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FIRST DIVISION

December 13, 2017

G.R. No. 229722

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
DIONISIO DE CHAVEZ, JR. y ESCOBIDO, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

Before the Court is an appeal filed by accused-appellant Dionisio de Chavez, Jr. y Escobido
(accused-appellant de Chavez) assailing the Decision1 dated June 29, 2016 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 06079, which affirmed the Decision2 dated November 22, 2012 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Rosario, Batanga.s, Branch 87, in Criminal Case No. RY2K101.

In an Information dated April 17, 2000, accused-appellant de Chavez and another accused, Manolito
de Chavez (co-accused Manolito) were charged with murder, defined and penalized under Article
248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, committed as follows:

That on or about the 14th day of February, 2000, at about 5:15 o'clock in the afternoon, at Barangay
Lipahan, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a balisong knife, conspiring and
confederating together, acting in common accord and mutually helping each other, with intent to kill,
with treachery and evident premeditation and without any justifiable cause, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab with the said balisong knife suddenly and
without warning one Virgilio A. Matundan, thereby inflicting upon the latter stab wounds on his back,
which directly caused his death.3

Co-accused Manolito was arrested while accused-appellant de Chavez initially evaded arrest. After
pre-trial but before trial could begin, however, co-accused Manolito died. Thus, in an Order dated
February 26, 2004, the RTC ordered the dismissal of the case against Manolito, and the archival of
the case against accused-appellant de Chavez who was then still at-large.

On March 17, 2005, accused-appellant de Chavez was arrested. Accordingly, his case was revived.

After trial on the merits, the RTC rendered a Decision dated November 22, 2012, finding accused-
appellant de Chavez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder, the dispositive portion
of which reads:
VIEWED FROM THE FOREGOING, conclusion is inescapable that the accused Dionisio de Chavez
is GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER defined in and penalized by Article
248 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Republic Act [No.] 7659 for which the Court
sentences him to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, with all the accessory penalties of
the law. Furthermore, the accused Dionisio de Chavez is ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased
the amount of Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (Php75,000.00) as civil indemnity; Seventy-Five
Thousand Pesos (Php75,000.00) as moral damages; Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (Php75,000.00)
as exemplary damages and, Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos (Php25,000.00) as temperate damages.4

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC Decision m a Decision dated June 29, 2016, to
wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED, and the Decision dated
November 22, 2012 of the Regional Trial Court of Rosario, Batangas, Branch 87, in Criminal Case
No. RY2K 101, is AFFIRMED.5

Hence, this final appeal to the Court. During the pendency of the present appeal, however, in a
letter6 dated August 10, 2017, Police Superintendent (P/Supt.) I Roberto R. Rabo, Superintendent of
the New Bilibid Prison, informed this Court that accused-appellant de Chavez had died on December
9, 2016 at the New Bilibid Prison Hospital. A certified true copy of the Certificate of Death7 of
accused-appellant de Chavez was attached to the said letter.

In view of the death of accused-appellant de Chavez on December 9, 2016, therefore, the criminal
case against him, which includes this appeal, is hereby dismissed.

Paragraph 1, Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, provides the effect of death of the
accused on his criminal and civil liabilities, to wit:

ART. 89. How criminal liability is totally extinguished. - Criminal liability is totally extinguished:

1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to the pecuniary penalties, liability
therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment[.]

In People v. Bayotas,8 this Court applied the foregoing provision and laid down the following
guidelines when the accused dies prior to final judgment:

1. Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability as well as
the civil liability based solely thereon. As opined by Justice Regalado, in this regard, "the death of
the accused prior to final judgment terminates his criminal liability and only the civil liability directly
arising from and based solely on the offense committed, i.e., civil liability ex delicto in senso
strictiore."

2. Corollarily, the claim for civil liability survives notwithstanding the death of [the] accused, if the
same may also be predicated on a source of obligation other than delict. Article 1157 of the Civil
Code enumerates these other sources of obligation from which the civil liability may arise as a result
of the same act or omission:

a) Law

b) Contracts
c) Quasi-contracts

d) xxx

e) Quasi-delicts

3. Where the civil liability survives, as explained in Number 2 above, an action for recovery therefor
may be pursued but only by way of filing a separate civil action and subject to Section 1, Rule 111 of
the 1985

Rules on Criminal Procedure as amended. This separate civil action may be enforced either against
the executor/administrator or the estate of the accused, depending on the source of obligation upon
which the same is based as explained above.

4. Finally, the private offended party need not fear a forfeiture of his right to file this separate civil
action by prescription, in cases where during the prosecution of the criminal action and prior to its
extinction, the private-offended party instituted together therewith the civil action. In such case, the
statute of limitations on the civil liability is deemed interrupted during the pendency of the criminal
case, conformably with [the] provisions of Article 1155 of the Civil Code that should thereby avoid
any apprehension on a possible privation of right by prescription.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the death of accused-appellant de Chavez on December 9, 2016,
during the pendency of his appeal, extinguished not only his criminal liability, but also his civil
liabilities arising from or based on the crime. But, as held in Bayotas, accusedappellant de Chavez's
civil liability may be based on other sources of obligation other than ex delicto, in which case the
heirs of Virgilio A. Matundan may file a separate civil action against the estate of accusedappellant
de Chavez, as may be warranted by law and procedural rules.

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated June 29, 2016 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-
HC No. 06079 is SET ASIDE and Criminal Case No. RY2K101 before the Regional Trial Court of
Rosario, Batangas, Branch 87, is DISMISSED, by reason of the death of accused-appellant Dionisio
de Chavez, Jr. y Escobido. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

June 19, 2017

G.R. No. 192391


ESTATE OF HONORIO POBLADOR, JR., represented by RAFAEL A. POBLADOR, Petitioner
vs.
ROSARIO L. MANZANO, Respondent

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari 1 assailing the Decision 2 dated September 30,
2009 and the Resolution 3 dated May 26, 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No.
78891 that denied the appeal of petitioner Estate of Honorio Poblador, Jr. (petitioner), represented
by Rafael A. Poblador (Rafael), from the Order 4dated January 13, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court
of Pasig City, Branch 157 (RTC). Petitioner appealed the civil aspect of the dismissed criminal case
for Esta/a which it filed against respondent Rosario L. Manzano (Manzano).

The Facts

Petitioner was the subject of settlement proceedings in Special Proceedings No. 9984 before the
Regional Trial Court of Pasig City (Probate Court). Among its properties was one share of stock in
Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club, Inc. (Wack-Wack Share) covered by membership Certificate No.
3759 issued on September 17, 1974. 5

In an Order dated May 10, 1996, the Probate Court authorized petitioner's administratrix, Elsa A.
Poblador (Elsa), to negotiate the sale of certain properties of petitioner, including the Wack-Wack
Share. Upon Elsa's instruction, Rafael (one of the heirs of the deceased Honorio Poblador, Jr.)
looked for interested buyers. Subsequently, he engaged the services of Manzano, a broker of
Metroland Holdings Incorporated (Metroland) 6 who, on September 9, 1996, faxed a computation for
the sale of the Wack-Wack Share to petitioner, 7 showing a final net amount of ₱l5,000,000.00. On
September 18, 1996, 8 the final net amount to the seller was increased to Pl 5,200,000.00.

Manzano later introduced Rafael to Moreland Realty, Inc. (Moreland), and in September 1996, the
parties entered into a Deed of Absolute Sale 9 with Elsa covering the Wack-Wack Share for the gross
amount of ₱l8,000,000.00. Out of the ₱l8,000,000.00 purchase price, Moreland directly paid Elsa the
amount of ₱l5,200,000.00 through a Metrobank check. 10 The balance of ₱2,800,000.00 was
allegedly given to Manzano for the payment of the capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, and
other pertinent fees, as well as for her service fee. 11

In October 1996, however, the Probate Court annulled the sale of the Wack-Wack Share. Thus, Elsa
returned to Moreland the amount of ₱l8,000,000.00 which the latter paid for the Wack-Wack Share,
plus interest, and applied with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for the refund of the taxes paid
for the annulled sale. Petitioner likewise asked Manzano to return the broker's service fee. 12

Meanwhile, Rafael, through petitioner's accountant, Nonilo P. Torres (Torres), allegedly requested
Manzano for an accounting of the ₱2,800,000.00 she received on behalf of petitioner. In response,
Manzano faxed the following documents addressed to Torres: (a) Cover letter dated

February 4, 1997;13 (b) Capital Gains Tax Return dated September 23, 1996 indicating the payment
of Pl,480,000.00 as capital gains tax; 14 (c) BIR Certification dated September 23, 1996 indicating the
payment of Pl ,480,000.00 as capital gains tax; 15 (d) Authority to Accept Payment dated September
23, 1996 indicating the payment of P 13 5, 000. 00 as documentary stamp tax; 16 and (e) Deed of
Absolute Sale between petitioner, represented by Elsa, and Moreland.17 Examining these
documents, Rafael and Torres allegedly noticed a discrepancy in the faxed Capital Gains Tax
Return: while the typewritten portion of the Return indicated Pl,480,000.00 as the capital gains tax
paid, the machine validation imprint reflected only P80,000.00 as the amount paid. To clarify the
discrepancy, petitioner secured a certified true copy of the Capital Gains Tax Return from the BIR
that reflected only P80,000.00 as the capital gains tax paid for the sale of the Wack-Wack
Share. 18 As a result, petitioner demanded 19 Manzano to properly account for the P2,800,000.00
allegedly given to her for the payment of taxes and broker's fees, but to no avail. 20 This led to the
filing, on December 8, 1999, of an Information 21 for the crime of Esta/a under Article 315, paragraph
(1) (b) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) against Manzano before the RTC, docketed as Crim. Case
No. 113549. 22 In the course of the proceedings, Manzano filed a Demurrer to Evidence 23 praying for
the dismissal of the case for failure of the prosecution to establish the essential elements
of Esta/a with which she was charged. 24

The RTC Ruling

In an Order 25 dated January 13, 2003, the RTC granted Manzano's Demurrer to Evidence and
dismissed the complaint for Esta/a for failure of the prosecution to "prove all the elements of estafa
through misappropriation as defined in and penalized under paragraph 1 (b )[, Article 315] of the
Revised Penal Code, x x x. "26 The R TC found that the element of deceit was absent, considering
that both Manzano and Rafael were equally guilty of defrauding the government of taxes actually
due on the transaction. It pointed out that Rafael knew and concurred with the plan, including the
special arrangements that had to be made with the BIR, as long as the estate would receive a higher
net proceed from the sale. In fact, petitioner received in full the agreed net sale proceeds of
₱15,200,000.00. Finally, it held that Manzano was entitled to her broker's fee in the amount of
₱900,000.00 as she was commissioned and successfully closed the transaction for petitioner. 27

Dissatisfied, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration 28 which the RTC denied in an Order29
dated March 11, 2003. Hence, petitioner appealed the civil aspect of the case before the CA.

The CA Ruling

In a Decision 30 dated September 30, 2009, the CA denied petitioner's appeal, declaring that the
prosecution did not only fail to prove all the elements of Esta/a through misappropriation; 31 it also
failed to prove the alleged civil liability of Manzano in the amount of ₱2,800,000.00. 32

It found that the prosecution's evidence failed to show that Manzano personally received the
₱2,800,000.00 earmarked for the payment of taxes and broker's fees. 33 At most, such evidence only
proved that Manzano tried to help broker and negotiate the sale of the Wack-Wack Share. 34 In fact,
Rafael himself admitted that he was unsure if Manzano indeed received the ₱2,800,000.00. Neither
could he state the date when she supposedly received the same. 35

Moreover, the CA stressed that: (a) petitioner readily admitted receipt of the full amount of
PIS,200,000.00 - the amount agreed upon in the computation sent by Manzano - for the sale of the
Wack-Wack Share which was paid with a check by the buyer, Moreland Realty, Inc., and
acknowledged by Elsa A. Poblador; 36 (b) Rafael made a categorical admission that he did not even
know who actually paid the taxes to the BIR and that the name of Manzano did not appear in the
documents with respect to the payment of the capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax; 37 and
(c) petitioner knew that Manzano was merely an employee of Metroland, who talked to and
negotiated with it in such capacity, and with whom it would not have dealt with had she not been
Metroland's employee. 38

Finally, the CA observed that this is a case of pari delicto, as


petitioner's predicament would have been avoided if only Rafael sought the permission and approval
of the Probate Court prior to the sale of the Wack-Wack Share.39

Aggrieved, petitioner sought reconsideration, 40 which the CA denied in a Resolution 41 dated May 26,
2010; hence, this petition.

The Issue Before the Court

The core issue in this case is whether or not the CA erred in denying petitioner's appeal on the civil
liability ex delicto of Manzano.

The Court's Ruling

The petition lacks merit.

It is a fundamental rule that "[t]he acquittal of the accused does not automatically preclude a
judgment against him on the civil aspect of the case. The extinction of the penal action does not
1awp++i1

carry with it the extinction of the civil liability where: (a) the acquittal is based on reasonable doubt as
only preponderance of evidence is required; (b) the court declares that the liability of the accused is
only civil; and (c) the civil liability of the accused does not arise from or is not based upon the crime
of which the accused is acquitted. However, the civil action based on delict may be deemed
extinguished if there is a finding on the final judgment in the criminal action that the
[prosecution absolutely failed to prove the guilt of the accused, or the] act or omission from
which the civil liability may arise did not exist, or where the accused did not commit the acts
or omission imputed to him."42

In the fairly recent case of Dy v. People,43 the Court discussed the concept of civil liability ex
delicto in Esta/a cases under paragraph 1 (b ), Article 315 of the RPC (with which Manzano was
likewise charged), stating that when the element of misappropriation or conversion is absent,
there can be no Estafa and concomitantly, the civil liability ex delicto does not
exist. Particularly, the Court said:

Our laws penalize criminal fraud which causes damage capable of pecuniary estimation
through estafa under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. In general, the elements of estafa are:

(1) That the accused defrauded another (a) by abuse of confidence, or (b) by means of deceit; and

(2) That damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or
third person.

The essence of the crime is the unlawful abuse of confidence or deceit in order to cause damage. As
this Court previously held, "the element of fraud or bad faith is indispensable." Our law abhors the
act of defrauding another person by abusing his trust or deceiving him, such that, it criminalizes this
kind of fraud.

Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code identifies the circumstances which constitute estafa. Article
315, paragraph 1 (b) states that estafa is committed by abuse of confidence –

Art. 315. Swindling (estafa). - ... (b) By misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of another,
money, goods, or any other personal property received by the offender in trust or on commission, or
for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the
same, even though such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond; or by denying having
received such money, goods, or other property.

In this kind of estafa, the fraud which the law considers as criminal is the act of misappropriation or
conversion. When the element of misappropriation or conversion is missing, there can be
no estafa. In such case, applying the foregoing discussions on civil liability ex delicto, there can be
no civil liability as there is no act or omission from which any civil liability may be sourced. However,
when an accused is acquitted because a reasonable doubt exists as to the existence of
misappropriation or conversion, then civil liability may still be awarded. This means that, while there
is evidence to prove fraud, such evidence does not suffice to convince the court to the point of moral
certainty that the act of fraud amounts to estafa. As the act was nevertheless proven, albeit without
sufficient proof justifying the imposition of any criminal penalty, civil liability exists. 44

The Court further clarified that "whenever the elements of estafa are not established, and that the
delivery of any personal property was made pursuant to a contract, any civil liability arising from
the estafa cannot be awarded in the criminal case. This is because the civil liability arising from the
contract is not civil liability ex delicto, which arises from the same act or omission constituting the
crime. Civil liability ex delicto is the liability sought to be recovered in a civil action deemed instituted
with the criminal case."45 In this case, the Court agrees with the findings of both the R TC and the CA
that the prosecution failed to prove all the elements of estafa through misappropriation as defined in,
and penalized under, paragraph 1 (b ), [Article 315] of the [RPC]. 46 As the RTC aptly noted, Rafael,
as the representative of herein petitioner, very well knew of and concurred with the entire
arrangement, including those which had to be made with the BIR. In fact, petitioner itself admitted
that it received the full amount of ₱15,200,000.00 - the full amount to which it was entitled to under
the terms of the sale of the Wack-Wack Share. For these reasons, petitioner could not claim that it
was deceived. Thus, absent the element of fraud, there could be no misappropriation or conversion
to speak of that would justify the charge of Esta/a and, with it, the alleged civil liability ex delicto.

More significantly, the CA correctly observed that petitioner's evidence utterly failed to show that
Manzano personally received the ₱2,800,000.00 from petitioner with the duty to hold it in trust for or
to make delivery to the latter. In fact, Rafael categorically admitted that he did not even know who
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actually paid the taxes to the BIR, and that Manzano's name did not appear in the documents
pertaining to the payment of the capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax. 47 This admission
clearly contradicts the disputable presumption under Section 3 (q) of Rule 131 of the Rules of
Court, i.e., that the ordinary course of business has been followed, which petitioner adamantly relies
on to support its claim.

A presumption is an assumption of fact resulting from a rule of law which requires such fact to be
assumed from another fact or group of facts found or otherwise established in the action. 48 It is an
inference of the existence or non-existence of a fact which courts are permitted to draw from proof of
other facts. 49 However, a presumption is not evidence, 50 but merely affects the burden of offering
evidence. 51 Under Section 3, Rule 131, disputable presumptions are satisfactory, if uncontradicted,
but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence, as in this case. Apart from Rafael's
admission, petitioner further admitted that: (a) Moreland directly paid Metroland the P2,800,000.00 in
check although it did not actually see and was unaware to whom Moreland gave this check; 52 (b) it
did not ask Moreland to issue the check for the payment of the taxes directly in the name of the
BIR; 53 (c) it would not have dealt with Manzano had she not been Metroland' s employee; 54 and (d) it
has several lawyers and an accountant at its disposal, and its representative Rafael is, in fact, in the
real estate business and is familiar with brokerage transactions. 55

With these admissions and under these circumstances, it is thus safe to conclude that the parties
deliberately deviated from the ordinary course of business, and that - at the very least - Manzano did
not deal with it in bad faith. By and large, petitioner failed to prove even by preponderance of
evidence 56 the existence of any act or omission of Manzano that would support its claim of civil
liability ex delicto. In consequence, the present petition must fail.

As a final point, it deserves mentioning that in petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court, only questions of law are addressed. It is not the Court's function to analyze or weigh
the evidence (which tasks belong to the trial court as the trier of facts and to the appellate court as
the reviewer of facts). The Court is confined to the review of errors of law that may have been
committed in the judgment under review. 57 "The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in cases brought
to it from the Court of Appeals is limited to reviewing and revising the errors of law imputed to it, its
findings of fact being conclusive."58

All told, the Court finds no reversible error in the CA ruling denying petitioner's appeal as its findings
and conclusion are well supported by the facts and are founded in law. WHEREFORE, the petition
is DENIED. The Decision dated September 30, 2009 and the Resolution dated May 26, 2010 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 78891 are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

En Banc

July 25, 2017

G.R. No. 232413

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR ISSUANCE OF WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS WITH
PETITION FOR RELIEF INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES PANGASINAN LEGAL AID
and JAY-AR R. SENIN,Petitioners
vs.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, PROVINCIAL PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, BUREAU OF JAIL
MANAGEMENT AND PENOLOGY, and PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, Respondents

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for the issuance of writ of habeas corpus with a petition for declaratory relief filed by
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Pangasinan Chapter Legal Aid, pursuant to its purpose,
as stated in "In the Matter of the Integration of the Bar of the Philippines," issued by the Supreme
Court on January 9, 1973, and the provisions under Guidelines Governing the Establishment and
Operation of Legal Aid Offices in All Chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (Guidelines on
Legal Aid).
The petition claims that as a result of jail visitations participated in by the IBP Legal Aid Program, as
well as a series of consultations with the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the extant condition of
detention prisoners, it was discovered that several detention prisoners had been languishing in jail
for years without a case being filed in court by the prosecutor's office and without definite findings as
to the existence or nonexistence of probable cause.

DOJ Issuances

The petition considers such condition of several detention prisoners as an alarming situation brought
about by several Department of Justice (DOJ) issuances, namely:

1. DOJ Circular (D.C.) No. 12, series of 2012, which provided that the dismissal of all drug-related
cases involving violations for which the maximum penalty is either reclusion perpetua or life
imprisonment is subject to automatic review by the Justice Secretary whether such case has been
dismissed on inquest, preliminary investigation or reinvestigation. It also stated that [ t ]he automatic
review shall be summary in nature and shall, as far as practicable, be completed within 30 days from
receipt of the case records, without prejudice to the right of the respondent to be immediately
released from detention pending automatic review, unless the respondent is detained for other
causes;

2. D.C. No. 22, series of 2013, entitled Guidelines on the Release of Respondents/ Accused
Pending Automatic Review of Dismissed Cases Involving Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165; and

3. D.C. No. 50, series of 2012, entitled Additional Guidelines on the Application of Article 125 of the
Revised Penal Code, as Amended (RPC).1

For the IBP, it is the height of injustice when innocent persons are left to suffer in jail for years
without a fixed term. Contending that it is their duty to defend the Constitution and protect the people
against unwarranted imprisonment and detention, the IBP is requesting the Court to act on the
amendment of the Rules on Preliminary Investigation, by way of a letter, which has been forwarded
to the Committee on Revision. Pending the desired amendment, however, the IBP urges the Court
to act on the urgent and imperative need to release from detention those who are wrongfully
imprisoned despite the absence of probable cause.

The IBP represents in this case its client, Jay-Ar Senin (Senin). Senin's rights were allegedly violated
because he has been detained for at least eight months without any finding of probable cause or a
case having been filed in court.

Senin's case started when a complaint against him and other unidentified persons was indorsed on
February 9, 2015, by Police Chief Inspector Crisante Pagaduan Sadino of the San Fabian Police
Station, Pangasinan to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office. He was arrested while engaged in the sale
of illegal drugs during a buy-bust operation. Thereafter, he executed a waiver of the provisions of
Article 125 of the RPC. After the preliminary investigation, the prosecutor resolved to dismiss the
case. Pursuant to the then prevailing DOJ Circular, the case was forwarded to the DOJ for automatic
review.

The IBP claims that the waiver of Article 125 of the RPC does not vest the DOJ, Provincial
Prosecutor's Office (PPO), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and the PNP, the
unbridled right to detain Senin indefinitely subject only to the whims and caprices of the reviewing
prosecutor of the DOJ. Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court explicitly provides that preliminary
investigation must be terminated within 15 days from its inception if the person arrested had
requested for a preliminary investigation and had signed a waiver of the provisions of Article 125.2 It
follows, therefore, that the waiver of Article 125 must coincide with the 15-day period of preliminary
investigation. The detention beyond this period violates Senin's constitutional right to liberty. The
review of the investigating prosecutor's resolution has been pending with the DOJ for more than
eight months. The IBP concludes that Senin must be released from detention and be relieved from
the effects of the unconstitutional issuances of the DOJ.

Thus, the petition prays that the Court:

a) declare that pursuant to A.M. No. 08-11-7-SC, the petitioner is exempt from the payment
of filing fees;

b) issue a writ of habeas corpus directing the release of Senin;

c) declare the aforementioned issuances of the DOJ as unconstitutional;

d) immediately set the case for hearing due to its urgency; and

e) issue a writ of kalayaan directing the release of all detention prisoners in a similar plight.

Department Circular No. 50

On December 18, 2015, D.C. No. 50 was issued by then Secretary of Justice (SOJ), now Associate
Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa of this Court. In brief, D.C. No. 50 stated that a person with a
pending case for automatic review before the DOJ shall be released immediately if the review is not
resolved within a period of 30 days, to wit:

9. All cases subject to automatic review shall be resolved by the Office of the Secretary within thirty
(30) days from the date the complete records are elevated to this Department in order to give the
concerned signatory of the review resolution sufficient time to study the case, the reviewing
prosecutor to whom the case is assigned is mandated to submit his recommendation to the
concerned signatory ten (10) days before the thirty (30) day deadline. The docket section of this
Department is also directed to monitor compliance with the periods prescribed herein.

If the case subject of the automatic review is not resolved within thirty (30) days, then the respondent
shall be immediately released from detention pending automatic review, unless the respondent is
detained for other causes.

D.C. No. 50 also directed all heads of prosecution offices to immediately issue corresponding
release orders in favor of respondents, whose cases are still pending automatic review before the
Office of the Secretary, beyond the 30 day period, unless they are detained for other causes.

Department Circular No. 003

On January 13, 2016, however, D.C. No. 003 was issued revoking DC No. 50 and reinstating D.C.
No. 012, series of 2012.

Reversal of the Order of Dismissal

Meanwhile, on February 10, 2016, the Information against Senin for Illegal Possession of Dangerous
Drugs was finally filed by Prosecutor Marcelo C. Espinosa. Later, the RTC, Branch 43, Dagupan
City (RTC), issued a commitment order directing Senin's detention during the pendency of the case
against him.

On February 16, 2016, the IBP filed a manifestation with motion informing the Court that to their
surprise, Senin signed a Motion for Issuance of Order of Release; that such motion was filed before
the R TC, Branch 43, and was later on set for hearing; that to protect the interest of Senin, the IBP
filed a motion to intervene in the said proceeding; that no case has been filed before the said trial
court; that any action the R TC would take might pre-empt the Court in resolving this case; and that
Senin remains incarcerated despite the issuance of D.C. No. 50. With all these events, the IBP prays
for the issuance of an order directing BJMP to release Senin from detention unless detained for
some other lawful causes.

An Amended Information, dated February 22, 2016, was subsequently filed before the RTC, Branch
43.

Department Circular No. 004

On January 4, 2017, the incumbent Secretary of Justice, Vitaliano N. Aguirre II, issued D.C. No. 004,
series of 2017, the pertinent provisions of which read:

In the interest of the service and pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, the dismissal of all
cases whether on inquest, preliminary investigation, reinvestigation or on appeal, filed for violation of
Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and involving the maximum
penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be subject to automatic review by the
Secretary of Justice.

The entire records of the case shall be elevated to the Secretary of Justice, within three (3) days
from issuance of the resolution dismissing the complaint or appeal, as applicable, and the parties
involved shall be notified accordingly.

Notwithstanding the automatic review, respondent shall be immediately released from detention
unless detained for other causes.

This Department Circular shall apply to all pending cases and to those which have been dismissed
prior to the issuance hereof, if such dismissal has not yet attained finality as of the the effectivity of
this Circular.

This Department Order revokes all prior issuances inconsistent herewith and shall take effect
immediately until revoked.

For strict compliance.

Position of the IBP on the


effect of the amendments on
the DOJ issuances

The IBP concedes that the present detention of Senin had been overrun by the issuance of D.C. No.
50, the resolution of the DOJ reversing the dismissal order of the PPO and the eventual filing of the
February 22, 2016 Amended Information. It remains firm, however, that despite these
circumstances, the dismissal of this petition is not in order as the writ of habeas corpus for the
immediate release of Senin is but one of the three reliefs being sought from the Court. The IBP
reiterates that the constitutionality of DC No. 12, series of 2012, DC No. 22, series of 2013 and DC
No. 50 is still being questioned. Likewise, it emphasizes that the issuance of a writ of kalayaan is
one of the reliefs prayed for in order to protect those similarly situated as Senin.

The IBP pleads for the Court not to dismiss the petition outright and resolve the issue on the
constitutionality of the DOJ issuances in order to prevent the executive department from issuing
orders which tend to violate basic constitutional rights.

It appears that the IBP is unaware of the issuance of D.C. No. 004 as no manifestation has been
filed with the Court regarding the same circular.

Position of the BJMP

According to the BJMP, Senin has been confined in its facility through a valid commitment order
issued by the court and cannot be released without an order directing the same. It asserts that it has
not disregarded or violated any existing laws or policy at the expense of Senin's rights. The BJMP
cites Agbay v. Deputy Ombudsman3 and its 2007 Revised BJMP Manual,4 wherein it is provided that
court order is required before a prisoner can be released. It insists that the continuous detention of
Senin is legal considering that the RTC has already issued a commitment order, which has not been
recalled or revoked.

The BJMP avers that D.C. No. 50 does not vest it unbridled discretion to release prisoners because
a court order is always required. It opines that the filing of an Information against Senin for Illegal
Possession of Dangerous Drugs mooted the question on the legality of the latter's detention.

Position of the OSG

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) posits that the remedy of habeas corpus availed of by the
IBP and Senin is not appropriate considering that as of February 10, 2016, the SOJ has found the
existence of probable cause for the filing of information in court. For said reason, the OSG deems it
unnecessary for the Court to determine the constitutionality of the DOJ issuances as the question on
the legality of Senin's detention has already been put to rest. In other words, the OSG points out that
the constitutional question is not the very lis mota of the case, thus, precluding this Court from
exercising its power of judicial review.

Reply of the IBP

The IBP seeks to nullify the DOJ issuances for the alleged violation of the detainee's rights. It
asserts that the DOJ issuances requiring the automatic review of dismissed cases involving drug-
related cases for which the maximum penalty is either reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment,
permit the indefinite confinement of a pre-trial detainee who has waived Article 125 of the RPC in
order to undergo preliminary investigation. The IBP believes that a person who has requested the
conduct of a preliminary investigation can only be detained for a maximum period of 15 days
because the Rules require that the preliminary investigation be terminated within such period despite
waiver of Article 125. It also claims that those persons whose cases were dismissed initially by the
investigating prosecutor should be released even if the dismissal is still subject to re-investigation or
to the SOJ's automatic review.

History of the DOJ Issuances

D. C. No. 46, dated June 26, 2003


The process of automatic review of dismissed drug cases was first instituted in 2003

Due to numerous complaints about illegal drug cases being whitewashed or dismissed due to sloppy
police work, former SOJ Simeon Datumanong issued D.C. No. 46, empowering the DOJ to
automatically review dismissed cases filed in violation of R.A. No. 9165 and involving the maximum
penalty of life imprisonment or death.

The circular also applied to cases which had been dismissed prior to its issuance if such dismissal
had not yet attained finality as of the date of the circular.

D.C. No. 12, dated February 13, 2012

D.C. No. 46 was followed by D.C. No. 12 in which former SOJ Leila M. De Lima, for the most part,
reiterated the provisions of the first circular but added that automatic review of dismissed drug cases
shall be without prejudice to the right of the respondent to be immediately released from detention
pending automatic review, unless respondent is detained for other causes.

D.C. No. 22, dated February 12, 2013

A year after, SOJ De Lima revised the guidelines directing the continued detention of some
respondents accused of violating R.A. No. 9165. She reasoned that cases, where the maximum
imposable penalty reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, are presumably high-priority drug cases
whose alleged perpetrators should remain in custody.

In this circular, the only respondents who may be released, pending automatic review of their cases
by the SOJ, are those whose cases were dismissed during inquest proceedings on the ground that
the arrest was not a valid warrantless arrest under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Criminal
Procedure, or that no probable cause exists to charge respondents in court.

The respondents shall remain in custody, pending automatic review of the dismissal of their cases,
in the following instances as provided for under the circular:

1. When during inquest proceedings, respondent elects to avail of a regular preliminary investigation
and waives in writing the provisions of Article 125 of the RPC;

2. When an information is filed in court after inquest proceedings and the accused is placed in the
custody of the law, but the court allows the accused to avail of a regular preliminary investigation,
which results in the dismissal of the case, the handling prosecutor shall insist that the accused shall
remain in the custody of the law pending automatic review by the SOJ, unless the court provides
otherwise, or until the dismissal is affirmed by the SOJ and the corresponding motion to dismiss or
withdraw information is granted by the court;

3. When an information is filed in court after preliminary investigation proceedings and the accused
is placed in the custody of the law, but the court allows the accused to avail of reinvestigation, which
results in the dismissal of the case, the accused shall remain in custody of the law pending
automatic review by the SOJ, unless the court provides otherwise, or until the dismissal is affirmed
by the SOJ and the corresponding motion to dismiss or withdraw information is granted by the court;
and
4. When the case against respondent is dismissed after due reinvestigation, if the case was
commenced as an inquest case but was converted to a regular preliminary investigation after
respondent elected the same and waived the provisions of Article 125 of the RPC.

D.C. No. 50, dated December 18, 2015

In order to address the problem of delay in the disposition of cases subject to automatic review and
the prolonged detention of drug suspects without any case filed against them, then SOJ Caguioa
issued D.C. No. 50, directing all heads of prosecution offices to immediately issue corresponding
release orders in favor of respondents whose cases are still pending automatic review before the
SOJ beyond the 30-day period prescribed in the subject circular, unless respondents are detained
for some other causes.

D. C. No. 003, dated January 13, 2016

In view of the considerable number of petitions for habeas corpus filed against the DOJ by accused
languishing in jail for years while their cases were pending automatic review by the DOJ, then SOJ
Caguioa revoked D.C. No. 50 dated December 18, 2015 and D.C. No. 22, dated February 12, 2013.

SOJ Caguioa then reinstated D.C. No. 12, dated February 13, 2012, mandating immediate release
of respondents pending automatic review, unless respondents are detained for other causes.

D.C. No. 004, dated January 4, 2017

SOJ Vitaliano Aguirre, in this latest circular, reiterated the provisions of D.C. No. 3, dated January
13, 2016, in so far as it orders the respondent/s to be immediately released from detention, pending
automatic review, unless detained for other causes.

Petition is moot and academic

The Court agrees with the OSG that this controversy has become moot and academic. First, the
DOJ already issued D.C. No. 004, series of 2017, which recognizes the right of a detainee to be
released even if the dismissal of the case on preliminary investigation is the subject of automatic
review by the SOJ. Second, records show that the order of dismissal was reversed; that upon filing
of the information with the court, there was judicial determination of probable cause against Senin;
and that following such judicial determination, the court issued a warrant of arrest and a commitment
order.

The rule pertaining to pre-trial


detainees whose cases are under
preliminary investigation, or
whose cases have been dismissed
on inquest, preliminary
investigation but pending appeal,
motion for reconsideration,
reinvestigation or automatic
review

Although the latest circular of Secretary Aguirre is laudable as it adheres to the constitutional
provisions on the rights of pre-trial detainees, the Court will not dismiss the case on the ground of
mootness. As can be gleaned from the ever-changing DOJ circulars, there is a possibility that the
latest circular would again be amended by succeeding secretaries. It has been repeatedly held that
"the Court will decide cases, otherwise moot, if: first, there is a grave violation of the
Constitution; second, the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest are
involved; third, when the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to
guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and fourth, the case is capable of repetition yet evading
review.5 All four (4) requisites are present in this case.

As the case is prone to being repeated as a result of constant changes, the Court, as the guardian
and final arbiter of the Constitution6 and pursuant to its prerogative to promulgate rules concerning
the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights,7 takes this opportunity to lay down controlling
principles to guide the bench, the bar and the public on the propriety of the continued detention of an
arrested person whose case has been dismissed on inquest, preliminary investigation,
reinvestigation, or appeal but pending automatic review by the SOJ.

The rule is that a person subject of a warrantless arrest must be delivered to the proper judicial
authorities8 within the periods provided in Article 125 of the RPC, otherwise, the public official or
employee could be held liable for the failure to deliver except if grounded on reasonable and
allowable delays. Article 125 of the RPC is intended to prevent any abuse resulting from confining a
person without informing him of his offense and without allowing him to post bail. It punishes public
officials or employees who shall detain any person for some legal ground but fail to deliver such
person to the proper judicial authorities within the periods prescribed by law. In case the detention is
without legal ground, the person arrested can charge the arresting officer with arbitrary detention
under Article 124 of the RPC. This is without prejudice to the possible filing of an action for damages
under Article 32 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines.

Article 125 of the RPC, however, can be waived if the detainee who was validly arrested without a
warrant opts for the conduct of preliminary investigation. The question to be addressed here,
1âwphi1

therefore, is whether such waiver gives the State the right to detain a person indefinitely.

The Court answers in the negative.

The waiver of Article 125 of the RPC does not vest upon the DOJ, PPO, BJMP, and PNP the
unbridled right to indefinitely incarcerate an arrested person and subject him to the whims and
caprices of the reviewing prosecutor of the DOJ. The waiver of Article 125 must coincide with the
prescribed period for preliminary investigation as mandated by Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of
Court. Detention beyond this period violates the accused's constitutional right to liberty.

Stated differently, the waiver of the effects of Article 125 of the RPC is not a license to detain a
person ad infinitum. Waiver of a detainee's right to be delivered to proper judicial authorities as
prescribed by Article 125 of the RPC does not trump his constitutional right in cases where probable
cause was initially found wanting by reason of the dismissal of the complaint filed before the
prosecutor's office even if such dismissal is on appeal, reconsideration, reinvestigation or on
automatic review. Every person's basic right to liberty is not to be construed as waived by mere
operation of Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. The fundamental law provides limits and this
must be all the more followed especially so that detention is proscribed absent probable cause.

Accordingly, the Court rules that a detainee under such circumstances must be promptly released to
avoid violation of the constitutional right to liberty, despite a waiver of Article 125, if the 15-day period
(or the thirty 30- day period in cases of violation of R.A. No. 91659 ) for the conduct of the preliminary
investigation lapses. This rule also applies in cases where the investigating prosecutor resolves to
dismiss the case, even if such dismissal was appealed to the DOJ or made the subject of a motion
for reconsideration, reinvestigation or automatic review. The reason is that such dismissal
automatically results in a prima facie finding of lack of probable cause to file an information in court
and to detain a person.

The Court is aware that this decision may raise discomfort to some, especially at this time when the
present administration aggressively wages its "indisputably popular war on illegal drugs." As Justice
Diosdado Peralta puts it, that the security of the public and the interest of the State would be
jeopardized is not a justification to trample upon the constitutional rights of the detainees against
deprivation of liberty without due process of law, to be presumed innocent until the contrary is
proved and to a speedy disposition of the case.

WHEREFORE, it is hereby declared, and ruled, that all detainees whose pending cases have gone
beyond the mandated periods for the conduct of preliminary investigation, or whose cases have
already been dismissed on inquest or preliminary investigation, despite pending appeal,
reconsideration, reinvestigation or automatic review by the Secretary of Justice, are entitled to be
released pursuant to their constitutional right to liberty and their constitutional right against
unreasonable seizures, unless detained for some other lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

February 15, 2017

G.R. No. 187094

LIZA L. MAZA, SATURNINO C. OCAMPO, TEODORO A. CASINO, AND RAFAEL V.


MARIANO, Petitioners
vs.
HON. EVELYN A. TURLA, in her capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court of
Palayan City, Regional Trial Court of Palayan City, in his capacity as Officer-in-Charge
Provincial Prosecutor, ANTONIO LL. LAPUS, JR., EDISON V. RAFANAN, and EDDIE C.
GUTIERREZ, in their capacity as members of the panel of investigating prosecutors, and
RAUL M. GONZALEZ, in his capacity as Secretary of Justice, Respondents

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

Upon filing of an information in court, trial court judges must determine the existence or non-
existence of probable cause based on their personal evaluation of the prosecutor's report and its
supporting documents. They may dismiss the case, issue an arrest warrant, or require the
submission of additional evidence. However, they cannot remand the case for another conduct of
preliminary investigation on the ground that the earlier preliminary investigation was improperly
conducted.

This is a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition1 with a Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary
Restraining Order ;and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction. Petitioners seek to have the Orders2 dated
July 18, 20083 and December 2, 20084 of the Regional Trial Court, Palayan City, Branch 40 in
Criminal Case Nos. 1879-P and 1880-P nullified and set aside and the criminal cases against them
dismissed.

Petitioners Liza L. Maza, Satumino C. Ocampo, Teodoro A. Casifio, and Rafael V. Mariano
(petitioners) are former members of the House of Representatives. Liza represented Gabriela
Women's Party (Gabriela), Saturnino and Teodoro represented Bayan Muna Party-List (Bayan
Muna), while Rafael represented Anakpawis Party-List (Anakpawis).5

In three letters6 all dated December 14, 2006, Police Senior Inspector Arnold M. Palomo (Inspector
Palomo), Oeputy Provincial Chief of the Nueva Ecija Criminal Investigation and Detection Team,
referred to the Provincial Prosecutor of Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, three (3) cases of murder
against petitioners and 15 other persons.7

Inspector Palomo named 19 individuals, including Petitioners, who were allegedly responsible for the
death of Carlito Bayudang, Jimmy Peralta, and Danilo Felipe.8 His findings show that the named
individuals conspired, planned, and implemented the killing of the supporters of AKBAYAN Party List
(AKBAYAN), a rival of Bayan Muna and Gabriela.9 Carlito Bayudang and Danilo Felipe were
AKBAYAN community organizers,10 whereas Jimmy Peralta was mistaken for a certain Ricardo
Peralta, an AKBAYAN supporter.11

Inspector Palomo recommended that a preliminary investigation be conducted and that an


Information for each count of murder be filed against the 19 individuals.12

On February 2, 2007, Investigating Prosecutor Antonio Ll. Lapus, Jr. issued a subpoena13 requiring
petitioners to testify at the hearings scheduled on February 16 and 23, 2007.

On March 9, 2007, petitioners filed a Special Appearance with Motion to Quash


Complaint/Subpoena and to Expu[ng]e Supporting Affidavits.14 They argue that the Provincial
Prosecutor had no jurisdiction to conduct the preliminary investigation since no valid complaint was
filed against them.15 They also claimed that, "the preliminary investigation conducted was highly
irregular, and that the subpoena issued against [them] was patently defective amounting to a denial
of their rights to due process."16

On July 13, 2007, the panel of investigating prosecutors, composed of Antonio Ll. Lapus, Jr., Eddie
C. Gutierrez, and Edison V. Rafanan, denied petitioners' motion and ordered the submission of their
counter-affidavits.17

Petitioners filed their respective counter-affidavits.18 They also filed a (1) Motion to conduct
Clarificatory Hearing and to Allow [them] to Submit Written Memorandum,19 and a (2) Joint
Supplemental Counter-Affidavit on Common Legal Grounds in Support of their Prayer to Dismiss the
Case,20 both dated August 21, 2007.

On October 23, 2007, the panel issued an Order21 again denying the motion. Petitioners moved for
reconsideration,22 which was denied by the panel in the Resolution23 dated November.14, 2007.
The panel of prosecutors issued on April 11, 2008 a Joint Resolution,24 reviewed and approved by
Officer-in-charge Provincial Prosecutor Floro F. Florendo (Prosecutor Florendo). The panel found
probable cause for murder in the killing of Carlito Bayudang and Jimmy Peralta, and for kidnapping
with murder in the killing of Danilo Felipe, against the nineteen 19 suspects. However, the panel
considered one of the suspects, Julie Flores Sinohin, as a state witness. The panel recommended
that the corresponding Informations be filed against the remaining suspects.25 On the same day, two
(2) Informations26 for murder were filed before the Regional Trial Court of Palayan City, Branch 40 in
Nueva Ecija, (Palayan cases) and an Information27 for kidnapping with murder was filed in Guimba,
Nueva Ecija (Guimba case).

Petitioners filed a Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause with Prayer to Dismiss the
Case Outright on the Guimba case. This was opposed by the panel of investigating prosecutors and
Prosecutor Florendo.28 After the hearing on the motion and submission of the parties' memoranda,
Judge Napoleon R. Sta. Romana issued an Order29 dated August 5, 2008, dismissing the case for
lack of probable cause.30

On April 21, 2008, petitioners also filed a Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause with
Prayer to Dismiss the Case Outright31 on the Palayan cases. They requested the court to move
forward with the presented evidence and decide if there were probable cause and, consequently,
dismiss the case outright if there were none.32

The panel of investigating prosecutors and Prosecutor Florendo opposed the motion.33 Petitioners
filed their Reply34on May 12, 2008.

On April 25, 2008 and May 12, 2008, the motion was heard by the Regional Trial Court of Palayan
City, Branch 40.35Thereafter, both parties submitted their respective memoranda.36

On July 18, 2008, Presiding Judge Evelyn A. Atienza-Turla (Judge Turla) issued an Order37 on the
Palayan cases. Judge Turla held that "the proper procedure in the conduct of the preliminary
investigation was not followed in [the Palayan] cases"38 due to the following:

First, the records show that the supposed principal witnesses for the prosecution were not presented
before the panel of prosecutors, much less subscribed their supposed affidavits before them.

The marginal note of one of the panel member, Asst. Prov'l Pros. Eddie Gutierrez said it all, thus: "I
concur with the conclusion but I would have been more than satisfied if witnesses for the
prosecution were presented."

Second, the charge against [petitioners] is Murder (two counts), a non-bailable offense. The gravity
of the offense alone, not to mention the fact that three of the movants are incumbent Party-List
Representatives while the other one was a former Party-List Representative himself, whose
imprisonment during the pendency of the case would deprive their constituents of their duly-elected
representatives, should have' merited a deeper and more thorough preliminary investigation.

The panel of prosecutors, however, did nothing of the sort and instead swallowed hook, line and
sinker the allegations made by Isabelita Bayudang, Cleotilde Peralta[,] and Alvaro Juliano, and
principally hinges on the affidavit of Julie Sinohin, a supposed "co-conspirator" of the movants, which
were all not "subscribed or sworn" before the said panel.

Given the foregoing circumstances, this Court for all practical purposes will do an even worse job
than what the panel of prosecutors did, by accepting in its entirety the findings of the said panel
,despite its obvious flaws. This practice should not be condoned.
....

Third, [petitioners'] filing of a motion for reconsideration of the resolution of the preliminary
investigation conducted by the panel of prosecutors is allowed by the rules....

....

Strictly speaking, the filing of a "Motion for Reconsideration" is an integral part of the preliminary
investigation proper. There is no dispute that the two (2) Informations for murder were
filed without first affording the movants their right to file a motion for reconsideration. The denial
thereof is tantamount to a denial of the right itself to a preliminary investigation. This fact alone
.already renders preliminary investigation conducted in this case incomplete. The inevitable
conclusion is that the movants were not only effectively denied the opportunity to file a "Motion for
Reconsideration" of the "Joint Resolution" dated April 11, 2008 issued by the panel of prosecutors
assigned in these cases, but were also deprived of 'their right to a full preliminary investigation
preparatory to the filing of the Information against them. (Emphasis in the original, citation
omitted).39

Judge Turla further held:

In this case, the undue haste in filing of the information against movants cannot be1 ignored. From
the gathering of evidence until the termination of the preliminary investigation, it appears that the
state prosecutors were overly-eager to file the case and to secure a warrant of arrest of [petitioners]
without bail and their consequent detention. There can be no gainsaying the fact that the task of
ridding society of criminals and misfits and sending them to jail in the hope that they will in the future
reform and be productive members of the community rests both on the judiciousness of judges and
the prudence of the prosecutors. There is however, a standard in the determination of the existence
of probable cause. The determination has not measured up to that standard in this case.40

Judge Turla added that her order of remanding the Palayan cases back to the provincial prosecutors
"for' a complete preliminary investigation is not a manifestation of ignorance of law or a willful
abdication of a duty imposed by law ... but due to the peculiar circumstances obtaining in [the cases]
and not just ''passing the buck' to the panel of prosecutors[.]"41

The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Court hereby resolves to:

1.) SET ASIDE the "Joint Resolution" of the Nueva Ecija Provincial Prosecutor's Office dated, April
11, 2008 finding probable cause for two (2) counts of Murder against the herein movants; and,

2.) ORDER the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Nueva Ecija to conduct the preliminary
investigation on the incidents subject matter hereof in accordance with the mandates of Rule 112 of
the Rules of Court.

SO ORDERED.42 (Emphasis in the original)

Petitioners moved for partial reconsideration43 of the July 18, 2008 Order, praying for the outright
dismissal of the Palayan cases against them for lack of probable cause.44 The Motion was denied by
Judge Turla in an Order dated December 2, 2008.45
Hence, on March 27, 2009, petitioners filed this Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for
Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction against Judge
Evelyn A. Turla, Prosecutors Floro F. Florendo, Antonio Ll. Lapus, Jr., Edison V. Rafanan, and Eddie
C. Gutierrez, and Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez (respondents).46

Petitioners pray that the July 18, 2008 and December 2, 2008 Orders of Judge Turla be set aside
and annulled and that the murder cases against them be dismissed for failure to show probable
cause. They also ask for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary
injunction to enjoin Judge Turla from remanding the cases to the provincial prosecutors, and "the
respondent prosecutors from conducting further preliminary investigation [on] these cases."47

Petitioners claim that they "have no plain, speedy[,] and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of
law[. ]"48 They also contend that "[r]espondents' actions will certainly cause grave and irreparable
damage to [their] constitutional rights unless injunctive relief is afforded them through the issuance of
a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order[. ]"49

They allege that Judge Turla acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction,

[I] WHEN SHE SHIRKED FROM HER CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO DETERMINE PROBABLE
CAUSE AGAINST PETITIONERS AND INSTEAD REMANDED THE CASES TO THE OFFICE OF
THE PROVINCIAL PROSECUTOR DESPITE LACK OF EVIDENCE.

[II] WHEN SHE DID NOT DISMISS THE CASES DESPITE THE LACK OF EVIDENCE TO
ESTABLISH PROBABLE CAUSE AGAINST PETITIONERS.

[III] WHEN SHE REFUSED TO RULE ON THE ISSUE OF FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION
EVIDENCE TO ESTABLISH THAT PETITIONERS ARE PRINCIPALS BY INDUCEMENT.

[IV] FOR IGNORING THE ISSUE OF INADMISSIBILITY OF PROSECUTION EVIDENCE ON THE


GROUND OF VIOLATION OF THE RES INTER ALIOS ACTA RULE.50

Petitioners claim that Judge Turla's order of remanding the case back to the prosecutors had no
basis in law, jurisprudence, or the rules. Since she had already evaluated the evidence submitted by
the prosecutors along with the Informations, she should have determined the existence of probable
cause for the issuance of arrest warrants or the dismissal of the Palayan cases.51

Petitioners assert that under the Rules of Court, in case of doubt on the existence of probable cause,
Judge Turla could "order the prosecutor to present additional evidence [or] set the case for hearing
so she could make clarifications on the factual issues of the case."52

Moreover, petitioners argue that the setting aside of the Joint Resolution establishes the non-
existence of probable cause against them. Thus, the cases against them should have been
dismissed.53

Petitioners aver that the documents submitted by the prosecution are neither relevant nor admissible
evidence.54The documents "do not establish the complicity of the petitioner party-list representatives
to the death of the supposed victims.55

On May 29, 2009, respondents filed their Comment56 through the Office of the Solicitor General,
raising the following arguments:
I

THE PETITION SHOULD BE DISMISSED FOR VIOLATING THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS.

II

RESPONDENT JUDGE'S ACTION IN REMANDING THE CASES FOR PRELIMINARY


INVESTIGATION IS A RECOGNITION OF THE EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY OF THE PUBLIC
PROSECUTORS TO DETERMINE PROBABLE CAUSE FOR PURPOSES OF FILING
APPROPRIATE CRIMINAL INFORMATION.

III.

THE PROSECUTION RIGHTLY FOUND PROBABLE CAUSE TO WARRANT THE FILING OF THE
INDICTMENTS.

IV.

A FINDING OF PROBABLE CAUSE IS NOT A PRONOUNCEMENT OF GUILT BUT MERELY


BINDS A SUSPECT TO STAND TRIAL.

V.

THE ISSUE OF ADMISSIBILITY OR INADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE IS PROPERLY


ADDRESSED DURING THE TRIAL ON THE MERITS OF THE CASE AND NOT DURING THE
EARLY STAGE OF PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION.57

Respondents claim that the petition before this Court violates the principle of hierarchy of courts.
They contend that petitioners should have filed their petition before the Court of Appeals since it also
exercises original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari and prohibition. According to respondents,
petitioners failed to justify a direct resort to this Court.58

Respondents also allege that respondent Secretary Gonzalez was wrongly impleaded. There was no
showing that he exercised judicial or quasi-judicial functions, for which certiorari may be issued.59

On the allegation that Judge Turla reneged on her constitutional duty to determine probable cause,
respondents counter that she did not abandon her mandate.60 Her act of remanding the cases to the
public prosecutors "is a confirmation of her observance of the well-settled principle that such
determination of probable cause is an exclusive executive function of the prosecutorial arm of our
government."61

Furthermore, respondent prosecutors' finding of probable cause is correct since evidence against
petitioners show that more likely than not, they participated in the murder of the alleged victims.62 The
prosecutors' finding is not a final declaration of their guilt. It merely engages them to trial.[[6 3]]

Finally, respondents argue that the "issue of admissibility or inadmissibility of evidence is properly
addressed during the trial on the merits of the case and not during the early stage of preliminary
investigation."64

Petitioners filed their Reply65 on September 24, 2009. Aside from reiterating their allegations and
arguments in the petition, they added that direct invocation of this Court's original jurisdiction was
allowed as their petition involved legal questions.66 Moreover, the inclusion of Secretary Gonzalez as
nominal party-respondent was allowed under Rule 65, Section 567 of the Rules of Court.68

We resolve the following issues:

First, whether petitioners violated the principle of hierarchy of courts in bringing their petition directly
before this Court;

Second, whether respondent Judge Turla gravely abused her discretion when she remanded the
Palayan cases to the Provincial Prosecutor for the conduct of preliminary investigation; and

Finally, whether admissibility of evidence can be ruled upon m preliminary investigation.

This petition is an exception to the principle of hierarchy of courts.

This Court thoroughly explained the doctrine of hierarchy of courts in The Diocese of Bacolod v.
Commission on Elections:69

The doctrine that requires respect for the hierarchy of courts was created by this court to ensure that
every level of the judiciary performs its designated roles in an effective and efficient manner. Trial
courts do not only determine the facts from the evaluation of the evidence presented before them.
They are likewise competent to determine issues of law which may include the validity of an
ordinance, statute, or even an executive issuance in relation to the Constitution. To effectively
perform these functions, they are territorially organized into regions and then into branches. Their
writs generally reach within those territorial boundaries. Necessarily, they mostly perf01m the all-
important task of inferring the facts from the evidence as these are physically presented before
them. In many instances, the facts occur within their territorial jurisdiction, which properly present the
'actual case' that makes ripe a determination of the constitutionality of such action. The
consequences, of course, would be national in scope. There are, however, some cases where resort
to courts at their level would not be practical considering their decisions could still be appealed
before the higher courts, such as the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals is primarily designed as an appellate court that reviews the determination of
facts and law made by the trial courts. It is collegiate in nature. This nature ensures more
standpoints in the review of the actions of the trial court. But the Court of Appeals also has original
jurisdiction over most special civil actions. Unlike the trial courts, its writs can have a nationwide
scope. It is competent to determine facts and, ideally, should act on constitutional issues that may
not necessarily be novel unless there are factual questions to determine.

This court, on the other hand, leads the judiciary by breaking new ground or further reiterating - in
the light of new circumstances or in the light of some confusions of bench or bar - existing
precedents. Rather than a court of first instance or as a repetition of the actions of the Court of
Appeals, this court promulgates these doctrinal devices in order that it truly performs that role.

In other words, the Supreme Court's role to interpret the Constitution and act in order to protect
constitutional rights when these become exigent should not be emasculated by the doctrine in
respect of the hierarchy of courts. That has never been the purpose of such doctrine.
Thus, the doctrine of hierarchy of courts is not an iron-clad rule. This court has "full discretionary
power to take cognizance and assume jurisdiction [over] special civil actions for certiorari ... filed
directly with it for exceptionally compelling reasons or if warranted by the nature of the issues clearly
and specifically raised in the petition." As correctly pointed out by petitioners, we have provided
exceptions to this doctrine:

First, a direct resort to this court is allowed when there are genuine issues of constitutionality that
must be addressed at the most immediate time. A direct resort to this court includes availing of the
remedies of certiorari and prohibition to assail the constitutionality of actions of both legislative and
executive branches of the government.

....

A second exception is when the issues involved are of transcendental importance. In these cases,
the imminence and clarity of the threat to fundamental constitutional rights outweigh the necessity for
prudence. The doctrine relating to constitutional issues of transcendental importance prevents courts
from the paralysis of procedural niceties when clearly faced with the need for substantial protection.

....

Third, cases of first impression warrant a direct resort to this court. In cases of first impression, no
jurisprudence yet exists that will guide the lower courts on this matter. In Government of the United
States v. Purganan, this court took cognizance of the case as a matter of first impression that may
guide the lower courts:

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

....

Fourth, the constitutional issues raised are better decided by this court. In Drilon v. Lim, this court
held that:

... it will be prudent for such courts, if only out of a becoming modesty, to defer to the higher
judgment of this Court in the consideration of its validity, which is better determined after a thorough
deliberation by a collegiate body and with the concurrence of the majority of those who participated
in its discussion.

....

Fifth, . . . Exigency in certain situations would qualify as an exception for direct resort to this court.

Sixth, the filed petition reviews the act of a constitutional organ ...

....

Seventh, [there is] no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law[.]

... The lack of other sufficient remedies in the course of law alone is sufficient ground to allow direct
resort to this court.
Eighth, the petition includes questions that are "dictated by public welfare and the advancement of
public policy, or demanded by the broader interest of justice, or the orders complained of were found
to be patent nullities, or the appeal was considered as clearly an inappropriate remedy." In the past,
questions similar to these which this court ruled on immediately despite the doctrine of hierarchy of
courts included citizens' right to bear arms, government contracts involving modernization of voters'
registration lists, and the status and existence of a public office.

....

It is not, however, necessary that all of these exceptions must occur at the same time to justify a
direct resort to this court.70 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

In First United Constructors Corp. v. Poro Point Management Corp. (PPMC), et al.,71 this Court
reiterated that it "will not entertain a direct invocation of its jurisdiction unless the redress desired
cannot be obtained in the appropriate lower courts, and exceptional and compelling circumstances
justify the resort to the extraordinary remedy of a writ of certiorari."72

In this case, the presence of compelling circumstances warrants the exercise of this Court's
jurisdiction. At the time the petition was filed, petitioners were incumbent party-list representatives.
The possibility of their arrest and incarceration should the assailed Orders be affirmed, would affect
their representation of their constituents in Congress.

Although the circumstances mentioned are no longer present, the merits of this case necessitate this
Court's exercise of jurisdiction.

II

The remand of the criminal cases to the Provincial Prosecutor for the conduct of another preliminary
investigation is improper.

Petitioners assert that the documents submitted along with the Informations are sufficient for Judge
Turla to rule on the existence of probable cause. If she finds the evidence inadequate, she may
order the prosecutors to present additional evidence. Thus, according to petitioners, Judge Turla's
action in remanding the case to the prosecutors for further preliminary investigation lacks legal basis.

Petitioners' contention has merit.

Rule 112, Section 5(a) of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

RULE 112
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION

....

SEC. 5. When warrant of arrest may issue. -

(a) By the Regional Trial Court. -Within ten (10) days from the filing of the complaint or information,
the judge shall personally evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting evidence. He
may immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause.
If he finds probable cause, he shall issue a warrant of arrest, or a commitment order when the
complaint or information was filed pursuant to section 6 of this Rule. In case of doubt on the
existence of probable cause, the judge may order the prosecutor to present additional evidence
within five (5) days from notice and the issue must be resolved by the court within thirty (30) days
from the filing of the complaint or information.

A plain reading of the provision shows that upon filing of the information, the trial court judge has the
following options: (1) dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable
cause; (2) issue a warrant of arrest or a commitment order if findings show probable cause; or (3)
order the prosecutor to present additional evidence if there is doubt on the existence of probable
cause.73

The trial court judge's determination of probable cause is based on her or his personal evaluation of
the prosecutor's resolution and its supporting evidence. The determination of probable cause by the
trial court judge is a judicial function, whereas the determination of probable cause by the
prosecutors is an executive function.74 This Court clarified this concept in Napoles v. De Lima:75

During preliminary investigation, the prosecutor determines the existence of probable cause for filing
an information in court or dismissing the criminal complaint. As worded in the Rules of Court, the
prosecutor determines during preliminary investigation whether "there is sufficient ground to
engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably
guilty thereof, and should be held for trial." At this stage, the determination of probable cause is an
executive function. Absent grave abuse of discretion, this determination cannot be interfered with by
the courts. This is consistent with the doctrine of separation of powers.

On the other hand, if done to issue an arrest warrant, the determination of probable cause is a
judicial function. No less than the Constitution commands that "no . . . warrant of arrest shall issue
except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath
or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce[.]" This requirement of personal
evaluation by the judge is reaffirmed in Rule 112, Section 5 (a) of the Rules on Criminal Procedure[.]

....

Therefore, the determination of probable cause for filing an information in court and that for issuance
of an arrest warrant are different. Once the information is filed in court, the trial court acquires
jurisdiction and "any disposition of the case as to its dismissal or the conviction or acquittal of the
accused rests in the sound discretion of the Court."76 (Citations omitted)

In De Lima v. Reyes,77 this Court further held:

The courts do not interfere with the prosecutor’s conduct of a preliminary investigation. The
1avvphi 1

prosecutor’s determination of probable cause is solely within his or her discretion. Prosecutors are
given a wide latitude of discretion to determine whether an information should be filed in court or
whether the complaint should be dismissed.78 (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)

Thus, when Judge Turla held that the prosecutors' conduct of preliminary investigation was
"incomplete"79 and that their determination of probable cause "has not measured up to [the]
standard,"80 she encroached upon the exclusive function of the prosecutors. Instead of determining
probable cause, she ruled on the propriety of the preliminary investigation.

In Leviste v. Hon. Alameda, et al.:81


[T]he task of the presiding judge when the Information is filed with the court is first and foremost to
determine the existence or non-existence of probable cause for the arrest of the accused.

What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and personal responsibility of the issuing judge to
satisfy himself of the existence of probable cause. But the judge is not required to personally
examine the complainant and his witnesses. Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall
(1) personally evaluate the report and the supporting documents submitted by the prosecutor
regarding the existence of probable cause, and on the basis thereof, he may already make a
personal determination of the existence of probable cause; and (2) if he is not satisfied that probable
cause exists, he may disregard the prosecutor's report and require the submission of supporting
affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of probable
cause.82 (Citations omitted)

Regardless of Judge Turla's assessment on the conduct of the preliminary investigation, it was
incumbent upon her to determine the existence of probable cause against the accused after a
personal evaluation of the prosecutors' report and the supporting documents. She could even
disregard the report if she found it unsatisfactory, and/or require the prosecutors to submit additional
evidence. There was no option for her to remand the case back to the panel of prosecutors for
another preliminary investigation. In doing so, she acted without any legal basis.

III

The admissibility of evidence cannot be ruled upon in a preliminary investigation.

In a preliminary investigation,

... the public prosecutors do not decide whether there is evidence beyond reasonable doubt of the
guilt of the person charged; they merely determine whether there is sufficient ground to engender a
well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and that respondent is probably guilty thereof,
and should be held for trial.83

To emphasize, "a preliminary investigation is merely preparatory to a trial[;] [i]t is not a trial on the
merits."84 Since "it cannot be expected that upon the filing of the information in court the prosecutor
would have already presented all the evidence necessary to secure a conviction of the
accused,"85 the admissibility or inadmissibility of evidence cannot be ruled upon in a preliminary
investigation.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The assailed Orders dated July 18, 2008
and December 2, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court, Palayan City, Branch 40 in Criminal Case Nos.
1879-P and 1880-P are SET ASIDE. The case is remanded to the Regional Trial Court, Palayan
City, Branch 40 for further proceedings with due and deliberate dispatch in accordance with this
Decision.

SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 199018, September 27, 2017

ROLANDO DACANAY Y LACASTE, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, petitioner Rolando
Dacanay y Lacaste assails the Decision1 dated May 26, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR. No.
30826, which affirmed the Decision2 dated July 16, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Mandaluyong
City, Branch 209, in Criminal Case No. MC02-6030-D, finding petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
illegal possession of dangerous drugs, in violation of Article II, Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165,
otherwise known as The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

In an Information dated October 24, 2002 filed before the RTC, petitioner was charged with illegal
possession of dangerous drugs, allegedly committed as follows:

That on or about the 23rd day of October 2002, in the City of Mandaluyong, Philippines, a place within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not having been lawfully authorized to
possess any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and knowingly have in
his possession, custody and control one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing 0.03 gram of
white crystalline substance, which was found positive to the test for Methamphetamine Hydro chloride,
commonly known as "shabu", a dangerous drug without the corresponding license and prescription, in
violation of the above-cited law.3
During his arraignment on December 11, 2002, petitioner pleaded not guilty to the crime charged against
him. Thereafter, trial ensued.

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution presented as witnesses Police Senior Inspector (P/Sr. Insp.) Annalee R. Forro
(Forro), Forensic Chemist, Philippine National Police (PNP); Raylan G. Genguyon (Genguyon), a
member of Task Force Anti-Vice (TFAV) Unit, Mandaluyong City Police Station; and Police Officer
(PO) 3 Noli S. Cortes4 (Cortes), the officer on case, Eastern Police District (EPD) Crime
Laboratory Office.

The taking of PO3 Cortes's testimony was dispensed with after the defense admitted the
following: that PO3 Cortes was a member of the PNP who conducted an investigation of the case;
that PO3 Cortes could identify petitioner in court; that the specimen subject matter of the case
was turned over to PO3 Cortes during the investigation; and that PO3 Cortes caused the
preparation of the Request for Laboratory Examination, Genguyon's Sworn Statement, the Arrest
Report, and the Endorsement of the EPD to the Office of the City Prosecutor for inquest
proceedings; and that the Inquest Prosecutor, after conducting an investigation, proposed the
direct filing of the case.5

As gathered from the collective testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, at around 8:30 in the
morning of October 23, 2002, a TFAV Unit consisting of Senior Police Officer (SPO) 2 Cirilo
Maniego (Maniego), as team leader, and Carlos Gojo, Noel Bueva, and Genguyon, as members,
were on board an unmarked multi-cab, patrolling the streets of Fernandez and Samat, Barangay
Highway Hills, Mandaluyong City, when they noticed a male person, whom Genguyon later
identified as petitioner, holding a plastic sachet in his right hand and a baseball cap in his left
hand. The TFAV Unit already knew petitioner for the latter had been previously arrested several
times by authorities for illegal drug possession. As the TFAV Unit neared petitioner, the latter
scurried away. Petitioner tried to throw away the plastic sachet as he was boarding a tricycle but
the members of the TFAV Unit caught up with him. Genguyon arrested petitioner and recovered
the plastic sachet, containing white crystalline substance, from the latter's possession. Genguyon
placed his initials "RG" on the plastic sachet. After informing petitioner of his constitutional
rights, Genguyon gave the plastic sachet to their team leader, SPO2 Maniego. Thereafter, the
TFAV Unit brought petitioner to the Mandaluyong City Medical Center and to the Criminal
Investigation Unit for medical examination and investigation, respectively.

The plastic sachet, marked as "RG," was turned over to PO3 Cortes, assigned to investigate
petitioner's case. PO3 Cortes made a written request for the laboratory examination of the
contents of said plastic sachet.

P/Sr. Insp. Forro performed the laboratory examination of the contents of the plastic sachet, and
per Chemistry Report No. D-2096-02E,6 she confirmed the presence of Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug.

In the meantime, Genguyon executed a Sworn Statement and an Arrest Report both dated
October 23, 2002 relative to the apprehension of petitioner.

Together with Genguyon's Sworn Statement7 and Arrest Report8 dated October 23, 2002, PO3
Cortes's written request for laboratory analysis and P/Sr. Insp. Forro's Chemistry Report No. D-
2096-02E, Police Chief Inspector (PC/Insp.) Plaridel V. Justo, Chief, Station Investigation Unit,
forwarded petitioner's case to the Mandaluyong City Prosecutor for inquest proceeding.

On trial, Genguyon identified in court the plastic sachet that he marked as "RG." Likewise, P/Sr.
Insp. Forro testified that she prepared the Chemistry Report No. D-2096-02E and identified her
signature appearing thereon, as well as the signatures of PC/Insp. Leslie Chambers Maala
(Maala), Chief of the Chemistry Section, and Police Superintendent (P/Supt.) Ma. Cristina B.
Freyra (Freyra), Chief of the EPD Crime Laboratory. P/Sr. Insp. Forro stated that she was present
when PC/Insp. Maala and P/Supt. Freyra signed the Chemistry Report. 9

Version of the Defense

Petitioner was the sole witness for the defense.

According to petitioner, he worked as a tricycle driver. At around 8:30 in the morning of October
23, 2002, he was transporting a passenger from Crossing I to Fernandez Street. Upon arriving on
Fernandez Street and while waiting for the passenger's tricycle fare, a member of the TFAV Unit
passed by, telling petitioner that there was an on-going sale of shabu on Fernandez Street. After
receiving the tricycle fare, petitioner proceeded to Samat Street where he was flagged down by
the TFAV Unit Petitioner alighted from his tricycle and five members of the TFAV Unit conducted
a search of petitioner's person and his tricycle. A sixth member of the TFAV Unit, the driver, was
standing near the TFAV vehicle. Petitioner then saw said sixth member of the TFAV Unit picking
up a small plastic sachet about a meter away from where petitioner was. The sixth TFAV Unit
member approached petitioner while holding the plastic sachet and said that the TFAV Unit
recovered the plastic sachet from petitioner's tricycle. Petitioner denied that the plastic sachet
was his but he was handcuffed. Petitioner offered to bring the TFAV Unit members to the
passenger he dropped off on Fernandez Street but the TFAV Unit members said nothing and
simply brought petitioner to Mandaluyong City Hall. At the Criminal Investigation Division, a
person, who was not part of the TFAV Unit who arrested petitioner, asked him if he owned the
plastic sachet. Petitioner denied ownership of the plastic sachet. Notwithstanding petitioner's
denial, he was detained. Petitioner posted bail afterwards.

On July 16, 2006, the RTC promulgated its Decision finding petitioner guilty of the crime charged,
thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding [petitioner], ROLANDO
DACANAY y LACASTE, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 11 of Article II of
Republic Act 9165 and hereby sentencing him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years
and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to twelve (12) years and one (1) day of reclusion
temporal as maximum and to pay a fine of three hundred thousand (P300,000.00) [pesos].
[Petitioner] shall be credited in full of the period of his preventive imprisonment.

The specimen consisting of 0.03 gram of methamphetamine hydrochloride is hereby confiscated


in favor of the government. The evidence custodian is ordered to turn over the same to the
Dangerous Drugs Board within 10 days from receipt for proper disposition.

Pursuant to section 6, paragraph 4, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, the
Clerk of this Court in charge of the records of criminal cases is ordered to record this judgment in
criminal docket and to serve a copy thereof at the last known address of Rolando Dacanay y
Lacaste or through his counsel.10
Petitioner's appeal before the Court of Appeals was docketed as CA-G.R. CR. No. 30826. The
appellate court affirmed petitioner's conviction in its Decision dated May 26, 2011.

Hence, petitioner filed the instant Petition for Review, raising the following issues:
I
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE AND REVERSIBLE ERROR
INSOFAR AS IT FAILED TO RULE THAT PETITIONER WAS ILLEGALLY ARRESTED AND ILLEGALLY
SEARCHED BY THE MEMBERS OF THE TASK FORCE ANTI-VICE UNIT.

II

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE AND REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN
IT FOUND PETITIONER GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME BEING IMPUTED
AGAINST HIM.11
Petitioner refutes the findings of the Court of Appeals, maintaining that he was illegally arrested
and searched without a warrant by the TFAV Unit. According to petitioner, he was arrested on
mere suspicion of the TFAV Unit members who allegedly saw him holding a plastic sachet.
Petitioner's alleged possession of a plastic sachet, previous criminal record, or act of running
away from apprehending officers were not crimes, nor were they sufficient to raise suspicion or
provide probable cause for warrantless arrest. Considering that petitioner's arrest did not fall
under any of the instances identified under Rule 113, Section 512 of the Revised Rules of Court -
as petitioner was not actually committing or attempting to commit an offense in the presence of
the arresting officer, and no offense had just been committed that gave rise to a probable cause
that he committed an offense - petitioner's arrest was illegal.

Petitioner also contends that the warrantless search of petitioner's person, which was neither
incidental to a valid arrest nor based on probable cause that he had committed, was committing,
or was attempting to commit a crime, violated his Constitutional right13 against unreasonable
search and seizures. As a consequence, any evidence, such as the plastic sachet, obtained as a
result of the unlawful search by the TFAV Unit, should be inadmissible in evidence for any
purpose in any proceeding for being the "fruit of the poisonous tree."

Petitioner lastly points out that the version of the prosecution of his arrest was based solely on
Genguyon's self-serving testimony. Petitioner argues that the prosecution should have presented
additional witnesses, such as the other TFAV Unit members, to corroborate Genguyon's
testimony, as well as rebuttal evidence to disprove petitioner's defense of frame up. The reliance
by the RTC and the Court of Appeals on the presumption of regularity in the performance of
official duties was misplaced as such presumption could not override the presumption of
innocence in petitioner's favor. Therefore, the quantum of proof required to convict
petitioner, i.e., proof beyond reasonable doubt, had not been satisfied.

We find no merit in the present Petition.

Questions of fact are not the proper subject of a petition for review under Rule 45; findings of
fact of the RTC, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are binding on the Court

We highlight, at the outset, that this Petition was filed under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of
Court, which should be limited to questions of law. For a question to be one of law, it must not
involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of
them.14

The resolution of both issues raised in the Petition at bar requires us to sift through the records,
and examine and inquire into the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties before
the RTC. This is exactly the situation which Rule 45, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Court
prohibits by requiring that the petition raise only questions of law. A re-examination of factual
findings cannot be done through a petition for review on certiorariunder Rule 45 of the Revised
Rules of Court because this Court is not a trier of facts. This Court is not duty-bound to analyze
and weigh again the evidence considered in the RTC. Further, this case does not fall under any of
the exceptions15 recognized in jurisprudence.

Moreover, it is settled that the findings of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies of the
witnesses and its assessment of the probative weight thereof, as well as its conclusions
anchored on said findings are accorded respect, if not conclusive effect. This is more true if such
findings were affirmed by the appellate court. When the findings of the trial court have been
affirmed by the appellate court, said findings are generally binding upon this Court. 16The
exception is when it is established that the trial court ignored, overlooked, misconstrued, or
misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances which, if considered, will change the outcome of
the case.17

In the instant case, the RTC, after receiving and evaluating the respective evidence of the
prosecution and the defense, adjudged:
This court finds the prosecution adequate or sufficient to warrant conviction of the accused.

In a prosecution for illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the following facts must be proven
with moral certainty.

(1) That the accused is in possession of the object identified as prohibited or regulated drug; (2)
That such possession is not authorized by law and, (3) That the accused freely and consciously
possessed the said drug. To warrant conviction of the accused or that animus possidendi existed
together with the possession or control of said articles xxx.

In the instant case, the arresting officer, Raylan G. Genguyon who executed a Sworn Statement
and confirmed in open court that on October 23, [2002] at 8:30 in the morning, while he and
members of his team were patrolling along Fernandez Street, he saw a male person whom he
knew for having been previously arrested by authorities for illegal possession of drugs, came out
from an interior alley, stood at the corner of Samat and Fernandez Streets, a place notoriously
known for buying and selling dangerous drugs, holding a small transparent plastic sachet
containing suspected shabu which he immediately hide (sic) in his cap. When they stopped their
patrol vehicle and approached [petitioner], the latter tried to run away and in the process,
[petitioner] attempted to throw the plastic sachet. However, considering that witness was closed
(sic) to the [petitioner], only three (3) meters distance, he was able to catch the [petitioner], got
hold of his hand and recovered the small plastic sachet containing crystalline substance which
yielded positive result to the test of methamphetamine hydrochloride called shabu. [Petitioner]
was aware of his possession of said plastic sachet which he attempted to throw but was timely
recovered by witness Genguyon. He was the only one who handcuffed and conducted the arrest
of [petitioner]. As against these (sic) positive identification by the witness of [petitioner] from
whom possession of the plastic sachet containing shabu was recovered as well as the positive
results of the laboratory examination by the Forensic Chemist of the substance contained in the
subject plastic sachet, [petitioner] put up the defense of denial amounting to frame up and illegal
arrest.

Our Supreme Court in various cases has ruled that Denial and allegation of frame up are couple
and standard defenses in the prosecution of violations of dangerous drug xxx.

The defense of frame up or denial, like alibi, has invariably been viewed by the court with
disfavor for it can just be easily concocted and is a common defense play in most prosecution for
violation of Dangerous Drug Act xxx.

Witness are to be weighed, not by numbered (sic), it is not uncommon to read a conclusion of
guilt on the basis of the testimony of a single witness xxx.

Furthermore, it could be mentioned in passing that number (sic) of Task Force Anti-Vice are
public officers who enjoy the privilege of the presumption of regularly (sic) in the performance of
their duties in the absence of ill motive and bias.18
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the findings of the RTC and held that:
The central issue raised by [petitioner] in his appeal is the legality of his search and arrest,
[Petitioner] contends that his arrest was illegal for not falling under the exceptions mentioned in
Section 5, Rule 113 for a warrantless arrest. He was allegedly not committing or attempting to
commit a crime, and the apprehending officer had no personal knowledge that a crime was just
committed and that the accused had committed it. Anything that turns up in the course of the
subsequent search should be inadmissible as the fruit of an unlawful arrest.

The defense makes capital of the admission of the arresting officer Genguyon that upon seeing
[petitioner], he was prompted to think that [petitioner] was committing a crime. But Genguyon
himself qualifies his admission with the statement that, at that juncture, he did not try to arrest
[petitioner]. The continuing narrative of Genguyon reveals that [petitioner] was intercepted by
his team only because they noticed him to be in possession of a plastic sachet and that he quickly
fled to a tricycle. Unfortunately for him, the lawmen got hold of him before he could escape.
In the prosecution for illegal possession of dangerous drugs, it must be shown that [petitioner]
was in possession of an object or item that is identified to be a prohibited drug and that his
possession was not authorized by law. These elements have been satisfactorily established.
Genguyon who apprehended [petitioner] testified that from three meters or thereabouts (sic), he
sighted (sic) [petitioner] holding a plastic sachet on his right hand. When they approached him,
he ran away to ride a tricycle and was about to throw the plastic sachet. But they caught up with
him. Genguyon took the sachet from [petitioner] and told him that they were arresting him for
violation of illegal possession of prohibited drugs. In People vs. Suzuki, 414 SCRA 43, the
Supreme Court held that mere possession of a prohibited substance is a crime per se placing the
burden of the evidence on the accused to prove that his possession was lawful. [Petitioner]
denied that he was in possession of the shabu recovered by the Task Force Anti-Vice [Unit] and
even went on to say that the men who arrested him merely picked up the plastic sachet from a
distance of a meter from him. This is, for sure, a pat and convenient excuse. But without proof of
any motive on the part of the arresting officers to falsely impute a criminal charge against him,
the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty prevails. xxx.

[Petitioner] was caught in flagrante delicto in possession of illegal drugs. The arresting officer
had reasonable ground to believe based on his own personal observation that the [petitioner]
was holding on to a plastic sachet that he believed contained shabu, judging from the past record
of [petitioner], and that his suspicions were heightened when [petitioner] ran away after seeing
him. The warrantless arrest is lawful under the provisions of Section 5 (a) Rule 113 of the Rules
of Court which provides that - a police officer may without a warrant arrest a person when in his
presence the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing or attempting to
commit a crime. In the course of a lawful warrantless arrest, the person of the accused may be
searched for dangerous or illegal objects. It follows that the prohibited object or item taken from
him on the occasion is admissible in evidence. xxx.

In a word, we find no substantial reason to disturb the findings of the courts a quo.19
The consistent findings of the RTC and the Court of Appeals on petitioner's guilt deserve utmost
respect and should no longer be disturbed. However, if only to put finis to this case and ensure
that no material fact was missed or misappreciated by the trial and appellate courts, we will still
proceed to address the issues raised by petitioner.20

The prosecution was able to establish by proof beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of the
offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs

Article II, Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 penalizes possession of dangerous drugs as
follows:
SECTION 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. — The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a
fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos
(P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall
possess any dangerous drug in the following quantities, regardless of the degree of purity
thereof:

(1)
10 grams or more of opium;
(2)
10 grams or more of morphine;
(3)
10 grams or more of heroin;
(4)
10 grams or more of cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride;
(5)
50 grams or more of rnethamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu";
(6)
10 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil;
(7)
500 grams or more of marijuana; and
(8)
10 grams or more of other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to,
methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or "ecstasy," paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA),
trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), gamma hydroxybutyrate
(GHB), and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives, without
having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements,
as determined and promulgated by the Board in accordance to Section 93, Article XI of this Act.

Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be
graduated as follows:

(1)
Life imprisonment and a fine ranging from Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00) to Five
hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00), if the quantity of methamphetamine hydrochloride or
"shabu" is ten (10) grams or more but less than fifty (50) grams;
(2)
Imprisonment of twenty (20) years and one (1) day to life imprisonment and a fine ranging from
Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00), if
the quantities of dangerous drugs are five (5) grams or more but less than ten (10) grams of
opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin
oil, methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu," or other dangerous drugs such as, but not
limited to, MDMA or "ecstasy," PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newly
introduced drugs and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity
possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements; or three hundred (300) grams or more but
less than five hundred (500) grams of marijuana; and
(3)
Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from
Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00), if
the quantities of dangerous drugs are less than five (5) grams of opium, morphine, heroin,
cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil, methamphetamine
hydrochloride or "shabu," or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, MDMA or
"ecstasy", PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and
their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond
therapeutic requirements; or less than three hundred (300) grams of marijuana. (Emphasis
ours.)
In prosecuting cases for illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the prosecution must establish
the following elements: (l)the accused was in possession of an item or object, which was
identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug; (2) such possession was not authorized by law;
and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug. 21

Additionally, in the prosecution of criminal cases involving drugs, it is settled in our


jurisprudence that the narcotic substance itself constitutes the corpus delicti, the body or
substance of the crime, and the fact of its existence is a condition sine qua non to sustain a
judgment of conviction. It is essential that the prosecution must prove with certitude that the
narcotic substance confiscated from the suspect is the same drug offered in evidence before the
court. As such, the presentation in court of the corpus delicti establishes the fact that a crime has
actually been committed.22

Evidence for the prosecution consists of the testimonies of its witnesses, chiefly that of
Genguyon; documentary evidence, particularly, Genguyon's Sworn Statement and P/Sr. Insp.
Forro's Chemistry Report No. D-2096-02E; and the corpus delicti, the plastic sachet
of shabuconfiscated from petitioner.

In his Sworn Statement,23 which was offered in evidence and formed part of his testimony,
Genguyon immediately recalled:
We saw a male person whom we know for having been arrested by authorities for many times for
illegal drug possession came out from an alley thereat and stood at the corner of Samat and
Fernandez Sts., this city holding a small transparent plastic sachet containing
suspected shabu which he immediately hide (sic) in his cap.

xxx Since I was already closed (sic) to him at that time, I was able to catch him and got hold of
his hand and recovered the small transparent plastic sachet containing suspected shabu. xxx.
(Emphases ours.)
During trial, Genguyon further testified as follows:
Q:
And while you were patrolling said area, could you please tell us if there was any unusual
incident that happened in that area?
A:
Yes, Ma'am.
Q:
What is that?
A:
While we were patrolling the said area of Samat corner Fernandez St., we noticed a male person
who is inside the interior street, ma'am.
Q:
And what is so unusual in that particular person, Mr. Witness?
A:
While we were looking at him while we were approaching him, we saw that he was holding a
plastic sachet, ma'am.
Q:
How did you know that he was holding a plastic sachet?
A:
He was quite near us, about three meters, ma'am.
Q:
What is your position in relation to his position?
A:
He was facing us, ma'am.
Q:
How did he hold the plastic sachet?
A:
He was holding it in his right hand and on his left hand, he was holding a baseball cap, ma'am.
Q:
And what did you then (sic) when you saw him [with] a plastic sachet?
A:
When we approached him, he tried to run away, ma'am.
Q:
And what did you do then when he tried to run away?
A:
We ran after him and we were able to catch him trying to ride a tricycle and he was trying to
throw the plastic sachet, ma'am.
Q:
Was he able to ride the tricycle?
A:
No, ma'am almost.
Q:
What was his reaction when you accosted him?
A:
He was surprised, ma'am, because I was already holding him.
Q:
What happened when you arrested him?
A:
He did not resist when we told him that we are from the Task Force Anti-Vice, ma'am.
Q:
What about the plastic sachet that you saw. what happened to that?
A:
I got it from his possession and then I told him that we are arresting him for violation of section
11, ma' am.
Q:
After apprising him of his constitutional rights, what else happened, if any?
A:
After apprising him of his rights, I immediately gave the evidence to our team leader, SPO2 Cirilo
Maniego, ma'am.
Q:
You said that you were able to recover from him one plastic sachet with white crystalline
substance?
A:
Yes, ma'am.
Q:
Could you please describe the size of that sachet?
A:
It was a very, small plastic sachet. I cannot estimate the size, ma'am.
Q:
If that will be shown to you will you be able to identify it?
A:
Yes, ma'am.
Q:
Why will you be able to identify it?
A:
I put my markings, ma'am, my initials "RG."
Q:
Showing to you this plastic sachet with markings "RG" and already marked as Exhibit "F-1" could
you please tell us if that is the same plastic sachet recovered from the possession of the
[petitioner]?
A:
Yes, Ma'am this is the one.
Q:
By the way, what does "RG" stands (sic) for?
A:
"RG" stands for Raylan Genguyon, ma'am.24 (Emphasis ours.)
The prosecution then submitted in evidence the Chemistry Report No. D-2096-02E, which
confirmed that the white crystalline substance inside the plastic sachet recovered from petitioner
was methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a prohibited drug.

The totality of the evidence satisfactorily establishes all the necessary elements for the
conviction of petitioner for illegal possession of prohibited drug.

Notably, petitioner did not offer any evidence to prove that he had authority to possess the said
drug, and it is well-entrenched that mere possession of a prohibited drug constitutes prima
facie evidence of knowledge or animus possidendi of the prohibited drug, sufficient to convict an
accused in the absence of satisfactory explanation.25

Petitioner failed to present clear and convincing evidence of frame-up

Petitioner's defense of frame-up does not inspire belief. Frame-up, like denial, has always been
viewed with disfavor by the courts as it can be easily fabricated. As we declared in People v. De
Guzman26:
The defense of denial or frame-up, like alibi, has been viewed with disfavor for it can easily be
concocted and is a common defense ploy in most prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous
Drugs Act. For this claim to prosper, the defense must adduce clear and convincing evidence to
overcome the presumption that government officials have performed their duties in a regular and
proper manner. xxx.
Petitioner miserably failed to present clear and convincing evidence to overcome the
presumption that the TFAV Unit members who arrested him, including Genguyon, performed
their duties in a regular and proper manner, and that said TFAV Unit members were instead
impelled by a sinister motive in charging petitioner with the serious offense of illegal possession
of dangerous drugs. As between the positive declaration of the prosecution witness Genguyon
that petitioner was caught in possession of a prohibited drug and petitioner's self-serving and
unsubstantiated claim of frame-up by the TFAV Unit, the former deserves more weight and
credence, just as the trial and appellate courts found.

Petitioner waived any objection to his warrantless arrest; in any case, petitioner was legally
arrested without a warrant

Petitioner also assails his conviction on the ground that his arrest without a warrant did not fall
among any of the exceptional circumstances enumerated in Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised
Rules of Court, so that the evidence obtained by the TFAV Unit during his unlawful arrest was
inadmissible in evidence.
We disagree. Applicable herein are our pronouncements in People v. Alunday27 that:
The Court has consistently ruled that any objection involving a warrant of arrest or the procedure
for the acquisition by the court of jurisdiction over the person of the accused must be made
before he enters his plea; otherwise, the objection is deemed waived. We have also ruled that an
accused may be estopped from assailing the illegality of his arrest if he fails to move for the
quashing of the information against him before his arraignment. And since the legality of an
arrest affects only the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the accused, any defect in the
arrest of the accused may be deemed cured when he voluntarily submits to the jurisdiction of the
trial court. We have also held in a number of cases that the illegal arrest of an accused is not a
sufficient cause for setting aside a valid judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint after a
trial free from error; such arrest does not negate the validity of the conviction of the accused.
In this case, petitioner failed to raise any objection as to his warrantless arrest before he entered
his plea of "not guilty." Petitioner likewise did not move to quash the information against him
prior to his arraignment. Petitioner then actively participated in the trial of his case before the
RTC. Therefore, petitioner is deemed to have voluntarily submitted himself to the jurisdiction of
the RTC and waived any objection to the jurisdiction of the RTC based on a defect in his arrest,
and he is estopped from raising such an objection to have the judgment of conviction rendered
by the RTC reversed and set aside.

Yet, even if we consider petitioner's objection to the legality of his arrest, we find the same
unpersuasive.

Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Court enumerates the exceptional circumstances
when a warrantless arrest may be legally made:
SEC. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. - A peace officer or a private person may, without a
warrant, arrest a person:
(a)
When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is
attempting to commit an offense[.]
In in flagrante delicto arrests, the concurrence of two elements is necessary, to wit: (1) the
person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually
committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or
within the view of the arresting officer.28 Petitioner's overt act of holding/possessing the plastic
sachet with white crystalline substance in the presence and within the view of Genguyon, a TFAV
Unit member and prosecution witness, satisfied both elements. By having a plastic sachet
of shabu in his possession, petitioner was definitely committing an offense punishable under
Republic Act No. 9165, which justified his warrantless arrest. This should negate any insinuation
that petitioner was arrested simply because of his past criminal record or because he fled upon
seeing the TFAV Unit.

The instant case is closely similar to the factual milieu in Palo v. People29 where a police officer
testified that he arrested therein petitioner Roberto Palo (Palo) who was holding a plastic sachet,
which the police officer believed to be containing shabu:
PO3 Capangyarihan, a member of the Valenzuela City Police, testified that at around 6:30 in the
evening of July 24, 2002, he was walking along a dark alley at Mercado Street, Gen. T. De Leon in
Valenzuela City. With him at that time was a boy who was a victim of a stabbing incident and
right behind them, was PO1 Santos. While they were walking toward the petitioner's direction, at
a distance of about five to seven meters, PO3 Capangyarihan saw [Palo] and Daguman talking to
each other. PO3 Capangyarihan also noticed [Palo] holding a plastic sachet in his hand who was
then showing it to Daguman. Believing that the plastic sachet contained shabu, from the manner
by which [Palo] was holding the sachet, PO3 Capangyarihan immediately approached [Palo],
held and recovered from his hand the said plastic sachet. Right there and then, [Palo] was
arrested by PO3 Capangyarihan. Daguman was also arrested by PO1 Santos.

PO3 Capangyarihan further testified that [Palo] and Daguman were informed of their
constitutional rights and that the two accused, together with the item seized, were brought to
the police station where the confiscated item was marked by PO3 Capangyarihan with [Palo's]
initials "RPD." During his cross-examination, PO3 Capangyarihan disclosed that there is a
rampant selling of shabu at the place where the two accused were apprehended and that his
suspicion was aroused by [Palo's] delicate way of handling the plastic sachet.
In the Palo case, the Court affirmed the judgments of the trial and appellate courts finding Palo's
warrantless arrest lawful as he was caught in flagrante delicto and convicting Palo for possession
of dangerous drugs, and ratiocinated as follows:
To secure a conviction for illegal possession of a dangerous drug, the concurrence of the
following elements must be established by the prosecution: (1) the accused is in possession of
an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug; (2) such possession is
not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug.

The Court finds that these elements were proven by the prosecution in the present case. PO3
Capangyarihan testified in a clear and straightforward manner that when he chanced upon
[Palo], the latter was caught red-handed in the illegal possession of shabu and was arrested in
flagrante delicto. On direct examination, the police officer positively identified [Palo] as the
person holding, scrutinizing and from whom the plastic sachet was confiscated. After conducting
a chemical analysis, the forensic chemical officer certified that the plastic sachet recovered from
[Palo] was found to contain 0.03 gram of shabu. Nowhere in the records was it shown that
[Palo] is lawfully authorized to possess the dangerous drug. Furthermore, Daguman admitted
that [Palo] intentionally sought and succeeded in getting hold of shabu. Clearly, [Palo]
knowingly possessed the dangerous drug, without any legal authority to do so, in violation of
Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165.

The Court concurs with the trial court in attributing full faith and credence to the testimony of
PO3 Capangyarihan. His detailed narration in court remained consistent with the documentary
and object evidence submitted by the prosecution. As there is nothing in the record to indicate
that PO3 Capangyarihan was impelled by improper motive when he testified against [Palo], the
Court upholds the presumption of regularity in the apprehending officer's performance of official
duty.30
The case of Esquillo v. People31 is likewise analogous to the instant case. In Esquillo, the Court
upheld the following actions of the police officer, despite the absence of a warrant: (a)
approaching therein petitioner Susan Esquillo (Esquillo) after observing from three meters
away that Esquillo placed a plastic sachet with white substance inside a cigarette case; (b)
inquiring from Esquillo about said plastic sachet; (c) restraining Esquillo who attempted to flee;
(d) requesting Esquillo to take out the plastic sachet from the cigarette case; (e) confiscating the
plastic sachet from Esquillo; and (f) arresting Esquillo. The Court held in the Esquillo case:
On the basis of an informant's tip, PO1 Cruzin, together with PO2 Angel Aguas (PO2 Aguas),
proceeded at around 4:00 p.m. on December 10, 2002 to Bayanihan St., Malibay, Pasay City to
conduct surveillance on the activities of an alleged notorious snatcher operating in the area
known only as "Ryan."

As PO1 Cruzin alighted from the private vehicle that brought him and PO2 Aguas to the target
area, he glanced in the direction of [Esquillo] who was standing three meters away and seen
placing inside a yellow cigarette case what appeared to be a small heat-sealed transparent
plastic sachet containing white substance. While PO1 [Cruzin] was not sure what the plastic
sachet contained, he became suspicious when [Esquillo] started acting strangely as he began to
approach her. He then introduced himself as a police officer to [Esquillo] and inquired about the
plastic sachet she was placing inside her cigarette case. Instead of replying, however, [Esquillo]
attempted to flee to her house nearby but was timely restrained by PO1 Cruzin who then
requested her to take out the transparent plastic sachet from the cigarette case.

After apprising [Esquillo] of her constitutional rights, PO1 Cruzin confiscated the plastic sachet
on which he marked her initials "SRE." With the seized item, [Esquillo] was brought for
investigation to a Pasay City Police Station where P/Insp. Aquilino E. Almanza, Chief of the Drug
Enforcement Unit, prepared a memorandum dated December 10, 2002 addressed to the Chief
Forensic Chemist of the NBI in Manila requesting for: 1) a laboratory examination of the
substance contained in the plastic sachet to determine the presence of shabu, and 2) the conduct
of a drug test on the person of [Esquillo]. PO1 Cruzin and PO2 Aguas soon executed a Joint
Affidavit of Apprehension recounting the details of their intended surveillance and the
circumstances leading to [Esquillo's] arrest.

xxxx

[Esquillo's] conviction stands.


[Esquillo] did not question early on her warrantless arrest - before her arraignment. Neither did
she take steps to quash the Information on such ground. Verily, she raised the issue of
warrantless arrest - as well as the inadmissibility of evidence acquired on the occasion thereof -
for the first time only on appeal before the appellate court. By such omissions, she is deemed to
have waived any objections on the legality of her arrest.

Be that as it may, the circumstances under which [Esquillo] was arrested indeed engender the
belief that a search on her was warranted. Recall that the police officers were on a surveillance
operation as part of their law enforcement efforts. When PO1 Cruzin saw [Esquillo] placing a
plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance into her cigarette case, it was in his plain
view. Given his training as a law enforcement officer, it was instinctive on his part to be drawn to
curiosity and to approach her. That [Esquillo] reacted by attempting to flee after he introduced
himself as a police officer and inquired about the contents of the plastic sachet all the more
pricked his curiosity.

That a search may be conducted by law enforcers only on the strength of a valid search warrant
is settled. The same, however, admits of exceptions, viz.:
(1) consented searches; (2) as an incident to a lawful arrest; (3) searches of vessels and aircraft
for violation of immigration, customs, and drug laws; (4) searches of moving vehicles; (5)
searches of automobiles at borders or constructive borders; (6) where the prohibited articles are
in "plain view;" (7) searches of buildings and premises to enforce fire, sanitary, and building
regulations; and (8) "stop and frisk" operations. xxx.
In the instances where a warrant is not necessary to effect a valid search or seizure, the
determination of what constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable search or seizure is purely a
judicial question, taking into account, among other things, the uniqueness of the circumstances
involved including the purpose of the search or seizure, the presence or absence of probable
cause, the manner in which the search and seizure was made, the place or thing searched, and
the character of the articles procured.32(Emphases supplied.)
Ultimately, the Court adjudged that the Esquillo case involved a valid stop-and-frisk operationas
the police officer had to require the accused to take out the plastic sachet from the cigarette
case. In contrast, there was no need to stop-and-frisk petitioner in this case because the plastic
sachet with suspected shabu remained in Genguyon's plain view from the time Genguyon saw
petitioner holding it, to the time petitioner tried to dispose of it, and up to the time he seized it
from petitioner. Nevertheless, just as in Esquillo, Genguyon herein had a genuine reason to
believe that petitioner was committing a crime as he saw petitioner holding the plastic sachet
with suspected shabu from a distance of three meters. And, as pronounced in Esquillo, the
unique circumstances of each case must be taken into account in determining whether or not a
warrantless search or seizure is reasonable. Here, we see no reason to doubt the testimony of
the prosecution witness that petitioner was seen holding a plastic sachet containing white
crystalline substance or suspected shabu. Petitioner ran away, was about to board a tricycle, and
throw away the sachet. The urgency of the situation called for Genguyon and the rest of the TFAV
Unit to act immediately. Thus, even without a warrant, the TFAV Unit was authorized to arrest
petitioner who was at that time violating Article II, Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165.

Penalty modified in accordance with Republic Act No. 9165

Finally, the RTC, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, imposed on petitioner the penalty of six (6)
years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to twelve (12) years and one (1) day
of reclusion temporal as maximum. We modify the penalty imposed upon petitioner to conform to
Article II, Section 11(3) of Republic Act No. 9165. Petitioner, found guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of illegally possessing 0.03 gram of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu (less than
five [5] grams), is sentenced to suffer imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day, as
minimum, to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months, as maximum.33

We sustain the fine imposed on petitioner by the trial and appellate courts in the amount of
Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00).

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition for Review is DENIED. The Decision dated
May 26, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR. No. 30826, affirming the Decision dated July
16, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City, Branch 209, in Criminal Case No. MC02-
6030-D, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that petitioner Rolando Dacanay y Lacaste is
sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of twelve (12) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to
fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 221991, August 30, 2017

JOSELITO PERALTA Y ZARENO, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 filed by petitioner Joselito Peralta y Zareno (Peralta)
assailing the Decision2 dated May 29, 2015 and the Resolution3 dated December 8, 2015 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 35193, which affirmed the Decision4 dated July 31, 2012 of the Regional
Trial Court of Dagupan City, Branch 44 (RTC) in Crim. Case No. 2008-0659-D finding him guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition under Section 1 of Presidential Decree
No. (PD) 1866,5 as amended by Republic Act No. (RA)8294.6

The Facts

The instant case arose from an Information7 dated November 20, 2008 charging Peralta of illegal possession
of firearms and ammunition, defined and penalized under PD 1866, as amended, the accusatory portion of
which reads: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

That on or about the 18th day of November, 2008, in the City of Dagupan, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, JOSELITO PERALTA y Zareno, did then and
there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally, have in his possession, custody, and control one (1) cal. 45 with
Serial No. 4517488 with magazine with five (5) live ammunitions, without authority to possess the same.

Contrary to PD 1866, as amended by RA 8294.8


The prosecution alleged that at around 11 o'clock in the evening of November 18, 2008, a team consisting of
Police Officer 3 Christian A. Carvajal (PO3 Carvajal), one Police Officer Lavarias, Police Officer 2 Bernard
Arzadon (PO2 Arzadon), and Police Officer 3 Lucas Salonga (PO3 Salonga) responded to a telephone call
received by their desk officer-on-duty that there was a man firing a gun at the back of the PLDT Building in
Pantal District, Dagupan City.9 Upon arrival thereat, the police officers saw two (2) men walking, later
identified as Peralta and his companion, Larry Calimlim (Calimlim), holding a gun and a knife
respectively.10 Upon seeing the police officers, the men became uneasy, which prompted the police officers
to swoop in. Upon apprehension, they recovered a caliber .45 pistol with Serial Number 4517488 containing
a magazine with five (5) live ammunitions from Peralta and a knife from Calimlim.11The men were then
brought to the Region I Medical Center in Dagupan City, and later, to the community precinct for paraffin
and gun powder residue test. Meanwhile, the pistol and the magazine with live ammunitions were endorsed
to the duty investigator.12

In his defense, Peralta denied the accusation against him and presented a different narration of facts.
According to him, he was riding a motorcycle with Calimlim when they were flagged down by the police
officers. While admitting that the latter recovered a knife from Calimlim, Peralta vigorously denied having a
firearm with him, much less illegally discharging the same.13 He pointed out that it was impossible for him to
carry a gun at the time and place of arrest since they were near the barangay hall and the respective
residences of Police Officer Salonga and mediaman Orly Navarro.14 Further, Peralta averred that upon arrival
at the police station, he was forced to admit possession of the gun allegedly recovered from him, and that
they were subjected to a paraffin test but were not furnished with copies of the results thereof.15 Finally,
Peralta claimed that he and Calimlim were merely framed up, after his brother who operated a "hataw"
machine went bankrupt and stopped giving "payola" to the police officials.16

The RTC Ruling


In a Decision17 dated July 31, 2012, the RTC found Peralta guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
charged, and accordingly, sentenced him to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for a period of six (6) years
and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to eight (8) years of prision mayor, as maximum, and to pay
a fine of P30,000.00.18

The RTC found that the prosecution had established the existence of the elements of the crime charged,
considering that PO3 Carvajal positively identified him walking at the Pantal District, Dagupan City carrying
a firearm and that he had no license to carry the same, as per the Certification19 issued by the Firearms and
Explosives Office in Camp Crame, Quezon City.20

Aggrieved, Peralta appealed21 to the CA.

The CA Ruling

In a Decision22 dated May 29, 2015, the CA affirmed Peralta's conviction in toto.23 It concurred with the
RTC's finding that the prosecution had established all the elements of the crime charged, namely, the
existence of firearm and ammunitions, and the lack of the corresponding license/s by the person possessing
or owning the same. In this relation, the CA held that the police officers conducted a valid warrantless arrest
on Peralta under the plain view doctrine, considering that the latter was walking at the Pantal District
carrying a firearm in full view of the arresting policemen, who arrived at the scene in response to a call they
received at the police station.24

Further, for lack of substantiation, it did not lend any credence to Peralta's claim that he was only set up by
the police officers as revenge for his brother's failure to give "payola" to the police officials in connection
with his operation of the "hataw" machine.25 Finally, the CA ruled that the results of the paraffin test were
immaterial to Peralta's conviction of the crime charged since what is being punished by the law is the
possession of a firearm and ammunitions without any license or permit to carry the same.26

Undaunted, Peralta moved for reconsideration,27 which was, however, denied in a Resolution28dated
December 8, 2015; hence, this petition.

The Issue Before the Court

The sole issue for the Court's Resolution is whether or not the CA correctly upheld Peralta's conviction for
Illegal Possession of Firearm and Ammunition.

The Court's Ruling

The petition is without merit.

At the outset, the Court reiterates that Peralta was charged with illegal possession of firearms and
ammunition for carrying a .45 caliber pistol with a magazine containing five (5) live ammunitions, a crime
defined and penalized under Section 1 of PD 1866, as amended by RA 8294, pertinent portions of which
read:chanRob lesvi rtual Lawli bra ry

Section 1. Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Firearms or Ammunition or


Instruments Used or Intended to be Used in the Manufacture of Firearms or Ammunition. - The penalty of
xxx shall be imposed upon any person who shall unlawfully manufacture, deal in, acquire, dispose, or
possess any xxx firearm, xxx part of firearm, ammunition, or machinery, tool or instrument used or
intended to be used in the manufacture of any firearm or ammunition xxx.

The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period and a fine of Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000) shall be
imposed if the firearm is classified as high powered firearm which includes those with bores bigger in
diameter than .38 caliber and 9 millimeter such as caliber .40, .41, .44, .45 and also lesser calibered
firearms but considered powerful such as caliber .357 and caliber .22 center-fire magnum and other firearms
with firing capability of full automatic and by burst of two or three: Provided, however, That no other crime
was committed by the person arrested.

xxxx
The corpus delicti in the crime of illegal possession of firearms is the accused's lack of license or permit to
possess or carry the firearm, as possession itself is not prohibited by law. To establish the corpus delicti, the
prosecution has the burden of proving that: (a) the firearm exists; and (b) the accused who owned or
possessed it does not have the corresponding license or permit to possess or carry the same.29

In this case, the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt the existence of the aforesaid elements,
considering that: (a) the police officers positively identified Peralta as the one holding a .45 caliber pistol
with Serial Number 4517488 with magazine and live ammunitions, which was seized from him and later on,
marked, identified, offered, and properly admitted as evidence at the trial; and (b) the Certification30 dated
August 10, 2011 issued by the Firearms and Explosives Office of the Philippine National Police which
declared that Peralta "is not a licensed/registered firearm holder of any kind and calibre, specifically Caliber
.45 Pistol, make (unknown) with Serial Number 4517488 per verification from the records of this office as of
this date."31

That the prosecution failed to present the results of the paraffin test made on Peralta is inconsequential
since it is not indicative of his guilt or innocence of the crime charged. In People v. Gaborne,32 the Court
discussed the probative value of paraffin tests, to wit: chanRoblesvirtual Lawli bra ry

Paraffin tests, in general, have been rendered inconclusive by this Court. Scientific experts concur in the
view that the paraffin test was extremely unreliable for use. It can only establish the presence or absence of
nitrates or nitrites on the hand; however, the test alone cannot determine whether the source of the nitrates
or nitrites was the discharge of a firearm. The presence of nitrates should be taken only as an indication of a
possibility or even of a probability but not of infallibility that a person has fired a gun, since nitrates are also
admittedly found in substances other than gunpowder.33
Thus, the Court finds no reason to deviate from the factual findings of the trial court, as affirmed by the CA,
as there is no indication that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied the surrounding facts and
circumstances of the case. In fact, the trial court was in the best position to assess and determine the
credibility of the witnesses presented by both parties, and hence, due deference should be accorded to the
same.34

In an attempt to absolve himself from criminal liability, Peralta questioned the legality of the warrantless
arrest and subsequent search made on him. According to him, there was no reason for the police officers to
arrest him without a warrant and consequently, conduct a search incidental thereto. As such, the firearm
and ammunitions purportedly recovered from him are rendered inadmissible in evidence against him.35

Such contention is untenable.

Section 2, Article III36 of the 1987 Constitution mandates that a search and seizure must be carried out
through or on the strength of a judicial warrant predicated upon the existence of probable
cause, absent which, such search and seizure becomes "unreasonable" within the meaning of
said constitutional provision. To protect the people from unreasonable searches and seizures, Section 3
(2), Article III37 of the 1987 Constitution provides that evidence obtained from unreasonable searches
and seizures shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding. In other words,
evidence obtained and confiscated on the occasion of such unreasonable searches and seizures are deemed
tainted and should be excluded for being the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree.38

One of the recognized exceptions to the need for a warrant before a search may be effected is a search
incidental to a lawful arrest. In this instance, the law requires that there first be a lawful arrest
before a search can be made - the process cannot be reversed.39

A lawful arrest may be effected with or without a warrant. With respect to the latter, the parameters of
Section 5, Rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure should - as a general rule - be complied
with:chanRob lesvi rtual Lawl ibra ry

Section 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. - A peace officer or a private person may, without a
warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting
to commit an offense;

(b) When an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal
knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place
where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while
being transferred from one confinement to another.
In cases falling under paragraphs (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a warrant shall be
forthwith delivered to the nearest police station or jail and shall be proceeded against in accordance with
Section 7 of Rule 112.
The aforementioned provision identifies three (3) instances when warrantless arrests may be lawfully
effected. These are: (a) an arrest of a suspect in flagrante delicto; (b) an arrest of a suspect where, based
on personal knowledge of the arresting officer, there is probable cause that said suspect was the perpetrator
of a crime which had just been committed; and (c) an arrest of a prisoner who has escaped from custody
serving final judgment or temporarily confined during the pendency of his case or has escaped while being
transferred from one confinement to another.40

In warrantless arrests made pursuant to Section 5 (a), Rule 113, two (2) elements must concur, namely:
(a) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually
committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (b) such overt act is done in the presence or within the
view of the arresting officer. On the other hand, Section 5 (b), Rule 113 requires for its application that at
the time of the arrest, an offense had in fact just been committed and the arresting officer had personal
knowledge of facts indicating that the accused had committed it.41

In both instances, the officer's personal knowledge of the fact of the commission of an offense is
essential. Under Section 5 (a), Rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the officer himself
witnesses the crime; while in Section 5 (b) of the same, he knows for a fact that a crime has just been
committed.42

In this case, records show that upon the police officers' arrival at Pantal District, Dagupan City, they saw
Peralta carrying a pistol, in plain view of everyone. This prompted the police officers to confront Peralta
regarding the pistol, and when the latter was unable to produce a license for such pistol and/or a permit to
carry the same, the former proceeded to arrest him and seize the pistol from him. Clearly, the police officer
conducted a valid in flagrante delicto warrantless arrest on Peralta, thus, making the consequent search
incidental thereto valid as well. At this point, it is well to emphasize that the offense of illegal possession of
firearms is malum prohibitum punished by special law and, in order that one may be found guilty of a
violation of the decree, it is sufficient that the accused had no authority or license to possess a firearm,
and that he intended to possess the same, even if such possession was made in good faith and without
criminal intent.43 In People v. PO2 Abriol,44 the court ruled that the carrying of firearms and ammunition
without the requisite authorization - a clear violation of PD 1866, as amended - is enough basis for the
conduct of a valid in flagrante delicto warrantless arrest.45 Given these, Peralta can no longer question the
validity of his arrest and the admissibility of the items seized from him on account of the search incidental to
such arrest.

As to the proper penalty to be imposed on Peralta, the courts a quo en-ed in sentencing him to suffer the
penalty of imprisonment for a period of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to
eight (8) years of prision mayor, as maximum. As may be gleaned from Section 1 of PD 1866, as amended,
the prescribed penalties for the crime Peralta committed is "prision mayor in its minimum period," or
imprisonment for a period of six (6) years and one (1) day up to eight (8) years, and a fine of P30,000.00.
Notably, while such crime is punishable by a special penal law, the penalty provided therein is taken from
the technical nomenclature in the Revised Penal Code (RPC). In Quimvel v. People,46 the Court succinctly
discussed the proper treatment of prescribed penalties found in special penal laws vis-a-vis Act No.
4103,47 otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, viz.: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib rary

Meanwhile, Sec. 1 of Act No. 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law (ISL), provides
that if the offense is ostensibly punished under a special law, the minimum and maximum prison term of the
indeterminate sentence shall not be beyond what the special law prescribed. Be that as it may, the Court
had clarified in the landmark ruling of People v. Simon that the situation is different where although the
offense is defined in a special law, the penalty therefor is taken from the technical nomenclature in the RPC.
Under such circumstance, the legal effects under the system of penalties native to the Code would also
necessarily apply to the special law.48
Otherwise stated, if the special penal law adopts the nomenclature of the penalties under the RPC, the
ascertainment of the indeterminate sentence will be based on the rules applied for those crimes punishable
under the RPC.49

Applying the foregoing to the instant case, the Court deems it proper to adjust the indeterminate period of
imprisonment imposed on Peralta to four (4) years, nine (9) months, and eleven (11) days of prision
correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years, eight (8) months, and one (1) day of prision mayor, as
maximum.50 Finally, the imposition of fine in the amount of P30,000.00 stands.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated May 29, 2015 and the Resolution dated
December 8, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 35193, which upheld the Decision dated July
31, 2012 of the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City, Branch 44 in Crim. Case No. 2008-0659-D finding
petitioner Joselito Peralta y Zareno (petitioner) GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Illegal Possession of
Firearms and Ammunition, defined and penalized under Section 1, paragraph 2 of PD 1866, as amended by
RA 8294, are hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, sentencing petitioner to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment for an indeterminate period of four (4) years, nine (9) months, and eleven (11) days
of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years, eight (8) months, and one (1) day of prision mayor, as
maximum, and to pay a fine in the amount of P30,000.00.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

June 7, 2017

G.R. No. 200370

MARIO VERIDIANO y SAPI, Petitioner


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

Through this Petition for Review on Certiorari, 1 Mario Veridiano y Sapi (Veridiano) assails the
Decision2 dated November 18, 2011 and Resolution3 dated January 25, 2012 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CR No. 33588, which affirmed his conviction for violation of Article II, Section 11 of
Republic Act No. 9165.4

In an Information filed before the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Laguna,5 Veridiano was
charged with the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. The Information read:

That on or about January 15, 2008, in the Municipality of Nagcarlan, Province of Laguna and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being permitted or authorized
by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, control and
custody one (1) small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing 2. 72 grams of dried
marijuana leaves, a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.6
On October 9, 2008, Veridiano was arraigned. He pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. Trial on
the merits ensued.7

During trial, the prosecution presented PO 1 Guillermo Cabello (PO 1 Cabello) and POI Daniel
Solano (POI Solano) to testify.8

According to the prosecution, at about 7:20 a.m. of January 15, 2008, a concerned citizen called a
certain P03 Esteves, police radio operator of the Nagcarlan Police Station, informing him that a
certain alias "Baho," who was later identified as Veridiano, was on the way to San Pablo City to
obtain illegal drugs.9

P03 Esteves immediately relayed the information to PO I Cabello and P02 Alvin Vergara (P02
Vergara) who were both on duty. 10 Chief of Police June Urquia instructed POI Cabello and P02
Vergara to set up a checkpoint at Barangay Taytay, Nagcarlan, Laguna. 11

The police officers at the checkpoint personally knew Veridiano.

They allowed some vehicles to pass through after checking that he was not on board. 12 At around
10:00 a.m., they chanced upon Veridiano inside a passenger jeepney coming from San Pablo,
Laguna. 13 They flagged down the jeepney and asked the passengers to disembark. 14 The police
officers instructed the passengers to raise their t-shirts to check for possible concealed weapons and
to remove the contents of their pockets.15

The police officers recovered from Veridiano "a tea bag containing what appeared to be
marijuana." 16 POI Cabello confiscated the tea bag and marked it with his initials. 17 Veridiano was
arrested and apprised of his constitutional rights. 18 He was then brought to the police station.19

At the police station, PO 1 Cabello turned over the seized tea bag to PO 1 Solano, who also placed
his initials. 20 PO 1 Solano then made a laboratory examination request, which he personally brought
with the seized tea bag to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory.21 The contents of the tea
bag tested positive for marijuana.22

For his defense, Veridiano testified that he went to the fiesta in San Pablo City on January 15,
2008.23 After participating in the festivities, he decided to go home and took a passenger jeepney
bound for Nagcarlan.24 At around 10:00 a.m., the jeepney passed a police checkpoint in Barangay
Taytay, Nagcarlan.25 Veridiano noticed that the jeepney was being followed by three (3) motorcycles,
each with two (2) passengers in civilian attire.26

When the jeepney reached Barangay Buboy, Nagcarlan, the motorcyclists flagged down the
jeepney.27 Two (2) armed men boarded the jeepney and frisked Veridiano.28 However, they found
nothing on his person.29 Still, Veridiano was accosted and brought to the police station where he was
informed that "illegal drug was ... found in his possession. "30

In the Decision dated July 16, 2010,31 the Regional Trial Court found Veridiano guilty beyond
reasonable doubt for the crime of illegal possession of marijuana. Accordingly, he was sentenced to
suffer a penalty of imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to twenty (20)
years, as maximum, and to pay a fine of ₱300,000.00.32

Veridiano appealed the decision of the trial court asserting that "he was illegally arrested."33 He
argued that the tea bag containing marijuana is "inadmissible in evidence [for] being the 'fruit of a
poisonous tree. "[['34]] Veridiano further argued that the police officers failed to comply with the rule
on chain of custody. 35

On the other hand, the prosecution asserted that "[t]he legality of an arrest affects only the
jurisdiction of the court over [the person of the accused]."36 Thus, by entering his plea, Veridiano
waived his right to question any irregularity in his arrest.37 With regard to the alleged illegal
warrantless search conducted by the police officers, the prosecution argued that Veridiano' s
"submissive deportment at the time of the search" indicated that he consented to the warrantless
search. 38

On November 18, 2011, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision39 affirming the guilt ofVeridiano.40

The Court of Appeals found that "Veridiano was caught in jlagrante delicto" of having marijuana in
his possession.41Assuming that he was illegally arrested, Veridiano waived his right to question any
irregularity that may have attended his arrest when he entered his plea and submitted himself to the
jurisdiction of the court.42 Furthermore, the Court of Appeals held that Veridiano consented to the
warrantless search because he did not protest when the police asked him to remove the contents of
his pocket.43

Veridiano moved for reconsideration, which was denied in the

Resolution dated January 25, 2012.44

On March 16, 2012, Veridiano filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari.45

Petitioner argues that the tea bag containing marijuana leaves was seized in violation of his right
against unreasonable searches and seizures.46 He asserts that his arrest was illegal.47 Petitioner was
merely seated inside the jeepney at the time of his apprehension. He did not act in any manner that
would give the police officers reasonable ground to believe that he had just committed a crime or
that he was committing a crime. 48 Petitioner also asserts that reliable information is insufficient to
constitute probable cause that would support a valid warrantless arrest. 49

Since his arrest was illegal, petitioner argues· that "the accompanying [warrantless] search was
likewise illegal."50Hence, under Article III, Section 2,51 in relation to Article III, Section 3(2)52 of the
Constitution, the seized tea bag containing marijuana is "inadmissible in evidence [for] being the fruit
of a poisonous tree."53

Nevertheless, assuming that the seized tea bag containing marijuana is admissible in evidence,
petitioner contends that the prosecution failed to preserve its integrity.54 The apprehending team did
not strictly comply with the rule on chain of custody under Section 21 of the Implementing Rules and
Regulations of Republic Act No. 9165.55

In a Resolution dated June 13, 2012, this Court required respondent to file a comment on the
petition. 56 In the Manifestation and Motion dated August 1, 2012,57 respondent stated that it would no
longer file a comment.

The following issues are for this Court's resolution:

First, whether there was a valid warrantless arrest;

Second, whether there was a valid warrantless search against petitioner; and
Lastly, whether there is enough evidence to sustain petitioner's conviction for illegal possession of
dangerous drugs.

The Petition is granted.

The invalidity of an arrest leads to several consequences among which are: (a) the failure to acquire
jurisdiction over the person of an accused; (b) criminal liability of law enforcers for illegal arrest; and
(c) any search incident to the arrest becomes invalid thus rendering the evidence acquired as
constitutionally inadmissible.

Lack of jurisdiction over the person of an accused as a result of an invalid arrest must be raised
through a motion to quash before an accused enters his or her plea. Otherwise, the objection is
deemed waived and an accused is "estopped from questioning the legality of his [or her] arrest."58

The voluntary submission of an accused to the jurisdiction of the court and his or her active
participation during trial cures any defect or irregularity that may have attended an arrest. 59 The
reason for this rule is that "the legality of an arrest affects only the jurisdiction of the court over the
person of the accused."60

Nevertheless, failure to timely object to the illegality of an arrest does not preclude an accused from
questioning the admissibility of evidence seized.61 The inadmissibility of the evidence is not affected
when an accused fails to question the court's jurisdiction over his or her person in atimely manner.
Jurisdiction over the person of an accused and the constitutional inadmissibility of evidence are
separate and mutually exclusive consequences of an illegal arrest.

As a component of the right to privacy,62 the fundamental right against unlawful searches and
seizures is guaranteed by no less than the Constitution. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution
provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against
unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and
no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined
personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the
witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or
things to be seized. 63

To underscore the importance of an individual's right against unlawful searches and seizures, Article
III, Section 3(2) of the Constitution considers any evidence obtained in violation of this right as
inadmissible. 64

The Constitutional guarantee does not prohibit all forms of searches and seizures.65 It is only directed
against those that are unreasonable.66 Conversely, reasonable searches and seizures fall outside the
scope of the prohibition and are not forbidden. 67

In People v. Aruta, 68 this Court explained that the language of the Constitution implies that "searches
and seizures are normally unreasonable unless authorized by a validly issued search warrant or
warrant of arrest."69 The requirements of a valid search warrant are laid down in Article III, Section 2
of the Constitution and reiterated in Rule 126, Section 4 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure. 70
However, People v. Cogaed71 clarified that there are exceptional circumstances "when searches are
reasonable even when warrantless."72 The following are recognized instances of permissible
warrantless searches laid down in jurisprudence: (1) a "warrantless search incidental to a lawful
arrest,"73 (2) search of "evidence in 'plain view,"' (3) "search of a moving vehicle," (4) "consented
warrantless search[es]," (5) "customs search," (6) "stop and frisk," and (7) "exigent and emergency
circumstances."74

There is no hard and fast rule in determining when a search and seizure is reasonable. In any given
situation, "[w]hat constitutes a reasonable ... search ... is purely a judicial question," the resolution of
which depends upon the unique and distinct factual circumstances. 75 This may involve an inquiry
into "the purpose of the search or seizure, the presence or absence of probable cause, the manner
in which the search and seizure was made, the place or thing searched, and the character of the
articles procured." 76

II

Pertinent to the resolution of this case is the determination of whether the warrantless search was
incidental to a lawful arrest. The Court of Appeals concluded that petitioner was caught in flagrante
delicto of having marijuana in his possession making the warrantless search lawful. 77

This Court disagrees. Petitioner's warrantless arrest was unlawful.

A search incidental to a lawful arrest requires that there must first be a lawful arrest before a search
is made. Otherwise stated, a lawful arrest must precede the search; "the process cannot be
reversed."78 For there to be a lawful arrest, law enforcers must be armed with a valid warrant.
Nevertheless, an arrest may also be effected without a warrant.

There are three (3) grounds that will justify a warrantless arrest. Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

Section 5. Arrest Without Warrant; When Lawful. -A peace officer or a private person may, without a
warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is
attempting to commit an offense;

(b) When an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on
personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or
place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has
escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.

The first kind of warrantless arrest is known as an in flagrante delicto arrest. The validity of this
warrantless arrest requires compliance with the overt act test79 as explained in Cogaed:

[F]or a warrantless arrest of in flagrante delicto to be affected, "two elements must concur: (1) the
person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he [or she] has just committed, is
actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the
presence or within the view of the arresting officer."80
Failure to comply with the overt act test renders an inflagrante delicto arrest constitutionally infirm.
In Cogaed, the warrantless arrest was invalidated as an in flagrante delicto arrest because the
accused did not exhibit an overt act within the view of the police officers suggesting that he was in
possession of illegal drugs at the time he was apprehended. 81

The warrantless search in People v. Racho82 was also considered unlawful.83 The police officers
received information that a man was in possession of illegal drugs and was on board a Genesis bus
bound for Baler, Aurora. The informant added that the man was "wearing a red and white striped [t]-
shirt."84 The police officers waited for the bus along the national highway.85 When the bus arrived,
Jack Racho (Racho) disembarked and waited along the highway for a tricycle.86 Suddenly, the police
officers approached him and invited him to the police station since he was suspected of having
shabu in his possession.87 As Racho pulled out his hands from his pocket, a white envelope fell
yielding a sachet of shabu.88

In holding that the warrantless search was invalid, this Court observed that Racho was not
"committing a crime in the presence of the police officers" at the time he was
apprehended.89 Moreover, Racho's arrest was solely based on a tip.90 Although there are cases
stating that reliable information is sufficient to justify a warrantless search incidental to a lawful
arrest, they were covered under the other exceptions to the rule on warrantless searches.91

Rule 113, Section 5(b) of the Rules of Court pertains to a hot pursuit arrest.92 The rule requires that
an offense has just been committed. It connotes "immediacy in point of time."93 That a crime was in
fact committed does not automatically bring the case under this rule. 94 An arrest under Rule 113,
Section 5(b) of the Rules of Court entails a time element from the moment the crime is committed up
to the point of arrest.

Law enforcers need not personally witness the commission of a crime. However, they must have
personal knowledge of facts and circumstances indicating that the person sought to be arrested
committed it.

People v. Gerente95 illustrates a valid arrest under Rule 113, Section 5(b) of the Rules of Court.
In Gerente, the accused was convicted for murder and for violation of Republic Act No. 6425.96 He
assailed the admissibility of dried marijuana leaves as evidence on the ground that they were
allegedly seized from him pursuant to a warrantless arrest.97 On appeal, the accused's conviction
was affirmed.98 This Court ruled that the warrantless arrest was justified under Rule 113, Section 5(b)
of the Rules of Court. The police officers had personal knowledge of facts and circumstances
indicating that the accused killed the victim:

The policemen arrested Gerente only some three (3) hours after Gerente and his companions had
killed Blace. They saw Blace dead in the hospital and when they inspected the scene of the crime,
they found the instruments of death: a piece of wood and a concrete hollow block which the killers
had used to bludgeon him to death. The eye-witness, Edna Edwina Reyes, reported the happening
to the policemen and pinpointed her neighbor, Gerente, as one of the killers. Under those
circumstances, since the policemen had personal knowledge of the violent death of Blace and of
facts indicating that Gerente and two others had killed him, they could lawfully arrest Gerente without
a warrant. If they had postponed his arrest until they could obtain a warrant, he would have fled the
law as his two companions did.99 (Emphasis supplied)

The requirement that law enforcers must have personal knowledge of facts surrounding the
commission of an offense was underscored in In Re Saliba v. Warden. 100
In Re Saliba involved a petition for habeas corpus. The police officers suspected Datukan Salibo
(Salibo) as one (1) of the accused in the Maguindano Massacre. 101 Salibo presented himself before
the authorities to clear his name. Despite his explanation, Salibo was apprehended and
detained. 102 In granting the petition, this Court pointed out that Salibo was not restrained under a
lawful court process or order. 103 Furthermore, he was not arrested pursuant to a valid warrantless
arrest: 104

It is undisputed that petitioner Salibo presented himself before the Datu Hofer Police Station to clear
his name and to prove that he is not the accused Butukan S. Malang. When petitioner Salibo was in
the presence of the police officers of Datu Hofer Police Station, he was neither committing nor
attempting to commit an offense. The police officers had no personal knowledge of any offense that
he might have committed. Petitioner Salibo was also not an escapee prisoner. 105 (Emphasis
supplied)

In this case, petitioner's arrest could not be justified as an inflagrante delicta arrest under Rule 113,
Section 5(a) of the Rules of Court. He was not committing a crime at the checkpoint. Petitioner was
merely a passenger who did not exhibit any unusual conduct in the presence of the law enforcers
that would incite suspicion. In effecting the warrantless arrest, the police officers relied solely on the
tip they received. Reliable information alone is insufficient to support a warrantless arrest absent any
overt act from the person to be arrested indicating that a crime has just been committed, was being
committed, or is about to be committed.10

The warrantless arrest cannot likewise be justified under Rule 113, Section 5(b) of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure. The law enforcers had no personal knowledge of any fact or
circumstance indicating that petitioner had just committed an offense.

A hearsay tip by itself does not justify a warrantless arrest. Law enforcers must have personal
knowledge of facts, based on their observation, that the person sought to be arrested has just
committed a crime. This is what gives rise to probable cause that would justify a warrantless search
under Rule 113, Section 5(b) of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

III

The warrantless search cannot be justified under the reasonable suspicion requirement in "stop and
frisk" searches.

A "stop and frisk" search is defined in People v. Chua 107 as "the act of a police officer to stop a
citizen on the street, interrogate him, and pat him for weapon(s) or contraband." 108 Thus, the
allowable scope of a "stop and frisk" search is limited to a "protective search of outer clothing for
weapons."109

Although a "stop and frisk" search is a necessary law enforcement measure specifically directed
towards crime prevention, there is a need to safeguard the right of individuals against unreasonable
searches and seizures. 110

Law enforcers do not have unbridled discretion in conducting "stop and frisk" searches. While
probable cause is not required, a "stop and frisk" search cannot be validated on the basis of a
suspicion or hunch. 111 Law enforcers must have a genuine reason to believe, based on their
experience and the particular circumstances of each case, that criminal activity may be
afoot. 112 Reliance on one (1) suspicious activity alone, or none at all, cannot produce a reasonable
search. 113
In Manalili v. Court of Appeals, 114 the police officers conducted surveillance operations in Caloocan
City Cemetery, a place reportedly frequented by drug addicts.115 They chanced upon a male person
who had "reddish eyes and [was] walking in a swaying manner."116 Suspecting that the man was high
on drugs, the police officers approached him, introduced themselves, and asked him what he was
holding.117 However, the man resisted. 118 Upon further investigation, the police officers found
marijuana in the man's possession. 119 This Court held that the circumstances of the case gave the
police officers justifiable reason to stop the man and investigate if he was high on drugs. 120

In People v. Solayao, 121 the police officers were conducting an intelligence patrol to verify reports on
the presence of armed persons within Caibiran.122 They met a group of drunk men, one (1) of whom
was the accused in a camouflage uniform. 123 When the police officers approached, his companions
fled leaving behind the accused who was told not to run away. 124 One (1) of the police officers
introduced himself and seized from the accused a firearm wrapped in dry coconut leaves. 125 This
Court likewise found justifiable reason to stop and frisk the accused when "his companions fled upon
seeing the government agents." 126

The "stop and frisk" searches in these two (2) cases were considered valid because the accused in
both cases exhibited overt acts that gave law enforcers genuine reason to conduct a "stop and frisk"
search. In contrast with Manalili and Solayao, the warrantless search in Cogaed127 was considered as
an invalid "stop and frisk" search because of the absence of a single suspicious circumstance that
would justify a warrantless search.

In Cogaed, the police officers received information that a certain Marvin Buya would be transporting
marijuana. 128 A passenger jeepney passed through the checkpoint set up by the police officers. The
driver then disembarked and signaled that two (2) male passengers were carrying marijuana. 129 The
police officers approached the two (2) men, who were later identified as Victor Cogaed (Cogaed)
and Santiago Dayao, and inquired about the contents of their bags. 130

Upon further investigation, the police officers discovered three (3) bricks of marijuana in Cogaed's
bag. 131 In holding that the "stop and frisk" search was invalid, this Court reasoned that "[t]here was
not a single suspicious circumstance" that gave the police officers genuine reason to stop the two (2)
men and search their belongings. 132Cogaed did not exhibit any overt act indicating that he was in
possession of marijuana. 133

Similar to Cogaed, petitioner in this case was a mere passenger in a jeepney who did not exhibit any
act that would give police officers reasonable suspicion to believe that he had drugs in his
possession. Reasonable persons will act in a nervous manner in any check point. There was no
evidence to show that the police had basis or personal knowledge that would reasonably allow them
to infer anything suspicious.

IV

Moreover, petitioner's silence or lack of resistance can hardly be considered as consent to the
warrantless search. Although the right against unreasonable searches and seizures may be
surrendered through a valid waiver, the prosecution must prove that the waiver was executed with
clear and convincing evidence. 134 Consent to a warrantless search and seizure must be
"unequivocal, specific, intelligently given ... [and unattended] by duress or coercion."135

The validity of a consented warrantless search is determined by the totality of the


circumstances. 136 This may involve an inquiry into the environment in which the consent was given
such as "the presence of coercive police procedures."137
Mere passive conformity or silence to the warrantless search is only an implied acquiescence, which
amounts to no consent at all. 138 In Cogaed, this Court observed:

Cogaed's silence or lack of aggressive objection was a natural reaction to a coercive environment
brought about by the police officer's excessive intrusion into his private space. The prosecution and
the police carry the burden of showing that the waiver of a constitutional right is one which is
knowing, intelligent, and free from any coercion. In all cases, such waivers are not to be presumed.139

The presence of a coercive environment negates the claim that petitioner consented to the
warrantless search.

Another instance of a valid warrantless search is a search of a moving vehicle. The rules governing
searches and seizures have been liberalized when the object of a search is a vehicle for practical
purposes.140 Police officers cannot be expected to appear before a judge and apply for a search
warrant when time is of the essence considering the efficiency of vehicles in facilitating transactions
involving contraband or dangerous articles. 141However, the inherent mobility of vehicles cannot
justify all kinds of searches.142 Law enforcers must act on the basis of probable cause. 143

A checkpoint search is a variant of a search of a moving vehicle. 144 Due to the number of cases
involving warrantless ·searches in checkpoints and for the guidance of law enforcers, it is imperative
to discuss the parameters by which searches in checkpoints should be conducted.

Checkpoints per se are not invalid. 145 They are allowed in exceptional circumstances to protect the
lives of individuals and ensure their safety. 146 They are also sanctioned in cases where the
government's survival is in danger. 147 Considering that routine checkpoints intrude "on [a]
motorist'sright to 'free passage'"148 to a certain extent, they must be "conducted in a way least
intrusive to motorists." 149 The extent of routine inspections must be limited to a visual search.
Routine inspections do not give law enforcers carte blanche to perform warrantless searches. 150

In Valmonte v. De Villa, 151 this Court clarified that "[f]or as long as the vehicle is neither searched nor
its occupants subjected to a body search, and the inspection of the vehicle is limited to a visual
search, said routine checks cannot be regarded as violative of an individual's right against
unreasonable search[es]."152 Thus, a search where an "officer merely draws aside the curtain of a
vacant vehicle which is parked on the public fair grounds, or simply looks into a vehicle, or flashes a
light therein" is not unreasonable. 153

However, an extensive search may be conducted on a vehicle at a checkpoint when law enforcers
have probable cause to believe that the vehicle's passengers committed a crime or when the vehicle
contains instruments of an offense. 154

Thus, routinary and indiscriminate searches of moving vehicles are allowed if they are limited to a
visual search. This holds especially true when the object of the search is a public vehicle where
individuals have a reasonably reduced expectation of privacy. On the other hand, extensive
searches are permissible only when they are founded upon probable cause. Any evidence obtained
will be subject to the exclusionary principle under the Constitution.

That the object of a warrantless search is allegedly inside a moving vehicle does not justify an
extensive search absent probable cause. Moreover, law enforcers cannot act solely on the basis of
confidential or tipped information. A tip is still hearsay no matter how reliable it may be. It is not
sufficient to constitute probable cause in the absence of any other circumstance that will arouse
suspicion.

Although this Court has upheld warrantless searches of moving vehicles based on tipped
information, there have been other circumstances that justified warrantless searches conducted by
the authorities.

In People v. Breis,155 apart from the tipped information they received, the law enforcement agents
observed suspicious behavior on the part of the accused that gave them reasonable ground to
believe that a crime was being committed.156 The accused attempted to alight from the bus after the
law enforcers introduced themselves and inquired about the ownership of a box which the accused
had in their possession. 157 In their attempt to leave the bus, one (1) of the accused physically pushed
a law enforcer out of the way. 158 Immediately alighting from a bus that had just left the terminal and
leaving one's belongings behind is unusual conduct.159

In People v. Mariacos, 160 a police officer received information that a bag containing illegal drugs was
about to be transported on a passenger jeepney. 161 The bag was marked with "O.K."162 On the basis
of the tip, a police officer conducted surveillance operations on board a jeepney.163 Upon seeing the
bag described to him, he peeked inside and smelled the distinct odor of marijuana emanating from
the bag. 164 The tipped information and the police officer's personal observations gave rise to
probable cause that rendered the warrantless search valid. 165

The police officers in People v. Ayangao166 and People v. Libnao167 likewise received tipped
information regarding the transport of illegal drugs. In Libnao, the police officers had probable cause
to arrest the accused based on their three (3)-month long surveillance operation in the area where
the accused was arrested. 168 On the other hand, in Ayangao, the police officers noticed marijuana
leaves protruding through a hole in one (1) of the sacks carried by the accused. 169

In the present case, the extensive search conducted by the police officers exceeded the allowable
limits of warrantless searches. They had no probable cause to believe that the accused violated any
1âwphi1

law except for the tip they received. They did not observe any peculiar activity from the accused that
may either arouse their suspicion or verify the tip. Moreover, the search was flawed at its inception.
The checkpoint was set up to target the arrest of the accused.

There are different hybrids of reasonable warrantless searches. There are searches based on
reasonable suspicion as in Posadas v. Court of Appeals 170 where this Court justified the warrantless
search of the accused who attempted to flee with a buri bag after the police officers identified
themselves. 171

On the other hand, there are reasonable searches because of heightened security. In Dela Cruz v.
People, 172 the search conducted on the accused was considered valid because it was done in
accordance with routine security measures in ports. 173 This case, however, should not be construed
to apply to border searches. Border searches are not unreasonable per se; 174 there is a "reasonable
reduced expectation of privacy" when travellers pass through or stop at airports or other ports of
travel. 175

The warrantless search conducted by the police officers is invalid. Consequently, the tea bag
containing marijuana seized from petitioner is rendered inadmissible under the exclusionary principle
in Article III, Section 3(2) of the Constitution. There being no evidence to support his conviction,
petitioner must be acquitted.
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated July 16, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court in Criminal Case No.
16976-SP and the Decision dated November 18, 2011 and Resolution dated January 25, 2012 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR. No. 33588 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Mario
Veridiano y Sapi is hereby ACQUITTED and is ordered immediately RELEASED from confinement
unless he is being held for some other lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

November 7, 2017

G.R. No. 224162

JANET LIM NAPOLES, Petitioner


vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN (THIRD DIVISION), Respondent

DECISION

REYES, JR., J.:

Before this Court is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, which sought to
nullify and set aside the Resolutions dated October 16, 20151 and March 2, 20162 of the
Sandiganbayan in SB-14-CRM-0238. These Resolutions denied Janet Lim Napoles' (Napoles)
application for bail because the evidence of her guilt for the crime of Plunder is strong.

Factual Antecedents

On September 16, 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman received the report of the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI), regarding its investigation on several persons, including Napoles, former Senator
Juan Ponce Enrile (Enrile) and his former Chief of Staff, Atty. Jessica Lucila Reyes (Reyes). In its
report, the NBI recommended to prosecute Napoles, former Senator Enrile, Reyes, and several
other named individuals for the crime of Plunder, defined and penalized under Section 2 of Republic
Act (RA) No. 7080, as amended, for essentially misappropriating former Senator Enrile's Priority
Development Assistant Fund (PDAF) through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were
selected without the required bidding procedure.3 This case was docketed as OMB-C-C-13-0318.4

Soon after, or on November 18, 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman received a Complaint from its
Field Investigation Office (FIO), criminally charging former Senator Enrile, Reyes, Napoles, and fifty-
two (52) other individuals with violations of RA No. 7080 and Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019.5 Said
complaint was docketed as OMB-C-C-13-0396.6
In a Joint Resolution dated March 28, 2014, the Ombudsman Special Panel of Investigators found
probable cause to indict Napoles, among others, with one (1) count of Plunder and fifteen (15)
counts of violating Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019. They likewise recommended to immediately file the
necessary Informations against all the named accused.7

Some of the named accused, including Napoles, filed their respective motions for reconsideration.
The Special Panel of Investigators denied these motions in its Joint Order dated June 4, 2014, but
dropped Ruby Chan Tuason as a respondent, in light of her admission as a State witness and her
corresponding immunity from criminal prosecution.8

Thus, in an Information dated June 5, 2014, Napoles, together with former Senator Enrile, Reyes,
Ronald John Lim and John Raymund De Asis, were charged with Plunder in Criminal Case No. SB-
14-CRM-0238 filed with the Sandiganbayan.9 The pertinent portions of the Information state:

In 2004 to 2010, or thereabout (sic), in the Philippines, and within this Honorable Court's jurisdiction,
above-named accused JUAN PONCE ENRILE, then a Philippine Senator, JESSICA LUCILA G.
REYES, then Chief of Staff of Senator Emile's Office, both public officers, committing the offense in
relation to their respective offices, conspiring with one another and with JANET LIM NAPOLES,
RONALD JOHN LIM, and JOHN RAYMUND DE ASIS, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and
criminally amass, accumulate, and/or acquire ill-gotten wealth amounting to at least ONE HUNDRED
SEVENTY TWO MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS
(Php 172,834,500.00) through a combination or series of overt criminal acts, as follows:

a) by repeatedly receiving from NAPOLES and/or representatives LIM, DE ASIS, and others,
kickbacks or commissions under the following circumstances: before, during and/or after the project
identification, NAPOLES gave, and ENRILE and/or REYES received, a percentage of the cost of a
project to be funded from ENRILE's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), in consideration
of ENRILE's endorsement, directly or through REYES, to the appropriate government agencies, of
NAPOLES' non-government organizations which became the recipients and/or target
implementors (sic) of ENRILE's PDAF projects, which duly-funded projects turned out to be ghosts
or fictitious, thus enabling NAPOLES to misappropriate the PDAF proceeds for her personal gain;

b) by taking undue advantage, on several occasions, of their official positions, authority,


relationships, connections, and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the
damage and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.

CONTRARY TO LAW.10 (Emphasis Ours)

On July 7, 2014, Napoles filed her Petition for Bail, arguing that the evidence of the prosecution is
insufficient to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt. She particularly assailed the credibility of the
State witnesses (otherwise referred to as whistle blowers) as these are allegedly mere hearsay,
tainted with bias, and baseless. Citing the res inter alias acta rule, Napoles submitted that the
testimonies of these whistleblowers are inadmissible against her.11

In view of Napoles' application for bail, the Sandiganbayan conducted bail hearings. The prosecution
presented the following witnesses: (a) Carmencita N. Delantar, then Director in the Department of
Budget and Management (DBM); (b) Susan P. Garcia, an Assistant Commissioner in the
Commission on Audit (COA), and the former Director of the Special Audit Office; (c) Ryan P.
Medrano, the Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer from the PIO, Office of the Ombudsman;
(d) Marina Cortez Sula, former employee of Napoles; (e) Mary Arlene Joyce Baltazar, former
bookkeeper for JLN Corporation; (t) Merlina P. Sufias, fonner employee of Napoles; (g) Benhur K.
Luy, former finance officer of Napoles; and (h) Ruby Chan Tuason, fonner Social Secretary of former
President Joseph E. Estrada.12

The prosecution likewise presented the following supposed beneficiaries of former Senator Enrile's
PDAF projects, all of whom identified their respective sworn statements before the Sandiganbayan:
(a) Eldred P. Tumbocon, Municipal Mayor of Umingan, Pangasinan; (b) Francisco 0. Collado, Jr.,
Municipal Agriculturist of Umingan, Pangasinan; (c) Bartolome Ramos, Municipal Mayor of Sta.
Maria, Bulacan; (d) Ricardo V. Revita, Municipal Mayor of Rosales, Pangasinan; (e) Rodolfo A.
Mendoza, Municipal Agriculturist of San Miguel, Bulacan; and (t) Imelda Alvarado Eudenio,
Municipal Agriculturist of Sta. Maria, Bulacan. The defense also stipulated that: (a) the witnesses
occupied their respective positions at the time material to the case; (b) they were unaware that their
respective municipalities were recipients of livelihood projects from former Senator Enrile's PDAF;
(c) they did not receive any agricultural package or livelihood training from former Senator Enrile, the
implementing agencies of his PDAF, or from any NGO; and (d) they did not sign or prepare any
acknowledgment receipt or liquidation documents pertaining to the transactions.13

Furthermore, the prosecution presented another group of beneficiaries, whose testimonies were
subject of the same stipulations: (a) Shiela May Cebedo, Municipal Mayor of Bacuag, Surigao del
Norte; (b) Elyzer C. Chavez, City Mayor of Passi, Iloilo; (c) Benito D. Siadto, Municipal Mayor of
Kibungan, Benguet; (d) Florencio Bentrez, Municipal Mayor of Tuba, Benguet; and (e) Jose C.
Ginez, Municipal Mayor of Sta. Maria, Pangasinan. The defense cross-examined this group of
beneficiaries.14

After the conclusion of the prosecution's presentation of evidence, Napoles manifested that she is
not presenting any evidence for her bail application.15

Ruling of the Sandiganbayan

In the first assailed Sandiganbayan Resolution dated October 16, 2015, the Petition for Bail of
Napoles was denied for lack of merit.16 The relevant portions of this Resolution reads:

It is true that none of the prosecution witnesses testified that Senator Enrile directly received the
kickbacks/commissions/rebates from accused Napoles. Based on the DDRs of Luy, accused
Napoles repeatedly gave kickbacks/commissions/rebates to Senator Emile's middlepersons. Also,
prosecution witnesses Suñas and Luy categorically testified that they were the ones who prepared
the documents and money in paying the kickbacks/commissions/rebates for Senator Enrile. These
kickbacks/commissions/rebates were given by them or by accused Napoles to Ruby Tuason and
other middlepersons for Senator Enrile.

xxxx

A FINAL WORD

The Court stresses, however, that in resolving this petition for bail of accused Napoles, it is not
passing judgment on the culpability or non-culpability of Senator Enrile, Atty. Reyes, accused
Napoles, Lim[,] and de Asis. Again, in a petition for bail, the Court is only mandated to determine
whether based on the pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution, proof evident exists or the
presumption of guilt is strong. As above discussed, the prosecution had presented clear and strong
evidence which leads to a well-guarded dispassionate judgment that the offense of plunder has been
committed as charged; that accused Napoles is guilty thereof, and that she will probably be
punished capitally if the law were administered at this stage of the proceedings.
WHEREFORE, accused Janet Lim Napoles's (sic) Petition for Bail dated July 7, 2014, is DENIED for
lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.17

On November 4, 2015, Napoles moved for the reconsideration of the Sandiganbayan's Resolution
denying her Petition for Bail.18 This motion was likewise deemed unmeritorious and the
Sandiganbayan denied it in its Resolution dated March 2, 2016,19 viz.:

WHEREFORE, accused Janet Lim Napoles's (sic) Motion for Reconsideration dated November 4,
2015 is DENIED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.20

Napoles thus filed the present petition before this Court, alleging that the Sandiganbayan gravely
abused its discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, in denying her bail application. She
insists in the present petition that the prosecution was unable to discharge its burden of proving that
the evidence of her guilt is strong.21

Ruling of this Court

Preliminarily, it should be emphasized that since this is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the
Rules of Court, this Court's review is limited to whether the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing its assailed Resolutions denying
Napoles' application for bail. The Court's certiorarijurisdiction covers only errors of jurisdiction on the
part of the Sandiganbayan. It should be borne in mind that not every error in the proceedings, or
every erroneous conclusion of law or fact, constitutes grave abuse of discretion. Errors in the
appreciation of the parties' evidence, including the conclusions anchored on these findings, are not
correctible by the writ of certiorari.22

In this regard, Napoles bears the burden of showing that the Sandiganbayan's denial of her bail
application was capricious, whimsical, arbitrary, or despotic, so as to amount to grave abuse of
discretion. This Court is not a trier of facts. As such, it must be established that there was a patent
and gross abuse of discretion amounting to an evasion of a positive duty, or a virtual refusal to
perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law.23

It is within this framework that the Court reviewed the assailed Sandiganbayan Resolutions.

The prosecution bears the burden of


proving that the evidence of Napoles'
guilt for the crime of Plunder is
strong.

Despite the arrest of the accused, or his/her voluntary surrender as the case may be, the accused
may be granted provisional liberty under certain conditions. This right to bail is guaranteed in the Bill
of Rights, except when the accused is charged with a capital offense,24 viz.:

Section 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when
evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released
on recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall not be impaired even when the
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required.25
While· bail may generally be granted as a matter of right prior to the conviction of the
accused,26 those charged with a capital offense is granted bail only when the evidence of guilt is not
strong:

Section 7. Capital offense of an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, not
bailable. - No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion
perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong, regardless
of the stage of the criminal prosecution. (7a)27

The trial court is thus granted the discretion to determine whether there is strong evidence of guilt on
the part of the accused. The trial court may also deny the application for bail when the accused is a
flight risk, notwithstanding the prosecution's evidence on the guilt of the accused.28

In exercising this discretion, the trial court should receive the parties' evidence at a hearing duly
scheduled for this purpose. The prosecution and the accused are granted reasonable opportunity to
prove their respective positions: on the part of the prosecution, that the evidence of guilt against the
accused is strong, and on the part of the defense, the opposite.29 The hearing is summary and limited
to the determination of the weight of evidence for purposes of granting or denying bail. The denial or
refusal must be supported by a summary of the prosecution's evidence.30

In Cortes v. Catral,31 this Court laid down the following duties of the trial court in cases of an
application for bail:

1. In all cases, whether bail is a matter of right or of discretion, notify the prosecutor of the hearing of
the application for bail or require him to submit his recommendation (Section 18, Rule 114 of the
Rules of Court as amended);

2. Where bail is a matter of discretion, conduct a hearing of the application for bail regardless of
whether or not the prosecution refuses to present evidence to show that the guilt of the accused is
strong for the purpose of enabling the court to exercise its sound discretion; (Sections 7 and 8,
supra).

3. Decide whether the guilt of the accused is strong based on the summary of evidence of the
prosecution;

4. If the guilt of the accused is not strong, discharge the accused upon the approval of the bailbond
(Section 19, supra) Otherwise petition should be denied.32

Since Napoles was charged with the crime of Plunder, which carries the imposable penalty
of reclusion perpetua,33she cannot be admitted to bail when the evidence of her guilt is strong. This
was the burden that the prosecution assumed in the subsequent hearings that followed the filing of
Napoles' Petition for Bail before the Sandiganbayan. As a trial court, the Sandiganbayan, in turn,
possessed the jurisdiction to hear and weigh the evidence of the prosecution and the
defense.

At that stage of the proceedings, the bail hearings are limited to the determination of whether there is
a strong presumption of Napoles' guilt.34 It is merely a preliminary determination, and the
Sandiganbayan may deny admission to bail even when there is reasonable doubt as to the
guilt of Napoles. Thus, the prosecution can discharge its burden by proving that the evidence
against Napoles shows evident proof of guilt or a great presumption of guilt, which the Court defined
in People v. Cabral35as follows:
By judicial discretion, the law mandates the determination of whether proof is evident or the
presumption of guilt is strong. "Proof evident" or "Evident proof' in this connection has been held to
mean clear, strong evidence which leads a well-guarded dispassionate judgment to the conclusion
that the offense has been committed as charged, that accused is the guilty agent, and that he will
probably be punished capitally if the law is administered. "Presumption great" exists when the
circumstances testified to are such that the inference of guilt naturally to be drawn therefrom is
strong, clear, and convincing to an unbiased judgment and excludes all reasonable probability of any
other conclusion.Even though there is a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of accused, if on an
examination of the entire record the presumption is great that accused is guilty of a capital offense,
bail should be refused.36(Emphasis in the original)

As a lesser quantum of proof than guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the Sandiganbayan may deny the
application for bail on evidence less than that required for the conviction of Napoles. Furthermore,
the Sandiganbayan "does not sit to try the merits or to enter into any nice inquiry as to the weight
that ought to be allowed to the evidence for or against accused, nor will it speculate on the outcome
of the trial or on what further evidence may be therein offered and admitted."37 It should not be
forgotten that the purpose of the bail hearing is to determine whether the accused is entitled to
provisional liberty before conviction. To require more from the prosecution, as well as from the trial
court, effectively defeats the purpose of the proceeding.38

The Sandiganbayan did not gravely


abuse its discretion in denying
Napoles' Petition for Bail.

Applying these jurisprudential standards to the present case, it is readily apparent that the
Sandiganbayan did not gravely abuse its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Upon
receiving Napoles' Petition for Bail, it scheduled hearings to allow the parties to submit their
respective pieces of evidence. The prosecution submitted numerous testimonial and documentary
evidence, endeavoring to establish evident proof of Napoles' guilt. Napoles, on the other hand, opted
not to submit any evidence on her behalf and relied instead on the supposed weakness of the
prosecution's evidence.39

The Sandiganbayan's first assailed Resolution dated October 16, 2015 also reveals straightaway
that the evidence of the prosecution was summarized accordingly, effectively complying with the due
process requirements.40 It even extensively discussed the available evidence in relation to the
elements of Plunder, which the prosecution intended to prove point by point for purposes of
demonstrating Napoles' great presumption of guilt.41

Napoles points out in her petition, however, that the Sandiganbayan erred in finding strong evidence
of her guilt for the crime of Plunder.42 She challenges the credibility of the prosecution witnesses,
particularly the whistleblowers Luy, Suñas, Sula, and Baltazar.43

She further claims that her bail application should have been granted because the prosecution did
not present any documentary evidence directly connecting her to the NGOs that facilitated the
misappropriation of former Senator Enrile's PDAF.44 In the same manner, she likewise argues that
there was no direct proof of any agreement with former Senator Enrile and Reyes to obtain
kickbacks from the implementation of former Senator Enrile' s PDAF projects.45 Napoles particularly
repudiates the evidentiary value of the Summary of Rebates that Luy prepared from the Daily
Disbursement Reports (DD Rs) and Disbursement Vouchers (DVs) that came into in his possession
while he was an employee of Napoles.46
At first glance, it is apparent that the arguments of Napoles before this Court are fundamentally
allegations of serious errors on the part of the Sandiganbayan in appreciating the evidence of the
prosecution. This is not within the purview of this Court's review power under Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court. This Court is not a trier of facts and this proceeding is limited to the detennination of whether
the Sandiganbayan patently, grossly, and arbitrarily exercised its discretion with respect to Napoles'
bail application.

In these lights, the succeeding discussion on the evidence of the prosecution against Napoles is
limited only to reviewing whether the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in denying the
application for bail on the basis of the evidence of the prosecution. For this purpose, it must be
clearly established that the Sandiganbayan arbitrarily ignored the alleged dearth of evidence against
Napoles.

The prosecution was able to establish


with evident proof that Napoles
participated in the implied
conspiracy to misappropriate public
funds and acquire ill-gotten wealth.

The charge of Plunder against Napoles in this case alleges a conspiracy among former Senator
Enrile and Reyes, as public officers, and Napoles, Lim, and De Asis, as private individuals. On this
point, this Court has consistently ruled that the conspiracy among the accused to commit the crime
of Plunder is usually an agreement or connivance to secretly cooperate in doing the unlawful
act.47 Even Congress, in its Explanatory Note to the proposed bill criminalizing Plunder, recognized
that this crime, by its very nature, is committed through a series or combination of acts done "in
stealth and secrecy over a period of time."48

Seeing as it would be difficult to provide direct evidence establishing the conspiracy among the
accused, the Sandiganbayan may infer it "from proof of facts and circumstances which, taken
together, apparently indicate that they are merely parts of some complete whole."49 It was therefore
unnecessary for the Sandiganbayan to find direct proof of any agreement among Napoles,
former Senator Enrile and Reyes. The conspiracy may be implied from the intentional participation
in the transaction that furthers the common design and purpose. As long as the prosecution was
able to prove that two or more persons aimed their acts towards the accomplishment of the same
unlawful object, each doing a part so that their combined acts, though apparently independent, were
in fact connected and cooperative, indicating a closeness of personal association and a concurrence
of sentiment, the conspiracy may be inferred even if no actual meeting among them was
proven.50

Here, .the implied conspiracy among Napoles and her co-accused was proven through various
documentary and testimonial evidence showing that they acted towards the common goal of
misappropriating the PDAF of former Senator Enrile.

When Commissioner Susan P. Garcia (Garcia) testified regarding the results of their special audit on
the PDAF-funded projects of the government, they found that Napoles and her co-accused
committed Plunder through an elaborate scheme. It began through a letter originating from the office
of former Senator Enrile being sent to the concerned implementing agency, informing the latter that
the office of former Senator Enrile designated Jose Antonio Evangelista (Evangelista) as its
representative in the implementation of the PDAF-funded project. Evangelista, who was likewise the
Deputy Chief of Staff of former Senator Enrile and acting in representative capacity, then sends
another letter to the implementing agency designating a specific NGO to implement the PDAF-
funded project. Thereafter, the NGO that was endorsed by Evangelista submits a project proposal to
the implementing agency, and proceeds to enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the
implementing agency and former Senator Enrile as the parties.51

After the signing of the MOA, the project proposal is attached to the Special Allotment Release
Order (SARO), which allows the implementing agency to incur the expenses that are stated in
it.52 These documents are submitted to the DBM for processing, and if not lacking in requirements,
the DBM issues the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA).53 This authorizes the payment of the allocated
amount to the implementing agency, which is done by way of crediting the same to its account. After
the amount is credited to its account, the implementing agency prepares the DV s and checks
payable to the identified NGO.54 The NGO, in turn, drafts and submits the requirements for
liquidation (i.e. the accomplishment report, the disbursement report, and the list of beneficiaries)
after receiving the check.55 However, as it turned out, the Special Audit Team found that the
beneficiaries denied receiving any proceeds, whether in terms of projects or equipment, from the
PDAF of former Senator Enrile.56

Commissioner Garcia and the rest of the Special Audit Team found that the release of the PDAF to
the concerned NGOs through this system violated the following: (a) DBM National Budget Circular
No. 476 dated September 20, 2001, or the guidelines on the release of the PDAF, which requires
national government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations to only
implement programs that are within their functions; (b) Government Procurement Policy Board
(GPPB) Resolution No. 12-2007, which requires the selection of an NGO through public bidding or
negotiated procurement; and (c) COA Circular No. 2007- 001 dated October 25, 2007, or the
guidelines on the grant, utilization, accounting and auditing of funds released to NGOs.57

Remarkably, the respective testimonies of Commissioner Garcia and the supposed beneficiaries58 of
former Senator Enrile's PDAF were corroborated on material points by the whistleblowers. These
whistleblowers, who were former employees of Napoles, participated in different capacities to the
conspiracy.

Merlina P. Sufias (Suñas), a former employee of Napoles, testified that the office of Napoles
received copies of the SARO from the office of former Senator Enrile. Upon receipt, Napoles held
meetings where they would be given instructions to prepare an indorsement letter addressed to the
implementing agency, and a project proposal identifying the local government unit that would benefit
from the PDAF-funded project. The drafts of these documents were sent to Evangelista for review,
and subsequently, the finalized versions were returned to their office. Suñas, as the custodian of
documents involving transactions with legislators, retained a copy for their file.59

Suñas also testified that Benhur K. Luy (Luy) prepared the letters authorizing Evangelista to
implement the PDAF-funded projects on behalf of former Senator Enrile. She likewise participated in
the preparation of the MOA executed among the concerned implementing agency, former Senator
Enrile, and the relevant NGO.60

Meanwhile, Luy confirmed that Napoles asked them to prepare the documents referred to in Suñas'
testimony. He also substantiated the statement of Suñas that the office of former Senator Enrile
furnished them with copies of the PDAF requirements after its submission to the DBM.61 Luy was the
first to receive the documents because he had to verify if the entries as to the name of the NGO and
the project cost were correct.62

In their separate testimonies, both Suñas and Luy confirmed that former Senator Enrile received
40% to 50% of the project cost.63 According to Luy, they referred to the share of the legislators
as rebates, which he recorded in line with his position as the finance officer of Napoles.64 The
payment of the rebates was made in tranches starting in 2004-with the first half paid to former
Senator Enrile upon the listing of the project, and the balance paid upon the release of the
SARO.65 Napoles, on the other hand, took 5% of the project cost as her share.66 The middlepersons
who received the rebates on behalf of former Senator Enrile, such as Tuason,67 were also given 5%
of the project cost.68

Another former employee of Napoles, Marina Cortez Sula (Sula), narrated that Napoles gave her
instructions to register approximately twenty (20) NGOs, including those that implemented the ghost
projects funded by former Senator Enrile's PDAf; The relevant information regarding these NGOs
were listed in a red notebook that Sula kept to assist her in the preparation of the General
Information Sheets that were regularly submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC).69 This notebook was presented to the Sandiganbayan during the bail hearing.70

Sula also stated that the NGOs were created at the instance of Napoles. According to Sula, Napoles
asked her and the other employees to come up with the names of these NGOs. Upon Napoles'
approval of the name, Sula reserved its use at the SEC. Sula also purchased forms for the articles of
incorporation and by-laws of the NGOs, which she completed under the direction of Napoles.
Napoles then provided the amount necessary for the initial deposit to open a bank account in the
name of the NGO. The bank accounts were opened at either Metrobank or Landbank because the
branch managers were already familiar with Napoles, making it easy for Sula to facilitate the
process. Thereafter, Sula registered the NGOs with the SEC.71

Sula noted that Napoles selected the incorporators and officers of the NGOs. The incorporators and
officers were usually employees of Napoles, or the relatives of these employees. Sula testified that
those chosen as presidents of the NGO were aware that their names were used because they were
made to sign the incorporation documents. In cases where the president was not an employee of
Napoles, the employee who provided the name of the NGO president was made to sign in their
stead.72 Sula likewise admitted to forging the signatures of the incorporators, or using the
incorporators' names without their knowledge.73

Suñas and Luy corroborated the testimony of Sula on the fictitious manner by which the NGOs were
incorporated. The three of them were all presidents of different NGOs, and they provided the names
of their relatives as its officers and incorporators.74 In exchange for agreeing to become presidents of
the NGOs, both Sufi.as and Sula testified that Napoles promised to provide them 1% of the project
cost as their commission.75

Similar to Suñas and Sula, Mary Arlene Joyce Baltazar (Baltazar), testified that Napoles likewise
promised to give her a commission in exchange for using her name as the president of an NGO. As
the former bookkeeper of Napoles, Baltazar further confirmed that Napoles used the names of her
employees, and that of their friends and relatives to make them appear as incorporators or officers of
the concerned NGOs.76 Once they became president of an NGO, Napoles instructed them to become
voluntary members of the Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance
Corporation (PhilHealth), because Napoles needed to terminate their employment.77Baltazar stated
that this was purposely done in order to avoid any connection between Napoles and the NGOs.78

As to the manner by which Napoles obtained the amount allocated for the PDAF-funded projects,
Sula narrated that this was equally done through the employees of Napoles. Whenever the DBM
disbursed the allocated amount to the implementing agency, a check was issued to the Napoles-
controlled NGO. Since Sula and the other employees were designated as presidents of these NGOs,
they were authorized to receive the check for the PDAF-funded project from the implementing
agency.79
Napoles had access to the bank accounts of the NGOs because as Sula, Luy, and Suñas testified
during the bail hearing, they were required to sign blank withdrawal slips, which were turned over to
Napoles together with the corresponding passbook for these accounts.80 Thus, in the ultimate
scheme of things, Napoles received the amounts allocated for the PDAF-funded projects of former
Senator Enrile, which she later on apportioned according to the agreed upon share of the legislators.

With respect to the actual delivery of the PDAF-funded projects to its intended beneficiaries, Sula,
Luy, Suñas, and Baltazar admitted that they fabricated the liquidation documents. This was done by
forging the receipts and the signatures of the beneficiaries, making it appear that the project was
indeed implemented.81 Again, this supported the findings of the COA Special Audit Team82 and the
FIO83 on the fictitious projects funded by the PDAF of former Senator Enrile.

It is plain from the foregoing that Napoles and her co-accused, as well as the former employees of
Napoles who were eventually admitted as State witnesses, had a common design and objective-to
divert the PDAF of former Senator Enrile from its lawful purpose and to their own personal
accounts. The individuals involved in this case performed different criminal acts, which
contributed, directly or indirectly, in the amassing, accumulation, and acquisition of ill-gotten
wealth. Consistent with the doctrine on implied conspiracy, these actions on the part of Napoles and
her co-accused are sufficient to prove the existence of a "concurrence in sentiment," regardless of
any proof that an actual agreement took place.

Arguably, there is no documentary evidence directly linking Napoles to the NGOs used as conduits
for the PDAF-funded projects of former Senator Enrile. However, her ties to the officers of the NGOs
involved in this case reveal otherwise. Napoles' participation in the conspiracy was established
through testimonial evidence, not only from one of her former employees, but from four (4)
witnesses-all of whom corroborate each other on material points. More importantly, they
testified on the minute details of the scheme that only those privy to the conspiracy would be
able to provide. Notably, Napoles did not even refute their claims that they were her former
employees, relying instead on singling out inconsequential details in their testimonies.

Even the testimony of Ruby Chan Tuason, the middleperson who received the rebates of former
Senator Enrile on his behalf, confirmed that Napoles oversaw the implementation of the scheme to
divert the disbursements of the PDAF. She personally met with Napoles to negotiate the respective
shares of the conspirators, and received the amount on behalf of former Senator Enrile, which she
subsequently turned over to Reyes.84

Since the whistleblowers personally received instructions from Napoles to incorporate the NGOs,
prepare the requirements for the release of the PDAF, prepare and deliver the rebates to the
middlepersons, and fabricate the liquidation documents, they were competent witnesses on the
subject of their respective testimonies.85 Clearly, the prosecution witnesses and the documentary
evidence supply interlocking pieces of information that when taken together, provide a complete
picture of the indispensability of the participation of Napoles in the scheme to misappropriate public
funds for the benefit of select individuals, by using the NGOs as conduits for the PDAF projects of
former Senator Enrile. The directions and instructions she gave to her former employees constitute a
clear evidence of her active participation, not mere acquiescence or presence, in the conspiracy.

The Sandiganbayan may rely on the


testimonies of the whistleblowers,
especially since these were
corroborated by other available
evidence.
Napoles nonetheless challenged the credibility of the whistleblowers, arguing that their testimonies
should have been received with "grave suspicion," coming as they were from "polluted
source[s]."86 However, as this Court earlier discussed, the testimonies of these prosecution
witnesses were consistent, clear, and corroborative of each other. Other testimonial and
documentary evidence also substantiated the veracity of the whistleblowers' statements during the
bail hearing.

In any case, a careful perusal of the assailed Sandiganbayan Resolutions reveals that it considered
the prosecution's other testimonial and documentary evidence, and discussed it in relation to one
another. Among the documents that the Sandiganbayan considered were the letters requesting for
the release of former Senator Enrile's PDAF, the incorporation documents of the NGOs, the
liquidation documents for the PDAF-funded projects, the SAROs itself, and the DV s issued by the
implementing agencies to the NGOs under the control of Napoles.87

In other words, the Sandiganbayan did not rely solely on the testimonies of the whistleblowers.
Seeing as there were other available evidence lending credence to their testimonies, the
Sandiganbayan did not gravely abuse its discretion when it considered the testimonies of the
whistleblowers in denying Napoles' bail application, despite their participation in the conspiracy itself.
The mere fact that the whistleblowers were conspirators themselves does not automatically render
their testimonies incredible and unreliable. The ruling in United States v. Remigio88is instructive in
this regard:

The true doctrine which should govern the testimony of accomplices, or what may be variously
termed principals, confederates, or conspirators, is not in doubt. The evidence of accomplices is
admissible and competent. Yet such testimony comes from a "polluted source." Consequently, it is
scrutinized with care. It is properly subject to grave suspicion. If not corroborated, credibility is
affected. Even then, however, the defendant may be convicted upon the unsupported evidence of an
accomplice. If corroborated absolutely or even to such an extent as is indicative of trustworthiness,
the testimony of the accomplice is sufficient to warrant a conviction. This is true even if the
accomplice has made previous statements inconsistent with his testimony at the trial and such
inconsistencies are satisfactorily explained.

xxxx

Where conspiracy is in issue these principles are even more certain. A conspiracy is more readily
proved by the acts of a fellow criminal than by any other method. If it is shown that the statements of
the conspirator are corroborated by other evidence, then we have convincing proof of veracity. Even
if the confirmatory testimony only applies to some particulars, we can properly infer that the witness
has told the truth in other respects.89 (Emphasis and underscoring Ours)

At this point it should be emphasized that this Court is not the proper forum to weigh the credibility of
the prosecution witnesses. It is elementary that the factual findings of the trial court, especially on
the assessment or appreciation of the testimonies of witnesses, are accorded great weight and
respect.90 In this case, it is the Sandiganbayan that had the opportunity to observe the deportment
and behavior of the witnesses during the bail hearing. It was in a better position to pass judgment on
the credibility of these witnesses and the weight of their respective testimonies. At any rate, Napoles
was unable to establish any motive on the part of her former employees, which would compel them
to falsely testify against her and her co-accused.

The core issue, therefore, of whether there is strong evidence of guilt on the part of Napoles, was
resolved by the Sandiganbayan in accordance with the relevant laws, rules, and jurisprudence.
Plunder is a deplorable crime that unfairly exploits the trust that the public reposed in its officials. It is
inherently immoral not only because it involves the corruption of public funds, but also because its
essence proceeds from a rapacious intent. This Court's ruling in Estrada v. Sandiganbayan91is a
constant reminder of the magnitude of this offense:

As regards the third issue, again we agree with Justice Mendoza that plunder is a malum in se which
requires proof of criminal intent. Thus, he says, in his Concurring Opinion

xxxx

Finally, any doubt as to whether the crime of plunder is a malum in se must be deemed to have been
resolved in the affirmative by the decision of Congress in 1993 to include it among the heinous
crimes punishable by reclusion perpetua to death. Other heinous crimes are punished with death as
a straight penalty in R.A. No. 7659. Referring to these groups of heinous crimes, this Court held
in People v. Echegaray:

The evil of a crime may take various forms. There are crimes that are, by their very nature,
despicable, either because life was callously taken or the victim is treated like an animal and utterly
dehumanized as to completely disrupt the normal course of his or her growth as a human being . . . .
Seen in this light, the capital crimes of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for ransom resulting
in the death of the victim or the victim is raped, tortured, or subjected to dehumanizing acts;
destructive arson resulting in death; and drug offenses involving minors or resulting in the death of
the victim in the case of other crimes; as well as murder, rape, parricide, infanticide, kidnapping and
serious illegal detention, where the victim is detained for more than three days or serious physical
injuries were inflicted on the victim or threats to kill him were made or the victim is a minor, robbery
with homicide, rape or intentional mutilation, destructive arson, and can1apping where the owner,
driver or occupant of the carnapped vehicle is killed or raped, which are penalized by reclusion
perpetua to death, are clearly heinous by their very nature.

There are crimes, however, in which the abomination lies in the significance and implications of the
subject criminal acts in the scheme of the larger socio-political and economic context in which the
state finds itself to be struggling to develop and provide for its poor and underprivileged masses.
Reeling from decades of corrupt tyrannical rule that bankrupted the government and impoverished
the population, the Philippine Government must muster the political will to dismantle the culture of
corruption, dishonesty, greed and syndicated criminality that so deeply entrenched itself in the
structures of society and the psyche of the populace. [With the government] terribly lacking the
money to provide even the most basic services to its people, any form of misappropriation or
misapplication of government funds translates to an actual threat to the very existence of
government, and in turn, the very survival of the people it governs over. Viewed in this context, no
less heinous are the effects and repercussions of crimes like qualified bribery, destructive arson
resulting in death, and drug offenses involving government officials, employees or officers, that their
perpetrators must not be allowed to cause further destruction and damage to society.92 (Emphasis in
the original)

It is precisely the enormous gravity of this offense that capital punishment is imposed on those who
are found guilty of Plunder. As a necessary consequence, provisional liberty is not easily granted to
those accused of this offense, especially when the prosecution more than amply established that the
evidence of guilt is strong. This is a matter of judicial discretion on the part of the trial court, which
this Court may nullify only when the exercise of this discretion is tainted with arbitrariness and
capriciousness that the trial court failed to act within the contemplation of law.
Unfortunately for Napoles, there is nothing in the records showing that the Sandiganbayan gravely
abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. It has discharged its judicial duty in
Napoles' bail application in a manner consistent with the applicable laws and jurisprudence, and the
evidence on record. Thus, all things considered, the Court finds no reason to nullify the assailed
Sandiganbayan Resolutions. The Petition for Bail of Napoles was correctly denied.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DISMISSED. The Resolutions dated October
16, 2015 and March 2, 2016 of the Sandiganbayan in SB-14-CRM-0238 are AFFIRMED, there being
no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the
Sandiganbayan.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

July 26, 2017

G.R. No. 214300

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner


vs.
MANUEL ESCOBAR, Respondent

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

This Rule 45 Petition assails the Court of Appeals Decision to grant the accused's second petition for
bail. Res judicata applies only in a final judgment in a civil case,1 not in an interlocutory order in a
criminal case.2 An order disposing a petition for bail is interlocutory.3 This order does not attain finality
when a new matter warrants a second look on the application for bail.

Respondent Manuel Escobar (Escobar) filed a petition for bail (First Bail Petition), which was denied
by the Regional Trial Court in the Order4 dated October 6, 2008 and by the Court of Appeals in the
Decision5 dated March 8, 2011. A subsequent development in the accused's case6 compelled him to
file a second petition for bail (Second Bail Petition). On April 26, 2012, the Regional Trial Court
denied7 this on the ground of res judicata. In the Decision8dated March 24, 2014, the Court of
Appeals overturned the Regional Trial Court Order and granted the Second Bail Petition.

Escobar was suspected of conspiring in the kidnap for ransom of Mary Grace Cheng-Rosagas (Mary
Grace), daughter of Filipino-Chinese businessman Robert G. Cheng (Robert), and two (2) other
victims.9 Robert was the owner of Uratex Foam, Philippines,10 a manufacturing company of foams
and mattresses.11
On June 18, 2001 at 7:40 a.m., Mary Grace, her bodyguard Valentin B. Torres (Torres), and her
driver Dionisio F. Burca (Burca) were passing by the front of Malcolm Hall, University of the
Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City when a vehicle blocked their way.12 Another group of suspects
helped as lookouts.13

Clad in police uniform, four (4) armed men forced Mary Grace, Burca, and Torres inside the
vehicle.14 The incident happened in broad daylight.

Alleged group leader Rolando Villaver (Villaver) and some of the suspects then travelled and
detained Mary Grace, Burca, and Torres in an undisclosed location in Batangas.15 Afterwards, the
group headed to Club Solvento, a resort16 in Calamba, Laguna owned by Escobar,17 who personally
served them food.18

Some of the accused19 stayed in Club Solvento to rest or sleep while the others, namely, Villaver,
Cesar Olimpiada, a certain Cholo, and Biboy Lugnasin, left to negotiate the price for the victims'
release.20 Cheng paid the ransom of ₱15,000,000.00.21

At 7:00 p.m. on the same day, Villaver's group returned to Club Solvento,22 followed by co-accused
brothers Rolando and Harold Fajardo (the Fajardo brothers), who were alleged advisers of
Villaver.23 The group then locked themselves in a room where Villaver partitioned the ransom
money.24 Cancio Cubillas (Cubillas), the group's driver,25confessed to have received a total
of'₱l,250,000.00 for the kidnapping operation.26

At 10:30 p.m. on the same day, Mary Grace, Burca, and Torres were finally released.27 They were
freed somewhere in Alaminos, Laguna, more than 12 hours since they were abducted.28

Cubillas became a state witness.29 On June 3, 2002, he executed an extrajudicial confession and
implicated respondent Escobar as an adviser for Villaver.30 Cubillas believed that Escobar was
involved after he saw Escobar talk to Villaver while they were in Club Solvento.31 In his extrajudicial
confession, Cubillas also claimed that Escobar received a portion of the ransom money from
Villaver.32

On February 17, 2004, an Amended Information was filed before the Regional Trial Court charging
Escobar as a co-conspirator33 in the kidnapping for ransom.34 The charging portion stated:

That on or about June 18, 2001 at around 7:40 in the morning, at Quezon City, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating
and mutually helping one another and grouping themselves together, with others not present during
the actual kidnapping but performing some other peculiarly contributory roles, did, then and there, by
force and intimidation, with the use of long firearms and clad in police uniform, willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously take, carry away and thereafter detain at some undisclosed place, after having
blocked their car in front of Malcolm Hall, Osmena Avenue, UP Campus, Diliman, Quezon City,
MARY GRACE CHENGROSAGAS, her driver DIONISIO F. BURCA and her bodyguard VALENTIN
B. TORRES, against their will and consent thereby depriving them of their liberty for more than
twelve (12) hours for the purpose of extorting ransom for their release in the amount of FIFTEEN
MILLION PESOS (P15,000,000.00), and which amount was in fact paid by Mary Grace's father, Mr.
Robert Cheng, owner of Uratex Foam, Philippines, and have the same delivered at E. Rodriguez
Compound, Calamba, Laguna thereby resulting to the release of the kidnap victims somewhere in
Alaminos, Laguna at about 10:30 p.m. of the same day all to the damage and prejudice of the three
(3) victims and their families in such amount as may be awarded to them and their families under the
provisions of the Civil Code.
CONTRARY TO LAW.35

Escobar was arrested on February 14, 2008.36

On June 3, 2008, Escobar filed the First Bail Petition before the Regional Trial Court.37 During the
hearing on Escobar's bail application, Cubillas testified that Escobar and the Fajardo brothers were
Villaver's advisers.38

In the Order dated October 6, 2008, the Regional Trial Court denied39 Escobar's First Bail
Petition. The dispositive portion read:
1âwphi1

The Petition for Bail filed by accused Manny Escobar is denied for lack of merit considering that
state witness Cancio Cubillas positively identified said accused as the owner of Club Solvento
located in Calamba, Laguna; that he was the one who served food to the group of Rolando Villaver,
Jun Jun Villaver, Ning Ning Villaver, Daimy Velasquez, Cholo, Cesar Olimpiada, Mike, Alan Celebre,
Biboy Lugnasin and witness himself, Cancio Cubillas; that it was also in said Club Solvento where
Cancio Cubillas, Jun Jun Villaver, Ning Ning Villaver, Danny Velasquez, Mike and Alan Celebre
rested and slept after Rolando Villaver, Cholo, Biboy Lugnasin and Cesar Olimpiada left to negotiate
for the ransom of kidnap victim Mary Grace Cheng Rosagas, and that on the night of June 18, 2001,
Cubillas saw accused Rolando Villaver gave part of the ransom money to him.

SO ORDERED.40

Escobar appealed before the Court of Appeals.41 On March 8, 2011, the Court of Appeals
affinned42 the denial of the First Bail Petition. It recognized that Cubillas' extrajudicial confession was
generally incompetent evidence against his co-accused and was admissible against himself only43 for
being hearsay and for violating the res inter alias acta rule.44 Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals
invoked an exception to this rule and held that the Regional Trial Court "did not rely solely on the
extrajudicial confession of Cubillas"; rather, the trial court also relied on Cubillas' testimony during
the bail hearing.45

Escobar moved to reconsider the Court of Appeal March 8, 2011 Decision.46

Pending the proceedings on Escobar's case, the police arrested one (1) of the co-accused Fajardo
brothers, Rolando Fajardo (Rolando),47 who applied for bail before the Regional Trial Court.48 As in
Escobar's bail hearing, the prosecution relied solely on Cubillas' statements to establish the strength
of Fajardo's guilt.49 In an Order dated September 13, 2011, the Regional Trial Court denied
Rolando's petition for bail.50

However, in an Order dated October 14, 2011, the Regional Trial Court reversed its previous order
and granted Rolando's bail application.51 The Regional Trial Court stated:

To summarize, the evidence for the prosecution does not establish that accused Rolando Fajardo
participated during the actual abduction of Rosagas, Burca and Torres or that during the actual
abduction, accused Rolando Fajardo gave advice or instruction to the other accused herein. The
evidence for the prosecution likewise does not establish that accused Rolando Fajardo acted as
adviser to accused Rolando Villaver and his group in connection with the kidnapping of the victims
herein. There is no testimony as to what advice or instructions were made by accused Rolando
Fajardo in connection with the kidnapping of the victims herein. There is thus a paucity of evidence
establishing the participation of accused Rolando Fajardo in the kidnapping of Rosagas, Burca and
Torres.52(Emphasis supplied)
The reversal came about after the trial court considered that, according to Cubillas, "[Rolando] was
not present before, during and after the kidnapping."53 There was paucity of evidence on Rolando's
alleged participation.54

Meanwhile, on October 27, 2011, the Court of Appeals denied Escobar's motion for
reconsideration.55 He no longer appealed before this Court.56

By January 2012, only Escobar was left in detention pending the final judgment on the merits of the
case as all the other accused who had active participation in the kidnapping had been granted
bail.57 Escobar saw Rolando's release on bail as a new "development which warrant[ed] a different
view" on his own bail application.58

Thus, on January 27, 2012, Escobar filed another petition for bail (Second Bail Petition) before the
Regional Trial Court.59 He noted that Cubillas could not explain how either Rolando or Escobar
advised Villaver and that both Rolando and Escobar were absent before, during, and after the
kidnapping.60 Hence, if Rolando's petition for bail was granted based on the unreliability of Cubillas'
testimony, Escobar reasoned that the trial court should likewise grant him provisional release.61

On April 26, 2012, the Regional Trial Court denied62 Escobar's Second Bail Petition on the ground
of res judicata,63reasoning thus: "[i]n deference to the Decision of the Court of Appeals which has
already attained finality, accused's Petition for Bail which is actually a second petition for bail[,] must
be necessarily denied."64

Escobar moved for reconsideration but this was denied by the Regional Trial Court.65 On January 14,
2013, he appealed before the Court of Appeals via Rule 65, arguing that the trial court committed
grave abuse of discretion in denying his Second Bail Petition.66

In the Decision dated March 24, 2014, the Court of Appeals granted67 the petition for certiorari and
ordered the Regional Trial Court to determine the appropriate bail for Escobar's provisional liberty.
The dispositive portion read:

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The April 26, 2012,September 14, 2012, September 17,
2012 and November 6, 2012 Ordersare SET ASIDE. The trial court is directed to determine the
appropriate bail for the provisional liberty of the petitioner, Manuel Escobar, with dispatch.

SO ORDERED.68

The Court of Appeals denied the prosecution's Motion for Reconsideration.69 According to the Court
of Appeals, Escobar's Second Bail Petition was not barred by res judicata, which applies only if the
former judgment is a final order or judgment and not an interlocutory order.70 An order denying a
petition for bail is interlocutory in nature.71

On April 4, 2014, the Regional Trial Court fixed72 Escobar's bail at ₱300,000.00. The dispositive
portion read:

In view of the Decision rendered by the Court of Appeals on 24 March 2014, the bail for the
provisional liberty of accused Manuel Escobar is hereby fixed at Three Hundred Thousand Pesos
(Php300,000.00).

SO ORDERED.73
In the Resolution dated September 11, 2014, the Court of Appeals denied74 the prosecution's Motion
for Reconsideration.

On November 6, 2014, the prosecution, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a Petition for
Review75 via Rule 45 before this Court. In its Petition, the prosecution does not pray for the issuance
of a temporary restraining order of the Court of Appeals Decision;76 rather, in assailing the grant of
Escobar 's Second Bail Petition, the prosecution avers that the doctrine of res judicata must be
respected.77

On October 19, 2015, Escobar filed his Comment,78 arguing that res judicata did not apply here,79 that
there was no strong evidence of his guilt,80 and that the Court of Appeals could rectify errors of
judgment in the greater interest of justice.81 According to Escobar:

13. Due to this sudden development of the grant of bail to his co-accused, [Rolando], and
considering that both [Rolando] and [Escobar ]'s alleged participation in the crime are based on the
same court-declared unreliable "speculations" of the state witness Cubillas, who even admitted he
was lying when questioned during [Escobar]'s own bail hearings, it was in the interest of justice and
fairness to re-open the matter of bail with respect to [Escobar] and thereby grant the same. And the
Honorable Court of Appeals agreed.82

This Court's program to decongest holding jails led City Jail Warden Randel H. Latoza (City Jail
Warden Latoza) to review Escobar's case.83 In his manifestation dated August 18, 2016, City Jail
Warden Latoza informed this Court that there was no temporary restraining order against the
Regional trial Court April 4, 2014 Order, which fixed Escobar's provisional liberty at ₱300,000.00. He
also acknowledged the Court of Appeals March 24, 2014 Decision granting Escobar the right to
bail.84 He mentioned that Escobar had posted the ₱300,000.00 bail, as ordered by the trial
court.85 Thus, he moved to allow Escobar's provisional release on bail.86

City Jail Warden Latoza alleged that Escobar had paid the necessary surety bond87 and attached a
copy of Traveller's Insurance Surety Corporation's surety bond undertaking to his
manifestation.88 However, the attached surety bond undertaking was neither notarized nor approved
by the Regional Trial Court judge.89

In a Letter dated May 15, 2017, the Commission on Human Rights wrote to Associate Justice
Antonio T. Carpio to ask for the speedy resolution of the case as Escobar was already 78 years old.90

For resolution are the following issues:

First, whether Manuel Escobar's second petition for bail is barred by res judicata; and

Finally, whether respondent should be granted bail.

Bail is the security given for the temporary release of a person who has been arrested and detained
but "whose guilt has not yet been proven" in court beyond reasonable doubt.91 The right to bail is
cognate to the fundamental right to be presumed innocent. In People v. Fitzgerald:92

The right to bail emanates from the [accused's constitutional] right to be presumed innocent. It is
accorded to a person in the custody of the law who may, by reason of the presumption of innocence
he [or she] enjoys, be allowed provisional liberty upon filing of a security to guarantee his [or her]
appearance before any court, as required under specified conditions.93 (Citations omitted)

Bail may be a matter of right or judicial discretion. The accused has the right to bail if the offense
charged is "not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment" before conviction by
the Regional Trial Court.94However, if the accused is charged with an offense the penalty of which is
death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment-"regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution"-
and when evidence of one's guilt is not strong, then the accused's prayer for bail is subject to the
discretion of the trial court.95

In this case, the imposable penalty for kidnapping for ransom is death,96 reduced to reclusion
perpetua.97Escobar's bail is, thus, a matter of judicial discretion, provided that the evidence of his
guilt is not strong.98

Rule 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure states:

Section 4. Bail, a matter of right; exception. - All persons in custody shall be admitted to bail as a
matter of right, with sufficient sureties, or released on recognizance as prescribed by law or this Rule
(a) before or after conviction by the Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Trial
Court in Cities, or Municipal Circuit Trial Court, and (b) before conviction by the Regional Trial Court
of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment.

....

Section 7. Capital offense or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, not
bailable. - No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion
perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong, regardless
of the stage of the criminal prosecution.

The Regional Trial Court denied99 Escobar's Second Bail Petition on the ground of res judicata. The
Court of Appeals overtumed100 this and correctly ruled that his Second Bail Petition was not barred
by res judicata.

In its literal meaning, res judicata refers to "a matter adjudged."101 This doctrine bars the re-litigation
of the same claim between the parties, also known as claim preclusion or bar by former
judgment.102 It likewise bars the re-litigation of the same issue on a different claim between the same
parties, also known as issue preclusion or conclusiveness of judgement.103 It "exists as an obvious
rule of reason, justice, fairness, expediency, practical necessity, and public tranquillity."104

Degayo v. Magbanua-Dinglasan105held that "[t]he doctrine of res judicata is set forth in Section 47 of
Rule 39"106 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, thus:

Sec. 47. Effect of Judgments or Final Orders. - The effect of a judgment or final order rendered by a
court of the Philippines, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or final order, may be as
follows:

....

(b) [T]he judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other
matter that could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their
successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding,
litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same capacity; and

(c) In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors in interest, that only is
deemed to have been adjudged in a former judgment or final order which appears upon its face to
have been so adjudged, or which was actually and necessarily included therein or necessary
thereto.

Escobar' s Second Bail Petition is not barred by res judicata as this doctrine is not recognized in
criminal proceedings.107

Expressly applicable in civil cases, res judicata settles with finality the dispute between the parties or
their successors-in-interest.108 Trinidad v. Marcelo109declares that res judicata, as found in Rule 39 of
the Rules of Civil Procedure, is a principle in civil law and "has no bearing on criminal
proceedings."110 Rule 124, Section 18 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure states:

Section 18. Application of certain rules in civil procedure to criminal cases. - The provisions of Rules
42, 44 to 46 and 48 to 56 relating to procedure in the Court of Appeals and in the Supreme Court in
original and appealed civil cases shall be applied to criminal cases insofar as they are applicable
and not inconsistent with the provisions of this Rule.

Indeed, while certain provisions of the Rules of Civil Procedure may be applied in criminal
cases,111 Rule 39 of the Rules of Civil Procedure is excluded from the enumeration under Rule 124 of
the Rules of Criminal Procedure. In Trinidad:112

Petitioner's arguments - that res judicata applies since the Office of the Ombudsman twice found no
sufficient basis to indict him in similar cases earlier filed against him, and that the Agan cases cannot
be a supervening event or evidence per se to warrant a reinvestigation on the same set of facts and
circumstances - do not lie.

Res judicata is a doctrine of civil law and thus has no bearing on criminal proceedings.

But even if petitioner's argument[s] were to be expanded to contemplate "res judicata in prison grey"
or the criminal law concept of double jeopardy, this Court still finds it inapplicable to bar the
reinvestigation conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman.113 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted).

An interlocutory order denying an application for bail, in this case being criminal in nature, does not
give rise to res judicata. As in Trinidad, even if we are to expand the argument of the prosecution in
this case to contemplate "res judicata in prison grey" or double jeopardy, the same will still not
apply.114 Double jeopardy requires that the accused has been convicted or acquitted or that the case
against him or her has been dismissed or terminated without his express consent.115 Here, while
there was an initial ruling on Escobar's First Bail Petition, Escobar has not been convicted, acquitted,
or has had his case dismissed or terminated.

Even assuming that this case allows for res judicata as applied in civil cases, Escobar’s Second Bail
Petition cannot be barred as there is no final judgment on the merits.

Res judicata requires the concurrence of the following elements:

1. The judgment sought to bar the new action must be final;


2. The decision must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the parties and the
subject matter;

3. The disposition of the case must be a judgment on the merits; and

4. There must be between the first and second actions, identity of parties, of subject matter, and of
causes of action.116

In deciding on a matter before it, a court issues either a final judgment or an interlocutory order. A
1âw phi1

final judgment "leaves nothing else to be done" because the period to appeal has expired or the
highest tribunal has already ruled on the case.117 In contrast, an order is considered interlocutory if,
between the beginning and the termination of a case, the court decides on a point or matter that is
not yet a final judgment on the entire controversy.118

An interlocutory order "settles only some incidental, subsidiary or collateral matter arising in an
action";119 in other words, something else still needs to be done in the primary case-the rendition of
the final judgment.120 Res judicata applies only when there is a final judgment on the merits of a case;
it cannot be availed of in an interlocutory order even if this order is not appealed.121 In Macahilig v.
Heirs of Magalit:122

Citing Section 49 of Rule 39, Rules of Court, petitioner insists that the September 17, 1997
[interlocutory] Order of the trial court in Civil Case No. 3517 bars it from rehearing questions on the
ownership of Lot 4417. She insists that said Order has become final and executory, because Dr.
Magalit did not appeal it.

We disagree. Final, in the phrase judgments or final orders found in Section 49 of Rule 39, has two
accepted interpretations. In the first sense, it is an order that one can no longer appeal because the
period to do so has expired, or because the order has been affirmed by the highest possible tribunal
involved. The second sense connotes that it is an order that leaves nothing else to be done, as
distinguished from one that is interlocutory. The phrase refers to aflnal determination as opposed to
a judgment or an order that settles only some incidental, subsidiary or collateral matter arising in an
action; for example, an order postponing a trial, denying a motion to dismiss or allowing
intervention. Orders that give rise to res judicata and conclusiveness of judgment apply only to those
falling under the second category.

....

For example, an Order overruling a motion to dismiss does not give rise to res adjudicata [sic] that
will bar a subsequent action, because such order is merely interlocutory and is subject to
amendments until the rendition of the final judgment.123 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

A decision denying a petition for bail settles only a collateral matter124-whether accused is entitled to
provisional liberty-and is not a final judgment on accused's guilt or innocence. Unlike in a full-blown
trial, a hearing for bail is summary in nature: it deliberately "avoid[s] unnecessary thoroughness" and
does not try the merits of the case.125Thus:

Summary hearing means such brief and speedy method of receiving and considering the evidence
of guilt as is practicable and consistent with the purpose of the hearing which is merely to determine
the weight of the evidence for purposes of bail. The course of the inquiry may be left to the discretion
of the court which may confine itself to receiving such evidence as has reference to substantial
matters avoiding unnecessary thoroughness in the examination and cross-examination of witnesses
and reducing to a reasonable minimum the amount of corroboration particularly on details that are
not essential to the purpose of the hearing.126 (Emphasis in the original)

Here, the prosecution itself has acknowledged that "the first order denying bail is an interlocutory
order."127 The merits of the case for kidnapping must still be threshed out in a full-blown proceeding.

Being an interlocutory order, the March 8, 2011 Court of Appeals Decision denying Escobar's First
Bail Petition did not have the effect of res judicata. The kidnapping case itself has not attained
finality. Since res judicata has not attached to the March 8, 2011 Court of Appeals Decision, the
Regional Trial Court should have taken cognizance of Escobar's Second Bail Petition and weighed
the strength of the evidence of guilt against him.

In any case, the Court of Appeals may still reverse its Decision, notwithstanding its denial of the First
Bail Petition on March 8, 2011.

Rules of procedure should not be interpreted as to disadvantage a party and deprive him or her of
fundamental rights and liberties. A judgment or order may be modified where executing it in its
present form is impossible or unjust in view of intervening facts or circumstances:128

[W]here facts and circumstances transpire which render [the] execution [of a judgment] impossible
or unjust and it therefore becomes necessary, "in the interest of justice, to direct its modification in
order to harmonize the disposition with the prevailing circumstances."129(Emphasis supplied, citation
omitted)

Appellate courts may correct "errors of judgment if blind and stubborn adherence to the doctrine of
immutability of final judgments would involve the sacrifice of justice for technicality."130 Thus, an
accused may file a second petition for bail, particularly if there are sudden developments or a "new
matter or fact which warrants a different view."131

Rolando's release on bail is a new development in Escobar's case.132 The Court of Appeals has
pointed out that the other alleged co-conspirators are already out on bail: Rolando, in particular, was
granted bail because Cubillas' testimony against him was weak.133"[Escobar] and [Rolando]
participated in the same way, but [Escobar]'s bail was denied."134 Escobar's fundamental rights and
liberty are being deprived in the meantime.

Article III, Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution states:

Section 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when
evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable ... (Emphasis supplied)

The same evidence used by the trial court to grant bail to Rolando was not used similarly in
Escobar's favor. As the Court of Appeals found:135

We cannot ignore the allegation of conspiracy and that the other accused were all granted bail
except him. Specifically, [Rolando] was granted bail due to the weakness of Cubillas' testimony
against him.136

In light of the circumstances after the denial of Escobar's First Bail Petition, his Second Bail Petition
should have been given due course. It should not be denied on the technical ground of res judicata.

II
The Court of Appeals already approved Escobar's bail petition. Meanwhile, City Jail Warden Latoza
has informed this Court of the absence of any temporary restraining order against the Court of
Appeals Decision granting the Second Bail Petition, as well as the Regional Trial Court Order fixing
his bail at ₱300,000.00.137 Thus, the Court of Appeals March 24, 2014 Decision granting Escobar's
provisional liberty can be executed upon the approval of his bail bond, if he has indeed paid the
surety bond.

In closing, no part of this Decision should prejudice the submission of additional evidence for the
prosecution to prove Escobar's guilt in the main case. "[A] grant of bail does not prevent the trier of
facts ... from making a final assessment of the evidence after full trial on the merits."138 As the Court
of Appeals correctly ruled:

[T]his determination is only for the purpose of bail[;] it is without prejudice for the prosecution to
submit additional evidence to prove [Escobar]'s guilt in the course of the proceedings in the primary
case.139

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated March 24, 2014 in CA-
G.R. SP No. 128189 is AFFIRMED.

Escobar may be provisionally released if he indeed has paid the surety bond that must be contained
in a public document and approved by the Regional Trial Court judge. Otherwise, he is directed to
post bail.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

August 15, 2017

G.R. No. 226679

SALVADOR ESTIPONA, JR. y ASUELA, Petitioner,


vs.
HON. FRANK E. LOBRIGO, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 3, Legazpi
City, Albay, and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:
Challenged in this petition for certiorari and prohibition1 is the constitutionality of Section 23 of
Republic Act (R.A.)No. 9165, or the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, "2 which
provides:

SEC 23. Plea-Bargaining Provision. - Any person charged under any provision of this Act regardless
of the imposable penalty shall not be allowed to avail of the provision on plea-bargaining.3

The facts are not in dispute.

Petitioner Salvador A. Estipona, Jr. (Estipona) is the accused in Criminal Case No. 13586 for
violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 (Possession of Dangerous Drugs). The Information
alleged:

That on or about the 21st day of March, 2016, in the City of Legazpi, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized to
possess or otherwise use any regulated drug and without the corresponding license or prescription,
did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have, in his possession and under his control
and custody, one (1) piece heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet marked as VOP 03/21/16- l G
containing 0.084 [gram] of white crystalline substance, which when examined were found to be
positive for Methamphetamine Hydrocloride (Shabu), a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

On June 15, 2016, Estipona filed a Motion to Allow the Accused to Enter into a Plea Bargaining
Agreement,5 praying to withdraw his not guilty plea and, instead, to enter a plea of guilty for violation
of Section 12, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 (Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and
Other Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs) with a penalty of rehabilitation in view of his being a first-
time offender and the minimal quantity of the dangerous drug seized in his possession. He argued
that Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165 violates: (1) the intent of the law expressed in paragraph 3, Section
2 thereof; (2) the rule-making authority of the Supreme Court under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the
1987 Constitution; and (3) the principle of separation of powers among the three equal branches of
the government.

In its Comment or Opposition6 dated June 27, 2016, the prosecution moved for the denial of the
motion for being contrary to Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165, which is said to be justified by the
Congress' prerogative to choose which offense it would allow plea bargaining. Later, in a Comment
or Opposition7 dated June 29, 2016, it manifested that it "is open to the Motion of the accused to
enter into plea bargaining to give life to the intent of the law as provided in paragraph 3, Section 2 of
[R.A. No.] 9165, however, with the express mandate of Section 23 of [R.A. No.] 9165 prohibiting plea
bargaining, [it] is left without any choice but to reject the proposal of the accused."

On July 12, 2016, respondent Judge Frank E. Lobrigo of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 3,
Legazpi City, Albay, issued an Order denying Estipona's motion. It was opined:

The accused posited in his motion that Sec. 23 of RA No. 9165, which prohibits plea bargaining,
encroaches on the exclusive constitutional power of the Supreme Court to promulgate rules of
procedure because plea bargaining is a "rule of procedure." Indeed, plea bargaining forms part of
the Rules on Criminal Procedure, particularly under Rule 118, the rule on pre-trial conference. It is
only the Rules of Court promulgated by the Supreme Court pursuant to its constitutional rule-making
power that breathes life to plea bargaining. It cannot be found in any statute.
Without saying so, the accused implies that Sec. 23 of Republic Act No. 9165 is unconstitutional
because it, in effect, suspends the operation of Rule 118 of the Rules of Court insofar as it allows
plea bargaining as part of the mandatory pre-trial conference in criminal cases.

The Court sees merit in the argument of the accused that it is also the intendment of the law, R.A.
No. 9165, to rehabilitate an accused of a drug offense. Rehabilitation is thus only possible in cases
of use of illegal drugs because plea bargaining is disallowed. However, by case law, the Supreme
Court allowed rehabilitation for accused charged with possession of paraphernalia with traces of
dangerous drugs, as held in People v. Martinez, G.R. No. 191366, 13 December 2010. The ruling of
the Supreme Court in this case manifested the relaxation of an otherwise stringent application of
Republic Act No. 9165 in order to serve an intent for the enactment of the law, that is, to rehabilitate
the offender.

Within the spirit of the disquisition in People v. Martinez, there might be plausible basis for the
declaration of Sec. 23 of R.A. No. 9165, which bars plea bargaining as unconstitutional because
indeed the inclusion of the provision in the law encroaches on the exclusive constitutional power of
the Supreme Court.

While basic is the precept that lower courts are not precluded from resolving, whenever warranted,
constitutional questions, the Court is not unaware of the admonition of the Supreme Court that lower
courts must observe a becoming modesty in examining constitutional questions. Upon which
admonition, it is thus not for this lower court to declare Sec. 23 of R.A. No. 9165 unconstitutional
given the potential ramifications that such declaration might have on the prosecution of illegal drug
cases pending before this judicial station.8

Estipona filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied in an Order9 dated July 26, 2016;
hence, this petition raising the issues as follows:

I.

WHETHER SECTION 23 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165, WHICH PROHIBITS PLEA BARGAINING
IN ALL VIOLATIONS OF THE SAID LAW, IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOR BEING VIOLATIVE OF
THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW.

II.

WHETHER SECTION 23 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165 IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS IT


ENCROACHED UPON THE POWER OF THE SUPREME COURT TO PROMULGATE RULES OF
PROCEDURE.

III.

WHETHER THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, AS PRESIDED BY HON. FRANK E. LOBRIGO,


COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION WHEN IT REFUSED TO DECLARE SECTION 23 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165
AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.10

We grant the petition.

PROCEDURAL MATTERS
The People of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), contends that the
petition should be dismissed outright for being procedurally defective on the grounds that: (1) the
Congress should have been impleaded as an indispensable party; (2) the constitutionality of Section
23 of R.A. No. 9165 cannot be attacked collaterally; and (3) the proper recourse should have been a
petition for declaratory relief before this Court or a petition for certiorari before the RTC. Moreover,
the OSG argues that the petition fails to satisfy the requisites of judicial review because: (1) Estipona
lacks legal standing to sue for failure to show direct injury; (2) there is no actual case or controversy;
and (3) the constitutionality of Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165 is not the lis mota of the case.

On matters of technicality, some points raised by the OSG maybe correct. Nonetheless, without
1âw phi 1

much further ado, it must be underscored that it is within this Court's power to make exceptions to
the rules of court. Under proper conditions, We may permit the full and exhaustive ventilation of the
parties' arguments and positions despite the supposed technical infirmities of a petition or its alleged
procedural flaws. In discharging its solemn duty as the final arbiter of constitutional issues, the Court
shall not shirk from its obligation to determine novel issues, or issues of first impression, with far-
reaching implications.11

Likewise, matters of procedure and technicalities normally take a backseat when issues of
substantial and transcendental importance are present.12 We have acknowledged that the
Philippines' problem on illegal drugs has reached "epidemic," "monstrous," and "harrowing"
proportions,13 and that its disastrously harmful social, economic, and spiritual effects have broken the
lives, shattered the hopes, and destroyed the future of thousands especially our young citizens.14 At
the same time, We have equally noted that "as urgent as the campaign against the drug problem
must be, so must we as urgently, if not more so, be vigilant in the protection of the rights of the
accused as mandated by the Constitution x x x who, because of excessive zeal on the part of the
law enforcers, may be unjustly accused and convicted."15 Fully aware of the gravity of the drug
menace that has beset our country and its direct link to certain crimes, the Court, within its sphere,
must do its part to assist in the all-out effort to lessen, if not totally eradicate, the continued presence
of drug lords, pushers and users.16

Bearing in mind the very important and pivotal issues raised in this petition, technical matters should
not deter Us from having to make the final and definitive pronouncement that everyone else depends
for enlightenment and guidance.17 When public interest requires, the Court may brush aside
procedural rules in order to resolve a constitutional issue.18

x x x [T]he Court is invested with the power to suspend the application of the rules of procedure as a
necessary complement of its power to promulgate the same. Barnes v. Hon. Quijano
Padilla discussed the rationale for this tenet, viz. :

Let it be emphasized that the rules of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to
facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in
technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be
eschewed. Even the Rules of Court reflect this principle. The power to suspend or even disregard
rules can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court itself has already
declared to be final, x x x.

The emerging trend in the rulings of this Court is to afford every party litigant the amplest opportunity
for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities. Time
and again, this Court has consistently held that rules must not be applied rigidly so as not to override
substantial justice. 19

SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES
Rule-making power of the Supreme
Court under the 1987 Constitution

Section 5(5), A1iicle VIII of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides:

Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

xxxx

(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading,
practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and
legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive
procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and
shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and
quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.

The power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is now Our exclusive domain and
no longer shared with the Executive and Legislative departments.20 In Echegaray v. Secretary of
Justice, 21 then Associate Justice (later Chief Justice) Reynato S. Puno traced the history of the
Court's rule-making power and highlighted its evolution and development.

x x x It should be stressed that the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure
was granted by our Constitutions to this Court to enhance its independence, for in the words of
Justice Isagani Cruz "without independence and integrity, courts will lose that popular trust so
essential to the maintenance of their vigor as champions of justice." Hence, our Constitutions
continuously vested this power to this Court for it enhances its independence. Under the 1935
Constitution, the power of this Court to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and
procedure was granted but it appeared to be co-existent with legislative power for it was subject to
the power of Congress to repeal, alter or supplement. Thus, its Section 13, Article VIII provides:

"Sec. 13. The Supreme Court shall have the power to promulgate rules concerning pleading,
practice and procedure in all courts, and the admission to the practice of law. Said rules shall be
uniform for all courts of the same grade and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive
rights. The existing laws on pleading, practice and procedure are hereby repealed as statutes, and
are declared Rules of Court, subject to the power of the Supreme Court to alter and modify the
same. The Congress shall have the power to repeal, alter or supplement the rules concerning
pleading, practice and procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the Philippines."

The said power of Congress, however, is not as absolute as it may appear on its surface. In In re:
Cunanan Congress in the exercise of its power to amend rules of the Supreme Court regarding
admission to the practice of law, enacted the Bar Flunkers Act of 1953 which considered as a
passing grade, the average of 70% in the bar examinations after July 4, 1946 up to August 1951 and
71 % in the 1952 bar examinations. This Court struck down the law as unconstitutional. In
his ponencia, Mr. Justice Diokno held that "x x x the disputed law is not a legislation; it is a judgment
- a judgment promulgated by this Court during the aforecited years affecting the bar candidates
concerned; and although this Court certainly can revoke these judgments even now, for justifiable
reasons, it is no less certain that only this Court, and not the legislative nor executive department,
that may do so. Any attempt on the part of these departments would be a clear usurpation of its
function, as is the case with the law in question." The venerable jurist further ruled: "It is obvious,
therefore, that the ultimate power to grant license for the practice of law belongs exclusively to this
Court, and the law passed by Congress on the matter is of permissive character, or as other
authorities say, merely to fix the minimum conditions for the license." By its ruling, this Court
qualified the absolutist tone of the power of Congress to "repeal, alter or supplement the rules
concerning pleading, practice and procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the
Philippines.

The ruling of this Court in In re Cunanan was not changed by the 1973 Constitution. For the 1973
Constitution reiterated the power of this Court "to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and
procedure in all courts, x x x which, however, may be repealed, altered or supplemented by the
Batasang Pambansa x x x." More completely, Section 5(2)5 of its Article X provided:

xxxx

"Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers.

xxxx

(5) Promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the
practice of law, and the integration of the Bar, which, however, may be repealed, altered, or
supplemented by the Batasang Pambansa. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive
procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and
shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights."

Well worth noting is that the 1973 Constitution further strengthened the independence of the
judiciary by giving to it the additional power to promulgate rules governing the integration of the Bar.

The 1987 Constitution molded an even stronger and more independent judiciary. Among others, it
enhanced the rule making power of this Court. Its Section 5(5), Article VIII provides:

xxxx

"Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

xxx

(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading,
practice and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and
legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive
procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and
shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and
quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court. "

The rule making power of this Court was expanded. This Court for the first time was given the power
to promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights. The Court
was also granted for the .first time the power to disapprove rules of procedure of special courts and
quasi-judicial bodies. But most importantly, the 1987 Constitution took away the power of Congress
to repeal, alter, or supplement rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure. In fine, the power
to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is no longer shared by this Court with
Congress, more so with the Executive. x x x.22

Just recently, Carpio-Morales v. Court of Appeals (Sixth Division)23 further elucidated:


While the power to define, prescribe, and apportion the jurisdiction of the various courts is, by
constitutional design, vested unto Congress, the power to promulgate rules concerning the
protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all
courts belongs exclusively to this Court.Section 5 (5), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution reads:

xxxx

In Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice (Echegaray), the Court traced the evolution of its rule-making
authority, which, under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, had been priorly subjected to a power-
sharing scheme with Congress. As it now stands, the 1987 Constitution textually altered the old
provisions by deleting the concurrent power of Congress to amend the rules, thus solidifying
in one body the Court's rule-making powers, in line with the Framers' vision of institutionalizing a
" [ s] tronger and more independent judiciary."

The records of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission would show that the Framers
debated on whether or not the Court's rulemaking powers should be shared with Congress. There
was an initial suggestion to insert the sentence "The National Assembly may repeal, alter, or
supplement the said rules with the advice and concurrence of the Supreme Court," right after the
phrase "Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights,
pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the integrated
bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged[,]" in the enumeration of powers of the Supreme
Court. Later, Commissioner Felicitas S. Aquino proposed to delete the former sentence and, instead,
after the word "[under]privileged," place a comma(,) to be followed by "the phrase with the
concurrence of the National Assembly." Eventually, a compromise formulation was reached
wherein (a) the Committee members agreed to Commissioner Aquino's proposal to delete the
phrase "the National Assembly may repeal, alter, or supplement the said rules with the advice and
concurrence of the Supreme Court" and (b) in turn, Commissioner Aquino agreed to withdraw his
proposal to add "the phrase with the concurrence of the National Assembly." The changes were
approved, thereby leading to the present lack of textual reference to any form of
Congressional participation in Section 5 (5), Article VIII, supra. Theprevailing consideration
was that "both bodies, the Supreme Court and the Legislature, have their inherent powers."

Thus, as it now stands, Congress has no authority to repeal, alter, or supplement rules concerning
pleading, practice, and procedure.x x x.24

The separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of our government has erected an
impregnable wall that keeps the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure
within the sole province of this Court.25 The other branches trespass upon this prerogative if they
enact laws or issue orders that effectively repeal, alter or modify any of the procedural rules
promulgated by the Court.26 Viewed from this perspective, We have rejected previous attempts on
the part of the Congress, in the exercise of its legislative power, to amend the Rules of
Court (Rules), to wit:

1. Fabian v. Desierto27 -Appeal from the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman in an
administrative disciplinary case should be taken to the Court of Appeals under the provisions of Rule
43 of the Rulesinstead of appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 as provided in Section 27 of R.A. No.
6770.

2. Cathay Metal Corporation v. Laguna West Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc. 28 - The Cooperative
Code provisions on notices cannot replace the rules on summons under Rule 14 of the Rules.
3. RE: Petition for Recognition of the Exemption of the GSIS from Payment of Legal Fees; 29 Baguio
Market Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BAMARVEMPCO) v. Hon. Judge Cabato-Cortes;30 In
Re: Exemption of the National Power Corporation from Payment of Filing/Docket Fees; 31 and Rep. of
the Phils. v. Hon. Mangotara, et al. 32 - Despite statutory provisions, the GSIS, BAMARVEMPCO, and
NPC are not exempt from the payment of legal fees imposed by Rule 141 of the Rules.

4. Carpio-Morales v. Court of Appeals (Sixth Division)33 - The first paragraph of Section 14 of R.A.
No. 6770, which prohibits courts except the Supreme Court from issuing temporary restraining order
and/or writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin an investigation conducted by the Ombudsman, is
unconstitutional as it contravenes Rule 58 of the Rules.

Considering that the aforesaid laws effectively modified the Rules, this Court asserted its discretion
to amend, repeal or even establish new rules of procedure, to the exclusion of the legislative and
executive branches of government. To reiterate, the Court's authority to promulgate rules on
pleading, practice, and procedure is exclusive and one of the safeguards of Our institutional
independence.34

Plea bargaining in criminal cases

Plea bargaining, as a rule and a practice, has been existing in our jurisdiction since July 1, 1940,
when the 1940 Rules took effect. Section 4, Rule 114 (Pleas) of which stated:

SEC. 4. Plea of guilty of lesser offense. - The defendant, with the consent of the court and of the
fiscal, may plead guilty of any lesser offense than that charged which is necessarily included in the
offense charged in the complaint or information.

When the 1964 Rules became effective on January 1, 1964, the same provision was retained under
Rule 118 (Pleas). Subsequently, with the effectivity of the 1985 Rules on January 1, 1985, the
1âwphi1

provision on plea of guilty to a lesser offense was amended. Section 2, Rule 116 provided:

SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. - The accused with the consent of the offended party and
the fiscal, may be allowed by the trial court to plead guilty to a lesser offense, regardless of whether
or not it is necessarily included in the crime charged, or is cognizable by a court of lesser jurisdiction
than the trial court. No amendment of the complaint or information is necessary. (4a, R-118)

As well, the term "plea bargaining" was first mentioned and expressly required during pre-trial.
Section 2, Rule 118 mandated:

SEC. 2. Pre-trial conference; subjects. - The pre-trial conference shall consider the following:

(a) Plea bargaining;

(b) Stipulation of facts;

(c) Marking for identification of evidence of the parties;

(d) Waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence; and

(e) Such other matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial. (n)
The 1985 Rules was later amended. While the wordings of Section 2, Rule 118 was retained,
Section 2, Rule 116 was modified in 1987. A second paragraph was added, stating that "[a]
conviction under this plea shall be equivalent to a conviction of the offense charged for purposes of
double jeopardy."

When R.A. No. 8493 ("Speedy Trial Act of 1998 ') was enacted,35 Section 2, Rule 118 of
the Rules was substantially adopted. Section 2 of the law required that plea bargaining and other
matters36 that will promote a fair and expeditious trial are to be considered during pre-trial conference
in all criminal cases cognizable by the Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court,
Metropolitan Trial Court, Regional Trial Court, and the Sandiganbayan.

Currently, the pertinent rules on plea bargaining under the 2000 Rules37 are quoted below:

RULE 116 (Arraignment and Plea):

SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. - At arraignment, the accused, with the consent of the
offended party and the prosecutor, may be allowed by the trial court to plead guilty to a lesser
offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. After arraignment but before trial, the
accused may still be allowed to plead guilty to said lesser offense after withdrawing his plea of not
guilty. No amendment of the complaint or information is necessary. (Sec. 4, Cir. 38-98)

RULE 118 (Pre-trial):

SEC. 1. Pre-trial; mandatory in criminal cases. - In all criminal cases cognizable by


the Sandiganbayan,Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities,
Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, the court shall, after arraignment and within
thirty (30) days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused, unless a
shorter period is provided for in special laws or circulars of the Supreme Court, order a pre-trial
conference to consider the following:

(a) plea bargaining;

(b) stipulation of facts;

(c) marking for identification of evidence of the parties;

(d) waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence;

(e) modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense;
and

(f) such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the criminal and civil aspects of the
case. (Sec. 2 & 3, Cir. 38-98)

Plea bargaining is a rule of procedure

The Supreme Court's sole prerogative to issue, amend, or repeal procedural rules is limited to the
preservation of substantive rights, i.e., the former should not diminish, increase or modify the
latter.38 "Substantive law is that part of the law which creates, defines and regulates rights, or which
regulates the right and duties which give rise to a cause of action; that part of the law which courts
are established to administer; as opposed to adjective or remedial law, which prescribes the method
of enforcing rights or obtain redress for their invasions."39 Fabian v. Hon. Desierto40 laid down the test
for determining whether a rule is substantive or procedural in nature.

It will be noted that no definitive line can be drawn between those rules or statutes which are
procedural, hence within the scope of this Court's rule-making power, and those which are
substantive. In fact, a particular rule may be procedural in one context and substantive in another. It
is admitted that what is procedural and what is substantive is frequently a question of great difficulty.
It is not, however, an insurmountable problem if a rational and pragmatic approach is taken within
the context of our own procedural and jurisdictional system.

In determining whether a rule prescribed by the Supreme Court, for the practice and procedure of
the lower courts, abridges, enlarges, or modifies any substantive right, the test is whether the rule
really regulates procedure, that is, the judicial process for enforcing rights and duties recognized by
substantive law and for justly administering remedy and redress for a disregard or infraction of them.
If the rule takes away a vested right, it is not procedural. If the rule creates a right such as the right to
appeal, it may be classified as a substantive matter; but if it operates as a means of implementing an
existing right then the rule deals merely with procedure.41

In several occasions, We dismissed the argument that a procedural rule violates substantive rights.
For example, in People v. Lacson, 42 Section 8, Rule 117 of the Rules on provisional dismissal was
held as a special procedural limitation qualifying the right of the State to prosecute, making the time-
bar an essence of the given right or as an inherent part thereof, so that its expiration operates to
extinguish the right of the State to prosecute the accused.43Speaking through then Associate Justice
Romeo J. Callejo, Sr., the Court opined:

In the new rule in question, as now construed by the Court, it has fixed a time-bar of one year or two
years for the revival of criminal cases provisionally dismissed with the express consent of the
accused and with a priori notice to the offended party. The time-bar may appear, on first impression,
unreasonable compared to the periods under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code. However, in
fixing the time-bar, the Court balanced the societal interests and those of the accused for the orderly
and speedy disposition of criminal cases with minimum prejudice to the State and the accused. It
took into account the substantial rights of both the State and of the accused to due process. The
Court believed that the time limit is a reasonable period for the State to revive provisionally
dismissed cases with the consent of the accused and notice to the offended parties. The time-bar
fixed by the Court must be respected unless it is shown that the period is manifestly short or
insufficient that the rule becomes a denial of justice. The petitioners failed to show a manifest
shortness or insufficiency of the time-bar.

The new rule was conceptualized by the Committee on the Revision of the Rules and approved by
the Court en banc primarily to enhance the administration of the criminal justice system and the
rights to due process of the State and the accused by eliminating the deleterious practice of trial
courts of provisionally dismissing criminal cases on motion of either the prosecution or the accused
or jointly, either with no time-bar for the revival thereof or with a specific or definite period for such
revival by the public prosecutor. There were times when such criminal cases were no longer revived
or refiled due to causes beyond the control of the public prosecutor or because of the indolence,
apathy or the lackadaisical attitude of public prosecutors to the prejudice of the State and the
accused despite the mandate to public prosecutors and trial judges to expedite criminal proceedings.

It is almost a universal experience that the accused welcomes delay as it usually operates in his
favor, especially if he greatly fears the consequences of his trial and conviction. He is hesitant to
disturb the hushed inaction by which dominant cases have been known to expire.
The inordinate delay in the revival or refiling of criminal cases may impair or reduce the capacity of
the State to prove its case with the disappearance or nonavailability of its witnesses. Physical
evidence may have been lost. Memories of witnesses may have grown dim or have faded. Passage
of time makes proof of any fact more difficult. The accused may become a fugitive from justice or
commit another crime. The longer the lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to the revival
thereof, the more difficult it is to prove the crime.

On the other side of the fulcrum, a mere provisional dismissal of a criminal case does not terminate
a criminal case. The possibility that the case may be revived at any time may disrupt or reduce, if not
derail, the chances of the accused for employment, curtail his association, subject him to public
obloquy and create anxiety in him and his family. He is unable to lead a normal life because of
community suspicion and his own anxiety. He continues to suffer those penalties and disabilities
incompatible with the presumption of innocence. He may also lose his witnesses or their memories
may fade with the passage of time. In the long run, it may diminish his capacity to defend himself
and thus eschew the fairness of the entire criminal justice system.

The time-bar under the new rule was fixed by the Court to excise the malaise that plagued the
administration of the criminal justice system for the benefit of the State and the accused; not for the
accused only.44

Also, We said in Jaylo, et al. v. Sandiganbayan, et al. 45 that Section 6, Rule 120 of the Rules, which
provides that an accused who failed to appear at the promulgation of the judgment of conviction
shall lose the remedies available against the judgment, does not take away substantive rights but
merely provides the manner through which an existing right may be implemented.

Section 6, Rule 120, of the Rules of Court, does not take away per se the right of the convicted
accused to avail of the remedies under the Rules. It is the failure of the accused to appear without
justifiable cause on the scheduled date of promulgation of the judgment of conviction that forfeits
their right to avail themselves of the remedies against the judgment.

It is not correct to say that Section 6, Rule 120, of the Rules of Court diminishes or modifies the
substantive rights of petitioners. It only works in pursuance of the power of the Supreme Court to
"provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases." This provision
protects the courts from delay in the speedy disposition of criminal cases - delay arising from the
simple expediency of nonappearance of the accused on the scheduled promulgation of the judgment
of conviction.46

By the same token, it is towards the provision of a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the
speedy disposition of cases in all courts47 that the rules on plea bargaining was introduced. As a way
of disposing criminal charges by agreement of the parties, plea bargaining is considered to be an
"important," "essential," "highly desirable," and "legitimate" component of the administration of
justice.48 Some of its salutary effects include:

x x x For a defendant who sees slight possibility of acquittal, the advantages of pleading guilty and
limiting the probable penalty are obvious - his exposure is reduced, the correctional processes can
begin immediately, and the practical burdens of a trial are eliminated. For the State there are also
advantages - the more promptly imposed punishment after an admission of guilt may more
effectively attain the objectives of punishment; and with the avoidance of trial, scarce judicial and
prosecutorial resources are conserved for those cases in which there is a substantial issue of the
defendant's guilt or in which there is substantial doubt that the State can sustain its burden of
proof. (Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 752 [1970])
Disposition of charges after plea discussions x x x leads to prompt and largely final disposition of
most criminal cases; it avoids much of the corrosive impact of enforced idleness during pretrial
confinement for those who are denied release pending trial; it protects the public from those accused
persons who are prone to continue criminal conduct even while on pretrial release; and, by
shortening the time between charge and disposition, it enhances whatever may be the rehabilitative
prospects of the guilty when they are ultimately imprisoned. (Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257,
261 [1971])

The defendant avoids extended pretrial incarceration and the anxieties and uncertainties of a trial;
he gains a speedy disposition of his case, the chance to acknowledge his guilt, and a prompt start in
realizing whatever potential there may be for rehabilitation. Judges and prosecutors conserve vital
and scarce resources. The public is protected from the risks posed by those charged with criminal
offenses who are at large on bail while awaiting completion of criminal proceedings. (Blackledge v.
Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 71 [1977])

In this jurisdiction, plea bargaining has been defined as "a process whereby the accused and the
prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court
approval."49 There is give-and-take negotiation common in plea bargaining.50 The essence of the
agreement is that both the prosecution and the defense make concessions to avoid potential
losses.51 Properly administered, plea bargaining is to be encouraged because the chief virtues of the
system - speed, economy, and finality - can benefit the accused, the offended party, the prosecution,
and the court.52

Considering the presence of mutuality of advantage,53 the rules on plea bargaining neither create a
right nor take away a vested right. Instead, it operates as a means to implement an existing right by
regulating the judicial process for enforcing rights and duties recognized by substantive law and for
justly administering remedy and redress for a disregard or infraction of them.

The decision to plead guilty is often heavily influenced by the defendant's appraisal of the
prosecution's case against him and by the apparent likelihood of securing leniency should a guilty
plea be offered and accepted.54 In any case, whether it be to the offense charged or to a lesser
crime, a guilty plea is a "serious and sobering occasion" inasmuch as it constitutes a waiver of the
fundamental rights to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, to be heard by himself and
counsel, to meet the witnesses face to face, to bail (except those charged with offenses punishable
by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong), to be convicted by proof beyond reasonable
doubt, and not to be compelled to be a witness against himself.55

Yet a defendant has no constitutional right to plea bargain. No basic rights are infringed by trying him
rather than accepting a plea of guilty; the prosecutor need not do so if he prefers to go to
trial.56 Under the present Rules, the acceptance of an offer to plead guilty is not a demandable right
but depends on the consent of the offended party57and the prosecutor, which is a condition precedent
to a valid plea of guilty to a lesser offense that is necessarily included in the offense charged.58 The
reason for this is that the prosecutor has full control of the prosecution of criminal actions; his duty is
to always prosecute the proper offense, not any lesser or graver one, based on what the evidence
on hand can sustain.59

[Courts] normally must defer to prosecutorial decisions as to whom to prosecute. The reasons for
judicial deference are well known. Prosecutorial charging decisions are rarely simple. In addition to
assessing the strength and importance of a case, prosecutors also must consider other tangible and
intangible factors, such as government enforcement priorities. Finally, they also must decide how
best to allocate the scarce resources of a criminal justice system that simply cannot accommodate
the litigation of every serious criminal charge. Because these decisions "are not readily susceptible
to the kind of analysis the courts are competent to undertake," we have been "properly hesitant to
examine the decision whether to prosecute. "60

The plea is further addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court, which may allow the accused
to plead guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. The
word may denotes an exercise of discretion upon the trial court on whether to allow the accused to
make such plea.61 Trial courts are exhorted to keep in mind that a plea of guilty for a lighter offense
than that actually charged is not supposed to be allowed as a matter of bargaining or compromise
for the convenience of the accused.62

Plea bargaining is allowed during the arraignment, the pre-trial, or even up to the point when the
prosecution already rested its case.63 As regards plea bargaining during the pre-trial stage, the trial
court's exercise of discretion should not amount to a grave abuse thereof.64 "Grave abuse of
discretion" is a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment so patent and gross as to amount to
an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, as where the
power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner because of passion or hostility; it arises
when a court or tribunal violates the Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence.65

If the accused moved to plead guilty to a lesser offense subsequent to a bail hearing or after the
prosecution rested its case, the rules allow such a plea only when the prosecution does not have
sufficient evidence to establish the guilt of the crime charged.66 The only basis on which the
prosecutor and the court could rightfully act in allowing change in the former plea of not guilty could
be nothing more and nothing less than the evidence on record. As soon as the prosecutor has
submitted a comment whether for or against said motion, it behooves the trial court to assiduously
study the prosecution's evidence as well as all the circumstances upon which the accused made his
change of plea to the end that the interests of justice and of the public will be served.67 The ruling on
the motion must disclose the strength or weakness of the prosecution's evidence.68 Absent any
finding on the weight of the evidence on hand, the judge's acceptance of the defendant's change of
plea is improper and irregular.69

On whether Section 23 of R.A. No.


9165 violates the equal protection
clause

At this point, We shall not resolve the issue of whether Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165 is contrary to the
constitutional right to equal protection of the law in order not to preempt any future discussion by the
Court on the policy considerations behind Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165. Pending deliberation on
whether or not to adopt the statutory provision in toto or a qualified version thereof, We deem it
proper to declare as invalid the prohibition against plea bargaining on drug cases until and unless it
is made part of the rules of procedure through an administrative circular duly issued for the purpose.

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari and prohibition is GRANTED. Section 23 of Republic Act
No. 9165 is declared unconstitutional for being contrary to the rule-making authority of the Supreme
Court under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 208146, June 08, 2016

VIRGINIA DIO, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND TIMOTHY DESMOND, Respondents.
DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

When a motion to quash an information is based on a defect that may be cured by amendment, courts must
provide the prosecution with the opportunity to amend the information.

This resolves a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 assailing the Court of Appeals Decision2 dated January 8,
2013 and Resolution3 dated July 10, 2013. The Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the Regional Trial
Court Order that quashed the Informations charging petitioner Virginia Dio (Dio) with libel because these
Informations failed to allege publication.4 ChanRobles Vi rt ualawlib ra ry

Private respondent Timothy Desmond (Desmond) is the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Subic Bay
Marine Exploratorium, of which Dio is Treasurer and Member of the Board of Directors.5 ChanRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary

On December 9, 2002, Desmond filed a complaint against Dio for libel.6 Two (2) separate Informations, both
dated February 26, 2003, were filed and docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 9108 and 9109.7 The Information
in Criminal Case No. 9108 reads: chanRoblesv irtual Lawlib rary

That on or about July 6, 2002 in Morong, Bataan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the said accused with malicious intent to besmirch the honor, integrity and reputation of Timothy
Desmond, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously send electronic messages to the offended party and to other persons
namely: Atty. Winston Ginez, John Corcoran, and Terry Nichoson which read as follows:

'NOW THAT WE ARE SET TO BUILD THE HOTEL SO THAT YOU COULD SURVIVED, (sic) YOU SHOULD STOP
YOUR NONSENSE THREAT BECAUSE YOU COULD NOT EVEN FEED YOUR OWN SELF UNLESS WE PAY YOUR
EXHORBITANT (sic) SALARY, HOUSE YOU ADN (sic) SUPPORT ALL YOUR PERSONAL NEEDS. YOU SHOULD
BE ASHAMED IN DOING THIS. AS FAR AS WE ARE CONCERNED, YOU ARE NOTHING EXCEPT A PERSON
WHO IS TRYING TO SURVIVED (sic) AT THE PRETEXT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL PROTECTOR [sic].
YOU ARE PADI (sic) TO THE LAST CENTS ON ALL YOUR WORK IN THE WORK (sic). AT THE SAME TIME, YOU
BLOATED THE PRICE OF EACH ANIMAL YOU BROUGHT TO THE PHILIPPINES from US$500,000.00 to
US$750,000.00 each so that you could owned (sic) more shares that you should. Please look into this
deeply.

IF YOU INSISTS (sic) TO BE CALLED AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL PROTECTOR IN OUR COUNTRY,
THEN YOU AND YOUR WIFE SHOULD STOP BLEEDING THE COMPANY WITH YOUR MONTHLY PAYROLL OF
ALMOST P1 MILLION A MONTH.'

The above-quoted electronic message being defamatory or constituting an act causing or tending to cause
dishonor, discredit or contempt against the person of the said Timothy Desmond, to the damage and
prejudice of the said offended party.

CONTRARY TO LAW.8 cralawred

The Information in Criminal Case No. 9109 reads: chanRoblesvirtual Lawlib rary

That on or about July 13, 2002 in Morong, Bataan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the said accused, with malicious intent to besmirch the honor, integrity and reputation of Timothy
Desmond, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously send electronic messages to the [sic] Atty. Winston Ginez and Fatima
Paglicawan, to the offended party, Timothy Desmond and to other persons namely: Hon. Felicito Payumo,
SBMA Chariman [sic], Terry Nichoson, John Corcoran, and Gail Laule which read as follows: c hanRoblesv irtual Lawlib rary

'Dear Winston and Fatima:

UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF TIM DESMOND AS CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF SBME, AS
OF THIS DATE THE COMPANY HAD INCURRED A LOSS OF MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED MILLION. A BALANCE
SHEET SUBMITTED TODAY BY THEIR ACCOUNTANT JULIET REFLECT AND (sic) ASSETS OF MORE THAN
THREE HUNDRED MILLION PESOS, 50% OF WHICH IS OVERVALUED AND NON-EXISTENT. TIM DESMOND
AND FAMILY HAD ACCUMULATED A (sic) SHARES OF MORE THAN 70% OF THE RECORDED PAID UP CAPITAL
BY OVERVALUING OF THE ASSETS CONTRIBUTION, PAYMENT TO THEIR OWN COMPANY IN THE USA, ETC.
AT THE SAME TIME, TIM DESMOND AND FAMILY BLEED THE COMPANY FROM DATE OF INCORPORATION TO
PRESENT FOR AN AVERAGE OF ONE MILLION PER MONTH FOR THEIR PERSONAL GAIN, LIKE SALARY, CAR,
ET, [sic] ETC.' cralawred

The above-quoted electronic message being defamatory or constituting an act causing or tending to cause
dishonor, discredit or contempt against the person of the said Timothy Desmond, to the damage and
prejudice of the said offended party.

CONTRARY TO LAW.9 cralawred

On April 22, 2003, Dio filed a Petition to suspend the criminal proceedings,10 but it was denied in the Order
dated February 6, 2004.11 ChanRoblesVi rt ualawli brary

Dio moved for reconsideration of the February 6, 2004 Order.12 She also moved to quash the Informations,
arguing that the "facts charged do not constitute an offense."13 In its Order14 dated July 13, 2004, the trial
court denied both Motions. The dispositive portion of the Order reads: cha nRoblesvi rt ualLaw lib rary

Premises considered, the Motion For Reconsideration of the Order dated February 6, 2004 and the Motion To
Quash, both filed for accused, as well as the Motion For Issuance of a Hold Departure Order filed by the
Prosecution, are hereby DENIED.

Arraignment will proceed as previously set on July 20, 2005 at 9:00 a.m.

SO ORDERED.15 cralawred

Dio moved for partial reconsideration of the July 13, 2004 Order, but the Motion was denied in the trial
court's Order dated September 13, 2005.16 ChanRobles Vi rt ualawlib ra ry

On October 11, 2005, Dio filed a Motion for leave of court to file a second motion for reconsideration.17She
also filed an Omnibus Motion to quash the Informations for failure to allege publication and lack of
jurisdiction, and for second reconsideration with leave of court.18 ChanRoblesVirtualawl ibra ry

The trial court's Order dated February 7, 2006 denied both Motions and scheduled Dio's arraignment on
March 9, 2006.19 Dio moved for partial reconsideration.20 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

The trial court granted Dio's Motion for Partial Reconsideration in its February 12, 2009 Order,21 the
dispositive portion of which reads: chanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

WHEREFORE, the Motion For Partial Reconsideration filed by the accused in Criminal Cases (sic) Nos. 9108
and 9109, on the ground that the Informations in the said cases fail (sic) to allege publication, is GRANTED
and, accordingly, the Informations filed against the accused are thereby QUASHED and DISMISSED.

No finding as to costs.

SO ORDERED.22 cralawred

After filing a Notice of Appeal on March 5, 2009,23 Desmond raised before the Court of Appeals the following
issues:chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

WHETHER OR NOT THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE ACCUSED'S ARGUMENT THAT THE
PRESENT CHARGES SHOULD BE QUASHED FOR FAILURE OF THE INFORMATIONS TO ALLEGE PUBLICATION.

II

WHETHER OR NOT THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE CASE AND QUASHING THE
INFORMATIONS WITHOUT GIVING THE PROSECUTOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO AMEND THE
INFORMATIONS.24 cralawred

In its January 8, 2013 Decision, the Court of Appeals sustained that the Informations did not substantially
constitute the offense charged.25 It found that the Informations did not contain any allegation that the
emails allegedly sent by Dio to Desmond had been accessed.26 However, it found that the trial court erred in
quashing the Informations without giving the prosecution a chance to amend them pursuant to Rule 117,
Section 4 of the Rules of Court: chanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

Although we agree with the trial court that the facts alleged in the Informations do not substantially
constitute the offense charged, the most prudent thing to do for the trial court is to give the prosecution the
opportunity to amend it and make the necessary corrections. Indeed, an Information may be defective
because the facts charged do not constitute an offense, however, the dismissal of the case will not
necessarily follow. The Rules specifically require that the prosecution should be given a chance to correct the
defect; the court can order the dismissal only upon the prosecution's failure to do so. The trial court's failure
to provide the prosecution with this opportunity constitutes an arbitrary exercise of power.27 cra lawred

The dispositive portion reads: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is GRANTED. The order of the Regional Trial Court of Balanga
City, Branch 3 dated February 12, 2009 in Criminal Case Nos. 9108 and 9109 is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
The case is remanded to the trial court and the Public Prosecutor of Balanga City is hereby DIRECTED to
amend the Informations.

SO ORDERED.28 cralawred

Dio moved for reconsideration,29 but the Court of Appeals denied the Motion in its July 10, 2013
Resolution.30 ChanRob les Virtualawl ibra ry

Hence, this Petition was filed.

Desmond and the Office of the Solicitor General filed their Comments,31 to which Dio filed her Reply.32On
April 2, 2014, this Court gave due course to the Petition and required the parties to submit their respective
memoranda.33 ChanRoblesVi rtua lawlib rary

The Office of the Solicitor General filed on June 11, 2014 a Manifestation and Motion34 adopting its
Comment. Desmond and Dio filed their memoranda on June 19, 201435 and July 10, 2014,36respectively.

Dio stresses that "venue is jurisdictional in criminal cases."37 Considering that libel is limited as to the venue
of the case, failure to allege "where the libelous article was printed and first published"38 or "where the
offended party actually resided at the time of the commission of the offense"39 is a jurisdictional defect. She
argues that jurisdictional defects in an Information are not curable by amendment, even before
arraignment. To support this position, she cites Agustin v. Pamintuan:40
We do not agree with the ruling of the CA that the defects in the Informations are merely formal. Indeed,
the absence of any allegations in the Informations that the offended party was actually residing in Baguio
City, where the crimes charged were allegedly committed, is a substantial defect. Indeed, the amendments
of the Informations to vest jurisdiction upon the court cannot be allowed.41 (Citations omitted) cra lawred

Dio also cites Leviste v. Hon. Alameda,42 where this Court has stated that not all defects in an Information
are curable by amendment prior to arraignment: cha nRoblesvi rt ual Lawlib rary

It must be clarified though that not all defects in an information are curable by amendment prior to entry of
plea. An information which is void ab initio cannot be amended to obviate a ground for quashal. An
amendment which operates to vest jurisdiction upon the trial court is likewise impermissible.43 (Citations
omitted) c ralawred

Dio argues that the Informations were void as the prosecutor of Morong, Bataan had no authority to conduct
the preliminary investigation of the offenses charged.44 The complaint filed before the prosecutor did not
allege that the emails were printed and first published in Morong Bataan, or that Desmond resided in
Morong, Bataan at the time of the offense.45 In the absence of these allegations, the prosecutor did not have
the authority to conduct the preliminary investigation or to file the information.46 ChanRoble sVirt ualawli bra ry

Dio further argues that publication, one of the elements of libel, was not present in the case. She asserts
that emailing does not constitute publication under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. As there was no
allegation in the Informations that the emails were received, accessed, and read by third persons other than
Desmond, there could be no publication.47 Further, emails are not covered under Article 355 of the Revised
Penal Code. Thus, at the time the allegedly libelous emails were sent, there was no law punishing this
act.48
ChanRoblesVi rt ualawlib ra ry

Finally, Dio argues that she sent the emails as private communication to the officers of the corporation, who
were in the position to act on her grievances.49 The emails were sent in good faith, with justifiable ends, and
in the performance of a legal duty.50 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

The primordial issue for resolution is whether an information's failure to establish venue is a defect that can
be cured by amendment before arraignment.

The Petition is denied.

I
If a motion to quash is based on a defect in the information that can be cured by amendment, the court
shall order that an amendment be made. Rule 117, Section 4 of the Rules of Court states: chanRoblesvi rt ualLaw lib rary

SEC. 4. Amendment of complaint or information. - If the motion to quash is based on an alleged defect of
the complaint or information which can be cured by amendment, the court shall order that an amendment
be made.

If it is based on the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, the prosecution shall be
given by the court an opportunity to correct the defect by amendment. The motion shall be granted if the
prosecution fails to make the amendment, or the complaint or information still suffers from the same defect
despite the amendment. cralawre d

This Court has held that failure to provide the prosecution with the opportunity to amend is an arbitrary
exercise of power.51 In People v. Sandiganbayan:52
When a motion to quash is filed challenging the validity and sufficiency of an Information, and the defect
may be cured by amendment, courts must deny the motion to quash and order the prosecution to file an
amended Information. Generally, a defect pertaining to the failure of an Information to charge facts
constituting an offense is one that may be corrected by an amendment. In such instances, courts are
mandated not to automatically quash the Information; rather, it should grant the prosecution the
opportunity to cure the defect through an amendment. This rule allows a case to proceed without undue
delay. By allowing the defect to be cured by simple amendment, unnecessary appeals based on technical
grounds, which only result to prolonging the proceedings, are avoided.

More than this practical consideration, however, is the due process underpinnings of this rule. As explained
by this Court in People v. Andrade, the State, just like any other litigant, is entitled to its day in court. Thus,
a court's refusal to grant the prosecution the opportunity to amend an Information, where such right is
expressly granted under the Rules of Court and affirmed time and again in a string of Supreme Court
decisions, effectively curtails the State's right to due process.53
cralaw red

In this case, petitioner Virginia Dio has not yet been arraigned; thus, Rule 117, Section 4 of the Rules of
Court applies. If the information is defective, the prosecution must be given the opportunity to amend it
before it may be quashed.

Petitioner claims that Rule 117, Section 4 of the Rules of Court applies only to informations that can be
cured by amendment. She argues that before a court orders that an amendment be made, or otherwise
gives the prosecution an opportunity to amend an information, it must first establish that the defective
information can be cured by amendment.

Petitioner relies on Agustin to argue the proscription of an amendment of an information in order to vest
jurisdiction in the court. This is misplaced.

In Agustin, the accused in the criminal case was already arraigned under a defective information that failed
to establish venue.54 The Court of Appeals held that the defect in the information was merely formal and,
consequently, could be amended even after plea, with leave of court. Thus, this Court held: cha nRoblesvi rt ualLaw lib rary

We do not agree with the ruling of the CA that the defects in the Informations are merely formal. Indeed,
the absence of any allegations in the Informations that the offended party was actually residing in Baguio
City, where the crimes charged were allegedly committed, is a substantial defect. Indeed, the amendments
of the Informations to vest jurisdiction upon the court cannot be allowed.55 cra lawred

In turn, Agustin cited Agbayani v. Sayo. However, Agbayani does not involve the amendment of a
56

defective information before or after arraignment. Subsequent cases have cited Agustin as basis that
amendment of an information to vest jurisdiction in the trial court is impermissible. Thus, in Leviste, this
Court cited Agustin and stated that certain amendments are impermissible even before arraignment: chanRob lesvi rtual Lawli bra ry

It must be clarified though that not all defects in an information are curable by amendment prior to entry of
plea. An information which is void ab initio cannot be amended to obviate a ground for quashal. An
amendment which operates to vest jurisdiction upon the trial court is likewise impermissible.57 cra lawred

It may appear that Leviste supports petitioner's contention that an amendment operating to vest jurisdiction
in the trial court is impermissible. However, the statement in Leviste was obiter dictum. It cites
only Agustin, which did not involve the amendment of an information before arraignment.

Aside from obiter dictum in jurisprudence, petitioner provides no legal basis to reverse the Court of Appeals'
determination that the defective informations may be amended before arraignment. Although the cases
petitioner cited involved defective informations that failed to establish the jurisdiction of the court over the
libel charges, none involved the amendment of an information before arraignment. Thus, these cannot be
controlling over the facts of this case.

II

A defect in the complaint filed before the fiscal is not a ground to quash an information. In Sasot v. People:58
Section 3, Rule 117 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, which was then in force at the time the alleged
criminal acts were committed, enumerates the grounds for quashing an information, to wit: chanRob lesvi rtual Lawl ibra ry

a) That the facts charged do not constitute an offense;

b) That the court trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense
charged or the person of the accused;

c) That the officer who filed the information had no authority to do so;

d) That it does not conform substantially to the prescribed form;

e) That more than one offense is charged except in those cases in which
existing laws prescribe a single punishment for various offenses;

f) That the criminal action or liability has been extinguished;

g) That it contains averments which, if true, would constitute a legal


excuse or justification; and

h) That the accused has been previously convicted or in jeopardy of


being convicted, or acquitted of the offense charged.
Nowhere in the foregoing provision is there any mention of the defect in the complaint filed before the fiscal
and the complainant's capacity to sue as grounds for a motion to quash.59 cralawred

On the other hand, lack of authority to file an information is a proper ground. In Cudia v. Court of Appeals:60
With respect to the second requisite, however, it is plainly apparent that the City Prosecutor of Angeles City
had no authority to file the first information, the offense having been committed in the Municipality of
Mabalacat, which is beyond his jurisdiction. Presidential Decree No. 1275, in relation to Section 9 of the
Administrative Code of 1987, pertinently provides that:

"Section 11. The provincial or the city fiscal shall:


chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry
....

(b) Investigate and/or cause to be investigated all charges of crimes, misdemeanors and violations of all
penal laws and ordinances within their respective jurisdictions and have the necessary information or
complaint prepared or made against the persons accused. In the conduct of such investigations he or his
assistants shall receive the sworn statements or take oral evidence of witnesses summoned by subpoena for
the purpose.

.... cralawred

It is thus the Provincial Prosecutor of Pampanga, not the City Prosecutor, who should prepare informations
for offenses committed within Pampanga but outside of Angeles City. An information, when required to be
filed by a public prosecuting officer, cannot be filed by another. It must be exhibited or presented by the
prosecuting attorney or someone authorized by law. If not, the court does not acquire jurisdiction.

Petitioner, however, insists that his failure to assert the lack of authority of the City Prosecutor in filing the
information in question is deemed a waiver thereof. As correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals,
petitioner's plea to an information before he filed a motion to quash may be a waiver of all objections to it
insofar as formal objections to the pleadings are concerned. But by clear implication, if not by express
provision of the Rules of Court, and by a long line of uniform decisions, questions relating to want of
jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceeding. It is a valid information signed by a competent
officer which, among other requisites, confers jurisdiction on the court over the person of the accused
(herein petitioner) and the subject matter of the accusation. In consonance with this view, an infirmity in
the information, such as lack of authority of the officer signing it, cannot be cured by silence, acquiescence,
or even by express consent.

In fine, there must have been a valid and sufficient complaint or information in the former prosecution. If,
therefore, the complaint or information was insufficient because it was so defective in form or substance
that the conviction upon it could not have been sustained, its dismissal without the consent of the accused
cannot be pleaded. As the fiscal had no authority to file the information, the dismissal of the first information
would not be a bar to petitioner's subsequent prosecution. Jeopardy does not attach where a defendant
pleads guilty to a defective indictment that is voluntarily dismissed by the prosecution.

Petitioner next claims that the lack of authority of the City Prosecutor was the error of the investigating
panel and the same should not be used to prejudice and penalize him. It is an all too familiar maxim that
the State is not bound or estopped by the mistakes or inadvertence of its officials and employees. To rule
otherwise could very well result in setting felons free, deny proper protection to the community, and give
rise to the possibility of connivance between the prosecutor and the accused.

Finally, petitioner avers that an amendment of the first information, and not its dismissal, should have been
the remedy sought by the prosecution. Suffice it to say that this Court, in Galvez vs. Court of Appeals has
ruled that even if amendment is proper, pursuant to Section 14 of Rule 110, it is also quite plausible under
the same provision that, instead of an amendment, an information may be dismissed to give way to the
filing of a new information.61 (Emphasis in the original, citations omitted) cralaw red

However, for quashal of an information to be sustained, the defect of the information must be evident on its
face. In Santos v. People:62
First, a motion to quash should be based on a defect in the information which is evident on its face. The
same cannot be said herein. The Information against petitioner appears valid on its face; and that it was
filed in violation of her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the laws is not evident on
the face thereof. As pointed out by the CTA First Division in its 11 May 2006 Resolution, the more
appropriate recourse petitioner should have taken, given the dismissal of similar charges against Velasquez,
was to appeal the Resolution dated 21 October 2005 of the Office of the State Prosecutor recommending the
filing of an information against her with the DOJ Secretary.63 cralawred

For an information to be quashed based on the prosecutor's lack of authority to file it, the lack of the
authority must be evident on the face of the information.

The Informations here do not allege that the venue of the offense was other than Morong, Bataan. Thus, it is
not apparent on the face of the Informations that the prosecutor did not have the authority to file them.

The proper remedy is to give the prosecution the opportunity to amend the Informations. If the proper
venue appears not to be Morong, Bataan after the Informations have been amended, then the trial court
may dismiss the case due to lack of jurisdiction, as well as lack of authority of the prosecutor to file the
information.

III

Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code provides: cha nRoblesvi rt ual Lawlib rary

Article 355. Libel by means of writings or similar means. - A libel committed by means of writing, printing,
lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any
similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine
ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to civil action which may be brought by the offended
party. cralawred

Petitioner argues that at the time of the offense, emails were not covered under Article 355 of the Revised
Penal Code. Petitioner claims this is bolstered by the enactment of Republic Act No. 10175, otherwise known
as the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which widened the scope of libel to include libel committed through email,
among others.64 ChanRoblesVi rt ualawlib ra ry

Whether emailing or, as in this case, sending emails to the persons named in the Informations—who appear
to be officials of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority where Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium is found—is
sufficiently "public," as required by Articles 353 and 355 of the Revised Penal Code and by the Anti-
Cybercrime Law, is a matter of defense that should be properly raised during trial.

Passionate and emphatic grievance, channelled through proper public authorities, partakes of a degree of
protected freedom of expression.65 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

Certainly, if we remain faithful to the dictum that public office is a public trust,66 some leeway should be
given to the public to express disgust. The scope and extent of that protection cannot be grounded in
abstractions. The facts of this case need to be proven by evidence; otherwise, this Court exercises barren
abstractions that may wander into situations only imagined, not real.

IV

Good faith is not among the grounds for quashing an information as enumerated in Rule 117, Section 3 of
the Rules of Court. It is not apparent on the face of the Informations, and what is not apparent cannot be
the basis for quashing them. In Danguilan-Vitug v. Court of Appeals:67
We find no reason to depart from said conclusion. Section 3, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Court
enumerates the grounds for quashing an information. Specifically, paragraph (g) of said provision states
that the accused may move to quash the complaint or information where it contains averments which, if
true, would constitute a legal excuse or justification. Hence, for the alleged privilege to be a ground for
quashing the information, the same should have been averred in the information itself and secondly, the
privilege should be absolute, not only qualified. Where, however, these circumstances are not alleged in the
information, quashal is not proper as they should be raised and proved as defenses. With more reason is it
true in the case of merely qualifiedly privileged communications because such cases remain actionable since
the defamatory communication is simply presumed to be not malicious, thereby relieving the defendant of
the burden of proving good intention and justifiable motive. The burden is on the prosecution to prove
malice. Thus, even if the qualifiedly privileged nature of the communication is alleged in the information, it
cannot be quashed especially where prosecution opposes the same so as not to deprive the latter of its day
in court, but prosecution can only prove its case after trial on the merits. In People v. Gomez we held, inter
alia:
chanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

"The claim of the accused . . . that the letter is privileged communication is not a ground for a motion to
quash. It is a matter of defense which must be proved after trial of the case on the merits."68 (Citations
omitted) c ralawred

Thus, the Court of Appeals did not err in disregarding petitioner's purported good faith. This should be a
matter of defense properly raised during trial.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari dated July 29, 2013 is DENIED. The Court of Appeals
Decision dated January 8, 2013 and Resolution dated July 10, 2013 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
EN BANC

October 10, 2017

G.R. No. 229781

SENATOR LEILA M. DE LIMA, Petitioner


vs.
HON. JUANITA GUERRERO, in her capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court of
Muntinlupa City, Branch 204, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, P/DIR. GEN. RONALD M. DELA
ROSA, in his capacity as Chief of the Philippine National Police, PSUPT. PHILIP GIL M.
PHILIPPS, in his capacity as Director, Headquarters Support Service, SUPT. ARNEL
JAMANDRON APUD, in his capacity as Chief, PNP Custodial Service Unit, and ALL PERSONS
ACTING UNDER THEIR CONTROL, SUPERVISION, INSTRUCTION OR DIRECTION IN
RELATION TO THE ORDERS THAT MAY BE ISSUED BY THE COURT, Respondents

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

For consideration is the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Application for a Writ of
Preliminary Injunction, and Urgent Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Status Quo Ante
Order1 under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner Senator Leila De Lima. In it, petitioner
assails the following orders and warrant issued by respondent judge Hon. Juanita Guerrero of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204, in Criminal Case No. 17-165,
entitled "People vs. Leila De Lima, et al.:" (1) the Order dated February 23, 2017 finding probable
cause for the issuance of warrant of arrest against petitioner De Lima; (2) the Warrant of
Arrest against De Lima also dated February 23, 2017; (3) the Order dated February 24, 2017
committing the petitioner to the custody of the PNP Custodial Center; and finally, (4) the supposed
omission of the respondent judge to act on petitioner's Motion to Quash, through which she
questioned the jurisdiction of the RTC.2

Antecedents

The facts are undisputed. The Senate and the House of Representatives conducted several inquiries
on the proliferation of dangerous drugs syndicated at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), inviting inmates
who executed affidavits in support of their testimonies.3 These legislative inquiries led to the filing of
the following complaints with the Department of Justice:

a) NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00313, entitled "Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC),
represented by Dante Jimenez vs. Senator Leila M. De Lima, et al.;"
b) NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00315, entitled "Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala vs. Senator
Leila De Lima, et al.;"

c) NPS No. XVI-INV-16K-00331, entitled "Jaybee Nifio Sebastian, represented by his wife
Roxanne Sebastian, vs. Senator Leila M De Lima, et al.;" and

d) NPS No. XVI-INV-16K-00336, entitled "National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) vs. Senator
Leila M. De Lima, et al. "4

Pursuant to DOJ Department Order No. 790, the four cases were consolidated and the DOJ Panel of
Prosecutors (DOJ Panel),5 headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, was directed to
conduct the requisite preliminary investigation.6

The DOJ Panel conducted a preliminary hearing on December 2, 2016,7 wherein the petitioner,
through her counsel, filed an Omnibus Motion to Immediately Endorse the Cases to the Office of the
Ombudsman and for the Inhibition of the Panel of Prosecutors and the Secretary of Justice
("Omnibus Motion").8 In the main, the petitioner argued that the Office of the Ombudsman has the
exclusive authority and jurisdiction to hear the four complaints against her. Further, alleging evident
partiality on the part of the DOJ Panel, the petitioner contended that the DOJ prosecutors should
inhibit themselves and refer the complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman.

A hearing on the Omnibus Motion was conducted on December 9, 2016,9 wherein the complainants,
YACC, Reynaldo Esmeralda (Esmeralda) and Ruel Lasala (Lasala), filed a Joint
Comment/Opposition to the Omnibus Motion. 10

On December 12, 2016, petitioner, in turn, interposed a Reply to the Joint Comment/Opposition filed
by complainants VACC, Esmeralda and Lasala. In addition, petitioner submitted a Manifestation with
Motion to First Resolve Pending Incident and to Defer Further Proceedings. 11

During the hearing conducted on December 21, 2016, petitioner manifested that she has decided
not to submit her counter-affidavit citing the pendency of her two motions.12 The DOJ Panel,
however, ruled that it will not entertain belatedly filed counter-affidavits, and declared all pending
incidents and the cases as submitted for resolution. Petitioner moved for but was denied
reconsideration by the DOJ Panel.13

On January 13, 2017, petitioner filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Prohibition and
Certiorari14assailing the jurisdiction of the DOJ Panel over the complaints against her. The petitions,
docketed as CA-G.R. No. 149097 and CA-G.R. No. SP No. 149385, are currently pending with the
Special 6th Division of the appellate court.15Meanwhile, in the absence of a restraining order issued
by the Court of Appeals, the DOJ Panel proceeded with the conduct of the preliminary
investigation16 and, in its Joint Resolution dated February 14, 2017,17 recommended the filing of
Informations against petitioner De Lima. Accordingly, on February 17, 2017, three Informations were
filed against petitioner De Lima and several co-accused before the RTC ofMuntinlupa City. One of
the Infonnations was docketed as Criminal Case No. 17-16518 and raffled off to Branch 204, presided
by respondent judge. This Information charging petitioner for violation of Section 5 in relation to
Section (jj), Section 26(b), and Section 28 of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165, contained the following
averments:

That within the period from November 2012 to March 2013, in the City of Muntinlupa, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Leila M. De Lima, being then the
Secretary of the Department of Justice, and accused Rafael Marcos Z. Rages, being then the
Officer-in-Charge of the Bureau of Corrections, by taking advantage of their public office, conspiring
and confederating with accused Ronnie P. Dayan, being then an employee of the Department of
Justice detailed to De Lima, all of them having moral ascendancy or influence over inmates in the
New Bilibid Prison, did then and there commit illegal drug trading, in the following manner: De Lima
and Ragos, with the use of their power, position, and authority, demand, solicit and extort money
from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison to support the senatorial bid of De Lima in the
May 2016 election; by reason of which, the inmates, not being lawfully authorized by law and
through the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices, did then and there willfully and
unlawfully trade and traffic dangerous drugs, and thereafter give and deliver to De Lima, through
Ragos and Dayan, the proceeds of illegal drug trading amounting to Five Million (₱5,000,000.00)
Pesos on 24 November 2012, Five Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 15 December 2012, and One
Hundred Thousand (₱100,000.00) Pesos weekly "tara" each from the high profile inmates in the
New Bilibid Prison.19

On February 20, 2017, petitioner filed a Motion to Quash,20mainly raising the following: the RTC lacks
jurisdiction over the offense charged against petitioner; the DOJ Panel lacks authority to file the
Information; the Information charges more than one offense; the allegations and the recitals of facts
do not allege the corpus delicti of the charge; the Information is based on testimonies of witnesses
who are not qualified to be discharged as state witnesses; and the testimonies of these witnesses
are hearsay.21

On February 23, 2017, respondent judge issued the presently assailed Order 22finding probable
cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against De Lima and her co-accused.
The Order stated, viz.:

After a careful evaluation of the herein Information and all the evidence presented during the
preliminary investigation conducted in this case by the Department of Justice, Manila, the Court finds
sufficient probable cause for the issuance of Warrants of Arrest against all the accused LEILA M. DE
LIMA, RAFAEL MARCOS Z. RAGOS and RONNIE P ALISOC DAYAN.

WHEREFORE, let Warrants of Arrest be issued against the abovementioned accused.

SO ORDERED.23

Accordingly, the questioned Warrant of Arrest dated February 23, 2017 ,24 which contained no
recommendation for bail, was issued against petitioner.

On February 24, 2017, the PNP Investigation and Detection Group served the Warrant of Arrest on
petitioner and the respondent judge issued the assailed February 24, 2017 Order,25 committing
petitioner to the custody of the PNP Custodial Center.

On February 27, 2017, petitioner repaired to this court via the present petition, praying for the
following reliefs:

a. Granting a writ of certiorari annulling and setting aside the Order dated 23 February 2017,
the Warrant of Arrest dated the same date, and the Order dated 24 February 2017 of the Regional
Trial Court - Branch 204, Muntinlupa City, in Criminal Case No. 17-165 entitled People of the
Philippines versus Leila M De Lima, et al.;

b. Granting a writ of prohibition enjoining and prohibiting respondent judge from conducting further
proceedings until and unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality;
c. Issuing an order granting the application for the issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO)
and a writ of preliminary injunction to the proceedings; and

d. Issuing a Status Quo Ante Order restoring the parties to the status prior to the issuance of the
Order and Warrant of Arrest, both dated February 23, 201 7, thereby recalling both processes and
restoring petitioner to her liberty and freedom.26

On March 9, 2017, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), on behalf of the respondents,
interposed its Comment to the petition.27 The OSG argued that the petition should be dismissed as
De Lima failed to show that she has no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy. Further, the OSG
posited that the petitioner did not observe the hierarchy of courts and violated the rule against forum
shopping. On substantive grounds, the OSG asserted inter alia that the RTC has jurisdiction over the
offense charged against the petitioner, that the respondent judge observed the constitutional and
procedural rules, and so did not commit grave abuse of discretion, in the issuance of the assailed
orders and warrant.28

On petitioner's motion, the Court directed the holding of oral arguments on the significant issues
raised. The Court then heard the parties in oral arguments on March 14, 21, and 28, 2017.29

In the meantime, the OSG filed a Manifestation dated March 13, 2017,30 claiming that petitioner
falsified the juratsappearing in the: (1) Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping page of
her petition; and (2) Affidavit of Merit in support of her prayer for injunctive relief. The OSG alleged
that while the advertedjurats appeared to be notarized by a certain Atty. Maria Cecille C. Tresvalles-
Cabalo on February 24, 2017, the guest logbook31 in the PNP Custodial Center Unit in Camp Crame
for February 24, 2017 does not bear the name of Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo. Thus, so the OSG
maintained, petitioner De Lima did not actually appear and swear before the notary public on such
date in Quezon City, contrary to the allegations in the jurats. For the OSG, the petition should
therefore be dismissed outright for the falsity committed by petitioner De Lima.

In compliance with an Order of this Court, petitioner filed the Affidavit of Atty. Maria Cecille C.
Tresvalles-Cabalo dated March 20, 201732 to shed light on the allegations of falsity
in petitioner'sjurats.

The parties simultaneously filed their respective Memoranda on April 17, 2017.33

The Issues

From the pleadings and as delineated in this Court's Advisory dated March 10, 201734 and discussed
by the parties during the oral arguments, the issues for resolution by this Court are:

Procedural Issues:
A Whether or not petitioner is excused from compliance with the doctrine on hierarchy of courts
considering that the petition should first be filed with the Court of Appeals.

B. Whether or not the pendency of the Motion to Quash the Information before the trial court renders
the instant petition premature.

C. Whether or not petitioner, in filing the present petition, violated the rule against forum shopping
given the pendency of the Motion to Quash the Information before the Regional Trial Court of
Muntinlupa City in Criminal Case No. 17-165 and the Petition for Certiorari filed before the Court of
Appeals in C.A. G.R. SP No. 149097, assailing the preliminary investigation conducted by the DOJ
Panel.

Substantive Issues:
A. Whether the Regional Trial Court or the Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction over the violation of
Republic Act No. 9165 averred in the assailed Information.

B. Whether or not the respondent gravely abused her discretion in finding probable cause to issue
the Warrant of Arrest against petitioner.

C. Whether or not petitioner is entitled to a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Status Quo
Ante Order in the interim until the instant petition is resolved or until the trial court rules on the
Motion to Quash.

OUR RULING

Before proceeding to a discussion on the outlined issues, We shall first confront the issue of the
alleged falsification committed by petitioner in the jurats of her Verification and Certification against
Forum Shopping and Affidavit of Merit in support of her prayer for injunctive relief.

In her Affidavit, Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo disproves the OSG's allegation that she did not notarize the
petitioner's Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping and Affidavit of Merit in this wise:

4. On February 24, 2017 at or around nine in the morning (9:00 AM), I went to PNP, CIDG, Camp
Crame, Quezon City to notarize the Petition as discussed the previous night.

5. I met Senator De Lima when she was brought to the CIDG at Camp Crame and I was informed
that the Petition was already signed and ready for notarization.

6. I was then provided the Petition by her staff. I examined the signature of Senator De Lima and
confirmed that it was signed by her. I have known the signature of the senator given our personal
relationship. Nonetheless, I still requested from her staff a photocopy of any of her government-
issued valid Identification Cards (ID) bearing her signature. A photocopy of her passport was
presented to me. I compared the signatures on the Petition and the Passport and I was able to verify
that the Petition was in fact signed by her. Afterwards, I attached the photocopy of her Passport to
the Petition which I appended to my Notarial Report/Record.

7. Since I already know that Sen. De Lima caused the preparation of the Petition and that it was her
who signed the same, I stamped and signed the same.

8. To confirm with Senator De Lima that I have already notarized the Petition, I sought entry to the
detention facility at or around three in the afternoon (3:00 PM). x x x

xxxx

11. Since I was never cleared after hours of waiting, I was not able to talk again to Senator De Lima
to confirm the notarization of the Petition. I then decided to leave Camp Crame.35

At first glance, it is curious that Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo who claims to have "stamped and signed the
[Verification and Certification and Affidavit of Merit]" inside Camp Crame, presumably in De Lima's
presence, still found it necessary to, hours later, "confirm with Senator De Lima that [she had]
already notarized the Petition." Nonetheless, assuming the veracity of the allegations narrated in the
Affidavit, it is immediately clear that petitioner De Lima did not sign the Verification and Certification
against Forum Shopping and Affidavit of Merit in front of the notary public. This is contrary to
the jurats (i.e., the certifications of the notary public at the end of the instruments) signed by Atty.
Tresvalles-Cabalo that the documents were "SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to before me."

Such clear breach of notarial protocol is highly censurable36 as Section 6, Rule II of the 2004 Rules
on Notarial Practice requires the affiant, petitioner De Lima in this case, to sign the instrument or
document in the presence of the notary, viz.:

SECTION 6. Jurat. - "Jurat" refers to an act in which an individual on a single occasion:

(a) appears in person before the notary public and presents an instrument or document;

(b) is personally known to the notary public or identified by the notary public through competent
evidence of identity as defined by these Rules;

(c) signs the instrument or document in the presence of the notary; and

(d) takes an oath or affirmation before the notary public as to such instrument or
document.(Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

While there is jurisprudence to the effect that "an irregular notarization merely reduces the
evidentiary value of a document to that of a private document, which requires /roof of its due
execution and authenticity to be admissible as evidence,"37 the same cannot be considered
controlling in determining compliance with the requirements of Sections 1 and 2, Rule 65 of the
Rules of Court. Both Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 6538 require that the petitions for certiorari and
prohibition must be verified and accompanied by a "sworn certificate of non-forum shopping."

In this regard, Section 4, Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure states that "[a] pleading is verified by
an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct
of his personal knowledge or based on authentic records." "A pleading required to be verified which
x x x lacks a proper verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading." Meanwhile, Section 5,
Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[t]he plaintiff or principal party shall certify under
oath in the complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a claim for relief, or in a sworn certification
annexed thereto and simultaneously filed therewith: (a) that he has not theretofore commenced any
action or filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and,
to the best of his knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein; (b) if there is such
other pending action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he
should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is pending, he shall
report that fact within five (5) days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory
pleading has been filed." "Failure to comply with the foregoing requirements shall not be curable by
mere amendment of the complaint or other initiatory pleading but shall be cause for the dismissal of
the case without prejudice, unless otherwise provided x x x."

In this case, when petitioner De Lima failed to sign the Verification and Certification against Forum
Shopping in the presence of the notary, she has likewise failed to properly swear under oath the
contents thereof, thereby rendering false and null the jurat and invalidating the Verification and
Certification against Forum Shopping. The significance of a proper jurat and the effect of its invalidity
was elucidated in William Go Que Construction v. Court of Appeals,39where this Court held that:
In .this case, it is undisputed that the Verification/Certification against Forum Shopping attached to
the petition for certiorari in CA-G.R. SP No. 109427 was not accompanied with a valid
affidavit/properly certified under oath. This was because the jurat thereof was defective in that it did
not indicate the pertinent details regarding the affiants' (i.e., private respondents) competent
evidence of identities.

Under Section 6, Rule II of AM. No. 02-8-13-SC 63 dated July 6, 2004, entitled the "2004 Rules on
Notarial Practice" (2004 Rules on Notarial Practice), ajurat refers to an act in which an individual on
a single occasion:

xxxx

In Fernandez v. Villegas (Fernandez), the Court pronounced that noncompliance with the verification
requirement or a defect therein "does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective. The court
may order its submission or correction or act on the pleading if the attending circumstances are such
that strict compliance with the Rule may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may be
served thereby." "Verification is deemed substantially complied with when one who has ample
knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the complaint or petition signs the verification,
and when matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct."
Here, there was no substantial compliance with the verification requirement as it cannot be
ascertained that any of the private respondents actually swore to the truth of the allegations in the
petition for certiorari in CA-G.R. SP No. 109427 given the lack of competent evidence of any of their
identities. Because of this, the fact that even one of the private respondents swore that the
allegations in the pleading are true and correct of his knowledge and belief is shrouded in doubt.

For the same reason, neither was there substantial compliance with the certification against forum
shopping requirement. In Fernandez, the Court explained that "non-compliance therewith or a defect
therein, unlike in verification, is generally not curable by its subsequent submission or correction
thereof, unless there is a need to relax the Rule on the ground of 'substantial compliance' or
presence of 'special circumstances or compelling reasons."' Here, the CA did not mention - nor does
there exist - any perceivable special circumstance or compelling reason which justifies the rules'
relaxation. At all events, it is uncertain if any of the private respondents certified under oath that no
similar action has been filed or is pending in another forum.

xxxx

Case law states that "[v]erification is required to secure an assurance that the allegations in the
petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct, and not merely speculative." On the
other hand, "[t]he certification against forum shopping is required based on the principle that a party-
litigant should not be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in different fora." The important
purposes behind these requirements cannot be simply brushed aside absent any sustainable
explanation justifying their relaxation. In this case, proper justification is especially called for in light
of the serious allegations of forgery as to the signatures of the remaining private
respondents, i.e., Lominiqui and Andales. Thus, by simply treating the insufficient submissions
before it as compliance with its Resolution dated August 13, 2009 requiring anew the submission of
a proper verification/certification against forum shopping, the CA patently and grossly ignored settled
procedural rules and, hence, gravely abused its discretion. All things considered, the proper course
of action was for it to dismiss the petition.40 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Without the presence of the notary upon the signing of the Verification and Certification against
Forum Shopping, there is no assurance that the petitioner swore under oath that the allegations in
the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct, and not merely speculative. It must
be noted that verification is not an empty ritual or a meaningless formality. Its import must never be
sacrificed in the name of mere expedience or sheer caprice,41as what apparently happened in the
present case. Similarly, the absence of the notary public when petitioner allegedly affixed her
signature also negates a proper attestation that forum shopping has not been committed by the filing
of the petition. Thus, the petition is, for all intents and purposes, an unsigned pleading that does not
deserve the cognizance of this Court.42 In Salum bides, Jr. v. Office of the Ombudsman,43the Court
held thus:

The Court has distinguished the effects of non-compliance with the requirement of verification and
that of certification against forum shopping. A defective verification shall be treated as an unsigned
pleading and thus produces no legal effect, subject to the discretion of the court to allow the
deficiency to be remedied, while the failure to certifv against forum shopping shall be cause for
dismissal without prejudice, unless otherwise provided, and is not curable by amendment of the
initiatory pleading. (Emphasis and italicization from the original.)

Notably, petitioner has not proffered any reason to justify her failure to sign the Verification and
Certification Against Forum Shopping in the presence of the notary. There is, therefore, no
justification to relax the rules and excuse the petitioner's non-compliance therewith. This Court had
reminded parties seeking the ultimate relief of certiorari to observe the rules, since nonobservance
thereof cannot be brushed aside as a "mere technicality."44 Procedural rules are not to be belittled or
simply disregarded, for these prescribed procedures ensure an orderly and speedy administration of
justice.45 Thus, as in William Go Que Construction, the proper course of action is to dismiss outright
the present petition.

Even if We set aside this procedural infirmity, the petition just the same merits denial on several
other grounds.

PETITIONER DISREGARDED THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS

Trifling with the rule on hierarchy of courts is looked upon with disfavor by this Court.46 It will not
entertain direct resort to it when relief can be obtained in the lower courts.47 The Court has repeatedly
emphasized that the rule on hierarchy of courts is an important component of the orderly
administration of justice and not imposed merely for whimsical and arbitrary reasons.48 In The
Diocese of Bacolod v. Commission on Elections,49the Court explained the reason for the doctrine
thusly:

The Court must enjoin the observance of the policy on the hierarchy of courts, and now affirms that
the policy is not to be ignored without serious consequences. The strictness of the policy is designed
to shield the Court from having to deal with causes that are also well within the competence of the
lower courts, and thus leave time for the Court to deal with the more fundamental and more essential
tasks that the Constitution has assigned to it. The Court may act on petitions for the extraordinary
writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus only when absolutely necessary or when serious and
important reasons exist to justify an exception to the policy.

xxxx

The doctrine that requires respect for the hierarchy of courts was created by this court to ensure that
every level of the judiciary performs its designated roles in an effective and efficient manner. Trial
courts do not only determine the facts from the evaluation of the evidence presented before them.
They are likewise competent to determine issues of law which may include the validity of an
ordinance, statute, or even an executive issuance in relation to the Constitution. To effectively
perform these functions, they are territorially organized into regions and then into branches. Their
writs generally reach within those territorial boundaries. Necessarily, they mostly perform the all-
important task of inferring the facts from the evidence as these are physically presented before
them. In many instances, the facts occur within their territorial jurisdiction, which properly present the
"actual case" that makes ripe a determination of the constitutionality of such action. The
consequences, of course, would be national in scope. There are, however, some cases where resort
to courts at their level would not be practical considering their decisions could still be appealed
before the higher courts, such as the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals is primarily designed as an appellate court that reviews the determination of
facts and law made by the trial courts. It is collegiate in nature. This nature ensures more
standpoints in the review of the actions of the trial court. But the Court of Appeals also has original
jurisdiction over most special civil actions. Unlike the trial courts, its writs can have a nationwide
scope. It is competent to determine facts and, ideally, should act on constitutional issues that may
not necessarily be novel unless there are factual questions to determine.

This court, on the other hand, leads the judiciary by breaking new ground or further reiterating - in
the light of new circumstances or in the light of some confusion of bench or bar - existing
precedents. Rather than a court of first instance or as a repetition of the actions of the Court of
Appeals, this court promulgates these doctrinal devices in order that it truly performs that
role.50 (Emphasis supplied.)

Nonetheless, there are recognized exceptions to this rule and direct resort to this Court were allowed
in some instances. These exceptions were summarized in a case of recent vintage, Aala v. Uy, as
follows:

In a fairly recent case, we summarized other well-defined exceptions to the doctrine on hierarchy of
courts. Immediate resort to this Court may be allowed when any of the following grounds are
present: (1) when genuine issues of constitutionality are raised that must be addressed immediately;
(2) when the case involves transcendental importance; (3) when the case is novel; (4) when the
constitutional issues raised are better decided by this Court; (5) when time is of the essence; (6)
when the subject of review involves acts of a constitutional organ; (7) when there is no other plain,
speedy, adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law; (8) when the petition includes questions that
may affect public welfare, public policy, or demanded by the broader interest of justice; (9) when the
order complained of was a patent nullity; and (10) when the appeal was considered as an
inappropriate remedy.51

Unfortunately, none of these exceptions were sufficiently established in the present petition so as to
convince this court to brush aside the rules on the hierarchy of courts.

Petitioner's allegation that her case has sparked national and international interest is obviously not
covered by the exceptions to the rules on hierarchy of courts. The notoriety of a case, without more,
is not and will not be a reason for this Court's decisions. Neither will this Court be swayed to relax its
rules on the bare fact that the petitioner belongs to the minority party in the present administration. A
primary hallmark of an independent judiciary is its political neutrality. This Court is thus loath to
perceive and consider the issues before it through the warped prisms of political partisanships.

That the petitioner is a senator of the republic does not also merit a special treatment of her case.
The right to equal treatment before the law accorded to every Filipino also forbids the elevation of
petitioner's cause on account of her position and status in the government.

Further, contrary to her position, the matter presented before the Court is not of first impression.
Petitioner is not the first public official accused of violating RA 9165 nor is she the first defendant to
question the finding of probable cause for her arrest. In fact, stripped of all political complexions, the
controversy involves run-of-the mill matters that could have been resolved with ease by the lower
court had it been given a chance to do so in the first place.

In like manner, petitioner's argument that the rule on the hierarchy of court should be disregarded as
her case involves pure questions of law does not obtain. One of the grounds upon which petitioner
anchors her case is that the respondent judge erred and committed grave abuse of discretion in
finding probable cause to issue her arrest. By itself, this ground removes the case from the ambit of
cases involving pure questions of law. It is established that the issue of whether or not probable
cause exists for the issuance of warrants for the arrest of the accused is a question of fact,
determinable as it is from a review of the allegations in the Information, the Resolution of the
Investigating Prosecutor, including other documents and/ or evidence appended to the
Information.52 This matter, therefore, should have first been brought before the appellate court, which
is in the better position to review and determine factual matters.

Yet, petitioner harps on the supposed judicial efficiency and economy of abandoning the rule on the
hierarchy of courts in the present case. Indeed, the Court has considered the practical aspects of the
administration of justice in deciding to apply the exceptions rather than the rule. However, it is all the
more for these practical considerations that the Court must insist on the application of the rule and
not the exceptions in this case. As petitioner herself alleges, with the President having declared the
fight against illegal drugs and corruption as central to his platform of government, there will be a
spike of cases brought before the courts involving drugs and public officers.53 As it now stands, there
are 232,557 criminal cases involving drugs, and around 260,796 criminal cases involving other
offenses pending before the R TCs.54 This Court cannot thus allow a precedent allowing public
officers assailing the finding of probable cause for the issuance of arrest warrants to be brought
directly to this Court, bypassing the appellate court, without any compelling reason.

THE PRESENT PETITION IS PREMATURE

The prematurity of the present petition is at once betrayed in the reliefs sought by petitioner's Prayer,
which to restate for added emphasis, provides:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, and in the interest of substantial justice and fair play,
Petitioner respectfully prays the Honorable Court that judgment be rendered:

a. Granting a writ of certiorari annulling and setting aside the Order dated 23 February 2017,
the Warrant of Arrest dated the same date, and the Order dated 24 February 2017 of the Regional
Trial CourtBranch 204, Muntinlupa City, in Criminal Case No. 17-165 entitled People of the
Philippines versus Leila M De Lima et al.;

b. Granting a writ of prohibition enjoining and prohibiting respondent judge from conducting further
proceedings until and unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality;

c. Issuing an order granting the application for the issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO)
and a writ of preliminary injunction to the proceedings; and

d. Issuing a Status Quo Ante Order restoring the parties to the status prior to the issuance of the
Order and Warrant of Arrest, both dated February 23, 201 7, thereby recalling both processes and
restoring petitioner to her liberty and freedom.55 (Emphasis supplied)

Under paragraph (a), petitioner asks for a writ of certiorari annulling the Order dated February 23,
2017 finding probable cause, the warrant of arrest and the Order dated February 24, 2017
committing petitioner to the custody of the PNP Custodial Center. Clearly petitioner seeks the recall
of said orders to effectuate her release from detention and restore her liberty. She did not ask for the
dismissal of the subject criminal case.

More importantly, her request for the issuance of a writ of prohibition under paragraph (b) of the
prayer "until and unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality," is an unmistakable admission
that the RTC has yet to rule on her Motion to Quash and the existence of the RTC's authority to rule
on the said motion. This admission against interest binds the petitioner; an admission against
interest being the best evidence that affords the greatest certainty of the facts in dispute.56 It is based
on the presumption that "no man would declare anything against himself unless such declaration is
true. "57 It can be presumed then that the declaration corresponds with the truth, and it is her fault if it
does not.58

Moreover, petitioner under paragraphs (c) and (d) prayed for a TRO and writ of preliminary injunction
and a status quo ante order which easily reveal her real motive in filing the instant petition-to restore
to "petitioner her liberty and freedom."

Nowhere in the prayer did petitioner explicitly ask for the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 17-165.
What is clear is she merely asked the respondent judge to rule on her Motion to Quash before
issuing the warrant of arrest.

In view of the foregoing, there is no other course of action to take than to dismiss the petition on the
ground of prematurity and allow respondent Judge to rule on the Motion to Quash according to the
desire of petitioner.

This Court, in Solid Builders Inc. v. China Banking Corp., explained why a party should not pre-empt
the action of a trial court:

Even Article 1229 of the Civil Code, which SBI and MFII invoke, works against them. Under that
provision, the equitable reduction of the penalty stipulated by the parties in their contract will be
based on a finding by the court that such penalty is iniquitous or unconscionable. Here, the trial court
has not yet made a ruling as to whether the penalty agreed upon by CBC with SBI and MFII is
unconscionable. Such finding will be made by the trial court only after it has heard both parties and
weighed their respective evidence in light of all relevant circumstances. Hence, for SBI and MFII to
claim any right or benefit under that provision at this point is premature.59 (Emphasis supplied)

In State of Investment House, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,60the Court likewise held that a petition
for certiorari can be resorted to only after the court a quo has already and actually rendered its
decision. It held, viz.:

We note, however, that the appellate court never actually ruled on whether or not petitioner's right
had prescribed. It merely declared that it was in a position to so rule and thereafter required the
parties to submit memoranda. In making such a declaration, did the CA commit grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction? It did not.

xxxx

All things considered, this petition is premature. The CA has decided nothing and whatever
petitioner's vehement objections may be (to any eventual ruling on the issue of prescription) should
be raised only after such ruling shall have actually been promulgated.
The situation evidently does not yet call for a recourse to a petition for certiorari under Rule
65.61(Italicization from the original. Emphasis supplied.)

An analogous ruling was made by this Court in Diaz v. Nora, where it ruled in this wise:

x x x In the case of the respondent labor arbiter, he has not denied the motion for execution filed by
the petitioner. He merely did not act on the same. Neither had petitioner urged the immediate
resolution of his motion for execution by said arbiter. In the case of the respondent NLRC, it was not
even given the opportunity to pass upon the question raised by petitioner as to whether or not it has
jurisdiction over the appeal, so the records of the case can be remanded to the respondent labor
arbiter for execution of the decision.

Obviously, petitioner had a plain, speedy and adequate remedy to seek relief from public
respondents but he failed to avail himself of the same before coming to this Court. To say the least,
the petition is premature and must be struck down.62 (Emphasis supplied.)

The dissents would deny the applicability of the foregoing on the ground that these were not criminal
cases that involved a pending motion to quash. However, it should be obvious from the afore-quoted
excerpts that the nature of the cases had nothing to do with this Court's finding of prematurity in
those cases. Instead, what was stressed therein was that the lower courts had not yet made, nor
was not given the opportunity to make, a ruling before the parties came before this forum.

Indeed, the prematurity of the present petition cannot be over-emphasized considering that petitioner
is actually asking the Court to rule on some of the grounds subject of her Motion to Quash. The
Court, if it rules positively in favor of petitioner regarding the grounds of the Motion to Quash, will be
preempting the respondent Judge from doing her duty to resolve the said motion and even prejudge
the case. This is clearly outside of the ambit of orderly and expeditious rules of procedure. This,
without a doubt, causes an inevitable delay in the proceedings in the trial court, as the latter abstains
from resolving the incidents until this Court rules with finality on the instant petition.

Without such order, the present petition cannot satisfy the requirements set before this Court can
exercise its review powers. Section 5 (2)(C) of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution explicitly requires
the existence of "final judgments and orders of lower courts" before the Court can exercise its power
to "review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari" in "all cases in which the
jurisdiction of any lower court is in issue," viz.:

SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and
consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.

(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court
may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:

(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive
agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in
question.

(b) All cases involving the legality of any tax, impost, assessment, or toll, or any penalty imposed in
relation thereto.
(c) All cases in which the jurisdiction of any lower court is in issue.

(d) All criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua or higher.

(e) All cases in which only an error or question of law is involved. (Emphasis supplied.)

In the palpable absence of a ruling on the Motion to Quash -- which puts the jurisdiction of the lower
court in issue -- there is no controversy for this Court to resolve; there is simply no final judgment or
order of the lower court to review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm. As per the block letter provision
of the Constitution, this Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction in a vacuum nor issue a definitive ruling
on mere suppositions.

Succinctly, the present petition is immediately dismissible for this Court lacks jurisdiction to review a
non-existent court action. It can only act to protect a party from a real and actual ruling by a lower
tribunal. Surely, it is not for this Court to negate "uncertain contingent future event that may not occur
as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all," as the lower court's feared denial of the subject
Motion to Quash.63

The established rule is that courts of justice will take cognizance only of controversies "wherein
actual and not merely hypothetical issues are involved."64 The reason underlying the rule is "to
prevent the courts through avoidance of premature adjudication from entangling themselves in
abstract disagreements, and for us to be satisfied that the case does not present a hypothetical
injury or a claim contingent upon some event that has not and indeed may never transpire."65

Even granting arguendo that what is invoked is the original jurisdiction of this Court under
Section 5 (1) of Article VIII, the petition nonetheless falls short of the Constitutional requirements and
of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. In the absence of a final judgment, order, or ruling on the Motion to
Quash challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court, there is no occasion for this Court to issue the
extraordinary writ of certiorari. Without a judgment or ruling, there is nothing for this Court to declare
as having been issued without jurisdiction or in grave abuse of discretion.

Furthermore, it is a basic requirement under Rule 65 that there be "[no] other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy found in law."66 Thus, the failure to exhaust all other remedies, as will be later
discussed, before a premature resort to this Court is fatal to the petitioner's cause of action.

Petitioner even failed to move for the reconsideration of the February 23 and 24, 2017 Orders she is
currently assailing in this Petition. As this Court held in Estrada v. Office of the Ombudsman, "[a]
motion for reconsideration allows the public respondent an opportunity to correct its factual and legal
errors x x x [it] is mandatory before the filing of a petition for certiorari."67The reasons proffered by
petitioner fail to justify her present premature recourse.

Various policies and rules have been issued to curb the tendencies of litigants to disregard, nay
violate, the rule enunciated in Section 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution to allow the Court to devote
its time and attention to matters within its jurisdiction and prevent the overcrowding of its docket.
There is no reason to consider the proceedings at bar as an exception.

PETITIONER VIOLATED THE RULE AGAINST FORUM SHOPPING

It is settled that forum shopping exists when a party repetitively avails himself of several judicial
remedies in different courts, simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the same
transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances, and all raising substantially the same
issues either pending in, or already resolved adversely by, some other court. It is considered an act
of malpractice as it trifles with the courts and abuses their processes.68 Thus, as elucidated in Luzon
Iron Development Group Corporation v. Bridgestone Mining and Development Corporation,69forum
shopping warrants the immediate dismissal of the suits filed:

Forum shopping is the act of litigants who repetitively avail themselves of multiple judicial remedies
in different fora, simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the same transactions
and the same essential facts and circumstances; and raising substantially similar issues either
pending in or already resolved adversely by some other court; or for the purpose of increasing their
chances of obtaining a favorable decision, if not in one court, then in another. The rationale against
forum-shopping is that a party should not be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in two
different courts, for to do so would constitute abuse of court processes which tends to degrade the
administration of justice, wreaks havoc upon orderly judicial procedure, and adds to the congestion
of the heavily burdened dockets of the courts.

xxxx

What is essential in determining the existence of forum-shopping is the vexation caused the courts
and litigants by a party who asks different courts and/or administrative agencies to rule on similar or
related causes and/or grant the same or substantially similar reliefs, in the process creating the
possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered upon the same issues.

xxxx

We emphasize that the grave evil sought to be avoided by the rule against forum-shopping is the
rendition by two competent tribunals of two separate and contradictory decisions. To avoid any
confusion, this Court adheres strictly to the rules against forum shopping, and any violation of these
rules results in the dismissal of a case. The acts committed and described herein can possibly
constitute direct contempt.70

This policy echoes the last sentence of Section 5, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court, which states that "[i]f
the acts of the party or his counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping, the same
shall be ground for summary dismissal with prejudice and shall constitute direct contempt as well as
a cause for administrative sanctions."

The test to determine the existence of forum shopping is whether the elements of litis pendentia, or
whether a final judgment in one case amounts to res judicata in the other. Forum shopping therefore
exists when the following elements are present: (a) identity of parties, or at least such parties
representing the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for,
the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity of the two preceding particulars, such
that any judgment rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is successful, amount
to res judicata in the action under consideration.71

Anent the first requisite, there is an identity of parties when the parties in both actions are the same,
or there is privity between them, or they are successors-in-interest by title subsequent to the
commencement of the action litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same
capacity.72

Meanwhile, the second and third requisites obtain where the same evidence necessary to sustain
the second cause of action is sufficient to authorize a recovery in the first, even if the forms or the
nature of the two (2) actions are different from each other. If the same facts or evidence would
sustain both, the two (2) actions are considered the same within the rule that the judgment in the
former is a bar to the subsequent action; otherwise, it is not.73

All these requisites are present in this case.

The presence of the first requisite is at once apparent. The petitioner is an accused in the criminal
case below, while the respondents in this case, all represented by the Solicitor General, have
substantial identity with the complainant in the criminal case still pending before the trial court.

As for the second requisite, even a cursory reading of the petition and the Motion to Quash will
reveal that the arguments and the reliefs prayed for are essentially the same. In both, petitioner
advances the RTC's supposed lack of jurisdiction over the offense, the alleged multiplicity of
offenses included in the Information; the purported lack of the corpus delicti of the charge, and,
basically, the non-existence of probable cause to indict her. And, removed of all non-essentials, she
essentially prays for the same thing in both the present petition and the Motion to Quash: the
nullification of the Information and her restoration to liberty and freedom. Thus, our ruling in Jent v.
Tullet Prebon (Philippines), Inc. 74 does not apply in the present case as the petition at bar and the
motion to quash pending before the court a quo involve similar if not the same reliefs. What is more,
while Justice Caguioa highlights our pronouncement in Jent excepting an "appeal or special civil
action for certiorari" from the rule against the violation of forum shopping, the good justice overlooks
that the phrase had been used with respect to forum shopping committed
through successive actions by a "party, against whom an adverse judgment or order has [already]
been rendered in one forum."75 The exception with respect to an "appeal or special civil action
for certiorari" does not apply where the forum shopping is committed by simultaneous actions where
no judgment or order has yet been rendered by either forum. To restate for emphasis, the RTC has
yet to rule on the Motion to Quash. Thus, the present petition and the motion to quash before the R
TC are simultaneous actions that do not exempt petitions for certiorari from the rule against forum
shopping.

With the presence of the first two requisites, the third one necessarily obtains in the present case.
Should we grant the petition and declare the RTC without jurisdiction over the offense, the RTC is
bound to grant De Lima's Motion to Quash in deference to this Court's authority. In the alternative, if
the trial court rules on the Motion to Quash in the interim, the instant petition will be rendered moot
and academic.

In situations like the factual milieu of this instant petition, while nobody can restrain a party to a case
before the trial court to institute a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, still such
petition must be rejected outright because petitions that cover simultaneous actions are anathema to
the orderly and expeditious processing and adjudication of cases.

On the ground of forum shopping alone, the petition merits immediate dismissal.

THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT HAS JURISDICTION

Even discounting the petitioner's procedural lapses, this Court is still wont to deny the instant petition
on substantive grounds.

Petitioner argues that, based on the allegations of the Information in Criminal Case No. 17-165, the
Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction to try and hear the case against her. She posits that the
Information charges her not with violation of RA 9165 but with Direct Bribery-a felony within the
exclusive jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan given her rank as the former Secretary of Justice with
Salary Grade 31. For the petitioner, even assuming that the crime described in the Information is a
violation of RA 9165, the Sandiganbayan still has the exclusive jurisdiction to try the case
considering that the acts described in the Information were intimately related to her position as the
Secretary of Justice. Some justices of this Court would even adopt the petitioner's view, declaring
that the Information charged against the petitioner is Direct Bribery.

The respondents, on the other hand, maintain that the R TC has exclusive jurisdiction to try
violations of RA 9165, including the acts described in the Information against the petitioner. The
Sandiganbayan, so the respondents contend, was specifically created as an anti-graft court. It was
never conferred with the power to try drug-related cases even those committed by public officials. In
fact, respondents point out that the history of the laws enabling and governing the Sandiganbayan
will reveal that its jurisdiction was streamlined to address specific cases of graft and corruption,
plunder, and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth.

Before discussing the issue on jurisdiction over the subject matter, it is necessary to clarify the crime
with which the petitioner is being charged. For ease of reference, the Information filed with the R TC
is restated below:

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Plaintiff,

Versus Criminal Case No. 17-165

LEILA M. DE LIMA (NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00315 and NPS No.


XVl-INV-16K-00336) For: Violation of the
(66 Laguna de Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
South Bay Village, Paraiiaque City and/or 2002,Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj),
Room 502, GSIS Building, Financial Center, Section 26 (b), and Section 28, Republic Act
Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City), RAFAEL No. 9165 (lllegal Drug Trading)
MARCOS Z. RAGOS (c/o National Bureau of
Investigation, Taft Avenue, Manila) and
RONNIE P ALISOC DAY AN, (Barangay
Galarin, Urbiztondo, Pangasinan), Accused

x-------------------------------------x

INFORMATION

The undersigned Prosecutors, constituted as a Panel pursuant to Department Orders 706 and 790
dated October 14, 2016 and November 11, 2016, respectively, accuse LEILA M. DE LIMA, RAFAEL
MARCOS Z. RAGOS and RONNIE P ALISOC DAY AN, for violation of Section 5, in relation to
Section 3 (jj), Section 26 (b) and Section 28, Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as
the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002, committed as follows:

That within the period from November 2012 to March 2013, in the City of Muntinlupa, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Leila M. De Lima, being then the
Secretary of the Department of Justice, and accused Rafael Marcos Z. Ragos, being then the
Officer-in-Charge of the Bureau of Corrections, by taking advantage of their public office, conspiring
and confederating with accused Ronnie P. Dayan, being then the employee of the Department of
Justice detailed to De Lima, all of them having moral ascendancy or influence over inmates in the
New Bilibid Prison, did then and there commit illegal drug trading, in the following manner: De Lima
and Ragos, with the use of their power, position, and authority demand, solicit and extort money
from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison to support the Senatorial bid of De Lima in the
May 2016 election; by reason of which, the inmates, not being lawfully authorized by law and
through the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices, did then and there willfully and
unlawfully trade and traffic dangerous drugs, and thereafter give and deliver to De Lima, through
Ragos and Dayan, the proceeds of illegal drug trading amounting to Five Million (₱5,000,000.00)
Pesos on 24 November 2012, Five Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 15 December 2012, and One
Hundred Thousand (₱l00,000.00) Pesos weekly "tara" each from the high profile inmates in the New
Bilibid Prison.

CONTRARY TO LAW.76

Notably, the designation, the prefatory statements and the accusatory portions of the Information
repeatedly provide that the petitioner is charged with "Violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002, Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj), Section 26(b), and Section 28, Republic Act
No. 9165." From the very designation of the crime in the Information itself, it should be plain that the
crime with which the petitioner is charged is a violation of RA 9165. As this Court clarified in Quimvel
v. People, 77 the designation of the offense in the Information is a critical element required under
Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court in apprising the accused of the offense being charged, viz.:

The offense charged can also be elucidated by consulting the designation of the offense as
appearing in the Information. The designation of the offense is a critical element required under Sec.
6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court for it assists in apprising the accused of the offense being charged.
Its inclusion in the Information is imperative to avoid surprise on the accused and to afford him of the
opportunity to prepare his defense accordingly. Its import is underscored in this case where the
preamble states that the crime charged is of "Acts of Lasciviousness in relation to Section 5(b) of
R.A. No.7610."78(Emphasis supplied.)

Further, a reading of the provisions of RA 9165 under which the petitioner is prosecuted would
convey that De Lima is being charged as a conspirator in the crime of Illegal Drug Trading. The
pertinent provisions of RA 9165 read:

SECTION 3. Definitions. - As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:

xxxx

(jj) Trading. - Transactions involving the illegal trafficking of dangerous drugs and/or controlled
precursors and essential chemicals using electronic devices such as, but not limited to, text
messages, e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms
or acting as a broker in any of such transactions whether for money or any other consideration in
violation of this Act.

xxxx

SECTION 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of


Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - The penalty of life
imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (₱500,000.00) to Ten
million pesos (₱10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law,
shall sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or
transport any dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the
quantity and purity involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.
xxxx

SECTION 26. Attempt or Conspiracy. - Any attempt or conspiracy to commit the following unlawful
acts shall be penalized by the same penalty prescribed for the commission of the same as provided
under this Act:

xxxx

(b) Sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of any
dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical;

xxxx

SECTION 28. Criminal Liability of Government Officials and Employees. - The maximum penalties of
the unlawful acts provided for in this Act shall be imposed, in addition to absolute perpetual
disqualification from any public office, if those found guilty of such unlawful acts are government
officials and employees.

While it may be argued that some facts may be taken as constitutive of some elements of Direct
Bribery under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), these facts taken together with the other allegations
in the Information portray a much bigger picture, Illegal Drug Trading. The latter crime, described by
the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as "a global illicit trade involving the
cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances,"79necessarily involves various
component crimes, not the least of which is the bribery and corruption of government officials. An
example would be reports of recent vintage regarding billions of pesos' worth of illegal drugs allowed
to enter Philippine ports without the scrutiny of Customs officials. Any money and bribery that may
have changed hands to allow the importation of the confiscated drugs are certainly but trivial
contributions in the furtherance of the transnational illegal drug trading - the offense for which the
persons involved should be penalized.

Read as a whole, and not picked apart with each word or phrase construed separately, the
Information against De Lima goes beyond an indictment for Direct Bribery under Article 210 of the
RPC.80 As Justice Martires articulately explained, the averments on solicitation of money in the
Information, which may be taken as constitutive of bribery, form "part of the description on how
illegal drug trading took place at the NBP." The averments on how petitioner asked for and received
money from the NBP inmates simply complete the links of conspiracy between her, Ragos, Dayan
and the NBP inmates in willfully and unlawfully trading dangerous drugs through the use of mobile
phones and other electronic devices under Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj), Section 26(b), and
Section 28, of RA 9165.

On this score, that it has not been alleged that petitioner actually participated in the actual trafficking
of dangerous drugs and had simply allowed the NBP inmates to do so is non sequitur given that the
allegation of conspiracymakes her liable for the acts of her co-conspirators. As this Court elucidated,
it is not indispensable for a co-conspirator to take a direct part in every act of the crime. A
conspirator need not even know of all the parts which the others have to perform,81 as conspiracy is
the common design to commit a felony; it is not participation in all the details of the execution of
the crime. 82 As long as the accused, in one way or another, helped and cooperated in the
consummation of a felony, she is liable as a co-principal.83 As the Information provides, De Lima's
participation and cooperation was instrumental in the trading of dangerous drugs by the NBP
inmates. The minute details of this participation and cooperation are matters of evidence that need
not be specified in the Information but presented and threshed out during trial.
Yet, some justices remain adamant in their position that the Information fails to allege the necessary
elements of Illegal Drug Trading. Justice Carpio, in particular, would cite cases supposedly
enumerating the elements necessary for a valid Information for Illegal Drug Trading. However, it
should be noted that the subject of these cases was "Illegal Sale" of dangerous drugs -- a crime
separate and distinct from "Illegal Trading" averred in the Information against De Lima. The
elements of "Illegal Sale" will necessary differ from the elements of Illegal Trading under Section 5,
in relation to Section 3(jj), of RA 9165. The definitions of these two separate acts are reproduced
below for easy reference:

SECTION 3. Definitions. - As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:

xxxx

(ii) Sell. - Any act of giving away any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential
chemical whether for money or any other consideration.

(jj) Trading. - Transactions involving the illegal trafficking of dangerous drugs and/or controlled
precursors and essential chemicals using electronic devices such as, but not limited to, text
messages, e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms
or acting as a broker in any of such transactions whether for money or any other consideration in
violation of this Act.

It is obvious from the foregoing that the crime of illegal trading has been written in strokes much
broader than that for illegal sale. In fact, an illegal sale of drugs may be considered as only one of
the possible component acts of illegal trading which may be committed through two modes: (1)
illegal trafficking using electronic devices; or (2) acting as a broker in any transactions involved in the
illegal trafficking of dangerous drugs.

On this score, the crime of "illegal trafficking" embraces various other offenses punishable by RA
9165. Section 3(r) of RA 9165 provides:

(r) Illegal Trafficking. - The illegal cultivation, culture, delivery, administration, dispensation,
manufacture, sale, trading, transportation, distribution, importation, exportation and possession of
any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical.

In turn, the crimes included in the definition of Illegal Trafficking of drugs are defined as follows:

(a) Administer. - Any act of introducing any dangerous drug into the body of any person, with or
without his/her knowledge, by injection, inhalation, ingestion or other means, or of committing any
act of indispensable assistance to a person in administering a dangerous drug to himself/herself
unless administered by a duly licensed practitioner for purposes of medication.

xxxx

(d) Chemical Diversion. - The sale, distribution, supply or transport of legitimately imported, in-
transit, manufactured or procured controlled precursors and essential chemicals, in diluted, mixtures
or in concentrated form, to any person or entity engaged in the manufacture of any dangerous drug,
and shall include packaging, repackaging, labeling, relabeling or concealment of such transaction
through fraud, destruction of documents, fraudulent use of permits, misdeclaration, use of front
companies or mail fraud.
xxxx

(i) Cultivate or Culture. - Any act of knowingly planting, growing, raising, or permitting the planting,
growing or raising of any plant which is the source of a dangerous drug.

xxxx

(k) Deliver. - Any act of knowingly passing a dangerous drug to another, personally or otherwise, and
by any means, with or without consideration.

xxxx

(m) Dispense. - Any act of giving away, selling or distributing medicine or any dangerous drug with
or without the use of prescription.

xxxx

(u) Manufacture. - The production, preparation, compounding or processing of any dangerous drug
and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical, either directly or indirectly or by extraction from
substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis or by a combination
of extraction and chemical synthesis, and shall include any packaging or repackaging of such
substances, design or configuration of its form, or labeling or relabeling of its container; except that
such terms do not include the preparation, compounding, packaging or labeling of a drug or other
substances by a duly authorized practitioner as an incident to his/her administration or dispensation
of such drug or substance in the course of his/her professional practice including research, teaching
and chemical analysis of dangerous drugs or such substances that are not intended for sale or for
any other purpose.

xxxx

(kk) Use. - Any act of injecting, intravenously or intramuscularly, of consuming, either by chewing,
smoking, sniffing, eating, swallowing, drinking or otherwise introducing into the physiological system
of the body, any of the dangerous drugs.

With the complexity of the operations involved in Illegal Trading of drugs, as recognized and defined
in RA 9165, it will be quite myopic and restrictive to require the elements of Illegal Sale-a mere
component act-in the prosecution for Illegal Trading.

More so, that which qualifies the crime of Illegal Trafficking to Illegal Trading may make it impossible
to provide the details of the elements of Illegal Sale. By "using electronic devices such as, but not
limited to, text messages, email, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers
and chat rooms," the Illegal Trading can be remotely perpetrated away from where the drugs are
actually being sold; away from the subject of the illegal sale. With the proliferation of digital
technology coupled with ride sharing and delivery services, Illegal Trading under RA 9165 can be
committed without getting one's hand on the substances or knowing and meeting the seller or buyer.
To require the elements of Illegal Sale (the identities of the buyer, seller, the object and
consideration, in Illegal Trade) would be impractical.

The same may be said of the second mode for committing Illegal Trading, or trading by "acting as a
broker" in transactions involved in Illegal Trafficking. In this instance, the accused may neither have
physical possession of the drugs nor meet the buyer and seller and yet violate RA 9165. As pointed
out by Justice Perlas-Bernabe, as early as 1916, jurisprudence has defined a broker as one who is
simply a middleman, negotiating contracts relative to property with which he has no custody, viz.:

A broker is generally defined as one who is engaged, for others, on a commission, negotiating
contracts relative to property with the custody of which he has no concern; the negotiator between
other parties, never acting in his own name, but in the name of those who employed him; he is
strictly a middleman and for some purposes the agent of both parties.84 (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied.)

In some cases, this Court even acknowledged persons as brokers even "where they actually took no
part in the negotiations, never saw the customer."85 For the Court, the primary occupation of a broker
is simply bringing "the buyer and the seller together, even if no sale is eventually made. "86 Hence, in
indictments for Illegal Trading, it is illogical to require the elements of Illegal Sale of drugs, such as
the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object and consideration.87 For the prosecution of Illegal
Trading of drugs to prosper, proof that the accused "act[ed] as a broker" or brought together the
buyer and seller of illegal drugs "using electronic devices such as, but not limited to, text messages,
e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms" is
sufficient.

The DOJ' s designation of the charge as one for Illegal Drug Trading thus holds sway. After all, the
prosecution is vested with a wide range of discretion-including the discretion of whether, what, and
whom to charge.88 The exercise of this discretion depends on a smorgasboard of factors, which are
best appreciated by the prosecutors.89

As such, with the designation of the offense, the recital of facts in the Information, there can be no
other conclusion than that petitioner is being charged not with Direct Bribery but with violation of RA
9165.

Granting without conceding that the information contains averments which constitute the elements of
Direct Bribery or that more than one offence is charged or as ill this case, possibly bribery and
violation of RA 9165, still the prosecution has the authority to amend the information at any time
before arraignment. Since petitioner has not yet been arraigned, then the information subject of
Criminal Case No. 17-165 can still be amended pursuant to Section 14, Rule 110 of the Rules of
Court which reads:

SECTION 14. Amendment or Substitution. - A complaint or information may be amended, in form or


in substance, without leave of court, at any time before the accused enters his plea. After the plea
and during the trial, a formal amendment may only be made with leave of court and when it can be
done without causing prejudice to the rights of the accused.

Now the question that irresistibly demands an answer is whether it is the Sandiganbayan or the RTC
that has jurisdiction over the subject matter of Criminal Case No. 17-165, i.e., violation of RA 9165.

It is basic that jurisdiction over the subject matter in a criminal case is given only by law in the
manner and form prescribed by law.90 It is determined by the statute in force at the time of the
commencement of the action.91 Indeed, Congress has the plenary power to define, prescribe and
apportion the jurisdiction of various courts. It follows then that Congress may also, by law, provide
that a certain class of cases should be exclusively heard and determined by one court. Such would
be a special law that is construed as an exception to the general law on jurisdiction of courts.92

The pertinent special law governing drug-related cases is RA 9165, which updated the rules
provided in RA 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. A plain reading of RA
9165, as of RA 6425, will reveal that jurisdiction over drug-related cases is exclusively vested with
the Regional Trial Court and no other. The designation of the RTC as the court with the exclusive
jurisdiction over drug-related cases is apparent in the following provisions where it was expressly
mentioned and recognized as the only court with the authority to hear drug-related cases:

Section 20. Confiscation and Forfeiture of the Proceeds or Instruments of the Unlawful Act, Including
the Properties or Proceeds Derived from the Illegal Trafficking of Dangerous Drugs and/or
Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - x x x x

After conviction in the Regional Trial Court in the appropriate criminal case filed, the Court shall
immediately schedule a hearing for the confiscation and forfeiture of all the proceeds of the offense
and all the assets and properties of the accused either owned or held by him or in the name of some
other persons if the same shall be found to be manifestly out of proportion to his/her lawful income:

xxxx

During the pendency of the case in the Regional Trial Court, no property, or income derived
therefrom, which may be confiscated and forfeited, shall be disposed, alienated or transferred and
the same shall be in custodia legis and no bond shall be admitted for the release of the same.

xxxx

Section 61. Compulsory Confinement of a Drug Dependent Who Refuses to Apply Under the
Voluntary Submission Program. - x x x

A petition for the confinement of a person alleged to be dependent on dangerous drugs to a Center
may be filed by any person authorized by the Board with the Regional Trial Court of the province or
city where such person is found.

xxxx

Section 62. Compulsory Submission of a Drug Dependent Charged with an Offense to Treatment
and Rehabilitation. - If a person charged with an offense where the imposable penalty is
imprisonment of less than six (6) years and one (1) day, and is found by the prosecutor or by the
court, at any stage of the proceedings, to be a drug dependent, the prosecutor or the court as the
case may be, shall suspend all further proceedings and transmit copies of the record of the case to
the Board.

In the event the Board determines, after medical examination, that public interest requires that such
drug dependent be committed to a center for treatment and rehabilitation, it shall file a petition for
his/her commitment with the regional trial court of the province or city where he/she is being
investigated or tried: x x x

xxxx

Section 90. Jurisdiction. - The Supreme Court shall designate special courts from among the existing
Regional Trial Courts in each judicial region to exclusively try and hear cases involving violations of
this Act. The number of courts designated in each judicial region shall be based on the population
and the number of cases pending in their respective jurisdiction.
The DOJ shall designate special prosecutors to exclusively handle cases involving violations of this
Act.

Notably, no other trial court was mentioned in RA 9165 as having the authority to take cognizance of
drug-related cases. Thus, in Morales v. Court of Appeals,93this Court categorically named the RTC as
the court with jurisdiction over drug related-cases, as follows:

Applying by analogy the ruling in People v. Simon, People v. De Lara, People v.


Santos, and Ordonez v. Vinarao, the imposable penalty in this case which involves 0.4587 grams
of shabu should not exceed prision correccional. We say by analogy because these cases involved
marijuana, not methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu). In Section 20 of RA. No. 6425, as
amended by Section 17 of RA No. 7659, the maximum quantities of marijuana and
methamphetamine hydrochloride for purposes of imposing the maximum penalties are not the same.
For the latter, if the quantity involved is 200 grams or more, the penalty of reclusion perpetua to
death and a fine ranging from ₱500,000 to PIO million shall be imposed. Accordingly, if the quantity
involved is below 200 grams, the imposable penalties should be as follows:

xxxx

Clearly, the penalty which may be imposed for the offense charged in Criminal Case No. 96-8443
would at most be only prision correccional duration is from six (6) months and one (1) day to six (6)
years. Does it follow then that, as the petitioner insists, the RTC has no jurisdiction thereon in view of
the amendment of Section 32 of B.P. Big. 129 by R.A. No. 7691, which vested upon Metropolitan
Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts exclusive original jurisdiction
over all offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years irrespective of the
amount of fine and regardless of other imposable accessory or other penalties? This Section 32 as
thus amended now reads:

xxxx

The exception in the opening sentence is of special significance which we cannot disregard. x xx
The aforementioned exception refers not only to Section 20 of B.P. Blg. 129 providing for the
jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts in criminal cases, but also to other laws which specifically lodge
in Regional Trial Courts exclusive jurisdiction over specific criminal cases, e. g., (a) Article 360 of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. Nos. 1289 and 4363 on written defamation or libel; (b)
Decree on Intellectual Property (P. D. No. 49, as amended), which vests upon Courts of First
Instance exclusive jurisdiction over the cases therein mentioned regardless of the imposable
penalty; and (c) more appropriately for the case at bar, Section 39 of RA No. 6425, as amended by
P.D. No. 44, which vests on Courts of First Instance, Circuit Criminal Courts, and the Juvenile and
Domestic Relations Courts concurrent exclusive original jurisdiction over all cases involving
violations of said Act.

xxxx

That Congress indeed did not intend to repeal these special laws vesting exclusive jurisdiction in the
Regional Trial Courts over certain cases is clearly evident from the exception provided for in the
opening sentence of Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by RA No. 7691. These special laws
are not, therefore, covered by the repealing clause (Section 6) of RA No. 7691.

Neither can it be successfully argued that Section 39 of RA. No. 6425, as amended by P.D. No. 44,
is no longer operative because Section 44 of B.P. Big. 129 abolished the Courts of First Instance,
Circuit Criminal Courts, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts. While, indeed, Section 44
provides that these courts were to be "deemed automatically abolished" upon the declaration by the
President that the reorganization provided in B.P. Blg. 129 had been completed, this Court should
not lose sight of the fact that the Regional Trial Courts merely replaced the Courts of First Instance
as clearly borne out by the last two sentences of Section 44, to wit:

xxxx

Consequently, it is not accurate to state that the "abolition" of the Courts of First Instance carried
with it the abolition of their exclusive original jurisdiction in drug cases vested by Section 39 of R.A.
No. 6425, as amended by P. D. No. 44. If that were so, then so must it be with respect to Article 360
of the Revised Penal Code and Section 57 of the Decree on Intellectual Property. On the contrary, in
the resolution of 19 June 1996 in Caro v. Court of Appeals and in the resolution of 26 February 1997
in Villalon v. Ba/dado, this Court expressly ruled that Regional Trial Courts have the exclusive
original jurisdiction over libel cases pursuant to Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code. In
Administrative Order No. 104-96 this Court mandates that:

xxxx

The same Administrative Order recognizes that violations of RA. No. 6425, as amended, regardless
of the quantity involved, are to be tried and decided by the Regional Trial Courts therein designated
as special courts.94 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Yet, much has been made of the terminology used in Section 90 of RA 9165. The dissents would
highlight the provision's departure from Section 39 of RA 6425 - the erstwhile drugs law, which
provides:

SECTION 39. Jurisdiction of the Circuit Criminal Court. - The Circuit Criminal Court shall have
exclusive original jurisdiction over all cases involving offenses punishable under this Act.

For those in the dissent, the failure to reproduce the phrase "exclusive original jurisdiction" is a clear
indication that no court, least of all the RTC, has been vested with such "exclusive original
jurisdiction" so that even the Sandiganbayan can take cognizance and resolve a criminal prosecution
for violation of RA 9165.

As thoroughly discussed by Justice Peralta in his Concurring Opinion, such deduction is


unwarranted given the clear intent of the legislature not only to retain the "exclusive original
jurisdiction" of the RTCs over violations of the drugs law but to segregate from among the several
RTCs of each judicial region some RTCs that will "exclusively try and hear cases involving violations
of [RA 9165)." If at all, the change introduced by the new phraseology of Section 90, RA 9165 is not
the deprivation of the RTCs' "exclusive original jurisdiction" but the further restriction of this
"exclusive original jurisdiction" to select RTCs of each judicial region. This intent can be clearly
gleaned from the interpellation on House Bill No. 4433, entitled "An Act Instituting the Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002, repealing Republic Act No. 6425, as amended:"

Initially, Rep. Dilangalen referred to the fact sheet attached to the Bill which states that the measure
will undertake a comprehensive amendment to the existing law on dangerous drugs -- RA No. 6425,
as amended. Adverting to Section 64 of the Bill on the repealing clause, he then asked whether the
Committee is in effect amending or repealing the aforecited law. Rep. Cuenco replied that any
provision of law which is in conflict with the provisions of the Bill is repealed and/or modified
accordingly.
In this regard, Rep. Dilangalen suggested that if the Committee's intention was only to amend RA
No. 6425, then the wording used should be "to amend" and not "to repeal" with regard to the
provisions that are contrary to the provisions of the Bill.

Adverting to Article VIII, Section 60, on Jurisdiction Over Dangerous Drugs Case, which provides
that "the Supreme Court shall designate regional trial courts to have original jurisdiction over all
offenses punishable by this Act," Rep. Dilangalen inquired whether it is the Committee's intention
that certain RTC salas will be designated by the Supreme Court to try drug-related offenses,
although all RTCs have original jurisdiction over those offenses.

Rep. Cuenco replied in the affirmative. He pointed that at present, the Supreme Court's assignment
of drug cases to certain judges is not exclusive because the latter can still handle cases other than
drug-related cases. He added that the Committee's intention is to assign drug-related cases to
judges who will handle exclusively these cases assigned to them.

In this regard, Rep. Dilangalen stated that, at the appropriate time, he would like to propose the
following amendment; "The Supreme Court shall designate specific salas of the RTC to try
exclusively offenses related to drugs."

Rep. Cuenca agreed therewith, adding that the Body is proposing the creation of exclusive drug
courts because at present, almost all of the judges are besieged by a lot of drug cases some of
which have been pending for almost 20 years.95 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Per the "Records of the Bilateral Conference Committee on the Disagreeing Provisions of Senate Bill
No. 1858 and House Bill No. 4433," the term "designation" of R TCs that will exclusively handle
drug-related offenses was used to skirt the budgetary requirements that might accrue by the
"creation" of exclusive drugs courts. It was never intended to divest the R TCs of their exclusive
original jurisdiction over drug-related cases. The Records are clear:

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). x x x [W]e would like to propose the creation of drug courts to
handle exclusively drug cases; the imposition of a 60-day deadline on courts within which to decide
drug cases; and No. 3, provide penalties on officers of the law and government prosecutors for
mishandling and delaying drugs cases.

We will address these concerns one by one.

1. The possible creation of drugs courts to handle exclusively drug cases. Any comments?

xxxx

THE CHAIRMAN (SEN. BARBERS). We have no objection to this proposal, Mr. Chairman. As a
matter of fact, this is one of the areas where we come into an agreement when we were in Japan.
However, I just would like to add a paragraph after the word "Act" in Section 86 of the Senate
versions, Mr. Chairman. And this is in connection with the designation of special courts by "The
Supreme Court shall designate special courts from among the existing Regional Trial Courts in each
judicial region to exclusively try and hear cases involving violations of this Act. The number of court
designated in each judicial region shall be based on the population and the number of pending
cases in their respective jurisdiction." That is my proposal, Mr. Chairman.

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). We adopt the same proposal.


xxxx

THE CHAIRMAN (SEN. BARBERS). I have no problem with that, Mr. Chairman, but I'd like to call
your attention to the fact that my proposal is only for designation because if it is for a creation that
would entail another budget, Mr. Chairman. And almost always, the Department of Budget would tell
us at the budget hearing that we lack funds, we do not have money. So that might delay the very
purpose why we want the RTC or the municipal courts to handle exclusively the drug cases. That's
why my proposal is designation not creation.

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). Areglado. No problem, designation. Approved.96

The exclusive original jurisdiction over violations of RA 9165 is not transferred to the Sandiganbayan
whenever the accused occupies a position classified as Grade 27 or higher, regardless of whether
the violation is alleged as committed in relation to office. The power of the Sandiganbayan to sit in
judgment of high-ranking government officials is not omnipotent. The Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction is
circumscribed by law and its limits are currently defined and prescribed by RA 10660,97 which
amended Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1606.98 As it now stands, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction
over the following:

SEC. 4. Jurisdiction. - The Sandiganbayan shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases
involving:

a. Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt
Practices Act, Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the Revised
Penal Code, where one or more of the accused are officials occupying the following positions in the
government, whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the
offense:

(1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the positions of regional director and higher,
otherwise classified as Grade '27' and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act of
1989 (Republic Act No. 6758), specifically including:

xxxx

(2) Members of Congress and officials thereof classified as Grade '27' and higher under the
Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989;

(3) Members of the judiciary without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution;

(4) Chairmen and members of the Constitutional Commissions, without prejudice to the provisions of
the Constitution; and

(5) All other national and local officials classified as Grade '27' and higher under the Compensation
and Position Classification Act of 1989.

b. Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed with other crimes committed by the public
officials and employees mentioned in subsection a. of this section in relation to their office.

c. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and
14-A, issued in 1986. Provided, That the Regional Trial Court shall have exclusive original
jurisdiction where the information: (a) does not allege any damage to the government or any bribery;
or (b) alleges damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or closely related
transactions or acts in an amount not exceeding One Million pesos (₱l,000,000.00).

The foregoing immediately betrays that the Sandiganbayan primarily sits as a special anti-graft
court pursuant to a specific injunction in the 1973 Constitution.99 Its characterization and continuation
as such was expressly given a constitutional fiat under Section 4, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution,
which states:

SECTION 4. The present anti-graft court known as the Sandiganbayan shall continue to function
and exercise its jurisdiction as now or hereafter may be provided by law.

It should occasion no surprise, therefore, that the Sandiganbayan is without jurisdiction to hear drug-
related cases. Even Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660, touted by the petitioner and
the dissents as a catchall provision, does not operate to strip the R TCs of its exclusive original
jurisdiction over violations of RA 9165. As pointed out by Justices Tijam and Martires, a perusal of
the drugs law will reveal that public officials were never considered excluded from its scope. Hence,
Section 27 of RA 9165 punishes government officials found to have benefited from the trafficking of
dangerous drugs, while Section 28 of the law imposes the maximum penalty on such government
officials and employees. The adverted sections read:

SECTION 27. Criminal Liability of a Public Officer or Employee for Misappropriation, Misapplication
or Failure to Account for the Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant
Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals,
Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laborat01y Equipment Including the Proceeds or Properties
Obtained from the Unlawful Act Committed - The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine
ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (Pl0,000,000.00), in
addition to absolute perpetual disqualification from any public office, shall be imposed upon any
public officer or employee who misappropriates, misapplies or fails to account for confiscated, seized
or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and
essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds
or properties obtained from the unlawful acts as provided for in this Act.

Any elective local or national official found to have benefited from the proceeds of the trafficking of
dangerous drugs as prescribed in this Act, or have received any financial or material contributions or
donations from natural or juridical persons found guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs as prescribed
in this Act, shall be removed from office and perpetually disqualified from holding any elective or
appointive positions in the government, its divisions, subdivisions, and intermediaries, including
government-owned or -controlled corporations.

SECTION 28. Criminal Liability of Government Officials and Employees. - The maximum penalties of
the unlawful acts provided for in this Act shall be imposed, in addition to absolute perpetual
disqualification from any public office, if those found guilty of such unlawful acts are government
officials and employees. (Emphasis supplied)

Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660, provides but the general rule, couched in a
"broad and general phraseology. "100 Exceptions abound. Besides the jurisdiction on written
defamations and libel, as illustrated in Morales 101and People v. Benipayo, 102 the RTC is likewise
given "exclusive original jurisdiction to try and decide any criminal action or proceedings for violation
of the Omnibus Election Code,"103 regardless of whether such violation was committed by public
officers occupying positions classified as Grade 27 or higher in relation to their offices. In fact,
offenses committed by members of the Armed Forces in relation to their office, i.e., in the words of
RA 7055,104"service-connected crimes or offenses," are not cognizable by the Sandiganbayan but by
court-martial.

Certainly, jurisdiction over offenses and felonies committed by public officers is not determined
solely by the pay scale or by the fact that they were committed "in relation to their office." In
determining the forum vested with the jurisdiction to try and decide criminal actions, the laws
governing the subject matter of the criminal prosecution must likewise be considered.

In this case, RA 9165 specifies the RTC as the court with the jurisdiction to "exclusively try and
hear cases involving violations of [RA 9165)." This is an exception, couched in the special law
on dangerous drugs, to the general rule under Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA
10660. It is a canon of statutory construction that a special law prevails over a general law and the
latter is to be considered as an exception to the general.105

Parenthetically, it has been advanced that RA 10660 has repealed Section 90 of RA 9165. However,
a closer look at the repealing clause of RA 10660 will show that there is no express repeal of Section
90 of RA 9165 and well-entrenched is the rule that an implied repeal is disfavored. It is only
accepted upon the clearest proof of inconsistency so repugnant that the two laws cannot be
enforced.106 The presumption against implied repeal is stronger when of two laws involved one is
special and the other general.107 The mentioned rule in statutory construction that a special law
prevails over a general law applies regardless of the laws' respective dates of passage. Thus, this
Court ruled:

x x x [I]t is a canon of statutory construction that a special law prevails over a general law -
regardless of their dates of passage - and the special is to be considered as remaining an exception
to the general.

So also, every effort must be exerted to avoid a conflict between statutes. If reasonable construction
is possible, the laws must be reconciled in that manner.

Repeals of laws by implication moreover are not favored, and the mere repugnancy between two
statutes should be very clear to warrant the court in holding that the later in time repeals the other.108

To reiterate for emphasis, Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660, is the general
law on jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over crimes and offenses committed by high-ranking public
officers in relation to their office; Section 90, RA 9165 is the special law excluding from the
Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction violations of RA 9165 committed by such public officers. In the latter
case, jurisdiction is vested upon the RTCs designated by the Supreme Court as drugs court,
regardless of whether the violation of RA 9165 was committed in relation to the public officials' office.

The exceptional rule provided under Section 90, RA 9165 relegating original exclusive jurisdiction to
RTCs specially designated by the Supreme Court logically follows given the technical aspect of
drug-related cases. With the proliferation of cases involving violation of RA 9165, it is easy to
dismiss them as common and untechnical. However, narcotic substances possess unique
characteristics that render them not readily identifiable.109 In fact, they must first be subjected to
scientific analysis by forensic chemists to determine their composition and nature.110Thus, judges
presiding over designated drugs courts are specially trained by the Philippine Judicial Academy
(PhilJa) and given scientific instructions to equip them with the proper tools to appreciate
pharmacological evidence and give analytical insight upon this esoteric subject. After all, the primary
consideration of RA 9165 is the fact that the substances involved are, in fact, dangerous drugs, their
plant sources, or their controlled precursors and essential chemicals. Without a doubt, not one of the
Sandiganbayan justices were provided with knowledge and technical expertise on matters relating to
prohibited substances.

Hard figures likewise support the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the RTCs over violations of RA
9165. As previously stated, as of June 30, 2017, there are 232,557 drugs cases pending before the
RTCs. On the other hand, not even a single case filed before the Sandiganbayan from February
1979 to June 30, 2017 dealt with violations of the drugs law. Instead, true to its designation as an
anti-graft court, the bulk of the cases filed before the Sandiganbayan involve violations of RA 3019,
entitled the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act" and malversation.111 With these, it would not only
be unwise but reckless to allow the tribunal uninstructed and inexperienced with the intricacies of
drugs cases to hear and decide violations of RA 9165 solely on account of the pay scale of the
accused.

Likewise of special significance is the proviso introduced by RA 10660 which, to reiterate for
emphasis, states:

Provided, That the Regional Trial Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction where the
information: (a) does not allege any damage to the government or any bribery; or (b) alleges
damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or closely related transactions or acts in
an amount not exceeding One million pesos (₱l,000,000.00).

The clear import of the new paragraph introduced by RA 10660 is to streamline the cases handled
by the Sandiganbayan by delegating to the RTCs some cases involving high-ranking public officials.
With the dissents' proposition, opening the Sandiganbayan to the influx of drug-related cases, RA
10660 which was intended to unclog the dockets of the Sandiganbayan would all be for naught.
Hence, sustaining the RTC's jurisdiction over drug-related cases despite the accused's high-ranking
position, as in this case, is all the more proper.

Even granting arguendo that the Court declares the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the
information subject of Criminal Case No. 17-165, still it will not automatically result in the release
from detention and restore the liberty and freedom of petitioner. The R TC has several options if it
dismisses the criminal case based on the grounds raised by petitioner in her Motion to Quash.

Under Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, the trial court has three (3) possible alternative actions when
confronted with a Motion to Quash:

1. Order the amendment of the Infonnation;

2. Sustain the Motion to Quash; or

3. Deny the Motion to Quash.

The first two options are available to the trial court where the motion to quash is meritorious.
Specifically, as to the first option, this court had held that should the Information be deficient or
lacking in any material allegation, the trial court can order the amendment of the Information under
Section 4, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, which states:

SECTION 4. Amendment of Complaint or Information. - If the motion to quash is based on an


alleged defect of the complaint or information which can be cured by amendment, the court shall
order that an amendment be made.
If it is based on the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, the prosecution shall
be given by the court an opportunity to correct the defect by amendment. The motion shall be
granted if the prosecution fails to make the amendment, or the complaint or information still suffers
from the same defect despite the amendment.

The failure of the trial court to order the correction of a defect in the Information curable by an
amendment amounts to an arbitrary exercise of power. So, this Court held in Dio v. People:

This Court has held that failure to provide the prosecution with the opportunity to amend is an
arbitrary exercise of power. In People v. Sandiganbayan (Fourth Division): When a motion to quash
is filed challenging the validity and sufficiency of an Information, and the defect may be cured by
amendment, courts must deny the motion to quash and order the prosecution to file an amended
Information. Generally, a defect pertaining to the failure of an Information to charge facts constituting
an offense is one that may be corrected by an amendment. In such instances, courts are mandated
not to automatically quash the Information; rather, it should grant the prosecution the opportunity to
cure the defect through an amendment. This rule allows a case to proceed without undue delay. By
allowing the defect to be cured by simple amendment, unnecessary appeals based on technical
grounds, which only result to prolonging the proceedings, are avoided.

More than this practical consideration, however, is the due process underpinnings of this rule. As
explained by this Court in People v. Andrade, the State, just like any other litigant, is entitled to its
day in court. Thus, a court's refusal to grant the prosecution the opportunity to amend an
Information, where such right is expressly granted under the Rules of Court and affirmed time and
again in a string of Supreme Court decisions, effectively curtails the State's right to due process.112

Notably, the defect involved in Dio was the Information's failure to establish the venue - a matter of
jurisdiction in criminal cases. Thus, in the case at bar where petitioner has not yet been arraigned,
the court a quo has the power to order the amendment of the February 17, 2017 Information filed
against the petitioner. This power to order the amendment is not reposed with this Court in the
exercise of its certiorari powers.

Nevertheless, should the trial court sustain the motion by actually ordering the quashal of the
Infonnation, the prosecution is not precluded from filing another information. An order sustaining the
motion to quash the information would neither bar another prosecution113 or require the release of the
accused from custody. Instead, under Section 5, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, the trial court can
simply order that another complaint or information be filed without discharging the accused from
custody. Section 5, Rule 117 states, thus:

Section 5. Effect of sustaining the motion to quash. - If the motion to quash is sustained, the court
may order that another complaint or information be filed except as provided in Section 6 of this rule.
If the order is made, the accused, if in custody, shall not be discharged unless admitted to bail. If no
order is made or if having been made, no new information is filed within the time specified in the
order or within such further time as the court may allow for good cause, the accused, if in custody,
shall be discharged unless he is also in custody for another charge.

Section 6, Rule 117, adverted to in the foregoing provision, prevents the re-filing of an information on
only two grounds: that the criminal action or liability has already been extinguished, and that of
double jeopardy. Neither was invoked in petitioner's Motion to Quash filed before the court a quo.

The third option available to the trial court is the denial of the motion to quash. Even granting, for the
nonce, the petitioner's position that the trial court's issuance of the warrant for her arrest is an
implied denial of her Motion to Quash, the proper remedy against this court action is to proceed to
trial, not to file the present petition for certiorari. This Court in Galzote v. Briones reiterated this
established doctrine:

A preliminary consideration in this case relates to the propriety of the chosen legal remedies availed
of by the petitioner in the lower courts to question the denial of his motion to quash. In the usual
course of procedure, a denial of a motion to quash filed by the accused results in the continuation of
the trial and the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. If a judgment of conviction is
rendered and the lower court's decision of conviction is appealed, the accused can then raise the
denial of his motion to quash not only as an error committed by the trial court but as an added
ground to overturn the latter's ruling.

In this case, the petitioner did not proceed to trial but opted to immediately question the denial of his
motion to quash via a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

As a rule, the denial of a motion to quash is an interlocutory order and is not appealable; an appeal
from an interlocutory order is not allowed under Section 1 (b), Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. Neither
can it be a proper subject of a petition for certiorari which can be used only in the absence of an
appeal or any other adequate, plain and speedy remedy. The plain and speedy remedy upon denial
of an interlocutory order is to proceed to trial as discussed above.114 (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)

At this juncture, it must be stressed yet again that the trial court has been denied the opportunity to
act and rule on petitioner's motion when the latter jumped the gun and prematurely repaired
posthaste to this Court, thereby immobilizing the trial court in its tracks. Verily, De Lima should have
waited for the decision on her motion to quash instead of prematurely filing the instant recourse.

In the light of the foregoing, the best course of action for the Court to take is to dismiss the petition
and direct the trial court to rule on the Motion to Quash and undertake all the necessary proceedings
to expedite the adjudication of the subject criminal case.

RESPONDENT JUDGE DID NOT ABUSE HER DISCRETION IN FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE TO
ORDER THE PETITIONER'S ARREST

The basis for petitioner's contention that respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion in
issuing the February 23, 2017 Order115 finding probable cause to arrest the petitioner is two-pronged:
respondent judge should have first resolved the pending Motion to Quash before ordering the
petitioner's arrest; and there is no probable cause to justify the petitioner's arrest.

Grave abuse of discretion is the capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment equivalent to an
evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to act at all in contemplation of the law.116

In the present case, the respondent judge had no positive duty to first resolve the Motion to
Quash before issuing a warrant of arrest. There is no rule of procedure, statute, or jurisprudence to
support the petitioner's claim. Rather, Sec.5(a), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court117 required the
respondent judge to evaluate the prosecutor's resolution and its supporting evidence within a limited
period of only ten (10) days, viz.:

SEC. 5. When warrant of arrest may issue. -

(a) By the Regional Trial Court. - Within ten (10) days from the filing of the complaint or information,
the judge shall personally evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting evidence. He
may immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause.
If he finds probable cause, he shall issue a warrant of arrest, or a commitment order when the
complaint or information was filed pursuant to Section 6 of this Rule. In case of doubt on the
existence of probable cause, the judge may order the prosecutor to present additional evidence
within five (5) days from notice and the issue must be resolved by the court within thirty (30) days
from the filing of the complaint or information.

It is not far-fetched to conclude, therefore, that had the respondent judge waited longer and first
attended to the petitioner's Motion to Quash, she would have exposed herself to a possible
administrative liability for failure to observe Sec. 5(a), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. Her exercise of
discretion was sound and in conformity with the provisions of the Rules of Court considering that
a Motion to Quash may be filed and, thus resolved by a trial court judge, at any time before the
accused petitioner enters her plea.118 What is more, it is in accord with this Court's ruling in Marcos v.
Cabrera-Faller119that "[a]s the presiding judge, it was her task, upon the filing of the Information, to
first and foremost determine the existence or non-existence of probable cause for the arrest of the
accused."

This Court's ruling in Miranda v. Tuliao 120does not support the petitioner's position. Miranda does not
prevent a trial court from ordering the arrest of an accused even pending a motion to quash the
infonnation. At most, it simply explains that an accused can seek judicial relief even if he has not yet
been taken in the custody of law.

Undoubtedly, contrary to petitioner's postulation, there is no rule or basic principle requiring a trial
judge to first resolve a motion to quash, whether grounded on lack of jurisdiction or not, before
issuing a warrant of arrest. As such, respondent judge committed no grave abuse of discretion in
issuing the assailed February 23, 2017 Order even before resolving petitioner's Motion to
Quash. There is certainly no indication that respondent judge deviated from the usual procedure in
finding probable cause to issue the petitioner's arrest.

And yet, petitioner further contends that the language of the February 23, 2017 Order violated her
constitutional rights and is contrary to the doctrine in Soliven v. Makasiar. 121Petitioner maintains that
respondent judge failed to personally determine the probable cause for the issuance of the warrant
of arrest since, as stated in the assailed Order, respondent judge based her findings on the evidence
presented during the preliminary investigation and not on the report and supporting documents
submitted by the prosecutor.122 This hardly deserves serious consideration.

Personal determination of the existence of probable cause by the judge is required before a warrant
of arrest may issue. The Constitution123 and the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure124 command the
judge "to refrain from making a mindless acquiescence to the prosecutor's findings and to conduct
his own examination of the facts and circumstances presented by both parties. "125 This much is clear
from this Court's n1ling in Soliven cited by the petitioner, viz.:

What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and personal responsibility of the issuing judge to
satisfy himself the existence of probable cause. In satisfying himself of the existence of probable
cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge is not required to personally examine the
complainant and his witnesses. Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall: (1)
personally evaluate the report and the supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the
existence of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis
thereof he finds no probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal's report and require the submission
of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of
probable cause.126
It must be emphasized, however, that in determining the probable cause to issue the warrant of
arrest against the petitioner, respondent judge evaluated the Information and "all the evidence
presented during the preliminary investigation conducted in this case." The assailed February 23,
2017 Order is here restated for easy reference and provides, thusly:

After a careful evaluation of the herein Information and all the evidence presented during the
preliminary investigation conducted in this case by the Department of Justice, Manila, the Court finds
sufficient probable cause for the issuance of Warrants of Arrest against all the accused LEILA M. DE
LIMA x x x.127 (Emphasis supplied.)

As the prosecutor's report/resolution precisely finds support from the evidence presented during the
preliminary investigation, this Court cannot consider the respondent judge to have evaded her duty
or refused to perform her obligation to satisfy herself that substantial basis exists for the petitioner's
arrest. "All the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation" encompasses a broader
category than the "supporting evidence" required to be evaluated in Soliven. It may perhaps even be
stated that respondent judge performed her duty in a manner that far exceeds what is required of her
by the rules when she reviewed all the evidence, not just the supporting documents. At the very
least, she certainly discharged a judge's duty in finding probable cause for the issuance of a warrant,
as described in Ho v. People:

The above rulings in Soliven, Inting and Lim, Sr. were iterated in Allado v. Diokno, where we
explained again what probable cause means. Probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest
is the existence of such facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent
person to believe that an offense has been committed by the person sought to be arrested. Hence,
the judge, before issuing a warrant of arrest, 'must satisfy himself that based on the evidence
submitted, there is sufficient proof that a crime has been committed and that the person to be
arrested is probably guilty thereof' At this stage of the criminal proceeding, the judge is not yet
tasked to review in detail the evidence submitted during the preliminary investigation. It is sufficient
that he personally evaluates such evidence in determining probable cause. In Webb v. De Leon we
stressed that the judge merely determines the probability, not the certainty, of guilt of the accused
and, in doing so, he need not conduct a de novo hearing. He simply personally reviews the
prosecutor's initial determination finding probable cause to see if it is supported by substantial
evidence."

xxxx

x x x [T]he judge cannot rely solely on the report of the prosecutor in finding probable cause to justify
the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Obviously and understandably, the contents of the prosecutor's
report will support his own conclusion that there is reason to charge the accused for an offense and
hold him for trial. However, the judge must decide independently. Hence, he must have supporting
evidence, other than the prosecutor's bare report, upon which to legally sustain his own findings on
the existence (or non-existence) of probable cause to issue an arrest order. This responsibility of
determining personally and independently the existence or nonexistence of probable cause is lodged
in him by no less than the most basic law of the land. Parenthetically, the prosecutor could ease the
burden of the judge and speed up the litigation process by forwarding to the latter not only the
information and his bare resolution finding probable cause, but also so much of the records and the
evidence on hand as to enable His Honor to make his personal and separate judicial finding on
whether to issue a warrant of arrest.

Lastly, it is not required that the complete or entire records of the case during the preliminary
investigation be submitted to and examined by the judge. We do not intend to unduly burden trial
courts by obliging them to examine the complete records of every case all the time simply for the
purpose of ordering the arrest of an accused. What is required, rather, is that the judge must have
sufficient supporting documents (such as the complaint, affidavits, counter-affidavits, sworn
statements of witnesses or transcript of stenographic notes, if any) upon which to make his
independent judgment or, at the very least, upon which to verify the findings of the prosecutor as to
the existence of probable cause. The point is: he cannot rely solely and entirely on the prosecutor's
recommendation, as Respondent Court did in this case. Although the prosecutor enjoys the legal
presumption of regularity in the performance of his official duties and functions, which in turn gives
his report the presumption of accuracy, the Constitution, we repeat, commands the judge to
personally determine probable cause in the issuance of warrants of arrest. This Court has
consistently held that a judge fails in his bounden duty if he relies merely on the certification or the
report of the investigating officer.128 (Emphasis supplied.)

Notably, for purposes of determining the propriety of the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge is
tasked to merely determine the probability, not the certainty, of the guilt of the accused.129 She is
given wide latitude of discretion in the determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrants
of arrest.130 A finding of probable cause to order the accused's arrest does not require an inquiry into
whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction.131 It is enough that it is believed that the
act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged.132

Again, per the February 23, 2017 Order, respondent judge evaluated all the evidence presented
during the preliminary investigation and on the basis thereof found probable cause to issue the
warrant of arrest against the petitioner. This is not surprising given that the only evidence available
on record are those provided by the complainants and the petitioner, in fact, did not present any
counter-affidavit or evidence to controvert this. Thus, there is nothing to disprove the following
preliminary findings of the DOJ prosecutors relative to the allegations in the Information filed in
Criminal Case No. 17-165:

Thus, from November 2012 to March 2013, De Lima[,] Ragos and Dayan should be indicted for
violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 3Gj), Section 26(b) and Section 28, of R.A. 9165, owing
to the delivery of PS million in two (2) occasions, on 24 November 2012 and 15 December 2012, to
Dayan and De Lima. The monies came inmate Peter Co [were] proceeds from illicit drug trade,
which were given to support the senatorial bid of De Lima.

Also in the same period, Dayan demanded from Ragos money to support the senatorial bid of De
Lima. Ragos demanded and received ₱100,000 tara from each of the high-profile inmates in
exchange for privileges, including their illicit drug trade. Ablen collected the money for Ragos who, in
turn, delivered them to Dayan at De Lima's residence.133

The foregoing findings of the DOJ find support in the affidavits and testimonies of several persons.
For instance, in his Affidavit dated September 3, 2016, NBI agent Jovencio P. Ablen, Jr.
narrated, viz.:

21. On the morning of 24 November 2012, I received a call from Dep. Dir. Ragos asking where I
was. I told him I was at home. He replied that he will fetch me to accompany him on a very important
task.

22. Approximately an hour later, he arrived at my house. I boarded his vehicle, a Hyundai Tucson,
with plate no. RGU910. He then told me that he will deliver something to the then Secretary of
Justice, Sen. Leila De Lima. He continued and said "Nior confidential 'to. Tayong dalawa lang ang
nakakaalam nito. Dadalhin natin yung quota kay Lola. SM 'yang nasa bag. Tingnan mo."
23. The black bag he was referring to was in front of my feet. It [was a] black handbag. When I
opened the bag, I saw bundles of One Thousand Peso bills. 1âwphi 1

24. At about 10 o'clock in the morning, we arrived at the house located at Laguna Bay corner Subic
Bay Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque City.

25. Dep. Dir. Ragos parked his vehicle in front of the house. We both alighted the vehicle but he told
me to stay. He then proceeded to the house.

26. From our parked vehicle, I saw Mr. Ronnie Dayan open the gate. Dep. Dir. Ragos then handed
the black handbag containing bundles of one thousand peso bills to Mr. Dayan.

27. At that time, I also saw the then DOJ Sec. De Lima at the main door of the house. She was
wearing plain clothes which is commonly known referred to as "duster."

28. The house was elevated from the road and the fence was not high that is why I was able to
clearly see the person at the main door, that is, Sen. De Lima.

29. When Dep. Dir. Ragos and Mr. Dayan reached the main door, I saw Mr. Dayan hand the black
handbag to Sen. De Lima, which she received. The three of them then entered the house.

30. After about thirty (30) minutes, Dep. Dir. Ragos went out of the house. He no longer has the
black handbag with him.

31. We then drove to the BuCor Director's Quarters in Muntinlupa City. While cruising, Dep. Dir.
Ragos told me "Nior 'wag kang maingay kahit kanino at wala kang nakita ha," to which I
replied "Sabi mo e. e di wala akong nakita."

32. On the morning of 15 December 2012, Dep. Dir. Ragos again fetched me from my house and we
proceeded to the same house located at Laguna Bay comer Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village,
Paranaque City.

33. That time, I saw a plastic bag in front of my feet. I asked Dep. Dir. Ragos "Quota na naman
Sir?"Dep. Dir. Ragos replied "Ano pa nga ba, 'tang ina sila lang meron. "134

Petitioner's co-accused, Rafael Ragos, recounted in his own Affidavit dated September 26, 2016 a
similar scenario:

8. One morning on the latter part of November 2012, I saw a black handbag containing a huge sum
of money on my bed inside the Director's Quarters of the BuCor. I looked inside the black handbag
and saw that it contains bundles of one thousand peso bills.

9. I then received a call asking me to deliver the black handbag to Mr. Ronnie Dayan. The caller said
the black handbag came from Peter Co and it contains "Limang Manoi<' which means Five Million
Pesos (Php5,000,000.00) as a "manoR' refers to One Million Pesos (Php 1,000,000.00) in the
vernacular inside the New Bilibid Prison.

10. As I personally know Mr. Dayan and knows that he stays in the house of the then DOJ Sec. Leila
M. De Lima located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque City, I
knew I had to deliver the black handbag to Sen. De Lima at the said address.
11. Before proceeding to the house of Sen. De Lima at the above[-]mentioned address, I called Mr.
Ablen to accompany me in delivering the money. I told him we were going to do an important task.

12. Mr. Ablen agreed to accompany me so I fetched him from his house and we proceeded to the
house of Sen. De Lima at the above-mentioned address.

13. While we were in the car, I told Mr. Ablen that the important task we will do is deliver Five Million
Pesos (Php5,000,000.00) "Quota" to Sen. De Lima. I also told him that the money was in the black
handbag that was on the floor of the passenger seat (in front of him) and he could check it, to which
Mr. Ablen complied.

14. Before noon, we arrived at the house of Sen. De Lima located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay
Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque City.

15. I parked my vehicle in front of the house. Both Mr. Ablen and I alighted from the vehicle but I
went to the gate alone carrying the black handbag containing the Five Million Pesos
(Php5,000,000.00).

16. At the gate, Mr. Ronnie Dayan greeted me and opened the gate for me. I then handed the
handbag containing the money to Mr. Dayan.

17. We then proceeded to the main door of the house where Sen. De Lima was waiting for us. At the
main door, Mr. Dayan handed the black handbag to Sen. De Lima, who received the same. We then
entered the house.

18. About thirty minutes after, I went out of the house and proceeded to my quarters at the BuCor,
Muntinlupa City.

19. One morning in the middle part of December 2012, I received a call to again deliver the plastic
bag containing money from Peter Co to Mr. Ronnie Dayan. This time the money was packed in a
plastic bag left on my bed inside my quarters at the BuCor, Muntinlupa City. From the outside of the
bag, I could easily perceive that it contains money because the bag is translucent.

20. Just like before, I fetched Mr. Ablen from his house before proceeding to the house of Sen. De
Lima located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque City, where I
know I could find Mr. Dayan.

21. In the car, Mr. Ablen asked me if we are going to deliver "quota." I answered yes.

22. We arrived at the house of Sen. De Lima at the above[-]mentioned address at noontime. I again
parked in front of the house.

23. I carried the plastic bag containing money to the house. At the gate, I was greeted by Mr. Ronnie
Dayan. At that point, I handed the bag to Mr. Dayan. He received the bag and we proceeded inside
the house.135

The source of the monies delivered to petitioner De Lima was expressly bared by several felons
incarcerated inside the NBP. Among them is Peter Co, who testified in the following manner:

6. Noong huling bahagi ng 2012, sinabi sa akin ni Hans Tanna nanghihingi ng kontribusyon sa
mgaChinese sa Maximum Security Compound ng NBP si dating DOJ Sec. De Lima para sa
kanyang planong pagtakbo sa senado sa 2013 Elections. Dalawang beses akong nagbigay ng tig-
P5 Million para tugunan ang hiling ni Sen. De Lima, na dating DOJ Secretary;

7. Binigay ko ang mga halagang ito kay Hans Tan para maibigay kay Sen. Leila De Lima na
datingDOJ Secretary. Sa parehong pagkakataon, sinabihan na lang ako ni Hans Tan na naibigay na
ang pera kay Ronnie Dayan na siyang tumatanggap ng pera para kay dating DOJ Sec. De
Lima Sinabi rin niHans Tanna ang nagdeliver ng pera ay si dating OIC ng BuCor na si Rafael Ragos.

8. Sa kabuuan, nakapagbigay ang mga Chinese sa loob ng Maximum ng PIO Million sa mga huling
bahagi ng taong 2012 kay dating DOJ Sec. De Lima para sa kanyang planong pagtakbo sa senado
sa2013 Elections. Ang mga perang ito ay mula sa pinagbentahan ng illegal na droga.136

All these, at least preliminarily, outline a case for illegal drug trading committed in conspiracy by the
petitioner and her co-accused. Thus, the Court cannot sustain the allegation that respondent judge
committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed Order for petitioner's arrest.

Petitioner would later confine herself to the contention that the prosecution's evidence is
inadmissible, provided as they were by petitioner's co-accused who are convicted felons and whose
testimonies are but hearsay evidence.

Nowhere in Ramos v. Sandiganbayan 137 - the case relied upon by petitioner - did this Court rule that
testimonies given by a co-accused are of no value. The Court simply held that said testimonies
should be received with great caution, but not that they would not be considered. The testimony of
Ramos' co-accused was, in fact, admitted in the cited case. Furthermore, this Court explicitly ruled
in Estrada v. Office of the Ombudsman138that hearsay evidence is admissible during preliminary
investigation. The Court held thusly:

Thus, probable cause can be established with hearsay evidence, as long as there is substantial
basis for crediting the hearsay. Hearsay evidence is admissible in determining probable cause in a
preliminary investigation because such investigation is merely preliminary, and does not finally
adjudicate rights and obligations of parties.139 (Emphasis supplied.)

Verily, the admissibility of evidence,140 their evidentiary weight, probative value, and the credibility of
the witness are matters that are best left to be resolved in a full-blown trial,141 not during a preliminary
investigation where the technical rules of evidence are not applied142 nor at the stage of the
determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Thus, the better alternative
is to proceed to the conduct of trial on the merits for the petitioner and the prosecution to present
their respective evidence in support of their allegations.

With the foregoing disquisitions, the provisional reliefs prayed for, as a consequence, have to be
rejected.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for prohibition and certiorari is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The
Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204 is ordered to proceed with dispatch with
Criminal Case N6.17-165.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

G.R. No. 196342, August 08, 2017


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. NOEL GO CAOILI ALIAS "BOY TAGALOG", Respondent.

G.R. No. 196848, August 8, 2017

NOEL GO CAOILI, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

Assailed in these consolidated petitions for review1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court are the July 22, 2010
Decision2 and March 29, 2011 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00576- MIN,
which set aside the June 17, 2008 Decision4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Surigao City, Branch 30, in
Criminal Case No. 7363, finding Noel Go Caoili (Caoili) alias "Boy Tagalog" guilty of the crime of Rape by
Sexual Assault under paragraph 2 of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended by Republic
Act (R.A.) No. 8353,5 and remanded the case to the RTC for further proceedings consistent with the CA's
opinion.

The Facts

On June 22, 2006, First Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Raul O. Nasayao filed an Information against Caoili,
charging him with the crime of rape through sexual intercourse in violation of Article 266-A, in relation to
Article 266-B, of the RPC as amended by R.A. No. 8353, and R.A. No. 7610.6 The accusatory portion of the
Information reads:

That on or about the 23rd day of October 2005, at 7:00 o'clock in the evening, more or less, in Purok [III],
Barangay [JJJ], [KKK], [LLL], Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused, with full freedom and intelligence, with lewd design, did, then and there, willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously had sexual intercourse with one [AAA],7 a minor, fifteen (15) years of age and the
daughter of the herein accused, through force, threat and intimidation and against her will, to her damage
and prejudice in the amount as may be allowed by law.

CONTRARY TO Article 266-A, in relation to Article 266-B of R.A. 8353, with the aggravating circumstance
that the accused is the father of the victim and R.A. 7610[.]8

On July 31, 2006, the RTC issued an Order9 confirming Caoili 's detention at the Municipal Station of the
Bureau of Jail Management and Penology after his arrest10 on October 25, 2005.

Upon arraignment on September 15, 2006,11 Caoili pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. After the pre-
trial, trial on the merits ensued.

The victim, AAA, testified that on October 23, 2005, at 7:00p.m., her father, Caoili, sexually molested her at
their house located in Barangay JJJ, Municipality of KKK, in the Province of LLL. Caoili kissed her lips,
touched and mashed her breast, inserted the fourth finger of his left hand into her vagina, and made a push
and pull movement into her vagina with such finger for 30 minutes. AAA felt excruciating pain during and
after the ordeal. Against her father's harsh warning not to go out of the house, AAA proceeded to the house
of her uncle, BBB, located 20 meters away from their house. When he learned of this, Caoili fetched AAA
and dragged her home. He beat and hit her with a piece of wood, and boxed her on the stomach.12

On October 26, 2005, AAA disclosed to Emelia Loayon (Loayon), the guidance counselor at AAA's school, the
sexual molestation and physical violence committed against her by her own father. Loayon accompanied
AAA to the police station to report the sexual and physical abuse. AAA also executed a sworn
statement13 regarding the incident before the Municipal Mayor.14

AAA underwent a medical examination conducted by Dr. Ramie Hipe (Dr. Hipe) at the [KKK] Medicare
Community Hospital. Dr. Hipe issued a medical certificate dated October 26, 2005 showing that AAA had
suffered:15
xxxx

1. Contusion, 5 inches in width, distal 3rd, lateral aspect, left Thigh.


2. Contusion, 2 cms in width, distal 3rd, lateral aspect, left Forearm
3. (+) tenderness, left parietal area, head
4. (+)tenderness, over the upper periumbilical area of abdomen
5. tenderness, over the hypogastric area

xxxx

Genital Examination

xxxx
Hymen

- fimbriated in shape
- with laceration on the following:
-complete laceration - 12 o'clock position
- partial laceration - 3 o'clock position
-complete laceration - 6 o'clock position
-partial laceration - 8 o'clock position
-complete laceration - 9 o'clock position
-partial laceration - 11 o'clock position16

Dr. Hipe referred AAA to a Medical Specialist, Dr. Lucila Clerino (Dr. Clerino), for further Medico-Legal
examination and vaginal smear. Dr. Clerino issued a Supplementary Medical Certificate dated October 28,
2005, indicating that AAA's hymenal area had lacerations complete at 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock superficial
laceration at 12 o'clock.17

AAA sought the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development which facilitated her
admission to a rehabilitation center run by the Missionary Sisters of Mary.18

For his defense, Caoili denied molesting AAA. He alleged that on October 23, 2005, at about 7:00p.m., he
saw AAA with her boyfriend at the cassava plantation. He recognized AAA by the fragrance of her perfume
and by the outline of her ponytail. He even greeted them "good evening" but they did not respond. He then
went home. When AAA arrived at their house, he confronted her and the latter admitted that she was with
her boyfriend "Dodong" earlier that evening. He was so angry so he struck AAA's right thigh with a piece of
wood and pushed the same piece of wood on her forehead. When AAA cried out in pain, he became
remorseful and asked for forgiveness, but AAA kept mum. After they had supper, Caoili and his son slept in
one room; while AAA and her siblings slept in another room.19

The RTC's Ruling

On June 17, 2008, the RTC rendered its Decision20 declaring Caoili guilty of rape by sexual assault. The
dispositive portion of the Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, finding the accused NOEL GO CAOILI alias "Boy Tagalog" guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as
principal, of the crime of rape, defined and penalized in paragraph 2 of Article 266-A in relation to Article
266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 8353, and after considering the aggravating
circumstance of being the parent of the complainant, who was fourteen (14) years, one (1) month and ten
(10) days old at the time of the incident in question, there being no mitigating circumstance to off-set the
same, this Court hereby sentences the said accused to suffer imprisonment for an indefinite period of TEN
(10) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of Prision Mayor in its maximum period, as minimum, to SEVENTEEN (17)
YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of Reclusion Temporal in its maximum period, as maximum,
and to pay the costs. Four-fifths (4/5) of the preventive detention of said accused shall be credited to his
favor.
The same accused is hereby ordered to pay complainant [AAA] an indemnity ex delicto of P50,000.00; moral
damages of P50,000.00; and exemplary damages of another P50,000.00.

SO ORDERED.21

On September 29, 2008, pursuant to a Commitment Order22 issued by the RTC on August 27, 2008,
provincial jail guards escorted Caoili for his confinement at the Davao Prisons and Penal Farm, Panabo,
Davao del Norte (Davao Penal Colony).23

Thereafter, Caoili filed his appeal before the CA.

The CA's Ruling

On July 22, 2010, the CA rendered the assailed Decision,24 the dispositive portion of which reads, thus:

FOR THESE REASONS, the appealed Decision of Branch 30 of the Regional Trial Court of Surigao City, in
Criminal Case Nos. 7363, is SET ASIDE. Let this case be as it is IMMEDIATELY REMANDED to the trial
court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.25

The CA held that although Caoili is clearly guilty of rape by sexual assault, what the trial court should have
done was to direct the State Prosecutor to file a new Information charging the proper offense, and after
compliance therewith, to dismiss the original Information. The appellate court found it "imperative and
morally upright" to set the judgment aside and to remand the case for further proceedings pursuant to
Section 14, Rule 110,26 in relation to Section 19, Rule 11927 of the Rules of Court.

Thereafter, Caoili and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed their respective petitions for review
before this Court: G.R. No. 196342 was instituted by the OSG and G.R. No. 196848 was filed by Caoili.
These petitions were ordered consolidated by the Court in its Resolution28 dated on August 1, 2011.

In G.R. No. 196342, the OSG assails the CA's Decision for not being in accord with the law and established
jurisprudence. Their petition was anchored on the following grounds:29

I.

[CAOILI] WAS CONVICTED OF A CRIME NECESSARILY INCLUDED IN THE OFFENSE CHARGED IN THE
INFORMATION AND EMBRACED WITHIN THE SAME ARTICLE OF [R.A. NO.] 8353.

II.

[CAOILI'S] CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE INFORMED OF THE CHARGE AGAINST HIM WAS NOT VIOLATED
SINCE HE ACTIVELY PARTICIPATED DURING THE TRIAL PROCEEDINGS AND NEVER QUESTIONED THE
PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE SHOWING THAT THE CRIME COMMITTED WAS SEXUAL ASSAULT AND NOT
SIMPLE RAPE.

III.

THE HONORABLE [CA] HAS ALREADY AFFIRMED THE CONVICTION OF [CAOILI] FOR THE CRIME OF RAPE BY
SEXUAL ASSAULT.

IV.

THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF SECTION 14, RULE 110 OF THE RULES OF COURT, IN RELATION TO SECTION 19,
RULE 119, OF THE SAME RULES, IS NOT APPLICABLE IN THE INSTANT CASE.
In G.R. No. 196848, Caoili raises the following issues30 for our consideration:

I.

WHETHER RAPE BY SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NECESSARILY INCLUDED IN RAPE BY SEXUAL INTERCOURSE;

II.

WHETHER THE CASE MAY BE REMANDED TO THE COURT A QUO FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS PURSUANT
TO SECTION 14, RULE 110 AND SEC. 19, RULE 119 OF THE RULES OF COURT;

III.

WHETHER THE PROSECUTION HAS SUFFICIENTLY ESTABLISHED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT THE GUILT
OF [CAOILI] ON [sic] THE CRIME CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION;

IV.

WHETHER THE DECISION OF THE HONORABLE [CA] ACQUITTED [CAOILI.]

The Court's Ruling

The petitions lack merit.

The prosecution has established rape by sexual assault.

R.A. No. 8353 or the "Anti-Rape Law of 1997" amended Article 335, the provision on rape in the RPC,
reclassifying rape as a crime against persons and introducing rape by "sexual assault," as differentiated from
rape through "carnal knowledge" or rape through "sexual intercourse."31 Incorporated into the RPC by R.A.
No. 8353, Article 266-A reads:

Article 266-A. Rape, When and How Committed. Rape is committed -

1) By a man who shall havecarnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:

(a) Through force, threat or intimidation;

(b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious;

(c) By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; [and]

(d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the
circumstances mentioned above be present[.]

2) By any person who, under any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, shall commit an
act ofsexual assault by inserting his penis into another person's mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or
object, into the genital or anal orifice of another person.32 (Emphasis ours)

Thus, rape under the RPC, as amended, can be committed in two ways:

(1) Article 266-A paragraph 1 refers to rape through sexual intercourse, also known as "organ rape" or
"penile rape." The central element in rape through sexual intercourse is carnal knowledge, which must be
proven beyond reasonable doubt.
(2) Article 266-A paragraph 2 refers to rape by sexual assault, also called "instrument or object rape," or
"gender-free rape." It must be attended by any of the circumstances enumerated in sub-paragraphs (a) to
(d) of paragraph 1.33 (Emphasis ours)

Through AAA's testimony, the prosecution was able to prove that Caoili molested his own daughter when he
inserted his finger into her vagina and thereafter made a push and pull movement with such finger for 30
minutes,34 thus, clearly establishing rape by sexual assault35 under paragraph 2, Article 266-A of the RPC.

Caoili, however, questions AAA's credibility, arguing that her testimony lacked veracity since she harbored
hatred towards him due to the latter's strict upbringing.36

The Court however, oppugns the veracity of Caoili's claim.

It is settled that ill motives become inconsequential if there is an affirmative and credible declaration from
the rape victim, which clearly establishes the liability of the accused.37

AAA was a little over 15 years old when she testified,38 and she categorically identified Caoili as the one who
defiled her. She positively and consistently declared that Caoili inserted his finger into her vagina and that
she suffered tremendous pain during the insertion. Her account of the incident, as found by the RTC39 and
the CA,40 was clear, convincing and straightforward, devoid of any material or significant inconsistencies.

In People v. Pareja,41 the Court held that:

[T]he "assessment of the credibility of witnesses is a domain best left to the trial court judge because of his
unique opportunity to observe their deportment and demeanor on the witness stand; a vantage point denied
the appellate courts, and when his findings have been affirmed by the CA, these are generally binding and
conclusive upon this Court."42

While there are recognized exceptions to the rule, this Court has found no substantial reason to overturn the
identical conclusions of the trial and appellate courts on the matter of AAA's credibility.43

When a rape victim's testimony on the manner she was molested is straightforward and candid, and is
corroborated by the medical findings of the examining physician, as in this case, the same is sufficient to
support a conviction for rape.44 In a long line of cases,45 this Court has given full weight and credit to the
testimonies of child victims, considering that their youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and
sincerity. Indeed, leeway should be given to witnesses who are minors, especially when they are relating
past incidents of abuse.46

It is likewise settled that in cases where the rape is committed by a close kin, such as the victim's father,
stepfather, uncle, or the common-law spouse of her mother, it is not necessary that actual force or
intimidation be employed; moral influence or ascendancy takes the place of violence or intimidation.47

Verily, the prosecution has sufficiently proved the crime of rape by sexual assault as defined in paragraph 2
of Article 266-A of the RPC. Caoili, however, cannot be convicted of said crime.

Rape by sexual assault is not subsumed in rape through sexual


intercourse.

We cannot accept the OSG's argument that based on the variance doctrine,48 Caoili can be convicted of rape
by sexual assault because this offense is necessarily included in the crime of rape through sexual
intercourse.

The variance doctrine, which allows the conviction of an accused for a crime proved which is different from
but necessarily included in the crime charged, is embodied in Section 4, in relation to Section 5 of Rule 120
of the Rules of Court, which reads:
Sec. 4. Judgment in case of variance between allegation and proof. — When there is variance between the
offense charged in the complaint or information and that proved, and the offense as charged is included in
or necessarily includes the offense proved, the accused shall be convicted of the offense proved which
is included in the offense charged, or of the offense charged which is included in the offense proved.
(Emphasis ours)

Sec. 5. When an offense includes or is included in another. - An offense charged necessarily includes the
offense proved when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the
complaint or information, constitute the latter. And an offense charged is necessarily included in the offense
proved, when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.

By jurisprudence,49 however, an accused charged in the Information with rape by sexual intercourse cannot
be found guilty of rape by sexual assault, even though the latter crime was proven during trial. This is due
to the substantial distinctions between these two modes of rape.50

The elements of rape through sexual intercourse are: (1) that the offender is a man; (2) that the offender
had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (3) that such act is accomplished by using force or
intimidation.51 Rape by sexual intercourse is a crime committed by a man against a woman, and the central
element is carnal knowledge.52

On the other hand, the elements of rape by sexual assault are: (1) that the offender commits an act of
sexual assault; (2) that the act of sexual assault is committed by inserting his penis into another person's
mouth or anal orifice or by inserting any instrument or object into the genital or anal orifice of another
person; and that the act of sexual assault is accomplished by using force or intimidation, among others.53

In the first mode (rape by sexual intercourse): (1) the offender is always a man; (2) the offended party is
always a woman; (3) rape is committed through penile penetration of the vagina; and (4) the penalty
is reclusion perpertua.54

In the second mode (rape by sexual assault): (1) the offender may be a man or a woman; (2) the offended
party may be a man or a woman; (3) rape is committed by inserting the penis into another person's mouth
or anal orifice, or any instrument or object into the genital or anal orifice of another person; and (4) the
penalty is prision mayor.55

The Court en banc's categorical pronouncement in People v. Abulon,56 thus, finds application:

In view of the material differences between the two modes of rape, the first mode is not necessarily included
in the second, and vice-versa. Thus, since the charge in the Information in Criminal Case No. SC-7424 is
rape through carnal knowledge, appellant cannot be found guilty of rape by sexual assault although it was
proven, without violating his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation
against him.57

Our esteemed colleague, Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen (Justice Leonen), is of the view that Caoili should be
convicted of rape by sexual intercourse.58 According to him, sexual intercourse encompasses a wide range of
sexual activities, and is not limited to those involving penetration, genitals, and opposite sexes;59 it may be
penetrative or simply stimulative.60 Thus, he maintains that Caoili's act of inserting his finger into his
daughter's genitalia qualifies as carnal knowledge or sexual intercourse.61

The Court, however, cannot adopt Justice Leonen's theory.

The language of paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 266-A of the RPC, as amended by R.A. No. 8353, provides the
elements that substantially differentiate the two forms of rape, i.e., rape by sexual intercourse and rape by
sexual assault. It is through legislative process that the dichotomy between these two modes of rape was
created. To broaden the scope of rape by sexual assault, by eliminating its legal distinction from rape
through sexual intercourse, calls for judicial legislation which We cannot traverse without violating the
principle of separation of powers. The Court remains steadfast in confining its powers within the
constitutional sphere of applying the law as enacted by the Legislature.
In fine, given the material distinctions between the two modes of rape introduced in R.A. No. 8353, the
variance doctrine cannot be applied to convict an accused of rape by sexual assault if the crime charged is
rape through sexual intercourse, since the former offense cannot be considered subsumed in the latter.

The Court, thus, takes this occasion to once again remind public prosecutors of their crucial role in drafting
criminal complaints or Information. They have to be more judicious and circumspect in preparing the
Information since a mistake or defect therein may not render full justice to the State, the offended party
and even the offender.

Thus, in Pareja,62 the Court held that:

The primary duty of a lawyer in public prosecution is to see that justice is done - to the State, that its penal
laws are not broken and order maintained; to the victim, that his or her rights are vindicated; and to the
offender, that he is justly punished for his crime.63

Caoili can be convicted of the crime of lascivious conduct under


Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610.

R.A. No. 761064 finds application when the victims of abuse, exploitation or discrimination are children or
those "persons below 18 years of age or those over but are unable to fully take care of themselves or
protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or
mental disability or condition."65

It is undisputed that at the time of the commission of the lascivious act, AAA was fourteen (14) years, one
(1) month and ten (10) days old. This calls for the application of Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 761066which
provides:

SEC. 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse. Children, whether male or female, who for money, profit,
or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge
in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution and other
sexual abuse.

The penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon the
following:

xxxx

(b) Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in
prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse: Provided, That when the victim is under twelve (12) years
of age, the perpetrators shall be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article 336 of Act
No. 3815, as amended, the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious conduct, as the case may be:
Provided, That the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age shall
be reclusion temporal in its medium period. (Emphasis ours.)

The elements of sexual abuse under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 are as follows:

(1) The accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct;

(2) The said act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse; and

(3) The child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.67 (Emphasis ours)

The prosecution's evidence has sufficiently established the elements of lascivious conduct under Section 5(b)
of R.A. No. 7610.
Caoili's lascivious conduct

The evidence confirms that Caoili committed lascivious acts against AAA when he kissed her lips, touched
and mashed her breast, and inserted his finger into her vagina and made a push and pull movement with
such finger for 30 minutes.

AAA's testimony during direct examination showed how her father, Caoili, committed lascivious acts against
her:

(On Direct Examination)

Pros. Silvosa

Q Now, was there any unusual incident that happened at around 7:00
o'clock in the evening of October 23, 2005?

A Yes, sir.

Q What happened on October 23, 2005 at around 7:00 o'clock in the


evening?

A First, he kissed my lips, 2nd, he touched and mashed my breast


and his 4thfinger touched my private part.

Court

Q 4th finger of what hand?

A Left, your Honor.

xxxx

Q Who has done this to you?

A Noel Go Caoili.
Pros. Silvosa

Q If that Noel Go Caoili is present in the courtroom, can you identify


him?

A Yes, sir.

Court

Q What is your relationship with Noel Caoili?

A My father.

xxxx

Pros. Silvosa

Q [AAA], you said that your father touched your vagina and inserted his,
the 4thfinger of his left hand, for how many minutes, if you could still
recall, when he inserted... I withdraw the question, your Honor... What
specifically did he do with his 4th finger in your vagina?

A He inserted it in my vagina, sir.

Q While the finger was already inside your vagina, what did he do with
his finger?

A He inserted it and pulled it, he inserted and pulled it inside my vagina.

Q Can you still recall or how many or for how long did he made [sic] the
push and pull movement of his fingers inside you vagina?
A Thirty 30 minutes, sir.

Q Now, what did you feel while the finger of your father was inserted in
your vagina?

A Pain, sir.68 (Emphasis ours)

AAA likewise confirmed on cross examination69 that Caoili molested her. She even recounted that her father
threatened her not to tell anybody about the incident.

Caoili's acts are clearly covered by the definitions of "sexual abuse" and "lascivious conduct" under Section 2
of the rules and regulations70 of R.A. No. 7610:

(g) "Sexual abuse" includes the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement orcoercion of a
child to engage in, or assist another person to engage in, sexual intercourse orlascivious conduct or the
molestation, prostitution, or incest with children;

(h) "Lascivious conduct" means the intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of
the genitalia, anus, groin,breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the
genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with an intent toabuse,
humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation,
lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a person. (Emphasis ours)

It has been settled that Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 does not require a prior or contemporaneous abuse
that is different from what is complained of, or that a third person should act in concert with the accused.71

The victim's minority

AAA was a child below 18 years old at the time the lascivious conduct was committed against her. Her
minority was both sufficiently alleged in the Information and proved.

Influence and coercion

"Influence" is the improper use of power or trust in any way that deprives a person of free will and
substitutes another's objective. On the other hand, "coercion" is the improper use of power to compel
another to submit to the wishes of one who wields it.72

In People v. Leonardo,73 the Court ruled that:

Section 5 of R.A. No. 7610 does not merely cover a situation of a child being abused for profit, but also one
in which a child is coerced to engage in lascivious conduct. To repeat, intimidation need not necessarily be
irresistible. It is sufficient that some compulsion equivalent to intimidation annuls or subdues the free
exercise of the will of the offended party. This is especially true in the case of young, innocent and immature
girls who could not be expected to act with equanimity of disposition and with nerves of steel. Young girls
cannot be expected to act like adults under the same circumstances or to have the courage and intelligence
to disregard the threat.74

It cannot be denied that AAA, who is only a little over 14 years old at the time the offense was committed,
was vulnerable and would have been easily intimidated by an attacker who is not only a grown man but is
also someone exercising parental authority over her. Even absent such coercion or intimidation, Caoili can
still be convicted of lascivious conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 as he evidently used his moral
influence and ascendancy as a father in perpetrating his lascivious acts against AAA. It is doctrinal that
moral influence or ascendancy takes the place of violence and intimidation.75

It bears emphasis, too, that consent is immaterial in cases involving violation of Section 5 of R.A. No.
7610.76 The mere act of having sexual intercourse or committing lascivious conduct with a child who is
exploited in prostitution or subjected to sexual abuse constitutes the offense because it is a malum
prohibitum, an evil that is proscribed.77

Clearly, therefore, all the essential elements of lascivious conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 have
been proved, making Caoili liable for said offense.

Variance doctrine applied

Caoili had been charged with rape through sexual intercourse in violation of Article 266-A of the RPC and
R.A. No. 7610. Applying the variance doctrine under Section 4, in relation to Section 5 of Rule 120 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Caoili can be held guilty of the lesser crime of acts of lasciviousness
performed on a child, i.e., lascivious conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610, which was the offense
proved, because it is included in rape, the offense charged.78 This echoes the Court's pronouncement
in Leonardo, viz.:

This Court holds that the lower courts properly convicted the appellant in Criminal Case Nos. 546-V-02, 547-
V-02, 548-V-02, 554-V- 02 and 555-V-02 for five counts of sexual abuse under Section 5(b), Article III of
Republic Act No. 7610 even though the charges against him in the aforesaid criminal cases were for rape in
relation to Republic Act No. 7610. The lower court['s] ruling is in conformity with the variance
doctrine embodied in Section 4, in relation to Section 5, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, x x x:

xxxx

With the aforesaid provisions, the appellant can be held guilty of a lesser crime of acts of
lasciviousness performed on a child, i.e., sexual abuse under Section 5(b), Article III of Republic
Act No. 7610, which was the offense proved because it is included in rape, the offense
charged.79 (Emphasis ours)

The due recognition of the constitutional right of an accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation through the criminal complaint or information is decisive of whether his prosecution for a crime
stands or not.80 Nonetheless, the right is not transgressed if the information sufficiently alleges facts and
omissions constituting an offense that includes the offense established to have been committed by the
accused,81 which, in this case, is lascivious conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610.

Guidelines: Nomenclature of crime and penalties for lascivious


conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610

The Court is aware of its previous pronouncements where, applying the variance doctrine, it convicted the
accused, charged with the rape of a minor, for the offense designated not as "Lascivious Conduct under
Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610" but as "Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC in relation to
Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610."

Thus, in People v. Bon,82 the accused was charged with having carnal knowledge of a six-year-old child
against her will and with the use of force and intimidation. The trial court convicted the accused of rape. The
evidence, however, merely showed that accused inserted his finger into the victim's vaginal orifice. Applying
the variance doctrine, the Court en banc held that the accused could still be made liable for acts of
lasciviousness under the RPC because said crime is included in rape. The accused was convicted of Acts of
Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC in relation to Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610, since all the
elements of the said offense were established.
Likewise, in Navarrete v. People,83 the accused was charged with statutory rape for having sexual
intercourse with a five-year-old girl. Absent clear and positive proof of the entry of accused's penis into the
labia of the victim's vagina, the trial court convicted the accused of the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness under
Article 336 of the RPC in relation to Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610. The CA and this Court affirmed the
conviction. In the case of Bon,84 the Court held that the crime of acts of lasciviousness is included in rape.
The Court likewise found that the victim's testimony established that accused committed acts of lewdness
which amounted to lascivious conduct under R.A. No. 7610.

So also, in People v. Rellota,85 the Court modified the accused's conviction for attempted rape86 of a 12-
year-old minor to a conviction for Acts of Lasciviousness as defined in the RPC in relation to Section 5 of
R.A. No. 7610, holding that the accused's acts, while lascivious, did not exactly demonstrate an intent to
have carnal knowledge with the victim. The Court applied the variance doctrine and reiterated that the crime
of acts of lasciviousness is included in rape. The conviction was based on the Court's finding that the
elements of acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC and of lascivious conduct as defined in the
rules and regulations of R.A. No. 7610 have been established.

Based on the language of Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610, however, the offense designated as Acts of
Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC in relation to Section 5 of R.A. No. 7610 should be used when
the victim is under 12 years of age at the time the offense was committed. This finds support in the first
proviso in Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 which requires that "when the victim is under twelve (12) years of
age, the perpetrators shall be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article 336 of Act No.
3815, as amended, the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious conduct, as the case may be." Thus,
pursuant to this proviso, it has been held that before an accused can be convicted of child abuse through
lascivious conduct on a minor below 12 years of age, the requisites for act of lasciviousness under Article
336 of the RPC must be met in addition to the requisites for sexual abuse under Section 5 of R.A. No.
7610.87

Conversely, when the victim, at the time the offense was committed, is aged twelve (12) years or over but
under eighteen (18), or is eighteen (18) or older but unable to fully take care of herself/himself or protect
himself/herself from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental
disability or condition,88 the nomenclature of the offense should be Lascivious Conduct under Section 5(b) of
R.A. No. 7610, since the law no longer refers to Article 336 of the RPC, and the perpetrator is prosecuted
solely under R.A. No. 7610.

In the case at bar, AAA was a little over 14 years old when the lascivious conduct was committed against
her. Thus, We used the nomenclature "Lascivious Conduct" under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610.

Accordingly, for the guidance of public prosecutors and the courts, the Court takes this opportunity to
prescribe the following guidelines in designating or charging the proper offense in case lascivious conduct is
committed under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610, and in determining the imposable penalty:

1. The age of the victim is taken into consideration in designating or charging the offense, and in
determining the imposable penalty.

2. If the victim is under twelve (12) years of age, the nomenclature of the crime should be "Acts of
Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610."
Pursuant to the second proviso in Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610, the imposable penalty is reclusion
temporal in its medium period.

3. If the victim is exactly twelve (12) years of age, or more than twelve (12) but below eighteen (18) years
of age, or is eighteen (18) years old or older but is unable to fully take care of herself/himself or protect
herself/himself from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental
disability or condition, the crime should be designated as "Lascivious Conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No.
7610," and the imposable penalty is reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua.89

The CA's order to remand the case to the trial court is procedurally
infirm.
The CA erred in remanding the case to the trial court for the purpose of filing the proper Information on the
basis of the last paragraph of Section 14, Rule 110 and Section 19, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, which
read:

Sec. 14. Amendment or substitution. — x x x

xxxx

If it appears at any time before judgment that a mistake has been made in charging the proper offense,
the court shall dismiss the original complaint or information upon the filing of a new one charging the proper
offense in accordance with section 19, Rule 119, provided the accused shall not be placed in double
jeopardy. The court may require the witnesses to give bail for their appearance at the trial.

Sec. 19. When mistake has been made in charging the proper offense. — When it becomes manifest at any
time before judgment that a mistake has been made in charging the proper offense and the accused
cannot be convicted of the offense charged or any other offense necessarily included therein, the accused
shall not be discharged if there appears good cause to detain him. In such case, the court shall commit the
accused to answer for the proper offense and dismiss the original case upon the filing of the proper
information. (Emphasis ours)

It is clear that the rules are applicable only before judgment has been rendered. In this case, the trial has
been concluded. The RTC already returned a guilty verdict, which has been reviewed by the CA whose
decision, in turn, has been elevated to this Court.

The CA's judgment did not amount to an acquittal.

Contrary to Caoili's stance, the CA's decision did not amount to a judgment of acquittal. It is true the CA
declared that given the substantial distinctions between rape through sexual intercourse, as charged, and
rape by sexual assault, which was proved, "no valid conviction can be had without running afoul of the
accused's Constitutional right to be informed of the charge." This statement, however, must be read
alongside the immediately succeeding directive of the appellate court, remanding the case to the RTC for
further proceedings pursuant to Section 14, Rule 110 and Section 19, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court. Said
directive clearly shows that the CA still had cause to detain Caoili and did not discharge him; in fact, the CA
would have Caoili answer for the proper Information which it directed the prosecution to file. These are not
consistent with the concept of acquittal which denotes a discharge, a formal certification of innocence, a
release or an absolution.90 While the procedure adopted by the CA is certainly incorrect, its decision cannot
be deemed to have the effect of an acquittal.

Penalty and Damages

Considering that AAA was over 12 but under 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the lascivious
act, the imposable penalty is reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua.

Since the crime was committed by the father of the offended party, the alternative circumstance of
relationship should be appreciated.91 In crimes against chastity, such as acts of lasciviousness, relationship
is always aggravating.92 With the presence of this aggravating circumstance and no mitigating circumstance,
the penalty shall be applied in its maximum period, i.e., reclusion perpetua,93without eligibility of
parole.94 This is in consonance with Section 31(c)95 of R.A. No. 7610 which expressly provides that the
penalty shall be imposed in its maximum period when the perpetrator is, inter alia, the parent of the victim.

Likewise, Section 31(f)96 of R.A. No. 7610 imposes a fine upon the perpetrator, which jurisprudence pegs in
the amount of Php 15,000.97

Parenthetically, considering the gravity and seriousness of the offense, taken together with the evidence
presented against Caoili, this Court finds it proper to award damages.
In light of recent jurisprudential rules, when the circumstances surrounding the crime call for the imposition
of reclusion perpetua, the victim is entitled to civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages each
in the amount of Php 75,000.00, regardless of the number of qualifying aggravating circumstances
present.98

The fine, civil indemnity and all damages thus imposed shall be subject to interest at the rate of six percent
(6%) per annum from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.99

WHEREFORE, both petitions are DENIED. The Court of Appeals' July 22, 2010 Decision and March 29,
2011 Resolution are SET ASIDE. Accused Noel Go Caoili alias Boy Tagalog is guilty of Lascivious Conduct
under Section 5(b) of Republic Act No. 7610. He is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua,
without eligibility of parole, and to pay a fine of Php 15,000.00. He is further ordered to pay the victim, AAA,
civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages each in the amount of Php 75,000.00. The fine,
civil indemnity and damages so imposed are subject to interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per
annum from the date of finality of this Decision until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

April 18, 2017

G.R. No. 220598

GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE SANDIGANBAYAN, (First Division), Respondents

RESOLUTION

BERSAMIN,, J.:

On July 19, 2016, the Court promulgated its decision, disposing:

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petitions for certiorari; ANNULS and SETS ASIDE the
resolutions issued in Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-0174 by the Sandiganbayan on April 6, 2015
and September 10, 2015; GRANTSthe petitioners' respective demurrers to evidence; DISMISSES
Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-0174 as to the petitioners GLORIAMACAPAGAL-
ARROYO and BENIGNOAGUAS for insufficiency of evidence; ORDERS the immediate release
from detention of said petitioners; and MAKES no pronouncements on costs of suit.

SO ORDERED. 1
On August 3, 2016, the State, through the Office of the Ombudsman, has moved for the
reconsideration of the decision, submitting that:

I. THIS HONORABLE COURT'S GIVING DUE COURSE TO A CERTIORARI ACTION ASSAILING


AN INTERLOCUTORY ORDER DENYING DEMURRER TO EVIDENCE VIOLA TES RULE 119,
SECTION 23 OF THE RULES OF COURT, WHICH PROVIDES THAT AN ORDER DENYING THE
DEMURRER TO EVIDENCE SHALL NOT BE REVIEWABLE BY APPEAL OR BY
CERTIORARI BEFORE JUDGMENT.

II. THE HONORABLE COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ERRORS WHICH AMOUNT TO A


VIOLATION OR DEPRIVATION OF THE STATE'S FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS
OF LAW.

A. THE DECISION REQUIRES ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS IN THE PROSECUTION OF


PLUNDER, VIZ. IDENTIFICATION OF THE MAIN PLUNDERER AND PERSONAL
BENEFIT TO HIM/HER, BOTH OF WHICH ARE NOT PROVIDED IN THE TEXT OF
REPUBLIC ACT (R.A.) NO. 7080.

B. THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE PROSECUTION WAS NOT FULLY TAKEN


INTO ACCOUNT, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE IRREGULARITIES IN THE
CONFIDENTIAL/INTELLIGENCE FUND (CIF) DISBURSEMENT PROCESS,
QUESTIONABLE PRACTICE OF CO-MINGLING OF FUNDSAND AGUAS' REPORTS TO
THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT (COA) THAT BULK OF THE PHP365,997,915.00
WITHDRAWN FROM THE PHILIPPINE CHARITY SWEEPSTAKES OFFICE'S (PCSO) CIF
WERE DIVERTED TO THE ARROYO-HEADED OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT.

C. ARROYO AND AGUAS, BY INDISPENSABLE COOPERATION, IN CONSPIRACY


WITH THEIR COACCUSED IN SB-12-CRM-0174, COMMITTED PLUNDER VIA· A
COMPLEX ILLEGAL SCHEME WHICH DEFRAUDED PCSO IN HUNDREDS OF
MILLIONS OF PESOS.

D. EVEN ASSUMING THAT THE ELEMENTS OF PLUNDER WERE NOT PROVEN


BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT, THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE PEOPLE
SHOWS, BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT, THAT ARROYO, AGUAS AND THEIR
COACCUSED IN SB-12-CRM-0174 ARE GUILTY OF MALVERSATION.2

In contrast, the petitioners submit that the decision has effectively barred the consideration and
granting of the motion for reconsideration of the State because doing so would amount to the re-
prosecution or revival of the charge against them despite their acquittal, and would thereby violate
the constitutional proscription against double jeopardy.

Petitioner Gloria M. Macapagal-Arroyo (Arroyo) points out that the State miserably failed to prove
the corpus delicti of plunder; that the Court correctly required the identification of the main plunderer
as well as personal benefit on the part of the raider of the public treasury to enable the successful
prosecution of the crime of plunder; that the State did not prove the conspiracy that justified her
inclusion in the charge; that to sustain the case for malversation against her, in lieu of plunder, would
violate her right to be informed of the accusation against her because the information did not
necessarily include the crime of malversation; and that even if the information did so, the
constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy already barred the re-opening of the case for that
purpose.
Petitioner Benigno B. Aguas echoes the contentions of Arroyo in urging the Com1 to deny the
motion for reconsideration.

In reply, the State avers that the prohibition against double jeopardy does not apply because it was
denied its day in court, thereby rendering the decision void; that the Court should re-examine the
facts and pieces of evidence in order to find the petitioners guilty as charged; and that the
allegations of the information sufficiently included all that was necessary to fully inform the
petitioners of the accusations against them.

Ruling of the Court

The Court DENIES the motion for reconsideration for its lack of merit.

To start with, the State argues' that the consolidated petitions for certiorari were improper remedies
in light of Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court expressly prohibiting the review of the denial of
their demurrer prior to the judgment in the case either by appeal or by certiorari; that the Court has
thereby limited its own power, which should necessarily prevent the giving of due course to the
petitions for certiorari, as well as the undoing of the order denying the petitioners' demurrer to
evidence; that the proper remedy under the Rules of Court was for the petitioners to proceed to trial
and to present their evidence-in-chief thereat; and that even if there had been grave abuse of
discretion attending the denial, the Court's certiorari powers should be exercised only upon the
petitioners' compliance with the stringent requirements of Rule 65, particularly with the requirement
that there be no plain, speedy or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, which they did not
establish.

Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, pertinently provides:

Section 23. Demurrer to evidence. – xxx

xxxx

The order denying the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence or the demurrer
itself shall not be reviewable by appeal or by certiorari before judgment. (n)

The argument of the State, which is really a repetition of its earlier submission, was squarely
resolved in the decision, as follows:

The Court holds that it should take cognizance of the petitions for certiorari because
the Sandiganbayan, as shall shortly be demonstrated, gravely abused its discretion amounting to
lack or excess of jurisdiction.

The special civil action for certiorari is generally not proper to assail such an interlocutory order
issued by the trial court because of the availability of another remedy in the ordinary course of law.
Moreover, Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court expressly provides that "the order denying the
motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence or the demurrer itself shall not be reviewable by
appeal or by certiorari before judgment." It is not an insuperable obstacle to this action, however,
that the denial of the demurrers to evidence of the petitioners was an interlocutory order that did not
terminate the proceedings, and the proper recourse of the demurring accused was to go to trial, and
that in case of their conviction they may then appeal the conviction, and assign the denial as among
the errors to be reviewed. Indeed, it is doctrinal that the situations in which the writ of certiorari may
issue should not be limited, because to do so -
x x x would be to destroy its comprehensiveness and usefulness. So wide is the discretion of the
com1 that authority is not wanting to show that certiorari is more discretionary than either prohibition
or mandamus. In the exercise of oursuperintending control over other courts, we are to be
guided by all the circumstances of each particular case 'as the ends of justice may require.'
So it is that the writ will be granted where necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do
substantial justice.

The Constitution itself has imposed upon the Court and the other courts of justice the duty to correct
errors of jurisdiction as a result of capricious, arbitrary, whimsical and despotic exercise of discretion
by expressly incorporating in Section 1 of Article VIII the following provision:

Section 1. The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may
be established by law.

Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies
involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or
not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on
the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. The exercise of this power to
correct grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of
any branch or instrumentality of the Government cannot be thwarted by rules of procedure to
the contrary or for the sake of the convenience of one side. This is because the Court has the
bounden constitutional duty to strike down grave abuse of
discretion whenever and wherever it is committed. Thus, notwithstanding the interlocutory
character and effect of the denial of the demurrers to evidence, the petitioners as the accused
could avail themselves of the remedy of certiorari when the denial was tainted with grave
abuse of discretion. As we shall soon show, the Sandiganbayan as the trial court was guilty
of grave abuse of discretion when it capriciously denied the demurrers to evidence despite
the absence of competent and sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment for plunder, and
despite the absence of the factual bases to expect a guilty verdict.3

We reiterate the foregoing resolution, and stress that the prohibition contained in Section 23, Rule
119 of the Rules of Court is not an insuperable obstacle to the review by the Court of the denial of
the demurrer to evidence through certiorari. We have had many rulings to that effect in the past. For
instance, in Nicolas v. Sandiganbayan,4the Court expressly ruled that the petition for certiorari was
the proper remedy to assail the denial of the demurrer to evidence that was tainted with grave abuse
of discretion or excess of jurisdiction, or oppressive exercise of judicial authority.

Secondly, the State submits that its right to due process was violated because the decision imposed
additional elements for plunder that neither ' Republic Act No. 7080 nor jurisprudence had
theretofore required, i.e., the identification of the main plunderer, and personal benefit on the part of
the accused committing the predicate crime of raid on the public treasury. The State complains that
it was not given the opportunity to establish such additional elements; that the imposition of new
elements fu1iher amounted to judicial legislation in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers;
that the Court nitpicked on the different infirmities of the information despite the issue revolving only
around the sufficiency of the evidence; and that it established all the elements of plunder beyond
reasonable doubt.

The State cites the plain meaning rule to highlight that the crime of plunder did not require personal
benefit on the part of the raider of the public treasury. It insists that the definition of raids on the
public treasury, conformably with the plain meaning rule, is the taking of public money through
fraudulent or unlawful means, and such definition does not require enjoyment or personal benefit on
the part of plunderer or on the part of any of his co-conspirators for them to be convicted for plunder.
The submissions of the State are unfounded.

The requirements for the identification of the main plunderer and for personal benefit in the predicate
act of raids on the public treasury have been written in R.A. No. 7080 itself as well as embedded in
pertinent jurisprudence. This we made clear in the decision, as follows:

A perusal of the information suggests that what the Prosecution sought to show was an implied
conspiracy to commit plunder among all of the accused on the basis of their collective actions prior
to, during and after the implied agreement. It is notable that the Prosecution did not allege that the
conspiracy among all of the accused was by express agreement, or was a wheel conspiracy or a
chain conspiracy.

This was another fatal flaw of the Prosecution.

In its present version, under which the petitioners were charged, Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7080
(Plunder Law) states:

Section 2. Definition of the Crime of Plunder: Penalties. - Any public officer who, by himself or in
connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates,
subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a
combination or series of overt criminal acts as described in Section 1 (d) hereof in the aggregate
amount or total value of at least Fifty million pesos (₱50,000,000.00) shall be guilty of the crime of
plunder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua to death. Any person who participated with the
said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to the crime of plunder shall likewise
be punished for such offense. In the imposition of penalties, the degree of participation and the
attendance of mitigating and extenuating circumstances, as provided by the Revised Penal Code,
shall be considered by the court. The court shall declare any and all ill-gotten wealth and their
interests and other incomes and assets including the properties and shares of stocks derived from
the deposit or investment thereof forfeited in favor of the State. [As Amended by Section 12,
Republic Act No. 7659 (The Death Penalty Law)]

Section l(d) of Republic Act No. 7080 provides:

Section 1. Definition of terms. - As used in this Act, the term:

xxxx

d. "Ill-gotten wealth" means any asset, property, business enterprise or material possession of any
person within the purview of Section two (2) hereof, acquired by him directly or indirectly through
dummies, nominees, agents, subordinates and/or business associates by any combination or series
of the following means or similar schemes:

1. Through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds or raids on


the public treasury;

2. By receiving, directly or indirectly, any commission, gift, share, percentage, kickbacks or


any/or entity in connection with any government contract or project or by reason of the office
or position of the public officer concerned;
3. By the illegal or fraudulent conveyance or disposition of assets belonging to the National
Government or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities or government-owned or
controlled corporations and their subsidiaries;

4. By obtaining, receiving or accepting directly or indirectly any shares of stock, equity or any
other form of interest or participation including the promise of future employment in any
business enterprise or undertaking;

5. By establishing agricultural, industrial or commercial monopolies or other combinations


and/or implementation of decrees and orders intended to benefit particular persons or
special interests; or

6. By taking undue advantage of official positi0n, authority, relationship, connection or


influence to unjustly enrich himself or themselves at the expense and to the damage and
prejudice

The law on plunder requires that a particular public officer must be identified as the one who
amassed, acquired or accumulated ill-gotten wealth because it plainly states that plunder is
committed by any public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family,
relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons,
amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of
at least ₱50,000,000.00 through a combination or series of overt criminal acts as described in
Section l(d) hereof. Surely, the law requires in the criminal charge for plunder against several
individuals that there must be a main plunderer and her co-conspirators, who may be
members of her family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates,
subordim1tes or other persons. In other words, the allegation of the wheel conspiracy or
express conspiracy in the information was appropriate because the main plunderer would
then be identified in either manner. Of course, implied conspiracy could also identify the
main plunderer, but that fact must be properly alleged and duly proven by the Prosecution.

This interpretation is supported by Estrada v. Sandiganbayan, where the Court explained the nature
of the conspiracy charge and the necessity for the main plunderer for whose benefit the amassment,
accumulation and acquisition was made, thus:

There is no denying the fact that the "plunder of an entire nation resulting in material damage to the
national economy" is made up of a complex and manifold network of crimes. In the crime of plunder,
therefore, different parties may be united by a common purpose. In the case at bar, the different
accused and their different criminal acts have a commonality - to help the former President amass,
accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth. Sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) in the Amended Information
alleged the different participation of each accused in the conspiracy. The gravamen of the
conspiracy charge, therefore, is not that each accused agreed to receive protection money from
illegal gambling, that each misappropriated a portion of the tobacco excise tax, that each accused
ordered the GSIS and SSS to purchase shares of Belle Corporation and receive commissions from
such sale, nor that each unjustly enriched himself from commissions, gifts and kickbacks; rather, it
is that each of them, by their individual acts, agreed to participate, directly or indirectly, in the
amassing, accumulation and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth of and/or for former President
Estrada. 5 [bold underscoring supplied for emphasis]

Indeed, because plunder is a crime that only a public official can commit by amassing, accumulating,
or acquiring ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of at least ₱50,000,000.00, the
identification in the information of such public official as the main plunderer among the several
individuals thus charged is logically necessary under the law itself. In particular reference to Criminal
Case No. SB-12-CRM-0174, the individuals charged therein - including the petitioners - were 10
public officials; hence, it was only proper to identify the main plunderer or plunderers among the 10
accused who herself or himself had amassed, accumulated, or acquired ill-gotten wealth with the
total value of at least ₱50,000,000.00.

The phrase raids on the public treasury as used in Section 1 (d) of R. A. No. 7080 is itself
ambiguous. In order to ascertain the objective meaning of the phrase, the act of raiding the public
treasury cannot be divided into parts. This is to differentiate the predicate act of raids on the public
treasury from other offenses involving property, like robbery, theft, or estafa. Considering that R.A.
No. 7080 does not expressly define this predicate act, the Court has necessarily resorted to statutory
construction. In so doing, the Court did not adopt the State's submission that personal benefit on the
part of the accused need not be alleged and shown because doing so would have defeated the clear
intent of the law itself,6 which was to punish the amassing, accumulating, or acquiring of ill-gotten
wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of at least ₱150,000,000.00 by any combination or
series of acts of misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds or raids on
the public treasury.

As the decision has observed, the rules of statutory construction as well as the deliberations of
Congress indicated the intent of Congress to require personal benefit for the predicate act of raids
on the public treasury, viz.:

The phrase raids on the public treasury is found in Section 1 (d) of R.A. No. 7080, which provides:

Section l .Definition of Terms. – xxx

xxxx

d) Ill-gotten wealth means any asset, prope1iy, business enterprise or material possession of any
person within the purview of Section Two (2) hereof, acquired by him directly or indirectly through
dummies, nominees, agents, subordinates and/or business associates by any combination or series
of the following means or similar schemes:

1) Through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds or raids on the


public treasury;

xxxx

To discern the proper import of the phrase raids on the public treasury, the key is to look at
the accompanying words: misappropriation, conversion, misuse or malversation of public
funds. This process is conformable with the maxim of statutory construction noscitur a
sociis, by which the correct construction of a particular word or phrase that is ambiguous in
itself or is equally susceptible of various meanings may be made by considering the
company of the words in which the word or phrase is found or with which it is associated.
Verily, a word or phrase in a statute is always used in association with other words or
phrases, and its meaning may, therefore, be modified or restricted by the latter.

To convert connotes the act of using or disposing of another's property as if it were one's own; to
misappropriate means to own, to take something for one's own benefit; misuse means "a good,
substance, privilege, or right used improperly, unforcsccably, or not as intended;"
and malversation occurs when "any public officer who, by reason of the duties of his office, is
accountable for public funds or property, shall appropriate the same or shall take or misappropriate
or shall consent, through abandonment or negligence, shall permit any other person to take such
public funds, or property, wholly or partially." The common thread that binds all the four terms
together is that the public officer used the property taken. Considering that raids on the public
treasury is in the company of the four other terms that require the use of the property taken, the
phrase raids on the public treasury similarly requires such use of the property taken. Accordingly,
the Sandiganbayan gravely erred in contending that the mere accumulation and gathering
constituted the forbidden act of raids on the public treasury. Pursuant to the maxim of noscitur a
sociis, raids on the public treasury requires the raider to use the property taken impliedly for his
personal benefit.7

The Prosecution asserts that the Senate deliberations removed personal benefit as a requirement
for plunder. In not requiring personal benefit, the Sandiganbayan quoted the following exchanges
between Senator Enrile and Senator Tafiada, viz.:

Senator Enrile. The word here, Mr. President, "such public officer or person who conspired or
knowingly benefited". One does not have to conspire or rescheme. The only element needed is
that he "knowingly benefited". A candidate for the Senate for instance, who received a political
contribution from a plunderer, knowing that the contributor is a plunderer and therefore, he knowingly
benefited from the plunder, would he also suffer the penalty, Mr. President, for life imprisonment?

Senator Tafiada. In the committee amendments, Mr. President, we have deleted these lines 1 to 4
and part of line 5, on page 3. But, in a way, Mr. President, it is good that the Gentleman is bringing
out these questions, I believe that under the examples he has given, the Court will have to...

Senator Enrile. How about the wife, Mr. President, he may not agree with the plunderer to plunder
the country but because she is a dutiful wife or a faithful husband, she has to keep her or his vow of
fidelity to the spouse. And, of course, she enjoys the benefits out of the plunder. Would the
Gentleman now impute to her or him the crime of plunder simply because she or he knowingly
benefited out of the fruits of the plunder and, therefore, he must suffer or he must suffer the penalty
of life imprisonment?

The President. That was stricken out already in the Committee amendment.

Senator Tañada. Yes, Mr. President. Lines 1 to 4 and part of line 5 were stricken out in the
Committee amendment. But, as I said, the examples of the Minority Floor Leader are still worth
spreading the Record. And, I believe that in those examples, the Court will have just to take into
consideration all the other circumstances prevailing in the case and the evidence that will be
submitted.

The President. In any event, 'knowingly benefited' has already been stricken off."

The exchanges between Senator Enrile and Senator Tañada reveal, therefore, that what was
removed from the coverage of the bill and the final version that eventually became the law was a
person who was not the main plunderer or a co-conspirator, but one who personally benefited from
the plunderers' action. The requirement of personal benefit on the part of the main plunderer or his
co-conspirators by virtue of their plunder was not removed.

As a result, not only did the Prosecution fail to show where the money went but, more importantly,
that GMA and Aguas had personally benefited from the same. Hence, the Prosecution did not prove
the predicate act of raids on the public treasury beyond reasonable doubt. 8

Thirdly, the State contends that the Court did not appreciate the totality of its evidence, particularly
the different irregularities committed in the disbursement of the PCSO funds, i.e., the commingling of
funds, the non-compliance with LOI No. 1282, and the unilateral approval of the disbursements.
Such totality, coupled with the fact of the petitioners' indispensable cooperation in the pilfering of
public funds, showed the existence of the conspiracy to commit plunder among all of the accused.

The contention lacks basis.

As can be readily seen from the decision, the Court expressly granted the petitioners' respective
demurrers to evidence and dismissed the plunder case against them for insufficiency of evidence
because:

x x x the Sandiganbayan as the trial court was guilty of grave abuse of discretion when it capriciously
denied the demurrers to evidence despite the absence of competent and sufficient evidence to
sustain the indictment for plunder, and despite the absence of the factual bases to expect a
guilty verdict. 9

Such disposition of the Court fully took into consideration all the evidence adduced against the
petitioners. We need not rehash our review of the evidence thus adduced, for it is enough simply to
stress that the Prosecution failed to establish the corpus delicti of plunder - that any or all of the
accused public officials, particularly petitioner Arroyo, had amassed, accumulated, or acquired ill-
gotten wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of at least ₱50,000,000.00.

Fourthly, in accenting certain inadequacies of the allegations of the information, the Court did not
engage in purposeless nitpicking, and did not digress from the primary task of determining the
sufficiency of the evidence presented by the State against the petitioners. What the Court thereby
intended to achieve was to highlight what would have been relevant in the proper prosecution of
plunder and thus enable itself to discern and determine whether the evidence of guilt was sufficient
or not. In fact, the Court categorically clarified that in discussing the essential need for the
identification of the main plunderer it was not harping on the sufficiency of the information, but was
only enabling itself to search for and to find the relevant proof that unequivocally showed petitioner
Arroyo as the "mastermind" - which was how the Sandiganbayan had characterized her participation
- in the context of the implied conspiracy alleged in the information. But the search came to naught,
for the information contained nothing that averred her commission of the overt act necessary to
implicate her in the supposed conspiracy to commit the crime of plunder. Indeed, the Court
assiduously searched for but did not find the sufficient incriminatory evidence against the petitioners.
Hence, the Sandiganbayan capriciously and oppressively denied their demurrers to evidence.

Fifthly, the State posits that it established at least a case for malversation against the petitioners.

Malversation is defined and punished under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, which reads
thusly:

Article 217. Malversation of public funds or property; Presumption of malversation. - Any public
officer who, by reason of the duties of his office, is accountable for public funds or property, shall
appropriate the same or shall take or misappropriate or shall consent, through abandonment or
negligence, shall permit any other person to take such public funds, or property, wholly or partially,
or shall otherwise be guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property, shall
suffer:

1. The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, if the amount
involved in the misappropriation or malversation does not exceed two hundred pesos.
2. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if the amount involved is
more than two hundred pesos but does not exceed six thousand pesos.

3. The penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its minimum
period, if the amount involved is more than six thousand pesos but is less than twelve
thousand pesos.

4. The penalty of reclusion temporal, in its medium and maximum periods, if the amount
involved is more than twelve thousand pesos but is less than twenty-two thousand pesos. If
the amount exceeds the latter, the penalty shall be reclusion temporal in its maximum period
to reclusion perpetua.

In all cases, persons guilty of malversation shall also suffer the penalty of perpetual special
disqualification and a fine equal to the amount of the funds malversed or equal to the total value of
the property embezzled.

The failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public funds or property with which he is
chargeable, upon demand by any duly authorized officer, shall be prima facie evidence that he has
put such missing funds or property to personal use. (As amended by RA 1060).

The elements of malversation are that: (a) the offender is an accountable public officer; (b) he/she is
responsible for the misappropriation of public funds or property through intent or negligence; and (c)
he/she has custody of and received such funds and property by reason of his/her office. 10

The information in Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-017411 avers:

The undersigned Assistant Ombudsman and Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III, Office of
the Ombudsman, hereby accuse GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, ROSARIO C. URIARTE,
SERGIO O. VALENCIA, MANUEL L. MORATO, JOSE R. TARUC V, RAYMUNDO T. ROQUERO,
MA. FATIMA AS. VALDES, BENIGNO B. AGUAS, REYNALDO A. VILLAR and NILDA B. PLARAS,
of the crime of PLUNDER, as defined by, and penalized under Section 2 of Republic Act (R.A.) No.
7080, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, committed, as follows:

That during the period from January 2008 to June 2010 or sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in
Quezon City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused GLORIA
MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, then the President of the Philippines, ROSARIO C. URIARTE, then
General Manager and Vice Chairman, SERGIO 0. VALENCIA, then Chairman of the Board of
Directors, MANUEL L. MORA TO, JOSE R. TARUC V, RAYMUNDO T. ROQUERO, MA. FATIMA
AS. VALDES, then members of the Board of Directors, BENIGNO B. AGUAS, then Budget and
Accounts Manager, all of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), REYNALDO A.
VILLAR, then Chairman, and NILDA B. PLARAS, then Head of Intelligence/Confidential Fund Fraud
Audit Unit, both of the Commission on Audit, all public officers committing the offense in relation to
their respective offices and taking undue advantage of their respective official positions, authority,
relationships, connections or influence, conniving, conspiring and confederating with one another,
did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally 'amass,, accumulate and/or acquire directly or
indirectly, ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE
MILLION NINE HUNDRED NINETY SEVEN THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FIFTEEN PESOS
(PHP365,997,915.00), more or less, through any or a combination or a series of overt or criminal
acts, or similar schemes or means, described as follows:

(a) diverting in several instances, funds from the operating budget of PCSO to its
Confidential/Intelligence Fund that could be accessed and withdrawn at any time with
minimal restrictions, and converting, misusing, and/or illegally conveying or transferring the
proceeds drawn from said fund in the aforementioned sum, also in several instances, to
themselves, in the guise of fictitious expenditures, for their personal gain and benefit;

(b) raiding the public treasury by withdrawing and receiving, in several instances, the above-
mentioned amount from the Confidential/Intelligence Fund from PCSO's accounts, and or
unlawfully transferring or conveying the same into their possession and control through
irregularly issued disbursement vouchers and fictitious expenditures; and

(c) taking advantage of their respective official positions, authority, relationships, connections
or influence, in several instances, to unjustly enrich themselves in the aforementioned sum,
at the expense of, and the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of
the Philippines.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

In thereby averring the predicate act of malversation, the State did not sufficiently allege the
aforementioned essential elements of malversation in the information. The omission from the
information of factual details descriptive of the aforementioned elements of malversation highlighted
the insufficiency of the allegations. Consequently, the State's position is entirely unfounded.

Lastly, the petitioners insist that the consideration and granting of the motion for reconsideration of
the State can amount to a violation of the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy because
their acquittal under the decision was a prior jeopardy within the context of Section 21, Article III (Bill
of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:

Section 21. No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. If an act is
punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to
another prosecution for the same act.

The insistence of the petitioners is fully warranted. Indeed, the consideration and granting of the
motion for reconsideration of the State will amount to the violation of the constitutional guarantee
against double jeopardy.

The Court's consequential dismissal of Criminal Case No. SB-12- CRM-0174 as to the petitioners for
insufficiency of evidence amounted to their acquittal of the crime of plunder charged against them.
In People v. Tan, 12the Court shows why:

In People v. Sandiganbayan, this Com1 explained the general rule that the grant of a demurrer to
evidence operates as an acquittal and is, thus, final and unappealable, to wit:

The demurrer to evidence in criminal cases, such as the one at bar, is ''filed after tile
prosecution had rested its case," and when the same is granted, it calls "for an appreciation
of the evidence adduced by the prosecution and its sufficiency to warrant conviction beyond
reasonable doubt, resulting in a dismissal of the case on the merits, tantamount to an
acquittal of the accused." Such dismissal of a criminal case by the grant of demurrer to
evidence may not be appealed, for to do so would be to place the accused in double
jeopardy. The verdict being one of acquittal, the case ends there.

xxxx
The rule on double jeopardy, however, is not without exceptions. In People v. Laguio, Jr., this Court
stated that the only instance when double jeopardy will not attach is when the RTC acted with grave
abuse of discretion, thus:

... The only instance when double ,jeopardy will not attach is when the trial court acted with grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, such as where the prosecution was
denied the opportunity to present its case or where the trial was a sham. However,
while certiorari may be availed of to correct an erroneous acquittal, the petitioner in such an
extraordinary proceeding must clearly demonstrate that the trial court blatantly abused its authority
to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice. 13

The constitutional prohibition against placing a person under double jeopardy for the same offense
bars not only a new and independent prosecution but also an appeal in the same action after
jeopardy had attached. 14 As such, every acquittal becomes final immediately upon promulgation and
cannot be recalled for correction or amendment. With the acquittal being immediately final, granting
the State's motion for reconsideration in this case would violate the Constitutional prohibition against
double jeopardy because it would effectively reopen the prosecution and subject the petitioners to a
second jeopardy despite their acquittal.

It is cogent to remind in this regard that the Constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy
provides to the accused three related protections, specifically: protection against a second
prosecution for the same offense after acquittal; protection against a second prosecution for the
same offense after conviction; and protection against multiple punishments for the same
offense. 15The rationale for the three protections is expounded in United States v. Wilson: 16

The interests underlying these three protections arc quite similar. When a defendant has
been once convicted and punished for a particular crime, principles of fairness and finality
require that he not be subjected to the possibility of further punishment by being again tried
or sentenced for the same offense.Ex pa rte Lange, 18 Wall 163 (1874); In re Nielsen, 131 U.S.
176 (1889). When a defendant has been acquitted of an offense, the Clause guarantees that
the State shall not be permitted to make repeated attempts to convict him,

"thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal, and compelling him to live in
a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that, even
though innocent, he may be found guilty."

Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187-188 (1957).

The policy of avoiding multiple trials has been regarded as so important that exceptions to
the principle have been only grudgingly allowed. Initially, a new trial was thought to be
unavailable after appeal, whether requested by the prosecution or the defendant. See United
States v. Gibert, 25 F. Cas. 1287 (No. 15,204) (CCD Mass. 1834) (Story, J.). It was not until 1896
that it was made clear that a defendant could seek a new trial after conviction, even though
the Government enjoyed no similar right. United States v. Ball, 163 U.S. 662. (Bold underscoring
supplied for emphasis)

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION

January 23, 2017

G.R. No. 193150

LOIDA M. JAVIER, Petitioner,


vs.
PEPITO GONZALES, Respondent.

DECISION

SERENO, CJ.:

Two Decisions were promulgated by the trial court in this case: the first one for conviction, and the
second for acquittal. We are called upon to resolve the procedural question of whether the
promulgation in absentia of the earlier judgment of conviction was valid.

This Petition for Review on Ce1iiorari under Rule 45 seeks a reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA)
Decision 1 and Resolution2 in CA-G.R. SP No. 97629. The CA affirmed the Decision3 of Branch 40 of
the Regional Trial Court of Palayan City, Nueva Ecija (the RTC of Palayan City) in Criminal Case
No. 1066-P, penned by Judge Corazon D. Soluren (Judge Soluren). Judge Soluren reversed a
previous Decision4 penned by Judge Erlinda P. Buted (Judge Buted). In the earlier Decision,
respondent was convicted of murder with frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder, and was
meted the death penalty.

THE ANTECEDENT FACTS

This case originated from a criminal case for murder with frustrated murder and multiple attempted
murder lodged in Branch 96 of the Regional Trial Court of Baler, Aurora (the RTC of Baler). The
Information charged respondent Pepito Gonzales as follows:

That on December 25, 1997 at around 11:30 o'clock in the evening in Barangay Diarabasin,
Municipality of Dipaculao, Province of Aurora, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the accused with intent to kill and with the use of treachery and evident
premeditation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously throw a grenade inside the
house of one Leonardo Hermenigildo while the latter and his companions Rufino Concepcion, who
sustained mortal wounds which were the direct and immediate cause or his death thereafter; that as
further consequence of said explosion, Leonardo Hermenigildo was also hit and sustained physical
injuries fatal enough to cause his death without immediate and able medical attendance; that Julio
Toledo, Ariel Cabasal and Jesus Macatiag were also hit and likewise sustained physical injuries, but
the said accused did not perform all the acts of execution which should have produced the crime of
multiple murder as a consequence, by reason of causes other than his own spontaneous
desistance, that is, the injuries sustained by said Julio Toledo, Ariel Cabasal and Jesus Macatiag
were not necessarily mortal.5

Gonzales filed a Motion for Bail6 with the RTC of Baler. Private complainant Carmen Macatiag
(Macatiag) - sister of the deceased victim, Rufino Concepcion - filed her Opposition7 to Gonzales's
Motion for Bail. Gonzales then filed a Comment8 to which Macatiag filed her Reply.9 The RTC Baler
issued an Order 10 granting Gonzales bail.

Thereafter, Macatiag filed with this Court an Urgent Petition for Transfer of Venue. 11 While her
petition was pending, she filed a Motion for Reconsideration12 of the Order of the RTC of Baler
granting bail to Gonzales, who filed his Opposition 13 to her motion. The RTC of Baler denied 14 the
Motion for Reconsideration and upheld its Order granting bail. Macatiag also filed with the RTC of
Baler a Manifestation and Motion to Suspend Proceedings 15pending the resolution of her previous
petition for transfer of venue.

On 17 August 1999, the Court granted the transfer of venue and reassigned the case to the RTC of
Palayan City, which was then presided by Judge Erlinda Buted. 16 Trial on the merits ensued.

The RTC admitted the prosecution's Formal Offer of Evidence. 17 Gonzales filed an Urgent Motion for
Leave to File Demurrer to Evidence. 18 To this motion he attached a Demurrer to Evidence, 19 which
the RTC denied.20 Following the denial, Gonzales presented his evidence and witnesses and filed his
Formal Offer of Evidence.21

Thereafter, on 30 November 2005, the RTC issued an Order22 setting the promulgation of the case
on 15 December 2005. The Return of Service23 indicated that the Order dated 30 November 2005
and the Notice of Promulgation dated 6 December 2005 were received on 7 and 12 December 2005
by the sister of private respondent, who refused to sign the Return.

On 15 December 2005, the scheduled date of promulgation, Gonzales failed to appear. His lawyer,
Atty. Mario Benitez (Atty. Benitez), personally filed a "Withdrawal of Counsel"24 with his client's
conformity.25 The promulgation was rescheduled to 22 December 2005. 26 On the same date, a
warrant of arrest27 was issued and the bond forfeited in view of the nonappearance of the accused,
who was deemed to have jumped bail.

A Notice of Hearing/Subpoena and Notice of Promulgation of Judgment28 was issued on 15


December 2005 commanding the parties to appear before the Court on 22 December 2015. Notices
were sent to Gonzales and Macatiag.29

On 22 December 2005, Gonzales still failed to appear without any justification. Judge Buted
appointed a counsel de oficio in lieu of Atty. Benitez.30 The Branch Clerk of Court thereafter read the
dispositive portion of Judge Buted's Decision in the presence of the public prosecutor, the
counsel de oficio, and the heirs of Macatiag. Macatiag had been killed on 14 December 2005, just a
day before the first promulgation date, and Gonzales was also an accused in her killing. Gonzales
was convicted of the murder charges:

WHEREFORE, the Accused is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime
of MURDER with FRUSTRATED MURDER and MULTIPLE ATTEMPTED MURDER and is hereby
sentenced to a single indivisible penalty of DEATH.31

Thereafter, the Clerk of Court was directed to enter the judgment of conviction in the RTC's criminal
docket pursuant to paragraph 4, Section 6, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure.32 Since the death penalty was still in force at the time the judgment was promulgated,
Judge Buted also ordered that the records of the case be immediately forwarded to the CA for
automatic review.33

In less than a month after the judgment of conviction was rendered, or on 6 January 2006, private
respondent Gonzales filed, through Atty. Benitez, an Omnibus Motion34 asking that the judgment
promulgated on 22 December 2005 be reconsidered and set aside. Gonzales argued that he had not
been properly notified of the promulgation of judgment; that he had not been represented by
counsel; and that the RTC had proceeded with deliberate haste in convicting him.

The trial court, now presided by Judge Soluren, gave due course to the motion of Gonzales and
granted it through an Order dated 18 April 2006. The Order set aside the judgment of conviction
1awp++i 1

and reinstated his bail. 35

On 20 November 2006, petitioner Javier, Macatiag's daughter, discovered that the RTC had
rendered a Decision36dated 31 October 2006 acquitting Gonzales of all charges.37 On 16 January
2007, she filed a Petition for Certiorariunder Rule 65 before the CA, citing grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of Judge Soluren. The Office of the Solicitor
General filed a Comment38 dated 12 October 2007 praying that the Petition be denied due course
and dismissed for lack of merit. The OSG opined that Judge Soluren did not commit grave abuse of
discretion in reversing the earlier Decision of Judge Buted.

THE CA RULING

In its assailed Decision, the CA dismissed the Petition for Certiorari. It ruled out grave abuse of
discretion on the part of respondent Judge Soluren in granting private respondent's Omnibus Motion
and rendering a new judgment of acquittal. It agreed with the theory of the OSG that the
promulgation was void, because respondent Gonzales had not been validly notified of the
rescheduled promulgation of judgment on 22 December 2005; that since Gonzales's lawyer, Atty.
Benitez, had already withdrawn his representation on the first scheduled date of promulgation,
respondent had no knowledge that the promulgation had been rescheduled to 22 December 2005;
that since he was no longer Gonzales's lawyer, Atty. Benitez was relieved of the duty to inform his
client of court notices and processes; that since respondent was not personally notified of the
rescheduled promulgation, Judge Buted's promulgation in absentia was invalid.

The CA further adopted the OSG's stance that before resorting to a Rule 65 petition for certiorari to
question respondent judge's act of acquitting private respondent, petitioner should have first filed a
motion for reconsideration. It ruled that a motion for reconsideration is not only a plain and adequate
remedy available under the law, but is an indispensible condition that must be satisfied before an
aggrieved party can resort to a special civil action for certiorari. The appellate court held that since
the remedy of filing a motion for reconsideration was available to petitioner, and none of the
exceptions to the filing of that motion existed, the Petition must be dismissed.

THE ISSUES

The main issue in this case is whether the CA erred in affirming the Decision of acquittal issued by
Judge Soluren, who had ruled that there was no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction on her part when she gave due course to the Omnibus Motion of private
respondent questioning his prior conviction.

In order to resolve the main issue, the following issues have to be addressed:
A. Whether there was a valid promulgation of judgment by Judge Buted in her prior Decision of
conviction;

B. Whether Judge Soluren's subsequent judgment of acquittal is valid;

C. Whether a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 is the proper remedy to question a
decision of acquittal.

THE COURT'S RULING

The Petition is impressed with merit.

As a prologue to our ruling, We take cognizance of the unusual circumstances surrounding this
case. Petitioner is the daughter of the original private complainant, Carmen Macatiag, who was in
turn the sister of the first victim, Rufino Concepcion. When petitioner filed the instant Petition for
Review with this Court, the OSG filed a Manifestation and Motion39 praying that the People of the
Philippines be removed as a co-petitioner because the OSG was not joining petitioner in this
Petition. The pertinent portion40 of the OSG's Manifestation and Motion reads:

[T]he records will show that the OSG already took on a position different from that of the petitioner
Loida M. Javier when the case was elevated to the Court of Appeals. Specifically, the OSG in its
Comment dated October 12, 2007 and Memorandum dated November 24, 2008 was of the position
that Honorable Judge Soluren did not commit grave abuse of discretion when she ruled to acquit
Pepito Gonzales. In this regard, the arguments raised by the OSG in the aforementioned pleadings
were in fact, adopted by the Court of Appeals in its Decision dated May 22, 2010.

While the OSG ordinarily represents the People in proceedings before this Court, We have in the
past allowed private parties to file certiorari petitions assailing rulings and orders of the RTC in
criminal cases.41 As early as 1969, in Paredes v. Gopengco,42the Court already held that offended
parties in criminal cases have sufficient interest and personality as "persons aggrieved" to file a
special civil action of prohibition and certiorari under Sections l and 2 of Rule 65. That ruling was in
line with the underlying spirit of adopting a liberal construction of the Rules of Court in order to
promote their object. Recently, We reiterated this ruling in Almero v. People. 43 Similarly, in the case
at bar, We find that the ends of substantial justice would be better served and the issues determined
in a more just, speedy, and inexpensive manner, by entertaining the present Petition.

We now proceed to the merits of the case.

There are two divergent RTC Decisions: one for conviction, and another for acquittal. Our resolution
of this Petition for Review hinges on the validity of the second RTC Decision.

After review of the case and the records, We rule that the Court of Appeals, in affirming Judge
Soluren's Decision of acquittal, committed reversible error, which can be remedied by granting this
Petition for Review on Certiorari.

Judge Buted's Decision convicting


respondent was validly promulgated.

Section 6, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure allows a court to promulgate a
judgment in absentia and gives the accused the opportunity to file an appeal within a period of fifteen
(15) days from notice to the latter or the latter's counsel; otherwise, the decision becomes final.
Records show that respondent was properly informed of the promulgation scheduled on 15
December 2005. The RTC Order dated 30 November 200544 documents the presence of his counsel
during the hearing. It is an established doctrine that notice to counsel is notice to client.45 In addition,
the Return of Service states that the Order and Notice of Promulgation were personally delivered to
respondent's address.

During the promulgation of judgment on 15 December 2005, when respondent did not appear
despite notice, and without offering any justification for his absence, the trial court should have
immediately promulgated its Dccision.46The promulgation of judgment in absentia is mandatory
pursuant to the fourth paragraph of Section 6, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court:

SEC. 6. Promulgation of judgment.

xxxx

In case the, accused fails to appear at the scheduled date of promulgation of judgment despite
notice, the promulgation shall be made by recording the judgment in the criminal docket and serving
him a copy thereof at his last known address or thru his counsel. (Emphasis supplied)

If the accused has been notified of the date of promulgation, but does not appear, the promulgation
of judgment in absentia is warranted. This rule is intended to obviate a repetition of the situation in
the past when the judicial process could be subverted by the accused by jumping bail to frustrate the
promulgation of judgment.47 The only essential elements for its validity are as follows: (a) the
judgment was recorded in the criminal docket; and (b) a copy thereof was served upon the accused
or counsel.

In Almuete v. People,48petitioner's counsel informed the trial court that the accused were either ill or
not notified of the scheduled date of promulgation of judgment. The RTC, however, found their
absence inexcusable and proceeded to promulgate its Decision as scheduled. The accused went up
to the CA, which acquitted them of the charge. This Court reversed the CA and upheld the validity of
the promulgation.

In Estrada v. People,49this Court also affirmed the validity of the promulgation of judgment in
absentia, given the presence of the essential elements.

Judge Buted's Order dated 22 December 200550 fulfilled the requirements set forth by the Rules and
prevailing jurisprudence. Pertinent portions of the Order read:

The judgment of conviction which carries the death penalty was pronounced in the presence of the
Public Prosecutor, the counsel de oficio of accused and the heirs of complainant Carmen Macatiag,
the dispositive portion of which, the OIC Clerk of Court is directed to enter into the Criminal Docket.

xxxx

Let copy of the Decision furnished each the Public Prosecutor, the counsel de oficio of the accused,
Atty. Bembol Castillo, and the accused at his last known address.

Respondent was not left without remedy. The fifth paragraph of Section 6, Rule 120, states:

If the judgment is for conviction and the failure or the accused to appear was without justifiable
cause, he shall lose the remedies available in these rules against the judgment and the court shall
order his arrest. Within fifteen (15) clays from promulgation of judgment, however, the accused may
surrender and file a motion for leave of court to avail of these remedies. He shall state the reasons
for his absence at the scheduled promulgation and if he proves that his absence was for a justifiable
cause, he shall be allowed to avail of said remedies within fifteen (15) days from notice.

However, instead of surrendering and filing a motion for leave to explain his unjustified absence,
respondent, through Atty. Benitez, filed an Omnibus Motion before the RTC praying that the
promulgation be set aside.51 We cannot countenance this blatant circumvention of the Rules.

Judge Soluren 's Decision acquitting


respondent is void and has no legal
effect.

Judge Soluren acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when
she gave due course to respondent's Omnibus Motion. Aside from being the wrong remedy, the
motion lacked merit.

The filing of a motion for reconsideration to question a decision of conviction can only be resorted to
if the accused did not jump bail, but appeared in court to face the promulgation of judgment.
Respondent did not appear during the scheduled promulgation and was deemed by the judge to
have jumped bail. The fifth paragraph of Section 6, Rule 120, states that if the judgment is for
conviction and the failure of the accused to appear was without justifiable cause, he shall lose the
remedies available in the Rules against the judgment, and the court shall order his arrest.

The Court underscores the fact that following Gonzales's waiver of the remedies under the Rules,
Judge Buted issued an Order dated 22 December 2005. According to the Order, the case records
shall be immediately forwarded to the CA for its automatic review of convictions meting out the death
penalty. 52 This automatic review was pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Circular 20-2005
(dated 15 April 2005) as implemented by OCA Circular No. 57-2005 (dated 12 May 2005).

Supreme Court Administrative Circular 20-2005 mandates as follows:

[A]ll Regional Trial Courts concerned, through the Presiding Judges and Clerks of Court, arc hereby
DIRECTED to henceforth DIRECTLY forward to the COURT OF APPEALS (Manila for Luzon cases,
Cebu Station for Visayas cases, and Cagayan de Oro Station for Mindanao cases) the records of
criminal cases whose decisions are subject to (a) automatic review because the penalty imposed is
death or (b) ordinary appeals (by notices of appeal) because the penalty imposed is either reclusion
perpetua or life imprisonment, notwithstanding a statement in the notice of appeal that the appeal is
to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, OCA Circular No. 57-2005 gives the following directive:

[A]ll Judges and Clerks of Court of the Regional Trial Courts are hereby reminded that failure to
comply with the above-cited Administrative Circular shall warrant appropriate disciplinary action
pursuant to Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by AM. 01-8-10-SC, which took effect on 11
September 2001, as well as the pertinent rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission.

This Administrative Circular took effect on 19 April 2005, strict compliance herewith is hereby
enjoined.
In utter disregard of this Court's circulars, Judge Soluren capriciously, whimsically, and arbitrarily
took cognizance of private respondent's Omnibus Motion, granted it, and rendered a totally opposite
Decision of acquittal. What she should have done was dismiss the Omnibus Motion outright, since
Judge Buted's Decision of conviction was already subject to automatic review by the CA. By acting
on the wrong remedy, which led to the reversal of the conviction, Judge Soluren contravened the
express orders of this Court. Her blatant abuse of authority was so grave and so severe that it
deprived the court of its very power to dispense justice.

We take this opportunity to correct a capricious, patent, and abusive judgment by reversing and
setting aside the Decision.

Judge Soluren retired compulsorily in 2012. Had she still been in the service, some members of this
Court would have been minded to refer this matter to the Office of the Court Administrator for
investigation into and evaluation of the question of whether the above acts call for the application of
administrative sanctions.

Double jeopardy is not triggered


when the order of acquittal is void.

Grave abuse of discretion amounts to lack of jurisdiction, and lack of jurisdiction prevents double
jeopardy from attaching.53

In People v. Hernandez,54this Court explained that "an acquittal rendered in grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction does not really 'acquit' and therefore does not terminate
the case as there can be no double jeopardy based on a void indictment."

Considering that Judge Soluren's order of acquittal was void from the very beginning, it necessarily
follows that the CA ruling dismissing the Petition for Certiorari must likewise be reversed and set
aside.

WHEREFORE, the foregoing Petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. SP No. 97629 dated 22 March 2010 and Resolution elated 30 July 2010
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

The Decision of Branch 40 of the Regional Trial Court of Palayan City, Nueva Ecija elated 31
October 2006 and Order elated 18 April 2006, rendered by public respondent Judge Corazon D.
Soluren acquitting respondent Pepito Gonzales, are likewise REVERSED and SET ASIDE for
having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. The
Decision dated 22 December 2005 rendered by Judge Erlinda P. Buted is REINSTATED.

The Court of Appeals is hereby ordered to conduct the mandatory and automatic review of the
Decision dated 22 December 2005 pursuant to Sections 3 and 10, Rule 122 of the Rules of Court.
Let the entire records of Criminal Case No. 1066-P entitled People of the Philippines v. Pepito
Gonzales be immediately TRANSMITTED to the Court of Appeals.

The bail granted to respondent Pepito Gonzales is CANCELLED. Let copies of this Decision be
furnished the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Director-General of the
Philippine National Police. The National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police
are hereby DIRECTED to cause the IMMEDIATE ARREST and DETENTION of respondent Pepito
Gonzales.
SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 189077, November 16, 2016

LINA M. BERNARDO, Petitioner, v. HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS (FORMER FOURTH DIVISION)


AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

DECISION

JARDELEZA, J.:

This is a Petition for Certiorari1 of the September 22, 2008 Decision2 and May 13, 2009 Resolution3 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 30290. The CA found petitioner Lina M. Bernardo (Bernardo) guilty
beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Case No. 02-120 for the crime of estafa by means of false pretenses or
fraudulent acts penalized under paragraph 2(a) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code.4For failure to file a
motion for reconsideration within the reglementary period, Bernardo's conviction became final and was
entered in the Book of Entries of Judgments by the CA. Bernardo now comes before us asking that the entry
of judgment in the case be recalled.cha nrob lesvi rtua llawlib ra ry

Facts

Bernardo was charged with three counts of estafa in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Angeles City,
Pampanga, Branch 61, dorketed as Criminal Case Nos. 02-120, 02-121 and 02-122.5 The accusatory
portions of the three Informations read:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

[Criminal Case No. 02-120]

That sometime in the month of September, 2000, in the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of false pretenses, fraudulent acts
and misrepresentations, defrauded the complainant, LUCY R. TANCHIATCO, in the following manner, to wit:
the accused falsely pretending to possess credit, indorsed and rediscounted a Consumer Bank Check No.
0788549 dated December 31, 2000, in the amount of P50,000.00, which appears to have been issued by
one Marcial S. Sadie, Jr., the accused falsely pretending that the said check was duly funded in her favor,
and which representation was merely intended to induce the complainant to rediscount the corresponding
amount of the check, as in fact, complainant did rediscount said check, and accused, once in possession of
the said corresponding amount and far from complying with her obligation, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully, and feloniously misappropriate, misapply and convert the said amount to her own personal use
and benefit, and despite demands made upon her to return or redeem the amount of the check, accused
failed and refused and still fails and refuses to comply with her obligation, to the damage and prejudice of
said complainant, LUCY R. TANCHIATCO, in the aforementioned amount of FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00)
PESOS, Philippine Currency.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

[Criminal Case No. 02-121]

That sometime in the month of October, 2000, in the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction
of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of false pretense, fraudulent acts and
misrepresentations, defrauded the complainant, LUCY R. TANCHIATCO, in the following manner, to wit: the
accused obtained a loan from complainant, LUCY R. TANCHIATCO, in the total amount of P75,000.00, by
falsely pretending to possess properties in an affidavit dated November 27, 2000, given to the complainant
for security of said loan, which affidavit states that accused was the owner of the stall and that the same
could be transferred to any assignee, when in truth and in fact, signatures of transferor were
forged/falsified, and which representation was merely intended to induce the complainant to allow accused
to obtain a loan in the amount of P75,000.00, as in fact, complainant gave the amount of P75,000.00 to
accused as loan, and accused once in possession of the said amount, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously misappropriate, misapply and convert the said amount to her own personal use and benefit,
and despite demands made upon her to return the amount to complainant, accused failed and refused and
still fails and refuses to comply with her obligation, to the damage and prejudice of said complainant, LUCY
R. TANCHIATCO, in an aforementioned amount of SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND (P75,000.00) PESOS,
Philippine Currency.

CONTARARY TO LAW.

[Criminal Case No. 02-122]

That sometime in the month of November, 2000, in the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of false pretenses, fraudulent acts
and misrepresentations, defrauded the complainant, LUCY R. TANCHIATCO, in the following manner, to wit:
the accused obtained a loan from complainant LUCY R. TANCHIATCO, in the amount of P200,000.00, by
falsely pretending to possess property in an affidavit dated November 27, 2000, given to the complainant for
security of said loan, which affidavit states that accused was the owner of the stall and that the same could
be transferred to any assignee, when in truth and in fact, the signature of transferor was forged/falsified,
and which representation was merely intended to induce the complainant to allow accused to obtain a loan
in the amount of P200,000.00, as in fact, complainant gave the amount of P200,000.00 to accused as a
loan, and accused once in possession of the said amount, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously misappropriate, misapply and convert the said amount to her own personal use and benefit, and
despite demands made upon her to return the amount to complainant, accused failed and refused and still
fails and refuses to comply with her obligation, to the damage and prejudice of said complainant, LUCY R.
TANCHIATCO, in an amount of TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND (P200,000.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency.

CONTRARY TO LAW.6 ChanRoblesVi rt ualawlib ra ry

Bernardo pleaded "not guilty" to the offenses charged.7 Trial then ensued. Four witnesses8 testified for the
prosecution, while the defense waived its right to present evidence.9

The testimony of the prosecution witnesses may be summarized as follows:

Complainant Lucy Tanchiatco (Tanchiatco) and Bernardo knew each other since 1982 or 1983, as they were
neighbors. They became close friends sometime in the year 2000.10 Tanchiatco usually buys from Bernardo
in the Pampang Public Market, while Bernardo visits Tanchiatco in the former's house twice or four times in a
week.11

On September 19, 2000, Bernardo went to the house of Tanchiatco to borrow money. As security for the
loan, she offered the rediscounting of a Consumer Bank Check No. 00788549 in the amount of P50,000. The
check dated December 31, 2000 was drawn from the account of a certain Marcial Sadie, Jr. (Sadie) and
payable to the bearer. Tanchiatco did not personally know Sadie but upon the guarantee of Bernardo, she
rediscounted the check and gave the money to Bernardo on the same day.12 Later on, Bernardo introduced
Sadie to her, but she did not inquire about the check.13

On October 10 and 12, 2000, Bernardo obtained loans from Tanchiatco, in the amount of P503000 and
P25,000, respectively. As security, Bernardo gave Tanchiatco two affidavits of waiver of market stalls
purportedly executed by her sister Carmelita Santos (Carmerlita) and by Sadie. She promised Tanchiatco
that in case she failed to pay her loan on December 31, 2000, the rights to the market stalls shall be
transferred to the latter.14 Bernardo further assured Tanchiatco that she will take care of everything as one
of the market administrators is her friend.15 Tanchiatco believed that Bernardo owns the market stalls
although they were registered in the names of Sadie and Carmelita. There was a prohibition on owning more
than one stall in the Pampang Public Market, hence, Bernardo has to put the stalls in the name of other
persons.16

Then on November 20, 21 and 22, 2000, Bernardo again borrowed money from Tanchiatco totaling to
P200,000. For the P170,000, she promised Tanchiatco that she would produce an affidavit of waiver of
market stall in the name of a certain Teresita Garcia (Teresita).17

Bernardo defaulted in her loan obligations despite demands for her to pay. Expecting that the market stalls
were already transferred in her name consistent with the affidavit of waivers given to her by Bernardo,
Tanchiatco went to see the administrator of the Pampang Public Market. However, she learned that the
market stalls were not transferred in her name. Sadie, Carmelita and Teresita also denied the execution of
the affidavits of waiver.18 Thus, Tanchiatco confronted Bernardo where the latter admitted that she was, in
fact, the one who executed the affidavits.19
Tanchiatco filed a complaint against Bernardo in their barangay. However, no settlement was reached.
Hence, she filed the present criminal complaints.20

During trial, Sadie testified that Bernardo was his co-vendor in the Pampang Public Market. He admitted that
he owned the Consumer Bank check used as security for Bernardo's loan.21 However, he asserted that the
signature appearing on the check does not belong to him. In fact, he does not know how Bernardo came
into possession of the check.22 He added, that his account with Consumer Bank was already closed and that
he did not issue the subject check.23chanro blesvi rtua llawli bra ry

RTC Ruling

In its Decision24 dated February 27, 2006, the RTC found that Bernardo never denied that the signature
appearing at the dorsal side of the Consumer Bank check subject of Criminal Case No. 02-120 was
hers.25 It held that Bernardo offered that check for rediscounting knowing that it was a falsified check. The
cralaw red

RTC declared that the rediscounting of the falsified check was done simultaneously with the parting of
P50,000. Bernardo's assurance that the check was genuine and was issued by Sadie in her favor, caused
Tanchiatco to part with her money to her own damage and prejudice,26 which act constitutes estafa under
Article 315, paragraph 2(a), of the Revised Penal Code.27 Thus, the RTC convicted Bernardo of estafa by
means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts in Criminal Case No. 02-120.28

As to Criminal Case Nos. 02-121 and 02-122, the RTC acquitted Bernardo after finding that the affidavits of
waiver were not given prior to or simultaneous with the parting of the sums of money.29 It ruled that the
liability incurred by Bernardo for non-payment of the loans secured by the affidavits of waiver was purely
civil in nature.30

Bernardo appealed her conviction to the CA. She took issue with the reliance of the RTC on the lone
testimony of Sadie as regards the rediscounting of the Consumer Bank check.31 She maintained that in order
to merit credence, the testimony of Sadie should have been corroborated by other witnesses.32Bernardo also
pleaded that rediscounting bills and notes is a legitimate transaction.33 She alleged that she could not be
convicted of estafa by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts because the element of deceit was not
proven. The prosecution failed to prove that the check presented for rediscounting was spurious.34

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) countered that the non-presentation of a corroborating witness is
not fatal to the case because corroborative evidence is necessary only when there is a suspicion that the
witness falsified the truth.35 However, there is no reason to suspect the veracity of Sadie's testimony as it is
clear and straightforward and Sadie does not harbor any ill feelings towards Bernardo. Hence, his testimony
deserves full credit and belief.36

On the element of deceit, the OSG maintained that Bernardo's act of rediscounting a check that does not
belong to her in order to get money from Tanchiatco is in itself pure and simple deceit.37 While rediscounting
is a legal transaction, the presence of deceit makes the act of the author illegal.38cha nro blesvi rtua llawli bra ry

CA Ruling

In its Decision dated September 22, 2008, the CA held that the uncorroborated testimony of Sadie is
sufficient to sustain Bernardo's conviction. Citing relevant jurisprudence, it stated that the number of
witnesses has nothing to do with the credibility of a witness.39 The CA ruled that Sadie is a credible witness
having testified in a clear and straightforward manner, with no traces of ill motives against
Bernardo.40 Further, it was proven that the signature appearing on the right bottom of the Consumer Bank
check was not Sadie's signature as he even wrote his customary signature three times in open court for
comparison.41 Thus, the CA affirmed the RTC's Decision in toto and adjudged that all the elements
of estafa by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts are present.

Bernardo, then represented by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), received the notice of the CA Decision on
September 25, 2008.42 However, no motion for reconsideration was filed within the reglementary period.
Hence, the CA Decision became final and executory on October 11, 2008. The PAO received an Entry of
Judgment of the CA Decision on March 12, 2009.43

On April 9, 2009, Bernardo filed a Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment with attached Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration44 in the CA. Atty. Benju V. Ardaña (Atty. Ardaña), the new PAO lawyer assigned to the case
of Bernardo, pleaded that he never received a copy of the CA Decision although the same was duly stamped
as received by PAO on September 25, 2008. Hence, he was surprised that an Entry of Judgment was issued.
Atty. Ardaña blamed Herminia Polo (Polo), a receiving and filing clerk at the PAO Special and Appealed
Cases Service, as well as the secretary45 of Atty. Joey Dolores Pontejos (Atty. Pontejos), the previous PAO
lawyer handling the case, for taking upon herself to place a copy of the CA Decision inside its case folder
without informing him that there was already a decision.46 He alleged that the omission was unintentional
and was a simple inadvertence on the part of Polo as she was busy preparing for the official transfer of Atty.
Pontejos, who was reassigned to the PAO-Tacloban District Office.47 Atty. Ardaña claimed that he relied on
the status of the case reflected in the "Inventory of Cases" submitted by Atty. Pontejos, which showed that
the case was "submitted for decision" in the CA. He asked for the CA's indulgence "in behalf of the erring
staff."48

Meanwhile, the attached Urgent Motion for Reconsideration merely reiterated the arguments that Bernardo
raised in his Appellant's Brief.

In its Resolution dated May 13, 2009, the CA found that the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration was filed 194
days from the PAO's receipt of the CA Decision.49 The considerable lapse of time was attributable not only to
the negligence of Polo, but also to Atty. Ardaña, whose duty included the proper disposition of the cases
assigned to him.50 On the merits of the case, the CA held that the grounds relied upon by Bernardo in the
Urgent Motion for Reconsideration was just a rehash of the issues raised in the petition.51 Accordingly, the
CA denied the Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment and the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration.

Hence, this petition, where Bernardo in her own behalf, raises the following issues:

1. Whether the CA erred in denying the Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment; and

2. Whether Bernardo should be convicted of the crime of estafa by means of false pretenses or
fraudulent acts.

Our Ruling

Bernardo ascribes grave abuse of discretion to the CA for denying her Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment
and Urgent Motion for Reconsideration on the ground of technicality. She claims that strict adherence to the
rules will definitely cause her injustice.52 She alleges that the CA completely disregarded the explanation of
her then PAO counsel that the late filing of the motion for reconsideration was due to the simple
inadvertence of the lawyer's secretary.53 For the sound administration of justice, Bernardo prays that the
case be decided on its merit.

The OSG counters that Bernardo has no ground to move for the recall of the entry of judgment because she
received a copy of the Decision through her former counsel It would have been different if her counsel was
not furnished at all with the copy of the Decision, which would be tantamount to denial of due process.54

We find Bernardo's contentions without merit and deny the petition.

Section 2, Rule 36 and Section 8, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, respectively, state:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

Rule 36. x x x

Sec. 2. Entry of judgments and final orders. - If no appeal or motion for new trial or reconsideration
is filed within the time provided in these Rules, the judgment or final order shall forthwith be
entered by the clerk in the book of entries of judgments. The date of finality of the judgment or final
order shall be deemed to be the date of its entry. The record shall contain the dispositive part of the
judgment or final order and shall be signed by the clerk, with a certificate that such judgment or final order
has become final and executory.

xxx

Rule 120. x x x

Sec. 8. Entry of judgment. - After a judgment has become final, it shall be entered in accordance with Rule
36. (Emphasis supplied.) ChanRobles Vi rt ualawlib ra ry

Substantially the same rules are found in Sections 1 and 5, Rule VII of the 2002 Internal Rules of Procedure
of the CA (IRCA), to wit:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry
Sec. 1. Entry of Judgment. — Unless a motion for reconsideration or new trial is filed or an appeal
taken to the Supreme Court, judgments and final resolutions of the Court shall be entered upon
expiration of fifteen (15) days from notice to the parties.

(a) With respect to the criminal aspect, entry of judgment in criminal cases shall be made immediately when
the accused is acquitted or his withdrawal of appeal is granted. However, if the motion withdrawing an
appeal is signed by the appellant only, the Court shall first take steps to ensure that the motion is made
voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly or may require his counsel to comment thereon.

When there are several accused in a case, some of whom appealed and others did not, entry of judgment
shall be made only as to those who did not appeal. The same rule shall apply where there are several
accused in a case, some of whom withdrew their appeal and others did not.

(b) Entry of Judgment in civil cases shall be made immediately when an appeal is withdrawn or when a
decision based on a compromise agreement is rendered. (Secs. 1 and 7, Rule 11, RIRCA [a])

xxx

Sec. 5. Entry of Judgment and Final Resolution. - If no appeal or motion for new trial or
reconsideration is filed within the time provided in these Rules, the judgment or final resolution
shall forthwith be entered by the clerk in the book of entries of judgments. The date when the
judgment or final resolution becomes executory shall be deemed as the date of its entry. The record shall
contain the dispositive part of the judgment or final resolution and shall be signed by the clerk, with a
certificate that such judgment or final resolution has become final and executory. (Emphasis supplied.) ChanRoble sVirtualawl ibra ry

Applying the Rules of Court and the IRCA, since Bernardo neither moved for reconsideration nor appealed to
this Court within the reglementary period, the CA Decision became final and executory. Thus, the CA is duty
bound to enter it in the Book of Entries of Judgments. Accordingly, this petition is a futile attempt to reopen
a case, which has been laid to rest since October 11, 2008.

We have consistently ruled that a decision that has acquired finality can no longer be modified in any
respect or attacked directly or indirectly, even by the highest court of the land. The doctrine of finality and
immutability of judgments is grounded on the fundamental considerations of public policy and sound
practice to the effect that, at the risk of occasional error, the judgments of the courts must become final at
some def lite date set by law.55

It is only in rare cases that this Court resolves to recall an entry of judgment such as for instance, to
prevent a miscarriage of justice.56 We relax the rules of procedure in order to serve substantial justice
considering (a) matters of life, liberty, honor or property, (b) the existence of special or compelling
circumstances, (c) the merits of the case, (d) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of
the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (e) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely
frivolous and dilatory, and (f) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby.57None of these
circumstances obtain in this case.

That a motion for reconsideration was filed belatedly due to the "simple inadvertence" of Polo is not a
compelling reason to recall the entry of judgment, especially in the light of the admission of Atty. Ardaña
that the notice of the CA Decision was duly received by the PAO on September 25, 2008; albeit, he did not
know of it because the secretary did not inform him. We concur with the CA that Atty. Ardaña was negligent
in failing to monitor the disposition of the case assigned to him. In Ramos v. Lim,58 we stated that notice to
counsel is an effective notice to the client.59 It is incumbent upon the counsel, consistent with his duty to
serve his client with competence and diligence, to inquire from the court about the status of the case.60 Atty.
Ardaña's mere reliance on Atty. Pontejo's inventory of cases falls short of the diligence required of him.

Notably, Bernardo is bound by Atty. Ardaña's negligence. Settled is the rule that the negligence and
mistakes of the counsel are binding on the client.61 The only exception, being when such counsel's
negligence, is so gross and palpable resulting to a denial of due process to his client.62 Here, both elements
are missing. Atty. Ardaña's negligence is not gross in character. In Sofio v. Valenzuela,63 we held that the
failure of the counsel to file a motion for reconsideration amounts to simple negligence only.64 Further,
Bernardo was not deprived of due process because she received a copy of the CA Decision through her
former counsel. She was also given the opportunity to present her side of the story. She filed a Motion to
Recall Entry of Judgment in the CA, coupled with a motion for reconsideration. Where a party is given the
opportunity to be heard either in pleadings or oral arguments, there is no denial of due process.65
Meanwhile, Bernardo also had herself to blame. The record of the case is bereft of showing that she made
inquiries or follow-ups from Atty. Ardaña about the status of her case. It is the duty of Bernardo to be in
touch with her counsel as to the progress of the case. She cannot just sit back, relax, and wait for the
outcome of the case.66

The 194 days delay in the filing of the motion for reconsideration of the CA Decision67 is too long a delay to
merit the liberality of this Court. Since the counsel of Bernardo received the notice of the CA Decision on
September 25, 2008 and no motion for reconsideration or appeal to this Court was filed within 15 days from
receipt of the notice, the Decision inevitably reached its finality on October 11, 2008. Thus, no grave abuse
of discretion was committed by the CA when it denied the Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment and the
motion for reconsideration. In fine, the finality of a decision is a jurisdictional event, which cannot be made
to depend on the convenience of a party.68

Having affirmed the finality of the CA Decision, we shall no longer delve into the second issue raised.
Passing upon the propriety of Bernardo's conviction would be inconsistent with our declaration of the finality
and immutability of the CA Decision.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The September 22, 2008 Decision and May 13,
2009 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 30290 are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibra ry

THIRD DIVISION

June 19, 2017

G.R. No. 177000

NESTOR GUELOS, RODRIGO GUELOS, GIL CARANDANG and SP02 ALFREDO CARANDANG
y PRESCILLA,Petitioners
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing
the Decision2dated November 17, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 27021,
affirming in toto the conviction of Nestor Guelos (Nestor), Rodrigo Guelos (Rodrigo), Gil Carandang
(Gil) and Senior Police Officer 2 Alfredo Carandang y Prescilla (Alfredo) (petitioners) rendered by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tanauan City, Batangas, Branch 83 in its Decision3 dated January 24,
2003 in Criminal Cases Nos. P-204 and P-205. The CA Resolution4dated March 6, 2007 denied the
motion for reconsideration thereof.
The Facts

On December 5, 1995, two separate Informations5 were filed with the RTC against the petitioners for
Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in Authority with Homicide, defined and penalized under
Articles 148 and 249, in relation to Article 48, of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). The accusatory
portions of the two Informations state:

Criminal Case No. P-204

That on or about the 4th day of June, 1995, at about 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, at Barangay Boot,
Municipality of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together, acting in
common accord and mutually helping one another, [Nestor]' while armed with an Armalite Rifle, with
intent to kill and without any justifiable cause, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously
attack, assault and shoot with the said firearm one SP02 Estelito Andaya, a bonafide member of the
Philippine National Police assigned at Tanauan Police Station, while engaged in the performance of
his official duties as peace officer, and while the latter is being held from the back by [Gil] and other
companions, whose identities and whereabouts are still unknown, thereby hitting and inflicting· upon
the said SP02 Estelito Andaya gunshot wounds on his body which caused his instantaneous death.

Contrary to law. 6

Criminal Case No. P-205

That on or about the 4th day of June, 1995, at about 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, at Barangay Boot,
Municipality of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together, acting in
common accord and mutually helping each other, [Nestor] while armed with an Armalite Rifle, with
intent to kill and without any justifiable cause, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously
attack, assault and shoot with the said firearm, one P/Chief Inspector Rolando M. Camacho, a
bonafide member of the Philippine National Police and concurrently the Chief of Police of Tanauan,
Batangas, while engaged in the performance of his official duties as peace officer, and while the
latter is being held at the back including his two arms by [Alfredo] and the barrel of his armalite rifle
is being held by [Rodrigo], thereby hitting and inflicting upon the said P/Chief Inspector Rolando M.
Camacho gunshot wounds on his head which caused his instantaneous death.

Contrary to law. 7

The petitioners pleaded not guilty to the foregoing charges. Thereafter, the joint trial of the two cases
ensued. The prosecution and the defense presented their respective versions of the case. 8

The prosecution presented the following witnesses: P02 Edgardo Carandang (P02 Carandang), Alex
Malabanan, P02 Pastor Platon Castillo, Ruel Ramos, Ricardo Jordan, SPOl Anacleto Garcia (SPOl
Garcia), Dr. Olga Bausa, Rowena Rios, Police Inspector Loma Tria, Dr. Hermogenes Corachea, P03
Eugenio Llarina, Marilou Reyes Camacho and Teodora Torres Andaya. 9

On the other hand, the defense presented: Cancio Angulo (Angulo), Juana Precilla and herein
petitioners Nestor, Alfredo and Rodrigo as its witnesses.

The version of the prosecution is as follows:


In the morning of June 4, 1995, Police Chief Inspector Rolando M. Camacho (P/C Insp. Camacho),
SP02 Estelito Andaya (SP02 Andaya), P02 Carandang and SPO 1 Garcia set off for Sitio Mahabang
Buhangin in Tanauan, Batangas to conduct their routine as peace officers of the area. It was already
10:00 a.m. when they left Tanauan Police Station on board a patrol car driven by SPO 1 Garcia.
While they were in Barangay Gonzales waiting for a boat that would bring them to Sitio Mahabang
Buhangin, they heard successive gunshots apparently coming from Barangay Boot. P/C Insp.
Camacho then decided to proceed to Barangay Boot to check and to apprehend those who were
illegally discharging their firearms. Upon arrival at the place, they were invited for lunch in the house
of Angulo. Thereafter, they stayed at the house of the incumbent Barangay Captain, Rafael
Gonzales. 10

At around 2:45 p.m., P/C Insp. Camacho instructed SP02 Andaya and P02 Carandang to join the
religious procession to monitor those who will indiscriminately fire guns. As they were moving on
with the procession, they heard successive gunshots, which they determined to have emanated from
the backyard of Silveria Guelos (Silveria). They went back to the house of the Barangay Captain to
report to P/C Insp. Camacho what they found out. Acting upon their report, P/C Insp. Camacho
decided to go with them to the place of Silveria. In going to the house, they rode a passenger
jeepney in order to conceal their purpose. SPOl Garcia drove their patrol car and followed them. 11

Upon reaching the place of Silveria who let them in, P/C Insp. Camacho, P02 Carandang and SP02
Andaya then proceeded to the back of the house where they saw around 15 persons drinking liquor.
They also noticed empty shells of armalite rifle scattered on the ground. P/C Insp. Camacho then
introduced himself as the Chief of Tanauan Police Station and told the group that he and his men
were verifying who fired the shots. Someone from the group of drinking men asked him: "Who are
you going to pick-up here?" Before P/C Insp. Camacho was able to respond to the taunting question,
P02 Carandang pointed to him the "empty shells" near the comfort room located at the right side
from where the group was drinking. Consequently, P/C Insp. Camacho instructed him to collect the
scattered empty shells. 12

When P02 Carandang was about to follow P/C Insp. Camacho's orders, the former noticed a person,
whom he identified as Nestor, wearing a white sando and blue walking shorts stand up. While P02
Carandang was collecting the empty shells, somebody hit him on his nape which caused him to drop
his armalite. When he tried to retrieve his firearm, someone hit his hand. 13

As he was trying to stand up, he saw Alfredo tightly holding (yapos-yapos) P/C Insp. Camacho from
behind while Rodrigo grabbed the former's baby armalite. As soon as P02 Carandang was able to
stand up, he was hit by Nestor on his left jaw, even as he received a blow to his left eye. Thereafter,
as P/C Insp. Camacho was in a helpless and defenseless position, he was shot by Nestor causing
him to fall to the ground and later die. 14

While P02 Carandang was retreating, he saw SP02 Andaya being tightly held by the neck by Gil. He
then saw Nestor shoot at SP02 Andaya, who then fell to the ground and died. 15

P02 Carandang retreated and started to run but Nestor went after him and shot at him. It was at this
juncture when SPO 1 Garcia arrived at the scene and returned fire at Nestor, hitting the latter with
three out of six shots. 16

For the defense, petitioners Nestor, Alfredo and Rodrigo took the witness stand and denied the
accusations. They narrated a different story. 17

Nestor testified that at around 3:00 p.m. on June 4, 1995, he was inside the house of his mother
when he heard several gunshots. He told his children to lie flat on the floor until it stopped.
Thereafter, he went out of the house and saw four persons lying on the ground; he identified two of
them as Gil and Alfredo. He also saw an old man standing nearby and asked the latter what
happened, but the old man did not reply. Just when he heard that people were rushing towards his
mother's house, the old man asked him to pick up the gun laying on the ground. He followed and
picked up the same with the intention of surrendering it to a police officer but as he was on his way
towards the gate, SPO 1 Garcia shot him instead. He was hit three times: on his stomach, his left
side, and on his left hand. 18

Alfredo, on the other hand, testified that as they were drinking, P/C Insp. Camacho together with two
other police officers came. They entered one after the other but P/C Insp. Camacho came in first.
They were wearing civilian clothes, although he noticed that P/C Insp. Camacho was also wearing a
vest where extra ammunition-magazines were kept. P/C Insp. Camacho was armed with a baby-
armalite, while his companions were carrying M-16 rifles. The police officers asked who among them
fired a gun to which somebody answered, "We do not know who fired the shot." At this point, Alfredo
introduced himself as a fellow-member of the Philippine National Police (PNP); he even saluted P/C
lnsp. Camacho, but the latter merely ignored the former. Instead, P/C Insp. Camacho pointed the
nozzle of his baby armalite at Alfredo's stomach and used it to lift hist-shirt, as the former asked the
latter if he had a gun. Alfredo answered that he had none. While P/C Insp. Camacho was frisking
three other men, Rodrigo approached him to ask if he can be of help to the former. P/C Insp.
Camacho did not answer Rodrigo's query. Rather, while he was in "port-hand position," P/C Insp.
Camacho pushed Rodrigo with his firearm; the latter was out-balanced and fell on his back. While
P/C Insp. Camacho was pushing Rodrigo with the use of the nozzle of his "armalite rifle", the latter
swiped the said firearm as he told the former, "Baka pumutok iyan." Thereupon, the firearm of P/C
Insp. Camacho fired; a bullet hit Alfredo's thigh. Thereafter, the latter lost consciousness and
awakened only when being transported to a nearby hospital. 19

Rodrigo testified that in the afternoon of June 4, 1995, he was watching a religious procession in
front of the gate of his parents' house when P/C Insp. Camacho and two others, all in civilian clothes
and each bearing a long firearm, entered the premises of his parents' house. The group went directly
to the area where people were drinking liquor. P/C Insp. Camacho introduced himself as the Chief of
Police of Tanauan, and asked who among them fired a gun. He poked his gun at the people there
and then started frisking some of them. Alfredo stood up and introduced himself as a fellow-member
of the PNP, to which P/C Insp. Camacho responded by poking his gun at the former, asking him ifhe
had a gun. Answering "none," Alfredo pulled-up his t-shirt to show he had no gun. His t-shirt was
lifted by P/C Insp. Camacho with the nozzle of his gun. Rodrigo approached P/C Insp. Camacho and
offered to assist the latter, but instead, P/C Insp. Camacho pointed the gun at his face. Rodrigo
swayed the gun away from his face, but he was, in tum, pushed back by P/C Insp. Camacho with the
use of the barrel of the same gun causing him to fall to the ground. Then he heard several gunshots,
so he covered his head with his hands. When the gunshots stopped, he saw two persons lying, one
by his left side and the other, by his right. He then ran for help but on his way out of the premises, he
saw a wounded person whom he offered to help. The wounded person ignored him and continued to
walk towards a jeepney. Rodrigo proceeded to approach a Barangay Tanod and asked him to report
the incident to the Barangay Captain. Soon thereafter, the Barangay Captain arrived; police officers
from Tanauan also came and Rodrigo was invited to the Police Station for investigation.20

On January 24, 2003, the RTC issued a Joint Decision,21 the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. P-204, this Court finds accused [NESTOR] and [GIL] GUILTY
BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in Authority with
Homicide, defined and penalized under Articles 148 and 249, in relation to Article 48, of the [RPC],
for killing [SP02 Andaya], and hereby sentences each of the accused to suffer the penalty of eleven
(11) years of prision correccional maximum, as minimum, up to eighteen (18) years of reclusion
temporal maximum, as maximum, and a fine of One Thousand Pesos (Phpl,000.00). The accused
are directed to pay the heirs of victim [SP02 Andaya] an indemnity of Fifty Thousand Pesos
(Php50,000.00), actual damages in the amount of One Million Pesos (Phpl,000,000.00), and moral
damages of Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php50,000.00).

In Criminal Case No. P-205, the Court finds accused [NESTOR], [RODRIGO] and [ALFREDO]
GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in Authority
with Homicide, defined and penalized under Articles 148 and 249, in relation to Article 48, of the
[RPC], for killing [P/C Insp. Camacho], and hereby sentences each of the accused to suffer the
penalty of eleven (11) years of prision correccional maximum, as minimum, up to eighteen (18)
years of reclusion temporal maximum, as maximum, and to pay a fine of One Thousand Pesos
(Phpl,000.00) each. The accused are directed to pay the heirs of victim [P/C Insp. Camacho] an
indemnity of Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php50,000.00), actual damages in the amount of One Million Six
Hundred Thousand Pesos (Phpl,600,000.00), and moral damages of Fifty Thousand Pesos
(Php50,000.00).

SO ORDERED.22

The RTC found that between the conflicting versions of the parties, that of the prosecution is more
credible; the positive declarations of the police officers who testified for the prosecution, particularly
that of eyewitness P02 Carandang, were not impeached.23 Further, the RTC did not find any reason
for any of the prosecution witnesses to falsely testify against the accused. The trial court observed
that said witnesses, with special reference to P02 Carandang, testified in a straightforward manner
and showed signs of candor, as compared to the accused, who were smart-alecky and did not
sound truthful. 24 The petitioners appealed to the CA.

On November 17, 2006, the CA affirmed in toto the petitioners' conviction in its Decision25 as follows:

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.26

Hence, this petition for review with the following assignment of errors:

A. THE CA GRAVELY ERRED IN RELYING ON THE UNSUBSTANTIATED TESTIMONY


OF THE ALLEGED EYEWITNESS P02 CARANDANG AND HOLDING THE PETITIONERS
GUILTY OF THE CRIME CHARGED.

B. THE CA ERRED IN AFFIRMING IN TOTO THE JUDGMENT OF THE LOWER COURT


NOTWITHSTANDING THE GLARING INSUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE TO WARRANT
THE CONVICTION OF THE PETITIONERS.

C. THE CA GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THERE IS CONSPIRACY BETWEEN


THE PETITIONERS DESPITE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE THE
SAME.27

Forthwith, the petitioners fault the CA for affirming their conviction, contending that the testimonies of
the prosecution witnesses were uncorroborated by evidence sufficient to establish the petitioners'
guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Specifically, the petitioners allege the following, to wit:

1. There is no direct assault of a person in authority to speak of because the group of P/C Insp.
Camacho was not in the performance of their duties. The prosecution failed to present the alleged
mission order supporting the intelligence operation conducted by P/C Insp. Camacho and his men in
Barangay Boot. Further, while the police officers were in civilian attire (shorts, slippers and t-shirts)
to go undercover, they were carrying rifles that were not concealed;28

2. The injuries suffered by P02 Carandang, as a result of the assault upon his person while he was
in the act of collecting the empty bullet shells, are also unsupported by evidence. The trial court
simply took the testimony of P02 Carandang as the "biblical truth;"29 and

3. The narration of P02 Carandang on how P/C Insp. Camacho and SP02 Andaya were killed cannot
stand the test of logic. He could not have possibly witnessed the entire event at the precise moment
that he was also assaulted and injured.30

Notably, in their Reply,31 the petitioners incorporated a motion for new trial based on alleged new and
material evidence impugning the credibility of P02 Carandang. They averred that in the case for
Direct Assault with Attempted Homicide which P02 Carandang also filed against Nestor, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 95-401 and pending before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Tanauan,
Batangas, his testimony therein given from October 10, 2007 to July 30, 2008 was different from his
testimony in the case at bar. 32

Ruling of the Court

It is clear that the petitioners basically raise only questions of fact. Nonetheless, the Court gave due
course to the instant petition due to the following reasons:

Firstly, pursuant to the settled rule that in a criminal case an appeal throws the whole case open for
review, 33 the Court, however, finds that this case actually presents a question of law; specifically, on
whether or not the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation against them was properly observed.

Secondly, the petitioners, in the Reply, invite the Court's attention to the subsequent testimony of
P02 Carandang in the later case filed against Nestor. The petitioners assert that said testimony
1âwphi1

should be considered as new and material evidence which thereby makes the findings of the trial
court in the instant case as manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible. Thus, the petitioners moved
for a new trial on the ground of alleged newly discovered evidence without, however, necessarily
withdrawing their petition.

At the outset, the petitioners' motion for new trial is denied.

Clearly, the Rules of Court proscribe the availment of the remedy of new trial on the ground of newly
discovered evidence at this stage of appeal. Section 1 of Rule 121 states:

At any time before a judgment of conviction becomes final, the court may, on motion of the accused
or at its own instance but with the consent of the accused, grant a new trial or reconsideration.

Under Section 14 of Rule 124, a motion for new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence
may be filed at any time after the appeal from the lower court has been perfected and before the
judgment of the CA convicting the appellant becomes final. Further, Rule 45, Section 1 clearly
provides that a motion for new trial is not among the remedies which may be entertained together
with a petition for appeal on certiorari.

More importantly, the alleged newly discovered evidence is not worthy of the Court's consideration.
The petitioners allege that in the MTC proceedings, P02 Carandang failed to positively identify who
actually hit him and/or the persons involved in the killing of P/C Insp. Camacho and SP02 Andaya
which is a complete tum-around from his testimony in the case at bar where he positively identified
the petitioners as the perpetrators. At any rate, aside from this alleged glaring inconsistency of P02
Carandang's testimony, said subsequent testimony is marred by inconsistencies in itself For
instance, in his cross-examination on May 14, 2008, he stated that when he came to his full
consciousness after being unconscious or dizzy for about two minutes, he saw P/C Insp. Camacho
and SP02 Andaya lying down; then, during his re-cross examination on July 30, 2008, he stated that
when he regained consciousness after being unconscious or dizzy for about five minutes, he did not
see where P/C Insp. Camacho or his other teammates were. Still, on numerous occasions, he failed
to categorically answer questions as he could not recall. Considering the value of P02 Carandang's
testimony, he being the only eyewitness to the said fateful event, there would have been no
sufficient evidence to prove the guilt of the petitioners.34

However, the Court cannot agree with the petitioners' contention that the testimony of P02
Carandang before the MTC effectively cast doubt upon his previous testimony or makes it a falsity.
The MTC testimony was given after 10 years from the time P02 Carandang testified in the case at
bar. Considering the length of time that had elapsed and the frailty of human memory, the Court
gives more credence to P02 Carandang's testimony in the instant case which was given after a year
and 10 months from the incident testified upon. In fact, the drama. of the fateful incident appeared so
fresh to P02 Carandang that in the course of his direct examination on April 22, 1997 and while he
was demonstrating how Alfredo embraced P/C Insp. Camacho, he became 'emotional' when asked
about the next thing that happened to P/C Insp. Camacho.35

Jurisprudence dictates that even if a witness says that what he had previously declared is false and
that what he now says is true is not sufficient ground to render the previous testimony as false. No
such reasoning has ever crystallized into a rule of credibility. The rule is that a witness may be
impeached by a previous contradictory statement not that a previous statement is presumed to be
false merely because a witness now says that the same is not true. Indeed, it is a dangerous rule to
set aside a testimony which has been solemnly taken before a court of justice in an open and free
trial and under conditions precisely sought to discourage and forestall falsehood simply because one
of the witnesses who had given the testimony later on changed his mind. Such a rule will make
solemn trials a mockery and place the investigation of the truth at the mercy of unscrupulous
witnesses.36

Thus, the Court finds no reason to give merit to the petitioners' contentions of alleged new evidence.

In Sison v. People of the Philippines,37 the Court has held that:

[W]hen the decision hinges on the credibility of witnesses and their respective testimonies, the trial
court's observations and conclusions deserve great respect and are often accorded finality, unless
there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of weight which the lower court may have
overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated and which, if properly considered, would alter the
result of the case. The trial judge enjoys the advantage of observing the witness' deportment and
manner of testifying, x x x all of which are useful aids for an accurate determination of a witness'
honesty and sincerity. The trial judge, therefore, can better determine if such witness were telling the
truth, being in the ideal position to weigh conflicting testimonies. Unless certain facts of substance
and value were overlooked which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, its assessment
must be respected for it had the opportunity to observe the conduct and demeanor of the witnesses
while testifying and detect if they were lying. The rule finds an even more stringent application where
said findings are sustained by the [CA].38
For this reason alone, the petition must fail.

However, the Court cannot totally affirm the rulings of the courts below. As forthwith stated, an
appeal in a criminal case opens the entire case for review; the Court can correct errors unassigned
in the appeal. The Court finds that the Informations in this case failed to allege all the elements
which constitute the crime charged.

The petitioners are being charged with the complex crime of Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a
Person in Authority with Homicide, defined and penalized under Articles 148 and 249, in relation to
Article 48, of the RPC.

The RPC provides:

Art. 148. Direct assaults. -Any person or persons who, without a public uprising, shall employ force
or intimidation for the attainment of any of the purpose enumerated in defining the crimes of rebellion
and sedition, or shall attack, employ force, or seriously intimidate or resist any person in authority or
any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official duties, or on occasion of such
performance, shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and
a fine not exceeding ₱l,000.00 pesos, when the assault is committed with a weapon or when the
offender is a public officer or employee, or when the offender lays hands upon a person in authority.
If none of these circumstances be present, the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period
and a fine not exceeding ₱500.00 pesos shall be imposed.

Art. 249. Homicide. - Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246, shall kill another
without the attendance of any of the circumstances enumerated in the next preceding article, shall
be deemed guilty of homicide and be punished by reclusion temporal.

Art. 48. Penalty for complex crimes. - When a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave
felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other, the penalty for the most
serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period.

While the elements constituting the crime of Homicide were properly alleged in the two Informations
and were duly established in the trial, the said Informations, however, failed to allege all the
elements constitutive of the applicable form of direct assault. To be more specific, the Informations
do not allege that the offenders/petitioners knew that the ones they were assaulting were agents of a
person in authority, in the exercise of their duty.

Direct assault, a crime against public order, may be committed in two ways: first, by "any person or
persons who, without a public uprising, shall employ force or intimidation for the attainment of any of
the purposes enumerated in defining the crimes of rebellion and sedition"; and second, by any
person or persons who, without a public uprising, "shall attack, employ force, or seriously intimidate
or resist any person in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official
duties, or on occasion of such performance."39 (Citation omitted)

Indubitably, the instant case falls under the second form of direct assault. The following elements
must be present, to wit:

1. That the offender (a) makes an attack, (b) employs force, (c) makes a serious intimidation, or (d)
makes a serious resistance;

2. That the person assaulted is a person in authority or his agent;


3. That at the time of the assault, the person in authority or his agent (a) is engaged in the actual
performance of official duties, or (b) is assaulted by reason of the past performance of official duties;

4. That the offender knows that the one he is assaulting is a person in authority or his agent
in the exercise of his duties; and

5. That there is no public uprising.

In the instant case, the Informations40 alleged the following, to wit:

1. That on or about the 4th day of June 1995, at about 5:00 p.m., in Barangay Boot, Municipality of
Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together, acting in common accord and
mutually helping one another, Nestor while armed with an armalite rifle, with intent to kill and without
any justifiable cause, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot
with the said firearm the victims, SP02 Andaya/P/C Insp. Camacho;

2. That the said victims are bona fide members of the PNP assigned at Tanauan Police Station, and
one of them was the current Chief of Police ofTanauan, Batangas; and

3. That at the time of the incident, they were engaged in the performance of their official duties.

In the course of the trial, the evidence presented sufficiently established the foregoing allegations
including the fact that the petitioners came to know that the victims were agents of a person in
authority, as the latter introduced themselves to be members of the PNP.

Nevertheless, the establishment of the fact that the petitioners came to know that the victims were
agents of a person in authority cannot cure the lack of allegation in the Informations that such fact
was known to the accused which renders the same defective. In addition, neither can this fact be
considered as a generic aggravating circumstance under paragraph 3 of Article 14 of the RPC
for acts committed with insult or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his
rank to justify the imposition of an increased penalty against the petitioners.

As the Court held in People v. Rodil:41

While the evidence definitely demonstrated that appellant knew because the victim, who was in
civilian clothing, told him that he was an agent of a person in authority, he cannot be convicted of the
complex crime of homicide with assault upon an agent of a person in authority, for the simple reason
that the information does not allege the fact that the accused then knew that, before or at the time of
the assault, the victim was an agent of a person in authority. The information simply alleges that
appellant did "attack and stab PC Lt. Guillermo Masana while the latter was in the performance of
his official duties, ... " Such an allegation cannot be an adequate substitute for the essential
averment to justify a conviction of the complex crime, which necessarily requires the imposition of
the maximum period of the penalty prescribed for the graver offense. Like a qualifying circumstance,
such knowledge must be expressly and specifically averred in the information; otherwise, in the
absence of such allegation, the required knowledge, like a qualifying circumstance, although proven,
would only be appreciated as a generic aggravating circumstance. Applying this principle, the attack
on the victim, who was known to the appellant as a peace officer, could be considered only as
aggravating, being "in contempt of/or with insult to public authorities" (Par. [2], Art. XIV of the [RPC],
or as an "insult or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his rank, ... "(Par.
3, Art. XIV, [RPC]).
It is essential that the accused must have knowledge that the person attacked was a person in
authority or his agent in the exercise of his duties, because the accused must have the intention to
offend, injure, or assault the offended party as a person in authority or agent of a person in
authority.42

"The Constitution mandates that the accused, in all criminal prosecutions, shall enjoy the right to be
informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. From this fundamental precept
proceeds the rule that the accused may be convicted only of the crime with which he is charged.
"43 This right is accorded by the Constitution so that the accused can prepare an adequate defense
against the charge against him. Convicting him of a ground not alleged while he is concentrating on
his defense against the ground alleged would plainly be unfair and underhanded. 44 It must be
noted that said constitutional right is implemented by the process of arraignment45 in which the
allegations in the document charging an offense is read and made known to the accused.
Accordingly, a Complaint or Information which does not contain all the elements constituting the
crime charged cannot serve as a means by which said constitutional requirement is satisfied.
Corollarily, the fact that all the elements of the crime were duly proven in trial cannot cure the defect
of a Complaint or Information to serve its constitutional purpose.

Pursuant to the said constitutional precept, the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure requires
that every element of the offense must be alleged in the complaint or information so as to enable the
accused to suitably prepare his defense. Corollarily, qualifying circumstances or generic
aggravating circumstances will not be appreciated by the Court unless alleged in the
Information. This requirement is now laid down in Sections 8 and 9 of Rule 110, to wit:

SEC. 8. Designation of the offense. - The complaint or information shall state the designation of the
offense given by the statute, aver the acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its
qualifying and aggravating circumstances. If there is no designation of the offense, reference shall
be made to the section or subsection of the statute punishing it.

SEC. 9. Cause of the accusation. - The acts or om1ss1ons complained of as constituting the offense
and the qualifying and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language
and not necessarily in the language used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of
common understanding to know what offense is being charged as well as its qualifying and
aggravating circumstances and for the court to pronounce judgment.

The 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure explicitly mandates that qualifying and aggravating
circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language in the complaint or information.
When the law or rules specify certain circumstances that can aggravate an offense or that would
attach to such offense a greater penalty than that ordinarily prescribed, such circumstances must be
both alleged and proven in order to justify the imposition of the increased penalty.46 Due to such
requirement being pro reo, the Court has authorized its retroactive application in favor of even those
charged with felonies committed prior to December 1, 2000 (i.e., the date of the effectivity of the
2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure that embodied the requirement).47

In People v. Flores, Jr., 48 as reiterated in the more recent cases of People v.


Pangilinan49 and People v. Dadulla,50the Court ruled that the constitutional right of the accused to be
informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him cannot be waived for reasons of
public policy. Hence, it is imperative that the complaint or information filed against the accused be
complete to meet its objectives. As such, an indictment must fully state the elements of the specific
offense alleged to have been committed. For an accused cannot be convicted of an offense, even if
duly proven, unless it is alleged or necessarily included in the complaint or information.51 In other
words, the complaint must contain a specific allegation of every fact and circumstance necessary to
constitute the crime charged, the accused being presumed to have no independent knowledge of the
facts that constitute the offense. 52 Under Section 9 of Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules on
Criminal Procedure, an accused's failure to raise an objection to the insufficiency or defect in the
information would not amount to a waiver of any objection based on said ground or irregularity.

Section 9 of Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal procedure reads:

Sec. 9. Failure to move to quash or to allege any ground therefor.-The failure of the accused to
assert any ground of a motion to quash before he pleads to the complaint or information, either
because he did not file a motion to quash or failed to allege the same in said motion, shall be
deemed a waiver of any objections EXCEPT THOSE based in the grounds provided for in
paragraphs (a), (b), (g), and (i) of Section 3 of this Rule.

Indeed, the foregoing provision provides that if an accused fails to assert all the grounds available to
him under Section 3 of Rule 117 in his motion to quash, or if he, altogether, fails to file i motion a
quash - any I objection based on the ground or grounds he failed the raise through a motion to
quash shall be deemed waived, except the following, thus:

SEC. 3. Grounds. - x x x: I

(a) That the facts charged do not constitute an offense;

(b) That the court trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense charged;

x x xx !

(g) That the criminal action or liability has been extinguished; [and] x x xx

(i) That the accused has been previously convicted or acquitted of the offense
charged, or the case against him was dismissed or otherwise terminated without his
express consent.

Therefore, the petitioners can only be convicted of the crime of Homicide instead of the complex
crime of Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in Authority with Homicide due to the simple
reason that the Informations do not sufficiently charge the latter.

[T]he real nature of the criminal charge is determined not from the caption or preamble of the
information nor from the specification of the provision of law alleged to have been violated, they
being conclusions of law, but by the actual recital of facts in the complaint or information ... it is not
the technical name given by the Fiscal appearing in the title of the information that determines the
character of the crime but the facts alleged in the body of the Information. 53

Nevertheless, by reason of the fact that the presence of the aggravating circumstance of acts
committed with insult or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his
rank was proven in the course of the trial, exemplary damages should be awarded in each case in
addition to such other damages that were already awarded by the courts below. Exemplary
damages are justified regardless of whether or not the generic or qualifying aggravating
circumstances are alleged in the information. The grant in this regard should be in the sum of
₱30,000.00.54 In the case of People v. Catubig,55 the Court elucidated on the nature of exemplary
damages, thus:
Also known as "punitive" or "vindictive" damages, exemplary or corrective damages are intended to
serve as a deterrent to serious wrong doings, and as a vindication of undue sufferings and wanton
invasion of the rights of an injured or a punishment for those guilty of outrageous conduct. x x x In
common law, there is preference in the use of exemplary damages when the award is to account for
injury to feelings and for the sense of indignity and humiliation suffered by a person as a result of an
injury that has been maliciously and wantonly inflicted, the theory being that there should be
compensation for the hurt caused by the highly reprehensible conduct of the defendant - associated
with such circumstances as willfulness, wantonness, malice, gross negligence or recklessness,
oppression, insult or fraud or gross fraud - that intensifies the injury. The terms punitive or vindictive
damages are often used to refer to those species of damages that may be awarded against a person
to punish him for his outrageous conduct. In either case, these damages are intended in good
measure to deter the wrongdoer and others like him from similar conduct in the future. 56 (Citations
omitted and emphasis ours)

Accordingly, since the petitioners are all found to be principally liable for the crimes committed as
conspiracy was duly proven, exemplary damages in the amount of ₱30,000.00 should be awarded
against each of them.

WHEREFORE, the judgment is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioners Nestor Guelos,
Rodrigo Guelos, Gil Carandang and SP02 Alfredo Carandang y Prescilla are hereby found GUILTY
of Homicide and sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of EIGHT (8) YEARS and ONE (I) DAY
of prision mayor, as minimum, to FOURTEEN (14) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of reclusion
temporal, as maximum. The fine of ₱ l,000.00 is DELETED. In addition to the amount of damages
and civil indemnity that were already awarded by the courts below to the respective heirs of Police
Chief Inspector Rolando Camacho and Senior Police Officer 2 Estelito Andaya, each of the
petitioners are also directed to pay the amount of ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages to each of the
victims.

SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 218891, September 19, 2016

EDMUND BULAUITAN Y MAUAYAN,* Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari1 are the Decision2 dated March 26, 2015 and the
Resolution3 dated June 17, 2015 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 36117, which affirmed the
Decision4 dated September 20, 2013 of the Regional Trial Court of Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, Branch 5
(RTC) in Criminal Case No. 10086, finding petitioner Edmund Bulauitan y Mauayan (Bulauitan) guilty beyond
reasonable doubt, for violating Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165,5 otherwise known as the
"Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002."

The Facts

The instant case stemmed from an Information6 dated November 7, 2003 filed before the RTC, charging
Bulauitan of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, defined and penalized under Section 11, Article II of RA
9165,7 the accusatory portion of which reads: ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

That on or about October 03, 2003, in the Municipality of Solana, Province of Cagayan and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, [Bulauitan], without authority, did then and there
willfully[,] unlawfully[,] and feloniously have in his possession and under his control and custody three (03)
pieces of heat sealed plastic sachet containing Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug
commonly known as shabu which he kept inside his residence/dwelling at Centro Northeast, Solana,
Cagayan weighing 0.22 grams which dangerous drug was confiscated by elements of the PNP Solana,
Cagayan which conducted a search at the residence/dwelling of the accused by virtue of Search Warrant No.
21 issued by Executive Judge, Honorable VILMA T[.] PAUIG of RTC Branch II, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
which resulted to the confiscation of the above-mentioned dangerous drug as the accused while in
possession thereof do not have necessary permit and/or authority [sic].

CONTRARY TO LAW.8 chanroble svirtual lawlib rary

The prosecution alleged that on October 3, 2003, the Philippine National Police of Solana, Gagayan
constituted a team headed by P/Insp. Kevin Bulayungan (P/Insp. Bulayungan) as leader, with SPO2 Lito
Baccay (SPO2 Baccay) and PO3 Elizalde Tagal (PO3 Tagal) as search officer and investigator, respectively, to
implement a search warrant issued by Executive Judge Vilma T. Pauig to search Bulauitan's residence.
Before going to the target residence, the search team first went to the house of Barangay Chairman Jane
Busilan, who in turn, assigned Kagawad (Kgd.) Jerry Soliva (Kgd. Soliva) and Kgd. Herald de Polonia (Kgd.
Polonia) as search witnesses. Upon arriving at Bulauitan's residence, the search team was met by
Bulauitan's two (2) children and housekeeper, who informed them that Bulauitan was not home. This
notwithstanding, the search team explained to the children and housekeeper the reason for their presence,
prompting the latter to allow them inside the house and conduct the search. SPO2 Baccay then proceeded to
Bulauitan's room and there, discovered three (3) heat-sealed plastic sachets containing white crystalline
substance. Suspecting that the contents are shabu, the search team showed the sachets to the children and
housekeeper and photographed the same. SPO2 Baccay then gave the sachets to P/Insp. Bulayungan, who
in turn, handed them over to PO3 Tagal who wrapped the confiscated items with a piece of paper for
transport to the Solana PNP Station. When Bulauitan arrived at his residence, the search team effected his
arrest and took him to the police station with the seized sachets. Upon arrival thereat, PO3 Tagal prepared
the police blotter and request for laboratory examination, marked the sachets with his initials, and delivered
the same to forensic chemist S/Insp. Myrna Madriaga Tulauan of the PNP Crime Laboratory. A qualitative
examination revealed that the three (3) plastic sachets contained an aggregate of 0.22 gram of shabu.9 chanroble slaw

In his defense, Bulauitan denied owning the sachets allegedly recovered by the search team in his house. He
narrated that in the morning of the fateful day, he went with his wife to Tuguegarao City to tend to their
meat shop. He eventually received a call from his daughter, Maria Bulauitan (Maria), informing him that
policemen are in their house and conducting a search therein, prompting him to immediately go home. Upon
reaching his house, the policemen informed him that they recovered shabu from his room, and thus,
arrested him. Finally, Bulauitan averred that Joseph Juan - the person who executed the affidavit in support
of the application for search warrant — wanted to get even with him as his wife testified against Juan in a
theft case. Upon arraignment, Bulauitan pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.10 chanro bles law

The RTC Ruling

In a Decision11 dated September 20, 2013, the RTC found Bulauitan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime charged, and accordingly, sentenced him to suffer the penalty of twelve (12) years and one (1) day,
as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, two (2) months, and one (1) day, as maximum, and to pay a fine in
the amount of P300,000.00.12 chan roble slaw

The RTC found that Bulauitan constructively possessed the sachets containing shabu as they were found
inside his house where he exercised dominion and control. In this relation, the RTC opined that the
policemen must be accorded the presumption of regularity in the performance of their official duties,
especially in the absence of any evidence from Bulauitan to show otherwise.13 chan robles law

Aggrieved, Bulauitan elevated his conviction before the CA.

The CA Ruling

In a Decision14 dated March 26, 2015, the CA affirmed Bulauitan's conviction. It held that all the elements of
illegal possession of dangerous drugs are present, considering that Bulauitan without any authority
constructively possessed the seized sachets containing shabu as they were found inside his house. The CA
further held that the prosecution had established an unbroken chair, of custody of the seized sachets.
Finally, the CA ruled that the search which yielded the seized sachets was properly implemented as it was
done in the presence of Bulauitan's two (2) children and housekeeper.15 cha nrob leslaw
Aggrieved, Bulauitan moved for reconsideration which the CA denied in a Resolution16 dated June 17, 2015;
hence, this petition.

The Issue Before the Court

The issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not Bulauitan's conviction for illegal possession of
dangerous drugs, defined and penalized under Section 11, Article II of RA 9165, should be upheld.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal is meritorious.

At the outset, it must be stressed that in criminal cases, an appeal throws the entire case wide open for
review and the reviewing tribunal can correct errors, though unassigned in the appealed judgment, or even
reverse the trial court's decision based on grounds other than those that the parties raised as errors. The
appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and renders such court competent to
examine records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the penalty, and cite the proper provision of
the penal law.17 chanro bleslaw

In this light and as will be explained hereunder, the Court is of the view that Bulauitan's conviction must be
set aside.

Section 2,18 Article III of the 1987 Constitution mandates that a search and seizure must be carried out
through or on the strength of a judicial warrant predicated upon the existence of probable
cause, absent which such search and seizure becomes "unreasonable" within the meaning of the
said constitutional provision. To protect the people from unreasonable searches and seizures, Section 3
(2),19 Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that evidence obtained from unreasonable searches
and seizures shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding. In other words,
evidence obtained and confiscated on the occasion of such unreasonable searches and seizures are deemed
tainted and should be excluded for being the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree.20 chanrobles law

It must, however, be clarified that a search warrant21 issued in accordance with the provisions of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure does not give the authorities limitless discretion in implementing the
same as the same Rules provide parameters in the proper conduct of a search. Section 8, Rule 126 of the
aforesaid Rules, states that: ChanRobles Virtualawl ibra ry

SEC. 8. Search of house, room, or premises to be made in presence of two witnesses. — No search of a
house, room or any other premises shall be made except in the presence of the lawful occupant thereof or
any member of his family or in the absence of the latter, two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion
residing in the same locality.
Under this provision, a search under the strength of a warrant is required to be witnessed by the lawful
occupant of the premises sought to be searched. It must be stressed that it is only upon their
absence that their presence may be replaced by two (2) persons of sufficient age and discretion residing in
the same locality. In People v. Go,22 the Court held that a departure from the said mandatory rule - by
preventing the lawful occupant or a member of his family from actually witnessing the search and choosing
two (2) other witnesses observe the search - violates the spirit and letter of the law, and thus, taints the
search with the vice of unreasonableness, rendering the seized articles inadmissible due to the application of
the exclusionary rule, viz.: ChanRoble sVirtu alawlibra ry

As pointed out earlier, the members of the raiding team categorically admitted that the search of the upper
floor, which allegedly resulted in the recovery of the plastic bag containing the shabu, did not take place in
the presence of either the lawful occupant of the premises, i.e. appellant (who was out), or his son Jack Go
(who was handcuffed to a chair on the ground floor). Such a procedure, whereby the witnesses
prescribed by law are prevented from actually observing and monitoring the search of the
premises, violates both the spirit and letter of the law:

chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry xxxx

That the raiding party summoned two barangay kagawads to witness the search at the second floor is of no
moment. The Rules of Court clearly and explicitly establishes a hierarchy among the witnesses in
whose presence the search of the premises must be conducted. Thus, Section 8, Rule 126
provides that the search should be witnessed by "two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion
residing in the same locality" only in the absence of either the lawful occupant of the premises or
any member of his family. Thus, the search of appellant's residence clearly should have been witnessed
by his son Jack Go who was present at the time. The police officers were without discretion to substitute
their choice of witnesses for those prescribed by the law.

xxxx

The raiding team's departure from the procedure mandated by Section 8, Rule 126 of tote Rules
of Court, taken together with the numerous other irregularities attending the search of
appellant's residence, tainted the search with the vice of unreasonableness, thus compelling this
Court to apply the exclusionary rule and declare the seized articles inadmissible in evidence. This
must necessarily be so since it is this Court's solemn duty to be ever watchful for the constitutional rights of
the people, and against any stealthy encroachments thereon. In the oft-quoted language of Judge Learned
Hand: ChanRobles Virtualawl ibra ry

As we understand it, the reason for the exclusion of evidence competent as such, which has been
unlawfully acquired, is that exclusion is the only practical way of enforcing the constitutional
privilege. In earlier times the action of trespass against the offending official may have been protection
enough; but that is true no longer. Only in case the prosecution which itself controls the seizing officials,
knows that it cannot profit by their wrong, will that wrong be repressed.23 (Emphases and underscoring
supplied)
In People v. Del Castillo,24 the Court similarly held that the search of the premises must be witnessed by the
lawful occupant or the family members; otherwise, the search become unreasonable, thus rendering the
seized items inadmissible under the exclusionary rule.

In this case, a judicious perusal of the records reveals that the policemen involved in the search of
Bulauitan's residence — as shown in their own testimonies - did not conduct the search in accordance with
Section 8, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

In his testimony, P/Insp. Bulayungan was adamant that Bulauitan was present when the search was
commenced, to wit: ChanRobles Vi rtualawl ib rary

[Asst. Pros. Frederick D. Aquino (Pros. Aquino)]: And was [Bulauitan] then present when you
implemented the search warrant?

[P/Insp. Bulayungan]: Yes, sir.

xxxx

[Pros. Aquino]: So after showing to the accused a copy of the search warrant, what did the
members of your team do, if any?

[P/Insp. Bulayungan]: We conducted an orderly search at the residence of the accused I


Bulauitan], sir.

xxx

[Atty. Rolando C. Acacio (Atty. Acacio)] So you mean to say that [Bulauitan] was not present when you
went to implement the search warrant?

[P/Insp. Bulayungan]: He was present, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: At what point in time was he present Mr. Witness?

[P/Insp. Bulayungan]: When we introduced ourselves as policemen and tell our purpose of being
there, [Bulauitan] arrived, sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: But at that time that there was a sort of reluctance you know for a fact that the accused was
not in their house?

[P/Insp. Bulayungan]: He was there already, sir.


[Atty. Acacio]: He was there?

[P/Insp. Bulayungan]: Yes sir because before we enter the house, that is the time that [Bulauitan]
was already there after we introduced ourselves as police officers and tell our purpose of being
there [sic].25 (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
cra lawred

However P/Insp. Bulayungan's testimony was belied by that of another member of the search team, PO3
Tagal, who testified that Bulauitan was not in the premises when they conducted the search: ChanRoblesVirtualawli bra ry

[Asst. Pros. Maita Grace Deray-Israel (Pros. Israel)]: And what happened when you reached the residence of
[Bulauitan]

[PO3 Tagal]: The house helper met us together with the two (2) children of [Bulauitan] and we
asked them where is [Bulauitan] and they answered us that [Bulauitan] was out of his house and
he is in Tuguegarao City, Ma'am.

xxxx

[Pros. Israel]: And what happened when you arrived in the house of [Bulauitan]?

[PO3 Tagal]: I asked our team leader [P/Insp. Bulayungan] if we continue [sic] to search the
house of [Bulauitan] considering that the owner of the house is not around, Ma'am.

xxxx

[Pros. Israel]: And what is the reply of this [P/Insp. Bulayungan]?

[PO3 Tagal]: He said that we will continue, Ma'am.

xxxx

[Pros. Israel]: Alright, Mr.Witness, after you have presented that search warrant to the two (2) children of
[Bulauitan], what happened next, if any?

[PO3 Tagal]: We requested them to open the door of their house, Ma'am.

[Pros. Israel]: And they accede [sic]?

[PO3 Tagal]: Yes, Ma'am.

[Pros. Israel]: And after they have opened the door of their house, what happened next?

[PO3 Tagal]: Then we explained to them what is our subject and we requested them to follow us
inside the room of [Bulauitan] together with the two (2) Barangay kagawads, Ma'am. 26 chanroble slaw

x x x (Emphases and underscoring supplied)


While Bulauitan's absence in the search, per se, did not violate Section 8, Rule 126 of the 2000 Rules on
Criminal Procedure, the search team committed other errors which led to such violation. For instance,
Bulauitan's daughter, Maria, was effectively precluded from witnessing the search conducted by SPO2
Baccay in Bulauitan's room as PO3 Tagal kept her in the living room by searching the area and asking her a
lot of questions. Maria's testimony states:
ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

[Atty. Acacio]: And who were with you then at the house at that time?

[Maria]: I was alone, sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: And when [the police officers] asked you the whereabouts of your father what did you tell
them?

[Maria]: I told them that they were in Tuguegarao selling, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And then when you told them that your father is in Tuguegarao selling, what did the
policemen do?

[Maria]: They said that they have a search warrant against my father, sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: When the policemen told you that there is a search warrant for your father, what did they
do?

[Maria]: I was not supposed to let them enter the house because my father was not around but they said
that they will still enter because they have a search warrant for my father otherwise they will force to open
the door, sir [sic].

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: And what did you do when they told you that even without your father we still have to search
the house?

[Maria]: I let them entered [sic] the house, sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: When these three policemen were allowed access in the house by you, what did they do?

[Maria]: When they were at the receiving room [SPO2 Baccay] read the contents of the search warrant and
asked me and to confirm the room of my father, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And when [SPO2 Baccay] did that, what did you do?

[Maria]: I told them that this is the room of my father, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And after confirming that indeed that is the room of your father, what did they do?

[Maria]: [SPO2 Baccay] and the other policemen went inside the room while [PO3 Tagal] was left
at the receiving room, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: Now, what was [PO3 Tagal] doing when he stayed in the sala or receiving room?

[Maria]: He was searching our belongings and at the same time inquiring from me, sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: Now, when you were in the sala were you able to observe what was happening inside the
room of your parents?

[Maria]: No, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And why can't you see what was happening inside the room of your parents?

[Maria]: Because the door of the room was then half closed, sir.27 (Emphases and underscoring
supplied)
Maria's direct testimony was further bolstered by her consistency during cross examination, to wit: ChanRobles Vi rtualawl ib rary

[Pros. Ronnel B. Nicolas (Pros. Nicolas)]: In other words, madam witness, you confirm that when the
policemen conducted a search, the search was conducted in the presence of these two barangay
councilmen?

[Maria]: Yes they were present but they were outside the house, sir.

xxx

[Pros. Nicolas]: You also made mention madam witness that when the search was being conducted one of
the policemen remained in the sala and conducted search therein, is it not?
[Maria]: Yes, sir.

[Pros. Nicolas]: And in fact you were present at the time the policemen conducting a search in the sala?
[sic]

[Maria]: Yes, sir.

[Pros. Nicolas]: You also made mention madam witness that two policemen conducted search inside the
room of your father, is it not? [sic]

[Maria]: Yes, sir.

[Pros. Nicolas]: And you also made mention that you were not able to actually see them searching because
the door leading to the room of your father was half closed, is it not?

[Maria]: Yes, sir.

[Pros. Nicolas]: And of course you just opted to stay in the sala even you had the opportunity to enter the
room of 3 our parents if you chose it, is it not? [sic]

[Maria]: Because while [PO3 Tagal] was conducting search he had so many questions that I need
to answer, sir. [sic]

[Pros. Nicolas]: And definitely madam witness nobody prevented you to enter the room of your father at the
time the policemen conducted the search inside the room of your parents?

[Maria]: I was supposed to go with [SPO2 Baccay] inside the room of my parents but [PO3 Tagal]
talked to me so we remained in the sala (receiving room), sir.28(Emphases and underscoring
supplied)
Worse, the search team even instructed Maria to contact her father via telephone, which she could only do
by leaving their residence and going to the house of a certain Dr. Romeo Bago (Dr. Bago) to use the
telephone therein. It was only after her return to their residence that SPO2 Baccay announced that they
have allegedly found shabu in Bulauitan's room: ChanRoblesVirtualawl ibra ry

[Atty. Acacio]: Now, what did you do when they told you that you contact your father [through] telephone?

[Maria]: I left our house and went to the house of [Dr. Bago], sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: And what happened when you were able to contact the phone number at the stall of your
father?

[Maria]: When the call rang the owner of the phone and then she let me waited and I was able to talk to my
mother, sir [sic].

[Atty. Acacio]: And what did you tell your mother?

[Maria]: When I was able to talk to my mother I told her to let my father to go home because policemen
were there inside the house, sir [sic].

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: And what happened when you went home?

[Maria]: When I was able to reach our house I saw [PO3 Tagal] and he asked from me if I was able to
contact my father, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And what did you tell him?

[Maria]: I told him that I was able to talk to my mother and she will ask my father to go home, sir.
[Atty. Acacio]: And after telling that to [PO3 Tagal] what happened next?

[Maria]: [PO3 Tagal] told to [SPO2 Baccay] to enter inside and then we went inside the house, sir. [sic]

[Atty. Acacio]: And when you entered to the house, what happened next? [sic]

[Maria]: When we reached the receiving room, [SPO2 Baccay] said that they found something, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And where was [SPO2 Baccay] when he made that announcement that he found something?

[Maria]: He was inside the room, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And at that time where were you?

[Maria]: I was at the receiving room, sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: And did your father finally arrive?

[Maria]: Yes, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: Where were you when your father arrived?

[Maria]: I was outside of our house, sir.29 (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
The foregoing statements were corroborated by Kgd. Soliva's testimony, which essentially stated that: (a)
Bulauitan was not present when the search was conducted; (b) Maria wasn't able to witness the conduct of
such search; and (c) even he and Kgd. Polonia - the two (2) witnesses designated by the barangay
chairman - did not witness the search as they remained outside Bulauitan's residence: ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

[Atty. Acacio]: And what happened when you reached the house of [Bulauitan]?

[Kgd. Soliva]: They [the police officers and the PDEA agents] knocked at the door of the house of
[Bulauitan] and the door was opened by the daughter of [Bulauitan], sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: And what was the response of the daughter of [Bulauitan] when asked as to his
whereabouts?

[Kgd. Soliva]: She answered that they were at the public market, sir.

[Atty. Acacio]: And after that, what happened next?

[Kgd. Soliva]: They sent the daughter to contact her father, sir.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: While the members of the police and the PDEA were inside the house of [Bulauitan], what
transpired thereafter, if any?

xxxx

[Kgd. Soliva]: I was surprised when they said that they seized shabu inside the house, sir.

xxxx

[Court]: When the PDEA and the police operatives conducted a search, you were outside?

[Kgd. Soliva]: Yes, your Honor.

[Court]: And when the police authorities were able to find what they were looking for you did not see how
they find [sic] it?
[Kgd. Soliva]: No more your Honor because when I saw them they were already holding the seized
item.

[Court]: And then the first time you saw the seized item, was that when you enter [sic] the house after they
were already seized, is that right?

[Kgd. Soliva]: Yes, your Honor.

xxxx

Q: And when you entered the house for the first time after you heard that something was seized inside the
house, did you see already [Bulauitan] inside the house?

[Kgd. Soliva]: No, your honor.

xxxx

[Atty. Acacio]: After you got out of the house together with the members of the police and the PDEA and
you went all outside of the house, did you see [Buluaitan]?

xxxx

[Kgd. Soliva]: No, sir.30 (Emphases and underscoring supplied)


The testimonies given in the case at bar ultimately prove that: (a) Bulauitan was not in his residence when
the search was conducted; (b) his daughter, Maria, was not able to witness SPO2 Baccay's search of
Bulauitan's room as PO3 Tagal kept her in the living room and even instructed her to leave the house to
contact her parents; and (c) Kgd. Soliva and Kgd. Polonia neither witnessed the search as they remained
outside Bulauitan's residence. Accordingly, the search conducted therein by the search team fell way below
the standard mandated by Section 8, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, and thus deemed
unreasonable within the purview of the exclusionary rule of the 1987 Constitution. As a consequence, the
three (3) plastic sachets containing an aggregate amount of 0.22 gram of shaburecovered therefrom are
inadmissible in evidence for being the proverbial fruit of the poisonous tree. Since the confiscated shabu is
the very corpus delicti of the crime charged,31 Bulauitan must necessarily be acquitted and exonerated from
all criminal liability.

As a final note, it is fitting to mention that "[t]he Court strongly supports the campaign of the government
against drug addiction and commends the efforts of our law enforcement officers against those who would
inflict this malediction upon our people, especially the susceptible youth. But as demanding as this campaign
may be, it cannot be more so than the compulsions of the Bill of Rights for the protection of liberty of every
individual in the realm, including the basest of criminals. The Constitution covers with the mantle of its
protection the innocent and the guilty alike against any manner of high-handedness from the authorities,
however praiseworthy their intentions. Those who are supposed to enforce the law are not justified in
disregarding the right of the individual in the name of order. Order is too high a price for the loss of liberty.
As Justice Holmes [once said,] x x x 'I think it is less evil that some criminals should escape than that the
government should play an ignoble part.' It is simply not allowed in the free society to violate a law to
enforce another, especially if the law violated is the Constitution itself."32
chan roble slaw

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The Decision dated March 26, 2015 and the Resolution dated June
17, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 36117 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
Accordingly, petitioner Edmund Bulauitan y Mauayan is ACQUITTED of the crime charged.

SO ORDERED. chanRoblesvirt ual Lawlib rary