Sunday, October 14, 2012

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G.R. NO. 157472, SEPTEMBER 28, 2007

On July 4, 2002, an Information for Homicide was filed in the RTC against petitioner Jose M. Pacoy Upon arraignment, petitioner, duly assisted by counsel de parte, pleaded not guilty to the charge of Homicide. However, on the same day and after the arraignment, the respondent judge issued another Order directing the trial prosecutor to correct and amend the Information to Murder in view of the aggravating circumstance of disregard of rank alleged in the Information which public respondent registered as having qualified the crime to Murder. Acting upon such Order, the prosecutor entered his amendment by crossing out the word “Homicide” and instead wrote the word “Murder” in the caption and in the opening paragraph of the Information. The accusatory portion remained exactly the same as that of the original Information for Homicide.

Petitioner filed a Motion to Inhibit with attached Motion for Reconsideration. In his Motion to Inhibit, he alleged that the respondent judge exercised jurisdiction in an arbitrary, capricious and partial manner in mandating the amendment of the charge from Homicide to Murder in disregard of the provisions of the law and existing jurisprudence.


Whether or not the respondent judge gravely abused his discretion and exceeds his jurisdiction in ordering the amendment the information from homicide  to murder?


Respondent judge did not commit any grave abuse of discretion.

A reading of the Order dated December 18, 2002 showed that the respondent judge granted petitioner's motion for reconsideration, not on the ground that double jeopardy exists, but on his realization that “disregard of rank” is a generic aggravating circumstance which does not qualify the killing of the victim to murder. Thus, he rightly corrected himself by reinstating the original Information for Homicide. The requisite of double jeopardy that the first jeopardy must have attached prior to the second is not present, considering that petitioner was neither convicted nor acquitted; nor was the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED, there being no grave abuse of discretion committed by respondent Judge.

G.R. No. 172716 November 17, 2010 


Following a vehicular collision in August 2004, petitioner Jason Ivler (petitioner) was charged before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasig City (MTC), with two separate offenses: (1) Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries for injuries sustained by respondent Evangeline L. Ponce (respondent Ponce); and (2) Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property for the death of respondent Ponce’s husband Nestor C. Ponce and damage to the spouses Ponce’s vehicle. 

Petitioner posted bail for his temporary release in both cases. On 2004, petitioner pleaded guilty to the charge on the first delict and was meted out the penalty of public censure. Invoking this conviction, petitioner moved to quash the Information for the second delict for placing him in jeopardy of second punishment for the same offense of reckless imprudence.
The MTC refused quashal, finding no identity of offenses in the two cases. 
The petitioner elevated the matter to the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City (RTC), in a petition for certiorari while Ivler sought from the MTC the suspension of proceedings in criminal case, including the arraignment his arraignment as a prejudicial question.
Without acting on petitioner’s motion, the MTC proceeded with the arraignment and, because of petitioner’s absence, cancelled his bail and ordered his arrest. 
Seven days later, the MTC issued a resolution denying petitioner’s motion to suspend proceedings and postponing his arraignment until after his arrest. Petitioner sought reconsideration but as of the filing of this petition, the motion remained unresolved.

(1) Whether petitioner forfeited his standing to seek relief from his petition for certiorari when the MTC ordered his arrest following his non-appearance at the arraignment in Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries for injuries sustained by respondent; and 
(2) Whether petitioner’s constitutional right under the Double Jeopardy Clause bars further proceedings in Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property for the death of respondent Ponce’s husband.
The accused negative constitutional right not to be "twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense" protects him from, among others, post-conviction prosecution for the same offense, with the prior verdict rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction upon a valid information.
 Petitioner adopts the affirmative view, submitting that the two cases concern the same offense of reckless imprudence. The MTC ruled otherwise, finding that Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries is an entirely separate offense from Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property "as the [latter] requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not." 
The two charges against petitioner, arising from the same facts, were prosecuted under the same provision of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, namely, Article 365 defining and penalizing quasi-offenses. 
The provisions contained in this article shall not be applicable. Indeed, the notion that quasi-offenses, whether reckless or simple, are distinct species of crime, separately defined and penalized under the framework of our penal laws, is nothing new. 
The doctrine that reckless imprudence under Article 365 is a single quasi-offense by itself and not merely a means to commit other crimes such that conviction or acquittal of such quasi-offense bars subsequent prosecution for the same quasi-offense, regardless of its various resulting acts, undergirded this Court’s unbroken chain of jurisprudence on double jeopardy as applied to Article 365. 
These cases uniformly barred the second prosecutions as constitutionally impermissible under the Double Jeopardy Clause.
Our ruling today secures for the accused facing an Article 365 charge a stronger and simpler protection of their constitutional right under the Double Jeopardy Clause. True, they are thereby denied the beneficent effect of the favorable sentencing formula under Article 48, but any disadvantage thus caused is more than compensated by the certainty of non-prosecution for quasi-crime effects qualifying as "light offenses" (or, as here, for the more serious consequence prosecuted belatedly). If it is so minded, Congress can re-craft Article 365 by extending to quasi-crimes the sentencing formula of Article 48 so that only the most severe penalty shall be imposed under a single prosecution of all resulting acts, whether penalized as grave, less grave or light offenses. This will still keep intact the distinct concept of quasi-offenses. Meanwhile, the lenient schedule of penalties under Article 365, befitting crimes occupying a lower rung of culpability, should cushion the effect of this ruling. 
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. We REVERSE the Orders dated 2 February 2006 and 2 May 2006 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 157. We DISMISS the Information in Criminal Case No. 82366 against petitioner Jason Ivler y Aguilar pending with the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 71 on the ground of double jeopardy.

G.R. Nos. 153714-20.  August 15, 2003

On February 4, 1998, separate cases of estafa and attempted corruption of public officers were filed before the SBN by the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) against (1) Respondent Espinosa, then provincial administrator of Masbate; (2) Emma Vasquez; and (3) Romeo Sanano. The cases were docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 24438 and 24439.
Prior to his arraignment, Espinosa filed a Motion for Reinvestigation of the cases.  The SBN Fourth Division granted the Motion in an Order dated March 23, 1988, and directed the Office of the Special Prosecutor to evaluate the evidence against the accused.
While the cases were being reevaluated, Espinosa filed with the SBN a Motion for Leave to Travel Abroad for the period May 2-13, 1999.
On the date set for the hearing of the Motion, the SBN (Fourth Division) issued an Order resetting the hearing to April 22, 1999.  It required private respondent to be “conditionally arraigned on that date “before it would act on his Motion to Travel.
As ordered, private respondent was arraigned, and thereafter granted his Motion to Travel.  The Order of Arraignment dated April 22, 2000, stated that “upon being duly arraigned, [he] entered a plea of ‘Not Guilty’ to both Information’s in Crim. Case Nos. 24438 and 24439.”The Court also ordered the deferment of the pretrial of the cases, pending the reinvestigation then being conducted by the Ombudsman.
On December 28, 2000, the OMB -- through the Office of the Special Prosecutor -- moved to withdraw ex parte the two cases against private respondent. The SBN granted the Motion in a Resolution dated January 9, 2001.
Thereafter, the OMB filed in the same court seven Informations for Malversation of Public Funds against Espinosa and several others.  These Informations were docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 24622 to 24628 and raffled to the SBN First Division.
On January 22, 2001, Espinosa filed a Motion to Quash the Informations.  He argued that double jeopardy had already attached, because (1) he had been arraigned in the previous estafa cases; and (2) the Motion to Withdraw the two earlier ones had been granted without his express consent.
Petitioner countered that the arraignment for the two previous cases was “conditional,” because it was made solely for the purpose of accommodating private respondent’s request to travel abroad while the matters were pending reinvestigation.
“Whether or not [the SBN] acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in dismissing Criminal Cases Nos. 34622 to 24628 as against Respondent Espinosa.
The rule therefore in this jurisdiction is that once a complaint or information is filed in Court 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. Although the fiscal retains the direction and control of the prosecution of criminal cases even while the case is already in Court he cannot impose his opinion on the trial court. The Court is the best and sole judge on what to do with the case before it. The determination of the case is within its exclusive jurisdiction and competence. A motion to dismiss the case filed by the fiscal should be addressed to the Court which has the option to grant or deny the same. It does not matter if this is done before or after the arraignment of the accused or that the motion was filed after a reinvestigation or upon instructions of the Secretary of Justice who reviewed the records of the investigation.
In any event, petitioner insists that private respondent has waived his right to invoke double jeopardy in the light of his allegedly “conditional” arraignment. 
Again, the Court is not persuaded.
The right against double jeopardy is enshrined in Section 21 of Article III of the Constitution, which reads:
“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.”
This constitutionally mandated right is procedurally buttressed by Section 17 of Rule 117 of  the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. To substantiate a claim for double jeopardy, the following must be demonstrated:
(1)  [A] first jeopardy must have attached prior to the second; (2) the first jeopardy must have been validly terminated;  (3) the second jeopardy must be for the same offense, or the second offense includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the first information, or is an attempt to commit the same or is a frustration thereof.
“And legal jeopardy attaches only:  (a) upon a valid indictment; (b) before a competent court; (c) after arraignment; (d) [when] a valid plea [has] been entered; and (e) the case was dismissed or otherwise terminated without the express consent of the accused.
It has been the unwavering position of this Court that substantial rights cannot be trifled with or cast aside on the basis of mere suppositions and conjectures.  The relinquishment of a constitutional right has to be laid out convincingly.  Such waiver must be clear, categorical, knowing and intelligent.
As can be gleaned from the Memorandum of petitioner, the alleged waiver falls short of the above requirement:
“Unfortunately, the records reveal that a lawyer for respondent Espinosa was present when the April 19,1999 Order of the Fourth Division was issued in open court.  Thus, said lawyer must have heard that the hearing of the motion to travel was reset to April 22, 1999 so that the movant could be conditionally arraigned.  As stressed in the petition, the arraignment was conditional for if it was not so, respondent Espinosa would have been deemed to have abandoned his recourse for the reevaluation of his cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.
As correctly pointed out in the challenged Resolution, the dismissal of the estafa and the corruption cases was made upon petitioner’s ex parte Motion for the withdrawal of the Informations. Petitioner does not dispute the fact that private respondent was not notified of this Motion.  Neither was a hearing held thereon.
On the other hand, private respondent has amply shown that he learned of the Motion only after the cases had been dismissed.  It is clear that the dismissal, having been secured by petitioner without the express consent of the accused, does not amount to a waiver of the right against double jeopardy.  But it does unequivocally show the fourth requisite for the proper invocation of such right.
In a nutshell, the alleged conditions attached to an arraignment must be unmistakable, express, informed and enlightened.  They must be expressly stated in the Order disposing of the arraignment.  Otherwise, the plea should be deemed to be simple and unconditional.

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