section 26, Article XVIII of the
Constitution.

It cannot, therefore, be said that the contemplated inquiry on the subject of the privilege speech of Senator
Juan Ponce Enrile, i.e., the alleged sale of the 36 (or 39) corporations belonging to Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez
to the Lopa Group is to be conducted pursuant to Senate Resolution No. 212 because, firstly, Senator Enrile did
not indict the PCGG, and, secondly, neither Mr. Ricardo Lopa nor the herein petitioners are connected with the
government but are private citizens.

It appeals, therefore, that the contemplated inquiry by respondent Committee is not really "in aid of legislation"
becuase it is not related to a purpose within the jurisdiction of Congress, since the aim of the investigation is to
find out whether or not the ralatives of the President or Mr. Ricardo Lopa had violated Section 5 RA No. 3019,
the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act", a matter that appears more within the province of the courts rather
than of the legislature. Besides, the Court may take judicial notice that Mr. Ricardo Lopa died during the
pendency of this case. In John T. Watkins vs. United States, 20 it was held held:

... The power of congress to conduct investigations in inherent in


the legislative process. That power is broad. it encompasses
inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as
proposed, or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of
defects in our social,economic, or political system for the purpose
of enabling Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes
into departments of the Federal Government to expose
corruption, inefficiency or waste. But broad asis this power
of inquiry, it is not unlimited. There is no general authority to
expose the private affairs ofindividuals without justification in terms
of the functions of congress. This was freely conceded by Solicitor
General in his argument in this case. Nor is the Congress a law
enforcement or trial agency. These are functions of the executive
and judicial departments of government. No inquiry is an end in
itself; it must be related to and in furtherance of a legitimate task
of Congress. Investigations conducted soly for the personal
aggrandizement of the investigators or to "punish" those
investigated are indefensible. (emphasis supplied)

It can not be overlooked that when respondent Committee decide to


conduct its investigation of the petitioners, the complaint in Civil No. 0035
had already been filed with the Sandiganbayan. A perusal of that
complaint shows that one of its principal causes of action against herein
petitioners, as defendants therein, is the alleged sale of the 36 (or 39)
corporations belonging to Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez. Since the issues in
said complaint had long been joined by the filing of petitioner's respective
answers thereto, the issue sought to be investigated by the respondent

264
Commitee is one over which jurisdiction had been acquired by the
Sandiganbayan. In short, the issue had been pre-empted by that court. To
allow the respondent Committee to conduct its own investigation of an
issue already before the Sandiganbayan would not only pose the
possibility of conflicting judgments betweena legislative commitee and a
judicial tribunal, but if the Committee's judgment were to be reached
before that of the Sandiganbayan, the possibility of its influence being
made to bear on the ultimate judgment of the Sandiganbayan can not
be discounted.

In fine, for the rspondent Committee to probe and inquire into the same
justiciable controversy already before the Sandiganbayan, would be an
encroachment into the exclusive domain of judicial jurisdiction that had
much earlier set in. In Baremblatt vs. United States, 21 it was held that:

Broad as it is, the power is not, howevern, without limitations. Since


congress may only investigate into those areas in which it may
potentially legislate or appropriate, it cannot inquire into matters
which are within the exclusive province of one of the other
branches of the government. Lacking the judicial power given to
the Judiciary, it cannot inquire into mattes that are exclusively the
concern of the Judiciary. Neither can it suplant the Executive in
what exclusively belongs to the Executive. ...

Now to another matter. It has been held that "a congressional


committee's right to inquire is 'subject to all relevant limitations placed by
the Constitution on governmental action,' including "'the relevant
limitations of the Bill of Rights'." 22

In another case —

.. the mere semblance of legislative purpose would not justify an inquiry in the face of the Bill of Rights. The
critical element is the exeistence of, and the weight to be ascribed to, the interest of the Congress in
demanding disclosures from an unwilling witness. We cannot simply assume, however, that every congressional
investigation is justified by a public need that over-balances any private rights affected. To do so would be to
abdicate the responsibility placed by the Constitution upon the judiciary to insure that the Congress does not
unjustifiably encroah upon an individual's right to privacy nor abridge his liberty of speech, press, religion or
assembly. 23

One of the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution to an individual is the right against self-

Thir right constured as the right to remain completely silent may


incrimination. 24

be availed of by the accused in a criminal case; but kit may be invoked


by other witnesses only as questions are asked of them.

This distinction was enunciated by the Court in Romeo Chavez vs. The
Honorable Court of Appeals, et al. 25thus —

265
Petitioner, as accused, occupies a different tier of protection from
an ordinary witness. Whereas an ordinary witness may be
compelled to take the witness stand and claim the privilege as
each question requiring an incriminating answer is hot at him, an
accused may altother refuse to take the witness stand and refuse
to answer any all questions.

Moreover, this right of the accused is extended to respondents in


administrative investigations but only if they partake of the nature of a
criminal proceeding or analogous to a criminal proceeding. In Galman vs.
Pamaran,26 the Court reiterated the doctrine in Cabal vs. Kapuanan (6
SCRA 1059) to illustrate the right of witnesses to invoke the right against
self-incrimination not only in criminal proceedings but also in all other types
of suit

It was held that:

We did not therein state that since he is not an accused and the
case is not a criminal case, Cabal cannot refuse to take the
witness stand and testify, and that he can invoke his right against
self-incrimination only when a question which tends to elicit an
answer that will incriminate him is propounded to him. Clearly
then, it is not the characeter of the suit involved but the nature of
the proceedings that controls. The privilege has consistenly been
held to extend to all proceedings sanctioned by law and to all
cases in which punishment is sought to be visited upon a witness,
whether a party or not.

We do not here modify these doctrines. If we presently rule that petitioners


may not be compelled by the respondent Committee to appear, testify
and produce evidenc before it, it is only becuase we hold that the
questioned inquiry is not in aid of legislation and, if pursued, would be
violative of the principle of separation of powers between the legislative
and the judicial departments of government, ordained by the
Constitution.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court holds that, under the
facts, including the circumtance that petitioners are presently impleaded
as defendants in a case before the Sandiganbayan, which involves issues
intimately related to the subject of contemplated inquiry before the
respondet Committee, the respondent Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is
hereby enjoined from compelling the petitioners and intervenor to testify
before it and produce evidence at the said inquiry.

SO ORDERED.

Separate Opinions

266
PARAS, J., concurring:

I concur principally because any decision of the respondent committee


may unduly influence the Sandiganbayan

GUTIERREZ, JR., J., dissenting:

I regret that I must express a strong dissent the Court's opinion in this case.

The Court is asserting a power which I believe we do not possess. We are


encroaching on the turf of Congress. We are prohibiting the Senate from
proceeding with a consitutionally vested function. We are stopping the
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee from exercising a legislative prerogative —
investigations in aid of legislation. We do so becuase we somehow feel
that the purported aim is not the real purpose.

The Court has no power to second guess the motives behind an act of a
House of Congress. Neither can we substitute our judgment for its
judgment on a matter specifically given to it by the Constitution. The
scope of the legislative power is broad. it emcompasses practically every
aspect of human or corporate behavior capable of regulation. How can
this Court say that unraveling the tangled and secret skeins behind the
acquisition by Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez of 39 corporations under the
past regime and their sudden sale to the Lopa Group at the outset of the
new dispensation will not result in useful legislation?

The power of either House of Congress to conduct investigations is


inherent. It needs no textual grant. As stated in Arnault v. Nazareno, 87
Phil. 29 (1950)

Our form of government being patterned after the American


system — the framers of our Constitution having drawn largely
from American institutions and practices — we can, in this case,
properly draw also from American precedents in interpreting
analogous provisions of our Constitution, as we have done in other
cases in the past.

Although there is no provision in the Constitution expressly


investing either House of Congress with power to make
investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may exercise
its legislative functions advisely and effectively, such power is so
far incidental to the legislative function as to be implied. In other
words, the power of inquiry — with process to enforce it — is an
essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. A
legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the

267
absence of information respecting the conditions which the
legislation is intended to affect or change: and where the
legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information —
which is not infrequently true — recourse must be had to others
who do possess it. ... (At p. 45)

The framers of the present Constitution were not content to leave the
power inherent, incidental or implied. The power is now expressed as
follows:

Sec. 21 — The Senate or the House of Representatives or may of its


respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legialtion in
accordance with its duly published rules of precedure. The rights
of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be
respected.

Apart from the formal requirement of publishing the rules of procedure, I


agree that there are three queries which, if answered in the affirmative,
may give us cause to intervene.

First, is the matter being investigated one on which no valid legislation


could possibly be enacted?

Second, is Congress encroaching on terrain which the Constitution has


reserved as the exclusive domain of another branch of government?

And third, is Congress violating the basic liberties of an individual?

The classic formulation of the power of the Court to interpret the meaning
of "in aid of legislation" is expressed in Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168
(1880).

The House of Representatives passed a resolution creating a committee to


investigate the financial relations between Jay Cooke and Co., a
depositary of federal funds and a real estate pool. A debtor of Jay Cooke
and Co, Kilbourn, general manager of the pool refused to answer
questions put to him by the Committee and to produce certain book sna
papers. Consequently, he was ordered jailed for forty-five days. He
brought an action for false imprisonment and the Supreme Court decided
in his favor.

Speaking through Justice Miller, the Court ruled:

The resolution adopted as a sequence of this preamble contains


no hint of any intention of final action by Congress on the subject,
In all the argument of the case no suggestion has been made of

268
what the House of Respresentatives or the Congress could have
done in the way of remedying the wrong or securing the creditors
of Jay Cooke and Co., or even the United States. Was it to be
simply a fruitless investigation into the personal affiars of
individuals? If so the House of Representatives had no power or
authority in the matter more than any other equal number of
gentlemen interested for the government of their country. By
fruitless we mean that it could result in no valid legislation on the
subject to which the inquiry referrred. (Kilbourn v. Thompson, Id. at
page 388)

The Kilbourn decision is, however, crica 1880. The world has turned over
many times since that era. The same court which validated separate but
equal facilities against of racial discrimination and ruled that a private
contract may bar improved labor standards and social justice legislation
has reversed itslef on these and many other questions.

In McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135; 71 L. Ed. 580 [1927], the court went
beyond the express terms of the Senate resolution directing the
investigation of a former Attorney General for non-feasance, misfeasance,
and malfeasance in office. It presumed that the action of the Senate was
with a legitimate object.

... Plainly the subject was one on which legislation could be had
and would be materially aided by the information which the
investigation was calculated to elicit. This becomes manifest when
it is reflected that the functions of the Department of Justice, the
powers and duties of the Attorney-General and the duties of his
assitants, are all subject to regulation by congressional legislation,
and that the department is maintained and its activitites are
carried on under such appropriations as in the judgment of
Congress are needed from year to year.

The only legitimate object the Senate could have in ordering the
investigation was to aid it in legislating, and we think the subject
was the real object. An express avowal of the object would have
been better; but in view of the particular subject matter was not
indispenable. In People ex rel. Mc Donald v. Keeler, 99, N.Y. 463,
52 Am. Rep. 49, 2 N.E. 615, where the Court of Appeals of New
york sustained an investigation order by the House of
Representatives of that state where the resolution contained no
avowal, but disclosed that it definitely related to the
administrative of public office the duties of which were subject to
legislative regulation, the court said (pp. 485, 487): Where public
institutions under the control of the State are ordered to be
investigated, it is generally with the view of some legislative action
respecting them, and the same may be said in respect of public
officers,' And again "We are bound to presume that the action of

269
the legislative body was with a legitimate object if it is capable of
being so construed, and we have no right to assume that the
contrary was intended." (McGrain v. Daugherty Id., at page 594-
595, Emphasis supplied)

The American Court was more categorical in United States v. Josephson,


333 U.S. 858 (1938). It declared that declaration of legislative purpose was
conclusive on the Courts:

Whatever may be said of the Committee on the un-American


activities, its authorizing resolution recites it is in aid of legislation
and that fact is establshed for courts.

And since the matter before us in somethingwe inherited from the


American constitutional system, rulings from the decision of federal courts
may be apropos. (Stamler v. Willis, 287 F. Supp. 734 [1968]

The Court cannot probe into the motives of the members of the
Congress.

Barsky v. United States, 167 F. 2d 241 [1948]

The measure of the power of inquiry is the potentiality that


constitutional legislation might ensue from information derived
from such inquiry.

The possibility that invalid as well as valid legislation might ensue


from an inquiry does not limit the power of inquiry, since invalid
legislation might ensue from any inquiry.

United States v. Shelton, 148 F. Supp. 926 [1957]

The contention of the defendant that the hearing at which he


testified and from which the indictment arose was not in
furtherance og a legislative purpose proceeds on the assumption
that a failure to have specific legislation in contemplation, or a
failure to show that legislation was in fact enacted, estabished an
absence of legislative purpose. This argument is patently
unsound. The investigative power of Congress is not subject to the
limitation that hearings must result in legislation or
recommendations for legislation.

United States v. Deutch (147 F. Supp. 89 (1956)

Under the Constitution of the U.S., the Federal Government is a


government of limited powers. The Congress, being the legislative

270
branch of the Federal Government, is also clothed with limited
legislative powers. In orders, however, to carry its legislative
powers into effect successfully, it has always been held that
Congress has the power to secure information concerning matters
in respect to which it has the authority to legislate. In fact, it would
seem that Congress must secure information in order to legislate
intelligently. Beyond that, the Congress has the right secure
information in order to determine whether or not to legislate on a
particular subject matter on which it is within its constitutional
powers to act. — (Emphasis Supplied)

The even broader scope of legislative investigation in the Philippine


context is explained by a member of the Constitutional Commission.

The requirement that the investigation be "in aid of legislation" is


an essential element for establishing the jurisdiction of the
legislative body. It is, however, a requirement which is not difficult
to satisfy becuase, unlike in the United States, where legislative
power is shared by the United State Congress and the states
legislatures, the totality of legislative power is possessed by the
Congress nad its legislative field is well-nigh unlimited. "It would be
difficult to define any limits by which the subject matter of its
inquiry can be bounded." (Supra, at p. 46) Moreover, it is not
necessary that every question propounded to a witness must be
material to a proposed legislation. "In other words, the materiality
of the question must be determined by its direct relation to the
subject of the inquiry and not by its indirect relation to any
proposed or possible legislation. The reason is that the necessity or
lack of necessity for legislative action and form and character of
the action itself are determined by the sum total of the
information to be gathered as a result of the investigation, and
not by a fraction to be gathered as a result of the investigation,
and not by a fraction of such information elicited from a single
question. (Id., at 48)

On the basis of this interpretation of what "in aid of legislation"


means, it can readily be seen that the phrase contributes
practically nothing towards protecting witnesses. Practically any
investigation can be in aid of the broad legislative power of
Congress. The limitation, therefore cannot effectively prevent
what Kilbourn v. Thompson (103 U.S. 168 [1880]) characterized as
"roving commissions" or what Watkins v. United States (354 U.S. 178,
200 [1957] labeled as exposure for the sake of exposure. (Bernas,
Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Vol. II, 1st Ed., page
132).

Applying the above principles to the present casem, it can readily be


seen that the Senate is investigating an area where it may potentially

271
legislate. The ease with which relatives of the President were allegedly
able to amass great wealth under the past regime is a legitimate area of
inquiry. And if we tack on the alleged attempts o f relatives of a
succeeding adminsitration to duplicate the feat, the need for remedial
legislation becomes more imperative.

Our second area of concern is congressional encroachment on matters


reserved by the Constitution for the Executive or the Judiciary.

The majority opinion cites the decision in Angara v. Electoral Commission,


63 Phil. 139 (1936) explaining our power to determined conflicting claims of
authority. It is indeed the function on this Court to allocate constitutional
boundaries but in the exercise of this "umpire" function we have to take
care that we do not keep any of the three great departments of
government from performing functions peculiar to each department or
specifically vested to it sby the Constitution. When a power is vested, ti
carries with is everything legitimately neede to exercise it.

It may be argued that the investigation into the Romualdez — Lopa


transactions is more appropriate for the Department of Justice and the
judiciary. This argument misses the point of legislative inquiry.

The prosecution of offenders by the Department of Justice or the


Ombudsman and their trial before courts of justice is intended to punish
persons who violate the law. Legislative investigations go further. The aim is
to arrive at policy determinations which may or may not be enacted into
legislation. Referral to prosecutors or courts of justice is an added bonus.
For sure, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee knows it cannot sentence
any offender, no matter how overwhelming the proof that it may gatherm
to a jail term. But certainly, the Committee can recommend to Congress
how the situation which enabled get-rich-quick schemes to flourish may
be remedied. The fact that the subject of the investigation may currently
be undergoing trial does not restrict the power of Congress to investigate
for its own purposes. The legislative purpose is distinctly different from the
judicial purpose.

In Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263, 73 L ed. 692 (1928), leases of naval
reservations to oil companies were investigated by the United States
Senate. On a finding that certain leases were fraudulent, court action was
recommended. In other words, court action on one hand and legislation
on the other, are not mutually exclusive. They may complement each
other.

... It may be conceded that Congress is without authority to


compel disclosyres for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of
pending suits; but the authority of that body, directly or through it
Committees, to require pertinent disclosures in aid of its own
consitutional power is not abridged because the information

272
sought to be elicited may also be of use in such suits... It is plain
that investigation of the matters involved in suits brought or to be
commenced under the Senate resolution directing the institution
of suits for the cancellation of the leases might directly aid in
respect of legislative action... (Sinclair v. United States, Id.at page
698).

In United States v. Orman, 207 F. 2d Ed. 148 (1953), the court declared that
it was pertinent for a legislative committee to seek facts indicating that a
witness was linked to unlawful intestate gambling.

The power of a congressional committee to investigate matters


cannot be challenged on the ground that the Committee went
beyond the scope of any contemplated legislative and assumed
the functions of a grand jury. Whre the genral subject of
investigation is one concerning which Congress can legislate, and
the information sought might aid the congressional consideration,
in such a situation a legitimate legislative purpose must be
presumed...

I submit that the filing of indictments or informations or the trial of certain


persons cannot, by themselves, half the intitiation or stop the progress of
legislative investigations.

The other ground which I consider the more important one is where the
legislative investigation violates the liberties of the witnesses.

The Constitution expressly provides that "the rights of persons appearing in


or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.

It should be emphasized that the constitutional restriction does not call for
the banning or prohibition of investigations where a violation of a basis
rights is claimed. It only requires that in the course of the proceedings, the
right of persons should be respected.

What the majority opinion mandates is a blanket prohibition against a


witness testifying at all, simply because he is already facing charges
before the Sandiganbayan. To my mind, the Consitution allows him to
interpose objections whenever an incriminating question is posed or when
he is compelled to reveal his ocurt defenses, but not ot refuse to take the
witness stand completely.

Arnault v. Nazareno, supra, illustrates the reticence, with which the court
views petitions to curtail legislative investigations even where an
invocation of individual liberties is made.

273
In Arnault, the entire country already knew the name of the presidential
realtive whom the Sentate was trying to link to the Tambobong-Buenavista
estate anomalies. Still, the Court did not interfere when Arnault refused to
answer specific questions directed at him and he was punished for hir
refusal. The Court did not restrain the Senate when Arnault was sent o the
national penitentiary for an indefinite visit until the name which the Senate
wanted him to utter was extracted. Only when the imprisonment became
ureasonably prolonged and the situation in Congress had changed was
he released.

As pointed out by the respondents, not one question has been asked
requiring an answer that would incriminate the petitioners. The allegation
that their basic rights are vilolated is not only without basis but is also
premature.

I agree with the respondents that the slae of 39 Romualdez corporations


to Mr. Lopa is not a purely private transaction into which the Senate may
not inquire. if this were so, much of the work of the Presidential Commission
on Good Government (PCGG) as it seeks to recover illegally acquired
wealth would be negated. Much of what PCGG is trying to recover is the
product of arrangements which are not only private but also secret and
hidden.

I therefore, vote to DISMISS the petition.

Narvasa, J., dissents.

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

I regret I am unable to give my concurrence, I do not agree that the


investigation being conducted by the Blue Ribbon Committee is not in aid
of legislation.

In Arnault v. Nazareno, 87 Phil. 29, this Court observed that "we are bound
to presume that the action of the legislative body was with a legitimate
object if it is capable of being so construed, and we have no right ot
assume that the contrary was intended." (People ex rel. Mc Donald vs.
Keeler, 99 N.Y. 463; 52 Am. Rep., 49; 2 N.E., 615, quoted with approval by
the U.S. Supreme Court in McGrain vs. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135). As far as I
know, that is still the rule today.

More importantly, the presumption is supported by the established facts.


The inquiry is sustainable as an implied of power the legislature and even
as expressly limited by the Constitution.

The inquiry deals with alleged manipulations of public funds and illicit
acquisitions of properties now being claimed by the PCGG for the

274
Republic of the Philippines. The purpose of the Committee is to ascertain if
and how such anomalies have been committed. It is settled that the
legislature has a right to investigate the disposition of the public funds it
has appropriated; indeed, "an inquiry into the expenditure of all public
money is na indispensable duty of the legislature." Moreover, an
investigation of a possible violation of a law may be useful in the drafting
of amendatory legislation to correct or strengthen that law.

The ponencia quotes lengthily from Senator Enrile's speech and concludes
that it "contained no suggestions of contemplated legislation; he merely
called upon the Senate to look into a possible violation of section 5 of R.A.
No. 3019." However, according to McGrain v. Daugherty, supra:

Primarily, the purpose for which legislative inquiry and investigation


is pursued is to serve as an aid in legislation. Through it, the
legislature is able to obtain facts or data in aid fo proposed
legislation. However, it is not necessary that the resolution ordering
an investigation should in terms expressly state that the object of
the inquiry is to obtain data in aid of proposed legislation. It is
enough that such purpose appears from a consideration of the
entire proceedings or one in which legislation could be had and
would be materially aided by the information which the
investigation was calculated to elicit. An express avowal of the
object would be better, but such is not indispensable. (Emphasis
supplied).

The petitioner's contention that the questioned investigation would


compel them to reveal their defense in the cases now pending against
them in the Sandigangbayan is untenable. They know or should know that
they cannot be compelled to answer incriminating questions. The case
of Chavez v. Court of Appeals, 24 SCRA 663, where we held that an
accused may refuse at the outset to take the stand on the ground that
the questions to be put by the prosecutor will tend to incriminate him is, of
course, not applicable to them. They are not facing criminal charges
before the Blue Ribbon Committee. Like any ordinary witness, they can
invoke the right against self-incrimination only when and as the
incriminating question is propounded.

While it is true that the Court is now allowed more leeway in reviewing the
traditionally political acts of the legislative and executive departments,
the power must be exercised with the utmost circumspection lest we
unduly trench on their prerogatives and disarrange the constitutional
separation of powers. That power is available to us only if there is a clear
showing of a grave abuse of discretion, which I do not see in the case at
bar.

Guided by the presumption and the facts, I vote to DISMISS the petition.

275
Narvasa, J., dissents.

# Separate Opinions

PARAS, J., concurring:

I concur principally because any decision of the respondent committee


may unduly influence the Sandiganbayan

GUTIERREZ, JR., J., dissenting:

I regret that I must express a strong dissent the Court's opinion in this case.

The Court is asserting a power which I believe we do not possess. We are


encroaching on the turf of Congress. We are prohibiting the Senate from
proceeding with a consitutionally vested function. We are stopping the
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee from exercising a legislative prerogative —
investigations in aid of legislation. We do so becuase we somehow feel
that the purported aim is not the real purpose.

The Court has no power to second guess the motives behind an act of a
House of Congress. Neither can we substitute our judgment for its
judgment on a matter specifically given to it by the Constitution. The
scope of the legislative power is broad. it emcompasses practically every
aspect of human or corporate behavior capable of regulation. How can
this Court say that unraveling the tangled and secret skeins behind the
acquisition by Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez of 39 corporations under the
past regime and their sudden sale to the Lopa Group at the outset of the
new dispensation will not result in useful legislation?

The power of either House of Congress to conduct investigations is


inherent. It needs no textual grant. As stated in Arnault v. Nazareno, 87
Phil. 29 (1950)

Our form of government being patterned after the American


system — the framers of our Constitution having drawn largely
from American institutions and practices — we can, in this case,
properly draw also from American precedents in interpreting
analogous provisions of our Constitution, as we have done in other
cases in the past.

Although there is no provision in the Constitution expressly


investing either House of Congress with power to make
investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may exercise
its legislative functions advisely and effectively, such power is so
far incidental to the legislative function as to be implied. In other

276
words, the power of inquiry — with process to enforce it — is an
essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. A
legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the
absence of information respecting the conditions which the
legislation is intended to affect or change: and where the
legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information —
which is not infrequently true — recourse must be had to others
who do possess it. ... (At p. 45)

The framers of the present Constitution were not content to leave the
power inherent, incidental or implied. The power is now expressed as
follows:

Sec. 21 — The Senate or the House of Representatives or may of its


respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legialtion in
accordance with its duly published rules of precedure. The rights
of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be
respected.

Apart from the formal requirement of publishing the rules of procedure, I


agree that there are three queries which, if answered in the affirmative,
may give us cause to intervene.

First, is the matter being investigated one on which no valid legislation


could possibly be enacted?

Second, is Congress encroaching on terrain which the Constitution has


reserved as the exclusive domain of another branch of government?

And third, is Congress violating the basic liberties of an individual?

The classic formulation of the power of the Court to interpret the meaning
of "in aid of legislation" is expressed in Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168
(1880).

The House of Representatives passed a resolution creating a committee to


investigate the financial relations between Jay Cooke and Co., a
depositary of federal funds and a real estate pool. A debtor of Jay Cooke
and Co, Kilbourn, general manager of the pool refused to answer
questions put to him by the Committee and to produce certain book sna
papers. Consequently, he was ordered jailed for forty-five days. He
brought an action for false imprisonment and the Supreme Court decided
in his favor.

Speaking through Justice Miller, the Court ruled:

277
The resolution adopted as a sequence of this preamble contains
no hint of any intention of final action by Congress on the subject,
In all the argument of the case no suggestion has been made of
what the House of Respresentatives or the Congress could have
done in the way of remedying the wrong or securing the creditors
of Jay Cooke and Co., or even the United States. Was it to be
simply a fruitless investigation into the personal affiars of
individuals? If so the House of Representatives had no power or
authority in the matter more than any other equal number of
gentlemen interested for the government of their country. By
fruitless we mean that it could result in no valid legislation on the
subject to which the inquiry referrred. (Kilbourn v. Thompson, Id. at
page 388)

The Kilbourn decision is, however, crica 1880. The world has turned over
many times since that era. The same court which validated separate but
equal facilities against of racial discrimination and ruled that a private
contract may bar improved labor standards and social justice legislation
has reversed itslef on these and many other questions.

In McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135; 71 L. Ed. 580 [1927], the court went
beyond the express terms of the Senate resolution directing the
investigation of a former Attorney General for non-feasance, misfeasance,
and malfeasance in office. It presumed that the action of the Senate was
with a legitimate object.

... Plainly the subject was one on which legislation could be had
and would be materially aided by the information which the
investigation was calculated to elicit. This becomes manifest when
it is reflected that the functions of the Department of Justice, the
powers and duties of the Attorney-General and the duties of his
assitants, are all subject to regulation by congressional legislation,
and that the department is maintained and its activitites are
carried on under such appropriations as in the judgment of
Congress are needed from year to year.

The only legitimate object the Senate could have in ordering the
investigation was to aid it in legislating, and we think the subject
was the real object. An express avowal of the object would have
been better; but in view of the particular subject matter was not
indispenable. In People ex rel. Mc Donald v. Keeler, 99, N.Y. 463,
52 Am. Rep. 49, 2 N.E. 615, where the Court of Appeals of New
york sustained an investigation order by the House of
Representatives of that state where the resolution contained no
avowal, but disclosed that it definitely related to the
administrative of public office the duties of which were subject to
legislative regulation, the court said (pp. 485, 487): Where public
institutions under the control of the State are ordered to be

278
investigated, it is generally with the view of some legislative action
respecting them, and the same may be said in respect of public
officers,' And again "We are bound to presume that the action of
the legislative body was with a legitimate object if it is capable of
being so construed, and we have no right to assume that the
contrary was intended." (McGrain v. Daugherty Id., at page 594-
595, Emphasis supplied)

The American Court was more categorical in United States v. Josephson,


333 U.S. 858 (1938). It declared that declaration of legislative purpose was
conclusive on the Courts:

Whatever may be said of the Committee on the un-American


activities, its authorizing resolution recites it is in aid of legislation
and that fact is establshed for courts.

And since the matter before us in somethingwe inherited from the


American constitutional system, rulings from the decision of federal courts
may be apropos. (Stamler v. Willis, 287 F. Supp. 734 [1968]

The Court cannot probe into the motives of the members of the
Congress.

Barsky v. United States, 167 F. 2d 241 [1948]

The measure of the power of inquiry is the potentiality that


constitutional legislation might ensue from information derived
from such inquiry.

The possibility that invalid as well as valid legislation might ensue


from an inquiry does not limit the power of inquiry, since invalid
legislation might ensue from any inquiry.

United States v. Shelton, 148 F. Supp. 926 [1957]

The contention of the defendant that the hearing at which he


testified and from which the indictment arose was not in
furtherance og a legislative purpose proceeds on the assumption
that a failure to have specific legislation in contemplation, or a
failure to show that legislation was in fact enacted, estabished an
absence of legislative purpose. This argument is patently
unsound. The investigative power of Congress is not subject to the
limitation that hearings must result in legislation or
recommendations for legislation.

United States v. Deutch (147 F. Supp. 89 (1956)

279
Under the Constitution of the U.S., the Federal Government is a
government of limited powers. The Congress, being the legislative
branch of the Federal Government, is also clothed with limited
legislative powers. In orders, however, to carry its legislative
powers into effect successfully, it has always been held that
Congress has the power to secure information concerning matters
in respect to which it has the authority to legislate. In fact, it would
seem that Congress must secure information in order to legislate
intelligently. Beyond that, the Congress has the right secure
information in order to determine whether or not to legislate on a
particular subject matter on which it is within its constitutional
powers to act. — (Emphasis Supplied)

The even broader scope of legislative investigation in the Philippine


context is explained by a member of the Constitutional Commission.

The requirement that the investigation be "in aid of legislation" is


an essential element for establishing the jurisdiction of the
legislative body. It is, however, a requirement which is not difficult
to satisfy becuase, unlike in the United States, where legislative
power is shared by the United State Congress and the states
legislatures, the totality of legislative power is possessed by the
Congress nad its legislative field is well-nigh unlimited. "It would be
difficult to define any limits by which the subject matter of its
inquiry can be bounded." (Supra, at p. 46) Moreover, it is not
necessary that every question propounded to a witness must be
material to a proposed legislation. "In other words, the materiality
of the question must be determined by its direct relation to the
subject of the inquiry and not by its indirect relation to any
proposed or possible legislation. The reason is that the necessity or
lack of necessity for legislative action and form and character of
the action itself are determined by the sum total of the
information to be gathered as a result of the investigation, and
not by a fraction to be gathered as a result of the investigation,
and not by a fraction of such information elicited from a single
question. (Id., at 48)

On the basis of this interpretation of what "in aid of legislation"


means, it can readily be seen that the phrase contributes
practically nothing towards protecting witnesses. Practically any
investigation can be in aid of the broad legislative power of
Congress. The limitation, therefore cannot effectively prevent
what Kilbourn v. Thompson (103 U.S. 168 [1880]) characterized as
"roving commissions" or what Watkins v. United States (354 U.S. 178,
200 [1957] labeled as exposure for the sake of exposure. (Bernas,
Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Vol. II, 1st Ed., page
132).

280
Applying the above principles to the present casem, it can readily be
seen that the Senate is investigating an area where it may potentially
legislate. The ease with which relatives of the President were allegedly
able to amass great wealth under the past regime is a legitimate area of
inquiry. And if we tack on the alleged attempts o f relatives of a
succeeding adminsitration to duplicate the feat, the need for remedial
legislation becomes more imperative.

Our second area of concern is congressional encroachment on matters


reserved by the Constitution for the Executive or the Judiciary.

The majority opinion cites the decision in Angara v. Electoral Commission,


63 Phil. 139 (1936) explaining our power to determined conflicting claims of
authority. It is indeed the function on this Court to allocate constitutional
boundaries but in the exercise of this "umpire" function we have to take
care that we do not keep any of the three great departments of
government from performing functions peculiar to each department or
specifically vested to it sby the Constitution. When a power is vested, ti
carries with is everything legitimately neede to exercise it.

It may be argued that the investigation into the Romualdez — Lopa


transactions is more appropriate for the Department of Justice and the
judiciary. This argument misses the point of legislative inquiry.

The prosecution of offenders by the Department of Justice or the


Ombudsman and their trial before courts of justice is intended to punish
persons who violate the law. Legislative investigations go further. The aim is
to arrive at policy determinations which may or may not be enacted into
legislation. Referral to prosecutors or courts of justice is an added bonus.
For sure, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee knows it cannot sentence
any offender, no matter how overwhelming the proof that it may gatherm
to a jail term. But certainly, the Committee can recommend to Congress
how the situation which enabled get-rich-quick schemes to flourish may
be remedied. The fact that the subject of the investigation may currently
be undergoing trial does not restrict the power of Congress to investigate
for its own purposes. The legislative purpose is distinctly different from the
judicial purpose.

In Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263, 73 L ed. 692 (1928), leases of naval
reservations to oil companies were investigated by the United States
Senate. On a finding that certain leases were fraudulent, court action was
recommended. In other words, court action on one hand and legislation
on the other, are not mutually exclusive. They may complement each
other.

... It may be conceded that Congress is without authority to


compel disclosyres for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of
pending suits; but the authority of that body, directly or through it

281
Committees, to require pertinent disclosures in aid of its own
consitutional power is not abridged because the information
sought to be elicited may also be of use in such suits... It is plain
that investigation of the matters involved in suits brought or to be
commenced under the Senate resolution directing the institution
of suits for the cancellation of the leases might directly aid in
respect of legislative action... (Sinclair v. United States, Id.at page
698).

In United States v. Orman, 207 F. 2d Ed. 148 (1953), the court declared that
it was pertinent for a legislative committee to seek facts indicating that a
witness was linked to unlawful intestate gambling.

The power of a congressional committee to investigate matters


cannot be challenged on the ground that the Committee went
beyond the scope of any contemplated legislative and assumed
the functions of a grand jury. Whre the genral subject of
investigation is one concerning which Congress can legislate, and
the information sought might aid the congressional consideration,
in such a situation a legitimate legislative purpose must be
presumed...

I submit that the filing of indictments or informations or the trial of certain


persons cannot, by themselves, half the intitiation or stop the progress of
legislative investigations.

The other ground which I consider the more important one is where the
legislative investigation violates the liberties of the witnesses.

The Constitution expressly provides that "the rights of persons appearing in


or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.

It should be emphasized that the constitutional restriction does not call for
the banning or prohibition of investigations where a violation of a basis
rights is claimed. It only requires that in the course of the proceedings, the
right of persons should be respected.

What the majority opinion mandates is a blanket prohibition against a


witness testifying at all, simply because he is already facing charges
before the Sandiganbayan. To my mind, the Consitution allows him to
interpose objections whenever an incriminating question is posed or when
he is compelled to reveal his ocurt defenses, but not ot refuse to take the
witness stand completely.

Arnault v. Nazareno, supra, illustrates the reticence, with which the court
views petitions to curtail legislative investigations even where an
invocation of individual liberties is made.

282
In Arnault, the entire country already knew the name of the presidential
realtive whom the Sentate was trying to link to the Tambobong-Buenavista
estate anomalies. Still, the Court did not interfere when Arnault refused to
answer specific questions directed at him and he was punished for hir
refusal. The Court did not restrain the Senate when Arnault was sent o the
national penitentiary for an indefinite visit until the name which the Senate
wanted him to utter was extracted. Only when the imprisonment became
ureasonably prolonged and the situation in Congress had changed was
he released.

As pointed out by the respondents, not one question has been asked
requiring an answer that would incriminate the petitioners. The allegation
that their basic rights are vilolated is not only without basis but is also
premature.

I agree with the respondents that the slae of 39 Romualdez corporations


to Mr. Lopa is not a purely private transaction into which the Senate may
not inquire. if this were so, much of the work of the Presidential Commission
on Good Government (PCGG) as it seeks to recover illegally acquired
wealth would be negated. Much of what PCGG is trying to recover is the
product of arrangements which are not only private but also secret and
hidden.

I therefore, vote to DISMISS the petition.

Narvasa, J., dissents.

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

I regret I am unable to give my concurrence, I do not agree that the


investigation being conducted by the Blue Ribbon Committee is not in aid
of legislation.

In Arnault v. Nazareno, 87 Phil. 29, this Court observed that "we are bound
to presume that the action of the legislative body was with a legitimate
object if it is capable of being so construed, and we have no right ot
assume that the contrary was intended." (People ex rel. Mc Donald vs.
Keeler, 99 N.Y. 463; 52 Am. Rep., 49; 2 N.E., 615, quoted with approval by
the U.S. Supreme Court in McGrain vs. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135). As far as I
know, that is still the rule today.

More importantly, the presumption is supported by the established facts.


The inquiry is sustainable as an implied of power the legislature and even
as expressly limited by the Constitution.

The inquiry deals with alleged manipulations of public funds and illicit
acquisitions of properties now being claimed by the PCGG for the

283
Republic of the Philippines. The purpose of the Committee is to ascertain if
and how such anomalies have been committed. It is settled that the
legislature has a right to investigate the disposition of the public funds it
has appropriated; indeed, "an inquiry into the expenditure of all public
money is na indispensable duty of the legislature." Moreover, an
investigation of a possible violation of a law may be useful in the drafting
of amendatory legislation to correct or strengthen that law.

The ponencia quotes lengthily from Senator Enrile's speech and concludes
that it "contained no suggestions of contemplated legislation; he merely
called upon the Senate to look into a possible violation of section 5 of R.A.
No. 3019." However, according to McGrain v. Daugherty, supra:

Primarily, the purpose for which legislative inquiry and investigation


is pursued is to serve as an aid in legislation. Through it, the
legislature is able to obtain facts or data in aid fo proposed
legislation. However, it is not necessary that the resolution ordering
an investigation should in terms expressly state that the object of
the inquiry is to obtain data in aid of proposed legislation. It is
enough that such purpose appears from a consideration of the
entire proceedings or one in which legislation could be had and
would be materially aided by the information which the
investigation was calculated to elicit. An express avowal of the
object would be better, but such is not indispensable. (Emphasis
supplied).

The petitioner's contention that the questioned investigation would


compel them to reveal their defense in the cases now pending against
them in the Sandigangbayan is untenable. They know or should know that
they cannot be compelled to answer incriminating questions. The case
of Chavez v. Court of Appeals, 24 SCRA 663, where we held that an
accused may refuse at the outset to take the stand on the ground that
the questions to be put by the prosecutor will tend to incriminate him is, of
course, not applicable to them. They are not facing criminal charges
before the Blue Ribbon Committee. Like any ordinary witness, they can
invoke the right against self-incrimination only when and as the
incriminating question is propounded.

While it is true that the Court is now allowed more leeway in reviewing the
traditionally political acts of the legislative and executive departments,
the power must be exercised with the utmost circumspection lest we
unduly trench on their prerogatives and disarrange the constitutional
separation of powers. That power is available to us only if there is a clear
showing of a grave abuse of discretion, which I do not see in the case at
bar.

Guided by the presumption and the facts, I vote to DISMISS the petition.

284
G.R. No. 133025 February 17, 2000

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
RADEL GALLARDE, accused-appellant.

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

This is an appeal from the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Tayug,
Pangasinan, Branch 51, finding accused-appellant Radel Gallarde1 (hereafter
GALLARDE) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder in Criminal
Case No. T-1978 and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua and to pay the heirs of Editha Talan (hereafter EDITHA) the amount of
P70,000 as actual damages.2

On 24 June 1997, GALLARDE was charged with the special complex crime of rape
with homicide in an information whose accusatory portion reads as follows:

That on or about the 6th day of May 1997, in the evening, amidst the field
located at Brgy. Trenchera, [M]unicipality of Tayug, [P]rovince of
Pangasinan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
the above-named accused, and by means of force, violence and
intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have
sexual intercourse with one EDITHA TALAN, a minor-10 years of age,
against her will and consent, and thereafter, with intent to kill, cover the
nose and mouth of the said minor resulting to her death and then bury her
in the field, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of said EDITHA
TALAN.3

During the arraignment on 1 September 1997, GALLARDE, with the assistance of


counsel, entered a plea of not guilty.4 Trial of the case immediately ensued as the
defense waived the holding of the pre-trial conference.

The witnesses presented by the prosecution were Mario Fernandez, Jaime


Cabinta, Rosy Clemente, Felicisimo Mendoza, Alfredo Cortez, Renato Fernandez,
SPO4 Oscar B. Lopez, and Dr. Perfecto Tebangin. The relevant and material facts
established by their testimonies are faithfully summarized in the Appellee's Brief as
follows:

In the evening of May 26, 1997, at the house of spouses Eduardo and
Elena Talan in Brgy. Trenchea, Tayug, Pangasinan, their neighbors
converged. Among them were appellant Radel Gallarde, Francisco,
Renato, Edwin, all surnamed Fernandez, Romel Hernandez, Jaime
Cabinta, Rosy Clemente, Jon Talen, Noel Arellaga and Ramil Bargon.
Idling by was Editha, 10 year old daughter of spouses Talan. A fluorescent
lamp illuminated them as they partook beer (TSN dated October 13, 1997,
pp. 3-4).

285
After a while, Roger stood up and invited Jaime and appellant to dine in
the kitchen. As they partook of the meal, appellant suddenly left. Jaime,
too, stepped out of the kitchen to urinate. Outside the house, he chanced
upon appellant and Editha talking to each other. Jaime whistled at
appellant but instead of minding him, the latter sprinted towards the road
leading to his house (Id., pp. 4-6).

Thereafter, Editha entered the kitchen and took hold of a kerosene lamp.
Jaime followed her and asked where she was going. Editha answered that
she would look for appellant. Soon Editha left enroute to where appellant
fled (Id., pp. 7-8).

By 10:00 o'clock that evening, the drinking buddies had dispersed but
Jaime, Francisco, Edwin and Rose regrouped at Renato's place where
they talked and relaxed. Moments later, Roger arrived and informed them
that Editha was missing. Roger asked the group to help look for her (Id., p.
10).

Elena Talan informed his uncle, Barangay Ex-kagawad Mario Fernandez,


about her daughter's disappearance. The latter, together with his son
Edwin, wife Virginia and nephew Freddie Cortez wasted no time in joining
their neighbors search the houses, dikes and fields to look for the missing
child. The searchers used a lighted rubber tire (TSN dated Sept. 24, 1997,
pp. 8-10 and 24).

When Jaime mentioned that appellant was the last person he saw talking
to Editha, the searchers went back to the house of appellant. About 7
meters away from appellant's house, one of the searchers, Alfredo Cortez,
found Editha's left foot slipper (TSN dated October 22, 1997, pp. 4-6).
Suddenly, Edwin Fernandez announced: "Tata, Radel is here!" pointing to
the toilet about 6 meters away from appellant's house. The searchers
found appellant squatting with his short pants. His hands and knees were
covered with soil. When confronted by ex-kagawad Hernandez why he
was there, appellant answered he was relieving himself (Id., pp. 11-16).

Asked where Editha was, appellant replied: "I do not know, I did not do
anything to her." When told — "according to Jimmy, you were with Editha."
appellant responded "I let her go and brought her back to the dike and
let her go home." To the next question, "where did you come from since a
while a go you were not yet in this toilet?" appellant answered "I was with
Kiko, I was asleep in their house. One of the searchers Mario Bado, got
angry and countered that appellant's statement was impossible because
Kiko was with him drinking (Id., pp. 16-20).

After the confrontation at the toilet, Ex-kagawad Fernandez brought


appellant to Brgy. Captain Felicisimo Mendoza, informing the latter that
appellant was the last person seen talking with the missing child.
Fernandez then rejoined the searchers (Id., pp. 21-22).

286
Back in the field, Virginia Fernandez tripped on a wet ground. As she
reached for her slipper, she saw Editha's right foot slipper (the other one
was earlier found near the house of appellant) (Id., pp. 23-24).

Around 3 meters farther from Editha's right foot slipper; another slipper was
found. It was old, 8 to 9 inches in length and appellant was seen wearing it
in the morning of that day (TSN dated Sept. 25, 1997, pp. 25).

The searchers, thereafter, noticed disheveled grasses. Along the way, they
saw a wide hole among the disheveled grass. Ex-kagawad Fernandez
accidentally dropped the lighted rubber tire and as his nephew Freddie
picked it up, the latter exclaimed: "Uncle, look at this loose soil!" Ex-
kagawad Fernandez forthwith scratched some earth aside and then
Editha's hand pitted out. The Fernandez screamed in terror (Id., pp. 5-6).

Meantime, Barangay Captain Mendoza heard shouts saying: "She is here,


she is now here already dead!" Mindful of appellant's safety, Brgy. Captain
Mendoza decided to bring appellant to the municipal building. On their
way though, they met policemen on board a vehicle. He flagged them
down and turned over the person of appellant, saying: "Here is the suspect
in the disappearance of the little girl. Since you are already here, I am
giving him to you" (TSN dated Oct. 21, 1997, pp. 4-5).

The policemen together with appellant proceeded to where the people


found Editha. One of the policemen shoved more soil aside. The lifeless
Editha was completely naked when she was recovered. (Id., pp. 9-10)

The cause of Editha's death as revealed in the post-mortem examination


showed "suffocation of the lungs as a result from powerful covering of the
nose and mouth, associated with laceration of the vagina and raptured
hymen (Exh. "T", TSN dated Oct. 23, 1997, pp. 22-23).5

On the other hand, GALLARDE was the lone witness for the defense. He interposed
a denial and the alibi that he was at home with his mother and brothers at the
time the crime occurred. He declared that he is 18 years old, single, a former
construction worker. He knew EDITHA, a neighbor whom he considered as a sister
because she used to come to his house. They never had a quarrel or
misunderstanding. He neither raped not killed Editha.6

On cross-examination by the prosecutor and to questions propounded by the


court, GALLARDE admitted that he saw Editha on the night of 6 May 1997 in her
parent's house, particularly in the kitchen. He was there because he joined a
group drinking Colt 45 beer, as he was called by Rudio Fernandez. He drank and
had dinner in the kitchen. After dinner he returned to the drinking place and
eventually went home because he was then a little drunk. He knows Kgd. Mario
Fernandez, but after he left the Talan residence he did not see Kgd. Fernandez
anymore. Kgd. Fernandez saw him inside his (Gallarde's) toilet on the night of May

287
6; thereafter Fernandez took him to the barangay captain and later he was turned
over to the PNP at Camp Narciso Ramos. The police informed him that he was a
suspect in the rape and killing of Editha Talan, and he told them that he did not
commit the crime. At the Talan residence he was wearing short pants and rubber
slippers. Fernandez asked him at the police headquarters to pull down his shorts
and he complied. He was then wearing briefs with a hemline that was a little loose.
He was informed that a cadaver was recovered near his house. When he was
asked questions while in police custody, he was not represented by any lawyer.

GALLARDE further declared on cross-examination and on questions by the court


that he considered Editha Talan as a sister and her parents also treated him in a
friendly manner. When he came to know that Editha's parents suspected him of
the crime, he was still on friendly terms with them. However, he did no go to them
to tell them he was innocent because they brandished a bolo in anger.

Finally, he testified that in the evening of May 6 he came to know that Editha died.
She was still alive when he was drinking at the back of the Talan house and left for
home. From the time he arrived, he never left again that night, and his mother and
brothers knew it for a fact.7

On 12 February 1998, the trial court rendered a decision convicting GALLARDE of


the crime of murder only, not of the complex crime of rape with homicide
because of the lack of proof of carnal knowledge. It observed:

Exh. "T" and Dr. Tebangin's testimony thereon show that the late Editha
Talan sustained slit wounds inflicted as a means of suffocating her to
death, a laceration of the lower portion of her vagina, and a ruptured
hymen. What allegedly oozed from her vagina was blood, coupled with
dirt. Had then been observed the presence of even just a drop of seminal
fluid in or around her vagina, the Court would readily conclude that the
laceration and rupture resulted from phallic intrusion. Without such
observation, however, "carnal knowledge" as element of rape would be
an open question.

The trial court did not appreciate the alternative circumstance of intoxication
either as a mitigating or aggravating circumstance pursuant to Article 15 of the
Revised Penal Code because GALLARDE's alleged inebriation on the night of 6
May 1997, was not satisfactorily proven.

As to the civil aspect of the case, the trial court considered the stipulation of the
parties on 27 October 1997 fixing a liquidated amount of P70,000 as actual
damages, and leaving the matter of moral damages to the discretion of the court.
The trial court was not inclined to award moral damages because the "evidence
before it tends to disclose that on the night of 6 May 1997, before she died, Editha
was a much-neglected child."

Accordingly, in its decision8 of 12 February 1998, the trial court decreed:

288
WHEREFORE, his guilt having been established beyond a reasonable
doubt, the Court hereby convicts the accused RADEL GALLARDE Y
HERMOSA of the crime of MURDER, and sentences him to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of the late Editha
Talan in the negotiated sum of P70,000.00.9

His motion for reconsideration,10 having been denied by the trial court in its
Resolution11 of 28 February 1998, GALLARDE seasonably appealed to us.

We accepted the appeal on 9 September 1998.

In his Appellant's Brief filed on 16 March 1999, GALLARDE alleges that the trial court
committed the following errors:

1. In convicting [him] of the crime of murder in an information for rape with


homicide.

2. In concluding that the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable


doubt that [he] was responsible for the death of Editha Talan.

3. In not acquitting [him] on the ground of notches of proof beyond


reasonable doubt.12

We sustain GALLARDE's contention that the trial court erred in convicting him of
murder in an information charging him of rape with homicide. A reading of the
accusatory portion of the information shows that there was no allegation of any
qualifying circumstance. Although it is true that the term "homicide" as used in
special complex crime of rape with homicide is to be understood in its generic
sense, and includes murder and slight physical injuries committed by reason or on
the occasion of rape,13 it is settled in this jurisdiction that where a complex crime is
charged and the evidence fails to support the charge as to one of the
component offense, the accused can be convicted of the other.14 In rape with
homicide, in order to be convicted of murder in case the evidence fails to support
the charge of rape, the qualifying circumstance must be sufficiently alleged and
proved. Otherwise, it would be a denial of the right of the accused to be informed
of the nature of the offense with which he is charged.15 It is fundamental that
every element of the offense must be alleged in the complaint or information. The
main purpose of requiring the various elements of a crime to be set out in an
information is to enable the accused to suitably prepare his defense. He is
presumed to have no independent knowledge of the facts that constitute the
offense.16

In the absence then in the information of an allegation of any qualifying


circumstance, GALLARDE cannot be convicted of murder. An accused cannot be
convicted of an offense higher than that with which he is charged in the
complaint or information under which he is tried. It matters not how conclusive and
convincing the evidence of guilt may be, but an accused cannot be convicted of

289
any offense, unless it is charged in the complaint or information for which he is
tried, or is necessarily included in that which is charged. He has a right to be
informed of the nature of the offense with which he is charged before he is put on
trial. To convict an accused of a higher offense than that charged in the
complaint or information under which he is tried would be an unauthorized denial
of that right.17

Nevertheless, we agree with the trial court that the evidence for the prosecution,
although circumstantial, was sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt the
guilt of GALLARDE for the death of EDITHA.

Direct evidence of the commission of a crime is not the only matrix wherefrom a
trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt.18 The prosecution is not
always tasked to present direct evidence to sustain a judgment of conviction; the
absence of direct evidence does not necessarily absolve an accused from any
criminal liability.19Even in the absence of direct evidence, conviction can be had
on the basis of circumstantial evidence, provided that the established
circumstances constitute an unbroken chain which leads one to one fair and
reasonable conclusion which points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others,
as the guilty person, i.e., the circumstances proved must be consistent with each
other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same
time inconsistent with any other hypothesis except that of guilty.20

The rules on evidence and precedents sustain the conviction of an accused


through circumstantial evidence, as long as the following requisites are present: (1)
there must be more than one circumstance; (2) the inference must be based on
proven facts; and (3) the combination of all circumstances produces a conviction
beyond doubt of the guilt of the accused.21

The importance of circumstantial evidence is more apparent in the prosecution of


cases of rape, where it is homicide. The nature of the crime of rape, where it is
usually only the victim and the rapist who are present at the scene of the crime,
makes prosecutions for the complex crime of rape with homicide particularly
difficult since the victim can no longer testify against the perpetrator of the crime.
In these cases pieces of the evidence against the accused are usually
circumstantial.22

The circumstantial evidence in the case at bar, when analyzed and taken
together, leads to no other conclusion than that GALLARDE, and no other else,
killed EDITHA and that he is guilty therefor. We quote with approval the lower
court's enumeration of the circumstantial evidence in this case:

1. Gallarde, 18, and Editha, 10, were neighbors and friends, even as she
used to frequent his place.

2. Both were at the Talan residence on the night of May 6, 1997 while
neighbors indulged themselves in beer.

290
3. Among said neighbors Cabinta saw them hand in hand by the toilet
situated five (5) meters east of the Talan kitchen.

4. After Cabinta whistled he saw Gallarde run home towards north after
letting go of Editha's hands. Neighbor Clemente also noticed that
Gallarde disappeared, and that Editha returned to the kitchen.

5. Cabinta followed Editha back to the kitchen, and saw her holding a
kerosene lamp. She told him that she was going to look for "Dalpac," and
off she went in the same direction Gallarde took.

6. Gallarde wore short pants and rubber slippers at the drinking place.
Subsequently he was seen wearing shorts in his own toilet.

7. At past 10:00 in the evening during an intensive search for the then
missing Editha, her lifeless body was found in a shallow grave situated
some distance behind Gallarde's residence.

8. Before Editha's body was discovered, a searcher found a girl's slipper


(Exh. "B"), 5-6 inches long, among thickets seven meters away from
Gallarde's house.

9. Another searcher saw a second slipper (Exh. B-1), of the same color and
size as the first one. Both slippers were Editha's, the searchers recalled.

10. A third rubber slipper (Exh. "C") was thereafter found in the field, near
Exh. "B-1." It was an old slipper, 8-9 inches long and with a hole at the rear
end.

11. Soil stuck to each one of the three slippers.

12. Gallarde was not at home when searchers went to look for him there,
after Cabinta told them that Editha was last seen with Gallarde.

13. When Gallarde was discovered squatting in the dark toilet behind his
house and beside the thickets, his shorts were up and on. His hands and
knees were soiled.

14. At the toilet he was asked the innocent question of where Editha was
and he answered revealingly, thus: "I did not do anything to her" and "I let
her go and brought her back to the dike and let her go home."

15. When asked where he had been, as the toilet was first seen empty,
Gallarde said he was with Kiko and he slept at the latter's house, which
answer Mario Bado promptly refuted saying, "Vulva of your mother. . . Kiko

291
was with me drinking." Bado and Kiko were not at the place of the Talans
that night.

16. Yanked out of the dark toilet near his own house, Gallarde joined Kgd.
Mario Fernandez sans protest.

17. Dr. Tebangin found on Editha's cheeks two slit wounds, each being an
inch away from her nostrils. Both wounds were fresh and reddish.

From the lower portion of Editha's vagina blood oozed, accompanied by


dirt.

Her hymen was ruptured and was still bleeding.

The medico-legal concluded that there must have been a forceful


covering of Editha's nose and mouth because of the presence of the slit
wounds on both sides of her face, and that in 30 seconds unconsciousness
and weakening resulted, with the vaginal injuries contributing to her
death.23

As to the crime of rape, there is much to be desired with respect to the


prosecution's evidence therefor, but not for the reason adduced by the trial court,
namely, the absence of spermatozoa in EDITHA's private part and thereabout. It is
well settled that the absence of spermatozoa in or around the vagina does not
negate the commission of rape.24Our doubt on the commission of rape is based
on the fact that there is at all no convincing proof that the laceration of the
vagina and the rupture of the hymen of EDITHA were caused in the course of
coitus or by a male organ. Our meticulous reading of the testimony of Dr. Tebangin
disclosed that he was never asked if the laceration and the rupture could have
been caused by the penis of a human being. Needless to state, these could have
been caused by any object other than the penis of a person.

We cannot sustain the contention of GALLARDE that he was not positively


identified as the assailant since there was no eyewitness to the actual commission
of the crime. It does not follow that although nobody saw GALLARDE in the act of
killing EDITHA, nobody can be said to have positively identified him. Positive
identification pertains essentially to proof of identity and not per se to that of being
an eyewitness to the very act of commission of the crime. There are two types of
positive identification. A witness may identity a suspect or accused in a criminal
case as the perpetrator of the crime as an eyewitness to the very act of the
commission of the crime. This constitutes direct evidence. There may, however, be
instances where, although a witness may not have actually seen the very act of
commission of a crime, he may still be able to positively identify a suspect or
accused as the perpetrator of a crime as for instance when the latter is the person
or one of the persons last seen with the victim immediately before and right after
the commission of the crime. This is the second type of positive identification,
which forms part of circumstantial evidence, which, when taken together with

292
other pieces of evidence constituting an unbroken chain, leads to only fair and
reasonable conclusion, which is that the accused is the author of the crime to the
exclusion of all others. If the actual eyewitnesses are the only ones allowed to
possibly positively identify a suspect or accused to the exclusion of others, then
nobody can ever be convicted unless there is an eyewitness, because it is basic
and elementary that there can be no conviction until and unless an accused is
positively identified. Such a proposition is absolutely absurd, because it is settled
that direct evidence of the commission of a crime is not the only matrix wherefrom
a trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt.25 If resort to circumstantial
evidence would not be allowed to prove identity of the accused on the absence
of direct evidence, then felons would go free and the community would be
denied proper protection.

As discussed above, the circumstantial evidence as established by the prosecution


in this case and enumerated by the trial court positively established the identity of
GALLARDE, and no one else, as the person who killed EDITHA.

We cannot agree with the trial court's rejection of the photographs (Exhibits "I," "J"
and "K") taken of GALLARDE immediately after the incident on the ground that
"the same were taken while [GALLARDE] was already under the mercy of the
police." The taking of pictures of an accused even without the assistance of
counsel, being a purely mechanical act, is not a violation of his constitutional right
against self-incrimination.

The constitutional right of an accused against self-incrimination26 proscribes the use


of physical or moral compulsion to extort communications from the accused and
not the inclusion of his body in evidence when it may be material. Purely
mechanical acts are not included in the prohibition as the accused does not
thereby speak his guilt, hence the assistance and guiding hand of counsel is not
required.27 The essence of the right against self-incrimination is testimonial
compulsion, that is, the giving of evidence against himself through a testimonial
act.28Hence, it has been held that a woman charged with adultery may be
compelled to submit to physical examination to determine her pregnancy;29 and
an accused may be compelled to submit to physical examination and to have a
substance taken from his body for medical determination as to whether he was
suffering from gonorrhea which was contracted by his victim;30 to expel morphine
from his mouth;31 to have the outline of his foot traced to determine its identity with
bloody footprints;32 and to be photographed or measured, or his garments or
shoes removed or replaced, or to move his body to enable the foregoing things to
be done.33

There is also no merit in GALLARDE's argument that the failure of the prosecution to
prove beyond reasonable doubt the place and time of the commission of the
crime is fatal and will justify his acquittal.

The place, time and date of the commission of the offense are not essential
elements of the crime of rape with homicide. The gravamen of the offense is the
carnal knowledge of a woman and that on the occasion of or as a reason thereof,

293
the crime of homicide was committed. Conviction may be had on proof of the
commission of the crime provided it appears that the specific crime charged was
in fact committed prior to the date of the filing of the complaint or information,
within the period of the statute of limitation, and within the jurisdiction of the
court.34

The allegation of the place of commission of the crime in the complaint or


information is sufficient if it can be understood therefrom that the offense was
committed or some of the essential ingredients thereof occurred at some place
within the jurisdiction of the court.35 The rule merely requires that the information
shows that the crime was committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.
The Court may even take judicial notice that said place is within its jurisdiction. 36

As to the time of the commission of the crime, the phrase "on or about" employed
in the information does not require the prosecution "to prove any precise date or
time," but may prove any date or time which is not so remote as to surprise and
prejudice the defendant."37

Contrary to the claim of GALLARDE, the prosecution was able to establish the
proximate time of the commission of the crime, which was sometime between 9:00
p.m., when GALLARDE left the house of Talan followed by EDITHA, and 10:30 p.m.,
when the body of EDITHA was found. This was further corroborated by the
examining physician who testified, on the basis of the degree of rigor mortis, that
EDITHA died more or less, at 10:00 p.m. of 6 May 1997.38

Likewise, GALLARDE's alibi and bare denial deserve no consideration. He did not
present witnesses who could confirm his presence in his house. No member of his
family corroborated him on this matter. The defenses of denial and alibi, if
unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving,
deserve no weight in law, and cannot be given evidentiary value over the
testimony of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.39

Moreover, even assuming that GALLARDE's claim is true, his stay in his house did
not preclude his physical presence at the locus criminis or its immediate vicinity.
The place where the body of EDITHA was found buried was a few meters from his
house, the place pointed to in the alibi and can be reached in a short while. For
the defense of alibi to prosper, the requirements of time and place must be strictly
met. It is not enough to prove that the accused was somewhere else when the
crime was committed, he must demonstrate that it was physically impossible for
him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission.40

Besides, no evil motive has been established against the witnesses for the
prosecution that might prompt them to incriminate the accused or falsely testify
against him. It is settled that when there is no showing that the principal witnesses
for the prosecution were actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that the
witnesses were not so actuated and their testimonies are thus entitled to full faith
and credit.41 Testimonies of witnesses who have no motive or reason to falsify or
perjure their testimonies should be given credence.42

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With respect to GALLARDE's claim that he was arrested without warrant, suffice it to
say that any objection, defect, or irregularity attending an arrest must be made
before the accused enters his plea.43 The records show no objection was ever
interposed prior to arraignment and trial.44 GALLARDE's assertion that he was
denied due process by virtue of his alleged illegal arrest is negated by his voluntary
submission to the jurisdiction of the trial court, as manifested by the voluntary and
counsel-assisted plea he entered during arraignment and by his active
participation in the trial thereafter.45 It is settled that any objection involving a
warrant of arrest or procedure in the acquisition by the court of jurisdiction over the
person of an accused must be made before he enters his plea, otherwise the
objection is deemed waived.46 It is much too late in the day to complain about
the warrantless arrest after a valid information had been filed and the accused
arraigned and trial commenced and completed and a judgment of conviction
rendered against him.47 Verily, the illegal arrest of an accused is not sufficient
cause for setting aside a valid judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint
after trial free from error; such arrest does not negate the validity of the conviction
of the accused.48

Homicide, which we find to be the only crime committed by GALLARDE, is defined


in Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code and is punished with reclusion temporal. In
the absence of any modifying circumstance, it shall be imposed in its medium
period. GALLARDE is entitled to the benefits of the Indeterminate Sentence Law.
Accordingly, he can be sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty ranging
from ten (10) years of the medium period of prision mayor as minimum to
seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of the medium period of reclusion
temporal as maximum.

As to the civil aspect of the case, the parties agreed on P70,000 as liquidated
damages. This should be construed as actual damages. However, as indemnity for
death, the additional sum of P50,000, per current case law, should be awarded.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 51, Tayug,
Pangasinan, in Criminal Case No. T-1978 finding accused-appellant RADEL
GALLARDE guilty of the crime of murder is hereby modified. As modified, RADEL
GALLARDE is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as principal, of the
crime of Homicide, defined under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, and is
hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty ranging from ten (10) years
of the medium period of of prision mayor as minimum to seventeen (17) years and
four (4) months of the medium period of reclusion temporal as maximum, and to
pay the heirs of the victim, Editha Talan, the sum of P70,000 as liquidated actual
damages and P50,000 as indemnity for the death of Editha Talan.

Costs against accused-appellant RADEL GALLARDE in both instances.1âwphi1.nêt

SO ORDERED.

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[G. R. Nos. 148948 & 148951-60. February 17, 2003]

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, petitioner, vs. HON LUCENITO N. TAGLE, Presiding


Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Imus, Cavite, respondent.

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

In this special civil action for certiorari and mandamus, petitioner Commission
on Elections (COMELEC) seeks the nullification of the orders of 16 March 2001 [1] and
9 May 2001[2] of respondent Judge Lucenito N. Tagle of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 20, Imus, Cavite, denying petitioners motion to dismiss Criminal Cases
Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00 and motion for reconsideration, respectively.

During the 11 May 1998 elections, Florentino A. Bautista ran for the position of
mayor in the Municipality of Kawit, Cavite. On 8 July 1998, he filed with the COMELEC
a complaint against then incumbent mayor Atty. Federico Poblete, Bienvenido
Pobre, Reynaldo Aguinaldo, Arturo Ganibe, Leonardo Llave, Diosdado del Rosario,
Manuel Ubod, Angelito Peregrino, Mario Espiritu, Salvador Olaes and Pedro Paterno,
Jr., for violation of Section 261 (a) and (b) of the Omnibus Election Code. The
complaint was supported by the separate affidavits of forty-four (44) witnesses
attesting to the vote-buying activities of the respondents and was docketed as E.O.
Case No. 98-219.

On 25 February 1999, upon the recommendation of its Law Department, the


COMELEC en banc issued a resolution[3] directing the filing of the necessary
information against the respondents in E.O. Case No. 98-219 and authorizing the
Director IV of the Law Department to designate a COMELEC prosecutor to handle
the prosecution of the cases and to file the appropriate motion for the preventive
suspension of the respondents.

The Law Department filed the corresponding information against the


respondents in E.O. Case No. 98-219 before the RTC, Branch 90, Imus, Cavite, which
was docketed as Criminal Case No. 7034-99.

Before the trial of Criminal Case No. 7034-99 commenced, or on 2 December


1999, a complaint was filed by Innocencio Rodelas and Gerardo Macapagal with
the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Imus, Cavite, for violation of Section 261(a)
of the Omnibus Election Code against the witnesses in the criminal case for vote-
buying, who were the witnesses in E.O. Case No. 98-219. The complaint was
docketed as I.S. No. 1-99-1080.

On 10 April 2000, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor resolved to file separate
informations for vote-selling in the various branches of the RTC in Imus, Cavite,
against the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080. The cases were docketed as (1)
Criminal Cases Nos. 7940-00 to 7949-00 and 7981-00, which were assigned to Branch
22; (2) Criminal Cases Nos. 7973-00 to 7979-00 and 7970-00, assigned to Branch 21;

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(3) Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00, assigned to Branch 20; and
(4) Criminal Cases Nos. 7960-00 to 7969-00, assigned to Branch 90.

On 23 June 2000, the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080 appealed before the
COMELEC the 10 April 2000 Resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor. On 6 July 2000,
the COMELEC en banc denied the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.[4] However, upon
the urgent motion to set for hearing the appeal, the COMELEC en banc resolved to
defer action on the appeal and refer the same to the Law Department for comment
and recommendation.[5]

The Law Department of the COMELEC filed motions to suspend proceedings


before Branches 20, 21, 22 and 90 of the RTC of Imus, Cavite, until the COMELEC
would have resolved the appeal of the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080. The
Presiding Judge of Branch 22 granted the motion for the suspension of proceedings
in Criminal Cases Nos. 7940-00 to 7949-00 and 7981-00.

In its Minute Resolution No. 00-2453,[6] the COMELEC en banc, upon the
recommendation of its Law Department, declared null and void the resolution of
the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in I.S. No. 1-99-1080. It held that the
respondents therein are exempt from criminal prosecution pursuant to the fourth
paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646,[7] otherwise known as The Electoral
Reforms Law of 1987, which grants immunity from criminal prosecution persons who
voluntarily give information and willingly testify against those liable for vote-buying
or vote-selling. It further directed the Law Department to file the necessary motions
to dismiss the criminal cases filed against the said respondents.

Pursuant to Minute Resolution No. 00-2453, the Law Department filed a motion
to dismiss[8] Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00 before Branch 20 of
the RTC of Imus, Cavite, presided by herein respondent judge. The latter, however,
denied the said motion and the motion for reconsideration. According to
respondent judge, before one can be exempt from prosecution under the fourth
paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646, it is necessary that such person has already
performed the overt act of voluntarily giving information or testifying in any official
investigation or proceeding for the offense to which such information or testimony
was given. It was thus premature to exempt the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080
from criminal prosecution, since they have not yet testified.

Hence, this petition, ascribing to the respondent judge grave abuse of


discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in peremptorily denying the
prosecutions motion to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00.

This Court referred the petition to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and
required it to manifest whether it is adopting the petition. [9] In a Manifestation and
Motion[10] filed with this Court, the OSG stated that it repleads the submissions
contained in the petition and adopts the petition as its own.

The petition is meritorious.

A free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible election is indispensable in a


democratic society. Without it, democracy would not flourish and would be a
sham. Election offenses, such as vote-buying and vote-selling, are evils which
prostitute the election process. They destroy the sanctity of the votes and abet the

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entry of dishonest candidates into the corridors of power where they may do more
harm. As the Bible says, one who is dishonest in very small matters is dishonest in great
ones. One who commits dishonesty in his entry into an elective office through the
prostitution of the electoral process cannot be reasonably expected to respect and
adhere to the constitutional precept that a public office is a public trust, and that
all government officials and employees must at all times be accountable to the
people and exercise their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and
efficiency.

The provision of law alleged to have been violated by the respondents in E.O.
Case No. 98-219, who are the accused in Criminal Case No. 7034-99, reads as
follows:

SEC. 261. Prohibited Acts. - The following shall be guilty of an election offense:

(a) Vote-buying and vote-selling. - (1) Any person who gives, offers or promises
money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise
or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or
indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association,
corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in
general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or
to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in
a convention or similar selection process of a political party.

(2) Any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or


receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or
employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.

(b) Conspiracy to bribe voters. - Two or more persons whether candidates or not,
who come to an agreement concerning the commission of any violation of
paragraph (a) of this section and decide to commit it.

One of the effective ways of preventing the commission of vote-buying and of


prosecuting those committing it is the grant of immunity from criminal liability in favor
of the party whose vote was bought. This grant of immunity will encourage the
recipient or acceptor to come into the open and denounce the culprit-candidate,
and will ensure the successful prosecution of the criminal case against the
latter. Congress saw the wisdom of this proposition, and so Section 28 of R.A. No.
6646 on Prosecution of Vote-Buying and Vote-Selling concludes with this paragraph:

The giver, offeror, the promisor as well as the solicitor, acceptor, recipient and
conspirator referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Section 261 of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 881 shall be liable as principals: Provided, That any person,
otherwise guilty under said paragraphs who voluntarily gives information and
willingly testifies on any violation thereof in any official investigation or proceeding
shall be exempt from prosecution and punishment for the offenses with reference
to which his information and testimony were given: Provided, further, That nothing

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herein shall exempt such person from criminal prosecution for perjury or false
testimony.

However, to avoid possible fabrication of evidence against the vote-buyers,


especially by the latters opponents, Congress saw it fit to warn vote-sellers who
denounce the vote-buying that they could be liable for perjury or false testimony
should they not tell the truth.

It must be stressed that the COMELEC has the exclusive power to conduct
preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under the election laws
and to prosecute the same, except as may otherwise be provided by law. [11] The
Chief State Prosecutor, all Provincial and City Prosecutors, or their respective
assistants are, however, given continuing authority, as deputies of the COMELEC, to
conduct preliminary investigation of complaints involving election offenses and to
prosecute the same.[12] This authority may be revoked or withdrawn by the
COMELEC anytime whenever, in its judgment, such revocation or withdrawal is
necessary to protect the integrity of the COMELEC and to promote the common
good, or when it believes that the successful prosecution of the case can be done
by the COMELEC.[13]

In this case, when the COMELEC nullified the resolution of the Provincial
Prosecutor in I.S. No. 1-99-1080, which was the basis of the informations for vote-
selling, it, in effect, withdrew the deputation granted to the prosecutor. Such
withdrawal of the deputation was clearly in order, considering the circumstances
obtaining in these cases where those who voluntarily executed affidavits attesting
to the vote-buying incident and became witnesses against the vote-buyers now
stand as accused for the same acts they had earlier denounced. What the
Prosecutor did was to sabotage the prosecution of the criminal case against the
vote-buyers and put in serious peril the integrity of the COMELEC, which filed the
said case for vote-buying.If the Prosecutor had listened to the command of
prudence and good faith, he should have brought the matter to the attention of
the COMELEC.

Petitioner COMELEC found that the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080, who
executed affidavits and turned witnesses in Criminal Case No. 7034-99, voluntarily
admitted that they were the acceptors or recipients in the vote-buying done by the
accused in said case. It was precisely because of such voluntary admission and
willingness to testify that the COMELEC en banc,in its Minute Resolution No. 00-2453,
declared null and void the resolution of the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of
Cavite in I.S. No. 1-99-1080 and held that the respondents therein are exempt from
criminal prosecution pursuant to the last paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646.
Hence, it directed its Law Department to file a motion to dismiss the criminal cases
which the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor filed in court against the respondents
in I.S. No. 1-99-1080.

We agree with the petitioner and hold that the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-
1080, who are the accused in Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00,
are exempt from criminal prosecution for vote-selling by virtue of the proviso in the
last paragraph of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646. Respondent judge lost sight of the fact
that at the time the complaint for vote-selling was filed with the Office of the

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Provincial Prosecutor, the respondents in I.S. No. 1-99-1080 had already executed
sworn statements attesting to the corrupt practice of vote-buying in the case
docketed as Criminal Case No. 7034-99. It cannot then be denied that they had
already voluntarily given information in the vote-buying case. In fact, they willingly
testified in Criminal Case No. 7034-99 per petitioners Memorandum filed with this
Court.[14]

In a futile attempt to justify his denial of the motion to dismiss Criminal Cases
Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00, respondent judge averred in his comment on
the petition that nothing was mentioned in the motion to dismiss that the accused
in said cases had already given information or testified in any proceeding. Besides,
no record of any preliminary investigation was attached to the motion to dismiss.
The petitioner merely referred to the dispositive portion of Minute Resolution No. 00-
2453 without mentioning any preliminary investigation conducted by the Law
Department of the COMELEC.

This contention is without basis. A reading of the motion to dismiss Criminal


Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00 shows that a certified true copy of
COMELEC Minute Resolution No. 00-2453 was attached thereto and was made an
integral part thereof. The attached resolution indicated that the accused in the
cases sought to be dismissed had voluntarily given information and were willing to
testify against the vote-buyers, and are therefore utilized as witnesses in the pending
case for vote-buyers docketed as Criminal Case No. 7034-99.

Clearly then, respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion when he


denied the motion to dismiss Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00 and 7980-00
despite COMELECs determination that the accused therein are exempt from
criminal prosecution for vote-selling pursuant to the proviso in the fourth paragraph
of Section 28 of R.A. No. 6646.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The challenged orders dated 16 March


2001 and 9 May 2001 of respondent judge in Criminal Cases Nos. 7950-00 to 7959-00
and 7980-00 before Branch 20 of the Regional Trial Court in Imus, Cavite, are
hereby SET ASIDE, and said criminal cases are ordered DISMISSED.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 200748 July 23, 2014

JAIME D. DELA CRUZ, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

SERENO, CJ:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari, filed by petitioner Jaime D. dela Cruz, from
the Decision1 dated 22 June 2011 issued by the Twentieth Division of the Court of

300
Appeals (CA) and Resolution2 dated 2 February 2012 issued by the Former
Twentieth Division of the CA in CA-G.R. C.R. No. 00670.

THE ANTECEDENT FACTS

Petitioner Jaime D. dela Cruz was charged with violation of Section 15, Article II of
Republic Act No. (R.A.) 9165, or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,
by the Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer of the Office of the
Ombudsman - Visayas, in an Information3 dated 14 February 2006, which reads:

That on or about the 31st day of January 2006, at Cebu City, Philippines, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, JAIME D. DE LA
CRUZ, a public officer, having been duly appointed and qualified to such public
position as Police Officer 2 of the Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned in the
Security Service Group of the Cebu City Police Office, after having beenarrested
by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in an entrapment
operation, was found positive for use of METHAMPHETAMINE
HYDROCHLORIDEcommonly known as "Shabu", the dangerous drug after a
confirmatory test conducted on said accused.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

When arraigned, petitioner, assisted by counsel de parte, pleaded not guilty to the
charge. The records do not reveal whether De la Cruz was likewise charged for
extortion.

VERSION OF THE PROSECUTION

The evidence of the prosecution reveals that at 8:00 a.m. of 31 January 2006, the
agents and special investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation, Central
Visayas Regional Office (NBI-CEVRO) or simply NBI, received a Complaint from
Corazon Absin (Corazon) and Charito Escobido (Charito). The complainants
claimed that at 1:00 a.m. of that same day, Ariel Escobido (Ariel), the live-in
partner of Corazon and son of Charito, was picked up by several unknown male
persons believed to be police officers for allegedly selling drugs. An errand boy
gave a number to the complainants, and when the latter gave the number a ring,
they were instructed to proceed to the Gorordo Police Office located along
Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City. In the said police office, they met "James" who
demanded from them ₱100,000, later lowered to ₱40,000, in exchange for the
release of Ariel. After the meeting, the complainants proceeded to the NBI-CEVRO
to file a complaint and narrate the circumstances of the meeting to the
authorities. While at the NBI-CEVRO, Charitoeven received calls supposedly from
"James" instructing her to bring the money as soon as possible.

The special investigators at the NBI-CEVRO verified the text messages received by
the complainants.1âwphi1 A team was immediately formed to implement an
entrapment operation, which took place inside a Jollibee branch at the corner of

301
Gen. Maxilom and Gorordo Avenues, Cebu City. The officers were able to nab
Jaime dela Cruz by using a pre-marked 500 bill dusted with fluorescent powder,
which was made part of the amount demanded by "James" and handed by
Corazon. Petitioner was later brought to the forensic laboratory of the NBI-CEVRO
where forensic examination was done by forensic chemist Rommel Paglinawan.
Petitioner was required to submit his urine for drug testing. It later yielded a positive
result for presence of dangerous drugs as indicated in the confirmatory test result
labeled as Toxicology (DangerousDrugs) Report No. 2006-TDD-2402 dated 16
February 2006.

VERSION OF THE DEFENSE

The defense presented petitioner as the lone witness. He denied the charges and
testified that while eating at the said Jollibee branch, he was arrested allegedly for
extortion by NBI agents. When he was at the NBI Office, he was required to extract
urine for drug examination, but he refused saying he wanted it to be done by the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory and not by the NBI. His request
was, however, denied. He also requested to be allowed to call his lawyer prior to
the taking of his urine sample, to no avail.

THE RULING OF THE RTC

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 58 of Cebu City, in its Decision 4 dated 6 June
2007, found the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 15,
Article II of R.A. 9165 and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of compulsory
rehabilitation for a period of not less than six (6) months at the Cebu Center for the
Ultimate Rehabilitation of Drug Dependents located at Salinas, Lahug, Cebu City. 5

Petitioner filed an appeal assigning as error the RTC’s validation of the result of the
urine test despite its dubiousness having been admitted in spite of the lack of legal
basis for itsadmission. First, he alleges that the forensic laboratory examination was
conducted despite the fact that he was not assisted by counsel, in clear violation