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ANG TIBAY VS. COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS (CIR) [69 PHIL 635; G.R. NO.

46496; 27 FEB 1940] Facts: There was agreement between Ang Tibay and the National Labor Union,
Inc (NLU). The NLU alleged that the supposed lack of leather material claimed by Toribio Teodoro was but a scheme adopted to systematically discharge all the members of the NLU, from work. And this averment is desired to be proved by the petitioner with the records of the Bureau of Customs and Books of Accounts of native dealers in leather. That National Worker's Brotherhood Union of Ang Tibay is a company or employer union dominated by Toribio Teodoro, which was alleged by the NLU as an illegal one. The CIR, decided the case and elevated it to the Supreme Court, but a motion for new trial was raised by the NLU. But the Ang Tibay filed a motion for opposing the said motion.

Issue: Whether or Not, the motion for new trial is meritorious to be granted. Held: To begin with the issue before us is to realize the functions of the CIR. The
CIR is a special court whose functions are specifically stated in the law of its creation which is the Commonwealth Act No. 103). It is more an administrative board than a part of the integrated judicial system of the nation. It is not intended to be a mere receptiveorgan of the government. Unlike a court of justice which is essentially passive, acting only when its jurisdiction is invoked and deciding only cases that are presented to it by the parties litigant, the function of the CIR, as will appear from perusal of its organic law is more active, affirmative and dynamic. It not only exercises judicial or quasi-judicial functions in the determination of disputes between employers and employees but its functions are far more comprehensive and extensive. It has jurisdiction over the entire Philippines, to consider, investigate, decide, and settle any question, matter controversy or disputes arising between, and/ or affecting employers and employees or laborers, and landlords and tenants or farm-laborers, and regulates the relations between them, subject to, and in accordance with, the provisions of CA 103. As laid down in the case of Goseco v. CIR, the SC had the occasion to point out that the CIR is not narrowly constrained by technical rules of procedure, and equity and substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms and shall not be bound by any technical rules of legal evidence but may inform its mind in such manner as it may deem just and equitable.

The fact, however, that the CIR may be said to be free from rigidity of certain procedural requirements does not mean that it can in justiciable cases coming before it, entirely ignore or disregard the fundamental and essential requirements of due process in trials and investigations of an administrative character. There cardinal primary rights which must be respected even in proceedings of this character: (1) the right to a hearing, which includes the right to present one's cause and submit evidence in support thereof; (2) The tribunal must consider the evidence presented; (3) The decision must have something to support itself; (4) The evidence must be substantial; (5) The decision must be based on the evidence presented at the hearing; or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties affected; (6) The tribunal or body or any of its judges must act on its own independent consideration of the law and facts of the controversy, and not simply accept the views of a subordinate; (7) The Board or body should, in all controversial questions, render its decision in such manner that the parties to the proceeding can know the various Issue involved, and the reason for the decision rendered. The failure to grasp the fundamental issue involved is not entirely attributable to the parties adversely affected by the result. Accordingly, the motion for a new trial should be, and the same is hereby granted, and the entire record of this case shall be remanded to the CIR, with instruction that it reopen the case receive all such evidence as may be relevant, and otherwise proceed in accordance with the requirements set forth. So ordered.

PEOPLE v SANSANO & RAMOS (1933)58 Phil 73-1919: Mariano Ventura and Ursula Sansano gotmarried and had a child. Shortly after that, Mariano disappeared to Cagayan and abandoned his family.-Wife did not have any means of survival so she resorted to cohabiting with Marcelo Ramos.-1924: Mariano returned and filed for adultery, to whichboth Sansano and Ramos were sentenced-After conviction, Ursula begs for forgiveness and for Mariano to take her back.-The latter denied and told her to go do what she wants to do, so she returned to Ramos while he went to Hawaii.Mariano went back to file for divorce (under Act2710) ISSUE: WON husband consented to adultery and therefore barred from actionHELD: YES. Because he gave wife freedom to do whatever she would like to do

TITLE: Fred M. Harden vs. The Director of PrisonsDATE: October 22, 1948PONENTE: Tuason J.SUBJECT MATTER: Principal Penalties: Death (Sec. 19, Art. III Phil.Constitution) I . F a c t s : A. Narration: On various dates in 1946, Fred M. Harden transferred to theHongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the CharteredBank of India, Australia and China, both in Hongkong, overP1, 000,000 in cash. Mrs. Harden filed to the court a motion toorder Mr. Harden to return all the amounts mentioned to redeposit them with the Manila Branch of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China with respect to their conjugalpartnership. Mr. Harden failed to comply, wherein, he wascommitted to jail for an indeterminate period of time until hecomplies with the courts orders. B. Contention of the State: The petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by the petitioner wasdenied based on the following arguments. The term of imprisonment by the petitioner in this case in indefinite andmight last through life, but the terms of the sentence is left openfor him to avoid more years by just complying with the courtsorders. His imprisonment for more than six months is notexcessive or unjust since he was given the right to comply withsaid orders. The imprisonment is but a pure remedial measure tocoerce the petitioner to act and perform the orders. C. Contention of the Accused: Mr. Harden contends that he has no means to comply with thecourts orders since he was committed to jail. II. Issue: Whether or not the trial court erred in committing the petitioner injail for an indeterminate period of time until complying with thecourts orders for a mere reason of disobedience. III.Ruling: The penalty complained of is neither cruel, unjust nor excessivesince it is the outcome of the act of the petitioner. The petitionerwas given the choice to prevent his more time of detention in jail byjust complying with the said orders, but he did nothing. The courthas jurisdiction of the offense charged and of the party who ischarged, its judgment, order or decree is not subject to collateralattack by habeas corpus. Whether the act charged has beencommitted or can still be performed is already determined by theorder or judgment of the trial court wherein the petitioner forhabeas corpus is adjudged in contempt. The petition is denied.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC DECISION February 9, 1989 G.R. No. L-38969-70 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. FELICIANO MUOZ, alias Tony, et al., accused, MARVIN MILLORA, TOMAS TAYABA, alias Tamy Tayaba and JOSE MISLANG, defendants-appellants. The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee. Manuel B. Millora for appellant Marvin Millora. , J.: Of the four persons convicted in this case, one has not appealed and thus impliedly accepted his sentence. The others have questioned their conviction and insist that they are innocent. The prosecution did not think so, and neither does the Solicitor General now. The brief for the appellee would affirm the finding of guilt and in fact even increase the penalty. The prosecution presented a bizarre case of arbitrary condemnation and instant punishment meted out by what appear to be the members of a private army. Eleven persons, most of them bodyguards of the town mayor, went out in a jeep at the behest of one of them who had complained of having been victimized by cattle rustlers. Having found their supposed quarry, they proceeded to execute each one of them in cold blood without further ado and without mercy. One was shot in the mouth and died instantly as his son and daughter looked on in horror. The second was forced to lie down on the ground and then shot twice, also in the head, before his terrified wife and son. The third, who was only sixteen years old, was kicked in the head until he bled before he too had his brains blown out. To all appearances, the unfortunate victims were only innocent farmers and not the dangerous criminals they were pronounced to be. Bizarre but true, as the trial court agreed. Of the eleven persons who were charged with murder in three separate informations, the four who stood trial were found guilty. 1 The other seven have yet to be identified and tried. The sentence of Feliciano Muoz, who did not appeal, has long become final and executory and is now being served. 2 We deal here only with the appeals of the other convicts, namely, Marvin Millora, Tomas Tayaba, and Jose Mislang, who all ask for a reversal. The killings occurred in the morning of June 30, 1972, in Balite Sur, San Carlos City, Pangasinan. 3

As established by the prosecution, Feliciano Muoz, Marvin Millora, Tomas Tayaba, Jose Mislang, and the other seven unidentified men went to the house of Mauro Bulatao and asked for the address of his son Arsenic. All four of them went inside while the rest surrounded the house. All eleven men were armed. Mauro, who was then bathing his horse, was called by the accused. As he approached and while under his house, he was met by Millora who simply shot him at arms length with a long firearm, hitting him in the mouth and killing him as he fell. At that precise time, Muoz, Tayaba and Mislang were standing by Millora, evidently giving him armed support. None of them made any move to restrain or dissuade him. 4 After killing Mauro, the four accused dragged out of the house his sixteen year old son, Aquilino, and knocked him down. Muoz kicked him several times in the head as he lay on the ground while the others looked on in silent approval or at least without objection. They then took the bleeding man with them to look for their third target, Alejandro Bulatao. 5 In Alejandros house, the group forced his wife, Juana to go with them and direct them to her husband. They found him tending to their cows with his son Pedro. Muoz ordered Alejandro and his wife to lie down and then, even as Pedro pleaded for his fathers life, shot Alejandro twice in the head, killing him instantly. Millora, Tayaba and Mislang, along with their companions, merely stood by as the brutal act was committed. Juana watched her husbands death in terror and the 12 -year old boy made a desperate run for his life as one of the accused fired at him and missed. 6 The second victim having been murdered as the first, the accused then vented their violence on Aquilino, whom Muoz again brutally kicked as the others looked on. Aquilino was entirely defenseless. Finally, Muoz ended the boys agony and shot him to death, hitting him in the head and body. Muoz and Minora then picked up all the empty shells and fled with the rest of their companions, leaving the terrified Juana with the two grisly corpses. 7 The above events were narrated at the trial by Melecia Bulatao, 8 Mauros daughter and Aquilinos sister; Jose Bulatao, 9 Mauros son and Aquilinos brother; Juana Bulatao, 10 Alejandros wife; and Pedro Bulatao, 11 their son. Their testimony was corroborated by Dr. Juanita de Vera, 12 who performed the autopsy on the three victims. Melecia and Jose testified on the killing of their father by Marvin Minora as the other accused stood by and the mauling of their brother Aquilino before he was dragged away by the group. The trial court especially noted the straightforward account given by Jose, who positively identified Minora as the killer and described the participation of the others, including the savage kicking of his brother by Muoz. 13 Melecia earlier pointed to Mislang as the one who had shot her father but changed her mind later on cross-examination and named Millora as the actual killer. She explained her turn-about by confessing that she had earlier agreed to exonerate Minora in exchange for the sum of P3,000.00 promised by his father although she actually did not receive the money. 14 For her part, Juana related how she was threatened with death unless she accompanied the accused to where her husband was. She narrated in detail how Alejandro was killed before her very eyes and how Aquilino was later kicked and then also shot to death, also by Muoz, while the other accused stood by. 15 Her testimony was

corroborated by Pedro, her son, whom the accused had also thought of killing because he was talkative and indeed was shot at when he successfully escaped after his fathers murder. 16 The defense makes much of the fact that it was only months after the killings that it occurred to these witnesses to denounce the accused and suggests that this delay should impugn their credibility. As correctly pointed out by the trial judge, however, these witnesses were naturally deterred from doing so for fear that they would meet the same fate that befell their relatives. These were humble barriofolk whose timidity did not allow them to report their grievances beyond the barrio officials they knew, more so since the higher authorities appeared to be indifferent and gave no attention, much less encouragement, to their complaints. It is true that there were several inconsistencies in the testimony of these witnesses as painstakingly pointed out by the appellants, 17 but these are minor flaws that do not detract from the essential truthfulness of their accounts of the ruthless killings. 18 The brutality of the murders and the veracity of the testimony of the said witnesses are emphasized by the medical reports 19 of the injuries sustained by the victims, as follows: Mauro Bulatao: 1. Thru and thru gunshot wound with point of entrance at the upper lip left side around 1 cm. in diameter and with the exit at the middle of the back of the head around 1-1/2 cm. in diameter. 2. Gunshot wound at the lower lip left side of the mouth. Alejandro Bulatao: 1. Lacerated gunshot wound at the left eye with the whole eye practically lacerated. 2. Lacerated gunshot wound of the right eye and the forehead practically opened with the brain tissue outside. Aquiline Bulatao: 1. Thru and thru gunshot wound with point of entrance at the upper right jaw bone around 1- 1/2 cm. in diameter and with the exit at the middle of the back of the head around 2 cm. in diameter. 2. Gunshot wound at the upper left shoulder out the middle of the left clavicle around 1- 1/2 inches in diameter. The three appellants invoked individual defenses which the trial court correctly rejected as false and unbelievable. All claimed the Bulataos were killed as a result of an exchange of gunfire with a rather hazy group and each claimed he was not involved in the shoot-out. Testifying for Millora on the alleged encounter between the Bulataos and their adversaries, Victoriano Bacani said that the latter included Tayaba, Mislang and five others who fled from the scene in a jeep. 20 Graciano Muoz, corroborating Bacani, said he himself saw seven men in a jeep coming from the

sound of the gunfire after he had paid Mauro P400.00 to redeem his stolen carabao. 21 Another witness for Millora, Orlando de los Santos, testified to having seen the encounter between the Bulataos and the other group and declared that the former were armed with carbines and Garand rifles. 22 The trial court rejected Bacanis testimony because he appeared hesitant and suspicious on the stand and did not give the impression that he was telling the truth. 23 Moreover, it took him all of one year to report the alleged shooting encounter, which he also did not mention that same afternoon when he visited Mauros family to condole with them. 24 It is also not believable that the group would flee because they had no more bullets when their supposed three adversaries were already dead in the field. The alleged redemption made by Muoz was described by the trial court as preposterous, especially since no shred of evidence had been presented to show that Mauro was a cattle rustler, let alone his 16 year old son. 25 As for De los Santos, no firearms were discovered beside the dead bodies of the Bulataos, including Mauro, who was found not in the supposed battleground but under his house, as testified to by Dr. De Vera. 26 Milloras own defense was that he was in Dagupan City at the time of the killings, having gone there in the evening of June 29, 1972. He claimed he had stayed there overnight with a female companion after drinking beer with Atty. Antonio Resngit returning to San Carlos City only between 8 and 9 oclock the following morning or June 30, 1972. 27 The lawyer corroborated him, 28 but he cannot be more credible than Mauros own children, Jose and Melecia, who positively identified Millora as the person who actually shot their father in the face and killed him instantly. Such a traumatic experience could not have been forgotten by these witnesses who saw their father murdered without warning or mercy nor could their memory of the heartless killer have been easily wiped out from their minds. It is stressed that Juana Bulatao and her son Pedro also categorically declared that Millora was with the group that she took to the field where her husband and Aquilino were killed by Muoz. 29 Tayaba and Mislang offered a common defense, also of alibi. Both claimed that Mislang having complained of cattle rustlers, a group of policemen, including Tayaba, stayed in the formers house the whole night of June 29, 1972, leaving only at 8 oclock the following morning of June 30, 1972, after Mislang had served them breakfast. 30 Significantly, however, barrio Bacnar where Mislangs house was located, is only two kilometers from Balite Sur. 31 Moreover, the trial court doubted the testimony given by Sgt. Lomibao, who corroborated them and spoke of having heard the gunfire narrated by Milloras witnesses. The decision noted that Lomibao was mysteriously absent when the police chief and Dr. de Vera went to the scene of the crime at 9 oclock that morning to investigate the killings. In fact, it expressed the suspicion that Lomibao and Patrolman Liwanag, who also testified for the accused, might have been among the seven unidentified persons who were with Muoz and the three appellants herein when the Bulataos were murdered. 32 All told, we affirm the findings of the trial judge, who had the opportunity to observe the witnesses at the trial and assess their credibility. As we said in a previous case:

We see no reason to reverse the factual findings of the trial judge, who had the opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses and to assess their credibility. The written record will not show that nuance of tone or voice, the meaningful contrast between the hesitant pause and the prompt reply, and the expression or color or tilt of face that will affirm the truth or expose the fabrication. All these subtle factors could be considered by the trial judge in weighing the conflicting declarations before him, and we do not find that he has erred. 33 We agree that the three appellants, together with Muoz and their seven other companions, participated in the killings of the three Bulataos in the manner described by the witnesses for the prosecution. The defenses of the herein appellants should be, as they properly were, rejected as undeserving of belief in the light of the more convincing and telling evidence submitted by the government. However, we do not accept the different degrees of participation assigned by the court a quo to each of the appellants in each of the three offenses imputed to them. In Criminal Case No. 0176, Millora was found guilty as principal and Muoz and the other two herein appellants only as accomplices, and in Criminal Case Nos. 0177 and 0178, Muoz was found guilty as principal and the herein appellants only as accomplices. 34 In support of this finding, the trial court said that there was no evidence of conspiracy to justify holding each of the accused equally liable for the three murders. We hold that there was. Indeed, it is clear that from the very start, when the eleven men went out to look for the suspected cattle rustlers, there was already an agreement among them to ferret out and punish the Bulataos whom they had condemned beforehand. They knew whom they were looking for. They knew where to look for them. They sought each of them with drawn and ready weapons. When they reached Mauro Bulataos house, four of them went inside while the rest deployed themselves in strategic positions. When Millora shot Mauro, the appellants and the others stood by with guns at the ready. Nobody moved to dissuade or stop him. Together they dragged Aquilino from the house and the rest watched while Muoz kicked him in the head while helpless on the ground. Together, they took him with them and then forced Juana Bulatao to lead them to her husband. The rest stood by with their weapons as Muoz shot Alejandro in the head. No one interceded to stop him from also killing Aquilino. There is no question that the group moved in concert, pursuing a common design previously agreed upon, that made each of them part of a conspiracy. 35 As such, each of them is liable in equal degree with the others for each of the three killings. Each member of the conspiracy to commit the crime of murder is guilty as a co-principal, regardless of who actually pulled the trigger that killed the three victims. It is settled that in a conspiracy the act of one is the act of all. 36 Each of the three killings constituted the crime of murder, qualified by alevosia. There was treachery because every one of the three victims was completely helpless and defenseless when shot and killed by the accused with no risk to themselves. Mauro was completely taken by surprise when he was shot in the face. Alejandro was lying down when he was shot in the head. Aquilino was seated when he was shot in the head and shoulders. None of the three victims had a chance to resist.

The penalty for murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code was reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death, but this was modified by Article III, Section 19(l) of the 1987 Constitution providing as follows: Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua. Conformably, the Court has since February 2, 1987 not imposed the death penalty whenever it was called for under the said article but instead reduced the same to reclusion perpetua as mandated by the above provision. The maximum period of the penalty was thus in effect lowered to the medium, the same period applied, as before, where the offense was not attended by any modifying circumstance, with the minimum period, i. e., reclusion temporal maximum, being still applicable in all other cases. The three-grade scheme of the original penalty, including death, was thus maintained except that the maximum period was not imposed because of the constitutional prohibition. In People v. Gavarra 37 Justice Pedro L. Yap declared for the Court that in view of the abolition of the death penalty under Section 19, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, the penalty that may be imposed for murder is reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua thereby eliminating death as the original maximum period. Later, without categorically saying so, the Court, through Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera in People v. Masangkay 38 and through Justice Andres R. Narvasa in People v. Atencio 39 divided the modified penalty into three new periods, the limits of which were specified by Justice Edgardo L. Paras in People v. Intino, 40 as follows: the lower half of reclusion temporal maximum as the minimum; the upper half of reclusion temporal maximum as the medium; andreclusion perpetua as the maximum. The Court has reconsidered the above cases and, after extended discussion, come to the conclusion that the doctrine announced therein does not reflect the intention of the framers as embodied in Article III, Section 19(l) of the Constitution. This conclusion is not unanimous, to be sure. Indeed, there is much to be said of the opposite view, which was in fact shared by many of those now voting for its reversal. The majority of the Court, however, is of the belief that the original interpretation should be restored as the more acceptable reading of the constitutional provision in question. The advocates of the Masangkay ruling argue that the Constitution abolished the death penalty and thereby limited the penalty for murder to the remaining periods, to wit, the minimum and the medium. These should now be divided into three new periods in keeping with the three-grade scheme intended by the legislature. Those who disagree feel that Article III, Section 19(l) merely prohibits the imposition of the death penalty and has not, by reducing it to reclusion perpetua, also correspondingly reduced the remaining penalties. These should be maintained intact. A reading of Section 19(l) of Article III will readily show that there is really nothing therein which expressly declares the abolition of the death penalty. The provision merely says that the death penalty shall not be imposed unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes the Congress hereafter provides for it and, if already imposed, shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua. The language, while rather awkward, is still plain enough. And it is a settled rule of legal hermeneutics that if the language under

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consideration is plain, it is neither necessary nor permissible to resort to extrinsic aids, like the records of the constitutional convention, for its interpretation. 41 At that, the Court finds that such resort, even if made, would not be of much assistance either in the case at bar. Accepting arguendo that it was the intention of the framers to abolish the death penalty, we are still not convinced from the debates in the Constitutional Commission that there was also a requirement to adjust the two remaining periods by dividing them into three shorter periods. This is not a necessary consequence of the provision as worded. The following exchange cited by those in favor of Masangkay is at best thought-provoking but not decisive of the question: FR. BERNAS: The effect is the abolition of the death penalty from those statutes-only the death penalty. The statute is not abolished, but the penalty is abolished. MR. MAAMBONG: That is what I am worried about, because the statutes, especially in the General Criminal Law, which is the Revised Penal Code, do not necessarily punish directly with death. Sometimes it has a range of reclusion temporal to death or reclusion perpetua to death. And what would be the effect on the judges, for example, if the range is reclusion temporal to death and he can no longer impose the death penalty? He will have difficulty in computing the degrees. Could the committee enlighten us on how the judge will look at the specific situation. FR. BERNAS: I grant that the judges will have difficulty, but I suppose that the judges will be equal to their tasks. The only thing is, if there is a range, the range cannot go as far as death (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, 749). FR. BERNAS: Certainly, the penalties lower than death remain. MR. REGALADO: That would be reclusion perpetua. But the range of the penalty for murder consists of three periods. The maximum period of reclusion temporal under the present status is the minimum period for the penalty for murder. The medium period is reclusion perpetua. The maximum period is death. If we now remove the death penalty, we will, therefore, have a range of penalty of 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years of reclusion temporal up to reclusion perpetua. You cannot dividereclusion perpetua into two. While it has a duration of 30 years, it is an indivisible penalty. Where do we get the medium period now until such time that Congress gets around to accommodate this amendment? FR. BERNAS: As I said, this is a matter which lawyers can argue with judges about. All we are saying is, the judges cannot impose the death penalty (Record, CONCOM July 18, 1986, Vol. I, p. 750). So there we have it this is a matter which lawyers can argue with judges about. Assuming that Commissioner Bernass answer reflected the consensus of the body, we are still not persuaded that it was the intention of the framers to lower not only the maximum period but also the other periods of the original penalty. That is not necessarily inferable from his statement that the judges will be equal to their task, especially so since he also said and we think with more definiteness-that all we are saying is that the judges cannot impose the death penalty (Emphasis supplied). We understand this to mean that they were not saying more.

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The question as we see it is not whether the framers intended to abolish the death penalty or merely to prevent its imposition. Whatever the intention was, what we should determine is whether or not they also meant to require a corresponding modification in the other periods as a result of the prohibition against the death penalty. It is definite that such a requirement, if there really was one, is not at all expressed in Article III, Section 19(l) of the Constitution or indicated therein by at least clear and unmistakable implication. It would have been so easy, assuming such intention, to state it categorically and plainly, leaving no doubt as to its meaning. One searches in vain for such a statement, express or even implied. The writer of this opinion makes the personal observation that this might be still another instance where the framers meant one thing and said another-or strangely, considering their loquacity elsewhere did not say enough. The original ruling as applied in the Gavarra, Masangkay, Atencio and Intino cases represented the unanimous thinking of the Court as it was then constituted. All but two members 42 at that time still sit on the Court today. If we have seen fit to take a second look at the doctrine on which we were all agreed before, it is not because of a change in the composition of this body. It is virtually the same Court that is changing its mind after reflecting on the question again in the light of new perspectives. And well it might, and can, for the tenets it lays down are not immutable. The decisions of this Court are not petrified rules grown rigid once pronounced but vital, growing things subject to change as all life is. While we are told that the trodden path is best, this should not prevent us from opening a fresh trial or exploring the other side or testing a new idea in a spirit of continuing inquiry. Accordingly, with the hope that as judges, (we) will be equal to (our) tasks, whatever that means, we hereby reverse the current doctrine providing for three new periods for the penalty for murder as reduced by the Constitution. Instead, we return to our original interpretation and hold that Article III, Section 19(l) does not change the periods of the penalty prescribed by Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code except only insofar as it prohibits the imposition of the death penalty and reduces it toreclusion perpetua. The range of the medium and minimum penalties remains unchanged. The Court relies that this interpretation may lead to certain inequities that would not have arisen under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code before its modification. Thus, a person originally subject to the death penalty and another who committed the murder without the attendance of any modifying circumstance will now be both punishable with the same medium period although the former is concededly more guilty than the latter. True enough. But that is the will not of this Court but of the Constitution. That is a question of wisdom, not construction. Of some relevance perhaps is the parable in the Bible of the workman who was paid the stipulated daily wage of one penny although he had worked longer than others hired later in the day also paid the same amount. When he complained because he felt unjustly treated by the householder, the latter replied: Friend, I do you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a penny? The problem in any event is addressed not to this Court but to the Congress. Penalties are prescribed by statute and are essentially and exclusively legislative. As judges, we can only interpret and apply

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them and have no authority to modify them or revise their range as determined exclusively by the legislature. We should not encroach on this prerogative of the lawmaking body. Coming back to the case at bar, we find that there being no generic aggravating or mitigating circumstance attending the commission of the offenses, the applicable sentence is the medium period of the penalty prescribed by Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code which, conformably to the new doctrine here adopted and announced, is still reclusion perpetua. This is the penalty we impose on all the accused-appellants for each of the three murders they have committed in conspiracy with the others. The award of civil indemnity for the heirs of each of the victims is affirmed but the amount thereof is hereby increased to P30,000.00 in line with the present policy. It remains to observe that the crimes inflicted upon the humble farmers would have remained unpunished were it not for the vigilance of certain responsible officials, especially the police and the prosecuting officer, who took up the cudgels for the victims families. The courage and conscientiousness they displayed are still the most potent weapons against those who, in their arrogance, believe that they can flout the law and frustrate justice because they have the protection of powerful patrons. WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is MODIFIED and all the accused-appellants are hereby declared guilty as principals in Criminal Case Nos. 0176, 0177 and 0178. Each of them is sentenced to suffer three (3) penalties of reclusion perpetua, and to pay solidarily to the heirs of their victims civil indemnity in the sum of P30,000.00 for each of the deceased, or a total indemnity of P90,000.00, with costs. SO ORDERED. Fernan, C.J., Gutierrez, Jr., Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur. Separate Opinions MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., concurring and dissenting: Concurrence is expressed in so far as conviction of the appellants is concerned. Dissent is registered, however, as to the penalty imposed which, in our view, should adhere to that provided in the Gavarra, followed by Masangkay, Atencio and Intino cases, which is more reflective of the true intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution. Simply put, the question is: did Section 19(1), Article III of the 1987 Constitution, abolish the death penalty or not? The pertinent portion thereof provides: Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes the Congress hereafter provides for it. xxx xxx xxx

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The majority pronouncement is that said provision did not abolish the death penalty but only provided for its non-imposition. Our reading, however, is that when the Constitution states that the death penalty shall not be imposed, it can only mean that capital punishment is now deemed non-existent in our penal statutes. It is because of the imperfection (awkward as termed by the majority) of the language used, and its susceptibility to two conflicting interpretations, contrary to the majority opinion that the text is plain, that resort must be had to judicial construction. It is elementary in statutory construction that it is the intent of the statute that must be given effect. The spirit, rather than the letter of a statute determines the construction thereof, and the Court looks less to its words and more to its context, subject matter, consequence and effects (Manila Race Horse Trainers Association vs. de la Puente, 88 Phil. 60). A statute must be read according to its spirit and intent, and where legislative intent apparently conflicts with the letter of the law, the former prevails over the latter (Tanada vs. Cuenco, 103 Phil. 1051). This intent must be ascertained from the words of the statutory provision itself. However, in a situation such as in the case at bar, where the intent does not decisively appear in the text of the provision as it admits of more than one construction, reliance may be made on extrinsic aids such as the records of the deliberations of the body that framed the law in order to clearly ascertain that intent. The records of the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) leave no doubt as to the intention of that body to abolish the death penalty. Thus, Fr. Bernas spoke of the constitutional abolition of the death penalty in his speech sponsoring the provision: My recollection on this is that there was a division in the Committee not on whether the death penalty should be abolished or not, but rather on whether the abolition should be done by the Constitution-in which case it cannot be restored by the legislature-left to the legislature. The majority voted for the constitutional abolition of the death penalty. And the reason is that capital punishment is inhuman for the convict and his family who are traumatized by the waiting, even if it is never carried out. There is no evidence that the death penalty deterred deadly criminals, hence, life should not be destroyed just in the hope that other lives might be saved. Assuming mastery over the life of another man is just to presumptuous for any man. The fact that the death penalty as an institution has been there from time immemorial should not deter us from reviewing it. Human life is mare valuable than an institution intended precisely to service human life. So, basically, this is the summary of the reason which were presented in support of the constitutional abolition of the death penalty (Record, CONCOM, July 17, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 676). (Emphasis supplied) Expounding on this abolition, Fr. Bernas also stated: Rather than wait for legislative discretion to abolish the death penalty, the Commission went ahead to abolish it but left the matter open for Congress to revive capital punishment at its discretion for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes. By a show of hands, the abolition of the death penalty was approved, 19 to 18. On motion of Commissioner Rodrigo, nominal voting was called and the outcome was still for abolition, 22 to 17 (Bernas, Constitution of the Philippines, Vol. 1, pp. 442443).

14

Another member of the CONCOM, Mr. Florenz Regalado, now a member of this Court, spoke for the retention of the death penalty, arguing that the law has provided numerous procedural and substantive safeguards that must be observed before the death penalty could be carried out. Among the safeguards are the requirements that evidence still be presented to justify the imposition of the death penalty although the accused has pleaded guilty, and the automatic review of such death penalty when imposed by Trial Courts. Commissioner Regalado also mentioned the fact that the Supreme Court has modified the death sentences imposed by Trial Courts in many instances. According to him, this only shows that the imposition of capital punishment goes through all the stages of screening and processing to avoid the possibility of error (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 745-746). In response, Fr. Bernas said that the numerous safeguards that must be observed before the death penalty could be carried out precisely show the tremendous reluctance of Philippine society to impose the death penalty, which reluctance must be translated into a constitutional prohibition. To quote him: FR. BERNAS: The reluctance is so grave that so many obstacles are put up against the execution of the death penalty and judges agonize whether they have to impose a death penalty or not. Legislators have made it more difficult for the death penalty to be imposed. Thus, the total abolition of the death penalty by the Constitution facilitates everything for the judges and for the legislators. it removes the agonizing process of having to decide whether the death penalty should be imposed by them or not. (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 746) (Emphasis supplied) It is thus clear that when Fr. Bernas sponsored the provision regarding the non-imposition of the death penalty, what he had in mind was the total abolition and removal from the statute books of the death penalty. This became the intent of the framers of the Constitution when they approved the provision and made it a part of the Bill of Rights. The following interpellation during the CONCOM deliberations sheds further light: MR. MAAMBONG: Just one clarificatory question. On the assumption that this proposed amendment will be granted, what would happen to the laws which presently punish certain penal omens by death, because those laws may have to be repealed later by the National Assembly? But as of this moment, there are so many penal offenses which are punishable by death. What would be the effect of the grant of these amendments? FR. BERNAS: The effect is the abolition of the death penalty from those statutes-only the death penalty. The statute is not abolished, but the penalty is abolished. (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 748-749) (Emphasis supplied) It is true that Article III, Section 19(l) also grants Congress the power to provide for the death penalty in cases involving heinous crimes. Congress was given this power precisely because it is only the lawmaking body which can legislate back into existence something that has been eliminated from our penal laws. Thus, the Constitution, while abolishing capital punishment, also left to Congress the power to restore it in certain cases. It is clear, however, that unless and until Congress enacts the

15

necessary legislation, the death penalty remains non-existent in our statute books. Again, the deliberations in the CONCOM prove this point: FR. BERNAS: The sense of this proposal is that upon the ratification of this Constitution, the legislature, if it wants to reimpose the death penalty, must repeat the act. In other words, the penalty disappears and there is need of a new act of the legislature to put it back. MR. MAAMBONG: Could we put it more simply, Madam President? Could we say that once this amendment is accepted, all penal offenses punishable by death will no longer carry the death penalty? FR. BERNAS: That is correct (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, p. 749). (Emphasis supplied) The following exchange on the floor when the CONCOM was deliberating on the provision giving the Legislature the power to provide for the death penalty in cases involving heinous crimes shows the understanding among the framers of what the consequences would be when the legislature does not pass a law reimposing death penalty for certain heinous crimes: MR. DE CASTRO: What happens if the National Assembly does not pass any law concerning death penalty such as on heinous crimes? MR. MONSOD: Then there is no death penalty. MIL DE CASTRO: That is the effect of the amendment? MR. MONSOD: Yes (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, pp. 747-748) (Emphasis supplied) To say that the wordings neither shall death penalty be imposed, do not provide for the abolition of the death penalty, but only provides for its non-imposition is to adopt a rather literal and restrictive construction that goes against the clear intent of the framers of the Constitution. The literal import or meaning of a statute must yield to its apparent intent, purpose or spirit. Intent is the spirit which gives rise to legislative enactment. It must be enforced when ascertained although it may not be consistent with the strict letter of the statute. The language of the Constitution should be read in a sense most obvious to the common understanding at the time of it s adoption (Eisner v. Macomber, 15, 6 Ed 421, 424). The intention of the legislature and its purpose or object, being the fundamental inquiry in judicial construction, control the literal interpretation of the particular language of a statute and a language capable of more than one meaning is to be taken in such a sense as to harmonize with the intention and object and effectuate the purpose of the enactment (US vs. Go Chico, 14 Phil. 128). Coming now to the penalty for Murder-the majority reverses the Decisions of this Court in People vs. Gavarra (L-37673, October 30, 1987, en banc, 155 SCRA 327), People vs. Masangkay (L-73461, October 27, 1987, 155 SCRA 113), People vs. Atencio (L-67721, December 10, 1987, 156 SCRA 242) and People v. Intino (L-69934, September 26, 1988) with respect to the imposable penalty for Murder in the absence of modifying circumstances. Those cases held that with the constitutional ban on capital punishment, the penalty for Murder now becomes reclusion temporal maximum to reclusion perpetua. Applying the provisions of the Revised Penal Code (Article 61 [3]), the medium period would be the

16

higher half of reclusion temporal maximum or 18 years, 8 months and 1 day to 20 years, and the minimum period is the lower half of reclusion temporal maximum, or 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 18 years and 8 months. The maximum period is, of course, reclusion perpetua because of the prohibition regarding the death penalty. The foregoing is but in faithful adherence to the graduated three-period scheme in the Revised Penal Code whereby if an aggravating circumstance attends the commission of the crime, the imposable penalty is the maximum period; if a mitigating circumstance, the minimum period; and in the absence of any modifying circumstance, the medium period. The majority assails the foregoing interpretation, however, in that the requirement of the modification of the penalty is not at all expressed in the Constitutional provision in question nor indicated therein by at least clear and unmistakable implication. However, to require the inclusion of such an additional provision would have made for more prolixity to a document that already is. That detail was best left to the Courts as indicated by the discussions on the floor. Indeed, when the abolition of the death penalty was being discussed on the floor of the CONCOM, the issue of the proper penalty for Murder, specifically with regard to its medium period, was raised. The following interpellation, also repeated in the majority opinion, tackled that issue: FR. BERNAS: The effect is the abolition of the death penalty from those statutes-only the death penalty. The statute is not abolished, but the penalty is abolished. MR. MAAMBONG: That is what I am worried about, because the statutes, especially in the General Criminal Law, which is the Revised Penal Code, do not necessarily punish directly with death. Sometimes it has a range of reclusion temporal to death or reclusion perpetua to death. And what would be the effect on the judges, for example, if the range is reclusion temporal to death and he can no longer impose the death penalty? He will have difficulty in commuting the degrees. Could the committee enlighten us on how the judge will look at the specific situation. FR. BERNAS: I grant that the judges will have difficulty, but I suppose that the judges will be equal to their tasks. The only thing is, if there is a range, the range cannot go as far as death (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, p. 749). xxx xxx xxx FR. BERNAS: Certainly, the penalties lower than death re- main. MR. REGALADO: That would be reclusion perpetua. But the range of the penalty for murder consists of three periods. The maximum period of reclusion temporal under the present status is the minimum period for the penalty for murder. The medium period is reclusion perpetua. The maximum period is death. If we now remove the death penalty, we will, therefore, have a range of penalty of 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years of reclusion temporal up to reclusion perpetua. You cannot dividereclusion perpetua into two. While it has a duration of 30 years, it is an indivisible penalty. Where do we get the medium period now until such time that Congress gets around to accommodate this amendment? FR. BERNAS: As I said, this is a matter which lawyers can argue with judges about. All we are saying is, the judges cannot impose the death penalty (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 750)

17

The fact that the medium period of the penalty for Murder was at all discussed not only bolsters the holding in the Gavarra and related cases that the death penalty had been abolished, and that the penalty for Murder was consequentially to be reduced to two periods, but also shows a keen awareness that difficulty would be encountered by the Courts by reason thereof The Supreme Court had proven itself equal to the task by resolving that difficulty in the cited cases. If it were, as the majority says, that they (the proponents) were not saying more, wherein would the difficulty lie? It would have been an easy matter for the proponents to have simply answered that the medium period was to be maintained at reclusion perpetua since anyway, as the majority concludes, the death penalty had not been abolished. If, as opined by the majority, reclusion perpetua is retained as the penalty for Murder even in the absence of aggravating and modifying circumstances, while imposed also as the new maximum penalty for the crime, then, the presence or absence of modifying circumstances will no longer lead to the imposition of a higher or lesser penalty depending on the attendant circumstances, as the Penal Code has prescribed. The distinction is erased between Murder committed with a generic aggravating circumstance and Murder carried out with neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstance. In both cases, the same penalty is imposable. As a consequence, the reason of the law in creating penalties divided into periods and in providing for various modifying circumstances with different effects, that is, the need to penalized more severely a Murder attended by an aggravating circumstance than a Murder with neither aggravating nor modifying circumstance, is rendered nugatory. Certainly, the CONCOM, in banning the imposition of capital punishment, could not have also intended to discard the underlying reason of the Penal Code in imposing three-periods for the penalty for Murder, i.e., to punish the offense in different degrees of severity depending on the offenders employment of aggravating or mitigating circumstance, or the lack thereof. To say that this is the will of the Constitution is inaccurate for the matter was clearly left to the Courts which were expected to be equal to the tasks. In keeping with that expectation, this Court held that the modified penalty for Murder, or, reclusion temporal, maximum, to reclusion perpetua, must retain the three-period scheme. In the application of the new penalty, a medium period, less severe than the maximum penalty, must be provided for so that the original intention of the law to penalize Murder in different degrees of severity depending on the attendant circumstances, remains in effect. That was the basis for the ruling in the Masangkay and the related that the majority is now abandoning. In those cases, the Court did not prescribe a penalty, a function admittedly legislative. It merely effectuated the Constitutional ban on capital punishment and harmonized it with the basic tenets underlying our Penal Code. Narvasa, Paras, Sarmineto, Cortes and Regalado, JJ., concur. Separate Opinions MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., concurring and dissenting: Concurrence is expressed in so far as conviction of the appellants is concerned. Dissent is registered, however, as to the penalty imposed which, in our view, should adhere to that provided in the Gavarra, followed by Masangkay, Atencio and Intino cases, which is more reflective of the true intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

18

Simply put, the question is: did Section 19(1), Article III of the 1987 Constitution, abolish the death penalty or not? The pertinent portion thereof provides: Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes the Congress hereafter provides for it. xxx xxx xxx The majority pronouncement is that said provision did not abolish the death penalty but only provided for its non- imposition. Our reading, however, is that when the Constitution states that the death penalty shall not be imposed, it can only mean that capital punishment is now deemed non-existent in our penal statutes. It is because of the imperfection (awkward as termed by the majority) of the language used, and its susceptibility to two conflicting interpretations, contrary to the majority opinion that the text is plain, that resort must be had to judicial construction. It is elementary in statutory construction that it is the intent of the statute that must be given effect. The spirit, rather than the letter of a statute determines the construction thereof, and the Court looks less to its words and more to its context, subject matter, consequence and effects (Manila Race Horse Trainers Association vs. de la Puente, 88 Phil. 60). A statute must be read according to its spirit and intent, and where legislative intent apparently conflicts with the letter of the law, the former prevails over the latter (Tanada vs. Cuenco, 103 Phil. 1051). This intent must be ascertained from the words of the statutory provision itself. However, in a situation such as in the case at bar, where the intent does not decisively appear in the text of the provision as it admits of more than one construction, reliance may be made on extrinsic aids such as the records of the deliberations of the body that framed the law in order to clearly ascertain that intent. The records of the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) leave no doubt as to the intention of that body to abolish the death penalty. Thus, Fr. Bernas spoke of the constitutional abolition of the death penalty in his speech sponsoring the provision: My recollection on this is that there was a division in the Committee not on whether the death penalty should be abolished or not, but rather on whether the abolition should be done by the Constitution-in which case it cannot be restored by the legislature-left to the legislature. The majority voted for the constitutional abolition of the death penalty. And the reason is that capital punishment is inhuman for the convict and his family who are traumatized by the waiting, even if it is never carried out. There is no evidence that the death penalty deterred deadly criminals, hence, life should not be destroyed just in the hope that other lives might be saved. Assuming mastery over the life of another man is just to presumptuous for any man. The fact that the death penalty as an institution has been there from time immemorial should not deter us from reviewing it. Human life is mare valuable than an institution intended precisely to service human life. So, basically, this is the summary of the reason which were presented in support of the constitutional abolition of the death penalty (Record, CONCOM, July 17, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 676). (Emphasis supplied) Expounding on this abolition, Fr. Bernas also stated: Rather than wait for legislative discretion to abolish the death penalty, the Commission went ahead to abolish it but left the matter open for

19

Congress to revive capital punishment at its discretion for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes. By a show of hands, the abolition of the death penalty was approved, 19 to 18. On motion of Commissioner Rodrigo, nominal voting was called and the outcome was still for abolition, 22 to 17 (Bernas, Constitution of the Philippines, Vol. 1, pp. 442443). Another member of the CONCOM, Mr. Florenz Regalado, now a member of this Court, spoke for the retention of the death penalty, arguing that the law has provided numerous procedural and substantive safeguards that must be observed before the death penalty could be carried out. Among the safeguards are the requirements that evidence still be presented to justify the imposition of the death penalty although the accused has pleaded guilty, and the automatic review of such death penalty when imposed by Trial Courts. Commissioner Regalado also mentioned the fact that the Supreme Court has modified the death sentences imposed by Trial Courts in many instances. According to him, this only shows that the imposition of capital punishment goes through all the stages of screening and processing to avoid the possibility of error (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 745-746). In response, Fr. Bernas said that the numerous safeguards that must be observed before the death penalty could be carried out precisely show the tremendous reluctance of Philippine society to impose the death penalty, which reluctance must be translated into a constitutional prohibition. To quote him: FR. BERNAS: The reluctance is so grave that so many obstacles are put up against the execution of the death penalty and judges agonize whether they have to impose a death penalty or not. Legislators have made it more difficult for the death penalty to be imposed. Thus, the total abolition of the death penalty by the Constitution facilitates everything for the judges and for the legislators. it removes the agonizing process of having to decide whether the death penalty should be imposed by them or not. (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 746) (Emphasis supplied) It is thus clear that when Fr. Bernas sponsored the provision regarding the non-imposition of the death penalty, what he had in mind was the total abolition and removal from the statute books of the death penalty. This became the intent of the framers of the Constitution when they approved the provision and made it a part of the Bill of Rights. The following interpellation during the CONCOM deliberations sheds further light: MR. MAAMBONG: Just one clarificatory question. On the assumption that this proposed amendment will be granted, what would happen to the laws which presently punish certain penal omens by death, because those laws may have to be repealed later by the National Assembly? But as of this moment, there are so many penal offenses which are punishable by death. What would be the effect of the grant of these amendments? FR. BERNAS: The effect is the abolition of the death penalty from those statutes-only the death penalty. The statute is not abolished, but the penalty is abolished. (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 748-749) (Emphasis supplied) It is true that Article III, Section 19(l) also grants Congress the power to provide for the death penalty in cases involving heinous crimes. Congress was given this power precisely because it is only the lawmaking body which can legislate back into existence something that has been eliminated from our

20

penal laws. Thus, the Constitution, while abolishing capital punishment, also left to Congress the power to restore it in certain cases. It is clear, however, that unless and until Congress enacts the necessary legislation, the death penalty remains non-existent in our statute books. Again, the deliberations in the CONCOM prove this point: FR. BERNAS: The sense of this proposal is that upon the ratification of this Constitution, the legislature, if it wants to reimpose the death penalty, must repeat the act. In other words, the penalty disappears and there is need of a new act of the legislature to put it back. MR. MAAMBONG: Could we put it more simply, Madam President? Could we say that once this amendment is accepted, all penal offenses punishable by death will no longer carry the death penalty? FR. BERNAS: That is correct (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, p. 749). (Emphasis supplied) The following exchange on the floor when the CONCOM was deliberating on the provision giving the Legislature the power to provide for the death penalty in cases involving heinous crimes shows the understanding among the framers of what the consequences would be when the legislature does not pass a law reimposing death penalty for certain heinous crimes: MR. DE CASTRO: What happens if the National Assembly does not pass any law concerning death penalty such as on heinous crimes? MR. MONSOD: Then there is no death penalty. MIL DE CASTRO: That is the effect of the amendment? MR. MONSOD: Yes (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, pp. 747-748) (Emphasis supplied) To say that the wordings neither shall death penalty be imposed, do not provide for the aboliti on of the death penalty, but only provides for its non-imposition is to adopt a rather literal and restrictive construction that goes against the clear intent of the framers of the Constitution. The literal import or meaning of a statute must yield to its apparent intent, purpose or spirit. Intent is the spirit which gives rise to legislative enactment. It must be enforced when ascertained although it may not be consistent with the strict letter of the statute. The language of the Constitution should be re ad in a sense most obvious to the common understanding at the time of its adoption (Eisner v. Macomber, 15, 6 Ed 421, 424). The intention of the legislature and its purpose or object, being the fundamental inquiry in judicial construction, control the literal interpretation of the particular language of a statute and a language capable of more than one meaning is to be taken in such a sense as to harmonize with the intention and object and effectuate the purpose of the enactment (US vs. Go Chico, 14 Phil. 128). Coming now to the penalty for Murder-the majority reverses the Decisions of this Court in People vs. Gavarra (L-37673, October 30, 1987, en banc, 155 SCRA 327), People vs. Masangkay (L-73461, October 27, 1987, 155 SCRA 113), People vs. Atencio (L-67721, December 10, 1987, 156 SCRA 242) and People v. Intino (L-69934, September 26, 1988) with respect to the imposable penalty for Murder in the absence of modifying circumstances. Those cases held that with the constitutional ban on capital punishment, the penalty for Murder now becomes reclusion temporal maximum to reclusion perpetua. Applying the provisions of the Revised Penal Code (Article 61 [3]), the medium period would be the higher half of reclusion temporal maximum or 18 years, 8 months and 1 day to 20 years, and the minimum period is the lower half of reclusion temporal maximum, or 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 18

21

years and 8 months. The maximum period is, of course, reclusion perpetua because of the prohibition regarding the death penalty. The foregoing is but in faithful adherence to the graduated three-period scheme in the Revised Penal Code whereby if an aggravating circumstance attends the commission of the crime, the imposable penalty is the maximum period; if a mitigating circumstance, the minimum period; and in the absence of any modifying circumstance, the medium period. The majority assails the foregoing interpretation, however, in that the requirement of the modification of the penalty is not at all expressed in the Constitutional provision in question nor indicated therein by at least clear and unmistakable implication. However, to require the inclusion of such an additional provision would have made for more prolixity to a document that already is. That detail was best left to the Courts as indicated by the discussions on the floor. Indeed, when the abolition of the death penalty was being discussed on the floor of the CONCOM, the issue of the proper penalty for Murder, specifically with regard to its medium period, was raised. The following interpellation, also repeated in the majority opinion, tackled that issue: FR. BERNAS: The effect is the abolition of the death penalty from those statutes-only the death penalty. The statute is not abolished, but the penalty is abolished. MR. MAAMBONG: That is what I am worried about, because the statutes, especially in the General Criminal Law, which is the Revised Penal Code, do not necessarily punish directly with death. Sometimes it has a range of reclusion temporal to death or reclusion perpetua to death. And what would be the effect on the judges, for example, if the range is reclusion temporal to death and he can no longer impose the death penalty? He will have difficulty in commuting the degrees. Could the committee enlighten us on how the judge will look at the specific situation. FR. BERNAS: I grant that the judges will have difficulty, but I suppose that the judges will be equal to their tasks. The only thing is, if there is a range, the range cannot go as far as death (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, p. 749). xxx xxx xxx FR. BERNAS: Certainly, the penalties lower than death re- main. MR. REGALADO: That would be reclusion perpetua. But the range of the penalty for murder consists of three periods. The maximum period of reclusion temporal under the present status is the minimum period for the penalty for murder. The medium period is reclusion perpetua. The maximum period is death. If we now remove the death penalty, we will, therefore, have a range of penalty of 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years of reclusion temporal up to reclusion perpetua. You cannot dividereclusion perpetua into two. While it has a duration of 30 years, it is an indivisible penalty. Where do we get the medium period now until such time that Congress gets around to accommodate this amendment? FR. BERNAS: As I said, this is a matter which lawyers can argue with judges about. All we are saying is, the judges cannot impose the death penalty (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 750) The fact that the medium period of the penalty for Murder was at all discussed not only bolsters the holding in the Gavarra and related cases that the death penalty had been abolished, and that the penalty for Murder was consequentially to be reduced to two periods, but also shows a keen awareness that difficulty would be encountered by the Courts by reason thereof The Supreme Court

22

had proven itself equal to the task by resolving that difficulty in the cited cases. If it were, as the majority says, that they (the proponents) were not saying more, wherein would the difficulty lie? It would have been an easy matter for the proponents to have simply answered that the medium period was to be maintained at reclusion perpetua since anyway, as the majority concludes, the death penalty had not been abolished. If, as opined by the majority, reclusion perpetua is retained as the penalty for Murder even in the absence of aggravating and modifying circumstances, while imposed also as the new maximum penalty for the crime, then, the presence or absence of modifying circumstances will no longer lead to the imposition of a higher or lesser penalty depending on the attendant circumstances, as the Penal Code has prescribed. The distinction is erased between Murder committed with a generic aggravating circumstance and Murder carried out with neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstance. In both cases, the same penalty is imposable. As a consequence, the reason of the law in creating penalties divided into periods and in providing for various modifying circumstances with different effects, that is, the need to penalized more severely a Murder attended by an aggravating circumstance than a Murder with neither aggravating nor modifying circumstance, is rendered nugatory. Certainly, the CONCOM, in banning the imposition of capital punishment, could not have also intended to discard the underlying reason of the Penal Code in imposing three-periods for the penalty for Murder, i.e., to punish the offense in different degrees of severity depending on the offenders employment of aggravating or mitigating circumstance, or the lack thereof. To say that this is the will of the Constitution is inaccurate for the matter was clearly left to the Courts which were expected to be equal to the tasks. In keeping with that expectation, this Court held that the modified penalty for Murder, or, reclusion temporal, maximum, to reclusion perpetua, must retain the three-period scheme. In the application of the new penalty, a medium period, less severe than the maximum penalty, must be provided for so that the original intention of the law to penalize Murder in different degrees of severity depending on the attendant circumstances, remains in effect. That was the basis for the ruling in the Masangkay and the related that the majority is now abandoning. In those cases, the Court did not prescribe a penalty, a function admittedly legislative. It merely effectuated the Constitutional ban on capital punishment and harmonized it with the basic tenets underlying our Penal Code. Separate Opinions MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., concurring and dissenting: Concurrence is expressed in so far as conviction of the appellants is concerned. Dissent is registered, however, as to the penalty imposed which, in our view, should adhere to that provided in the Gavarra, followed by Masangkay, Atencio and Intino cases, which is more reflective of the true intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution. Simply put, the question is: did Section 19(1), Article III of the 1987 Constitution, abolish the death penalty or not? The pertinent portion thereof provides: Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes the Congress hereafter provides for it. xxx xxx xxx

23

The majority pronouncement is that said provision did not abolish the death penalty but only provided for its non- imposition. Our reading, however, is that when the Constitution states that the death penalty shall not be imposed, it can only mean that capital punishment is now deemed non-existent in our penal statutes. It is because of the imperfection (awkward as termed by the majority) of the language used, and its susceptibility to two conflicting interpretations, contrary to the majority opinion that the text is plain, that resort must be had to judicial construction. It is elementary in statutory construction that it is the intent of the statute that must be given effect. The spirit, rather than the letter of a statute determines the construction thereof, and the Court looks less to its words and more to its context, subject matter, consequence and effects (Manila Race Horse Trainers Association vs. de la Puente, 88 Phil. 60). A statute must be read according to its spirit and intent, and where legislative intent apparently conflicts with the letter of the law, the former prevails over the latter (Tanada vs. Cuenco, 103 Phil. 1051). This intent must be ascertained from the words of the statutory provision itself. However, in a situation such as in the case at bar, where the intent does not decisively appear in the text of the provision as it admits of more than one construction, reliance may be made on extrinsic aids such as the records of the deliberations of the body that framed the law in order to clearly ascertain that intent. The records of the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) leave no doubt as to the intention of that body to abolish the death penalty. Thus, Fr. Bernas spoke of the constitutional abolition of the death penalty in his speech sponsoring the provision: My recollection on this is that there was a division in the Committee not on whether the death penalty should be abolished or not, but rather on whether the abolition should be done by the Constitution-in which case it cannot be restored by the legislature-left to the legislature. The majority voted for the constitutional abolition of the death penalty. And the reason is that capital punishment is inhuman for the convict and his family who are traumatized by the waiting, even if it is never carried out. There is no evidence that the death penalty deterred deadly criminals, hence, life should not be destroyed just in the hope that other lives might be saved. Assuming mastery over the life of another man is just to presumptuous for any man. The fact that the death penalty as an institution has been there from time immemorial should not deter us from reviewing it. Human life is mare valuable than an institution intended precisely to service human life. So, basically, this is the summary of the reason which were presented in support of the constitutional abolition of the death penalty (Record, CONCOM, July 17, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 676). (Emphasis supplied) Expounding on this abolition, Fr. Bernas also stated: Rather than wait for legislative discretion to abolish the death penalty, the Commission went ahead to abolish it but left the matter open for Congress to revive capital punishment at its discretion for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes. By a show of hands, the abolition of the death penalty was approved, 19 to 18. On motio n of Commissioner Rodrigo, nominal voting was called and the outcome was still for abolition, 22 to 17 (Bernas, Constitution of the Philippines, Vol. 1, pp. 442443). Another member of the CONCOM, Mr. Florenz Regalado, now a member of this Court, spoke for the retention of the death penalty, arguing that the law has provided numerous procedural and

24

substantive safeguards that must be observed before the death penalty could be carried out. Among the safeguards are the requirements that evidence still be presented to justify the imposition of the death penalty although the accused has pleaded guilty, and the automatic review of such death penalty when imposed by Trial Courts. Commissioner Regalado also mentioned the fact that the Supreme Court has modified the death sentences imposed by Trial Courts in many instances. According to him, this only shows that the imposition of capital punishment goes through all the stages of screening and processing to avoid the possibility of error (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 745-746). In response, Fr. Bernas said that the numerous safeguards that must be observed before the death penalty could be carried out precisely show the tremendous reluctance of Philippine society to impose the death penalty, which reluctance must be translated into a constitutional prohibition. To quote him: FR. BERNAS: The reluctance is so grave that so many obstacles are put up against the execution of the death penalty and judges agonize whether they have to impose a death penalty or not. Legislators have made it more difficult for the death penalty to be imposed. Thus, the total abolition of the death penalty by the Constitution facilitates everything for the judges and for the legislators. it removes the agonizing process of having to decide whether the death penalty should be imposed by them or not. (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 746) (Emphasis supplied) It is thus clear that when Fr. Bernas sponsored the provision regarding the non-imposition of the death penalty, what he had in mind was the total abolition and removal from the statute books of the death penalty. This became the intent of the framers of the Constitution when they approved the provision and made it a part of the Bill of Rights. The following interpellation during the CONCOM deliberations sheds further light: MR. MAAMBONG: Just one clarificatory question. On the assumption that this proposed amendment will be granted, what would happen to the laws which presently punish certain penal omens by death, because those laws may have to be repealed later by the National Assembly? But as of this moment, there are so many penal offenses which are punishable by death. What would be the effect of the grant of these amendments? FR. BERNAS: The effect is the abolition of the death penalty from those statutes-only the death penalty. The statute is not abolished, but the penalty is abolished. (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 748-749) (Emphasis supplied) It is true that Article III, Section 19(l) also grants Congress the power to provide for the death penalty in cases involving heinous crimes. Congress was given this power precisely because it is only the lawmaking body which can legislate back into existence something that has been eliminated from our penal laws. Thus, the Constitution, while abolishing capital punishment, also left to Congress the power to restore it in certain cases. It is clear, however, that unless and until Congress enacts the necessary legislation, the death penalty remains non-existent in our statute books. Again, the deliberations in the CONCOM prove this point:

25

FR. BERNAS: The sense of this proposal is that upon the ratification of this Constitution, the legislature, if it wants to reimpose the death penalty, must repeat the act. In other words, the penalty disappears and there is need of a new act of the legislature to put it back. MR. MAAMBONG: Could we put it more simply, Madam President? Could we say that once this amendment is accepted, all penal offenses punishable by death will no longer carry the death penalty? FR. BERNAS: That is correct (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, p. 749). (Emphasis supplied) The following exchange on the floor when the CONCOM was deliberating on the provision giving the Legislature the power to provide for the death penalty in cases involving heinous crimes shows the understanding among the framers of what the consequences would be when the legislature does not pass a law reimposing death penalty for certain heinous crimes: MR. DE CASTRO: What happens if the National Assembly does not pass any law concerning death penalty such as on heinous crimes? MR. MONSOD: Then there is no death penalty. MIL DE CASTRO: That is the effect of the amendment? MR. MONSOD: Yes (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, pp. 747-748) (Emphasis supplied) To say that the wordings neither shall death penalty be imposed, do not provide for the abolition of the death penalty, but only provides for its non-imposition is to adopt a rather literal and restrictive construction that goes against the clear intent of the framers of the Constitution. The literal import or meaning of a statute must yield to its apparent intent, purpose or spirit. Intent is the spirit which gives rise to legislative enactment. It must be enforced when ascertained although it may not be consistent with the strict letter of the statute. The language of the Constitution should be read in a sense most obvious to the common understanding at the time of its adoption (Eisner v. Macomber, 15, 6 Ed 421, 424). The intention of the legislature and its purpose or object, being the fundamental inquiry in judicial construction, control the literal interpretation of the particular language of a statute and a language capable of more than one meaning is to be taken in such a sense as to harmonize with the intention and object and effectuate the purpose of the enactment (US vs. Go Chico, 14 Phil. 128). Coming now to the penalty for Murder-the majority reverses the Decisions of this Court in People vs. Gavarra (L-37673, October 30, 1987, en banc, 155 SCRA 327), People vs. Masangkay (L-73461, October 27, 1987, 155 SCRA 113), People vs. Atencio (L-67721, December 10, 1987, 156 SCRA 242) and People v. Intino (L-69934, September 26, 1988) with respect to the imposable penalty for Murder in the absence of modifying circumstances. Those cases held that with the constitutional ban on capital punishment, the penalty for Murder now becomes reclusion temporal maximum to reclusion perpetua. Applying the provisions of the Revised Penal Code (Article 61 [3]), the medium period would be the higher half of reclusion temporal maximum or 18 years, 8 months and 1 day to 20 years, and the minimum period is the lower half of reclusion temporal maximum, or 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 18 years and 8 months. The maximum period is, of course, reclusion perpetua because of the prohibition regarding the death penalty. The foregoing is but in faithful adherence to the graduated three-period scheme in the Revised Penal Code whereby if an aggravating circumstance attends the commission of the crime, the imposable

26

penalty is the maximum period; if a mitigating circumstance, the minimum period; and in the absence of any modifying circumstance, the medium period. The majority assails the foregoing interpretation, however, in that the requirement of the modification of the penalty is not at all expressed in the Constitutional provision in question nor indicated therein by at least clear and unmistakable implication. However, to require the inclusion of such an additional provision would have made for more prolixity to a document that already is. That detail was best left to the Courts as indicated by the discussions on the floor. Indeed, when the abolition of the death penalty was being discussed on the floor of the CONCOM, the issue of the proper penalty for Murder, specifically with regard to its medium period, was raised. The following interpellation, also repeated in the majority opinion, tackled that issue: FR. BERNAS: The effect is the abolition of the death penalty from those statutes-only the death penalty. The statute is not abolished, but the penalty is abolished. MR. MAAMBONG: That is what I am worried about, because the statutes, especially in the General Criminal Law, which is the Revised Penal Code, do not necessarily punish directly with death. Sometimes it has a range of reclusion temporal to death or reclusion perpetua to death. And what would be the effect on the judges, for example, if the range is reclusion temporal to death and he can no longer impose the death penalty? He will have difficulty in commuting the degrees. Could the committee enlighten us on how the judge will look at the specific situation. FR. BERNAS: I grant that the judges will have difficulty, but I suppose that the judges will be equal to their tasks. The only thing is, if there is a range, the range cannot go as far as death (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. I, p. 749). xxx xxx xxx FR. BERNAS: Certainly, the penalties lower than death re- main. MR. REGALADO: That would be reclusion perpetua. But the range of the penalty for murder consists of three periods. The maximum period of reclusion temporal under the present status is the minimum period for the penalty for murder. The medium period is reclusion perpetua. The maximum period is death. If we now remove the death penalty, we will, therefore, have a range of penalty of 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years of reclusion temporal up to reclusion perpetua. You cannot dividereclusion perpetua into two. While it has a duration of 30 years, it is an indivisible penalty. Where do we get the medium period now until such time that Congress gets around to accommodate this amendment? FR. BERNAS: As I said, this is a matter which lawyers can argue with judges about. All we are saying is, the judges cannot impose the death penalty (Record, CONCOM, July 18, 1986, Vol. 1, p. 750) The fact that the medium period of the penalty for Murder was at all discussed not only bolsters the holding in the Gavarra and related cases that the death penalty had been abolished, and that the penalty for Murder was consequentially to be reduced to two periods, but also shows a keen awareness that difficulty would be encountered by the Courts by reason thereof The Supreme Court had proven itself equal to the task by resolving that difficulty in the cited cases. If it were, as the majority says, that they (the proponents) were not saying more, wherein would the difficulty lie? It would have been an easy matter for the proponents to have simply answered that the medium period was to be maintained at reclusion perpetua since anyway, as the majority concludes, the death penalty

27

had not been abolished. If, as opined by the majority, reclusion perpetua is retained as the penalty for Murder even in the absence of aggravating and modifying circumstances, while imposed also as the new maximum penalty for the crime, then, the presence or absence of modifying circumstances will no longer lead to the imposition of a higher or lesser penalty depending on the attendant circumstances, as the Penal Code has prescribed. The distinction is erased between Murder committed with a generic aggravating circumstance and Murder carried out with neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstance. In both cases, the same penalty is imposable. As a consequence, the reason of the law in creating penalties divided into periods and in providing for various modifying circumstances with different effects, that is, the need to penalized more severely a Murder attended by an aggravating circumstance than a Murder with neither aggravating nor modifying circumstance, is rendered nugatory. Certainly, the CONCOM, in banning the imposition of capital punishment, could not have also intended to discard the underlying reason of the Penal Code in imposing three-periods for the penalty for Murder, i.e., to punish the offense in different degrees of severity depending on the offenders employment of aggravating or mitigating circumstance, or the lack thereof. To say that this is the will of the Constitution is inaccurate for the matter was clearly left to the Courts which were expected to be equal to the tasks. In keeping with that expectation, this Court held that the modified penalty for Murder, or, reclusion temporal, maximum, to reclusion perpetua, must retain the three-period scheme. In the application of the new penalty, a medium period, less severe than the maximum penalty, must be provided for so that the original intention of the law to penalize Murder in different degrees of severity depending on the attendant circumstances, remains in effect. That was the basis for the ruling in the Masangkay and the related that the majority is now abandoning. In those cases, the Court did not prescribe a penalty, a function admittedly legislative. It merely effectuated the Constitutional ban on capital punishment and harmonized it with the basic tenets underlying our Penal Code.

1. People v. Muoz
1987 Constitution does not expressly declare the abolition of the death penalty. It merely says that the death penalty shall not be imposed and if already imposed, shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua;

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EN BANC

[G.R. Nos. 130665 and 137996-97. April 21, 1999]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. PEDRO BALIAO EMPANTE @ PETER, accused-appellant. DECISION
PER CURIAM:

This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental (Branch 12) finding accused-appellant Pedro Baliao Empante guilty of three counts of rape against his daughter, Elvie Empante, then below 18 years of age, and sentencing him to death and to indemnify his daughter in the amount of P50,000.00 and to pay her moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 for each count of rape. Accused-appellant admits his guilt. He contends, however, that the trial court erred in sentencing him to death because it should have appreciated two mitigating circumstances in his favor, i.e., voluntary confession of guilt and intoxication, and sentenced him to a lesser penalty. The facts are as follows: Accused-appellant Pedro B. Empante is married to Flaviana Intong Empante, by whom he has four children, namely, Elvie, Elmer, Elna, and Eric. Elvie, the eldest, was born on March 6, 1982 (Exh. A). During the time relevant to these cases, accusedappellant worked as a laborer at a quarry in Barangay Unidos, Plaridel, Misamis Occidental, while his wife worked as a domestic helper outside Plaridel and went home only on weekends. In November 1994, Elvie, then only 12 years old and a Grade VI student, was left alone with her father, accused-appellant, in their house at Sitio Napo, Barangay Unidos, Plaridel, Misamis Occidental. For some reason, her mother, brothers, and sister were all out at that time. She was cleaning the living room of their house when she was called by accused-appellant to his room. When Elvie approached him, accusedappellant, without warning, poked a hunting knife (Exh. B) on her right side and told her not to make any noise, otherwise he would kill her. Elvie described the knife as one with a sharp blade and a wooden handle covered by black tape wound around it. Accused-appellant pushed her to the bed as a result of which she fell on her back. Accused-appellant then went on top of her. He removed her shorts and panties with his right hand as he held with his left hand the hunting knife. After removing his shorts, accused-appellant succeeded in violating his daughter. Elvie resisted and tried to prevent accused-appellant from ravishing her by closing her thighs, but her efforts proved futile. Elvie felt pain in her private parts. She was warned not to tell her mother
29

about the incident or accused-appellant would kill both of them. Elvie knew her father to be a violent man. He maltreated her mother and threatened her with a bolo. Hence, when her mother arrived later that day, Elvie did not tell her anything about the incident.[1] The family later moved from Sitio Napo to a place near the national highway, also in Barangay Unidos, Plaridel, Misamis Occidental. In the evening of December 24, 1996, Elvie was left at home with only her younger brothers Elmer and Eric, their younger sister being then in the house of their grandmother, Lourdes Intong. Elvie was going to church with her mother to hear midnight mass, but accused-appellant told her to stay home on the pretext that he would be going to work the next morning. Elvie, therefore, prepared to go to sleep. She was made to sleep near the wall, with her father at her left side. Her two young brothers, Eric and Elmer, slept beside their father. Elvie was awakened as she found accused-appellant on top of her. She noticed that her shorts and underwear had been removed and that her father was naked from the waist down. She tried to free herself from her fathers hold and prevent him from ravishing her by closing her thighs, but he was too strong for her. Elvie testified that a hunting knife (Exh. B) was pointed at her side. She knew that he had succeeded in inserting his penis into her vagina because she felt pain in her private parts. As accusedappellant did the sexual act, he kissed Elvie all over the face, neck, and breast, even sucking her lips and telling her to stick out her tongue. So revolted was she by what her father was doing to her that she tried to cover her face with her hands. After satisfying himself, accused-appellant put on his shorts and gave Elvie her panties and shorts to wear. Again Elvie did not tell her mother, who arrived late that night, about the incident because of fear of her father.[2] She, however, asked her mother to let her sleep in another room. But when accused-appellant learned that Elvie was not in his room, he got mad and forced the door open. He slapped her, hit her on the back, pinched her side, and then grabbed and dragged her outside. Elvies mother was not home at that time, but when she arrived Elvie told her about her experience. Elvies mother confronted her father and a quarrel ensued between the two.[3] Elvie went to her grandmothers house, located a few kilometers away, and stayed there, but her father forced her to come home with him.[4] On January 16, 1997, Elvies mother left their house to work i n Manila after being beaten up by accused-appellant. As a result, Elvie was left with no one to protect her. In the evening of January 18, 1997, she was again molested by her father. She was asleep when accused-appellant went on top of her. When she woke up, she found that her shorts and underwear had already been removed. As before, she tried to hold her father at bay and prevent him from dishonoring her, but she was threatened with a hunting knife (Exh. B). Accused-appellant again was able to have sexual intercourse with her. In anger, she demanded from him, Why do you sexually abuse me? Why not go to others? To this, accused-appellant answered, Why [do I have to] go to others when you are here?[5] even as he covered her mouth with his hands to keep her from talking. After accused-appellant was through, he put on his shorts and slept beside her. Elvie could not sleep and kept crying. As her sobbing kept her father awake, he hit her on the back and threatened her with harm if she did not stop. [6]

30

Elvie feared that, with her mother gone, her father would make a mistress of her. She went to the house of her grandmother the next morning and told her her story. Her grandmother, Lourdes Intong, lost no time in taking her to the barangay captain who referred them to the police and advised them to take Elvie to the hospital for examination. On the same day, Elvie was examined by Dr. Jona Handumon at the Calamba District Hospital in Calamba, Misamis Occidental. The medico-legal report (Exh. C) of Dr. Handumon contained the following findings:

Date & Time of Examination: January 19, 1997 Findings: - NORMAL EXTERNAL GENITALIA - NULLIPAROUS VAGINA - BLUNT & ROUNDED POSTERIOR FOURCHETTE - (+) HEALED LACERATION AT POSTERIOR FOURCHETTE - INTROITOUS ADMITS 2 FINGERS EASILY - HYMEN RUPTURED W/ HEALED LACERATIONS AT 2:00 & 7:00 POSITIONS - CERVIX CLOSED, FIRM - (+) MUCOID, WHITISH DISCHARGES AT OS - CORPUS SMALL - (-) ADNEXAL MASS & TENDERNESS[7]
On June 20, 1997, Elvie filed with the Philippine National Police at Plaridel, Misamis Occidental three criminal complaints for rape which became the basis of informations lodged with the Regional Trial Court of Oroquieta City against accused-appellant. In Criminal Case No. 1301, it was alleged -

That on or about January 18, 1997 at about 8:00 oclock in the evening at barangay Unidos, Plaridel, Misamis Occidental, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused PEDRO BALIAO EMPANTE alias Peter through threats, force and intimidation and with the use of a hunting knife wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously did then and
31

there lie and succeeded in having carnal knowledge with complainant Elvie Empante, his own daughter, a minor, 15 years of age and against her will. CONTRARY TO LAW, aggravated that the victim is a minor, a 15 year old and the offender is the parent-father of the victim and use of a hunting knife.
Upon being arraigned on May 7, 1997, accused-appellant, assisted by counsel, Atty. Rudy Magsayo, entered a plea of not guilty. Thereafter, the trial was set by the court on June 6, 1997. Two more cases were later filed in court against accused-appellant. The information in Criminal Case No. 1304 alleged -

That sometime in November 1994 at 10:00 a.m. at their house at Napo, barangay Unidos, municipality of Plaridel, Province of Misamis Occidental, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused Pedro Baliao Empante, through threats, force and intimidation and with the use of a hunting knife willfully, unlawfully and feloniously did then and there have carnal knowledge with Elvie Empante his own daughter, a 12 year old girl against her will and without her consent. CONTRARY TO LAW, with the qualifying circumstances of minority, Elvie Empante was a 12 year old girl a legitimate daughter of accused and with the used [sic] of a hunting knife.
In Criminal Case No. 1305, the information alleged substantially the same facts except as to the date of the incident which occurred at around 10 p.m. on December 24, 1996. Accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to the two charges. The cases were thereafter tried together beginning June 6, 1997. The prosecution presented Elvie as its first witness. On June 16, 1997, accused-appellant, through his counsel, asked the court to allow him to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. His motion was denied on the grounds that the prosecution had already started presenting its evidence and that the purpose [of the accused-appellant in] changing his plea was to be given a lighter penalty of reclusion perpetua and not that of death x x x x[8] On the third day of trial on June 20, 1997, accused-appellant again asked the court to allow him to change his plea, assuring the court that his plea would be unconditional and that he would accept whatever penalty the court would impose on him. The trial court then asked several questions from accused-appellant to determine if he understood the consequences of a plea of guilty. Having been satisfied that the plea of guilty was freely, knowingly, and voluntarily being made, the trial court ordered accusedappellant re-arraigned by having the informations read to him in the Cebuano-Visayan dialect, which he understood, after which he pleaded guilty to all counts of rape. [9]
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The trial court then directed the prosecution to complete the presentation of its evidence. Aside from Elvie, the prosecution presented Lourdes Intong, Elvies grandmother and accused-appellants mother-in-law. Lourdes Intong testified that at about 7 a.m. on January 19, 1997, Elvie went to her house and told her that she had been sexually abused by her father several times. Lourdes confirmed that she accompanied Elvie to the hospital where Elvie was examined and to the local authorities with whom Elvie filed her complaints against accused-appellant. Lourdes testified that, while accused-appellant was in detention pending investigation, he talked to her and asked for her forgiveness, but she told him to ask for forgiveness from Elvie. For this reason, accused-appellant sent relatives to talk to Elvie since the latter refused to see or talk to him personally. In addition, accused-appellant wrote Elvie three letters in which he asked for forgiveness so that he will be given a lighter sentence for his crimes. The letters could not be presented in court as they had been destroyed by Elvie who did not then realize they could be used in evidence.[10] After the prosecution had rested its case, accused-appellant was presented as the sole witness by the defense. Accused-appellant admitted having raped his daughter, claiming, however, that he was drunk at the time. He denied that he used a hunting knife to threaten his daughter and claimed that he only threatened her verbally. He alleged that he did not have any hunting knife and that the hunting knife (Exh. B) presented in court, which Elvie and her grandmother claim to have found in a closet (aparador) in his house when he was detained, belonged to the brother of his mother-inlaw, Pablo Calunod.[11] On June 30, 1997, the trial court rendered its decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape committed upon his own daughter Elvie Empante who was then below eighteen (18) years old in all the three criminal cases, the Court hereby sentences accused PEDRO BALIAO EMPANTE: 1. In Criminal Case No. 1301, to suffer the penalty of death and to indemnify Elvie Empante the amount of P50,000.00 and to pay her the additional sum of P50,000.00 for moral damages; 2. In Criminal Case No. 1304, to suffer the penalty of death and to indemnify Elvie Empante the amount of P50,000.00 and to pay her the additional sum of P50,000.00 for moral damages; and 3. In Criminal Case No. 1305, to suffer the penalty of death and to indemnify Elvie Empante the amount of P50,000.00 and to pay her the additional sum of P50,000.00 for moral damages.

33

The records of the three criminal cases including the transcripts of stenographic notes are hereby ordered forwarded to the Honorable Supreme Court for automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659. With costs against the accused.
Accused-appellant does not seek a reversal of the findings of the trial court. In his lone assignment of error, he argues that -

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN IMPOSING THE EXTREME PENALTY OF DEATH DESPITE THE PLEA OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR HUMANITARIAN CONSIDERATION AS WELL AS THE PLEA OF GUILTY AND THE DEFENSE OF INTOXICATION WHICH MITIGATE HIS LIABILITY DESERVES A PENALTY OF RECLUSION PERPETUA ONLY.
After reviewing the evidence in these cases, the Court finds no reason to alter, much less to reverse, the decision of the trial court. The evidence establishes beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of accused-appellant. The testimony of complainant is plain, straightforward, and positive. Although in rape cases it is sufficient for the offended party to state that she has been raped, in the cases at bar, complainants testimony is filled with details which can only enhance its credibility. With clarity and candor, complainant recounted the manner in which she was raped on the three occasions stated in the informations. Her testimony was in fact corroborated even by accusedappellant. The defense points out an alleged contradiction between what she said during trial (that accused-appellant was not drunk when he raped her)[12] and what she said in her sworn statement before the police (that accused-appellant smelled of liquor on January 18, 1997 when he raped her).[13] We are not persuaded. It may be that accusedappellant had taken some liquor and, for that reason, smelled of alcohol, but he was not drunk or inebriated. In any event, the inconsistency concerns a minor matter and does not affect the credibility of complainants testimony. To the contrary it serves to strengthen her credibility as it shows that her testimony is not contrived.[14] Nor is there any reason to suspect complainant of any ill motive. She complained against her father because of what he had done to her. Complainant testified:
PROSECUTOR CARRIAGA-OMANDAM: Q. Now before you filed these present cases against your father, had you considered that by filing these cases you are exposing yourself to shame, dishonor and humiliation? ATTY. MAGSAYO: Objection! Witness is incompetent, Your Honor. COURT: She is already fifteen years old. She knows what is right and wrong. Proceed. 34

WITNESS: Yes, sir. PROSECUTOR CARRIAGA-OMANDAM: Q. And yet you pursued these cases? A. Yes, sir. Q. Why? A. Because I wanted my father to be imprisoned [for] what he had done to me. COURT: Q. Now if the law provides that by the act of your father he would be penalized [with] the penalty of death, what will be your feeling? A. He did not even [take] pity on me, his own daughter.[15]

There is no reason to doubt the veracity of Elvies testimony. As we recently held in People vs. Calayca:

We believe that a teenage unmarried lass would not ordinarily file a rape charge against anybody, much less her own father, if it were not true. For it is unnatural for a young and innocent girl to concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and thereafter subject herself to a public trial if she has not, in fact, been a victim of rape and deeply motivated by a sincere desire to have the culprit apprehended and punished.[16]
Moreover, it is hardly necessary to say that the evaluations of trial courts of the testimonies of witnesses are entitled to great respect because of their opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses in determining whether they are telling the truth.[17] In these cases, the trial court said in its decision:

Aware of its duty to exercise as it did exercise the greatest degree of care and caution in scrutinizing the testimony of the complainant in these rape cases and to render judgment of conviction only when the complainants sincerity and candor are free from suspicion, the Court after having thoroughly observed the demeanor and conduct of complainant Elvie Empante on the witness stand, is fully convinced of the guilt of the accused Pedro Baliao Empante in the three criminal cases. The testimony of the complainant in describing the manner by which she was sexually abused by no less than her own legitimate father is so clear, positive and convincing to admit any doubt that the accused committed the crime charged in at least three occasions for having carnal knowledge of a woman (his daughter Elvie Empante) x x x by using force or intimidation (Article 335, paragraph 1, Revised Penal Code) with the use of a hunting knife.[18]
35

Above all, whatever doubt there might be as to accused-appellants guilt should be dispelled by his admission that he had indeed raped complainant. His only reservations are with respect to minor details which are inconsequential in determining his guilt and the penalty to be imposed upon him, to wit:
1. He did not threaten complainant using a hunting knife when he raped her but only verbally did so.[19] 2. He could not recall the exact time he raped his daughter on December 24, 1996 and January 18, 1997 because he was drunk on both occasions.[20] But he admitted that he
was awakened at dawn on December 25, 1996 by the sobbing of his daughter who told him that he had raped her, although he denied hitting Elvie on the back to stop her from [21] crying.

3. He denied that he forbade Elvie from sleeping in the other room or in her grandmothers house. He claimed that it was his daughter herself who insisted on sleeping beside him.[22]

The prosecution presented the hunting knife (Exh. B) which complainant said her father had threatened her with. There is really no need to pass upon accusedappellants claim. For even if no knife was used by accused-appellant, his admission that he was able to rape his daughter by threatening her is sufficient considering the moral ascendancy that he has over his child.[23] Accused-appellant also claimed that he was drunk on the three occasions when he raped his daughter, but denied that he is a habitual drinker.[24] He also claimed to have been so intoxicated that he did not know what he was doing.[25] The trial judge correctly rejected the claim of intoxication as a mitigating circumstance.[26] For even if accused-appellant was intoxicated and he is not a habitual drinker, to be considered mitigating, the intoxication must be shown to have so impaired his willpower that he did not know what he was doing or could not comprehend the wrongfulness of his acts.[27]In these cases, not only did complainant deny that her father was drunk when he raped her, but the fact that accused-appellant himself could recall details of the rape incidents (i.e., time of the day as regards the November 1994 incident, the manner he raped his daughter, what his daughter was wearing, how he forced and threatened her to submit to his desires)[28] is the best proof that he knew what he was doing on those occasions. Indeed, accused-appellant himself said that his plea of guilty was unconditional. His plea was an admission of everything alleged in the informations. The trial judge took care that the safeguards for its admission, as provided in Rule 116, Section 3 of the Rules of Court and in existing jurisprudence, were observed. The transcript of stenographic notes taken at the proceedings held on June 20, 1997 shows this and leaves no room for doubt that accused-appellants plea was not improvidently given:
PROS. CARRIAGA-OMANDAM: I respectfully appear for the prosecution. ATTY. MAGSAYO: Appearing as counsel for the accused, ready. 36

Last time we move[d] to withdraw the plea of not guilty entered by the accused but [it was] denied by this honorable court. In view of the denial we reiterate our motion that the accused is willing to enter a plea of guilty and he is willing to withdraw his plea of not guilty to that of guilty. COURT: So, you are asking the court to reconsider the previous ruling denying the plea of guilty of the accused. COURT TO ACCUSED: Q In the previous hearing you ask the court that you be allowed to enter a plea of guilty and replace that of not guilty previously entered by you. However, during the discussions on that motion you had in mind the possibility that the penalty be only reclusion perpetua and not death. For that reason the plea of guilty to the crime charged becomes conditional and moreover the prosecution has already started the presentation of its evidence and so the court denied your motion to withdraw your plea of not guilty and replace that with the plea of guilty. Now, you are again reiterating your motion for you to enter a plea of guilty and consequently you are asking the reconsideration of the order of the court denying your motion. Now the court is asking, would that plea of guilty be [conditional]? No more. Do you know the consequence of your change of plea from that of not guilty to that of guilty? Yes. Do you know that because of your plea of guilty the court may impose a death penalty? Yes. Despite the fact that . . . now, with your plea of guilty, the court may attend to the death penalty, you are still insisting to proceed with your move to enter a plea of guilty? Yes, I will proceed with my plea of guilty. Why have you change[d] your mind and insist to enter now a plea of guilty when before you have entered the plea of not guilty? Because at that time I still plan to talk first with my wife. At that time where was your wife? She is in Manila. This time where is your wife? She is still in Manila. And so you have not yet talk to your wife? No, I have not yet talk[ed] to my wife but this is already my decision.

A Q A Q A Q A Q A Q A Q A Q A

xxx
COURT:

xxx

xxx

37

Q A Q A Q A Q A Q

Did you ask your mother-in-law to intercede for you and to request your wife to forgive you? Yes. Now, what was the reaction of your wife on that particular request through the telephone? That she can still forgive me being my wife as a human being but the case is now with the government already. Did your wife through the telephone conversation tell your mother-in-law that your wife submits to whatever the law provides? Yes. And because you were informed by your mother-in-law the result of the telephone conversation with your wife, what have you finally decided? I am now going to admit and enter the plea of guilty and I will entrust everything to the Lord. The court would like to know your version of the case considering that this is a heinous crime attached to it is the capital punishment of death, are you willing to testify on how come that this incident happened? Yes. So, you are going to testify in this case? Yes. You will be allowed by the court because that is your right? Yes.

A Q A Q A

COURT: Q A Q A Q Despite the fact that you have already entered a plea of guilty? Yes. The Court would allow you to testify in your behalf for the court to determine the appropriate penalty that may imposed upon you? Yes. The court however will proceed with the presentation of the evidence of the prosecution to establish your guilt even if you have manifested to enter a plea of guilty for the purpose again of the court to determine the appropriate penalty for you to be punished? Yes, sir.

PROS. OMANDAM: The prosecution would like to ask the accused if he is admitting in these three cases. I would like to ask permission that the following questions be propounded to the accused: whether said accused is admitting his guilt in these three cases [of] rape [he] committed [against his] daughter. I would like to emphasize Crim. Case Nos. 1301, 1304 & 1305. COURT: 38

May I ask the counsel for the accused on the comment on the manifestation of the handling prosecutor. A Yes, your honor, he is willing to [admit to] these three cases. The handling prosecutor may ask now the accused concerning the matter brought out by him despite the statement given by the counsel that the accused is willing to admit the three cases. PROS. OMANDAM: Q A Q A Mr. [Empante], would you also admit that you rape[d] your daughter in these three cases 1301, 1304 and 1305? Yes. You heard your daughter testifying, do you admit that all the testimonies of your daughter is true? Yes.[29]

Thus, accused-appellant entered his plea of guilty freely, voluntarily, and with full understanding of its consequences and should be bound by it. Accused-appellant asseverates that his plea of guilty mitigates his liability. The contention has no merit. To be considered a mitigating circumstance, a plea of guilty must be made spontaneously by the accused, in open court, prior to the presentation of evidence for the prosecution.[30] In the cases at bar, accused-appellant at first pleaded not guilty and only confessed his guilt after the prosecutions f irst witness was nearly finished with her testimony. Such a belated act of remorse or contrition[31] cannot be considered spontaneous or timely within the contemplation of the law.[32] Be that as it may, as we recently held in People vs. Mengote[33] and People vs. Robles,[34] even if the plea of guilty entered by accused-appellant satisfied the requisites laid down by law, it would not serve to mitigate his liability for qualified rape and justify the imposition of a lighter penalty. Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, states:

When and how rape is committed. - Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: 1. By using force or intimidation; 2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and 3. When the woman is under twelve years of age or is demented. The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua. Whenever the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death.
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When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has become insane, the penalty shall be death. When the rape is attempted or frustrated and a homicide is committed by reason or on the occasion thereof, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death. The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances: 1. 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. 2. when the victim is under the custody of the police or military authorities. 3. when the rape is committed in full view of the husband, parent, any of the children or other relatives within the third degree of consanguinity. 4. when the victim is a religious or child below seven (7) years old. 5. when the offender knows that he is afflicted with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) disease. 6. when committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police or any law enforcement agency. 7. when by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has suffered permanent physical mutilation.
As held in People vs. Garcia,[35] the seven (7) circumstances enumerated in this provision are special qualifying circumstances, the presence of any of which takes the case out of the purview of simple rape and effectively qualifies the same by increasing the penalty one degree higher. Qualified rape is thus punishable by the single indivisible penalty of death, which must be applied regardless of any mitigating or aggravating circumstance which may have attended the commission of the deed. [36] In these cases, the informations charged accused-appellant with having committed the crime of rape qualified against complainant, under 18 years old, who is his

40

daughter. As the charges were proven beyond reasonable doubt, the imposition of the death penalty is required. Four (4) Members of the Court, although maintaining their adherence to the separate opinions expressed in People vs. Echegaray[37] that Republic Act No. 7659 insofar as it prescribes the penalty of death is unconstitutional, nevertheless submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty should accordingly be imposed. With respect to the monetary liability of accused-appellant, the trial courts award of P50,000.00 for indemnity in each case should be increased to P75,000.00 in line with prevailing jurisprudence. The award of P50,000.00 for moral damages is correct and should be maintained, it being assumed that the victim has suffered moral injuries entitling her to such an award.[38] WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Oroquieta City (Branch 12) is AFFIRMED with the modification that accused-appellant is ORDERED to indemnify complainant Elvie Empante in each case the amount of P75,000.00 and to pay her P50,000.00 as moral 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 record of these cases be forthwith forwarded to His Excellency, the President of the Philippines, for his reference in case he decides to exercise his prerogative of mercy. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and YnaresSantiago, JJ.,concur.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC DECISION October 12, 1995 G.R. No. 119987-88 THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. HON. LORENZO B. VENERACION, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 47, Manila, HENRY LAGARTO y PETILLA and ERNESTO CORDERO, respondents.

KAPUNAN, J.:The sole issue in the case at bench involves a question of law. After finding that an accused individual in a criminal case has, on the occasion of Rape, committed Homicide, is the judge allowed any discretion in imposing either the penalty ofReclusion Perpetua or Death? , J.: The sole issue in the case at bench involves a question of law. After finding that an accused individual in a criminal case has, on the occasion of Rape, committed Homicide, is the judge allowed any discretion in imposing either the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua or Death? The facts antecedent to the case before this Court, as narrated by petitioner, 1 involve the perpetration of acts so bizarre and devoid of humanity as to horrify and numb the senses of all civilized men: On August 2, 1994, the cadaver of a young girl, later identified as Angel Alquiza wrapped in a sack and yellow table cloth tied with a nylon cord with both feet and left hand protruding from it was seen floating along Del Pan St. near the corner of Lavesares St., Binondo, Manila. When untied and removed from its cover, the lifeless body of the victim was seen clad only in a light colored duster without her panties, with gaping wounds on the left side of the face, the left chin, left ear, lacerations on her genitalia, and with her head bashed in. On the basis of sworn statements of witnesses, booking sheets, arrest reports and the necropsy report of the victim, Abundio Lagunday, a.k.a. Jr. Jeofrey of no fixed address, and Henry Lagarto y Petilla, of 288 Area H. Parola Compound, Tondo, Manila were later charged with the crime of Rape with Homicide in an Information dated August 8, 1994 filed with the Regional Trial Court of Manila, National Capital Judicial Region. Said Information, docketed as Criminal Case No. 94-138071, reads:

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That on or about August 2, 1994, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring and confederating together with one alias LANDO and other persons whose true names, identifies and present whereabouts are still unknown and helping one another, with treachery, taking advantage of their superior strength and nocturnity, and ignominy, and with the use of force and violence, that is, by taking ANGEL ALQUIZA y LAGMAN into a warehouse, covering her mouth, slashing her vagina, hitting her head with a thick piece of wood and stabbing her neck did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the person of said ANGEL ALQUIZA y LAGMAN, a minor, seven (7) years of age, against the latters will and consent and on said occasion the said ABUNDIO LAGUNDAY, a.k.a. LANDO and others, caused her fatal injuries which were the direct cause of her death immediately thereafter. CONTRARY TO LAW. Subsequently thereafter, Ernesto Cordero y Maristela, a.k.a. Booster, of 1198 Sunflower St., Tondo, Manila, Rolando Manlangit y Mamerta, a.k.a. Lando, of 1274 Kagitingan St., Tondo, Manila, Richard Baltazar y Alino, a.k.a. Curimao, also of 1274 Kagitingan St., Tondo, Manila, and Catalino Yaon y Aberin, a.k.a. Joel, of 1282 Lualhati St., Tondo, Manila were accused of the same crime of Rape with Homicide in an Information dated August 11, 1994, docketed as Criminal Case No. 94-138138, allegedly committed as follows: That on or about the 2nd day of August, 1994, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused conspiring and confederating with ABUNDIO LAGUNDAY Alias JR, JEOFREY and HENRY LAGARTO y PETILLA who have already been charged in the Regional Trial Court of Manila of the same offense under Criminal Case No. 94-138071, and helping one another, with treachery, taking advantage of their superior strength and nocturnity and ignominy, and with the use of force and violence, that is, by taking ANGEL ALQUIZA y LAGMAN into a pedicab, and once helpless, forcibly bringing her to a nearby warehouse, covering her mouth, slashing her vagina, hitting her head with a thick piece of wood and stabbing her neck, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the person of said ANGEL ALQUIZA y LAGMAN, a minor, seven (7) years of age, against the latters will and consent and on said occasion the said accused together with their confederates ABUNDIO LAGARTO y PETILLA caused her fatal injuries which were the direct cause of her death immediately thereafter. CONTRARY TO LAW. The two criminal cases were consolidated to Branch 47 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, presided over by respondent Judge. Duly arraigned, all the accused, except Abundio Lagunday who was already dead, (allegedly shot by police escorts after attempting to fire a gun he was able to grab from SPO1 D. Vidad on August 12, 1994), pleaded Not Guilty. Abundio Lagunday was dropped from the Information. After trial and presentation of the evidence of the prosecution and the defense, the trial court rendered a decision 2 on January 31, 1995 finding the defendants Henry Lagarto y Petilla and Ernesto

43

Cordero y Maristela guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape with Homicide and sentenced both accused with the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessories provided for by law. 3 Disagreeing with the sentence imposed, the City Prosecutor of Manila on February 8, 1995, filed a Motion for Reconsideration, praying that the Decision be modified in that the penalty of deat h be imposed against respondents Lagarto and Cordero, in place of the original penalty ( reclusion perpetua). Refusing to act on the merits of the said Motion for Reconsideration, respondent Judge, on February 10, 1995, issued an Order denying the same for lack of jurisdiction. The pertinent portion reads: The Court believes that in the above-entitled cases, the accused Lagarto and Cordero have complied with the legal requirements for the perfection of an appeal. Consequently, for lack of jurisdiction, this Court cannot take cognizance of the Motion for Reconsideration of the Public Prosecutor of Manila. WHEREFORE, the order earlier issued by this Court regarding the Notices of Appeal filed by both herein accused is hereby reiterated. The Clerk of this Court is hereby directed to transmit the complete records of these cases, together with the notices of appeal, to the Honorable Supreme Court, in accordance with Sec. 8, Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. SO ORDERED. Hence, the instant petition. The trial courts finding of guilt is not at issue in the case at bench. The basis of the trial courts determination of guilt and its conclusions will only be subject to our scrutiny at an appropriate time on appeal. We have thus clinically limited our narration of events to those cold facts antecedent to the instant case relevant to the determination of the legal question at hand, i.e., whether or not the respondent judge acted with grave abuse of discretion and in excess of jurisdiction when he failed and/or refused to impose the mandatory penalty of death under Republic Act No. 7659, after finding the accused guilty of the crime of Rape with Homicide. We find for petitioner. Obedience to the rule of law forms the bedrock of our system of justice. If judges, under the guise of religious or political beliefs were allowed to roam unrestricted beyond boundaries within which they are required by law to exercise the duties of their office, then law becomes meaningless. A government of laws, not of men excludes the exercise of broad discretionary powers by those acting under its authority. Under this system, judges are guided by the Rule of Law, and ought to protect and enforce it without fear or favor, 4 resist encroachments by governments, political parti es, 5 or even the interference of their own personal beliefs. In the case at bench, respondent judge, after weighing the evidence of the prosecution and the defendant at trial found the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape with Homicide. Since the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime for which respondent judge found the accused guilty was Republic Act No. 7659, he was bound by its provisions.

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Section 11 of R.A. No. 7659 provides: Sec. 11. Article 335 of the same Code is hereby amended to read as follows: Art. 335. When and how rape is committed. Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: 1. By using force or intimidation. 2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and 3. When the woman is under twelve years of age or is demented. The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua. Whenever the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has become insane, the penalty shall be death. When the rape is attempted or frustrated and a homicide is committed by reason or on the occasion thereof, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death. . ..6 Clearly, under the law, the penalty imposable for the crime of Rape with Homicide is not Reclusion Perpetua but Death. While Republic Act 7659 punishes cases of ordinary rape with the penalty ofReclusion Perpetua, it allows judges the discretion depending on the existence of circumstances modifying the offense committed to impose the penalty of either Reclusion Perpetua only in the three instances mentioned therein. Rape with homicide is not one of these three instances. The law plainly and unequivocably provides that [w]hen by reason or on the occasion of rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death. The provision leaves no room for the exercise of discretion on the part of the trial judge to impose a penalty under the circumstances described, other than a sentence of death. We are aware of the trial judges misgivings in imposing the death sentence because of his religious convictions. While this Court sympathizes with his predicament, it is its bounden duty to emphasize that a court of law is no place for a protracted debate on the morality or propriety of the sentence, where the law itself provides for the sentence of death as a penalty in specific and well-defined instances. The discomfort faced by those forced by law to impose the death penalty is an ancient one, but it is a matter upon which judges have no choice. Courts are not concerned with the wisdom, efficacy or morality of laws. In People vs. Limaco 7 we held that: [W]hen . . . private opinions not only form part of their decision but constitute a decisive factor in arriving at a conclusion and determination of a case or the penalty imposed, resulting in an illegality and reversible error, then we are constrained to state our opinion, not only to correct the error but for

45

the guidance of the courts. We have no quarrel with the trial judge or with anyone else, layman or jurist as to the wisdom or folly of the death penalty. Today there are quite a number of people who honestly believe that the supreme penalty is either morally wrong or unwise or ineffective. However, as long as that penalty remains in the statute books, and as long as our criminal law provides for its imposition in certain cases, it is the duty of judicial officers to respect and apply the law regardless of their private opinions. It is a well settled rule that the courts are not concerned with the wisdom, efficacy or morality of laws. That question falls exclusively within the province of the Legislature which enacts them and the Chief Executive who approves or vetoes them. The only function of the judiciary is to interpret the laws and, if not in disharmony with the Constitution, to apply them. And for the guidance of the members of the judiciary we feel it incumbent upon us to state that while they as citizens or as judges may regard a certain law as harsh, unwise or morally wrong, and may recommend to the authority or department concerned, its amendment, modification, or repeal, still, as long as said law is in force, they must apply it and give it effect as decreed by the law-making body. 8 Finally, the Rules of Court mandates that after an adjudication of guilt, the judge should impose the proper penalty and civil liability provided for by the law on the accused. 9 This is not a case of a magistrate ignorant of the law. This is a case in which a judge, fully aware of the appropriate provisions of the law, refuses to impose a penalty to which he disagrees. In so doing, respondent judge acted without or in excess of his jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to a lack of jurisdiction in imposing the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua where the law clearly imposes the penalty of Death. WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, the instant petition is GRANTED. The case is hereby REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court for the imposition of the penalty of death upon private respondents in consonance with respondent judges finding that the private respondents in the instant case had committed the crime of Rape with Homicide under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7659, subject to automatic review by this Court of the decision imposing the death penalty. SO ORDERED. Feliciano, Padilla, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Mendoza, Francisco and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur. Separate Opinions NARVASA, C.J., concurring: I concur with the conclusions and dispositions set forth in the opinion of Mr. Justice Kapunan. I draw up this separate opinion merely to address a question which may be raised in relation to the appeal taken by the accused from the judgment of conviction rendered by respondent Judge. It will be recalled that respondent Judge declined to act on the merits of motion for reconsideration filed by the prosecution praying that his decision sentencing both accused to suffer reclusion perpetua be modified in that the penalty of death be imposed for the reason that since the accused had already

46

complied with the legal requirements for the perfection of an appeal, the Trial Court had lost jurisdiction over the cases. It was precisely that refusal that prompted the institution in this Court of the special civil action of certiorari at bar. It is indeed axiomatic that once an appeal is perfected from a judgment, jurisdiction is lost by the court rendering the judgment; and jurisdiction over the case passes to the appellate tribunal. This proposition considered, and following respondent Judges reasoning, this Courts directive for the remand of the case to the Regional Trial Court for the imposition of the penalty of death upon private respondents, might appear to be open to question, since it would require the Trial Court to act in cases over which it had lost jurisdiction. Such a conclusion is not warranted. The judgment in question is void, and has been annulled and set aside by this Court, because rendered without or in excess of . . . jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, in so far as it imposes, in light of the facts found to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt, a penalty other than that peremptorily prescribed by law. The judgment being void, the appeal attempted to be taken therefrom is inefficacious. The Trial Court may not be deemed to have thereby lost jurisdiction of the cases. It cannot thus be said that it is being required by this Court to act in cases over which it has already lost jurisdiction. There exists no legal obstacle to the remand of the cases to it and its modification of the judgment so that it may comply with the mandatory prescription of the law. REGALADO, J., concurring: I concur without reservation in the ponencia in this case and its directive that the court a quo impose the correct penalty of death as provided by law and consequent to its findings of guilt on the part of private respondents. Indeed, this separate opinion which explicates my conformity with the procedure adopted and the mandate thereof would not have been necessary were it not for the contrary observations that the petition herein should either have been dismissed or consolidated with the criminal case elevated on appeal by private respondents. Such digression from the judgment unconditionally accepted by the other members of the Court does not impress me as being concordant with the Rules of Court and decisional law. What is before us in the case at bar is an original civil action invoking the extraordinary writ of certiorari for the imposition of the correct penalty specified by law, which legal duty respondent judge refused to comply with in grave abuse of his judicial discretion. 1 On the other hand, the criminal case with which it is sought to be consolidated is an appellate recourse wherein the relief sought is primarily the reversal of the finding of guilt and the absolution of private respondents. Evidently, the determinative issues involved and the limited relief sought in the present special civil action are entirely different from the issues for resolution and the modificatory judgment desired in the appealed criminal case. The basic rule in consolidation of cases in civil procedure 2 requires, among others, the same subject matter and the existence of a common question of law or fact. This is essentially the same as the rule on consolidation in criminal procedure 3 which contemplates charges for offenses founded on the same facts, or forming part of a series of offenses of similar character.

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Also, these reglementary requisites for consolidation require two or more ordinary civil or criminal actions, and not a special civil action in combination with the former. The impropriety of the latter situation is specially underscored where the resolution of the controversy in the special civil action is a pre-judicial matter in the appealed criminal case. These considerations apply to both the trial courts in the exercise of original jurisdiction and to the appellate courts in the implementation of revisory power. The purpose of the present original action for certiorari is to have the erroneous judgment of respondent judge erroneous because he imposed the wrong penalty corrected on that score in the first instance. After such correction shall have been effected, then the appeal from his judgment shall proceed for the desired review by this Court to determine the guilt or innocence of appellants. The corrective action must proceed first and the resultant amended judgment containing the proper penalty shall be the basis for the review as to whether appellants are truly guilty and have to be meted that ultimate penalty. To have the certiorari action proceed simultaneously and in unification with the appellate proceeding strikes me as an aberrant procedure. While it does not exactly square with the figurative posture of putting the cart before the horse, it does result in the same absurdity of both the horse and the cart moving abreast at the same time along the same judicial path. It would even be worse if, as suggested, this certiorari action should be dismissed and the appellate review be conducted with the judgment containing an unauthorized penalty as the basis therefor, with this Court closing its eyes to such a flagrant mistake. This time the cart precedes the horse. True, an appeal throws the judgment a quo open for review and the Court may raise the penalty to the appropriate punitive level. But, as the People pertinently observes, what is there to prevent appellants from withdrawing their appeal upon sensing from the arguments that, instead of the acquittal or reduced penalty aspired for, the ultimate denouement would be the death sentence? Jurisprudence tells us that before the case is submitted for decision, an appellant may withdraw his appeal in the appellate court. 4 Generally, the withdrawal of an appeal before the filing of the appellees brief in this Court is permitted. 5 Assuming that the Court denies the withdrawal of the appeal in order that the mistake in the penalty imposed may be corrected in the judgment of the case on the merits, 6 why should the appellate course of the proceedings still have to be subject to such contingencies with the inevitable waste of time and effort in the formulation of alternative theories in two sets of pleadings by both parties when with the decisive sweep of the adjudgment here the doubts are dissipated and the real areas of contention are laid bare? Nor is that all. Appellants have come to this Court through the medium of an appeal by writ of error from a judgment of the trial court imposing the wrong penalty of reclusion perpetua. If the mistake in the penalty is now rectified with the death sentence being substituted therefor, as undeniably it should be, then the case will consequently be before this Court on automatic review. That provision calling for automatic review when capital punishment is inflicted 7 serves equally the interests of both the defense and the prosecution through protective features established by case law. Thus, even if the accused had unnecessarily appealed from the judgment imposing the penalty of death and he thereafter withdraws his appeal, the automatic review of the case shall nonetheless proceed, albeit without the benefit of briefs or arguments from the accused. 8 The automatic review of

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the case shall proceed even if the death convict shall escape, 9 as an exception to the provisions of Section 8, Rule 124, and such automatic review cannot be waived. 10 The aforementioned beneficial effects are not provided for and may not be availed of by the accused in an ordinary appeal to this Court. The automatic review of the death sentence ensures the right of the condemned person to procedural due process on appeal, and safeguards the interests of the State by exacting the corresponding penal sanction decreed by law. The disposition adopted by the Court in this case subserves the ends of these fundamental policies, hence my unqualified assent thereto. VITUG, J., dissenting: The ponencia itself indicates that the case against the convicted accused is already on appeal before this Court. Thus, the instant petition, in my view, has become academic since an appeal brings the case wide open for review and consideration. A ruling on the petition would be precipitate and might be so perceived as peremptory on the imposition of the death penalty. With all due respect, it is my personal view that if the Court is not disposed to dismiss the petition, it should at the very least be consolidated with the appealed case. Accordingly, I am constrained, at this time, to vote for the dismissal of the petition. Davide, Jr., J. concurs. Separate Opinions NARVASA, C.J., concurring: I concur with the conclusions and dispositions set forth in the opinion of Mr. Justice Kapunan. I draw up this separate opinion merely to address a question which may be raised in relation to the appeal taken by the accused from the judgment of conviction rendered by respondent Judge. It will be recalled that respondent Judge declined to act on the merits of motion for reconsideration filed by the prosecution praying that his decision sentencing both accused to suffer reclusion perpetua be modified in that the penalty of death be imposed for the reason that since the accused had already complied with the legal requirements for the perfection of an appeal, the Trial Court had lost jurisdiction over the cases. It was precisely that refusal that prompted the institution in this Court of the special civil action of certiorari at bar. It is indeed axiomatic that once an appeal is perfected from a judgment, jurisdiction is lost by the court rendering the judgment; and jurisdiction over the case passes to the appellate tribunal. This proposition considered, and following respondent Judges reasoning, this Courts directive for the remand of the case to the Regional Trial Court for the imposition of the penalty of death upon private respondents, might appear to be open to question, since it would require the Trial Court to act in cases over which it had lost jurisdiction. Such a conclusion is not warranted.

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The judgment in question is void, and has been annulled and set aside by this Court, because rendered without or in excess of . . . jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, in so far as it imposes, in light of the facts found to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt, a penalty other than that peremptorily prescribed by law. The judgment being void, the appeal attempted to be taken therefrom is inefficacious. The Trial Court may not be deemed to have thereby lost jurisdiction of the cases. It cannot thus be said that it is being required by this Court to act in cases over which it has already lost jurisdiction. There exists no legal obstacle to the remand of the cases to it and its modification of the judgment so that it may comply with the mandatory prescription of the law. REGALADO, J., concurring: I concur without reservation in the ponencia in this case and its directive that the court a quo impose the correct penalty of death as provided by law and consequent to its findings of guilt on the part of private respondents. Indeed, this separate opinion which explicates my conformity with the procedure adopted and the mandate thereof would not have been necessary were it not for the contrary observations that the petition herein should either have been dismissed or consolidated with the criminal case elevated on appeal by private respondents. Such digression from the judgment unconditionally accepted by the other members of the Court does not impress me as being concordant with the Rules of Court and decisional law. What is before us in the case at bar is an original civil action invoking the extraordinary writ of certiorari for the imposition of the correct penalty specified by law, which legal duty respondent judge refused to comply with in grave abuse of his judicial discretion. 1 On the other hand, the criminal case with which it is sought to be consolidated is an appellate recourse wherein the relief sought is primarily the reversal of the finding of guilt and the absolution of private respondents. Evidently, the determinative issues involved and the limited relief sought in the present special civil action are entirely different from the issues for resolution and the modificatory judgment desired in the appealed criminal case. The basic rule in consolidation of cases in civil procedure 2 requires, among others, the same subject matter and the existence of a common question of law or fact. This is essentially the same as the rule on consolidation in criminal procedure 3 which contemplates charges for offenses founded on the same facts, or forming part of a series of offenses of similar character. Also, these reglementary requisites for consolidation require two or more ordinary civil or criminal actions, and not a special civil action in combination with the former. The impropriety of the latter situation is specially underscored where the resolution of the controversy in the special civil action is a pre-judicial matter in the appealed criminal case. These considerations apply to both the trial courts in the exercise of original jurisdiction and to the appellate courts in the implementation of revisory power. The purpose of the present original action for certiorari is to have the erroneous judgment of respondent judge erroneous because he imposed the wrong penalty corrected on that score in the first instance. After such correction shall have been effected, then the appeal from his judgment shall proceed for the desired review by this Court to determine the guilt or innocence of appellants. The

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corrective action must proceed first and the resultant amended judgment containing the proper penalty shall be the basis for the review as to whether appellants are truly guilty and have to be meted that ultimate penalty. To have the certiorari action proceed simultaneously and in unification with the appellate proceeding strikes me as an aberrant procedure. While it does not exactly square with the figurative posture of putting the cart before the horse, it does result in the same absurdity of both the horse and the cart moving abreast at the same time along the same judicial path. It would even be worse if, as suggested, this certiorari action should be dismissed and the appellate review be conducted with the judgment containing an unauthorized penalty as the basis therefor, with this Court closing its eyes to such a flagrant mistake. This time the cart precedes the horse. True, an appeal throws the judgment a quo open for review and the Court may raise the penalty to the appropriate punitive level. But, as the People pertinently observes, what is there to prevent appellants from withdrawing their appeal upon sensing from the arguments that, instead of the acquittal or reduced penalty aspired for, the ultimate denouement would be the death sentence? Jurisprudence tells us that before the case is submitted for decision, an appellant may withdraw his appeal in the appellate court. 4 Generally, the withdrawal of an appeal before the filing of the appellees brief in this Court is permitted. 5 Assuming that the Court denies the withdrawal of the appeal in order that the mistake in the penalty imposed may be corrected in the judgment of the case on the merits, 6 why should the appellate course of the proceedings still have to be subject to such contingencies with the inevitable waste of time and effort in the formulation of alternative theories in two sets of pleadings by both parties when with the decisive sweep of the adjudgment here the doubts are dissipated and the real areas of contention are laid bare? Nor is that all. Appellants have come to this Court through the medium of an appeal by writ of error from a judgment of the trial court imposing the wrong penalty of reclusion perpetua. If the mistake in the penalty is now rectified with the death sentence being substituted therefor, as undeniably it should be, then the case will consequently be before this Court on automatic review. That provision calling for automatic review when capital punishment is inflicted 7 serves equally the interests of both the defense and the prosecution through protective features established by case law. Thus, even if the accused had unnecessarily appealed from the judgment imposing the penalty of death and he thereafter withdraws his appeal, the automatic review of the case shall nonetheless proceed, albeit without the benefit of briefs or arguments from the accused. 8 The automatic review of the case shall proceed even if the death convict shall escape, 9 as an exception to the provisions of Section 8, Rule 124, and such automatic review cannot be waived. 10 The aforementioned beneficial effects are not provided for and may not be availed of by the accused in an ordinary appeal to this Court. The automatic review of the death sentence ensures the right of the condemned person to procedural due process on appeal, and safeguards the interests of the State by exacting the corresponding penal sanction decreed by law. The disposition adopted by the Court in this case subserves the ends of these fundamental policies, hence my unqualified assent thereto. VITUG, J., dissenting:

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The ponencia itself indicates that the case against the convicted accused is already on appeal before this Court. Thus, the instant petition, in my view, has become academic since an appeal brings the case wide open for review and consideration. A ruling on the petition would be precipitate and might be so perceived as peremptory on the imposition of the death penalty. With all due respect, it is my personal view that if the Court is not disposed to dismiss the petition, it should at the very least be consolidated with the appealed case. Accordingly, I am constrained, at this time, to vote for the dismissal of the petition. Davide, Jr., J. concurs. Footnotes 1 Rollo, p. 4, Except as to the penalty imposed, petitioner and respondent court are in agreement as to the essential facts of the case. 2 Rollo, pp. 24-51. 3 Rollo, p. 28, The dispositive portion reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered judgment is hereby rendered, dismissing the information as against ROLANDO MANLANGIT for lack of evidence, and finding both accused HENRY LAGARTO y PETILLA and ERNESTO CORDERO y MARISTELA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of RAPE WITH HOMICIDE charged in the Information of these cases, and sentencing both accused the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessories provided for by law. Said accused are further ordered to indemnify, jointly and severally, the private complainant the sum of P100,000 for the death of the victim, ANGEL ALQUIZA; the sum of P500,000 for moral damages, and the amount of P52,000.00 for actual damages representing expenses incurred for the wake and funeral of the victim. They are further ordered to pay the costs of these suits. SO ORDERED. (ANNEX A, Petition)

On August 2, 1994, four accused were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape with homicide of a seven year old girl in the RTC presided by Judge Lorenzo P. Veneracion. Respondent judge however, refused to impose the corresponding penalty of death and he rather imposed reclusion perpetua to each of the accused. The city prosecutor filed a motion for reconsideration praying that the penalty of death be imposed upon the four accused. The respondent judge refused to act.

ISSUE: Whether or not respondent judge can impose penalty lower than that prescribed by law.

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HELD: The Supreme Court mandates that after an adjudication of guilt, the judge should impose the proper penalty provided for by the law on the accused regardless of his own religious or moral beliefs. In this case the respondent judge must impose the death penalty. This is consistent in the rule laid down in the Civil Code Article 9 that no judge or court shall decline to render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity, or insufficiency of the laws.

Nature: Petition for certiorari to review a decision of RTC of Manila ? Aug 2, 1994 cadaver of a young girl identified as Angel Alquiza was seen floating along Del Pan St. near the corner of Lavesares St., Binondo, Manila. She was wrapped in a sack & yellow table cloth tied with a nylon cord with both feet & left hand protruding from it was seen floating along. ? Abundio Lagunday, a.k.a. Jr. Jeofrey and Henry Lagarto y Petilla were later charged with the crime of Rape with Homicide in an Information dated August 8, 1994 filed with the Regional Trial Court of Manila, National Capital Judicial Region ? Trial Court rendered a decision on January 31, 1995 finding the defendants Henry Lagarto y Petilla and Ernesto Cordero y Maristela guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape with Homicide and sentenced both accused with the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessories provided for by law. ? February 8, 1995 City Prosecutor of Manila filed a Motion for Reconsideration praying that the Decision be modified in that the penalty of death be imposed against respondents Lagarto and Cordero, in place of the original penalty (reclusion perpetua). Feb. 10, 1995 the motion was denied by the court. Issue: WON the respondent judge acted with grave abuse of discretion and in excess of jurisdiction when he failed and/or refused to impose the mandatory penalty of death under RA 7659, after finding the accused guilty of the crime of Rape with Homicide. ? YES. No question on the guilt of the accused. ? A government of laws, not of men excludes the exercise of broad discretionary powers by those acting under its authority. Under this system, judges are guided by the Rule of Law, and ought to protect and enforce it without fear or favor, resist encroachments by governments, political parties, or even the interference of their own personal beliefs. ? The RTC judge found the accused beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and homicide. 11 of RA No. 7659 provides: Article 335 of the same Code is hereby amended to read as follows: Art. 335. When and how rape is committed. Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: 1. By using force or intimidation. 2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and 3. When the woman is under 12 years of age or is demented. The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua. Whenever the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has become insane, the penalty shall be death. When the rape is attempted or frustrated and a homicide is committed by reason or on the occasion thereof, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death. . . . ? Under the law the penalty imposable for the crime of rape with homicide is NOT reclusion perpetua but Death. ? The law provides that when by reason or on the occasion of rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death ? A court of law is no place for a protracted debate on the morality or propriety of the sentence, where the law itself provides for the sentence of death as a penalty in specific & well-defined instances.

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? People vs. Limaco as long as that penalty remains in the statute books, and as long as our criminal law provides for its imposition in certain cases, it is the duty of judicial officers to respect and apply the law regardless of their private opinions. It is a well settled rule that the courts are not concerned w/ the wisdom, efficacy or morality of laws. ? Rules of Court mandates that after an adjudication of guilt, the judge should impose the proper penalty and civil liability provided for by the law on the accused.

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EN BANC

[G.R. No. 120034. August 20, 1996]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. JOSEFINA A. ESPARAS and RODRIGO O. LIBED, accused-appellant.
RESOLUTION
PUNO, J.:

Accused Josefina A. Esparas was charged with violation of R.A. No. 6425 as amended by R.A. No. 759 for importing into the country twenty (20) kilograms of "shabu" in Criminal Case No. 94-5897 before the RTC of Pasay City, Br. 114. After arraignment, the accused escaped from jail and was tried in absentia. On March 13, 1995, the trial court found her guilty as charged and imposed on her the death penalty. As the accused remains at large up to the present time, the issue that confronts the Court is whether or not it will proceed to automatically review her death sentence. The issue need not befuddle us. In the 1910 groundbreaking case of U.S. vs. Laguna, et al.,[1] we already held thru Mr. Justice Moreland, that the power of this Court to review a decision imposing the death penalty cannot be waived either by the accused or by the courts, viz.: "xxx xxx xxx

"It is apparent from these provisions that the judgment of conviction and sentence thereunder by the trial court does not, in reality, conclude the trial of the accused. Such trial is not terminated until the Supreme Court has reviewed the facts and the law as applied thereto by the court below. The judgment of conviction entered on the trial is not final, can not be executed, and is wholly without force or effect until the cause has been passed upon by the Supreme Court. In a sense the trial court acts as a commissioner who takes the testimony and reports thereon to the Supreme Court with his recommendation. While in practice he enters a judgment of conviction and sentences the prisoner thereunder, in reality, until passed upon by the Supreme Court, it has none of the attributes of a final judgment and sentence. It is a mere recommendation to the Supreme Court, based upon the facts on the record
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which are presented with it. This is meant in no sense to detract from the dignity and power of Courts of First Instance. It means simply that that portion of Spanish procedure which related to cases where capital punishment was imposed still survives. "xxx xxx xxx

"The requirement that the Supreme Court pass upon a case in which capital punishment has been imposed by the sentence of the trial court is one having for its object simply and solely the protection of the accused. Having received the highest penalty which the law imposes, he is entitled under that law to have the sentence and all the facts and circumstances upon which it is founded placed before the highest tribunal of the land to the end that its justice and legality may be clearly and conclusively determined. Such procedure is merciful. It gives a second chance for life. Neither the courts nor the accused can waive it. It is a positive provision of the law that brooks no interference and tolerates no evasions." (Emphasis supplied) The Laguna case interpreted section 50 of General Orders No. 58 as amended, which provides: "xxx xxx xxx

"It shall not be necessary to forward to the Supreme Court the record, or any part thereof, of any case in which there shall have been an acquittal, or in which the sentence imposed is not death, unless such case shall have been duly appealed; but such sentence shall be executed upon the order of the court in which the trial was had. The records of all cases in which the death penalty shall have been imposed by any Court of First Instance, whether the defendant shall have appealed or not, and of all cases in which appeals shall have been taken shall be forwarded to the Supreme Court for investigation and judgments as law and justice shall dictate. The records of such cases shall be forwarded to the clerk of the Supreme Court within twenty days, but not earlier than fifteen days after the rendition of sentence." The 1935 Constitution did not prohibit the imposition of the death penalty. Its section 2(4) of Article VIII provided for review by this Court of death penalty cases. Both our Rules of Court of 1940[2] and 1964[3] require the transmission to this Court of the records of all cases in which the death penalty shall have been imposed by the trial court, whether the defendant shall have appealed or not, for review and judgment as the law and justice shall dictate. It will be noted that these rules were taken from the second part

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of General Orders were taken from second part of General Orders No. 58, as amended by Section 4 of Act No. 194.[4] Necessarily, our case law under the 1935 Constitution reiterated the Laguna ruling. Thus, in the 1953 case of People vs. Villanueva,[5] we held that the withdrawal of an appealby a death convict does not deprive this Court of its jurisdiction to review his conviction, viz.: "An accused appealing from a decision sentencing him to death may be allowed to withdraw his appeal like any other appellant, in an ordinary criminal case before the briefs are filed, but his withdrawal of the appeal does not remove the case from the jurisdiction of this court which under the law is authorized and called upon to review the decision though unappealed. Consequently, the withdrawal of the appeal in this case could not serve to render the decision of the People's Court final. In fact, as was said by this court through Justice Moreland in the case of U.S. vs. Laguna, 17 Phil. 532, speaking on the matter of review by this court of a decision imposing the death penalty, the judgment of conviction entered in the trial court is not final, and cannot be executed and is wholly without force or effect until the case has been passed upon by the Supreme Court en consulta; that although a judgment of conviction is entered by the trial court, said decision has none of the attributes of a final judgment and sentence; that until it has been reviewed by the Supreme Court which finally passes upon it, the same is not final and conclusive; and that this automatic review by the Supreme Court of decisions imposing the death penalty is something which neither the court nor the accused could waive or evade." The 1971 case of People vs. Cornelio, et al.,[6] involves the escape of a death convict. In no uncertain terms, we held that the escape of a death convict does not relieve this Court of its duty of reviewing his conviction. In the 1972 case of People vs. Daban, et al.,[7] the ponencia of former Chief Justice Fernando further stressed, to wit: "xxx xxx xxx"

"Now, as to the law. It would appear that respondent Demaisip is unaware of Section 9 of Rule 122. Thus: `The records of all cases in which the death penalty shall have been imposed by any Court of First Instance, whether the defendant shall have appealed or not, shall be forwarded to the Supreme Court for review and judgment as law and justice shall dictate. The records of such cases shall be forwarded to the clerk of the Supreme Court within twenty (20) days, but not earlier than fifteen (15) days, after rendition or promulgation of the sentence in the form prescribed by Section 11 of Rule 41. The transcript shall also be forwarded as provided in Section 12 of Rule 41 within five (5) days after the filing thereof by the stenographer.' The penalty imposed on appellant Daban y Ganzon in the judgment of November 21, 1969 being one of
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death, the case was properly elevated to this Court. Moreover, until after this Court has spoken, no finality could be attached to the lower court decision. As explained in former Chief Justice Moran's Comments on the Rules of Court: `In this connection, it must be emphasized that the judgment of conviction imposing the death penalty entered in the trial court, is not final, and cannot be executed and is wholly without force or effect until the case has been passed upon by the Supreme Court en consulta; that although a judgment of conviction is entered by the trial court, said decision has none of the attributes of a final judgment and sentence; and that until it has been reviewed by the Supreme Court which finally passes upon it, the same is not final and conclusive; and this automatic review by the Supreme Court is something which neither the court nor the accused could waive or evade.' The mere fact of escape of appellant, therefore, could not be relied upon by respondent Demaisip as sufficient cause for his failure to file appellant's brief." Then came the 1973 Constitution which likewise did not prohibit the death penalty.[8] Section 9, Rule 122 continued to provide the procedure for review of death penalty cases by this Court. Section 10, Rule 122 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure even reenacted this procedure of review. Significantly, it expressly used the term "automatic review and judgment" by this Court. Our case law continued its fealty to the Laguna rule. Thus, in the 1976 case of People vs. Saliling, et al.,[9] we held, thru former Chief Justice Aquino, that this Court is not precluded from reviewing the death sentence of an accused who is at large. In the 1984 case of People vs. Buynay, et al.,[10] we reiterated the rule that the escape of a death convict will not automatically result in the dismissal of his appeal. Finally, we have the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes Congress so provides.[11] On December 13, 1993, Congress reimposed the death penalty in cases involving the commission of heinous crimes. This revived the procedure by which this Court reviews death penalty cases pursuant to the Rules of Court. It remains automatic and does not depend on the whims of the death convict. It continues to be mandatory, and leaves this Court without any option.[12] With due respect to the dissenting opinions, of our esteemed colleagues, section 8 of Rule 124 of the Rules of Court which, inter alia, authorizes the dismissal of an appeal when the appellant jumps bail, has no application to cases where the death penalty has been imposed. In death penalty cases, automatic review is mandatory. This is the text and tone of section 10, Rule 122, which is the more applicable rule, viz.:

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"Section 10. Transmission of Records in Case of Death Penalty. - In all cases where the death penalty is imposed by the trial court, the records shall be forwarded to the Supreme Court for automatic review and judgment, within twenty (20) days but not earlier than (15) days after promulgation of the judgment or notice of denial of any motion for new trial or reconsideration. The transcript shall also be forwarded within ten (10) days after the filing thereof by the stenographic reporter." Similarly, the reliance in People vs. Codilla,[13] by our dissenting colleagues is misplaced. Codilla is not a death penalty case. Only the penalty of reclusion perpetua was imposed on appellant. Consequently, we ruled that the escape of the appellant or his refusal to surrender to the proper authorities justifies dismissal of his appeal. Our dissenting brethren also make a distinct cut between "x x x a death convict, i.e. one convicted to death by a trial court who remains in the custody of the law, and who voluntarily withdraws his appeal and a death convict, i.e. one convicted to death by the trial court but who escapes from the custody of the law during the pendency of the appeal." They rationalize the distinction by holding: "It should be clear in the first case, that even if the death convict withdraws his appeal from the trial court's judgment convicting him to death, the appellate court may still and nonetheless review the judgment of conviction for the convict-appellant has at least remained in the custody of the law to await final verdict in his case. In the second case, however, the accused no longer recognizes and respects the authority of law and the duly-constituted authorities in general and this Court in particular. Such supercilious conduct of an escapee cannot and should not be taken lightly by the Court. Respect for and recognition of the authority of the Court is an essential and implicit element in an effective and credible judicial system. "No one, it should be stressed, should be allowed to make a mockery of the justice system by, in one breath, seeking its protection and even vindication via an automatic review of a death sentence and, in another breath, continuing to be a fugitive from justice and repudiating the very authority of the system whose protection he seeks and invokes." We hold, however, that there is more wisdom in our existing jurisprudence mandating our review of all death penalty cases, regardless of the wish of the convict and regardless of the will of the Court. Nothing less than life is at stake and any court decision authorizing the State to take life must be as error-free as possible. We must strive to realize this objective, however elusive it may be, and our efforts must not depend on whether appellant has
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withdrawn his appeal or has escaped. Indeed, an appellant may withdraw his appeal not because he is guilty but because of his wrong perception of the law. Or because he may want to avail of the more speedy remedy of pardon. Or because of his frustration and misapprehension that he will not get justice from the authorities. Nor should the Court be influenced by the seeming repudiation of its jurisdiction when a convict escapes. Ours is not only the power but the duty to review all death penalty cases. No litigant can repudiate this power which is bestowed by the Constitution. The power is more of a sacred duty which we have to discharge to assure the People that the innocence of a citizen is our concern not only in crimes that slight but even more, in crimes that shock the conscience. This concern cannot be diluted. The Court is not espousing a "soft, bended, approach" to heinous crimes for as discussed above, we have always reviewed the imposition of the death penalty regardless of the will of the convict. Our unyielding stance is dictated by the policy that the State should not be given the license to kill without the final determination of this Highest Tribunal whose collectivewisdom is the last, effective hedge against an erroneous judgment of a one-judge trial court. This enlightened policy ought to continue as our beacon light for the taking of life ends all rights, a matter of societal value that transcends the personal interest of a convict. The importance of this societal value should not be blurred by the escape of a convict which is a problem of law enforcement. Neither should this Court be moved alone by the outrage of the public for the rise in statistics of heinous crimes for our decisions should not be directed by the changing winds of the social weather. Let us not for a moment forget that an accused does not cease to have rights just because of his conviction. This principle is implicit in our Constitution which recognizes that an accused, to be right, while the majority, even if overwhelming, has no right to be wrong. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the counsel for the accused is given a new period of thirty (30) days from notice hereof within which to file the Brief of the accused Josefina A. Esparas. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Kapunan, and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur. Vitug, J., in the result. Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., concur in separate opinion. Padilla, J., dissents.

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Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Melo, Mendoza, and Torres, Jr., JJ., join Justice Padilla's dissenting opinion.

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