Saturday, May 30, 2015

For An Acquittal To Be Considered Tainted With Grave Abuse Of Discretion, There Must Be A Showing That The Prosecution’s Right To Due Process Was Violated Or That The Trial Conducted Was A Sham…

The Facts:
Julieta (Ando) was charged with Falsification of Public Documents for making it appear that Wille’s (Tee) father, Tee Ong, the owner of To Suy Hardware, signed and executed a Deed of Sale, an Affidavit and a Transfer of Rights on January 31, 1996, despite the fact that Tee Ong was already dead at the time the allegedly falsified documents were executed and notarised.  After trial, the MTC convicted her as charged, which decision was affirmed by the RTC.  On appeal to the Court of Appeals, however, the latter acquitted Julieta, holding that the prosecution did not submit any expert witness to show that the signatures and thumb mark of Tee Ong were indeed falsified.  The lower courts erred in concluding that the signatures were forged on the basis that Tee Ong was already dead at the time of tits notarisation, and did not eliminate the possibility that Tee Ong may have signed the documents before his death, thus giving doubt to Julieta’s guilt.  Tee then filed a Petition for Certiorari to assail the CA’s acquittal of Julieta, averring that the OSG joined him in the petition.
The Issue:
May the prosecution assail the acquittal of an accused via a petition for certiorari without violating the right of accused against double jeopardy?
The Court’s ruling:
Dismissal of this petition is inevitable in view of the principle of double jeopardy, making it unnecessary to address and extrapolate on the numerous factual issues raised by Tee against the CA’s Decision dated July 28, 2011 and the procedural lapses Ando attributes to Tee. The mere fact that the decision being brought for this Court’s review is one for acquittal alerts one’s attention to a possible violation of the rule against double jeopardy.
In People v. Hon. Tria-Tirona1,  this Court reiterated that mistrial is the only exception to the well-settled, even axiomatic, principle that acquittal is immediately final and cannot be appealed on the ground of double jeopardy. This Court was categorical in stating that a re-examination of the evidence without a finding of mistrial will violate the right to repose of an accused, which is what is protected by the rule against double jeopardy.⁠2 
This petition does not allege a mistrial and the sole challenge posed by Tee and the OSG against the validity of the CA’s disposition is the latter’s supposed misappreciation of the evidence, which is an error of judgment and not of jurisdiction or a manifestation of grave abuse of discretion, hence, not correctible by a writ of certiorari.3 
In People of the Philippines v. Hon. Sandiganbayan (Third Division),4  this Court clarified that for an acquittal to be considered tainted with grave abuse of discretion, there must be a showing that the prosecution’s right to due process was violated or that the trial conducted was a sham.
Although the dismissal order is not subject to appeal, it is still reviewable but only through certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. For the writ to issue, the trial court must be shown to have 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 thus rendering the assailed judgment void. The burden is on the petitioner to 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.5  (Citations omitted)
The petition is bereft of any allegation, much less, evidence that the prosecution’s right to due process was violated or the proceedings before the CA were a mockery such that Ando’s acquittal was a foregone conclusion. Accordingly, notwithstanding the alleged errors in the interpretation of the applicable law or appreciation of evidence that the CA may have committed in ordering Ando’s acquittal, absent any showing that the CA acted with caprice or without regard to the rudiments of due process, the CA’s findings can no longer be reversed, disturbed and set aside without violating the rule against double jeopardy. As ruled in the above-cited Sandiganbayan case:
Nonetheless, even if the Sandiganbayan proceeded from an erroneous interpretation of the law and its implementing rules, the error committed was an error of judgment and not of jurisdiction. Petitioner failed to establish that the dismissal order was tainted with grave abuse of discretion such as the denial of the prosecution’s right to due process or the conduct of a sham trial. In fine, the error committed by the Sandiganbayan is of such a nature that can no longer be rectified on appeal by the prosecution because it would place the accused in double jeopardy⁠6.  (Citation omitted)
In fine, this petition cannot be given due course without running afoul of the principle against double jeopardy.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

  PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PETITIONER, VS. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, FOURTH DIVISION AND JULIETA G. ANDO, RESPONDENTS.SECOND DIVISION, G.R. No. 198589, July 25, 2012,

REYES, J.:
Carpio, (Chairperson),  Del Castillo,*  Perez, and Sereno, JJ., concur.
1 502 Phil. 31 (2005).
2 People v. Hon. Velasco, 394 Phil. 517, 558.
3 People v. Sandiganbayan (Fifth Division), G.R. No. 173396, September 22, 2010, 631 SCRA 128, 133.
4 G.R. No. 174504, March 21, 2011, 645 SCRA 726.
5 Id. at 731-732.
6 Id. at 735-736.

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