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[ G.R. No. 103323, January 21, 1993 ]

RAMON S. PAULIN, ANGELA F. PAULIN AND JOSE BACHO, PETITIONERS
 VS.
HON. CELSO M. GIMENEZ (IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRESIDING JUDGE OF RTC, CEBU CITY, BRANCH 5), HON. MAMERTO Y. COLIFLORES (IN HIS CAPACITY AS JUDGE OF THE MTC OF TALISAY, BRANCH IX, CEBU); CASTRO BELME, AND THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENTS.

FACTS:         The petition before us arose from a November 10, 1989 incident when the jeep ridden by private respondent and Barangay Captain Castro Belme Mabuyo was overtaken by the Nissan Patrol ridden by herein petitioners, the spouses Dr. Ramon and Angela Paulin, smothering the former with dust.

Later, while Mabuyo was investigating some problems of his constituents in Kilawan at Tanke, Cebu, Dr. Ramon Paulin and his wife. Angie, allegedly pointed their guns at Mabuyo while Jose Bacho, a companion of the spouses, acted as back-up. Mabuyo instructed one of the barangay tanods to call the police in Talisay and the rest to block the exit of the spouses and their lone companion.

Sensing that they were outnumbered, the spouses put their guns down and upon the arrival of the police officers, they were brought to the police station. On the same date, Station Commander P/Lt. Ariel Palcuto filed a complaint for "grave threats," against the spouses Paulin and Bacho, herein petitioners, which was later docketed as Criminal Case No. 5204. On November 20, 1989, the station commander filed a complaint for, "grave threats and oral defamation," against private respondent Mabuyo, docketed as Criminal Case No. 5213.

The cases were jointly tried and, on June 13, 1990, the Municipal Trial Court of Talisay, Cebu (Branch IX), acting on a motion of the spouses Paulin and Jose Bacho, dismissed Criminal Case No. 5204. On July 2, 1990, Mabuyo filed a, "Motion for Reconsideration," of the said dismissal order which the court granted in a resolution dated July 3, 1990.

Not satisfied with the resolution of respondent Judge Mamerto Y. Coliflores, petitioners filed on July 31, 1990 a petition for "certiorari, prohibition, damages, with relief for preliminary injunction and the issuance of a temporary restraining order" with the Regional Trial Court of the Seventh Judicial Region, which was thereafter docketed as Special Civil Action No. CEB-9207 and later re-raffled to Branch 5 stationed in Cebu City presided over by respondent Judge Celso M. Gimenez, who dismissed the petition in a decision dated December 19, 1991. The decretal portion of the decision states:
"All the foregoing considered, for lack of merit and for being a prohibited pleading under the Rule on Summary Procedure, as revised, the instant petition is hereby dismissed. Public respondent is hereby ordered to proceed with the trial of Crim. Case Nos. 5204 and 5213 and to decide both cases on their merits within the period provided under the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure. The preliminary injunction heretofore issued dated May 9, 1991, is hereby lifted and set aside.” (p. 118, Rollo.)
Still not contented, petitioners have now resorted to the instant petition, arguing that (a) the decision of the municipal trial court dated June 13, 1990 dismissing the case against them was a judgment of acquittal, and may no longer be set aside without violating petitioners' right against double jeopardy; and (b) the regional trial court, in dismissing the petition in CEB-9207 abused its discretion as it ignored petitioners’ right against double jeopardy.

ISSUE:           Wether or not the municipal trial court's dismissal of Criminal Case No. 5204 against petitioners precludes a subsequent reconsideration or reversal of such dismissal as the same would violate petitioners' right against double jeopardy.

HELD:           For double jeopardy to be validly invoked by petitioners, the following requisites must have been obtained in the original prosecution:
a)      a valid complaint or information;
b)      a competent court;
c)      the defendant had pleaded to the charge; and
d) the defendant was acquitted, or convicted, or the case against him was dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent (People v. Obsania, 23 SCRA 1249 [1968]: Caes v. IAC, 179 SCRA 54 [1989]).

 “. . . However, an appeal by the pro­secution from the order of dismissal (of the criminal case) by the trial court shall not constitute double jeopardy if (1) the dismissal is made upon motion, or with the express consent of the defendant; (2) the dismissal is not an acquittal or based upon consideration of the evidence or of the merits of the case; and (3) the question to be passed upon by the appellate court is purely legal so that should the dismissal be found incorrect, the case would have to be remanded to the court of origin for further proceedings, to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant." (People v. Villalon, 192 SCRA 521 [1990], at p. 529.)

For double jeopardy to attach, the dismissal of the case must be without the express consent of the accused (People v. Gines, 197 SCRA 481 [1991]). Where the dismissal was ordered upon motion or with the express assent of the accused, he is deemed to have waived his protection against double jeopardy. In the case at bar, the dismissal was granted upon motion of petitioners. Double jeopardy thus did not attach. This doctrine of waiver of double jeopardy was examined and formally introduced in People v. Salico (84 Phil. 722 [1949]), where Justice Felicisimo Feria stated:
"... when the case is dismissed, with the express consent of the defendant, the dismissal will not be a bar to another prosecution for the same offense; because, his action in having the case dismissed constitutes a waiver of his constitutional right or privi­lege, for the reason that he thereby prevents the court from proceeding to the trial on the merits and rendering a judgment of conviction against him."

Jurisprudence recognizes exceptional instances when the dismissal may be held to be final, disposing of the case once and for all even if the dismissal was made on motion of the accused himself, to wit:
1.      Where the dismissal is based on a demurrer to evidence filed by the accused after the prosecution has rested, which has the effect of a judgment on the merits and operates as an acquittal.
2. Where the dismissal is made, also on motion of the accused, because of the denial of his right to a speedy trial which is in effect a failure to prosecute. (Caes v. IAC, 179 SCRA 54 [1989] at pp. 60-61.)

Petitioners' motion to dismiss premised on procedural grounds cannot be considered a demurrer to evidence nor was the dismissal sought by them predicated on the denial of their right to speedy trial. Hence, the exceptions mentioned find no application in the instant case, especially so because when the municipal trial court dismissed the case upon petitioners' motion, the prosecution still had to present several witnesses.

The municipal trial court thus did not violate the rule on double jeopardy when it set aside the order of dismissal for the reception of further evidence by the prosecution because it merely corrected its error when it prematurely terminated and dismissed the case without giving the prosecution the right to complete the presentation of its evidence. It follows then that the decision of respondent regional trial court sustaining that of the court of origin cannot be said to be tainted with grave abuse of discretion.



[ G.R. NO. 151912, September 26, 2005 ]

PHILIPPINE SAVINGS BANK, PETITIONER
VS.
SPOUSES PEDRITO BERMOY AND GLORIA BERMOY, RESPONDENTS.


FACTS:         Based on a complaint filed by petitioner Philippine Savings Bank ("petitioner"), respondents Pedrito and Gloria Bermoy ("respondent spouses") were charged with estafa thru falsification of a public document in the Regional Trial Court, Manila, Branch 38 ("trial court").  Upon arraignment, respondent spouses pleaded "not guilty" to the charge.

The trial court set the pre-trial on 11 June 1997. After the hearing on that day, the trial court issued the following Order ("11 June 1997 Order"):

When the case was called for hearing, Atty. Maria Concepcion Puruganan, who entered her appearance as private prosecutor and Atty. Albino Achas, defense counsel, appeared and upon their stipulation, they admitted the jurisdiction of the Court and the identities of the accused.

Upon motion of Atty. Puruganan, private prosecutor, joined by public prosecutor Antonio Israel, without objection from Atty. Achas, let the initial hearing for the reception of the evidence for the prosecution be set on June 18, 1997 at 8:30 a.m., as previously scheduled.[4] (Emphasis supplied)
The minutes of the hearing, which respondent spouses signed, bore the following handwritten notation under the heading "remarks": "Postponed. Upon joint agreement of counsels."[5] This was the only notation made under "remarks." Nowhere in the one-page minutes of the hearing did it state that any of the accused made any stipulation or admission.

During the hearings of 18 June 1997 and 3 September 1997, the prosecution presented the testimonies of Felisa Crisostomo ("Crisostomo"), manager of petitioner's Libertad Manila Branch, and one Hermenigildo Caluag ("Caluag"), also an employee of petitioner. Crisostomo testified that she came to know respondent spouses when they applied for a loan in February 1994. Crisostomo stated that respondent spouses presented to her Transfer Certificate Title No. 207434 ("TCT No. 207434") issued in their name over a parcel of land in Malate, Manila ("Malate lot") which they offered as collateral for the loan. Crisostomo further stated after the approval of respondent spouses' loan application, respondent spouses executed in her presence a real estate mortgage of the Malate lot in favor of petitioner as security for their loan. Caluag testified that he was tasked to register petitioner's certificate of sale over the Malate lot[6] with the Register of Deeds of Manila but the latter refused to do so because the Malate lot had been mortgaged and sold to the spouses Edgar and Elvira Alamo.[7]

After presenting the testimonies of Crisostomo and Caluag, the prosecution rested its case.

Instead of presenting its evidence, the defense filed, with leave of court, a demurrer to evidence on the ground that the prosecution failed to identify respondent spouses as the accused in Criminal Case No. 96-154193. The prosecution, through the private prosecutor, opposed the motion claiming that Crisostomo and Calang had identified respondent spouses. The prosecution also pointed out that as borne by the 11 June 1997 Order, respondent spouses stipulated on their identity during the pre-trial.[8]

The Ruling of the Trial Court
WHEREFORE, for insufficiency of evidence, let this case be, as the same is hereby, DISMISSED and accused Pedrito Bermoy and Gloria Visconde [Bermoy] are, as they are hereby, acquitted of the crime charged, with costs de oficio.[9]
The prosecution, again through the private prosecutor, sought reconsideration but the trial court denied its motion in the Order of 28 May 1998.

Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals. The Solicitor General joined the petition.

The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
In its Decision dated 14 November 2001, the Court of Appeals, as earlier stated, denied the petition. It held:
In support of the demurrer to evidence, the defense counsel argued that neither of the witnesses presented by the prosecution was able to identify the accused as allegedly those who committed the crime they were prosecuted for.

The testimony proves only one thing: that a couple purporting to be the Bermoy spouses presented themselves to the Bank and obtained the loan. Whether they are the same husband and wife accused in this case for Estafa is a different story. The failure of the prosecution to point in open court to the persons of the accused as the same persons who presented themselves to the Bank is a fatal omission. They could be impostors who, armed with the fake title, presented themselves to the Bank as the persons named in the title. The prosecution goofed. Had the witnesses been asked to point to the two accused as the same couple who appeared before the Bank to obtain the loan, there would have been no doubt on their criminal liability.

True, there is no standard form provided by law [for] identifying the accused. Jurisprudence and trial practice show that the accused is usually identified by the witnesses, prompted by the counsel, by either pointing at him or stepping down the witness' stand and tapping him on the shoulder, or by means of photographs. The trial court correctly pointed this out. How else can identification be done, it may be asked.

The petitioner also argues that "the identities of private [respondents] were clearly established as a result of the stipulation by and between the prosecution (thru the private prosecutor) and the defense." It insists that the Order dated June 11, 1997, is sufficient admission by the accused as to their identities, and [was] allegedly signed by them and their counsel as required under Section 2 of Rule 118 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure. There is no merit to this argument. If ever stipulations were made on June 11, 1997, these must be made in writing, which must be signed by the accused and counsel as their conformity to such stipulations. The records, however, show that the Order dated June 11, 1997, merely stated what transpired during that particular hearing and what the counsels signed was the minutes for the same hearing. Hence, the identities of the accused were not stipulated upon for failure to comply with the requirements under the Rules of Court. The trial court correctly ruled that "there [was] nothing xxx which would even hint that a stipulation of facts ever took place."
xxx

In fine, we are more than convinced that the trial court was correct in granting the demurrer to evidence for insufficiency of evidence on account of lack of proper identification of the accused. But even assuming that the trial court erred, the acquittal of the accused can no longer be reviewed either on appeal or on petition for certiorari for it would violate the right of the accused against double jeopardy. Xxx

In the case at bench, it is clear that this petition seeks to review the judgment of the trial court, which already had jurisdiction over the subject matter and of the persons of this case. The trial court had jurisdiction to resolve the demurrer to evidence filed by the accused, either by denying it or by dismissing the case for lack of sufficient evidence. If the demurrer is granted, resulting [in] the dismissal of the criminal case and the acquittal of the accused, this can no longer be reviewed unless it can be shown that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction. In this case, assuming the trial court committed an error, the petitioner has not shown that it committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack [or] excess xxx of jurisdiction. The error, if any, is merely an error of judgment.[10]

Petitioner sought reconsideration claiming that the Court of Appeals contradicted itself when it held, on one hand, that the trial court's error did not amount to grave abuse of discretion and stated, on the other hand, that any error committed by the trial court can no longer be reviewed without violating respondent spouses' right against double jeopardy. Petitioner also contended, for the first time, that it is the trial court's duty to insure that the accused sign the pre-trial order or agreement embodying respondent spouses' admissions and that its failure to do so should not be taken against the prosecution.

The Court of Appeals denied petitioner's motion in the Resolution of 24 January 2002.

In its Decision dated 14 November 2001, the Court of Appeals, as earlier stated, denied the petition. It held:
In support of the demurrer to evidence, the defense counsel argued that neither of the witnesses presented by the prosecution was able to identify the accused as allegedly those who committed the crime they were prosecuted for.

ISSUE:           Whether or not Double Jeopardy has already attached in this case.

HELD:                       Petition has no merit.

Paragraph 1, Section 7, Rule 117 ("Section 7") of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure[14] on double jeopardy provides:
Former conviction or acquittal; double jeopardy. — When an accused has been convicted or acquitted, or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a valid complaint or information or other formal charge sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction and after the accused had pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case shall be a bar to another prosecution for the offense charged, or for any attempt to commit the same or frustration thereof, or for any offense which necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the former complaint or information.

For double jeopardy to apply, Section 7 requires the following elements in the first criminal case:
(a)
The complaint or information or other formal charge was sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction;
(b)
The court had jurisdiction;
(c)
The accused had been arraigned and had pleaded; and
(d)
He was convicted or acquitted or the case was dismissed without his express consent.[15]

On the last element, the rule is that a dismissal with the express consent or upon motion of the accused does not result in double jeopardy. However, this rule is subject to two exceptions, namely, if the dismissal is based on insufficiency of evidence or on the denial of the right to speedy trial.[16] A dismissal upon demurrer to evidence falls under the first exception.[17] Since such dismissal is based on the merits, it amounts to an acquittal.[18]

As the Court of Appeals correctly held, the elements required in Section 7 were all present in Criminal Case No. 96-154193. Thus, the Information for estafa through falsification of a public document against respondent spouses was sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction. The trial court had jurisdiction over the case and the persons of respondent spouses. Respondent spouses were arraigned during which they entered "not guilty" pleas. Finally, Criminal Case No. 96-154193 was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence. Consequently, the right not to be placed twice in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense became vested on respondent spouses.

The right against double jeopardy can be invoked if (a) the accused is charged with the same offense in two separate pending cases, or (b) the accused is prosecuted anew for the same offense after he had been convicted or acquitted of such offense, or (c) the prosecution appeals from a judgment in the same case.[19] The last is based on Section 2, Rule 122 of the Rules of Court[20] which provides that "[a]ny party may appeal from a final judgment or order, except if the accused would be placed thereby in double jeopardy."

Here, petitioner seeks a review of the 21 April 1998 Order dismissing Criminal Case No. 96-154193 for insufficiency of evidence. It is in effect appealing from a judgment of acquittal. By mandate of the Constitution[21] and Section 7, the courts are barred from entertaining such appeal as it seeks an inquiry into the merits of the dismissal. Thus, we held in an earlier case:

In terms of substantive law, the Court will not pass upon the propriety of the order granting the Demurrer to Evidence on the ground of insufficiency of evidence and the consequent acquittal of the accused, as it will place the latter in double jeopardy. Generally, the dismissal of a criminal case resulting in acquittal made with the express consent of the accused or upon his own motion will not place the accused in double jeopardy. However, this rule admits of two exceptions, namely: insufficiency of evidence and denial of the right to a speedy trial xxx In the case before us, the resolution of the Demurrer to Evidence was based on the ground of insufficiency of evidence xxx Hence, it clearly falls under one of the admitted exceptions to the rule. Double jeopardy therefore, applies to this case and this Court is constitutionally barred from reviewing the order acquitting the accused.[22] (Emphasis supplied)

It is axiomatic that on the basis of humanity, fairness and justice, an acquitted defendant is entitled to the right of repose as a direct consequence of the finality of his acquittal. The philosophy underlying this rule establishing the absolute nature of acquittals is "part of the paramount importance criminal justice system attaches to the protection of the innocent against wrongful conviction." The interest in the finality-of-acquittal rule, confined exclusively to verdicts of not guilty, is easy to understand: it is a need for "repose," a desire to know the exact extent of one's liability. With this right of repose, the criminal justice system has built in a protection to insure that the innocent, even those whose innocence rests upon a jury's leniency, will not be found guilty in a subsequent proceeding.

Related to his right of repose is the defendant's interest in his right to have his trial completed by a particular tribunal. xxx [S]ociety's awareness of the heavy personal strain which the criminal trial represents for the individual defendant is manifested in the willingness to limit Government to a single criminal proceeding to vindicate its very vital interest in enforcement of criminal laws. The ultimate goal is prevention of government oppression; the goal finds its voice in the finality of the initial proceeding. As observed in Lockhart v. Nelson, "(t)he fundamental tenet animating the Double Jeopardy Clause is that the State should not be able to oppress individuals through the abuse of the criminal process." Because the innocence of the accused has been confirmed by a final judgment, the Constitution conclusively presumes that a second trial would be unfair.

Petitioner, together with the Solicitor General, contends that the Court can inquire into the merits of the acquittal of respondent spouses because the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 96-154193 was void. They contend that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it disregarded evidence allegedly proving respondent spouses' identity.[24]

The contention has no merit. To be sure, the rule barring appeals from judgments of acquittal admits of an exception. Such, however, is narrowly drawn and is limited to the case where the trial court "act[ed] with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction due to a violation of due process i.e. the prosecution was denied the opportunity to present its case xxx or that the trial was a sham xxx."[25]

None of these circumstances exists here. There is no dispute that the prosecution, through petitioner's counsel as private prosecutor, was afforded its day in court. Neither is there any question that the proceedings in the trial court were genuine. What petitioner points to as basis for the trial court's alleged grave abuse of discretion really concerns its appreciation of the evidence. However, as the Court of Appeals correctly held, any error committed by the trial court on this point can only be an error of judgment and not of jurisdiction. What this Court held in Central Bank v. Court of Appeals[26] applies with equal force here —

Section 2 of Rule 122 of the Rules of Court provides that "the People of the Philippines cannot appeal if the defendant would be placed thereby in double jeopardy." The argument that the judgment is tainted with grave abuse of discretion and therefore, null and void, is flawed because whatever error may have been committed by the lower court was merely an error of judgment and not of jurisdiction. It did not affect the intrinsic validity of the decision. This is the kind of error that can no longer be rectified on appeal by the prosecution no matter how obvious the error may be xxx. (Emphasis supplied)



G.R. Nos. L-26915-18, March 30, 1982

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
VS.
SERGIO BALADJAY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.


FACTS:         Four criminal cases were filed against Sergio Baladjay and others in the municipal court (now city court) of Ozamiz City, to wit:
(1) Criminal Case No. 3890 for illegal possession of instruments for committing counterfeiting or falsification allegedly committed on December 6, 1954 and filed also on December 6, 1954.
(2) Criminal Case No. 3900 for estafa committed on June 5, 1953 and filed on December 24, 1954.
(3) Criminal Case No. 3993 for estafa committed on August 14, 1953 and filed on January 3, 1955.
(4) Criminal Case No. 4160 for theft committed on August 14, 1953 and filed on January 31, 1955 (p. 19, Rollo).
After the corresponding preliminary examination and waiver of the second stage of the preliminary investigation, the cases were elevated to the Court of First Instance. Only Baladjay was available for trial. His co-accused either were not arrested or had jumped bail. Baladjay pleaded not guilty upon arraignment. The four cases were heard jointly.

The hearing started on June 20, 1962. No determined effort was made by the prosecution to finish with its evidence as shown by the fact that the trial court in its order of April 21, 1965 noted that "despite of the length of time since these cases have been (were) filed circa 1955, the prosecution is still unprepared".

On January 24, 1966, when the four cases were called for hearing, accused was ready for trial but no one appeared for the prosecution. The city fiscal had sent a telegraphic motion for postponement. Judge Mariano A. Zosa issued four separate orders in open court dismissing the four cases "provisionally".

In the identical orders issued in Criminal Cases Nos. 3890 and 3900, Judge Zosa in dismissing the two cases noted that they had been pending since December 6, 1954 and the prosecution had done nothing to finish its evidence; that the city fiscal was negligent and that accused Baladjay was ready for trial, opposed the post­ponement and moved for the dismissal of the cases.

In Criminal Case No. 3993, Judge Zosa provisionally dismissed the case because the delay in its prosecution was attributable to the "continued unpreparedness of the prosecution" and the fiscal's motion for postponement was flimsy. Judge Zosa noted that accused Baladjay was present and ready for trial.

In the fourth case, Criminal Case No. 4160, Judge Zosa provisionally dismissed the case because Baladjay insisted on his right to a speedy trial and he had opposed the fiscal's telegraphic motion for postponement.

The prosecution moved for the reconsideration of the four dismissal orders on the ground that on the date of hearing no assist­ant fiscal was available to appear thereat and that the city fiscal had to appear in a case in Ozamiz City and could not, therefore, appear in Oroquieta City. Baladjay opposed the motion.
Judge Zosa in his order dated April 20, 1966 reconsidered the four orders of dismissal and reinstated the four cases.

ISSUE:           Whether or not the trial court's order reinstating four criminal cases, which it had provisionally dismissed because of the delay in prosecuting them and because the fiscal was not ready when the cases were called for hearing, placed the accused in double jeopardy.

HELD:           The Solicitor General conceded that "in the interest of justice" the appeal may be treated as an original action for certiorari. Indeed, Baladjay's 20-page brief with its 36-page appendix containing the trial court's orders and the motions for reconsidera­tion and other pleadings may in itself be treated as a petition for certiorari and prohibition which presents squarely the issue of whether the trial court committed a grave abuse of discretion in reinstating the four criminal cases after it had dismissed them on the ground of failure to prosecute and the constitutional right of the accused to a speedy trial.

We hold that the four dismissal orders, although provi­sional in character, which were issued upon motion of the accused (after the case had been pending for more than eleven years without the prosecution being able to finish the presentation of its evidence) and on the basis of his right to a speedy trial placed him in jeopardy. The dismissal was equivalent to an acquittal. The reinstatement of the cases would place him in double jeopardy




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